Sunny Days, Dark Shadows

Excerpts from Chapter 4

We may now appreciate how a nation of skinny-dippers came to cover up, encouraged by the middle classes during the Industrial Revolution. We better understand why rules and regulations are such a part of the British psyche, but this still does not fully explain our current obsession with prudery. To understand this, we must consider another development: the science of sunbathing. Again you may wonder at the connection between sunshine and the swimmer, but by reading the next two chapters you will discover how an eagerness to get into the sun, ultimately put the swimmer into the shade.

Early Days

Trouble in Eden

British Culture

Sunshine Healing

Full Exposure

Not in Front of the Children

The Birds and the Bees

What a Scorcher

 

The seaside shaped our culture and so in a sense the stick of rock symbolises the end product of its effects; we as a nation are British to the core. The British are the product of control; we like to control others and to be in control ourselves. A look or a sigh is often enough to convey our disapproval.  The seaside holiday may have developed here in England, but the coun-tries of Europe and America were soon to follow suit. As the fashion extended, so the British trademark of propriety was to be spread abroad, seeding change in other cultures. Bernard Falk in his book: He Laughed in Fleet Street (1933), recounts his experience:  'When I arrived nude sea-bathing, common to most parts of Russia, was in full swing. Fathers and mothers marched into the water with their families, blissfully unconscious of any sense of awkwardness. Whether for sea bathing or sunbathing, the fully - exposed human form presented no hindrance to social life. But the advent of the allied troops caused a subtle difference in the attitude of women bathers. With true, coquettish instinct, they took to stylish bathing dresses.'  The British led the rest of the world to question 'freedom' on the beach. On the Black Sea back in the 1920s, bathers saw no need for costumes. That is, until pressure came to bear from European tourists. The influence of these visi-tors meant that traditionalists found themselves restricted to a few small areas; they were hidden out of the way, so as not to bring the disapproval of the new-comers. Likewise, thirty years ago, East German sunbathers using the beaches around the Darss Peninsula outnumbered costume-clad bathers six to one, but predictably the advance of condemnatory tourists is forcing cultural change. The British Empire once dominated the world, being confident of its su-periority. As a nation we came to see nudity as the apparel of savages and sub-cultures; and looked down on the less sophisticated with an arrogance that is second to none. However, the discoveries of science were about to challenge the view that the pale complexion was a sign of superiority, and the parasol and gloves of the elegant lady were soon to be discarded.  Sunshine Healing  We have Florence Nightingale to thank for improving the health of our nation. She observed that when wounded soldiers were treated in the open air they re-covered more speedily than those treated inside hospital buildings. Also, Doctor Adrian Palm in the late 19th century, proved that exposure to the sun's rays caused a definite improvement in the condition of children suffering with rick-ets. A few years after this, Nobel Laureate Finsen began his work in Copenha-gen,

 

A few years after this, Nobel Laureate Finsen began his work in Copenhagen, experimenting with the treatment of tuberculosis by means of artificial light exposure. Over in the Alps, stationed at an altitude of 1,450 metres, Doctor Rollier opened his Swiss clinic at Leysin (1903). Being truly sheltered from the wind, it proved to be the ideal location for the sun cure due to the clear nature of the skies. Rollier's treatment was that of measured exposure to the early morning sun, which worked on the skin and through deep penetration to the tissues be-low. This progressive treatment improved the terrible condition of his patients and in many cases he affected a complete cure. The patients he admitted were suffering from surgical tuberculosis and many had open sores and were emaci-ated and lethargic. He did not believe in over-exposing the skin to the sun at the height of the day, but rather found that the greatest benefit could be derived from moderate regular exposure in the cooler hours. He followed the example set by the animal kingdom, finding that they all seek the shade during the mid-day sun. In his own words: 'Cold is an enemy of the semi-starved, it is the stimulating friend of the well-fed.' Many of his patients enjoyed skating and skiing in the sun wearing only cotton drawers. It was found that lighter coloured clothing permitted the sun's healthful rays to permeate through to the skin, whereas darker colours prevented the treatment of rickets and tuberculosis from succeeding. Rollier encouraged his patients, once their skin had turned brown, to spend as much time out in the sun as possible. He arranged for schools in the sun where children, from four to twelve years of age wearing only their loincloth, linen hat and shoes, enjoyed the benefits of the sun cure, whilst receiving an education. The treatment was slow but extremely effective. The general health of these patients was remarkable. Visitors often commented on the lack of coughs and colds among children who were so exposed. Rollier did, however, warn of the dangers of overexposure to the sun, pointing to the leathery skin of sailors as an example of the outcome. Doctors around the world started to adopt Rollier's methods, but here in England, hospitals often managed to misapply the cure and do more harm than good. Some hospitals allowed children out of doors, but quickly put them into the shade as soon as the sun shone. Others exposed the pale white skin of ailing patients to the full force of the sun without discretion, thereby adding the agony of sunburn and sunstroke to their suffering. They failed to heed Rollier's adage: 'Fear the heat and love the light, keep your children cool and bright.'   The idea soon emerged here in England that the sun was a dangerous tool. Because of this the British came to favour the 'air bath', wherein children were encouraged to play or sleep out of doors, but usually fully clothed. Needless to say, we did not experience the same success as those around the world who copied Rollier's methods without feeling the need to modify them.

 

Needless to say, we did not experience the same success as those around the world who copied Rollier's methods without feeling the need to modify them. There is no doubt that the powerful bactericide that the sun provides, proved to be a real godsend to those fortunate enough to be exposed to it. Patients found that the sun stimulated the whole human metabolism, and improved their general health immeasurably. During the Industrial Revolution, Britain's cities had been very dark places indeed. Houses were built so close together that the sun's rays rarely met the skin of those living in the neighbourhood. Added to this, the thick smoke that spewed out of the huge factory chimneys obliterated the sun from view. The Public Health Act of 1875 prohibited black smoke, but prosecutions were rare. Since the Act related solely to black smoke, the defendant had only to find someone willing to stand up in court and say that he saw a tinge of grey or brown in the smoke for the prosecution to collapse. The 'silver lining' of the coal strike of 1921 was the people's astonishment at seeing the beauty of their cities. Following this, efforts were made to clean up the atmosphere and great improvements in the nation's health soon followed.  Even so, due to England's lack of sunshine, treatment could be spasmodic, yet hospitals found the solution with the introduction of sun lamps.  Full Exposure  The modern naturist movement began in Germany following the First World War and it soon spread to France, Italy and other European countries. It took root, although hesitantly, in America as well as being adopted here in England, albeit with extreme caution. Having read the previous two chapters, you will realise that here in England it was felt necessary to take measures to cover up the nakedness of swimmers, not to mention sunbathers. So the English were not at all receptive to these new ideas. Hence the 'Simple Life Movement' or 'Back to Nature' groups were met with suspicion and opposition. The practice of Frei-körper-kultur (an early form of German naturism), rose to popularity in Germany between the 1920s and 30s. People would gather, sharing an interest in healthier living, which would include exposing all of their skin to the sun. Cult members did not believe in polluting the body by smoking or by drinking, but stressed healthy eating habits instead. Some progressed to exposing their naked bodies to harsher weathers and recommended it. In 1924 Hans Suren published his book: Man and Sunlight, which was an instant suc-cess, being reprinted sixty-one times in the first year, mainly because of its semi-nude photographs. 

wild swimming - skinny dipping

 

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Reviews

 

Hung Out To Dry is a serious work of dogged research, personal experience and an insightful indictment of our times where to have water fun is now so regulated that it will cease to be fun at all! Read this book and wake up to what has happen to the English." Roger Hutchinson  

Contents

From Pride to Prejudice

Cleanliness Versus Godliness

Sex, Sea and Swimming Trunks

Sunny Days, Dark Shadows

Lidos Open, Rivers Close

Leicester, Swim City

The Last Stand