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The Naked Truth – Skinny Dipping in Perth

In my eternal quest to find exciting things to do things that make me look stupid, I stumbled across a whopper – no, not a Burger King meal, but an event taking place in my home town of Perth that I couldn’t possibly resist:

Get Naked BannerThe World’s Biggest Skinny Dip!

Well, an attempt at least; there would be Guinness World Record people in attendance, official sarongs as prizes and the chance to contribute to a worthy cause about positive body image… blah blah blah.

Hell, it was a chance to get NAKED IN PUBLIC! Without BEING ARRESTED!

Naked SwimmersAs some of you may know, I like being naked. I’m naked right now if fact, which is why I’m using a lap-desk so my Macbook doesn’t burn my willy. Besides, I quite fancy the idea of setting a World Record. I’m never going to achieve one on my own (unless they count Star Wars Trivial Pursuit), so joining in with a group effort was the only way forward.

A few years back I joined in an attempt to set the world record for ‘Most People Twisting On The Beach’. It was an effort doomed to failure, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was held in my parent’s home town of Burnham-on-Sea; a retirement hotspot, where the population has an average age of 70. Burnham was actually featured in the book ’50 Worst Places To Live In The UK’ – but not until no.47. Possibly the biggest mistake though, was holding the event in the middle of winter.

The existing record holder was a tourist town in southern Spain, famed for its golden sand and party atmosphere. Whereas Burham-on-Sea is famed for its extensive mud flats and having the shortest pier in the UK. I’ve been on it; it’s crap.

Burnham Beach

Burnham-on-Sea Beach. Complete with pier. Told you it was crap!

The local radio station parked a bus on the beach, and my parents and I showed up ready to twist.

It rained. Unsurprisingly.

We twisted anyway, but with less than fifty people on the beach, most of them well over retirement age, there was real danger that if we kept it up much longer someone was going to break a hip. Or die of hypothermia. So the attempt was officially abandoned, and we slunk away in shame.

But this would be different – if for no other reason than it was being held in Perth, city of infinite sunshine and home to over one-and-a-half-million fun-loving souls.

The day dawned cold and grey, which was a bit of a shock. I stood in my back garden and held my hand out – it was raining! Absolute BASTARDS! It hasn’t rained in Perth since November – five completely dry months – and then this.

Dark SkyAs Roo dropped me off at the station, the sky looked dark and threatening.

“Won’t you be cold?” she asked.

“Nah. I’m from England! This is midsummer as far as I’m concerned.”

(In Northern England a man is not allowed to admit to being cold unless his testicles have actually frozen solid to something. This happens more often that you’d think.)

“Okay…” Roo didn’t sound convinced. “Would you like to borrow my jumper?”

I looked at her. She was wearing this:

Roos Jumper“No thanks,” I said, “because your jumper is bright yellow and made of string. I’d be better insulated if I stapled a paper napkin to my chest.”

“Fair enough.”

So she left me to it. Alone on the platform.

Travelling through Perth at 7am on a Sunday was a relaxing affair; I think I saw about fifteen people in almost two hours of train and bus travel.

Empty EscalatorsEmpty Train TunnelI found my way to the event and queued up to check in. Three cute chicks joined the line immediately behind me, one of them wondering aloud if we’d be going in all at once, or in groups.

“If we do it by group by group, I’d pity the bugger that went in first,” I said.

They laughed. With the ice broken I thought about asking if I could hang out (no pun intended) with them; being on my own was going to be the toughest part of this gig. But then my brain went into paranoia overdrive: “Are they too pretty? Will they think I’m trying to hit on them? Will they look at me with disgust? Will it destroy my confidence, so I’ll spent the rest of the day alone, lurking on the fringes, naked and friendless…”

No. Much easier to find someone ugly, and try to make friends with them.

Skinny Dip Crowds

Plenty to choose from!

It didn’t happen that way, of course. The girls ended up getting changed next to me, as none of us could be bothered waiting for the tiny cubicle-tents to become available. And then another bloke joined them, and suddenly it all seemed very above-board again. I wandered over.

“Do you mind me hanging out with you guys? My wife didn’t want to come with me, and I don’t have any friends here.” I probably could have phrased that better, but I was desperately trying not to sound desperate. And I was still failing.

Luckily, Aussie women are a strong, yet friendly breed. They gave me the typical Aussie answer to everything, from borrowing a sausage to (apparently) getting naked together: “Yeah, no worries!”

“So, you’re new to Perth?” one of the girls asked. “How long have you been here?”

“Ah… on and off… about six years…”

Skinny Dip Swanbourne PerthWe were called to the beach in our pre-assigned groups – I was a ‘Sweet Strawberry’, and my new friends were ‘Precious Plums’.

We milled around on the beach a bit, trying to keep warm, and eyed up the gigantic waves crashing against the shore.

“Looks really rough,” someone commented, and they were right; the iron-grey sea was foaming in anger. A call went out for the more confident swimmers to move to the front. That was me!

And then the sarongs came off, and everyone was sprinting into the surf.

Sea Full of Nudies

Possibly it looked something like this! (Taken on an earlier attempt in New Zealand.)

Bare ass and boobies bounced before me as I raced headlong into the water. I dived, came up swimming strongly, and made my way out to the furthest edge of the area, where lifeguards were patrolling in canoes. The ball-shrivelling cold faded quickly, as my body adjusted to the temperature. Then my legs went numb.

The waves were gigantic, battering the participants and slamming us into each other. I was loving it – the sea reared up, throwing me around like a rollercoaster, and each new wave was greeted with shrieks of awe and fear from the surrounding swimmers. It was extreme-nude-swimming, a sport which, if it doesn’t already exist, certainly should. Hell, I might go and found it right now!

I was enjoying myself immensely. But then I noticed two of the girls I’d met being brought in on the lifeguard’s surfboard. A glance at shore showed that a good hundred or so naked people were still on the beach, too intimidated by the waves to risk entering the water.

Then a horn went off, and the event marshals began beckoning us back to shore. The attempt was over.

As I reached the shallows and put my feet down, a cry went out from the beach. I turned just as the mother of all waves crashed down on me, tumbling me head over heels and depositing me on the sand a good way up the beach.

I opened my eyes to see a crowd of people looking down at me with concern in their eyes. Naked people.

Was this heaven?

Probably not, I thought, as I vomited up a lung full of sea water.

Later, fully clothed once more, I called Roo to give her the news. On the upside, I’d had an amazing time, met some really cool people, and got to run around with my cock out like… well, like me at every party I’ve ever attended.

On the downside, no records had been broken; 671 people had shown up and stripped off, just 73 short of the previous record. Damn it!

They’d called off the attempt halfway through due to the dangerous conditions, and at least one bloke had been brought in by the lifeguards, strapped to a board with a suspected spinal injury. So, it hadn’t all been fun and games.

Spinal Injury

It could always be worse… for this bloke, it was.

Roo answered the phone. She’d taken advantage of my absence to go shopping with her sister.

“I won’t be able to pick you up from the train station for a while, I’m afraid,” she explained.

“No worries! I’ll go into the city and celebrate with a pint.”

“Oh, that’s good then. Only…”

“Only what?”

“Well, will you be okay? You won’t be embarrassed, you know, going for a drink on your own?”

I had to smile at that.

“Honestly, after what I’ve just done… I think I’ll manage.”

So, the word flying around on the internet is that we were SO close – and that the weather is to blame. Who’d have thought it? Especially seeing as the sun came out mere minutes after we left the beach, and I got so sunburnt walking through town to get my pint that I now have a permanent t-shirt tan.

Beach Afterwards

Ten minutes later, it cleared right up!

Maybe God really does hate naked people?

Ah well. The naked citizens of Perth are unbowed. Hell, they’re trying again next year…

I’m going. How about you?

SerenDIPity

I’ve entered a contest run by Cherie and Chris of Technomadia, where they’ve asked travellers (like me!) to write about how serendipity has influenced our lives. If you want to know why I’ve written SerenDIPity like that, check out this post about the contest. If you’re already here via Technomadia, welcome!

And if you’re not? Well, we can’t all be perfect. Welcome anyway :0)

This is my story.

 

Paradise Lost?

I left England for Thailand, intending to spend three months volunteering in an animal clinic. I had visions of a tiny paradise island – and I was dead right! Koh Phangan had everything I could have asked for – postcard-perfect beaches, dense tropical jungle and a party scene so wild I very nearly didn’t survive it.

It was so good, I couldn’t even think about going home.

Actually I missed my flight.

It was accidentally-on-purpose. I’d sort of seen it coming; I hadn’t bothered to check my ticket for a long time, and I wasn’t exactly devastated to find the flight had left without me. I just climbed back into my hammock and appreciated one more fiery sunset over the ocean.

I ended up staying for nearly a year.

I had no desire to go back to England at all – I was taking people Scuba-diving for a living, still working at the animal clinic in-between times and still loving life on that tiny tropical island.

Every day was different; whether guiding customers through shoals of brightly coloured fish, nursing stray dogs back to health at the clinic, or rescuing irate monkeys from places they really shouldn’t be (like restaurants); as far as I was concerned, my life there was perfect.

Palm Tree ClimbingThai BeachEventually though, I began to run out of money; I’d spent everything I could, then borrowed more and spent that too. My diving wages had all gone on dive gear and I was fighting the realisation that my trip was nearly over.  The final blow was when a thief broke into my bungalow and stole the last of my cash. I was getting desperate. Being suddenly penniless 6,000 miles from home, in a country where no-one in authority speaks your language, is pretty scary. Home would be boring – it would certainly mean the end of my adventures – but it would be safe.

Then I got a phone call from my sister. She was on holiday in Australia, staying with a friend she’d met whilst traveling, and the two of them were planning a grand trip around the country. She’d called to see if she could convince me to leave Thailand, fly to Australia, and come with them!

I said I’d have loved to, if only I could afford it.

“No worries!” she said. Her friend Krista had a place I could stay while I looked for work.

It all seemed likely to end in tears – my sister and I have had a volatile relationship in the past, and being dependant entirely on her friend’s charity would be the total opposite of the freedom I’d become accustomed to.

Plus there was paperwork, and visas, and… that ever-present fear of the unknown.

But sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Trust to fate, I thought.

I went for it.

I flew into Perth on a maxed out credit card, arriving with nothing but the clothes on my back – the animals had destroyed the rest! My entire luggage allowance was taken up by one huge bag of diving gear.

I couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee in the airport.

But then, who can these days?

Gill and Krista came to pick me up in a crumbling van they’d bought and decorated with multi-coloured hand prints! Appropriately enough, they’d called it ‘Rusty’.

Krista had set up an interview for me with a local job agency for the following day.

I started work the day after that.

She drove me in to work herself, and picked me up afterwards, every day for the couple of weeks it took me to get back on my feet. Sometimes she’d even bring me cookies or cake! I had so much fun hanging out with her, I decided to risk joining the grand adventure after all; as soon as I had a bit of cash saved up we all piled into ‘Rusty’ and set off for parts unknown.

Six years later, Krista and I are still travelling.

In that time we’ve hardly been apart, despite being residents of two countries on opposite sides of the world. We’ve had a lot of adventures and done a lot of crazy things – and we always trust to fate, or to Serendipity, to get us where we’re meant to be.

We were married last year in an English castle, with guests from seven different countries helping us celebrate.

I was a bit scared of marriage, at first.

But like with anything else, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Wedding photo

A Very Australian Christmas!

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

In Australia.

It’s a whole different experience!

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about some of the differences between a northern hemisphere Christmas, and a southern one… For starters, it’s hot. Or, as the locals would say, ‘bloody hot mate!

I went to the beach a couple of days ago – not to do anything as crazy as sunbathing mind, just for a casual stroll around. We were there for about 20 minutes, admiring the postcard-perfect vista of golden sands and deep blue ocean. Beautiful! Then we leapt back into the air-conditioned sanctuary of the car, and counted ourselves lucky that we weren’t waiting around for public transport in the 34-degree heat – or even worse, walking home!

Still, those few moments took their toll – here’s what has been keeping me awake at night ever since:

Sun burned back

The Australian Red Back - not just a spider...

I can’t see any difference myself, but then I’m colour-blind. It makes traffic lights fun, which is one reason why I only learned to drive last month (at age 33) – that, of course, is a story for another time.

Apparently I got burned pretty badly in those 20 minutes. All because they ain’t got none o’ that Ozone Layer around these parts… This leads to very high instances of skin cancer, caused by something as simple as relaxing by the pool for just a little too long. The operation to remove them, and replace the skin with a bit from your bum, is one of the most commonly performed in Australia.  As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not careful you’ll be wearing your arse on your face!”

Although with the size of my nose, I don’t think anyone would notice.

Australian Christmas Poem

This is my take on Christmas in Australia. I was expecting it to go viral, but my Social Media ‘reach’ is not even as long as my physical reach. Yes, it’s true – I have arms like a gorilla.

Frogs.

There are frogs in Australia – just in case you didn’t know.

But they’re not… how do I say this? Normal. The don’t croak – no ‘ribbet, ribbet’ around here. No, these frogs whistle – and some make a ‘boing!’ sound, like the string of a banjo being plucked. No prize for guessing their names – the Aussies are nothing if not straightforward – the Whistling Frog and the Banjo Frog, they are. And then there’s the one that sounds like a motorbike idling at the lights… no, I’m serious! The motorbike frog fires up with a cough, then develops a ‘rmmm, RMMM, rmmm, RMMM’ type rhythm which will have you looking out of the window for unexpected guests.

Or it would, during the day.

These frogs are most vocal at night – and where we live, in what is politely referred to as a more ‘rural’ suburb… they have every one of them! It’s deafening!

But then, frogs are fairly benign. There are plenty of other critters lurking in the countryside – Australia is famous for them. Pretty much everything that crawls, walks or flies here wants a piece of you – and if there’s one way to ensure they all get one, it’s this; live in the countryside!

By way of example, last night we trapped a pretty large Huntsman Spider. Not huge – about the size of a hand – between the two sliding panes of the kitchen window. None of us were brave enough to face the thing in single combat, so we put off the decision on what to do with the creature until morning.

We had a lie in, and were baked out of bed by the sun at 9am. It was a balmy 32 degrees. One of Krista’s sisters had gotten up early to go to work, and left us this message on the snazzy neon note board:

NoticeboardThe spider was, in fact, gone. But had it escaped to the outside… or had it come in…?

We’ve yet to find out.

So if I don’t come back for a post-Christmas post, you can assume I’ve been swallowed whole by this monster and will be slowly digesting over the New Year.

On the upside, there’s one Australian Christmas tradition I was more than happy to participate in:

The buying of ridiculous amounts of booze!

The place to buy alcohol is a ‘bottle shop’ (or ‘bottlo’, as Australians are unable to pronounce a word that doesn’t end in ‘o’.). It has occasionally been referred to as a ‘grog shop’ – regardless, it’s like a supermarket dedicated to booze. And, on the day before Christmas Eve, it was RAMMED. Full to bursting. Four of us went in, and only two survived. Both showed serious signs of trolley-induced trauma, including the outline of a wheel scored into Krista’s ankle – but we staggered out under the burden of almost $250 worth of alcohol! A moderate sum, given that there will be six of us partaking of it – we saw blatantly single guys (yeah, you know the type!) manhandling seven or eight cases of beer into knackered cars – if there’s one thing Aussies can do, it’s drink.

Trolley full of boozeI know that’s what I’ll be doing!

What about you guys?