Posted: Sep 3, 2012
|This is a single author story and is now complete.|
“What in hell’s name…?” cried Peter, holding the brown envelope, which he had just opened, and looking at its contents. “Have you seen this water bill?” Peter turned to his wife, Judy. “It’s nearly £140 for the last quarter! That is just ridiculous.”
“What?” I thought a water meter was meant to save us money,” replied Judy, snatching the bill from her husband’s hands, hoping that she’d spot Peter’s mistake and find that the figure owed wasn’t so unpalatable.
“Oh, look, this is an estimated bill. They must have overestimated.”
Judy went to the meter cupboard to compare the figures on the meter with those on the bill, only to find that the bill was substantially on the lenient side. In fact, a quick mental calculation said that, in reality, they should have been charged another eighteen pounds.
Peter and Judy Musgrove were a young couple, he thirty, she twenty eight, with seven year old twins; a boy, Matthew, and a girl, Sophie. They weren’t wasteful, knowing that it would be burning money that they could ill-afford to lose. Their house was insulated to the maximum, they used low energy light bulbs everywhere and, more relevant to the water bill situation, they never left taps running when it wasn’t necessary. Still, that water bill had both Peter and Judy floored.
“We will just have to do an inventory of our water usage; list everything we use water for and see where we can cut down,” Peter said.
“Okay. I need a pen and paper.” Judy reached for a notepad. “Let’s list this by area of the house, and what we use the water for. Firstly, in the kitchen, we have food preparation and drinks, washing up and laundry. We only have plants to water in the dining area and lounge. In the bathroom we have baths and showers, flush the toilet, brush our teeth, wash hands and faces, and you have a wet shave with a razor. We also have the toilet and sink in the downstairs cloakroom. Then there’s the garden and lawns that need watering. Now what else is there?”
“The car needs cleaning.”
“Yes, okay, good. Now where can we reduce our consumption in all that lot?”
“Well,” said Peter, “when you take a shower in the morning, you leave it running the whole time. I, on the other hand, get wet, stop the water, apply shampoo, rinse, stop the water, soap up and finally rinse off again. The water is only on for two thirds of the time. Plus, I’m saving on electricity.”
“Hey, don’t go picking on me. What about looking at how many buckets of water you take to clean that car?” snapped back Judy.
“Hey, I was just saying! We are in this together, and, yes, the amount of water I use to wash the car with is up for discussion,” Peter replied, in a conciliatory tone. “Just don’t expect me to give up on wet shaving; electric razors leave me thinking I need another shave.”
“Okay, I’ll turn the shower off whilst I soap up and apply shampoo in the future. The kids take their baths together already. If they started having showers, it would reduce the water used by two thirds each time.”
“We can’t have them playing with the shower controls, though. You know what Matthew’s like,” Peter pointed out.
“Well,” said Judy, “if they took their showers with us, we’d lose an entire shower session and we can make sure that they didn’t play with the controls. We could also have them save water by soaping up and applying shampoo with the water turned off.”
“Hey, hang on! What would the neighbours say if they knew the kids were seeing us naked all the time? I don’t want Matthew and Sophie growing up with mental issues because of seeing our dangly bits.”
Judy laughed at Peter’s surprising prudish streak. “When I was little, I always had my bath with either my mum or my dad. I don’t think I have any mental issues. In fact, I think that I was more at ease with my body going through puberty when compared to some other girls in my class. Besides, we’re not going to be inviting the neighbours into the bathroom, are we?”
Peter thought for a moment. “You know, although I never bathed with my parents, I remember scrubbing my mother’s back whilst she was in the tub when I was about ten years old. I thought nothing of it at the time, so why do I think this would be a problem now?”
“Perhaps it’s the message the media and politicians keep banging out; kids need to be protected from adults, there are perverts on every street corner and lurking under the beds, we are all sinners.”
“Talking of kids, it’s time those little terrors were up. I’ll go get them.” With that, Peter got up and headed upstairs.
Judy sat back and looked at the list that they had compiled, and then looked over to the wash basket that was stood next to the washing machine, overflowing. It was then that she understood why the water bill was so high over the last quarter. It had been the winter quarter and, on top of Peter’s muddy rugby kit, there were an unavoidable number of warm woollens and jackets to be washed. The washing machine was an old model and used enough water in a single wash to sink a ship. The sheer volume of laundry that was being processed also would have driven the water consumption skywards. Judy turned the page of the notepad over and began to break down the clothing worn by each person in the household across the average week.
“Come on, sleepy heads! Show a leg!” Peter called, as he reached the head of the stairs. He nearly collided with Matthew who, still dressed in his navy blue with red piping pyjamas, bolted for the bathroom.
Posted: Sep 3, 2012
|Pushing open the door to Sophie’s fairytale pink bedroom, Peter could see his daughter in the growing daylight, still in the land of nod. He knelt next to her bed and swept a finger gently through the blonde curtain of ringlets, to reveal her sweet face. He blew gently on her nose, causing her to wrinkle it. He then blew in her ear a couple of times, at which she squirmed.|
“Come on now, Sleeping Beauty, it’s time to get up,” he said.
She yawned and stretched, and said, sleepily, “Sleeping Beauty is meant to be woke up with a kiss.”
Peter knew he’d fallen for that one. “It’s going to be years before your prince arrives, and you can’t be sleeping for that long. You’ll just have to make do with a kiss from your old frog of a dad.”
He planted a loving kiss on his daughter’s forehead, at which she opened her crystal blue eyes and raised her arms, outstretched to her dad. Peter let Sophie wrap her arms around his neck. He then straightened up and lifted Sophie to her feet, giving her a warm hug as he did so.
Sophie scampered off, in her wrinkled, cream coloured pyjamas.
Peter was about to head back downstairs when he heard a plaintive cry.
“Dad, Matthew’s still in here,” called Sophie.
Peter turned back and headed into the bathroom where he saw Matthew with his pyjama top off, washing his face.
“What’s the matter Sophie? There are two wash basins, so you can use the other one.”
“Yes, but I need a … pee.”
“Well, you can go to the downstairs toilet, can’t you?” asked Peter.
“Not dressed like this I can’t!”
“Oh gosh,” muttered Peter, “the rules and etiquette of dress codes that we unwittingly impress on our young.”
“Look, Sophie, it won’t harm to nip down without your dressing gown. There is only me, your mum and Matthew here, and we won’t mind. Your dressing gown is only to keep you warm anyway, and it’s not that cold.”
“Are you sure it’s okay?” ask Sophie, now hopping up and down.
“Yes, I’m sure. And by this time you could have gone down stairs, gone to the toilet and been back already.”
Sophie turned, headed out of the bathroom and ran downstairs. Peter followed.
On entering the dining area, Peter found Judy still studying her notepad.
Judy looked up. “We get through too many shirts and blouses in a week. You don’t need to change them every day. Underwear, yes those do need to be changed, but shirts, no. Trousers, slacks and jerseys should last two weeks, with care. Sophie needs to get out of the habit of changing clothes on a whim. I do twice as much washing for her as anyone else, for no good reason. We could do with looking at what wash cycles our clothes need, too. I regularly do a dark cotton wash, a dark synthetics wash and a light synthetics wash, but I only get to run a half load wash for the few shirts of yours that are pure cotton.”
“But I like my cotton shirts; they are more comfortable in warm weather.”
“I’m not saying you should do without them. Perhaps buying more or a couple of pairs of light chinos to make up the load would be a good idea.”
“Mum…,” it was Sophie, looking shyly around the door of the vestibule that led to the cloakroom. “I’ve had an accident.” She entered the dining area with a distinct air of embarrassment, a wet patch forming on the front of her pyjamas.
“Come here, darling.” Judy motioned her daughter towards her and began to undress her.
“Mum!” shouted Sophie, recoiling. “This is the dining room!”
“Look, Sophie,” said Judy, “I need take your jim-jams for the wash, and you need to wash before you get dressed for school. You’ll probably be more embarrassed if Matthew sees you with a pee stain on your jim-jams. Now give me those, then run upstairs and get ready.”
As per instruction, Sophie stripped and ran out of the dining area, on the way to the stairs.
Judy looked at the wash label. “Light synthetic. I’ve already set that wash going. I’ll have to soak these so that the stain doesn’t set before I get chance to do another wash.”
Just then Matthew arrived, dressed in his school uniform, but with an impish grin on his face. “Mum, Dad. Sophie just streaked the staircase.”
“We know, son. What’s the problem?” asked Peter.
“Well, isn’t that naughty?”
“Look, Matthew, maybe we haven’t talked to you about some things like we should have, and now you’re getting ideas about things being naughty when they are not. Mum just needed Sophie’s jim-jams for the wash, quickly. Sophie didn’t mean to be naughty. Anyway, it shouldn’t matter. There is nobody here that doesn’t love and respect either you or Sophie, so it doesn’t matter that Sophie was streaking up the stairs. Nobody was going to get upset. I mean you weren’t upset, were you?”
“No, I just thought it was funny.”
Matthew sat in his seat, Judy poured milk onto his Coco Pops and he tucked in, hungrily. After a few minutes, Sophie arrived. She too had the milk poured for her and set about eating. Peter concentrated on eating his cereal, whilst Judy ate hers with one eye on her scribbled notes. Peter finished his cereal and set about making the toast in the kitchen.
Posted: Sep 4, 2012
|“Kids, this is family conference time. We’ve had a very worrying water bill, and need to find ways to reduce our use of water,” Judy said. “Starting this afternoon, when you arrive home from school, I want you both to change out of your school uniforms, fold them neatly and place them on your chest of drawers. Then I want you to change into your play clothes for the rest of the evening. Instead of taking a bath together, you’ll be sharing a shower with your dad or me. Okay?” |
Both nodded without saying a word.
Peter came back to the table with the toast rack loaded with thick slices of wholemeal toast, and began to prepare a slice for both Matthew and Sophie, spread sparingly with sunflower spread and loaded with Grandma’s homemade thick-cut marmalade.
“I love marmalade days,” said Matthew, taking a big bite out of his toast, which silenced him for some time.
“We can’t go on like this,” said Judy to Peter. “If all our bills go up like that one, we’ll have little chance to put anything away for a rainy day.”
“Oh,” said Peter, “now there’s a thought.”
“Rain, that’s water. Yes, I know we won’t be able to use it for cooking, drinking, washing clothes or washing the car, but we’ll be able to water the garden, at least. You can connect a water butt to the downspout. I can even put one on the garden shed and greenhouse.”
“Oh,” Peter said, “there’s another thing I’ve heard; dishwashers are more economical than doing the wash by hand.”
“Really?” questioned Judy. “Well, we’d have to re-jig the kitchen a little bit, and plum it in to the left of the sink. But that washing machine needs replacing first; it’s just so thirsty. After that will we have the money to spend on a dish washer?”
“We still haven’t touched the contingency fund of our annual budget yet. Let’s get the new washing machine first, and see. We may have to re-jig our budget to get a dishwasher too. I’m handy enough with D.I.Y. skills, so I should be able to alter the units and plumb in a dishwasher; that will make it less of a financial strain. If what I heard is true, we’ll be saving money from that point on.”
“Okay, we’ll go have a look at the electrical store before we go to the supermarket on Saturday. We can have a think on the budget this evening.”
The kids finished their toast, washing it down with a glass of orange juice, before running upstairs to brush their teeth at the double wash basins in the bathroom. Their parents finished their toast at a more leisurely pace, drank their cups of tea and cleared the table of breakfast pots, before going to brush their own teeth at the basins, now vacated by the kids. Collecting their jackets from the coat hooks by the door, the family exited the house and got in the car. Peter first dropped Matthew and Sophie at their school’s early risers club and then drove Judy to work, before continuing on to his own office.
It had been a busy day for Judy, and by the time she arrived home to prepare the evening meal, there hadn’t been time to give water economy any more thought. Just as she was about to fill the kettle for a drink of coffee, the doorbell rang. It was Matthew and Sophie being dropped off by their childminder, Sky, who always collected them from school whilst Judy was still at work, and returned them home two hours later.
“Hi Sky,” Judy called to the twenty four year old earth mother, “I’m just about to put the kettle on. Would you like a drink?”
“Oh, yes please, but let me get you some of my fruit tea from the van, and one other little important thing.” Sky returned a moment later with a shopping bag in one hand and leading a happy, bubbly child, of maybe four years of age, with the other. “This is River, my son. River, say hi to Judy.”
River shyly pulled behind his mother’s right leg, as if to hide. If Judy hadn’t already seen him, his position would have been given away by his mane of thick, long, brunette hair, the same as his mother’s. Sky, however, had some tresses of her hair platted with colourful off-cuts of material. Judy smiled at the cute little cherub.
“Okay, Matthew, Sophie; the two of you go and get changed, like we discussed this morning, please.” The twins disappeared upstairs as Judy led Sky and River through to the back of the house.
As Sky followed Judy through the living room and into the dining area, she could see the back garden through the patio doors. “Oh, you grow your own vegetables, we do too. In fact our whole garden is one big permaculture plot.”
“Permaculture? What’s that?” asked Judy.
Posted: Sep 20, 2012
|“Well,” began Sky, “it’s a system of agriculture that can be scaled down to household level. You have to consider each element of the plot, and know what its needs and outputs are. Take for example our chickens, on a simple level they need food and water and give us eggs. On a deeper level, they need warmth, companionship, dirt to scratch around in, and give us fertiliser from their droppings, their egg shells can be used to deter slugs and snails, their feathers can be used to stuff pillows, and of course, for those of use that are not vegetarian, they make a good Sunday roast and then soup. Having said they need warmth, they also give out warmth, so they can be used to raise the temperature of a greenhouse in colder months. In summer months we have fruit trees planted to shade the greenhouse and the chicken coop from getting over heated. Those fruit trees, of course, also provide fruit and, when one is pruned, it provides kindling for our stove. It’s all about seeing what would go to waste, and using it to some benefit.”|
Judy invited Sky to sit at the dining area table, and then, again, went to fill the kettle, turning the tap on full blast.
“Whoa there,” called Sky, “if we’re talking about waste, that’s one good way to waste both water and electricity. The good thing about jug kettles, like you have there, is that you can boil a small amount.”
“Oh, gosh, I never thought about it. And Peter and I were only talking this morning about how stupid our last quarter’s water bill was. That is why I sent Matthew and Sophie to get changed, so that we can make their school clothes last longer before going in the laundry again.”
“So you’re trying to save on laundry by having them wear more clothes?” said Sky, raising a questioning eyebrow.
“Come to think of it, it does sound silly when said like that. At least with their play clothes, they don’t have to be as presentable as with their school uniforms, so they can last all week without changing them; that is if I can stop Sophie from suddenly deciding that she wants to wear her flowery dress part way through the day.”
Judy poured the excess water from the kettle into a pan, checked that the level was sufficient for the drinks and set the water to boil. Sky handed her a box of fruit tea which she had fished out from her bag. Judy noticed that the bag seemed to be handmade, as did all of Sky’s clothes, right down to her sandals.
“If you want water saving tips,” said Sky, “you must come over to our little community and have a look around. I see that your flower beds and vegetable patch are exposed. There’s definitely stuff Colin can show you that will cut your water usage in the garden. By the way, could River go have a run around? I don’t like to keep him cooped up”
“Sure, it’s not raining right now, so just turn the key, lift the handle and slide the door. We can sit outside and watch the kids playing, if you’d like, once I’ve made the tea.”
Just as Sky rolled the patio door aside, Matthew and Sophie shot past, in a game of tig that started at the top of the stairs; Matthew was it. They were now dressed in dungarees and old t-shirts, wearing trainers on their feet. As there were only two of them the rules were changed, so that ‘it’ had to give their quarry a head start to the count of five. Sky ushered River out the door and sat on the steps, with River going to chase after the other two children.
Judy brought the fruit tea out, served in her best mugs, and joined Sky on the steps. As they watched the children play, they talked about water saving tips that could be easily implemented, like placing capped bottles filled with water in toilet cisterns, mulching the garden and only watering when the heat had gone out of the day.
River was getting tired and irritable at the difficulty of keeping up with Matthew and Sophie, despite them having cut the time delay for River to a count of two. He wandered over to his mother. “Mom, can I have a drink?” he asked.
“What would he like to drink, Sky?” asked Judy. “We have orange squash or blackcurrant cordial.”
“Oh, I can’t let him have those.” Sky said. “Do you know what harm those e-numbers can do? Besides we’ve got our own supply… that is, if you don’t mind me breast feeding him.”
“I don’t mind, but isn’t he a little old for that?”
“No, not at all, we are great believers in attachment parenting. That’s where the child remains with its parents for as long as it likes until it develops self-confidence in the knowledge that they are loved and won’t be abandoned. Extended breast feeding is part of that. But if you’re not easy…”
“No, no, please feel free. As I said, I don’t mind.”
With that, Sky unbuttoned her handmade blouse, exposing her rounded breasts, and let River lay across her lap from the right. As soon as he was in position he closed his eyes and began to suckle.
Matthew and Sophie had stopped their game, having witnessed the scene, and came to sit down at the edge of the lawn, a couple of metres away from Sky and the contented River. Judy watched on, with a growing sense of beauty at the bond between mother and child.
“You know, Sky,” said Judy, “I hope you don’t mind my saying, but that’s a lovely, even tan you have. Is being topless part of your contact parenting?”
|“No, being topless is not part of contact parenting, per se, and neither is social nudity, which is what River, Calvin and I practice, but Calvin and I believe it helps for all the same reasons. It helps children with their self confidence, and it helped me overcome both my body issues and my distrust of other people.”|
“Gosh, I was saying to Peter only this morning that I attributed my teenage self-assuredness to being allowed to bathe with my parents when younger.” Judy lost herself in thought for a moment. “So, this community that you are part of,” she continued, enquiringly, “is it a nudist community?”
“Oh no, it’s an environmental co-housing cooperative. When we first started discussing ideas for ecological living, it occurred to us that we should be working together and growing our food together, so it made perfect sense that we should just live together. The end result was that we designed one large house with one large communal kitchen, dining hall and lounge. Each family has their own suite of bedrooms and a bathroom. There is plenty of space to get away from one another, outside, if necessary. Not all the members embrace social nudity, but they are all considerate of our beliefs.”
River, now sated, sat up and gave his mother as big a hug as his arms could manage and a kiss on the lips.
Sky began to button up her blouse. “Well, we had better be going, or someone will be missing out on their slug patrol duties.”
“And I’d better get tea underway, or there will be nothing to eat when the lord and master returns. Matthew, will you show Sky and River to the door? Oh, and Sky, drop in again when you can. I’d like to discuss paying you a visit to see your water conserving techniques in action.”
“Yes, I sure will. You’re my last stop on my home run anyway, so I’ll drop in again tomorrow. Come on now, River, wave bye-bye.”
River waved as he and his mother left for the front door, led by Matthew. Having shown Sky and River out, Matthew returned to playing with his sister, this time just playing catch, whilst their mother prepared tea.
Peter arrived home half an hour later, with news of what he had found whilst surfing the web during his lunch time. He had typed ‘saving water’ into his search engine, and found that the government’s ‘DirectGov’ web site had water saving tips. Since the site was not related to any of the big water companies, Peter felt comfortable that he wasn’t just receiving a sales pitch. What he saw amongst the advice was information about what was called a greywater system, which took waste water from the likes of showers, baths and wash basins, cleaned it, stored it and then supplied it at pressure to toilets, washing machines and outside taps. Rain water was also captured in the same way. Some work would need to be done to redirect drains and certain outflows to a large tank, buried in the back garden, and to plumb in a new water supply to the toilets and washing machine only, but the saving would pay back the investment required in less than seven years.
Judy was excited at this news, but thought Peter should hold off contacting any companies that could supply the system until they had chance to pay a visit to Sky’s community, to see their techniques for saving water. There was no need to go paying out for an expensive commercial system if any free advice could help them first.
Shower time came after tea, but since there were two separate shower sessions, rather than one bath time, it was going to take longer than usual to get both the little ones ready for bed. Judy took Sophie into the shower first, getting both of them rinsed down before switching the shower off whilst they lathered up.
“You know how to spell your name don’t you?” asked Judy, as she ran the lather laden flannel over her daughter’s back.
“Yes, of course, it’s S, O, P, H, I, E. I’ve known how to spell my name since I was four. Why?”
“Well, you know what this lather does? It washes in A and Y and washes out H, I and E, so it makes you S, O, A, P, Y – soapy!”
Sophie giggled. “That’s silly.”
Once Judy had soaped herself up and got Sophie to do her back, Judy switched the shower on again and rinsed the two of them off. The shampoo was next, with same operation to switch off the shower, apply the shampoo and rinse off again. They dried and slipped on their dressing gowns. Even though they had towelled of thoroughly, Judy still felt a bit too damp to be changing into pyjamas right then, even though that’s what she’d usually have the twins do.
Next Peter took Matthew for their shower, and the same process was repeated. When they came to dry off, however, Peter found that the towels were too damp for his liking, so he used the flannel to remove the bulk of the moisture from himself and went to find some fresh towels. He didn’t put on his dressing gown because he thought he was too damp for that too.
As he reached the airing cupboard on the landing there was a shout from behind him.
“Daddy! You’re in the nudie!” It was Sophie, coming out of her bedroom.
Peter was a little taken aback, and tried to hide himself as best he could behind the airing cupboard door. His search for fresh towels was in vain, so he had nothing to hide himself with on the way back to the bathroom. Then a thought struck him.
“What’s the matter darling? You see me nude in the family changing cubicles when we go swimming every Saturday morning.”
|“But that’s when we are getting changed, and in the changing room, not on the landing.”|
“Weren’t you nude on the landing only just this morning?”
Sophie had forgotten that little episode. “Oh…, yes…, but that was because Mum needed my jim-jams.”
“Well I needed fresh towels,” said Peter, no longer hiding himself.
“What’s this I hear about fresh towels?” asked Judy, coming up the stairs.
“You left the towels rather damp, dearest. I needed to get some fresh ones.”
“We are not going to save on washing if we change towels after every shower, you’ll just have to cope.”
“Maybe we should take our showers on alternate days. That way the towels can be hung up and have chance to dry.”
“That could be a solution, and that way we can have them both ready for bed well ahead of time.”
“You know what,” said Peter, “apart from my hair, I feeling a lot dryer now. I think I can do without the towel. I just put my dressing gown on and dry my hair with the hairdryer.”
“Mummy, I’m still icky,” complained Sophie.
“That’s funny, so am I,” observed Judy. “So, what did you do differently that meant you are dryer now than we are?”
“I just removed more of the wetness with the flannel, before stepping out to find the towels.”
“And you remained undressed as you came to look for the towels, whereas Sophie and I trapped the moisture against our bodies,” Judy said, as the truth dawned on her.
By this time Matthew had flannelled off, like his father had, and stepped out onto the landing, also without his dressing gown. “Where’s the towel?”
“Mum! Dad! Matthew’s in the nudie too!”
“Dad said that it didn’t matter when you’re with people who loved and respected you because they wouldn’t get upset.” Matthew said. “You’re not upset are you, Sophie?”
“No, I think it’s funny. Did you really say that, Daddy?”
“Yes, I did.” Peter could feel his words coming back to bite him. He didn’t mean just standing around like this. This just wasn’t the context in which he meant it, but how did he mean it?
“Well, if you two just want to towel off your hair, I’m sure those towels will suffice,” said Judy. “And if you’re willing to stay like that, we might gather valuable information about other things of which we can cut down on washing.”
“That isn’t going to happen.” Peter said, heading back to the bathroom and pulling his dressing gown on. “It’s all very well just popping out to grab a towel, but I’m not parading about with my tackle hanging out.” He ran the damp towel over his hair and handed it off to Matthew who did the same.
“I suppose not, we haven’t got space for the marching band,” Judy said, with a mischievous glint in her eye.
“What?” Peter just didn’t get that last comment.
“Any parade that I’ve been to had a marching band,” explained Judy.
Peter tossed his head back and rolled his eyes. He never could guess when his wife’s corny witticisms were going to pop up. “Anyway,” he said, “we’d better go downstairs and get these two their bedtime drinks.”
Judy went to put the kettle on, to make a coffee for Peter and her, whilst Peter fetched the milk and two glasses for Sophie and Matthew. It wasn’t until Peter was pouring the milk in the dining area that he saw Matthew had come downstairs still nude.
“Why haven’t you got your dressing gown on?” asked Peter.
“I’m still drying and you didn’t get a dry towel. And you said it didn’t matter if we were with people who loved and respected us.”
“If you’re still damp, you’ll need to put something on the dining chair before you sit down,” Judy said, as she brought in the coffees.
Matthew thought for a second and then shot back upstairs, retrieved his dressing gown and brought it back down to sit on. Peter thought on how surreal things seemed to be getting and how he should just lay down the law, but he somehow knew that if he did there would be upset and he’d be over-ruled by Judy anyway. Matthew wasn’t doing anyone any harm; Peter just thought the situation a bit weird.
When the kids’ bedtime arrived, Judy supplied Sophie with a fresh set of cream coloured pyjamas and tucked her in for the night. Judy then checked on the clothes that the kids had been wearing that day. As she thought, Matthew’s shirt and Sophie’s blouse were still fit to wear. The creases wouldn’t be evident under their school jerseys, but if they hadn’t been wearing jerseys then a quick iron would solve the problem. Judy swapped their underwear for fresh items and prepared the piles of clothes ready for the morning.
Thankfully, for Peter’s sense of equilibrium, Matthew didn’t question putting on his pyjamas before Peter tucked him in. Having given Matthew a final good night hug, Peter rose, turned the light out and closed the door behind him.
|Friday seemed to follow the usual routine. This time, when Matthew was still in the bathroom when Sophie needed the toilet, she automatically headed downstairs and avoided the embarrassment of having another accident. Peter dropped the kids and his wife off, as per usual, and headed off to work. When Judy returned home, however, although she’d had another hard day, it seemed that there was something right with the world, and she couldn’t put her finger on it. She filled the kettle with just enough water for two mugs of tea or coffee, expecting Sky any moment. Sure, enough, Sky arrived right on cue, bringing Matthew, Sophie and River straight in as Judy opened the door.|
“The kettle’s just boiled with enough water for two drinks. Do you have your fruit tea?” Judy asked Sky.
“Here you go.” Sky said, handing over the box. “If this is going to be a regular thing then I could do with leaving the box with you. Is it okay if I…?”
“Oh yes, please do.”
Judy had seen River fidgeting at the handle of the patio door and knew just what was required. Sky opened the sliding door and again, as per the day before, Sophie and Matthew shot past Sky and River, out into the garden. Judy finished making the drinks and brought them out on a tray, along with two juice boxes for her two youngsters.
“You’ll only find that your fruit tea will go without you knowing,” said Judy. “It’s really lovely and refreshing. I really should buy a box when we go shopping tomorrow.”
“I have to be careful; it’s quite expensive compared to normal tea.” Sky said. “Usually we have nettle tea at home, but the fruit tea makes such a nice change.”
“Nettle tea?” asked Judy.
“Yes, nettles would otherwise be dug up and composted if they were growing in the wrong place, but they are best used for making a tea out of. That is very refreshing and full of anti-oxidants.”
“Is there a right place for nettles?”
“Yes, absolutely! We let an area grow totally wild and let nettles grow in that, to encourage beneficial insects like ladybirds and hoverfly.”
“Hmmm, that’s very interesting. Anyway, I’ve talked to Peter about visiting your community to look at your water saving tips. We’d like to come, but there’s one thing; we aren’t sure how we’d handle the nudity.”
“Oh don’t worry. We only run guided tours a certain times on Saturdays and Sundays, and during those times all the adults have agreed to remain dressed. We feel we have a message to get across and if people have and engrained body phobia, like most do in this country, then the message would be lost to them. The kids, however... well, we just can’t seem to keep clothes on them come the weekend, so we concluded that if anyone has difficulty with naked kids then it’s their problem. The kids are never doing it to shock or be rude, they’re just having innocent fun.”
“I think we should come on Sunday morning. We will be buying a new washing machine on Saturday, but the decision might take some time. Peter also heard that dishwashers are more economical than washing by hand. Now I find that strange, but if I can be convinced of the figures then we’ll be looking into one of those too, that is if we don’t harm the budget too much.”
“We won’t have a dishwasher at the community. Although we have so many pots to wash in one go, we get our drinking and washing water from a well, and it’s heated using solar panels, so the economy of a dishwasher is irrelevant. Plus, with so many willing hands, washing and drying is almost a social event. We don’t have the electrical capacity to spare anyway, since we live totally off-grid.”
“Yes, you’ll see what I mean on Sunday, but basically we have no mains electricity.”
At that moment, River wandered up wanted a drink. This time, Sky just opened up her top to let him suckle as if it was most natural thing in the world. It wasn’t lost on Judy that it was, indeed, the most natural thing in the world.
As was usual for the springtime in the Midlands of England, the weather was variable and erratic. Saturday morning saw a thick cloud layer, leading to heavy rain and thunder. Shopping was always a chore when having to cart Matthew and Sophie around with them. It was always ‘Look Mum, a dolly, look Mum, looook!’ or ‘Dad, I want a comic, can I have a comic? Can I? Can I? Pleeeease, can I have a comic, Dad?’ Whilst Peter and Judy were trying to look at washing machines at the electrical store, there was a constant clamour from the twins to escape to the massive display of flashing televisions. Thankfully, they were able to contain the kids long enough to be able to make a decision, select a machine and pay for it, with a delivery arranged for that afternoon. With that done, Peter and Judy decided that Peter should drop Judy home with the twins and do the supermarket shopping on his own, rather than run the gauntlet of impulse sale items with the kids.
|With shopping list in hand, it only took Peter fifteen minutes to select everything needed at the supermarket, although it took another ten to get through the checkout. Having completed the shopping, Peter returned home to pick up the twins to go swimming; Judy having prepared their little rucksacks with towels and their swimming costumes.|
As usual, on arriving at the leisure centre, Peter took the twins to the large family changing cubicles at the poolside, to change. It was as Peter and the twins were stripped, ready to put their swimming costumes on, that Sophie piped up with a question.
“Dad? What are swimming costumes for?” she asked.
“Well, they’re for swimming in, aren’t they?” replied Peter.
“I know that, but why? You said that my dressing gown was for keeping warm. But the water here is always warm, so I don’t need a swimming costume to stay warm, do I? And a swimming costume doesn’t stop me from getting wet. And a swimming costume doesn’t help me swim either, not like my armbands used to, but I’ve stopped using them. So why are swimming costumes for swimming in?”
Peter had to think for a moment before replying, “Well, if we didn’t have swimming costumes, we’d have to swim in the nude, like we are now. But there are many, many people who don’t like to see other people in the nude. They think it’s rude and will cause trouble and upset. There are also bad people who…,” Peter had to think harder, “who would hurt children on the excuse of seeing them naked.”
“Do swimming costumes stop children from being hurt?” asked Matthew.
“No. I’m here to stop bad things from happening. I don’t want you worrying about bad people, though. I just need you to trust me on this.”
Peter and the kids completed their change, put their bags into the lockers and immersed themselves in the water of the leisure pool. Peter noted that it took a little time before both Matthew and Sophie began to really enjoy themselves, perhaps being on the look-out for bad people. He was grateful that this moment passed, or else he would have to risk another bad explanation.
After an hour of splashing about in the water and having fun, it was time to return home. Peter and the kids showered off by the poolside before retrieving their stuff from the lockers and entering the cubicle again. Once they had dried and dressed, they wrung out their wet costumes and wrapped them in their towels, before putting them in their bags.
“That’s another lot of washing,” observed Sophie.
As they made their way home, Peter saw a lorry pulling away from the house just as he entered their road. The delivery men had put the new washing machine in place, connected it up and taken away the old machine with all the packaging. Judy was now sat in front of the new machine, with the instruction manual in hand. There was nothing particularly different about the new machine’s controls, except for the ‘half load’ button.
“It looks like we won’t need to get you any more cotton shirts,” said Judy to Peter, as he entered the kitchen.
“I’ll get the first load going and then get lunch ready,” she said.
After clearing the lunchtime pots away, Judy got her laptop out and began to crunch some numbers. Being an accounts clerk, she had some understanding of spreadsheet programs, and wanted to create a chart of water usage over the last year. Fortunately Peter, being a bit of an obsessive, had kept every utility bill since they moved in. He had even made a copy of the on-line bills for easy reference. Judy took the last four water bills and created a four line charts to depict water usage over each quarter. She then created another chart, associated to an empty table of figures, and entered the figure she read off the metre the other day as a starting value. It was more fortuitous than she could have hoped for since the reading had been made on the first of the month. From that point on, Judy could track their water saving efforts and verify that the new graph was not rising as fast as those from the previous year.
“How big is a toilet cistern?” Judy asked Peter.
“Ours are six litres. On weekends we go… What? Six times a day, maybe? But only twice on weekdays, since we are at work, and the kids are at school. So that’s twenty two flushes each per week. That’s eighty eight flushes in total each week. That’s five hundred and twenty eight litres … oh, heck… five hundred and twenty eight litres a week? That’s astronomical! Now what’s that in a quarter year?
Peter got out his mobile phone and pulled up the calculator app.
“That figure is thirteen times that, which is six thousand, eight hundred and sixty four litres in a quarter. Now, do we know how big a unit of water is and what do we pay for it?”
Judy looked at the bill to see what she could find. “Here we go. One unit is one cubic metre, and we pay both a supply and a sewerage charge based on how many units we use, coming to…two hundred and three point two one pence per unit. And that’s without standing charges.”
Peter plugged that number into his calculator app. “That makes roughly £14 per quarter for flushing the loo. That doesn’t sound too bad after all that.”
“Oh, but you know how that supermarket advert goes, don’t you.” Judy said. “Every little helps.”
“I wonder how much your friend, Sky can help us tomorrow.”
Posted: Oct 20, 2012
|There had been rain overnight, but by the time Judy pulled open the bedroom curtains, the sun had broken through, and it was a bright, cheerful morning. She and Peter always had a bit of a lie in on Sundays, so Matthew and Sophie were already awake and ready to jump out of bed when Judy went in to get them up. Judy instructed the twins to dress in their play clothes, knowing that since they were going to somewhere with a vegetable garden there would be too much of a likelihood of the kids getting their Sunday visiting clothes messy, and that just wouldn’t do.|
There wasn’t much car parking space in the drive leading up to Sky’s community house; just space enough for the childcare centre’s van and two more vehicles. As Judy and her family approached the entrance to the house, Judy saw a whole array of bicycles leaning against the wall, some of which were of a design alien to her, evidently for carrying bigger cargos than a normal bike could handle. The house itself was nothing like Judy had ever seen. The northern slope of the roof was entirely grass covered, and blended into the ground at the side towards the road.
Judy’s knock on the door was soon answered by Sky, with a naked River behind her. Judy had to introduce Sky to Peter as they had never met before. Peter found that Sky perfectly fitted the image that was painted by Judy’s description of her, and thought her nude son was just part and parcel of a hippy lifestyle. Sophie and Matthew just stood there, grinning and giggling, at which point Peter felt that he had to tell them to behave themselves. After greetings and a bit of small talk, Sky led them around the back of the house and out into the main garden. From there, Judy and Peter could see that the entire southern elevation was a glazed atrium, with both passive and photo-voltaic solar panels along the top. Sky sent River off to play, with Judy sending Sophie and Matthew after him.
Sky approached one slim man, of medium height, with shaggy, sandy coloured hair, who was stood with his back to the approaching group. “Calvin,” she called, “I’d like you to meet Judy and Peter.”
Calving turned to welcome their guests.
Peter couldn’t believe his eyes, “Calvin? Calvin Farrell? Flippin’ heck! What happened to you? It was like you just disappeared.”
“Peter, oh wow, man. It’s good to see you,” replied Calvin. “I just had to get away. That place was crushing me.”
“What, you two know each other?” asked Judy.
“Yeah, sure,” said Peter, “Calvin was in the battery R&D team. Even now, five years later, his work is cutting edge and leading to smaller and more cost effective power systems for hybrid and electric vehicles. Calvin’s an absolute genius. But, Judy, you’ve met Calvin at a couple of our work’s Christmas parties.”
“Peter, please,” Calvin cut in, “I don’t want to be reminded. There was too much stress. I had to leave it all behind.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, mate,” consoled Peter. “Maybe you’ll feel like talking another time, if it would help.”
“Yeah, maybe. But for now, you want to look at our water saving techniques.”
Calvin took Peter and Judy all around the small holding, showing them how the dense planting of different species of plant helped reduce moisture loss. Pointing out the soaker hoses that ran everywhere, he told how the community had moved away from water butts, due to their small capacity, replacing them, instead, with a large tank buried in the ground. All the rain water from the gutters on the house, the sheds and the greenhouse drained into the tank.
“That’s like the tank for the greywater systems that I read about the other day, honey,” said Peter, turning to Judy.
“Not quite,” said Calvin. “This can only handle rain water, whereas those take water from baths and showers, too, filtering it and killing the bugs off before supplying cleaner water, under pressure, to toilets, outdoor taps and the cold input of washing machines. Our tank was a freebie that we picked up off the local Freecycle mailing list. It only cost us the time to decontaminate it and effort to dig the hole and run the drains to it. Those professional greywater systems are expensive… around three thousand pounds fully installed. We couldn’t go for the full greywater system, not only because of the expense, but also because we don’t have the electrical capacity to run the pumps.”
“In this system water is pumped to a raised header tank, by use of a wind pump, to give us a usable amount of pressure. There’s a ball cock in the header tank, so the pump only provides water to it when the level drops slightly, meaning there is no over-flow,” explained Calvin. “You can tell when the tank is full, as the back pressure on the pump prevents the blades from turning.”
“Calvin,” began Judy, “Sky said that you had a well, so why not use that to provide water for the plants?”
Posted: Oct 20, 2012
|“The flow rate through the well isn’t great enough to handle the needs of both house and garden at the same time. We recognised that using water that’s of drinking quality for watering the garden was wasteful, anyway. Also, it’s always best to have two sources for essentials, like water, so that if things go wrong you can make do until things are fixed. If the well ever dries up, heaven forbid, we can boil and purify the rainwater for drinking, cooking and bathing, until we get a mains pipe run in from the main road. If, on the other hand, the water pump breaks down then we’ll have to hand haul water for irrigation out of the well too. Fortunately, the water pump is from a car’s cooling system, so if it breaks then it’s a quick trip to the scrap yard. The well pump is powered from a battery that is topped up by a solar panel. If the weather is overcast for too long then we have to resort to the hand pump, and that can be a pain.” |
Calvin continued the tour, showing how the ground was never left bare as there was always a layer of mulch applied. He also led Peter and Judy through a gate in a handmade willow fence to the swimming pond, the water in which was kept at a quality sufficient for bathing by the use of pollutant removing reeds, planted in a reed bed to the side. There was also a small solar powered pump to provide the circulation from the pool, through the reed bed and back again. River also led Matthew and Sophie after their parents, perhaps drawn by the lure of the pond.
Whilst they were at the pond a couple of youngsters, a boy and a girl of around eleven years old, ran up, jumped in and began splashing each other. This didn’t surprise Peter, seeing as it was a warm morning, but he was a little taken aback by the fact that they seemed totally oblivious of their nudity.
“As I said,” said Sky, “you can’t keep clothes on them.”
“Dad, why don’t they have swimming costumes?” asked Sophie. “I thought you said that swimming costumes were for stopping bad people from seeing children naked.”
Peter had to think what he had said again. “Well, they live here so perhaps they know that they are with people that they love and trust,” he said. “It’s not like at the public swimming baths, where you don’t know everybody.”
“Would anybody like a drink? I’m afraid that we only have nettle tea, fruit juice or ginger beer, other than homemade wine and beer.”
“I think we should try your nettle tea,” said Judy. “That sounds like a bit of an adventure. Matthew and Sophie will have fruit juice.”
“Okay,” said Peter, “I’m up for something different, so I’ll have a nettle tea too.”
As Sky went off to prepare the drinks, Calvin led Peter, Judy and the twins to a sitting area on the other side of the pond and they all sat down.
“Calvin,” started Peter, “this is so unlike the Calvin Farrell that I knew. You were always so intense and focused on the next leap in battery capacity or lifespan improvement, and always so smartly dressed… Okay, let’s not talk about work. So, how did you two meet?”
Calvin went quiet for a moment, thinking and then said, “I suppose work and us meeting are inextricably linked. I started work on battery technology when hybrids and electric vehicles were not fashionable with the marketing and accounts departments. I became disillusioned with my work, thinking that I’d never see a project come to fruition. Then, one day, I just snapped. I drove all the way out to North Wales, left my clothes with a note on a beach and was ready to swim to Ireland, knowing full well that I’d never make it, when a beautiful young woman stopped me.
“Her name was Felicity; she was an heiress and just happened to have seen my note blow off my pile of clothes. She retrieved my note, read it and then determined that she was going to save me. Apparently, she was doing her own kind of running away. She had spent the best part of her life in boarding school and then finishing school, and had what you’d think were all the privileges of class. But she was sick of all the Rodneys and Tarquins that her parents had lined up as her suitors, as if her parents knew anything about her. This beach that we were on just happened to be a nudist beach, and she was there to work up the nerve to scandalise the neighbourhood by streaking across the park near her home in broad daylight, which would have seen off all the eligible bachelors and got her disinherited in one fell swoop.
“As we talked, a bond of trust grew between us. Even though we were both naked, what I felt for her wasn’t sexual; it was like I had found my soul mate. Then we vowed to save each other.”
Sky returned with the drinks, on a tray, and began to distribute them.
“So what happened to this Felicity?” asked Judy.”
“She sealed the deal with a kiss,” said Sky, “sold her Range Rover, cleared her bank account and changed her name by deed poll to Sky Farrell. Then we headed off to Europe, backpacking through all the ecological communes of which we had heard from other travellers. Whilst we were travelling, we found many people who wanted to live lightly on the land, and we formed the group that set this place up.”
“Wow,” said Judy, “you never would have guessed. I mean… yes, you’re well spoken, but you look and act every inch the hippy chick you are.”
Posted: Nov 24, 2012
|“Well, I didn’t start out that way. I’m sure Calvin has told you of my boarding school upbringing. I was six years old when I was sent away; I hated it and every time I went back after holidays, I felt like I was being abandoned again. This is why I was so keen on adopting contact parenting for River. By the time I finished my schooling, I had all the manners of a society lady, but I could trust nobody. All the men that my parents presented me with as my fiancés were drug addicts, womanisers or fraudsters, or a combination of all three, so I wanted to put a stop to my parents using me to improve their social standing. Then I found this beautiful man,” Sky ran her fingers through Calvin’s hair, “who had better manners and more intelligence than all the tofts and financiers in London, but just needed someone to believe in him.”|
“When she told me what her life had been like,” cut in Calvin, “I wouldn’t have been surprised to turn around and find a giant shell lying on the beach. It was like she had totally dropped her defences to me, and was being totally open and trusting. I knew then that I had to have her in my life.”
Peter looked back over his shoulder and saw Matthew and Sophie looking intently into the waters of the swimming pond, from a short pier. “Matthew, Sophie,” he called, “come away from there. It looks deep and you’re not dressed for swimming. Look…, come over here, you can look from the bank.”
Turning back to Calvin, Peter said, “Having looked at your place here, Calvin, I’m surprised that you’ve not gone more for the electrical solution, what with your background. We’re having a clear out of samples from past projects soon. We could replace that wind powered pump with a car alternator and use it to charge up those deep-cycle lithium ion batteries that you developed. That way there will be no down time on power generation, like you have now when the header tank is full.”
“Well,” started Calvin, “originally, when we first set the system up, I honestly couldn’t even face a car battery without getting the shivers. But I think I’m over that now. We could spare £40 for a new submersible pump, if we can’t get one off Freecycle. We might as well keep the header tank and the pipe system; there is no point in replacing something that works well. We’ll just replace the ball cock with an electrical float switch. Any spare electrical capacity could be diverted to the house.”
“You know what?” asked Sky. “If there is enough juice left over, we really could do with running the washing machine more often. There are too many times that we are forced to wash by hand when the power goes out.”
Just then, there was a screech from by the pond. Peter and Judy looked up just in time to see Sophie losing her footing on the bank. Matthew made a grab for his sister, which didn’t stop her from falling in, but instead resulted in him being pulled in as well. Thankfully, the water wasn’t deep at that point, so Sophie was sat in water up to her waist, whilst Matthew was sprawled head-long in the water and was thus thoroughly drenched. Sophie began to grizzle at the indignity, but when Matthew sat up and started to laugh at the silly situation, she found the laugh to be infectious.
“Oh, now we’ve got to get you two cleaned and dried,” chided Judy.
“Don’t worry about washing them,” said Sky. “As I said, this water is bathing quality. The bottom of the pond is sandy at that point, too, so once we get their clothes dry they will be fit for them to wear as you go home.”
“Well, they are due their showers tonight anyway and we’d better get them out of those wet clothes,” said Judy. “Even on a warmish day like today, wearing wet clothes like that could give you a chill.”
Peter saw the sheepish look on Matthew’s and Sophie’s faces and guessed what they were thinking. “Don’t worry, your mum and I are here, and you know that we trust Sky with you. Plus, I’ve know Calvin for a long time, so there’s nothing to be worried about.”
Matthew and Sophie looked at each other, shrugged, and began to undress, starting with kicking off their squelchy trainers.
“Are you sure you can get their clothes dry, Sky?” asked Judy.
“We have spare space in the green house that we use for drying laundry on damp days. We planned it that way. With the sun out, they should take next to no time to dry.”
“Now we’re dressed for swimming,” said Matthew, stepping out of his soggy underpants.
“We are now coming up to the end of usual visiting hours,” said Calvin, “and it’s my turn to give young fella-me-lad here his bath, so, if you don’t mind, me and River are going skinny dipping.”
“Yeay,” cheered River.
“What? You bathe him in the pond?” asked Peter.
“Sure, that’s the good thing about a pond with natural bathing quality water; you can swim and bathe in it. We make our own natural soap as a bi-product of making our own biodiesel out of waste vegetable oil from local restaurants. At first, everyone used to smell like chips, but we started to get better at removing chip residue and added our own lavender oil for perfume. Now you can’t tell our soap from the usual, high volume commercial product.”
“Peter,” started Judy, “Sky and I will go and hang up the kids’ clothes. Perhaps you’d like to join Calvin and River, and get Matthew and Sophie bathed, rather than waiting for their showers tonight?”
Posted: Nov 24, 2012
|“Is that alright?” asked Peter. “I mean, Sophie is okay with me being nude in the family changing area of the swimming baths, but I don’t know how she’ll be with another man in the nude.”|
“It’ll be fine, don’t worry,” said Calvin. “Kids can take so much in their stride if only their parents don’t make a fuss over it. You saw Zoe and Zak earlier. They wouldn’t bat an eyelid if they saw you nude, that is, so long as you were with someone they knew. And it doesn’t matter in the least to them about them being nude, so long as they are in a safe place and in good company.”
Sky and Judy left the guys to it, in order to hang up Matthew’s and Sophie’s clothes, but Sky also felt that Judy might have felt difficult at seeing Calvin nude. Entering the greenhouse, Judy saw that one side was vacant, except for three ropes strung one above the other down the length. Sky grabbed a peg bag from by the door and handed a few pegs to Judy. A couple of minute later, they were finished, with all the dripping clothes drying in the warm, dry air of the greenhouse.
“Do you have any newspaper?” asked Judy. “We’ll need to pack out their trainers to draw the water out of the material.”
“Even out here, you can’t get away from the freebie newspapers and junk mail, so yes, we have newspaper. In fact, there’s a pile of papers in the corner, just for such situations as this.
“So, how are you holding up?” asked Sky. “The thought of your husband and kids being nude with other people obviously doesn’t faze you, so how about you?”
“I don’t know, Sky. I know that I’m okay in front of Peter and the kids, but I’m no model, so I don’t know how I’d handle being nude in front of other people,” said Judy.
“Do you think my willingness to be nude has anything to do with my model looks?” asked Sky, rhetorically. “It’s about trust; I trust Calvin to love me unconditionally, and we extend that trust to friends.”
“I know what you mean,” said Judy. “I had that trust in my parents when I was young, but everything in society says that you can trust nobody.”
“There, you see? It’s social conditioning. Look, it’s going to be lunchtime soon, and these clothes are going to take longer than that to dry. Why don’t you, Peter and the kids join us for lunch? However, we do usually ask for a contribution from those outside the community. There will be more adults and kids who go nude, too, but you don’t have to.
That night, as Peter and Judy were lying in bed, just before getting to sleep, they were discussing the day and what a revelation it had been. Their twins had taken to being nude around others without a second thought, and even Peter was at ease in Calvin’s company.
“Everyone was just so at ease with each other in the dining hall, especially the kids,” said Judy. “The only people I felt that were giving off negative vibes were the visiting textile parents of one of the women.”
“I noticed that too,” said Peter. “It was if they didn’t trust us not to be letching on all the nude people around us. Even the members of the community that were dressed didn’t seem to mind our presence.”
“I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well; it being our first time amongst nude people,” said Judy. “Sky actually complemented you on your behaviour.”
“She did, did she?
“You know what strikes me the most?” asked Peter. “If Calvin is as happy as that, then there must be something right with the world. He used to be strung as tight as a guitar string; always on edge and never satisfied with what he’s achieved, even though it was brilliant work. There was also a theme that kept coming through in everything that Calvin and Sky said; it was one of trust and belief. Maybe that’s something worth us thinking about.”
“Do you remember how we used to be before the twins arrived?” asked Judy. “We used to cuddle up on our old sofa, just watching T.V., and we used to kiss and cuddle anywhere we liked about the old flat. Have we lost something?”
“I swear I still love you as much as the day I first saw you,” said Peter. “I think the warmth is still there, as in the way I like to kiss you when you’re doing the washing up and you me when I’m drying. Maybe we’ve suppressed it a little because we’ve felt a little embarrassed in front of the kids.”
“Peter,” said Judy, “we should work on rebuilding that level of affection. Now, I don’t want to make love tonight. I just want be able to sleep in your arms, skin to skin, and I want that to be the way from now on. Could we do that?”
Peter rolled towards Judy and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. He then took her by the hand and got out of bed. They then slowly discarded their night clothes, kissed again and then settled in to sleep, snuggled against one another, as Peter flicked the lights out at the switch by his bedside table.
The next morning seemed to follow the usual routine. However, when Peter rejoined Judy after getting the kids up, he made a point of giving her a hug and a kiss when on his way to make the toast. This made both Matthew and Sophie giggle.
“Now then, you two,” chided Judy, “there are some things in life that kids shouldn’t see, and the fact that their parents love each other is definitely not one of them. So, I don’t want you going all silly just because Daddy kisses Mummy, or gives Mummy a hug.”
Posted: Nov 26, 2012
|Matthew and Sophie continued eating their cereal, still with an impish grin on their faces.|
When the evening came and Sky returned Matthew and Sophie home, there was another change as Judy met them at the door.
“Okay, Matthew, Sophie, you had such a good time at Sky’s place that I’m going to give you an option. You can either get changed into a fresh set of play clothes, or you can play in the nude, like you did when waiting for your clothes to dry, yesterday. Now, go upstairs and come down when you’re ready.”
“Will you be okay if I get River undressed?” asked Sky.
“That’s absolutely fine. I know that’s how he’d prefer to be.
“Would you like a drink, Sky? I got a box of the fruit tea this weekend.
“Yes please, I’m dying for a drink,” replied Sky, as she sat down and began to help River out of his clothes.
Not many minutes passed before Matthew and Sophie reappeared in the dining room, both in the nude. As Sky opened the patio door to the garden, the twins slowly ventured out, as if exploring a whole new world. River picked up a tennis ball that was lying on the lawn and began throwing it in the air, without a care in the world. Sophie and Matthew took a few moments more to explore the sensation of air against skin in what was otherwise a very familiar place. Sophie then called to River to throw the ball to her, with all three children settling into the game of ball-toss without further thought.
Judy prepared the drinks and brought them out to Sky, who was sitting on the steps, watching the kids play.
“It’s obvious that they don’t have a bad thought in their heads,” said Judy, “So why does society have a problem with children playing innocently, like this?”
“That’s the problem with prejudice,” said Sky. “People have their own distorted opinions and project their motivations onto everyone else.”
Judy hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Peter and I dispensed with our nightwear last night. Previously, we’d only been nude in bed for lovemaking, but what you and Calvin had been saying about trust rang true for me, and I wanted to recapture the tenderness that Peter and I shared before we had Matthew and Sophie. We just slept in each other’s arms; it was wonderful.”
"To be nude with your partner, your children and your friends, is to trust them to know the real you, without cover-up or pretence,” said Sky.
“I thought Peter had a prudish streak, but he had absolutely no problems with Calvin remaining nude after their bathing session with the kids. I guess that you remained dressed to give me a sense of familiarity whilst the world was changing about me. I thank you for that, but I don’t think it was necessary. In fact, if you’d like to join the children, I think I might find the courage to join in.”
“Are you sure?” asked Sky.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” replied Judy.
With that, Sky rose with Judy and gave her a hug, before stepping back into the dining room, relieving herself of her clothes and joining in the game of ball-toss with the kids.
Judy sat on the steps for a while, contemplating the vision of the nude children and the mother before her. Intellectually, she knew that this was right; that this is how it should be. It would only take her to acknowledge that the mass society view on nudity was wrong and for her to pluck up the courage. This she did, stepping back out onto the flagged terrace, air bathed. The game of ball-toss stalled as both Matthew and Sophie ran to their mother, to welcome her into their new, wonderful land with a hug.
Breaking from the hug, Matthew said, “That was the bestist hug ever.”
“It was for me too, darling. For me, too,” said Judy, wiping a tear from her eye.
“Me, three,” added Sophie.
Sky and River both gave Judy a brief hug, too, before the ball-toss game turned into a game of piggy-in-the-middle, with plenty of accidental slips to let River take part equally.
By the time Peter got home, Sky and River had departed for their community. On entering the living room, he encountered the strange sight of Matthew and Sophie playing cards on the floor, nude. He was about to call Judy to enquire what was going on, but she beat him to it, coming to greet him in the living room, also nude.
“Before you say anything,” Judy started, “let me tell you of my decision. This is so right, and makes perfect sense.”
Judy told Peter of how it all fell into place for her; the fact that hiding themselves from the children using clothes was nonsense, how Matthew and Sophie were simply more alive when undressed and how emotionally free she felt when being able to share herself with others without clothes. She then directed Peter to go and strip off and return with his dressing gown to sit on.
Peter complied. Judy was right; all the silly coyness about being seen nude by one another made no sense. Changing room, bathroom, dining room, living room, garden; it made no odds. There wasn’t a place in the house that the family shouldn’t be able to be with each other, without hang-ups.
That evening they ate dinner, still undressed, and then settled down to let the children read their books out loud. Come bedtime, Judy offered Matthew and Sophie the option of going to bed without their pajamas, as it seemed silly they should be getting dressed. Sophie did wonder if she’d be warm enough, but opted to sleep nude when Judy pointed out that her PJs would be close at hand if she felt the need for them.
Posted: Nov 26, 2012
|As it was, come breakfast time the next morning, neither Sophie nor Matthew had felt cold during the night, and both came down early to breakfast, carrying their dressing gowns to place on the chairs.|
“Right, then,” said Judy, “this is family conference time.”
Sophie and Matthew listened intently, as Peter poured milk onto their cereals.
“With things that have happened since last Thursday, and with what your dad and I have learned from Sky and Calvin, it’s become clear that not only do you love being without clothes, but it also helps build and maintain healthy and loving relationships between family members and their good friends. So, from now on, if you don’t feel cold and there is nobody else here, then you can be as dressed or undressed as you like.”
There was already a grin on the faces of both Matthew and Sophie, but the grins just became wider.
“There is one thing, however,” cut in Peter. “We don’t know how your friends at school will take it if you tell them that you now live in the nudie. As I said when we were swimming last Saturday, there are many, many people who don’t like seeing people being nude. Now, there are also people who, even though they won’t see you here without clothes, will make trouble and cause you upset if they knew how we are going to be living. These people pass their bad attitudes on to their children. Since you can’t see bad attitudes, we need you to only talk about this with us, Sky, Calvin or the friends that we’ll be making at the community. Okay?”
Matthew and Sophie both nodded.
“So we’ll be spending more time over there?” asked Judy.
“Well, I’ll be helping Calvin change the wind pump to be an electrical generator, for one. And you don’t think that these two are ever going to be happy swimming in a public baths with swimming costumes on ever again?”
Matthew and Sophie sat there, shaking their heads, with a grin.
Over the next week, Peter helped Calvin swap the water pump for the alternator and install the required batteries and charge regulators. Sky and the rest of the community residents were thrilled that the spare generating capacity resulted in hand washing being eliminated for all but those items for which it was necessary. The Musgrove’s decided to make their Saturday visits a regular event on warm days, with Matthew and Sophie enjoying the pool and Judy and Peter helping out around the smallholding. A couple of their new friends even offered to pay them a visit, in order to redesign their garden along Permaculture lines, although without upsetting its prime use as a children’s play area.
Back home, Peter and Judy opted to buy the dishwasher. Peter was handy with his D.I.Y. skills, so had installed the required plumbing and electrical spur for the dishwasher, and altered the kitchen cabinets to allow for installation. Once the machine was delivered and installed, Judy read the instructions carefully, before loading the dishes from breakfast and lunch, and putting the tablet of detergent in the right location. Having closed the door, she selected the program, set it running and stood back, next to her husband, each with an arm around the other.
“You know,” she said, “we’ll have to make up some more special together time for what we lose when I’m not washing and you’re not drying.”
Their special together time was when they talked, laughed, kissed and strengthened the bond between them as a couple. This was sacrosanct, and was not to be used for slobbing out in front of the telly, which put a stop to any meaningful relating. Just being unclothed together made all together time special. It didn’t need to be sexy, passionate or even particularly romantic, but there was a new level of understanding and love that passed, unspoken, between them.
Peter gave his wife a squeeze. “I’m sure we’ll think of something,” he said.
During the weekday evenings, time that had previously been spent on washing and drying pots became family time, with Matthew and Sophie either reading to their mum and dad or playing a board game or cards. All showers reverted to being had every second evening, so that more time could be spent playing together as a family; drying being achieved with flannelling off, a light toweling and air drying.
From the first day after the last water bill had arrived, Judy had been plotting the daily readings from the water meter. Plotting the new readings against the previously drawn line of predicted consumption, Judy could see the lines diverging with increasing rate. If the present rate of consumption held, Judy could see that there would be a saving of fifty percent off previous bills.
She reflected on the shock of the water bill and the discoveries that they had made in response. Peter was using half the water to wash the car than he previously had. It was a very rare day that Sophie wore any clothes once divest of her school uniform, let alone changing several times. Matthew was also so much more careful of turning off the tap when brushing his teeth. Not only were they all more aware of their environmental impact, but their time together was just so much more rewarding and they had made such good new friends at the community.
Judy turned to Peter and said, “Installing that water meter was the best move we ever made.”
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