|This is a single author story, which is now complete.|
“Okay, to me…,left hand down…,okay, straighten up…,keep coming, back…,back…,whoa! Perfect.” The middle aged woman with tied-back, greying hair was pleased that her instructions were followed so well, especially since English wasn’t the driver’s first language. She had dealt with many a horsebox driver and, often, their care for the horses they carried and her property left a lot to be desired.
She looked the very image of the horsewoman she was, as she strode up to the cab of the motorhome; slim, with riding boots, jodhpurs, close fitting jacket and a tanned, weathered face. She met the driver, jumping down from the cab. “Thanks, Henk. That was a nice bit of handling. You didn’t demolish a single building,” she said, jokingly.
“Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for letting us park up here. It’s a bit of a tight fit up this lane, and our friends don’t have space to spare.” Henk said, in his thick Dutch accent.
“Emma, please. I can’t say that the money won’t come in handy; things are a bit tight at the moment. And I must say, you speak English very well. I picked up a few phrases of Dutch during my competitive years, travelling all over Europe, but I never got chance to immerse myself in the language.”
“Ah, you see, we have an advantage in the Netherlands. Before digital television we used to get the BBC channels just like you did, through the aerial, so we grew up listening to English as it is spoken. These days, most cable and satellite operators provide all the BBC channels on their basic packages. My wife will be glued to ‘East Enders’ all the time that she’s here. Anyway, I must get over there, or they will send out a search party. I’ll make sure Famke and her friends get over here in the morning, on time for the trek.”
Whilst Henk had been parking the family’s motorhome, his wife and daughter had found their way to the Evesham household, and were busy reacquainting themselves with Chloe’s family. Henk and Emma waved their goodbyes as he marched off, taking his stocky frame towards the entry gate and then on up the lane.
“Pink! That is so daring!” exclaimed Chloe, of Famke’s hair colour.
“I know. I felt like a change, and pink is just so shocking. I think it suits me fine.” Famke said, modelling her, now pink tipped, platinum blonde hair do.
“Yeah, shocking pink for a live wire,” laughed Chloe. “Anyway, I know it’s drizzling, but you’ve had a long journey, so how’s about hitting that Jacuzzi of ours?”
“Oh, but Stefan and Yvette’s families will have travelled further,” cut in Lena, Famke’s mother.
“Blow it, then,” said Susan with a humorous smile, “we’ll just have to wait until they get here.”
Chloe ignored her mother’s joke, slid the patio doors open, pulled the cover off the awaiting tub and slipped herself into the water. Famke soon joined Chloe; in the nude and in the tub. Lena hadn’t quite cottoned on that Susan was joking, and had to be persuaded to join the two girls, whilst Mark waited for Henk’s arrival and Susan went to prepare some coffee, to defend against the cool weather. Mark had installed an awning over the patio, so any occupants of the tub would not get any wetter than through being in the water. The awning was also to prevent any refreshments being ruined.
Just as Lena was lowering her ample self into the Jacuzzi, Henk arrived, directed into the dining room by Mark.
“Hello, Susan. It’s good to see you again.” Henk hugged Susan’s nude form to him, warmly, and they exchanged a couple of cheek kisses.
“Hello, Henk.” Susan replied. “Yes, once a year, even if it is for two weeks, is not enough for seeing good friends. So, how was the journey?”
“Good, good,” said Henk, stepping out of his clothes. “I’m glad I spoke to Mark first though. If I had followed the suggestion of Google Maps, we would have made the crossing on the Calais-Dover route, and would have been shoved onto the M25 and the M6, which Mark said are a complete nightmare.” He made his way out to the Jacuzzi with Susan, joined his wife in the water, and then continued. “Instead, we got away as soon as Famke returned from school, took the overnight crossing from Rotterdam to Hull, and here we are, bright and early on Saturday. You know, you have some very beautiful countryside here in England; very green and very hilly. I know many people in our club that would love to come here, if they could only find somewhere to stay.”
“Ah, but that’s the rub!” said Mark, stepping out onto the patio, carrying the tray with two large cafetieres of coffee. He set the tray down the small table, next to some cups, within easy reach of the Jacuzzi. “England is full of little clubs that keep themselves to themselves, and don’t advertise their existence to outsiders who might like to visit. It’s as if they can’t get over the stigma and the sniggering attitude that British society supposedly has.”
Mark poured the coffee and invited the occupants of the Jacuzzi to make their own choices for sugar and milk or cream. He then went to call Robert down from upstairs, so that Robert could come and greet their guests and get something to drink. Robert duly arrived, having stopped in the kitchen to get himself a can of something fizzy. He then joined the party. Just as everyone was settled snugly in the Jacuzzi, the gate at the bottom of the garden opened and in walked Jess, followed by Jenny and Eddie, all dressed in the most casual of attire.
“Oh, poo! There’s no space left,” called Jess.
“Let’s just get undercover, out of this drizzle,” directed Jenny.
|Chloe waved Jess in, and Jess occupied Chloe’s lap, with an arm draped around Chloe’s shoulder.|
“I’d better do the introductions,” said Mark. “Henk, Lena; these are Eddie and Jenny Finnegan, and their daughter Jess. Jess is Susan’s Goddaughter, and Chloe’s best friend. Eddie, Jenny; these are Henk and Lena Bakker and their daughter, Famke. We’ve known them from our yearly trips to Bordeaux for almost seven years now.”
Nods and smiles of greeting were exchanged, and, again, the story of the Bakkers’ journey was told.
“Oh, that reminds me,” said Henk, “the Schmidts were on the same crossing as us. From what Thomas was saying, I think he has a heavy foot on the gas, from all the driving he does on autobahns. I expect that they arrived at the Lowrys’ home quite some time before we arrived here.”
“And that reminds me, too,” added Mark. “The Simons took the Eurostar from Paris, and will be arriving on the Metrolink just around two o’clock. I promised to pick them up and bring them here before making introductions to Eddie and Jenny, so I’d better get moving once I’ve finished my coffee.”
The adults chatted for some time about plans for the fortnight’s vacation, with Eddie and Jenny perched on the edge of the tub. Mark drained his cup, set it back on the small table, and rose to vacate his position. Just as he was drying off, there was a knocking on the gate at the side of the house. Mark peered over the gate, to check who it was, and opened it.
“Scotty!” shouted Famke, as she leapt from the tub and ran to land Scott with a big wet hug.
“Pink! Wow! It suits you. Anyway, let me put my bike down and get out of this sweaty gear, and then I can give you a proper hug.” Scott said.
Famke relented, and Scott swung his bike around and set it against the wall, under the kitchen window. This was no longer the silver Trek that his parents had bought him just before the start of year eight, but a stealth black, carbon fibre Dolan model, with a sculpted frame and deep-section wheels. Without needing explanation, the new bike told its own story of competitive aspirations. Scott put his bar-mounted computer into standby and switched off his front and rear LED pulse lights, before removing his new helmet and shades. Setting them down, he stripped off his cycling gear, entered the house through the kitchen door and deposited the discarded items in the utility room. On his return, he and Famke wrapped their arms around each other for a big hug for much missed friends.
Pulling apart from Scott slightly, Famke traced a finger across the scar over Scott’s left cheek bone. “Oh, look at your pretty face!”
Scott broke from Famke, chuckling. “It’s still pretty, just with a bit more character.”
The drizzle had stopped and the sun had broken through, so Scott helped Eddie unhook the awning and roll it up to one side, whilst Famke returned to the Jacuzzi. Jenny had taken Mark’s vacated spot in the water, and was talking to Henk and Lena, so Scott walked round to Chloe, climbed onto the side of the tub, placing a foot either side of Chloe’s back, and planted his customary kiss on her neck, behind her right ear. Chloe simply leaned back against his legs, just grateful that he was there at all, and patted his knee with her hand.
“Scott,” called Lena, breaking into what could have been a wonderful daydream, “did the Schmidts arrive safely at your place?”
“Oh yes, they did, a couple of hours ago. I meant to say. I had to get out on a recovery ride, so agreed to meet Mum, Dad and Stefan’s family here. They should…”
“Hi everyone.” Mike had reached over the side gate and released the latch. Following right behind were Beth, Thomas and Bettina Schmidt, Stefan and the Schmidts’ eight-year-old daughter, Alisha. Introductions were again made to Eddie, Jenny and Jess. Alisha was still too young to have picked up much English, so Stefan translated whilst he made special introductions for her, just in case she had forgotten who his friends were from last summer.
"Scott," asked Henk, "before your father arrived, you were saying something about 'recovery rides'. Are you still having problems with your shoulder?"
"Well, yes it's still stiff, especially in the morning, and when it's damp out, it hurts enough that I have to swallow a couple of aspirin, but that's not what I meant... After a day of intense training, the next day should be a recovery day with a shorter ride at low pace. It improves muscle memory without physically stressing the muscles further. It should be a feature of all riders' programs whether they were injured or not. Without these rides, it is very easy for riders to become over trained and to risk muscle damage."
"I see... Thanks."
|It was twenty minutes past two in the afternoon before Mark returned with Yvette, her parents, Jean-René and Sylvie Simon, and Claude, her nine-year-old brother. Although they had made every connection on time, the trouble they had trying to ask for information on the London Underground with their limited English made for a fraught few moments. In the end they left it to Yvette, and she sorted it out without problems. The journey had otherwise been smooth and pleasant, completely avoiding driving on the wrong side of the road in heavy traffic. Jess had a special welcoming hug for Yvette during their introductions, having got to know her somewhat through their exchanged e-mails. She then greeted Jean-René, Sylvie and Claude in good, clear, if a little formal, French.|
After a light lunch of soup and rolls, prepared by Susan and Jenny, Jess led the Simons on a tour of her home. With a little help from Chloe, Jess had prepared the tour in French. Chloe accompanied her, just in case she needed to field some questions of which Jess couldn’t grasp the context immediately. Jess had also pre-programmed a series of light activation and blind closure sequences, all cued by a press of a button on the remote control that she had palmed discretely. Eddie had cooperated by blocking the direct view into the courtyard from the entry of the wet room, with a fence panel. The external wet room door opened with a buzz at the press of a button, and the lights therein illuminated. The view into the courtyard was obscured by the closing blinds as the party passed, ushered onwards with dimming and brightening lights.
The first stop after the wet room was Jenny’s studio, which was moving from a state of order into artistic chaos, as Jenny experimented with ideas. Eddie’s study was a distinct contrast to Jenny’s space; a picture of order and logic. As they moved on into the living room, Sylvie spotted a four foot by three foot canvas on the wall adjoining Eddie’s study. It was a full nude portrait of Jess, lying prone on the floor, with a text book and an exercise book in front of her, and a pen in hand, looking pensive. The position of Jess’s upper arm in the painting hid most of her breast; her hair swept over the opposing shoulder. All stood and regarded the painting for a moment until Jean-René commented that they shouldn’t get lost in the beauty of the painting when they should be paying attention to the real-life beauty that was there with them. Chloe translated from French, causing Jess to blush.
Passing through the kitchen, Jess cycled the lighting between full overhead lighting, task lighting and plinth spots alone, and set the kettle to boil as if switched on by an unknown hand. That last little trick had Yvette and Claude enthralled. Sylvie was more impressed when Jess demonstrated the central vacuum system when they moved into the dining area. Jess picked up what looked like a standard vacuum hose but instead of attaching it to a vacuum, she inserted the bayonet fitting into a port on the wall. There was an instant, gentle gushing sound as air was pulled through the nozzle, and yet no high pitched scream of an electric motor. Jess explained that the vacuum unit was located in the garage, with ports, like the one there, positioned all over the house. The motor was much more powerful than one in a standard vacuum cleaner, enabling it to cope with the long pipe work involved. Jess joked that the hunt for missing socks was much easier in their new house because any missing socks were bound to be found in the garage.
The tour of the bedroom wing was simple, with Jess showing the guests to their particular rooms. Eddie had hired in some furniture for the Simons’ visit, so the second bedroom was now the double room it was designed to be, and Jess had temporarily moved down the corridor to the end room. Two single beds had been shoe-horned into the other single room, for Yvette and Claude, but Yvette wondered if Jess would like to share the room with her instead, so that they could talk. Both Jess and Claude were happy with that change.
Jess led the Simons back to the kitchen and then revealed the inner courtyard and all the rooms that looked out onto it, by commanding all the blinds to open at once. She then pulled the lever of the large bi-fold doors and pushed; the interior and exterior spaces instantly became united. The Simons followed Jess out to an iron spiral staircase, situated at the back right hand corner of the courtyard. The staircase led to the teak decking of the roof terrace, which stretched the whole length of the house above Eddie’s study, the living room and the entry hall. Here the tour ended, with the Simons enjoying the sun and the view over the parapet.
Over the next hour, Jess repeated the tour for the Bakkers and the Schmidts, but this time she stuck to English, with Stefan translating for his little sister. All the visitors were impressed at just how well the house suited a naturist family. Although the inner courtyard was easily overshadowed by the building, the addition of the roof terrace made up for this by providing a sunny and yet still secluded spot in which to enjoy the sun.
|The teens returned to the Jacuzzi, next door, and the two youngest members of the gathering took to racing between the properties. The adults spread themselves around the courtyard, just to enjoy the space. The discussion amongst the women turned to Beth’s pregnancy; no, it was too early to show; yes, the fourteen week scan was in two weeks; no, they weren’t worried about Beth’s age; no, they had no preferences for whether it was a boy or a girl; yes, Beth was going to give up teaching for a few years at least; yes, after this Mike was going to get a vasectomy. Mike put on sad puppy-dog eyes and whimpered comically at that last statement, at which all laughed. |
Jenny and Susan prepared a light buffet for tea, with a couple of ham finger rolls and fruit salad for dessert. The tea needed to be light, as on most Saturdays, to allow swimming. The logistics for travel to the pool were not lost on Mike, so the Schmidts had earlier followed Mike’s people carrier to the Evesham’s place in their own car. There would be four cars heading into Manchester; the Lowrys took the Simons, and the Bakkers divided themselves between the cars of the Eveshams and the Finnegans, and all set off in convoy, after Mike had made sure Thomas had the correct postcode programmed into his sat-nav.
There was a dip in the numbers of the regular attendees at the pool that night, due to people going away for Easter, so the extra eleven people that came that evening didn’t put a strain on capacity. Doug, the Membership Secretary, was just slightly disappointed that all the new faces were only visiting. When Jess spotted Stuart, she ran up behind him and flung her arms around him. Stuart was a bit surprised, but when he was introduced to Stefan, Famke and Yvette, he understood that Jess was really showing him off.
Max was there, and had some news of his own. He was retiring from oil platform operations and was thinking of setting up as a professional diving instructor. He had actually decided on coming home permanently a couple of months ago, and that is why he had said that Stuart could go to Bordeaux in August. Now that his last official rotation was over, he was kicking his heels whilst still on stand-by, assessing his options. Mike knew that one of the sites that his company were overseeing could do with another full qualified structural welder, if Max just wanted to relieve the boredom. Max thanked Mike and said that he’d be glad of the distraction.
The game of ball-toss was slightly more raucous than usual that week, with all the families joining in the game with six balls in play. Eventually Stuart and Jess broke off to swim to the deep end with Stefan, Famke and Yvette, so that they could talk and get to know each other better ahead of the summer holiday. Claude and Alisha melded with the small group of seven to ten year-olds, with Chloe and Scott there to provide translations if necessary. However, laughter needed no translation as the group began a game of tig. Eddie had to show all their guests the Turkish Suite. Jean-René and Sylvie were not big fans of saunas and the like, but Thomas, Bettina, Henk and Lena were all impressed at the provisions of the early twentieth century bathhouse.
All too soon, the youngsters wore themselves out, and it was time to depart. The girls would need a good night’s sleep if they were to be up on time the following day, and, if the yawns that were becoming infectious were anything to go by, it looked like sleep wouldn’t be difficult.
|Chloe and Famke were up with the larks as Sunday dawned. They made breakfast for themselves, then dressed in jeans and t-shirts, and headed out of the kitchen door, down the garden and through the gate. Jess and Yvette were not very far behind in preparations, with Jess, rather unladylike, stuffing a half round of toast in her mouth just to get out of the front door with the others. It was only a short walk to the gates of the riding centre, but still the girls broke into an excited jog.|
“Let’s see what have we here,” said Emma, pensively, as the girls gathered at the front desk. “Jeans? No, I’ll have to set you up with jodhpurs. Jeans will just be too uncomfortable, with their seams in the wrong place. And the sun may be warm, but once we get into the trees it could be quite chilly, so I’ll kit you all out with gilets. You can open them up if you get too warm. Okay, let’s get the tape measure to you first, Famke, and then we’ll see about riding hats and boots.”
With all the measurements taken and written down, along with a note of each girl’s shoe size, Emma created four piles of clothes, with boots. All the garments were evidently brand new, with the gilets embroidered with the logo of the riding centre. “Okay, Famke, Jess, Chloe and Yvette,” said Emma, pointing to each pile of clothes in turn. “The changing room is over there. I’ll see you outside in ten minutes.”
The girls entered the changing room and quickly slipped off their jeans and pulled on the jodhpurs, each agreeing that, although this was going to be fun, they were glad that it should be the only occasion that they needed to be dressed for the whole two weeks. Having zipped up their gilets and checked the security of each other’s riding hat, they stepped out to join Emma.
Out in the stable yard, a stable girl of maybe seventeen years of age was assisting Emma in preparing six horses, which were all saddled with their bridles in place and tied by their reins to the railings. The stable girl, who went by the name Jocelyn, introduced the friends to the horses and helped them mount their allotted rides. Chloe’s horse, Moe, was a chestnut with an evident sense of humour. Famke and Yvette both had bays, named Cognac and Hennesey, respectively. The black horse that Jess was given was a patient and steady beast with the given name of Merlin. Jocelyn mounted her own ride, a white horse by the name of Phileas, and led off through the trail gate. Emma followed up on her own horse, a black Andalucían called Assisi, closing the trail gate whilst still mounded, with Assisi performing a neat dressage style side step.
Looking up the line of riders from the rear, Emma could assess each girl’s riding style. Famke, at the front, was obviously accustomed to being on a horse; the way she moved with the horse was telling. Given her freedom, Famke could, no doubt, take Cognac through her paces in full control. What could Famke do over jumps though? Yvette was the typical sack of spuds; just sat on the horse without shape or coordination. Jess was slightly better; trying to engage with the movement, but her posture was not right. Chloe was the last in line. She had good shape and was trying to engage with the horse. Emma had seen Chloe cycling up the lane on a few occasions, so thought Chloe would at least have some strength and fitness to withstand some intensive lessons. Despite not starting really young, Emma could see the makings of a good horsewoman in Chloe.
All four of the girls had opened up their gilets as they made their way out into the sunlit countryside, not that they were feeling particularly hot, just captive. The trek up to Rawtenstall was to be an hour each way, with a stop at a café just short of the built up area, for an early lunch and watering of the horses. Emma had developed a working relationship with the café owner, so lunches were already paid for within the price of the trek and buckets were always standing ready. Half way along the trail, however, their path crossed the road heading for Haslingden. Jocelyn dismounted, handing her reins off to Famke, and opened the gate on their side of the road. Now she had a clear view of the road, past the hedge that lined the trail. She crossed the road and opened the second gate, returning to remount Phileas.
Jocelyn had just called Famke on when she spotted a cyclist heading downhill, rapidly, towards them. “We better hold,” she said, taking hold of Cognac’s bridle. “These dicks can flash by without thought of how they can upset a horse.”
As the cyclist approached, it was evident that he was slowing down rapidly.
“Scotty! You’re out early,” called Famke. “Why didn’t you sign up for the ride? I know you liked riding in France.”
“You know him?” questioned Jocelyn.
“Sure, he’s Chloe’s sweetheart.”
|Scott pulled to a halt and unclipped. “I thought it was you, Famke,” said Scott. “I could see your hair from way back up the road. I would have come, but I do really have to get more riding in after my accident. Look,” he continued, this time addressing Jocelyn, “you’d probably best make it across the road. There’s a pack of riders that I burned off two miles back heading this way, and if their road manners are anything to go by, they won’t know how to behave around horses.”|
“Thank you,” said Jocelyn, and led the column onwards.
“Stefan didn’t want to go riding with us?” asked Yvette.
“You know horses aren’t Stefan’s thing. I think he’s allergic.”
“Stuart could have done with coming with us. This is brilliant.” Jess said.
“Jess, you’ll learn that Stuart is no early bird. Perhaps you could persuade him to go riding in August.”
“That’s a fine creature there.” Scott said as Chloe rode towards him. “And the horse isn’t bad looking either.”
“Oi, cheeky! Are you doing your usual route?” Chloe asked.
“No, I’m going to extend it down into Darwin, just for a change. I’ll probably be back at your place shortly after you return. Mum and Stefan’s family will be there by then. I’ll see you then, gorgeous.”
Scott would have offered to close the gate, but Emma had it under control and set off up the next leg of the trail having thanked Scott for his consideration. Chloe looked back and waved as Scott re-engaged the pedal, just as the rabble caught up with him.
After the stop at the café, where Chloe and Jess found cappuccinos and lattes were unheard of, Emma had Jocelyn lead Jess and Yvette ahead whilst she held back with Famke and Chloe, just to have a chat. As she thought, Famke was a regular rider when at home. Although not a regular rider, Chloe had enjoyed riding when on her annual holiday for several years. Emma and the two girls chatted on for some time, so that Emma could let Jocelyn and the other two girls get some distance ahead. She then wanted to see if she could get Chloe to get Moe to break into a trot, asking Famke to demonstrate in a wide circle of the field that they were passing through. Famke demonstrated beautifully, as Emma told Chloe what to watch out for in Famke’s action. Then it was Chloe’s turn. At first Moe stalled, not sure of the action inferred, but then he caught on what was meant, and broke into a steady trot. After watching for a few moments, Emma signalled Famke to take the lead, and had Chloe fall in between herself and Famke. She then kept an eye on Chloe’s style as they made to catch the lead group. Fifteen minutes passed before the two groups merged. In that time Chloe had shown stamina, not once letting the rhythm drop or losing her style. Yes, Emma had plans for Chloe, if only she could persuade her to take lessons.
|Monday was going to be an easy day, with Mike, Mark and Eddie still working there would be no running around to outside events. Even though it meant getting dressed, Famke and Chloe had volunteered to spend time in the morning, helping out at the stables. Louise dropped Stuart and Ben off before heading on to work, so that the boys could spend time with Jess and Robert. Ben’s ball control had improved remarkably from the first game of keepie uppie that he had played with Robert, almost a year ago. There wasn’t much to do at Scott’s whilst he was spending time on an intense turbo trainer routine, so Beth brought Stefan and his family over to Susan’s, leaving Scott to ride over when he was ready.|
Henk had some ideas bouncing around his head and by mid-afternoon needed to go check things out down at the riding centre, so he too dressed and headed down the lane. As he passed the paddocks along the lane and entered the main yard, he saw Emma coming out of the riding school, leading a horse on which a girl of high school age was mounted. The girl dismounted and led the horse back towards the stable yard. Emma spotted Henk and moved to greet him.
“Hello, Emma. You were saying things are a little tight, financially. I’m in management consultancy and I have a few ideas that might help you. I was wondering, may I have a wander around and have a think? Perhaps you could just show me the boundaries to your property and we can have a little chat about your situation.”
“Sure, I’m open to good ideas and I have some time right now, but I doubt I could afford consultancy fees.”
“Don’t worry about that. What I have in mind can be achieved without professional management level input, although it might take a little elbow work and investment.”
“Oh, investment; that’s my problem,” began Emma, as she led Hank out from the yard, past the indoor riding school, “and I don’t have time for the elbow work. I had a partner who was supposed to be going halves with me on new capital injection into this place. I placed the orders for the construction of the new school and for the clothing and tack. We were going to turn the old school space into office space and accommodation, but when we came to the point of no return, she upped sticks and disappeared to Spain, taking her money with her. That left me barely enough time to do enough teaching to make a living. I would have liked to bring in another instructor, but I just can’t afford the wage. Of course, I’ve looked around for someone with qualifications who is able to invest, but everyone’s money seems to be tied up.”
Emma showed Henk to the limits of the riding centre’s land, although he said he didn’t need to see the horse trail beyond where it broke out into open countryside. He didn’t say much, just noting the lay of the land, the density of hedging and undergrowth, the area covered by disused paddocks and the relative position of both used and disused buildings. “Yes,” said Henk, eventually, “this will work without disrupting your current operations. Look, Emma, you have a good area of flat ground that you aren’t using, and you don’t have the capital to expand to the point where you would use it. From what Mike, the architect of the house at the end of the lane, has said, you won’t be able to sell any more land for development, as what you have here is all green belt. What I’m proposing will give you a revenue stream that, although seasonal, will be high yield for a relatively low investment. It may also bring you more clientele for mid-week lessons or treks. ”
“That sounds good. I’m listening, but remember, I am a little strapped for cash.” Emma said.
“Well, if you are open to my suggestions then I may have an investor for you, but I’ll have to show him the place and tell him my ideas too. That land of yours, beyond the new riding school will make a great camping and caravan site. I said to Mark that I know many people that would come camping in England if there were good places to stay.”
“But that’s not a guaranteed market. Aren’t there thousands upon thousands of camping sites?”
“Not here in England; not if you’re a naturist.”
|Chloe rose early on Tuesday morning; slipping on her jeans, t-shirt and trainers whilst trying not to disturb Famke. Opening the front door and locking it behind her, she walked slowly and sadly down the lane and into the riding centre. Noticing that the space where Henk had parked the motorhome was now vacant, Chloe entered the stable yard, with a heavy heart, and walked up to the first horse looking out of its stable door.|
“Moe de Grass. It’s a funny name for a funny horse.” Chloe patted Moe’s nose. “Bye, Moe.” Chloe moved to the next two stables, with their adjoining doors. “Hennesey and Cognac. Someone must have been drinking too much when they named you two. Bye Hennesey, bye Cognac.” Chloe moved on again. “Merlin, Merlin, magical Merlin. I wish you could magic me a solution to all the bigots in the world.” Chloe sighed. “Bye Merlin.”
As Chloe turned to cross the stable yard she saw Emma exiting the backdoor of the old farm house. Chloe turned again and headed back towards the gate.
“’Morning Chloe,” called Emma. Chloe didn’t respond, but continued on her way. “Chloe, where are you going?”
Chloe stopped and spoke back over her shoulder. “I’m going somewhere I’m respected. I only came to say goodbye to the horses. It’s a pity. It’s my birthday in the middle of next week. I was going to ask for riding lessons.”
“Wait, there’s no need for you to go. Why don’t you tell me what is your problem?”
Chloe turned back towards Emma and closed to within ten feet of the woman, her body language issuing threats. “This is your problem, not mine. I don’t know where you get your ideas about what or who naturists are. Yes, Henk told us what you said, and I’ll tell you this; I may be young, but I’ve never been so insulted in all my life!”
“Yes, I, my parents, my grandparents, my younger brother, Jess, her parents, Yvette and Famke, and their families, mine and Jess’s boyfriends and their families are all naturists. Naturists have families too, you know. The only difference is that from when we are born we are not told that we are bad, evil or dirty, and we grow up to respect other people for who they are, not what they are or how they dress.”
“But what about the…, you know.”
"Don't forget that I'm a minor; I'm not supposed to be aware of your 'you know'. Maybe you’ve been watching too many Carry-On films, or maybe outright pornography. All that ‘you know’ is in your mind, not mine. I’ve never seen my mum and dad doing anything more than kissing and cuddling. And before you ask, that’s the most my boyfriend and I do as well. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got to go and do some dusting; probably the dirtiest thing I’ll be doing in the nude.” Chloe strode for the riding centre’s gate but paused and turned back. “You know it’s ironic that you named your horse Assisi and yet you think that all people who go nude are wicked, immoral people.” Chloe turned again and stormed off, leaving behind a bemused Emma.
|“You know I think it best if we just packed up and went home,” said Henk, at the end of breakfast. “Our motorhome is in the way on Eddie’s drive, and there is only so much time you can spend in the Jacuzzi before it becomes all the same.”|
“Nonsense!” said Susan. “You wouldn’t be doing much more at your club in Holland. Besides, Eddie moved his car so that he could get out each morning. You are just upset at what that witch said. There is no point cutting short your holiday and spending more money on exchanging your ferry tickets just because of a little local difficulty. Besides, our holiday wouldn’t be the same without you.”
Henk sat and considered for a while. “I know you’re right, but I don’t know how I could relax now. Famke was looking forward to spending time with the horses. I don’t know how well we’ll enjoy the rest of our time here.”
The friends had gathered at Susan’s to see if the poisonous atmosphere had cleared to any degree. Only the Clays were absent because Louise was working and had their only car. Chloe, Famke, Jess, Yvette, Scott and Stefan had all deposited themselves in the Jacuzzi, to release the stress, but it wasn’t working. All the teens sat there, numb.
“Okay,” said Susan, “if it’s about being here, we could always relocate to our favourite beach and camping spot in North Wales, just for a few days. The camp site we use has a naturist section, and there’s and official naturist beach nearby, although it is a bit of a trek along the shore. You’ve got your motorhome, we’ve got a six man tent, and I know Jess and Jenny like to camp. I’m sure Mark, Mike and Eddie will be able to cope and would love to see the back of us for a few days.”
By the time any of the teens poked their heads into the dining room from the patio, it was all decided: they were going to spend three nights camping and caravanning by the sea, where they could spend the days playing on the beach, in the sun, away from Emma.
Jenny jumped as a thought hit her. “It’s coming up to Easter. Aren’t the camp sites are going to be busy?”
“I’d better ring and see what pitches are available. We were regulars at the site at Easter until last year. The site manager always tries to give regulars priority.” Susan said.
“Well, I’d better get dialling and see if Max wants to bring Stuart and Ben, and then you can investigate what pitches are available.” Beth said. Taking her mobile phone, she dialled and waited a moment before the other end was picked up. “Hi Max, it’s Beth. Look, you know about the kerfuffle with the horse place yesterday. Well, we’ve decided to go camping in North Wales, near the nudist beach, to get over it. Would you and the boys like to come?” There was a pause whilst Max consulted with his boys. Beth listened for a moment. “Well, if that’s the only thing stopping you then I know of a major outdoors equipment supplier in Warrington, just off the motorway, so if you travelled with Scott and myself then we could stop off and get the tent and what-not on the way out. I’m sure Louise will agree if you ring her and ask nicely.”
“Oh, Mum,” interrupted Scott,”tell Stuart to fit his mountain bike with off-road tyres, and I’ll fit the bike carrier on the car.”
“Did you hear that, Max? ... Yes, tell Stuart to fit his mountain bike with off-road tyres. Scott wants him to bring it along. We just need to work out who is going in which car, and to check what pitches are available. If we spread ourselves over various sites then it should work out, but if our plans all go to pot I’ll phone you back.”
“Immediately after lunch, I expect. Scott and I will have to pop back home first, though. See you then, bye.”
Susan had the numbers for both the site with the naturist field and the textile holiday centre to hand. Calling the naturist site first, she found that there were two pitches available in the naturist section, one of which was available as the result of an unfortunate cancellation, not ten minutes ago. Susan asked if they could be held for ten minutes, whilst she checked to see if she could get other friends in at the holiday centre, saying that they were previously regular visitors. The site manager duly obliged, saying that he’d give Susan priority to the pitches for an hour. Susan then called the textile holiday centre found that there were two static caravans available and that there was space for a tent in the camping field. Susan immediately snapped those up and phoned the first camp site back to take the two pitches that she had reserved.
As Beth and Susan had the use of their families’ larger vehicles for the two weeks that their guests were over, the logistics worked out that Jean-René and Claude would travel with the Bakkers in their motorhome, whilst Sylvie and Yvette would travel with Susan, Chloe and Robert. Jess was happy that she and Jenny would be travelling with Stuart, with his dad and brother, Scott and Beth, in the Lowrys' people carrier.
|The Schmidts had arrived with Beth and Scott that morning, so Beth had to take them back to her house so that they could pick up their own car and some luggage for the next few days. Jenny and Jess followed in Jenny’s small car, which she would leave at Beth’s. Beth was glad that Mike was fastidious enough to build a racking system for the garage, and create a printed inventory of the contents; the sleeping bags and ground mats were thus easily found. She was a little curious when Scott elected to pack two plastic snow sledges, a couple of fairly short lengths of rope and a couple of garden canes with string wound around one end. The badminton rackets and shuttle cock were self-explanatory. Scott fitted the bike rack and secured his mountain bike to it, having swapped out the wheels for those that he used off-road. After the packing was complete, Beth enlisted Jenny’s help to make a light lunch of chicken salad sandwich, fruit and a drink for themselves, their kids and the Schmidts. Before Beth set off with Scott, Jenny and Jess, both Beth and Jenny took a moment to contact their spouses, to let them know that they’d be fending for themselves for a few days.|
The next stop for Beth was the Clay residence. Beth couldn’t help but to have a quick look around her old home, whilst the boys handled the luggage. Louise had previously said that the former occupants had defaulted on their mortgage and left the house in a poor condition, with all the copper pipes, electrical cabling and the boiler ripped out. Work had also been required in the garden to return it to its former private state. Those were the reasons why she had got it for such a low price. Still, Louise and Max had put a lot of effort in, and it looked good again now. Stuart had a new mountain bike, in place of the bike shaped object that he had happily consigned to the scrap heap. He lifted it easily onto the bicycle carrier, and Scott secured it alongside his machine.
The visit to the outdoors equipment supplier was a formality. Located just a couple of miles off the M6 motorway, they had everything that Max needed in stock. He selected a six man tent, to cater for any friends of the boys who wanted to go camping with them in the future, three highly insulating sleeping bags and three thick ground mats. He left stoves and gas canisters for now; Beth had advised him that Henk’s motorhome was fully equipped and that Susan had already packed her burners and camp cooking utensils for good measure. The price of everything was very reasonable, whilst various suppliers were undercutting one another on price, trying to drum up trade in difficult times.
Beth roughly knew the route. It had been many years since she had been to the beach, just after she and Mike were married, in fact. It was too far away, in her opinion, to make it a day trip, and family life had just got in the way. The sat-nav led them away from the North Wales coast, cutting cross-country through Mold, Ruthin, Bala and on to Dolgellau (Scott sniggered at the thought of Stefan trying to pronounce that one correctly), finally taking them north through Barmouth. Beth was on the lookout for a small, grey stone chapel with a slate roof in Llanddwywe (Scott was nearly in fits of laughter), together with the sign for the seaside estate. Spotting it, she turned left and headed down the narrow lane.
After a quarter of a mile progress down the lane became slow going, for up ahead, Beth could see Henk’s large motorhome negotiating with on-coming vehicles for passage. Henk waved the few vehicles that were behind him to overtake. Beth was the last in the line, so she overtook Henk and waved him into the correct entry for the site with the dedicated naturist camping field. Manoeuvring into the walled area was tight, but Henk managed it eventually.
Susan had already arrived and was quite far on in setting up her tent. The first thing she had done on arrival was to set up a windbreak, a table and her camping hob with a gas bottle. Chloe had been sent to fill a large kettle from the water supply, and Robert was sent running to the shop in the neighbouring holiday park (remembering to not undress first) to buy a bottle of milk. By the time Robert had returned, the water was boiling for cups of tea and coffee. All the new arrivals were glad of her thoughtfulness.
Scott took the bikes off the bike rack, to enable access to the tailgate of the people carrier. He and Beth then unloaded their luggage in the naturist camping field. Once Stuart’s bike was back on the rack, Beth let Max take their car to the textile holiday park, giving the Simons a lift down to the reception as he did. Beth was prepared to camp out in the tent with Susan, Chloe, Robert and Scott, but Henk would not hear of it, given her condition. Jess wasn’t upset at being ousted from the motorhome, as she had enjoyed camping when with Chloe and her family. Jenny didn’t join Jess in the tent, to allow the boys to have a sleeping area separate from the girls, so she took the remaining berth in the motorhome.
|By prior agreement, all parties were to rendezvous in the bar at the textile holiday centre at six that evening, firstly, to confirm that everyone had arrived safely, and secondly, to find where everyone was located. Everyone then made their way to the naturist camp site where, between Susan and Lena, the evening meal was to be cooked. It was only going to be toasted bacon and egg sandwich that evening, to save on plates and cutlery. Even so, with the numbers involved it took every available burner, Lena’s grill and every pan capable of being used for frying to get everyone served in a reasonable time. Most of the party had gone nude as soon as they reached the camp, although with the sun now dipping towards the Irish Sea, a coolness had set in, forcing the less hardy of the crowd to put on a jersey. The sun was on the point of setting by six thirty, so Susan broke out a couple of gas lanterns and set them on the folding tables that Henk had fetched out of his under floor cargo lockers. Henk also set up a string of electric lights, which lit up the area around the tables. |
As the evening wore on the air temperature became even cooler, forcing even the hardier members of the group to pull on their tops. Eventually, it was the Simons that concluded that it would be a good idea for them to dress and return to the comfort of their caravan. The Schmidts agreed, and departed along with the Simons, having arranged to meet back at the naturist field for a 9 o’clock breakfast the following morning. Max and his boys followed, Stuart having given Jess a long smooch of a good night kiss. It wasn’t a particularly early night, it being around ten, but there was an inevitable sadness at having to break up the party. Susan took her lanterns into the tent and doused one of them. Henk turned off his string of lights and prepared to close up for the night. Beth and Scott exchanged a goodnight hug before mother and son separated into their respective accommodations. Scott and Chloe stripped off again before saying their good nights, with Susan laughingly breaking them apart with the threat of a bucket of cold water. Once all others were zipped into their sleeping bags, Susan extinguished the last lantern and turned in for a good night’s sleep.
“Oh, blam and dast and floody bucket!” Emma couldn’t sleep. It was if all her moral certainties were blown out of the water. If there was one thing that she had been certain of it was that nudity was immoral, but Chloe, a sweet young girl, had seemingly torpedoed that. She didn’t understand Chloe’s reference to the name of her horse being contrary to her view on the morality of nudists. Emma had actually named the horse after a crude term her first riding instructor (who had been French) had used when saying where to sit on a horse. “You put your arse ici”, he had said, slapping the saddle. The closest thing to a moral reference she could find that related to Assisi was the story that Saint Francis of Assisi had disavowed the wealth of his birthright and founded an order of monks based on the principal of poverty, but she couldn’t see how that related to nudity.
If Chloe was the innocent creature that she appeared to be then Emma had to question why she held the values that she did. What was it about her instruction or experiences? She remembered when, as a small girl in the late 1950’s, being allowed by her mother to run through the rainbow created by the garden hose on a hot day without a stitch on, only for her grandfather to catch her and tell her how wicked she was. Was that it? Just how wicked could a five year old child be? Emma rejected the concept; she wasn’t wicked, just innocent. But at what age should a child be expected to know right from wrong? And what was right and wrong? She concluded that she needed moral guidance on this problem, but right now her immediate problem was getting to sleep. It was too early to start the day, so she pulled on her thick, quilted dressing gown over her long nightdress and went downstairs to the kitchen, to make herself a hot, milky drink, hoping that it would lead her to sleep.
|Breakfast at nine was too long away for Scott to remain lying around. The sky would have been bright for sometime before the sun rose above Coed y Brenin, to the east at six, not that Scott would have seen that, having slept soundly. His fished around in the pocket of his kit bag for any useful piece of tech he could get his hands on. The first thing he could identify was the head unit for his bike computer and heart rate monitor. This reminded him of the break in his program that he’d be taking if he was just going to lounge around the beach all day. Scott activated his computer, with a beep, and focused on the display. “Seven oh three,” he muttered to himself. “The time’s a-wasting.”|
Peeling himself out of the sleeping bag, he located the chest strap for his pulse metre and wrapped it around his chest, securing the radio transmitter above his heart. Opening the main section to his kit bag, he pulled out one pair of bib shorts, the tub of cold cream, a pair of white ankle socks and his Sidi mountain bike shoes. He dressed, neglecting to put on a base layer vest, a short sleeved jersey, his gloves and his helmet. The morning was already warm, and where he was going he didn’t need the protection afforded by any of these items. The two last things he took from his bag were his keys and a water bottle. He exited the tent, unlocked his mountain bike from the rack on the back of Henk’s motorhome, rode to the water point, filled his bottle and then headed for the beach.
The sand was too soft to ride through the dunes, even the boardwalk was covered in thick sand drifts; Scott had to push his bike. “Good,” he thought, as he saw the expanse of the beach for the first time, “the tide is out.” He still had a short distance to walk to get to the last high tide line, but once there, he ran with the bike and launched himself into the saddle, cyclocross-style, and began his training session. He spent fifteen minutes slowly raising his heart rate to one hundred and twenty beats per minute, as shown on his monitor, raising the gearing to increase effort. As fifteen minutes passed, he pulled the chain onto the big ring and targeted eighty percent of his maximum heart rate, one hundred and sixty five beats per minute, and held it within a tolerance of plus or minus five beats per minute for five minutes. By the time he reached his first three minute recovery period, he was clean through the naturist section of the beach, and on his way to Shell Island inlet. Scott completed five sets of his routine, turning around during each rest period, before finishing off with a nine minute warm-down, slowly reducing his heart rate to sub one hundred. He had been getting stale, repeating similar routines on his turbo trainer at home. Now he was convinced at the truth of the phrase ‘a change is as good as a rest’, having changed the environment in which he worked.
Instead of going directly to the naturist camping field, Scott took the exit from the beach into the textile holiday park, to see if Stuart was up and about; if history was anything to go by then it would be doubtful. However, as Scott approach the tent pitched next to his family’s people carrier, he could see Stuart already up and playing kick-about with his brother.
“Hey there, early bird! What are you doing up at this time?”
“Hi, worm. I couldn’t sleep any longer with the daylight. Anyway, I found that I’ve been sleeping better ever since I started sleeping nude.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. On the couple of school trips I’ve been on I felt I needed PJ’s, but you end up all knotted up and constricted. Boxers are just about bearable. Anyway, it’s still only a little after eight, so breakfast is some time off still. Do you want to roll over to our camp and let me tell you why I asked you to bring your bike?”
“Sure, I’ll just rouse Dad to tell him where we are going and then fetch my bike out the back of your car. Ben, are you coming?”
A few minutes later, Scott and Stuart were trundling along the road way back to the naturist camp site, with Ben just behind, dribbling his football at a jogging pace. Scott had been warned that the trek to the naturist section of the beach was a long one on sand, so he had come up with a plan to take the load off those who were going to be carrying stuff. If they packed the snow sledges that he had brought so that their centres of gravity were low then the two of them could haul them up the beach behind their mountain bikes and have camp set up before the walkers arrived. First the walkers would have to carry their loads out past the dunes and onto the hard packed area of the tidal range. Then they could attach the sledges to the seat posts of their mountain bikes with the short lengths of rope attached to the middle of the sledges’ rope handles. Scott said that they couldn’t go too fast or the load would just get bucked over by the ripples in the sand. Stuart thought it sounded like a plan and agreed to give it a try when heading out to the beach.
|On arrival back at camp, Scott shucked off the little cycling gear he was wearing and changed into a pair of jogs before heading for the showers in the textile field. By the time he returned, most of the campsite were awake, and all the visiting friends were there, with Max having had a good shave and bought the morning paper before he arrived. Susan and Lena broke breakfast down into shifts, with the first sitting washing the pots they used and drying them before the next group of people had their breakfasts using the same pots. The Schmidts and the Simons had the same idea as each other and had breakfast back at their static caravans, which came equipped with all the pots and cutlery required. Henk thought this was very handy, and suggested that they cancel the breakfast meet-up for the following day and just meet on the beach. Max and the boys still needed breakfast so would still come over, but he had no problem if Thomas and Jean-René’s families sorted themselves out as it obviously cut down on the breakfast queue.|
Having finished breakfast first, Chloe and Jess were playing Frisbee with couple of young kids from across the naturist camping field. Their parents had come over and introduced themselves as Peter and Judy Musgrove, from the Midlands. Their two little ones, seven year-old twins Matthew and Sophie looked almost alike, apart from the obvious, a slight height difference and Sophie’s long blonde ringlets of hair compared to Matthew’s number four cut. This was their first naturist camping trip, after coming to naturism as a reaction to a high water bill and their efforts to reduce it, and the example of their kids’ hippy childminder.
Peter was disappointed that the naturist beach was so far away, saying that they had decided to stay on the textile section and just let the kids go nude. Max told the Musgroves how his boys had gone shy because they had lost the positive example of their mother going nude at home. It was only now that Louise had picked up the nerve to go nude again, and had practically told him to get his kit off, that the boys had relaxed enough to enjoy themselves free of clothes again. In Max’s opinion, Peter and Judy should make the effort to go up the beach, saying that they had plenty of hands to spare. Peter didn’t want to be a burden and tried to decline the offer, but Scott chimed in with his and Stuart’s plan to reduce the workload, and pointed out that Claude and Alisha would be good company for Matthew and Sophie. Before Peter could object further Judy cut in saying that they’d love to go to the naturist beach with all of them.
In preparation for departing for the beach, Scott and Stuart supervised the loading of the sledges with the bulkier items that the party would be carrying. It seemed that everyone wanted to take a half empty cool box. The cool box with lunchtime sandwiches and salad stuffs in that Susan and Beth had prepared was not negotiable, but Scott insisted that the other containers be rationalised. Eventually the load was reduced to two packed cool boxes and two empty ones, which were ready to be filled with cans of drink and ice-creams at the store in the textile holiday park. Peter would make sure he bought a few cans and ice lollies, knowing that his little lolly chompers would get through more than their fair share if he didn’t keep an eye on them. Max, Henk, Peter and Thomas carried the two sledges between them, through the dunes and out onto the tidal flats, before setting them down for Scott and Stuart to tie them onto the back of their mountain bikes and start hauling them along the flattest section of sand.
Susan and Jenny knew what it was like to have to carry such bulky items all the way up the beach, and by the time they had reached where Scott and Stuart had set up camp they were glad not having to do so this time. The windbreaks were up, the beach blankets were down. All that needed to be done now was to go nude, apply suntan lotion and head for the sea; that’s what was in the teenagers’ minds anyway. Ben and Robert applied their own sun cream and then commenced a game of passing keepie-uppie; four touches of the ball and then pass it back to the other boy. Once liberated from their garments and properly protected, Matthew, Sophie, Claude and Alisha ran out with the Frisbee; there seemed to be no need for translation services as all of them quickly learned English, French and Germany words for ‘sorry’.
There were a fair number of people about on the naturist beach, probably because of the up-coming Easter weekend, Scott surmised. Although many people were out on the open sand, there were still many people in the dunes. Jess admitted that she found this creepy; she wanted to see people rather than have them hidden away, as if they were up to no good. Chloe knew what she meant, having seen purportedly naturist web sites full of candid photographs, mixed with those of a more sexual nature. Chloe trusted her friends and family to handle their photos responsibly, but no way did she want to be prey for a hunter’s lens.
|Mid-week wasn’t as quiet a time as people would expect for Steven Randell. There were various work places to visit, youth groups and discussion forums to organise, not to forget the non-denominational counselling and neighbourhood mediation services. Still, he found a moment now to review the cleanliness and tidiness of the space around him. He ran a duster over window ledge by the piano; he couldn’t complain as the help was free and voluntary. Just as he was inspecting the piano itself, he heard the main doors swing open and close.|
“Reverend, I need your help.”
Steven looked up. “Ah, Emma, good morning, and you know to call me Steven when not at service.”
“Yes, sorry, Steven. It’s just that I’m in a bit of a tizz and need your input.”
This church wasn’t a grand edifice of a gothic pile that traditional churches were, but a large converted Victorian house that had been left to the parish by a member of the congregation in his will, many decades before. It served both as church and as home to the vicar and his family. Steven invited Emma into his study and invited her to partake of the fresh pot of tea that his wife had recently placed on a side table. Karen must have spotted Emma’s approach, for she had prepared the large tea pot and placed two cups on the tray, along with a milk jug and sugar bowl. Karen always made herself scarce when her husband had visitors.
“Now then, how may I help you?” enquired Steven.
Steven listened to Emma’s story of the proposal to turn her riding centre into a nudist camp, and of her reaction. Emma’s difficulty with the situation stemmed from finding out that a girl who she had viewed as one of the nicest girls she knew had lambasted her for her views and had declared that she was a naturist herself. Going on to talk about the girl’s reference to Emma’s horse’s name being ironic, Emma confessed that she couldn’t find much to go on in investigating that beyond knowing the story of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Steven asked Emma a few questions, revealing Emma’s childhood experience at the hands of her grandfather, and the fact that she previously had no direct experience with anyone that she knew as a nudist or naturist. Now Steven had to lead Emma on a path to enlightenment, so that she could be at ease with her views, whichever side of the fence they were to land on. Steven rose and collected a large book off his highly overcrowded shelves and brought it over to his desk.
“I’m not surprised you didn’t get very far with the Assisi reference. Stories get changed over the years and the story of Saint Francis that you related is a pale, shorthand version of the story I learned as a youngster.” Steven flicked through the pages of the book, which, as Emma could see, was a compendium of religious artwork. “Now, not only did Saint Francis disavow his father’s wealth, he publically divested himself of every article that was bought with his father’s money.
Steven turned the book and passed it to Emma. The book was open at an image of the young Saint Francis, nude, being protected from an angry crowd by a bishop in golden robes.
“So stripped of his worldly goods, Saint Francis could pass into the kingdom of God easier than a camel could pass through the eye of a needle. Now, I’m not telling you that Saint Francis supported nudity, per se, but he saw nothing wrong in the body that would stop him making such a protest. There were biblical texts that were deemed heretical at one time or another that were quite supportive of nudity. Did you know that there existed a gospel according to Saint Thomas? Hmmm, yes. Saint Thomas reported Jesus as having said that we should all be like children, and stand on our clothes, to enter heaven. Now that sounds pretty clear doesn’t it?”
Steven offered Emma another cup of tea, and she gladly accepted.
Emma spent a moment considering the Saint Francis story. “I can see that what he intended wasn’t an immoral act, just a protest, but it doesn’t tell me how I should view nudity for nudity’s sake.”
“You said yourself that there was a time when it didn’t matter to you, and that the first engraining of an attitude in relation to nudity was a traumatic experience, due to the attitude of your grandfather. Your mother obviously had no problem in letting you be naked, but you probably forgot the gentle, quiet love that she showed you, erased by the shouting, screaming and ranting by your grandfather. When we are young, we are like an open book with fresh pages ready to be written on. What is written there is not down to us, but to those around us. We can’t start writing for ourselves until we gain experience, and what we begin to write will probably be in support of what was written before. Erasing erroneous writings is so difficult because you have to unpick a lot of forgotten history.
Steven paused for a second, taking a long sip of his own drink before continuing.
“For you to hold someone in poor esteem, or even act against them, due to opinions formed without personal experience or considered knowledge is for you to be prejudiced against them. In a court of law, what is only opinion is inadmissible. In biblical terms, it is bearing false witness, and that is breaking the ninth commandment. So, the question is: do you know for certain that these people are immoral, or are you just following the script of attitudes that have been forced upon you?”
“You’re right. I know nothing of their values and beliefs, so for me to decry their lifestyle is simply wrong. My question is what do I do now?”
|“Well, we all make mistakes. You know the central Christian teaching on how to handle your errors or trespasses? Ask for forgiveness and be forgiven, and then treat them with the dignity and respect that anyone deserves. Do you think you could do that?”|
“Yes, Reverend, I think I can do that. However, it’s all very well me admitting that I shouldn’t hold their beliefs against them, and that I will treat them with dignity and respect, I just don’t know how I’ll get over my opinion that nudity itself is wrong. I mean, I don’t want to feel that I’m going against my morals if I decide this project should go ahead.”
“So, you’re thinking that it could go ahead?” questioned Steven.
“To be honest, I’m so tied up with that place that one would say this opportunity would be a Godsend. It’s not like I’ll be joining them, just letting them have use of the place. And I think I exaggerated before; it’s not the whole place, just the disused paddocks at the back and the old school space. If I didn’t go with it, it would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face. The only other option would be to sell up, and that really bothers me; people waiting for me to fail before hoovering up the pieces. So, I need to know; just how can I settle this moral dilemma that I’m facing?”
“As much as I dislike quoting the other team, so to say, I find this has something useful and enlightening to say on the subject of nudity and the morals thereof. I’ve actually got the relevant passages marked with the yellow tabs.” Steven retrieved a well-thumbed paperback from the top drawer of his desk and handed it to Emma. It had a plain cover with the inscription ‘Love and Responsibility by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla’.
“Karol Woj…, sorry, I can’t pronounce that.” Emma said.
“That’s simple enough, just say ‘Pope John-Paul the Second’.”
After lunch was consumed, Matthew and Sophie had grown sleepy and went for a nap under the shade of a beach umbrella. Claude and Alisha were not sleepy, just feeling a little short on energy, so had spread themselves out on beach towels to sunbathe, having first been topped up on lotion by their mothers.
Stuart had spotted the garden canes with string that Scott had insisted on bringing, and, having relived the memories of games played in the back garden of the house where he now lived, set the canes up with the string stretch between them and marked out a badminton court in the sand. Scott picked up the four rackets that were still on the sledges and tossed two of them to Chloe and Jess. The first match was long and closely matched, with the pairing of Scott and Chloe just shading the win over Stuart and Jess. Things really got competitive when the two girls took on their boyfriends; the strength and power of Scott and Stuart being no match for the strategy and technique of Chloe and Jess, with the girls constantly finding holes in the boys’ defence. Scott kicked himself for not remembering that Chloe and Jess were in the badminton club at school, but still the boys accepted defeat gracefully.
Having seen the boys put to the sword, Max and Henk said that they’d show them how it was done. If anything, their defeat at the hands of Chloe and Jess was even more humiliating and they stumbled back to base in search of a drink, complaining that the sand was too soft for big guys like themselves. Stefan and Yvette took up a racket each and had a knock about whilst Famke joined Chloe, Scott, Jess and Stuart for a paddle and a splash around. High tide had been at midday, and the sea was still quite far up the beach a couple of hours later. The shallowness of the beach, however, meant that they had a long paddle before they even got up to thigh depth, at which point Famke just turned and flopped backwards into the water, with the others following her example, with various cries at the coolness of the sea. Once they were in, though, they swam and splashed around for some time before going back to the encampment, all goose pimpled and cold.
Lying back down on the beach blankets, the teens found their parents and the Musgroves in discussion about plans for the evening. Susan had proposed going out to a pub-restaurant just up the road in Llanbedr. Henk had proposed a barbeque, since he had a gas grill and a smaller charcoal grill stowed in the lockers of the motorhome. Henk, however, was overruled because nobody wanted to go running off to the shops for meat on such a nice day. Peter and Judy were trying to stick to a budget, but would go for the meal out as it would be their only meal out that month.
The twins had woken up by three and joined Claude and Alisha in a game of throw the plastic balls at another, smaller ball. They couldn’t call it pétanque or boules because nobody knew or cared about the rules. They just had a good time throwing the balls, with the closest to the jack being the winner. Jenny, Judy, Sylvie and Susan took the vacant Frisbee and started a game of their own, whilst Henk broke beers out of one of the cool boxes and handed them to Max, Thomas, Jean-René and Peter, with Beth declining in favour of having a soft drink with the teens. The kids’ game of ball toss stalled as soon as one of them spotted an ice-cream being waved at them, with them all immediately heading back to receive their treat and a can of fizzy pop.
|By four thirty, it was agreed that they should go back to camp in order for all to shower and change before heading out for the evening. Scott and Stuart again supervised the loading of the sleds before towing them back down the beach, this time being daring enough to ride for some distance past the naturist beach warning signs before putting on their shorts. Scott knew the signs had no basis in law, and both were willing to push the boundaries, if only a little bit.|
Getting out to Llanbedr looked like it was going to be a bit of a nightmare; nobody relished the thought of having Henk manoeuvring the motorhome off the site and back on again, so everybody had to be fitted into the three other cars of the party, plus that of the Musgroves who has only one small space between their child seats. In the end, Susan volunteered to make two runs on the outward trip, with Thomas agreeing to do the same for the return trip later.
Whilst ordering their meals and drinks at the bar in the pub, Henk had been telling Max about the opportunity he saw in the space at the riding centre.
“It’s a pity,” said Max, “it sounds just like something I could have got my teeth into. I’d built up some capital with the idea of building a dedicated dive centre, but if what you say about the numbers of potential campers is right then it would have been a sure thing.”
The air remained warm enough to sit outside for the meal, especially since being undressed wasn’t on the cards. Still, the pub staff lit the patio heaters by eight o’clock, and the party remained chatting and drinking outside. Matthew and Sophie flaked out by nine, arms and legs dangling off the edge of the benches, so their parents said their goodnights and carefully carried them back to their car. Claude was nodding off by ten o’clock, so Thomas made the first run back to the textile holiday centre with the Simons, with everyone else waiting behind for his return. By the time he came back, Alisha was out like a light, so she too was carried out in the arms of a loving parent.
It was not long before all others were saying their goodnights on the naturist campsite, with Max again taking Beth’s people carrier on to the textile camping field. Susan put the kettle on in her family sized tent to enjoy one last coffee with Chloe, Scott and Jess, Robert having stripped off and turned in immediately on returning. Soon the other occupants of the tent drained their coffees, undressed and turned in, having bid each other goodnight.
In the time she found before turning in, Emma prepared to settle down with the book that the Reverend had leant her. She fetched a brandy glass, selected a bottle of her favourite brand of cognac and curled up on the sofa. She didn’t drink much; just a little when she needed to relax. Opening the book at the first yellow tab, she took a sip of her drink and scanned the text.
"There is nothing impure in clothing except that which, .... while covering the essential values of the person [the sexual organs], provokes an inevitable reaction toward the person as a possible sexual object of pleasure ....
“So much for skimpy bikinis,” thought Emma, “not that I’d be caught dead in one at my age.” She read on, speed reading and skipping bits until something grabbed her attention.
"The concrete application of this simple and evident principle relies on the individuals, means, and society. Dressing is always a social problem and, therefore, depends on the customs (good or bad). ....
“Dressing’s a social problem? Hmmm…” She wasn’t sure on that one.
"But this by no means signifies that impurity of body is identified simply with partial or total nudity. There are circumstances in which nudity is not impure.”
“Okay, I’d like to know what those circumstances are. Hang on. Do I shower with my clothes on? No, so there’s one for starters.”
“If someone uses it to treat the person as an object of pleasure - even if it is by bad thoughts - he alone is the one who commits an impure act.”
“Right, I can agree with that,” mused Emma. “Just walking down the street, I hated being ogled when I was younger. I’m sure it must still hold true for naturist women.”
Emma tried to read more, but her eyelids were becoming heavier and heavier. She shook herself awake just in time to stop the brandy glass from slipping from her grip. The book would have to wait until she could give it her full attention. There were some interesting and positive moral guide points, but there were also questions that she’d have to explore. Emma emptied the remainder of her glass, switched out the lights and headed upstairs to bed.
|Despite the weather forecast predicting that it would be sunny right up until the weekend, Chloe awoke to the gentle sound of drizzle against the roof of the tent. Arising, she pulled her jumper over her head and exited the sleeping compartment and filled the kettle from a large water bottle, setting it to boil on one of the two gas burners of the camping hob. Scott had evidently heard Chloe’s activity, as moments later he too entered the tents main area, also wearing just a jersey. They met, in a deep kiss, hands on each other’s waists, above their jerseys. The passion didn’t need explaining, nor acting on; the care and consideration that they had for each other was more important. They pulled apart slightly, just remaining nose to nose. Just then, Jess entered. There was no separating or sudden coyness. There was nothing that Jess didn’t understand or love about their warmth. They just kissed again and then set about the task of making a hot drink to usher in the new day.|
With their drinks in hand, Chloe, Scott and Jess went to sit outside under the awning, and watched as the naturist field slowly revived. Scott found it curious, although oddly logical, that many of those stood around with drinks in their hands were wearing dressing gowns, against the cold start to the day. As with any group, there had to be a comedian; this one headed for the showers in the textile field dressed, not just in his gown, but also in flippers with snorkel and face mask. Chloe got the point; it was a comment on being overdressed for the activity of bathing. Scott just remarked that it wasn’t surprising that textiles found naturists unusual.
Slowly, the party gathered for breakfast. Although they had already eaten, the Schmidts and the Simons arrived for a quick conference on the day’s activities, considering the beach would be out of the question. Beth suggested sightseeing and a bit of shopping, since Henk was still itching to spark up the barbeque. There were supermarkets in Porthmadog, but there was also a narrow gauge steam railway which would entertain those with younger kids for the best part of a day. A quick word with the site manager confirmed that the train ran straight to Porthmadog from the local station, which was just a short walk through the neighbouring seaside estate and up the lane towards the main road.
Someone was going to have to take a car anyway, to be able to cope with the supermarket run towards the end of the day out. The teenagers made things a bit simpler by declaring that they wanted to stick together, and they set off for the railway station, with Robert and Ben in tow; Susan calling to them to check that they had enough money for the rail fare. It made sense that Beth should take the people carrier to save on the cost of the train fare. Yvette would have usually translated for her parents, but both Henk and Lena were skilled linguists, so they joined the remaining Simons in the people carrier with Beth and Max. The Musgroves drove themselves, since nobody else could fit in what space they had available. The Schmidts had two spaces free, so those were filled by Susan and Jenny. Beth made a quick double check and found that everyone was counted for before they set off.
Thursday had started warm and dry in Edenfield, although the forecast had changed to say there’d be rain later. Emma had been let down, again, by a couple of girls who were meant to be mucking out in return for reduced rates on their riding lessons. They were probably on holiday, but they really should have told Emma first, so she could have asked someone else. However, since she was short staffed, Emma had to pitch in and muck out more stables than she had time for. She couldn’t land all that extra work on Jocelyn.
The book that Emma had been reading talked about considering the purpose of clothing. She was hot and sweaty, and the clothes that she was wearing wouldn’t prevent the need for a shower later. The only purpose for clothes in that situation was to guard her from the sight of others. There was only Jocelyn about, working in the other stable block. That was it; her polo shirt was coming off. Semi-nudity wasn’t impure, as the book put it; there was a good reason, plus she wasn’t even topless, still wearing her bra.
“Would you like a cold drink?” came a voice.
It was Jocelyn. Emma grabbed for her polo shirt.
“Don’t worry about it; it’s hot. I’d have done the same if I thought you’d be okay about it,” said Jocelyn.
“I’d love a drink,” said Emma, avoiding the issue.
Jocelyn went into the farm house’s kitchen and made two glasses of orange squash with ice, and returned to the stable yard. Usually Emma would have her drink as she continued to work, but this time she was sat outside on a bench and motioned Jocelyn to join her.
“Jocelyn, I have something I’d like your opinion on.
Jocelyn listened intently.
“The other day, Henk, Famke’s father proposed turning the back field into a naturist camp site. I’m afraid I was more than a bit rude to him, calling all naturists perverts, and other things. What shocked me is that all four girls we had on the trek on Sunday are naturists, and that didn’t seem to fit with my view of them. Now I’ve already talked with a vicar friend of mine, and concluded that I was wrong to be so judgemental, but I’d like to know what a younger person might think, if it’s not too much of an embarrassing question.”
|“Actually,“ said Jocelyn, “when we were riding together, up front, Famke let it slip that she, Yvette, Chloe and the lad on the bike that we had just met all went nude horse riding when on holiday in France. She said that most of Europe had a much more relaxed attitude to the human body and to nudity than Britain did. From what she said, there was nothing more going on in those holiday centres than people enjoying themselves, the same way anyone else enjoys themselves, just with no clothes on.”|
“And what about if the back field was turned into a naturist camping field? Would that be a problem?” asked Emma.
“I wouldn’t be forced to look, would I? I don’t see a problem, so long as they don’t frighten the horses. Hell, if we could rope in a few to help out on a day like today, then I’d even let them muck out the stables.”
“Before…,” said Emma, “I wasn’t…I was just hot.”
“I said don’t worry about. It doesn’t matter if you were… but you weren’t, so that’s clear… as mud.”
The Welsh drizzle had desisted by the time they all met at the Porthmadog train station, lifting sprits somewhat. Luckily for Yvette and Stefan, Thomas had a good enough grasp of French to be able to translate for Jean-René and Sylvie, so Yvette and Stefan didn’t need to take the trip on the narrow gauge steam railway. It wasn’t that they detested the idea of being with their parents, rather the fact that the whole point of the holiday was for them to be with their friends.
Porthmadog really didn’t have much to hold the interest of seven naturist teenagers, plus Robert and Ben who tagged along with their elder siblings. After browsing some of the usual shops with items for tourist to buy and a circuit of the maritime museum, Scott and Famke announced that rather than follow the adults, all the teens wanted to have a look around at their own pace and proposed that a meet-up time be set for rendezvous at the train station.
The first thing on Scott’s, Chloe’s, Jess’s and Stuart’s minds, once freed, was to find somewhere for a proper drink. Part way along the high street, they found an ice-cream parlour that did proper Italian style coffees. Stuart and Chloe treated Ben and Robert to their first cappuccinos, with chocolate sprinkles, and the teens sat down to talk.
“You know, it’s funny; we being here like this.” Jess mused. “Like it or not, this is a textile’s world, and if anyone wants a life with any semblance of normality then that means getting dressed.”
“I wonder,” started Famke. “What I heard about the big naturist centres in America; is it true? I mean I heard that kids could grow up living every day in the nude until they moved out to go to university or get a job.”
“I didn’t know.” Scott said. “Such a place would have to really big for that to be possible. The time that I spent being home tutored was very lonely and isolating. Such centres would have to be so big, to contain enough kids for social interaction to be enough, that I doubt they exist; either that or there’s a lot of lonely naturist kids in the States.”
“I think we do alright, Scott,” Stuart said. “I mean, we’ve got our families, our girlfriends,” he squeezed Jess’s hand across the table, “our very best friends and, for me, new friends. Who else do we need? I don’t care that we need to dress when we step outside on occasions, and keep our lifestyle a secret, when we have all that.”
“Yes, you and I are lucky,” said Scott, “But I just wish that one day I could live as a naturist, without it being a bolt-on to living clothed.”
With their coffees drained, all the teens and two eleven year-olds bought ice-cream cones and went to stare out into the harbour, where small yachts bobbed on the swell of the incoming tide; their feet dangling over the harbour wall as they enjoyed their ice-creams. Time passed easily as they talked about all and nothing. Suddenly, it dawned on them that they were late for the rendezvous and would miss the train back if they didn’t run. Stuart was the first to arrive at the station, panting and gasping. Scott was only slightly behind, but he wasn’t as out of breath as Stuart. Robert and Ben were almost tied, but Robert just had the edge, thirty seconds back. Stefan and the girls jogged in together with just a couple of minutes to spare, with only the slightest glow from the effort. Scott cursed himself for letting his competitive nature get the better of him for a moment, especially since this was meant to be a day for relaxing.
|“Come on, come on, who’s for another burger? Yes? Here you go, and don’t forget the barbeque sauce over there.” Henk was in his element; barbeque tongs in one hand, beer in the other, wearing the daftest of chefs’ hats. The detested apron was only there to guard against the inevitable spitting of hot fat.|
Henk had known that the charcoal grill would take time to light, so he had set about preparing it a whole hour before food was due to be served. So keen was he to get the barbeque under way that he almost forgot to undress, as he hauled the hardware out from its storage location; almost, but not quite. One thing that Henk was not impatient about was the technique for lighting the barbeque; there would be no accelerants to leave a nasty taste on the food. Placing several twists of newspaper in the base of a charcoal chimney, filling it with charcoal and lighting the paper with a match, Henk had the first load of charcoal ready in ten minutes, but it took another two charges before the charcoal grill was ready for use. The gas barbeque, however, was lit with the press of a button, which just wasn’t manly enough for Henk. Max had been eyeing the set up with envy.
Judy had helped prepare salad items and soft drinks, and also helped make up smaller burger patties for the younger children, who had been entertained with party games by the teens before being called to collect their choice of fare and a drink. One small burger was never going to be enough for Matthew, Sophie, Claude or Alisha, so the queue for seconds soon formed.
Henk hadn’t gone for the thick luxury burger patties, knowing that they always contracted when on the grill, leaving a dense, almost spherical lump of meat that hardly covered the area of a burger bun. Instead, he chose wide and flat preformed patties that would cook quickly without too much heat or loss of moisture. For anyone wanting something more ostentatious than a burger then there was marinated chicken and steaks, with the charcoal grill reserved for the steaks. There were sausages too, which Robert enjoyed especially but, not trusting Henk's sense of humour or his tongs, he asked Susan to get his for him.
It wasn’t long before other occupants of the naturist camping field came over, asking if it would be alright if they stuck some meat on the grill. Henk said it would be okay, so long as it was thawed out properly. However, it looked like there was plenty to go around, so they could have whatever they wanted. Some people had vegetarian burgers that they wished to grill, and some had no food to offer but had a bottle to share in exchange. By an hour after sundown, it looked like the entire naturist camp was either partaking of the barbeque, or had joined the party after consuming meals that they had already been in the process of preparing. All that was missing was music. Lena fixed that with an iPod docking station, plugged in at the motorhome, and her iPod full of European easy listening music. Famke, however, decided that needed fixing in itself and swapped her mother’s iPod with that of her own, to play her selection of chart hits.
Knowing that camping with Henk would almost certainly mean a barbeque, Beth had raided Mike’s wine cellar for three bottles of his home-made red wine before leaving home. Initially some of those that hadn’t tried Mike’s wine before declined the offer, but a few regretted having done so after seeing it run out as more people changed their minds on seeing the others enjoying a glass. Luckily, there will still bottles from other people floating around, and Henk’s supply of beer.
Stuart was stuffed, and stuck for somewhere to wipe his greasy fingers, saying that he probably would have wiped them on his clothes. Jess threw a wet cloth at him; he thanked her, wiped his fingers and threw it back. Scott had eaten more conservatively, knowing that he’d sleep better if he was comfortable and that he needed to do so before his morning beach ride. Nobody had noticed Peter and Judy taking their little ones back to their tent, but on their return the music was turned down and the party took on a more relaxed, quiet demeanour. I was well past nine o’clock before a significant portion of the campers returned to their caravans. Those with tents seemed to be the hardier; it was just as warm outside as in, so they just put on a jersey or jacket. At ten, the Schmidts and the Simons dressed, said their goodnights and left for the textile park. Max had been playing matchstick poker with Henk, Lena and Jenny, but once he won the last hand it was time for him and his boys to dress and depart too, Stuart kissing his goodnights with Jess before being called to get his skates on.
It felt like the usual routine for the occupants of the motorhome to say goodnight to the occupants of the tent, just as Henk pulled the tables and chairs back in under the awning and switched out the lights. There was nothing that seemed unusual in the last coffee for Susan, Chloe, Jess and Scott either. Tomorrow, however, it would be time to pack up and return to the real world; whatever that was, and whatever difficulties it contained.
|It had been a trying day for Emma; still, here she was at the end of the day, still alive and preparing to give the book her undivided attention. Having taken a bath, to untangle the knots in her back muscles, she was now curled up on the sofa, the same as yesterday, cognac in one hand, the book in another. She had experienced a practical application for semi-nudity, at a level that she wouldn’t have previously been open to, and concluded that it was the poor social custom of having to remain covered in front of others, and its depth of engraining, that prevented her from losing the clothing that had no function. Jocelyn had also been victim of that custom, and had been suffering the same under the assumption that Emma would look poorly on her if she had so much as removed her polo shirt, despite the conservative sports bra that she had evidently been wearing underneath.|
It wasn’t so much the message of the book that was making her more receptive to the different ways of people, it was more what Chloe had said to her that made her more open to the message of the book, and thus to the different ways of people. “Somewhere I’m respected,” was the phrase Chloe had used. That meant Chloe was treated with respect by those around her; naturists, and that respect was given by automatic right, not demanded. That respect wasn’t given to Chloe in spite of her nudity or because of her nudity; it was given irrespective of her nudity.
Emma read back over every one of the passages that Steven had marked, and then her eyes came to rest on one particular sentence, and she came to understand it from a new perspective:
"Even knowing that nudity is not identical to impurity of the body, a real interior effort must be made to avoid assuming an impure attitude before a nude body.”
Taking as fact that Chloe, and her friends for that matter, lived in an environment of love and respect meant that those around them had succeeded with that interior effort and didn’t assume an impure attitude before them. That was it; that was the key that unlocked the shackles which bound Emma to her attitude. Naturists were not the perverts, deviants and monsters that she had come to understand them to be. Now she knew that she could truly make amends without the burden of a heavy heart. She knew she’d read the book again before handing it back, this time from cover to cover, but for now its job was done. She set it aside on the coffee table, finished her drink and retired to bed, for what was a sound and restful sleep.
“Friday morning, 08:33: sun, sea, sand and sadness.” Scott mused on the entry that he would be making in his training diary, as he passed back through the textile holiday park, after his training session. Stuart was out of the tent, lying out in the morning sun, wearing a pair of long surf shorts, evidently not exactly full of energy. He rolled over, listlessly, as Scott pulled up.
“’You suffering?” asked Scott.
“Yeah, just a bit. You did warn me. I think Dad’ll need some strong coffee as well, to kick start the day.”
Stuart had tried to rouse his dad before he and Scott set off for the naturist camp site, but gave up. Ben was also still sound asleep, so Stuart opted to send his dad a text message, only for his phone to spit back the message “No network coverage.” Hell, his dad could figure it out for himself. Stuart fetched his bike from the car and he and Scott set off.
Jess, Chloe and Famke were all sat out in the sun when the boys rolled in, undressed as befitted a bright morning, with a mug of coffee in the hands of each of them. Chloe got up, fetched the recently boiled kettle from inside the tent and grabbed a mug for both Stuart and Scott, who were stripping themselves of their shorts. Scott took the kettle from Chloe and handed it off to Stuart, so that he could greet Chloe properly for the morning. Stuart just set the kettle down, and greeted Jess the same. Famke rolled her eyes and prepared the coffee for the newcomers. It wasn’t a moment before the adults came out from the motorhome, carrying the pots and cereals for breakfast. Susan soon joined them from the tent, and breakfast was begun at the various tables by the tent and motorhome, although Scott delayed having breakfast; dressing in his jogs in order to go get a shower in the textile field.
Being a responsible barbeque user, Henk hadn’t left any food scraps about after last night. By using the correct amount of charcoal, all he had to do at the end of cooking was to close the vents and let the charcoal embers starve themselves of oxygen, having first ensured that there was little chance of the grill being knocked over. With the ash now cold, all that was left to do was to dispose of the ash properly and stow the two grills in the lockers of the motorhome until they arrived back at Edenfield.
Scott returned for breakfast, and stripped off again as Max arrived with Ben, complaining that Stuart hadn’t waited. Stuart mockingly complained back, claiming that he had to get away from his dad’s snoring. The Musgroves were up now, too, with Matthew having to be hauled away to his own breakfast rather than bugging Chloe and Jess to play Frisbee or catch. Thomas also made an appearance, to confirm for his family and the Simons that this was indeed going to be a beach day.
|Both the Schmidts and the Simons needed to vacate their caravans ahead of ten a.m., so the Simons were packing what little luggage they had for putting in the people carrier. Max realised that he also needed to pack up ahead of the morning on the beach, so accompanied Thomas back to the textile holiday centre in order to collapse the tent and pack all his and the two boys’ stuff into the people carrier too.|
Susan had Chloe and Robert collect everything of theirs and put it into her luggage, whilst Scott and Jess made sure that they had everything that belonged to them. Susan then enlisted the help of all the teens present to pack all the cooking gear that she had brought and stow it in her car before setting about packing their tent. With the tent folded and zipped into its holdall, it was placed into the back of her car, ready for the journey home that afternoon.
Judy had been watching this happening, and was tearful at the thought that these good friends were leaving. Peter had suggested that what remained of the group should get together for a photo by the motorhome, and took out his mobile phone. Jenny suggested something better, and popped into the motorhome to bring out a DSLR camera and tripod that Eddie had bought her as a wedding gift. He got it for her, knowing that she wanted to get back into painting and thinking that she would find the camera useful as a tool to capture subjects on the fly. Jenny didn’t profess to be a good photographer, but she knew how to handle the camera and compose a picture. She set the camera on the tripod, arranged the group to fall neatly within the frame and set the self-timer to run, hurrying into her selected place in the group. The photo, as displayed on the rear LCD, was good, in terms of holiday pictures, but Jenny said she’d get better pictures on the beach.
Whilst everyone else of their group was gathering stuff for the beach, Jenny talked to Judy about photography and how she used it to get a feel for pictures, especially with subject that changed or just couldn’t keep still. Wanting to show Judy an example, Jenny fetched a notebook computer from her luggage and brought up photographic studies of Jess reading, in various poses, which she had taken throughout the day, to understand the changing light. Then the next picture she brought up was a photograph of the painting that hung in the living room at home. Judy was immensely impressed and wanted to know if Jenny would take photos of her kids when down on the beach. Jenny said she’d be happy to, but asked Judy and Peter if they would be willing to let her keep a copy for portfolio and artistic reference use. Jenny had created a release form to define the restrictions on use and storage that subjects wanted to impose, but this was the first time she had actually felt the need to use it. She had a copy of the form for Peter and Judy to look at and to think about before any photos were taken.
All the party dressed, ready to make their way to the beach. Henk jumped into the driver’s seat of the motorhome and turned the key. The engine roared into life with a cloud of diesel fumes, which quickly dissipated. There was no room to manoeuvre, so Lena, experienced as she was with such operations, waved Henk on as he reversed the motorhome out through the gates in the stone wall, down through the textile field and out onto the narrow lane. Susan drove to the nearby public car park with Jenny and Beth, but the teens had either run or cycled ahead with Robert and Ben. The Musgroves all rode with Henk and Lena the short distance to the strip of grass that served as overflow to the public car park. As it was still early, there was space to turn the motorhome around here, so Henk took that opportunity now rather than having to perform the about-face with throngs of people about, this being Good Friday and thus a public holiday.
Once the motorhome was parked up, the sledges were retrieved from the storage lockers, together with all other beach necessities. The party divided into two with most of the party heading the short route onto the beach with the one, fully prepared sledge. Henk and Peter carried the other sledge with two cool boxes back up the road and on towards the shop in the textile holiday park, for replenishing for the day. Scott fastened the first sledge to his mountain bike and the group made its way towards the next entry onto the beach, where Henk and Peter would rejoin them from the holiday park.
Just as they arrived at the second beach entrance, Max appeared with the Schmidts and the Simons. Max had moved Beth’s people carrier from the holiday park and placed it in the small parking area near that beach entrance. Scott had an idea and asked the Schmidts and the Simons if they minded making their way up the beach, so that they could be at the beach camp when he and Stuart arrived with the coolers and other stuff. The Schmidts and the Simons agreed and started off up the beach ahead of the main group.
|It was about ten minutes later that Henk and Peter rejoined the main group. Once the loads were evenly distributed, along with the windbreaks and beach games, it looked like the advance party were almost up to the sign that denoted the start of the naturist area. Scott and Stuart checked the ropes for security and then began the ride up the beach, provisions in tow. As the lads made progress, it could be seen that the group of eight people hadn’t made as much headway as it had first appeared, as they would just be reaching the sign just as Scott and Stuart reached them. On catching their quarry, Scott and Stuart moved on to the spot that they had selected two days before and unloaded their cargo. The two riders then headed back down the beach with the empty sleds.|
On returning to those still trudging along the beach, Scott had one question to Matthew and Sophie: “Do you want to walk, ride horsey with Henk and your daddy, or take a ride on the sledges?”
“Sledges!” they chorused, together.
Peter let Sophie down off his shoulders, thankful that at least for this one day he no longer had to be a beast of burden. Matthew and Sophie climbed aboard the sledges and Scott and Stuart took them in a long, gentle sweep, before heading back up the beach towards the awaiting advance party. The lads took it gingerly at first, conscious of the important nature of their cargo, but it wasn’t long before cries of “faster” began to ring out from behind. Neither Scott nor Stuart took it much faster; knowing that being dragged along so close to the ground would magnify the experience. However, there were a couple of undulations up ahead, which would be enough to cause the sledges to buck a little. The lads lifted the speed and sliced across the humps in the sand, resulting in squeals and screeches of delight. By the time the riders and passengers reached where the party were assembling, the twins were still wanting more, but Scott and Stuart were feigning fatigue and saying that they may give Matthew and Sophie another ride later.
Scott and Stuart stepped out of their shorts and searched through the bags that they had deposited on their earlier run, looking for suntan lotion. Finding it they applied it to themselves and then did each other’s back. They then crashed out on the beach blankets that had been laid out for them, continuing the fake air of tiredness. Although Matthew and Sophie had undressed themselves, they didn’t ask for anyone to applied sun cream for them, seemingly knowing that was something their parents wanted to do for them. It was only another five minutes before the main part of the group joined those that were already spread out, enjoying the warmth.
Judy and Jenny were talking animatedly as they reached the spot picked out for them, and as they deposited their bags on the sand Judy reached into hers and found a pen and the form that Jenny had given her before. Showing Jenny, Judy filled out the form and signed it, putting it back in her bag for safe keeping. All the later arrivals took on the standard beach attire and saw to their protection.
Matthew and Sophie had grown impatient at waiting for their parents to apply suntan lotion and had run off down towards the sea to play with the Frisbee. Peter and Judy called them back and applied the required cream before handing them a carrier bag each. Both had a Supersoaker water gun, and ran towards the sea to fill them, squeeking with glee. Judy and Jenny followed, with Jenny fetching her camera out of its bag and preparing it for action.
Stuart again prepared a badminton court in the sand, with the canes and string for the net. This time he and Jess took on Stefan and Yvette. Stefan wasn’t really the sporty, competitive type. He liked playing games, but his slightly chubby form betrayed that he wasn’t a serious sports enthusiast. Then again, he was sporting in conduct, taking defeat stoically. For him it was just fun playing. Jess swapped sides with Yvette for the next game, to try to even things up, but the game still seemed to be one sided, with Jess frantically defending everything almost as if she was on her own.
Having not previously made it to the sea, all the remaining adults decided to go for a dip. Famke joined them. Claude and Alisha went with their parents, just to paddle. Although Scott and Chloe relished the full tan look, they were snuggled together with their backs against the dune. For the whole week since the Friday before, it was as if they couldn’t get any time alone together for a good chat. Just as it looked like they’d get their chance the second game of badminton ended and the four players returned to the beach towels. Chloe got up and pulled Scott up by the hand to go for a walk. Jess was getting up to persuade Stuart to go with her to join Chloe and Scott, but Chloe waved back to her for her not to follow; Chloe needed time alone with Scott.
|“Scott,” said Chloe, as they walked towards the surf, each with an arm around the other, “there’s something troubling you, and I thought we promised to always be open with each other about our feelings.”|
“I’m not sure what you mean, but maybe you can give me a bit more of a clue.”
“Well, since your accident you’ve not said two words about us going out on rides together. It’s like you’re shutting me out of that part of your life.”
Scott closed his eyes and breathed in deeply for a second. “Oh, hell, I didn’t mean to shut you out. It’s just that I thought my accident scared you, and I know I can be a bit of a bike freak, so I didn’t want to go gassing on about it if it was going to make you feel bad. I suppose I’ve gone too far the other way. I really was just waiting for you to ask to go on another ride; for you to say when you were ready.”
“Well, the wintery weather was bad, and it’s been very changeable up until only very recently. I doubt I’ll have the condition to stay up with you or the nerve to handle some of the busier roads now.” Chloe said.
“I really have missed taking you out on rides. I haven’t even bothered to go to our coffee stop afterwards. It seemed pointless without you. If you want, I can always take you out at the end of my recovery rides and we can rebuild your confidence. And remember, what happened to me was a very rare event.”
“I’d love to go riding with you again, but if we don’t get chance to ride promise me that we’ll make up for it by spending some quality time together.”
“I promise. For now though, let’s make this moment quality time.”
They kissed, firmly, and then walked slowly to where the sea lapped the sand, an arm firmly around the other. Moving further into the surf, they lay down and let the dying waves wash over them, basking in each other's close proximity.
Almost unnoticed, the sun moved to due south of the beach. There would be only one more time before the end of summer when solar midday coincided with what the clocks said. Not soon after, Susan sent Jess to retrieve Chloe and Scott from the water, so that they could eat together. There were the usual thick sandwiches, made in the midst of camp being disassembled, accompanied by fruit and salad items, washed down with cans of coke and finished off with an ice-cream cone, as any decent beach picnic should.
Both the beach and the dunes were busy now, with hundreds of naturists tempted out by the warm weather and the long holiday weekend. Susan and her friends, however, would soon be heading back home, leaving Judy, Peter and their twins behind. Peter was glad that they had been persuaded to come to the naturist section as the walk wasn’t as bad as he had feared and it gave them the chance to play together properly as a family, rather than he and Judy being dressed. Jenny made sure she had Judy’s e-mail and home address on the release form that she retrieved from Judy, saying that she’d forward all the photos that she’d taken of Matthew and Sophie playing. Jenny thought there were some really good ones amongst the many dozens of frames she had shot, and would have to spend some time sorting them out.
Two o’clock was the designated hour of departure, so at one the departees took their leave from Peter and Judy on the beach. Max had bought several shower tokens for the textile holiday centre’s shower block, knowing that there’d be several people in need of a good wash before making the long journey home. Since Jean-René and Claude would be travelling back with the Bakkers, Henk suggested that they could shower in the motorhome, to ease what would be a crowded men’s’ shower block. Even with two people occupying most of the large shower cubicles, (Max being the only odd man out) it took eight of the generously timed shower sessions to get everyone fit to hit the road.
As Beth passed back through the holiday centre and joined the lane up to the main road, she could see that Henk had departed from where he’d stationed the motorhome that morning. She just hoped that they’d be on the Dolgellau bypass when she caught up to them, which seemed like the only viable passing point in the whole of North Wales.
Rather than letting everyone plug into their mp3 players and zone out, Max decided that he’d teach everyone the travelling songs he knew from his scouting days. Max was in a singing mood and knew all twelve verses of “Green Grow the Rushes, O”, a counting song of which the chorus increased in length each time it was sung. Stuart and Ben knew the words too (having been on many long car journeys with their dad), but it took Scott and Jess joining in before they got over their embarrassing dad moment and began to sing too. They were on “four for the gospel writers” before they were waving to Henk and Lena as they past them at the end of the Dolgellau bypass, and were skirting Bala Lake as they ran from “twelve for the twelve apostles” to “one is one and all alone, and ever more shall be so.” Stuart had to admit, it was more fun than having his headphones in and more involving than “Ten Green Bottles”.
|Susan had difficulty following the conversation in her car; it was mostly in French, between Chloe and Yvette, with Sylvie interjecting every so often. Although Chloe’s French accent wasn’t quite South Western France, Sylvie said that Chloe would be able to fool some Parisians. A few times Yvette switched to German, seemingly when she didn’t want their mothers to know what they were talking about. Chloe played along, knowing that talk of relationships was private. Robert’s French was improving since he had started high school, but he was nowhere near conversational level. He had been developing his own circle of friends at the holiday centre in Bordeaux, and was hoping that they would be there again that year, like his sister’s friends had been from before he could remember.|
Talk in the Schmidt’s car was mostly between Alisha and her mother. Alisha had fun playing with Claude, Sophie and Matthew and was sad at leaving two of her beach friends behind, even if she hadn’t understood a word they said. Stefan said that he remembered when he couldn’t understand Scott, Chloe, Yvette or Famke, but that it came with time and practice.
French was spoken solidly in the Bakker motorhome, for the benefit of Jean-René and Claude. Apart from his accent, Henk was probably the most capable linguist of the entire group that had holidayed together. Although Famke had a better ear for accents, she still had something to learn on conjugating some English verbs.
There were no planned rendezvous along the route, the plan being just to head back to Greater Manchester as quickly as possible. Beth knew the tide of traffic would probably be heading away from the North West by the time they got past Cheshire, so was optimistic that the usual rush hour would be more benign than normal by the time they came off the motorway. She departed from her usual route, to drop Max and his lads off home, together with their new tent. Louise was home by the time they arrived, so all the travellers stopped in for a moment. Louise had missed her boys, but was glad they had a good time. Next time, Max said he’d buy all the cooking equipment and camping chairs, and they’d go as a family. Beth was heading home after that; Jenny had her car to pick up from the Lowry’s drive, and Beth just had to see that the people carrier was cleared.
There was nobody at home when Beth let herself and Scott in, so she set the telephone on the breakfast bar to speakerphone mode and hit the speed-dial for Mike’s mobile, as she set about sorting out the clothes that she and Scott had been wearing, for the wash. Mike answered.
“Hi, Mike. We’ve just got in. Where are you?”
“Oh, hi darling. Mark, Eddie and I all decided to stay over at Eddie’s place for the week, whilst you’ve been away. I didn’t want to see them starving or resorting to takeaways, so I’ve been cooking for everyone. Anyway, there is something you should hear and all our guests too. Susan and I are doing a big Hungarian goulash for everyone, so be at Susan’s around seven. Okay?”
“Yes, okay darling. We’ll see you then.”
Scott was removing the cycle rack off the back of the family’s people carrier when the Schmidts arrived, just as the sun began to set. Instead of haring ahead and getting back before anyone else, Bettina had persuaded Thomas to stop off at a stately home and park in Cheshire that she had read about. Their minimal luggage was soon brought in, and Beth recounted her conversation with Mike to them. There wasn’t much time to go, so Thomas transferred Alisha’s booster cushion from his car to the people carrier, and the six of them set off to the Evesham residence.
Just before seven, the Bakker’s motorhome rolled into Eddie and Jenny’s driveway, in the gathering darkness; the automatic gates having been locked open until his arrival. Eddie quickly intercepted Henk and his passengers and without further explanation, bid them to leave everything where it was and to head to Susan’s rear garden. Everyone who was already there was undressed, either gathered around the flames in the fire pit, in the Jacuzzi on the illuminated patio or working at preparing a meal in the kitchen. Henk and his family, together with Jean-René and Claude, soon stripped off and joined them. Henk was surprised to find Max and his family there, since Max lived over in Heywood, so he asked Eddie what was happening.
“This will be good, so just be patient and hold judgement,” counselled Eddie. Henk could be patient, but he’d had a long drive and the Jacuzzi was calling him, so he sank himself in the warm, bubbling water.
Bang on seven, the door bell rang and Mark went to answer it. Without ceremony or announcement, he showed Emma through to the back garden. Henk could have leapt out of the spa bath, but Eddie clasped a hand on his shoulder.
“Hold on now, big fella,” Eddie whispered in Henk’s ear, as Henk settled back in his seat.”
“Henk,” began Emma, trying not to look at all the nude bodies in front of her, “everyone, I owe you all a big apology.”
“Yeah, right!” shot Famke.
"Hou je mond dicht, meid," Lena fired right back.
Chloe was surprised by the intensity of Lena's words, as she was usually so serene.
“Please, Famke, I know what I said was really abusive, and I came here this evening, expecting a tough audience, to make amends and to ask; Henk would you consider outlining your plans for a naturist camp site to me, please?”
Henk pulled forward in the tub and fixed Emma with an questioning stare, “So what made you change your mind?”
|“Well, it is said that you are known by the way you act, and it was brought home to me that before this unfortunate incident, I didn’t know any nudists or naturists to speak of. My view was formed by a poor attitude impressed on me by my grandfather; well…that was the start of it anyway. It didn’t help that I caught my husband, in the nude, committing adultery…Oh, should I be talking like that in front of children?”|
“Don’t worry Mrs. Johnson,” said Chloe, “Claude and Alisha, over there, don’t have enough English to know what you are on about, and the rest of us are of an age where we’ve already talked with our parents about the pit-falls of relationships; something that is covered very poorly in schools. Well, maybe Robert and Ben haven’t had that talk yet.”
“I know what adultery is,” piped up Robert. “It’s when one of what is meant to be a loving couple betrays the other.”
Susan leant over and gave her son a hug. “I think that says enough.”
Emma had almost lost track of where she was up to. “Anyway, the morning after my words with Henk, Chloe came over and clued me in, so to say. I had already formed a positive opinion of the girls, especially Chloe and Famke who had spent more time at the stables helping out. This positive opinion did not sit with my negative view of naturists, and I found myself in need of help on the matter. Thankfully my vicar is a very dear friend, who helped me greatly when I threw Donald out, and he lead me through a process whereby I recognised that my first engrained memory with respect to nudity was a traumatic one, despite my mother allowing me to revel in my innocence. He explained how my later attitudes would have been built upon that poor foundation, and that I was just being wrongly judgemental of you in line with those attitudes. Mark, do you think I might have a glass of water? My throat is going dry.”
Mark didn’t need to move because Susan poured Emma a glass of orange squash from the trolley that she had already prepared, and handed it to her. Emma took a sip, thanked her and continued.
“As to my attitude to nudity, as opposed to nudists, my vicar leant me a book on responsibility and relationships.”
“Oh, you mean ‘Love and Responsibility’, called Lena.
“You know it?” asked Beth.
“Yes, sure, I think every naturist who is a good Catholic would know it. It was written by the last Pope. You’re not Catholic are you, Mrs. Johnson?”
“Oh, no, and neither is my vicar. In fact he said giving me the book was like quoting ‘the other team’. Anyway, the book covered the moral issues related to nudity, amongst other things, and, I must say, I found it very compelling. However, it only clicked with me when I reflected on Chloe’s words when she said “I’m going somewhere I’m respected,” meaning that she was respected, and thus the people around her, were capable of rejecting an ‘impure attitude’ as the book put it, which meant what I’d accused all nudists of, that is being ‘sex crazed perverts’,” Emma blushed a bright red, “was totally wrong.”
“Emma?” questioned Susan. “Perhaps you’d like to stay with us for the evening meal?”
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly…”
“Go on,” said Henk, with a smile. “Think on it as your punishment for being bad to us. If you are serious about my proposal for the naturist campsite, then you’ll have to get comfortable with nudity, even if you, yourself, do not become a naturist.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, although obviously I’m not exactly at my ease with you all here like this. But this is your space, and I should accept your lifestyle in your space. I just don’t want to impose on you.”
“It’s no imposition.” Susan said. “We’ve done Hungarian goulash, and there is plenty to go round.”
“Well, if you’re sure it’s okay then I’ll accept.”
Susan and Mike served up the food, with a good number of bottles of Mike’s homemade red floating about. During the meal, Mike, Henk, Mark, Eddie and Max brainstormed ideas with Emma. Henk knew what he liked to see in a good campsite, Mike knew what planning issues they would face and Max had the capital to buy into the riding centre.
|As the evening wore on, Beth took the Schmidts home so that Alisha could be put to bed, although Stefan and Scott remained behind, to be brought back later by Mike. The Simons retired next door with Jenny, so that Claude could go to sleep, although Yvette returned to take on the other teens, Robert and Ben, playing games on Robert’s XBox.|
Eddie briefly popped next door and returned with a bottle of Laphroaig single malt whisky and Mark fetched glasses as the adults occupied the seats around the fire pit. Susan threw a couple more logs on the fire, since the flames were getting low and she knew the conversation was going to go on for some time to come. Mike didn’t partake of the whisky, since he would be driving Scott and Stefan home soon, whilst Max limited himself to a single measure having grown too accustomed to the taste during his dive school days in Fort Stirling. It was coming up to midnight on that Good Friday before the men and Emma agreed to postpone discussions until a site visit the next morning, to go over what needed to be done to separate the naturist camping field from the textile riding school. Mike wondered if anyone would make it up on time after that whisky. Emma also told Henk that he’d be moving the motorhome off Eddie’s drive, back to where it should be, next to the riding school.
Jenny was the first up in the Finnegan residence on Saturday morning. Judy and Peter would be travelling home on Easter Monday, and Jenny wanted the best of the photos sorted, e-mailed and sitting in their in-box for when they arrived back. They had offered, since tomorrow was going to be Easter Sunday, that she and Eddie would host the traditional lamb roast, with Susan helping with cooking. That meant tomorrow was not a day to be thinking of doing anything else, and she had no choice but to get the photos sorted right then or she’d probably miss the chance.
Taking the memory card out of her camera, Jenny fetched her notebook computer, attached it to the high definition television with the stray HDMI lead and inserted the card into the media slot. Whilst the notebook booted up, Jenny went to her studio and fetched a portable hard drive, connecting that to the notebook via one of the USB2 ports. Logging in, Jenny selected the drive letter associated with the media slot and navigated to the sub-folder with the photographs in.
There were forty-eight shots related to their few days away in Wales, in total. Jenny wasn’t a shutter bug when the situation didn’t warrant it. There were a few night time shots taken during the barbeque, the group photo by the motorhome (of course she’d have to get another one with the whole group in when they came for Easter Sunday dinner), thirty-eight forty shots of Sophie and Matthew playing with the water guns and a final two of the twins enjoying an ice-cream each with mum and dad. In the first operation, Jenny copied all the photos from the memory card into a new folder with the picture directory on the notebook, entitling the new folder with the location, month and year. She then blanked off the memory card and returned it to the camera, ready for re-use.
Opening the new folder, Jenny weeded out the poor shots. She hadn’t used the LCD display of the camera to review them on the day, as it was not big enough to judge the comparative quality of shots. Here though, on the high definition television, she could see the finest detail. A few shots were not on target, some were unfocused and some didn’t make the best use of the settings for f-stop, iso number and exposure speed.
There were fifteen shots that Jenny assigned to the recycle bin. Of the remainder, half were just nice pictures and half were technically pretty good. However, there was one stand-out picture that Jenny was really proud of. It showed Sophie catching her brother squarely on the back of his head with a solid jet of water. The look on Matthew’s face was priceless; a mixture of laughing fun and disgust. The water burst in a fan of droplets, each clear and pin sharp. The depth of field, too, was just right for Sophie to be in focus as well. Jenny looked at the notepad that she had recorded the camera setting in each time she made a change. The pencil notes revealed that she had captured the settings that she used for this shot, settings that she knew she’d be using to try to recreate the scene. She didn’t have Sophie and Matthew, but maybe Claude and Alisha would be allowed to model for her; she’d have to show the Schmidts and the Simons the photo and her idea after breakfast, but she was sure they’d be okay with it. After that, she needed to buy some props and then she’d be good to go.
Closing the photo management software, Jenny copied the directory onto the portable hard drive for safe storage. She then opened her e-mail, selected all the pictures and sent them as attachments. She knew that Judy and Peter would be really happy with the results.
|Mike reflected on how lucky their visitors had been with the weather, as he pulled into the front yard of the riding centre at nine. They had one morning of drizzle whilst out in Wales, and the rain that was coming down at that moment was only light and was expected to pass over later into the morning. Mike knew it was also lucky for Scott that his training program was moving towards speed work, meaning more time on the turbo trainer and less out in the wet on open roads. Mike had begun to wonder, though, at the intensity of Scott’s program; was it too much for someone who hadn’t yet entered the official junior ranks? He hoped for Scott’s sake that he didn’t burn out before he really got into serious competition.|
Taking his umbrella, Mike headed to the front extension of the farmhouse which served as reception and changing rooms for the riding centre. Emma was sat behind the front desk as he entered.
“Morning, Emma, how’s your head today?” Mike asked, knowingly.
“Pretty okay, actually, although I’m actually glad that my usual morning’s pupils are on holiday. I don’t want to be demonstrating how to take a jump this morning,” she replied, laughing. “Would you like a coffee whilst we wait for the others to join us?”
“Yes, that would be nice, thank you.”
Emma fetched Mike a mug and poured him a coffee from a jug she kept on a hot plate. Mike accepted the milk that Emma passed to him and added just a drop. He stirred his coffee and took a sip and stood in thought for a second.
“You know…,” said Mike, “there was something odd that I found out about the land around here when looking in to how suitable the plot was for developing Eddie’s place. You bought the riding school as a going concern from the previous farmer, didn’t you?”
“Nearly, I actually bought it off his daughter,” confirmed Emma. “The rest of the land had already been sold off, but a right of access to the trail was kept for the riding centre.”
Just then, the sound of Henk’s motorhome pulling into the yard interrupted, and Emma went to guide him into place. She returned accompanied by Henk who exchanged morning greetings with Mike. Henk accepted the offer of coffee off Emma and took a gulp as Mike continued what he had been saying.
“I was just telling Emma how I discovered something interesting about all the fields and woodland from here right out to the road for Haslingden. It seems that this was once all one farm, but the farmer sold off the land but kept the farmhouse and these paddocks to turn into the riding centre, which Emma bought as a going concern. The land, however, was bought by a shady crowd and used in a land banking scam.”
“A land banking scam? What’s that?” asked Henk, with Emma listening in intently.
“It’s where land is parcelled up and sold on to unsuspecting investors, with greatly exaggerated claims at the chance of getting planning permission to build houses. This land, of course, being green belt land, has not got a snowball’s chance in hell of having planning permission granted on it. Plus if a property were developed for every plot that this land has been divided up into, then everyone would end up having to drive through everyone else’s garden to get to the main road, because there was no roadway planned. The end result; a thousand unhappy little landowners that have farm land which is useless to them, stuck pursuing someone who has run off with their money and can’t be traced.”
“Now that is interesting,” said Henk. “That means we’ve got a guaranteed buffer around us that nobody can use except for paddocks.”
“Not just that,” said Mike, “but I’ll go into that when we are all together. For now, let’s start with a little tour and see what impact a naturist camp would have on textile operations.”
Mike and Henk bolted down their coffees before the three of them headed out to the dedicated indoor riding school; a barn-like structure with sand covered floor, walls panels constructed like picket fences and high arc lighting. Part way across the yard they were met by Max, Mark and Eddie, who gave their apologies and followed on.
Henk took the lead, talking over what he’d been considering during his first inspection the week before. A second skin of planks needed to be added to the walls of the riding school to block all possible views onto the naturist field. Emma was concerned about the possible loss of light, but Mike said they should make a note of any issues and work out a budget to counter them as part of the proposal.
Around to the side of the riding school a high set of gates was needed, where the path led into the back field. Max thought a couple of steel uprights would be needed for the posts and said that he could fabricate the hinges and the structure of the gates out of steel too, given enough fifty millimetre square section. Mike had a handle on steel stockists, so anything Max wanted he could get.
Entering the back field, Mike, Mark, Max and Eddie saw for the first time what Henk had seen the previous Monday. The field, although rough and unkempt, it was largely flat, and would need mowing a few times to get it back into shape. The first thing, however, would be to grub out the posts to the barbed wire fences that divided the field into separate paddocks. Emma speculated that a good length of strong rope, tied to the ball hitch of her Land Rover would see that job done.
|Behind the farmhouse stood the old, neglected former school shed. Although its abandonment made the proposal being discussed possible, Henk thought that Emma could have done well without the expense of building the new school. Emma reminded Henk that the original plan was to put the riding centre’s offices here, together with accommodation for holidays based on intense riding lessons. Emma had given up too much house space to files and office work. Henk made a note to review Emma’s riding centre operations.|
“That structure still looks sound, you know,” said Mark, looking at the old school space. “Perhaps it would make a good indoor swimming pool, or a club house.”
“That’s a nice idea,” said Mike, “but with the amount of concrete needed for a swimming pool and the insulation capabilities and construction speed of modern building techniques mean that it’s best to pull that down, recycle the materials and build from scratch.”
Max turned his back on the school space and took in the view of the field. “You know what I liked the most about camping this last week,” he said to Henk, who had joined him, “what I’d really like to have at a proper campsite?”
“Let me guess,” said Henk. “Would it be a massive barbeque, by any chance?”
Max laughed out loud. “You’ve got it in one, mate; that and a pizza oven.”
“Oh, a man after my own heart!”
“What if we didn’t just go for a campsite?” cut in Mike.
Everyone turned and looked at him quizzically.
“I went online earlier this morning and downloaded something useful from the B.N. website. Now I had an inkling some exemptions existed for planning leisure facilities, but it’s not my usual field. Pardon the pun. Anyway, I came across this some time back and made a mental note about clubs having an exemption from planning approval for touring pitches, so long as it promotes leisure and tourism. Here, I’ve printed the fact file out for you.
Mike took four sheets of A4 from his folder and handed them round. They others spent a moment reading through the document.
“So you see, if we set up a landed club, the club can rent the land off the riding centre and won’t have to put in for planning approval. If, however, the riding centre were to run it as a commercial venture then they would need to go through planning.”
“Mike,” started Henk, “what you were saying to me and Emma before, about the ownership of the land? You haven’t touched on that yet.”
“No, you’re right,” said Mike. “What I said to Henk and Emma was that the land around here was broken up and sold on to unsuspecting buyers at a greatly inflated price. Henk saw that this would protect the area from further development, but it’s protected anyway by the fact that it’s green belt land. What I was alluding to was that if in the future we wanted to expand, there is a chance that we will be able to buy more land off these people who find themselves stuck with it, or rent it off them. There are pockets of land that are still owned by the scam artists, who have since done a runner, like the wooded copse immediately to the rear of the proposed camping field. You could find a way to use these areas and take out insurance against the owners turning up and reclaiming the land. The land is registered and, if after ten years of you squatting on it the owners haven’t shown up then you can apply to have it registered as your land, legally.”
“Isn’t that more than a bit dodgy?” asked Emma.
“As I said, there is legal process to this, and if there is anyone that deserves to have their land squatted out from underneath them, it’s those scam artists. They sold off plots in such a haphazard way that we could even take out a management agreement with the other poor sods that they’ve stuck in that position and simply deny them access rights to the remaining land.”
|Easter Monday; Eddie could have done with another hour in bed just to revel in the glory that was Sunday’s lamb roast. Mint sauce was always the crowning point for lamb, but the roast potatoes, the carrots, the parsnips and the broccoli, not to forget the gravy, had all made a meal fit for a king. He was glad that he actually had the will power to turn down the pavlova that had been presented for dessert. In spite of the home cooked food he’d been enjoying since his engagement and then marriage to Jenny, he had been losing weight, and he didn’t particularly want that to stop now. |
Although it was another day that Eddie didn’t have to hurry to court or to the offices of his law firm, tomorrow would see a return to the grind stone, so he wanted to review some case notes before everyone was running about. He reached for the briefcase that he had placed at the side of his bed on Saturday evening and hit the contact pad to raise the light level of the reading lamp above his bed head. Nothing happened. He tried it again. That’s when he spotted that the blinds were lifting. That was curious. He then hit the contact for the blinds to close, and the main room light came on at full brightness.
Jenny stirred. “What’s going on? Why have you got the main light on?”
Then it dawned on him; not only was it Easter Monday, it was April the first. “It seems like Jess has been a little imp and reprogrammed the house controls as an April Fools’ Day joke, but I’ll have the last laugh. “
“Oh, that little minx!” moaned Jenny, and hid her head under the pillow.
Eddie picked up the laptop that he always kept powered up and logged into the home network, at the side of his bed. He verified that the last backup of the home control centre master script file had been created last week, and the current operational file was created at midnight just gone. Eddie copied the backup over the operational file, set the system to refresh and verified that everything was back to normal by closing the blinds and switching off the main light.
“Now then, Jess, it’s time for a taste of your own medicine. Let’s see now, oh, you’ve got your alarm switched off this morning. How’s about a little heavy metal to wake up to, together with your lights fully on and your blinds opened?” Eddie selected the characteristics for the object that represented Jess’s bedroom. “Now, execute!”
It took a while for Yvette to translate Eddie’s excuse and apologies for waking Jean-René and Sylvie so abruptly. In the end they saw the funny side of Eddie trying to get his own back on Jess and making a hash of it. It was all very well Eddie having edited the object properties for Jess’s room, but Jess wasn’t in her room; Jean-René and Sylvie were. Now that everyone was up, they decided that they might as well have breakfast out in the central courtyard.
During breakfast, Jenny caught herself thinking of the reflections created by the parallel panes of glass on either side of the courtyard. With the brightness of the original reflected image and the interference caused by the bleed-through of the inside of the house through the windows, anything beyond a secondary reflected image was too indistinct to be of any use. Jenny wanted to use the reflections but she had to improve them somehow. Then it came to her; she would use a roll of black mounting paper to black out the windows from the inside. This would stop objects inside the house from showing through and it would make the reflections more distinct without the metallic sharpness, or the cost, of true mirrors.
As Jess cleared away the breakfast pots, Jenny went to her studio, fetching her camera and tripod, the roll of black art mounting paper, some blu-tac and a pair of scissors. It would be a while before she was ready to take the photos she was after; she had to set up and experiment first. Setting her camera on the tripod, she took a few photos just to be able to judge the effectiveness of the blackouts. She then began to cut lengths of the paper and to mount them inside the glass of the living room doors. When Yvette came to ask, for her mother, what Jenny was doing, Jenny explained that she was experimenting with setups for the pictures that she had talked to them about, and that she would be at it for some time. When Yvette had translated this back to her parents, they decided to see if Chloe and her parents were up, to take themselves out of Jenny’s way. Jess followed. Whilst Jenny continued her work, Eddie retired to his study to do the reading that he had hoped to do earlier that morning, grateful of the quiet that descended.
When Jenny had completed covering the sliding doors to the living room, she fired off a few more shots to verify the effect she had obtained. She switched off her camera and took the memory card to her notebook computer at the television. When she looked at the later photographs compared to the originals, she could see that the reflected images of objects within the courtyard were already more distinct, but there was something missing from the scene as a whole. Jenny set about blacking out the bedroom doors and taking more photos. As she thought, when she came to review the pictures on the computer the reflected images were even more distinct, but the image of the glazed doors looked dead. This didn’t matter to Jenny because she could reintroduce the life giving reflections later.
|The next experiment was about the positioning of her subject, although she didn’t want to involve the children just yet, as they could easily get bored of the process and become preoccupied or disruptive. What Jenny needed was a couple of flower pots, sticks of the right height, some blu-tac and a couple of plastic cups. Jenny knew Susan had some clay pots and garden canes of about the right height, so she popped next door to borrow those and then set about preparing the stand-in models.|
Having used a clump of blu-tac to hold a garden cane upright through the drainage hole of an upturned flower pot, she fetched two white plastic cups from the kitchen and placed them on top of the canes, and then moved the assemblies into position along the sandstone paving that ran through the middle of the courtyard. Jenny had to reposition them and the camera a few times before she was happy that she could get the main image and both the primary and secondary reflections without anything being obscured. This did mean that she’d have to repeat the set-up shots later, to capture the true reflections, but that was of little consequence.
Now it was time to fill the Supersoakers and the water pistols that she had bought as props, and to fetch her models. She had worried about the little translation difficulty in trying to get Sylvie to sign the release form; if she didn’t have the form signed, the photo shoot wouldn’t be happening. Fortunately for Jenny, she needn’t have worried, as Bettina (along with Lena’s help) had explained the need for the form to Sylvie and she came to sign her copy as Claude and Alisha came to take up their roles. Sylvie stayed to watch from the breakfast bar in the kitchen, with Jean-René and Bettina joining her.
For the first image, Jenny picked a colourful michaelmas daisy and got Yvette to translate how she wanted the two of them to stand, both holding the flower, hands interlocked. Jenny chose to do this image first because she knew there would be little hope of capturing it when energy levels were flagging, after a water battle. She fired off a few shots, adjusting the shutter speed and f-stop to get the right exposure; making notes as she did. She had the two youngsters look at the flower for a few shots, then look at each other for a few more. Finally, it was time for action. Jenny verified the camera settings were the same as on the best shot from those taken of Matthew and Sophie, but then she opened up the f-stop a touch to compensate for the lower light level in the enclosed location.
Alisha was a little disappointed at first to be getting a water pistol, compared to Claude’s Supersoaker. Jenny explained, through Yvette, that once the photo shoot was over then there was a second Supersoaker just waiting for her. This seemed to satisfy Alisha. Jenny had set the focus just where she wanted it, and the camera was to remain pointing in the same direction. So as not to disturb the set up, Jenny attached a remote trigger cable to the camera and used that to fire off rapid frames as Claude ran up the path in pursuit of Alisha, drenching her with the Supersoaker as he did. One the return trip, Alisha took revenge with the water pistol. Jenny couldn’t be sure she had the right shot, so she just had Alisha and Claude run up and down, shooting at each other until she had over a hundred frames to sort through. To finish, Jenny topped up Claude’s Supersoaker and handed the second one to Alisha and directed them to play anywhere other than the courtyard. The battle commenced.
|Scott had put off a training session until the evening and come over early with the Schmidts, since Beth wasn’t feeling very well that morning; something she had been expecting. Having brought over the four badminton rackets, Scott had Chloe sort out a couple of large garden canes and string with her mother. When Stuart arrived, with Max and Ben, and saw the canes being planted into the ground, he was glad that the lawn here was rectangular. He remembered all the arguments he had with Scott when they were younger, about whether the shuttlecock was in or out on a lawn that had curvy edges. Jess wondered if they needed to make a rule about whose point it was when the court was invaded by screaming pre-teens, firing water guns at each other.|
Henk had gone over to the riding centre with Max, obviously on a mission, leaving Famke and Lena to enjoy the Jacuzzi. Thomas tagged along with Henk and Max, interested with the talk of a naturist campsite, leaving Bettina talking with Susan in the kitchen. Robert and Ben had accompanied Ben’s dad to the riding centre, having heard that there was more space there in which to play football. Jean-René and Sylvie soon returned after watching Jenny review her photographs, talking to Bettina and Susan at the picnic table when they brought out refreshments. Jenny had excused herself and hid away in her studio to work.
Scott and Chloe relinquished their positions in the game of badminton in favour of Stefan and Yvette, and joined Famke in the Jacuzzi, with Chloe snuggling in close to Scott.
“Scott, you know how we were talking about us going cycling together again? Well, how about tomorrow?” Chloe asked. “It’s meant to be a nice day.”
“We’ve got all our friends here. We can’t both abandon them to go off riding, can we.” Scott pointed out.
“Well, I was thinking that Jess could take them down to town and we can all meet there with Stuart at the end of our ride. You did say it would only be a short ride.”
“My short rides these days are two hours long. Then again, I’ll only be going easy. Yes…yes, it works for me,” said Scott. He then turned to those playing badminton. “Hey, you guys. How would you like to go out to Bury tomorrow and have coffee at our favourite spot? Jess can show you down on the bus and Chloe and I will meet you after we’ve been on a ride together.”
“Hey Chloe,” called Jess. “Why don’t we ask Nicola and Donna if they’d like to join us? You know we’ve been getting on okay, and Donna’s probably pretty lonely having had to dump all her false friends.”
“Yeah, that would be good,” said Chloe. “We haven’t seen them for over a week, and I’d like to know how Donna’s coping.”
“Is this the Donna that you wrote about as being the one who gave you trouble, Scott?” asked Famke.
“Yeah, but things are going okay. The girls have been getting on fine with her, and I’m at least on nodding terms with her. Nicola and Jess were already quite friendly.”
“Hey, I haven’t seen Donna in a while,” called Stuart. “That will be interesting.”
“Okay, I’ll call Nicola and set it up. What time shall I say?” asked Jess.
“Say midday,” said Scott. “Chloe and I will leave here about ten thirty and take the scenic route.”
|The route that Scott and Chloe took from Edenfield to Rochdale could only be described as lumpy. The time that Chloe had spent off the bike, over winter and following Scott’s accident, was telling. Her basic endurance needed time to rebuild, and she found herself struggling on some of the nastier inclines. Scott knew what she’d be facing and held the pace low, like he had done during their first rides together. At least the main road back through Heywood wasn’t as tough, and the downhill into Bury could be used for Chloe to rest a while. Chloe was still glad for the chance to sit down when they arrived at the coffee stop, minutes ahead of Stuart, who had come directly from Heywood.|
Stuart agreed to go and buy the coffees, to save Scott risking skidding on the tiled floor in his cycling shoes. Chloe had pointed out that she could have got them, since her cycling shoes were more like mountain biking shoes and thus were easy to walk in, but Stuart was already on the way. It was only a couple of minutes later that Jess and the continental contingent arrived, with all of them joining Stuart at the counter inside to place their orders.
It wasn’t until everyone had taken their seat under the parasols that Nicola and Donna arrived. Donna and Nicola were both simply dressed; trainers, jeans, t-shirts, hooded tops, and Donna’s hair was growing to shoulder length in her natural mid-brown. Nicola was about to go and buy their drinks, but Chloe stopped her and took Nicola’s and Donna’s orders, saying that it was her treat. As they came to sit in the seats reserved for them, Stuart complimented Donna on how well she was looking and Scott made the introductions for Nicola and Donna to his holiday friends.
“So you’re all staying with Chloe, Jess and Scott?” asked Nicola.
“That’s right,” answered Famke, “although we seem to hang out around the Jacuzzi at Chloe’s place most days.”
“I’d love to try that sometime,” said Donna.
Nicola just stared at Donna in surprise.
“You’d be quite welcome,” said Chloe, rejoining the group with Donna and Nicola’s lattes, “but you know the dress code, and I don’t think our parents would allow us to have anyone around without their parents’ express permission.”
“What? You mean that you’re all naturists too?” Donna was gob smacked.
“Yes,” replied Yvette, with her distinct Parisian accent, “we all go to the same centre naturist during the past seven years.”
“I hope this coffee isn’t an enticement to the dark side, Chloe!” Donna laughed.
“No, it’s a bit like an advance apology, actually.” Chloe said. “It’s my birthday tomorrow and although Dad and Mum won’t let on, I can guess that something is happening. Now, if we were all textiles, I’d probably invite you both to my party. But since it’s probably going to go very clothes optional, you’ll probably not be allowed to attend. So I thought it was a good idea to invite you out for a coffee instead.”
“Throw in a cake and another coffee, and it’ll be ‘apology accepted’.” Nicola joked.
“It’s a pity, really.” Donna said. “You’ve been really good friends to me, even though I didn’t deserve it, and I do need to rebuild my confidence. Perhaps I should try being nude.”
“Whoa, baby steps, girl!” cried Stuart. “You can’t just go running out in a field full of nude strangers.”
It was when Jess punched Stuart in the upper arm that he realised he’d let the cat out of the bag.
“Okay, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” said Chloe, “although Stuart is right. For your protection and everyone else’s, your parents would need to know what’s happening. They’d probably object to you joining in with full, co-ed, mixed aged nudity. Maybe your mum would be okay coming with you to use the Jacuzzi on a girls‘ only day, with you wearing a bikini at first.”
“Her parents are not letting her out without me going with her right now.” Nicola said. “And I don’t think I could ask my mum anything like that.”
|Jenny hadn’t been seen much since she completed the photo shoot on Monday morning. Wednesday morning saw her running out of her studio, wiping paint off her bare skin, getting dressed and disappearing out the door. She didn’t say much when she returned; whatever she was doing, everyone guessed it related to a picture that she was creating. By the middle of the afternoon, there was a delivery of a new high definition television, which Jenny had set up in her studio, after which, she worked on. She would have continued working into Wednesday night too, if it wasn’t for Eddie reminding her that they had a prior engagement. |
The twilight was being swamped by darkness as the invitees parked up in the yard of the riding centre, with the sun casting its last dying rays against clouds to the east. Someone had bought a large supply of solar powered garden lights and had speared them into the crushed stone surface of the yard, forming a lit footpath of eerily low, blue-white light, towards the back field.
The majority of the field was black, although most of this evening’s attendees wouldn’t have known its extent anyway. The darkness was thrown into starker contrast by the lights strung up in the old riding school, fed off an extension lead from the old farmhouse, and the lights around the newly built brick barbeque and pizza oven were powered from the Bakker’s motorhome’s generator. Henk had opted to run the generator because it also supplied electricity to the DJ’s mixing deck. Mark had always known that his DJ friend from the naturist swim would come in handy one day.
Emma was on hand, directing people to the hired coat rails, where they could leave their clothes, and to the toilet facilities in the riding centre’s reception, via a route that was screened off from view of the general public. Emma, however, remained dressed. Despite her epiphany about nudity, that didn’t extend to her own participation.
Henk saw how Emma was coping, and wandered over. “Hey Emma, you’re doing a fine job. You seem to have got over your discomfort.”
“Oh, flip! I wasn’t thinking about it until you just mentioned it. No, seriously, I have just been talking with Jenny and she gave me a good piece of advice. She said to either look into peoples’ eyes when in conversation, or to treat them as a whole from a distance. I must say, I’m finding it quiet easy to reject the sexual connotations that I had associated with the body when people are not behaving in a sexual manner.”
Just as she had mentioned Jenny, Emma caught sight of her, with Jess and her husband, talking to a couple of adults and a teen-aged girl who were slightly too far out into the shadows for her to make out much about them, other than the man was of medium build and the woman was tall and willowy. Emma was very surprised, however, when Jenny and her husband turned and escorted the couple towards her.
“Good evening, Emma.”
“Reverend!” exclaimed Emma.
“Now Emma, we are definitely not at service at this moment.”
“Sorry, Steven. Hello Karen… Michelle. What are you doing here?”
“I’m a friend of Eddie and Jenny. I officiated at their wedding last year. I’ve known Eddie for twenty years, ever since he joined the naturist club in Cheshire that my parents took me to as a small boy. Of course this will be much more convenient once it gets going.”
“You…you’re a naturist too? Why didn’t you say?”
“Now, Emma. You had to make up your own mind or it would have been like a wound that wasn’t properly healed. Healing has to come from within. Now, where can we leave our clothes?”
“I’ll take you to greet the birthday girl,” said Eddie.
Emma motioned Steven, Karen and their seventeen year old daughter, Michelle, one of her pupils, to the coat stands, still feeling more than a little surprised. “Promise me we’ll all talk later, when there aren’t so many arrivals.” Emma called after them as they followed Eddie.
|“May I have your attention, please?” called Mark, microphone in hand, standing on a bench. The DJ muted the music. “We all know we’re here to celebrate the fifteenth birthday of my lovely daughter, Chloe.”|
The assembled mass cheered and clapped, and Scott hugged Chloe closer.
“I wish you many happy returns, darling. However, we are also here to launch a new venture; the Eden’s Field Sun and Air Club.”
Another cheer sounded, with a ripple of applause.
“Our thanks go to Mrs. Emma Johnson and Max Clay of the Pennine Vale Equestrian Centre for the use of the land, and for the facilities that will be developed in time for our official launch at Easter of next year. Of course, most of you will know Max and his family from the naturist swims at the Victoria Baths in Manchester. If you don’t, then where have you been hiding? Max is also the chairman of the club, and will be overseeing the development, which started with the brick-built barbeque, on which your grub was cooked this evening, built with Max’s own delicate little hands."
Max waved his callused, tennis-racket-sized hands at the crowd and a hearty cheer was heard, with Stuart and Stefan waving a chicken drumstick each.
“The design of the development; the indoor swimming pool, the showers, bar, reception, etcetera and the overall layout of the site was undertaken, in his own time, by Mike Lowry, a talented architect whose work includes the marvellous house at the head of the lane, just past the front paddocks. On the boards in the old riding school, you will see computer mock-ups of the indoor pool cum clubhouse, created by Mike, alongside a description of the facilities.”
Warm applause rose for Mike.
“If there is one person that has to be singled out, though, as the instigator of this development, the man who saw the opportunity, the guy who basically rubbished the availability of good naturist campsites in Britain, it has to be the big guy with the big wagon there, our President, Henk Bakker.”
There was a loud cheer for Henk, mostly emanating from his camping friends, which he waved away, in all modesty.
“Thanks are also due to British Naturism, the national body to which the Victoria Bath swim club is affiliated, for their input on planning regulations that prompted us to set up a landed club rather than a straight commercial enterprise without members. We have the North West Regional Rep here, somewhere. Give us a wave.”
Someone waved from within the mass of people, on the edge of the blackness that filled the field.
“Oh, there you are, good. Finally, I must say a big thank you to our friends and our families, who not only make these things possible, but also provide the drive and the motivation for us to do these things. Thank you. Now, please, there is plenty of food to go around, so step up and help yourselves to seconds. If you want to comment on the sun club, Max, Mike, Henk and I will be by the displays. More importantly, say hello to Chloe and give her a big birthday hug.”
Chloe blushed a little bit, but Scott just gave her a squeeze and told her that they’d have to get past him first. In the event, Chloe welcomed all the hugs offered with appreciation.
Mark lit a small bonfire out in the middle of the field as a night mist began to envelope the land. Emma had found a few spare horse blankets for people to share in front of the fire. Before joining Stuart at the fire, Jess was looking over the displays in the old riding school. The images that Mike had created off the computer were clear and self explanatory, but Jess thought they lacked something.
“Mike,” called Jess.
Mike turned and joined Jess at the display boards.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but your pictures; they’re not as good as those for that swimming pool you showed me when Mum and I stayed with you. They’re… sterile.”
“Don’t worry. You are right, they are sterile. I may be an architect, but my forte is in designing structures that are strong, cost effective and space efficient. Presentation level images are created by a team of graphic artists who take my computer models and render them with realistic lighting and fill in people and other things that would be in the scene, to bring it to life. Of course, I couldn’t give this to any of the artists at work to do. I mean, I don’t want to have to explain why the people in the scenes should have no clothes on.” Mike laughed.
“I wonder… could I have a go at it?” asked Jess. “I mean, you’ll need publicity material to be able to sell the site, won’t you?”
“Well, I could just let you have these images that we have here, and I’ll go over the whole site layout with you. Then you can show me what you can come up with. Does that sound okay?”
“Sure, that sounds fun.”
|A deep breath, a yawn and a stretch; Chloe wasn’t quite ready to emerge from under her duvet. Last night has been wonderful, with so many of her swimming pool friends around to help her celebrate her birthday, and, for the first time, all her special friends from the naturist centre in France, as well as meeting some new people who were friends of Eddie's from his old club in Cheshire . She had some nice presents, including three free riding lessons from Emma and an extra charm from Scott to add to the charm bracelet that he’s given her two Christmases ago. The best thing from Scott, however, was his warmth as they sat under a blanket in front of a log fire that had been lit towards the end of the party.|
As expected, Nicola and Donna hadn’t been able to go, but Nicola’s text messages hadn’t been particularly negative. She and Donna had told their parents about their friends; how they were the ones that had been looking out for Donna and that they just happened to be naturists. After a lot of discussion, Nicola and Donna weren’t allowed to go on Wednesday, but might be allowed to try the Jacuzzi, with bikinis, so long as Nicola’s mother was present and there were no men or boys.
The weather would be bright and sunny again, so it would be another day to enjoy out in the garden with her friends. Chloe doubted that she could ever tire of that, even if she stayed so long in the Jacuzzi that she pruned. She was glad that Scott had thought to bring the badminton rackets over, though. Not that badminton would replace sunbathing; it was just another thing to do with friends when out in the garden.
Even with the change to British Summer Time, the daylight was still too bright to be wasting it. Chloe got up and headed to the bathroom, knocking the folding bed that Famke was sleeping on as she did.
Famke stirred. “What time is it?”
Chloe came back to look at her watch. “It’s nearly eight. Breakfast will probably be soon.”
Once washed, Chloe headed downstairs, to the kitchen, and gave her mother a good morning kiss. Mark was already out to work, but Henk and Lena were there, enjoying breakfast outside, on the picnic table. Chloe joined them, with her choice of fruit juice and breakfast cereal, before Robert and, eventually, Famke arrived. After breakfast, there would be chores to be done, so Chloe hurried through breakfast so as not to waste time on chores that could be spent out in the sun.
Susan had refused Lena’s help, saying that it was small enough a task for her, Chloe and Robert to complete together, although she did direct Lena to prepare the Jacuzzi for the day so that she and Henk could enjoy it whilst waiting for everyone else to arrive. Chloe and Robert were through with the dusting before Beth arrived with the Schmidts, bringing with them the badminton rackets again. Alisha went to find her Supersoaker from yesterday, only to find Claude was already lying in wait for her.
With Eddie back at work and Jenny still creating her masterpiece, Jess arrived with Yvette and her parents. Henk said that Max needed to go to a timber merchant’s and put in an order for pre-sawn planks, before finding somewhere that hired out nail guns and scaffolding towers. That meant that Stuart and Ben would only be coming later, too.
“Is Scott going to be long this morning, Beth?” asked Chloe, settling on the lawn in the morning sun.”
“No, he shouldn’t be long. He set out on his ride at eight thirty, so I’d expect him here soon,” said Beth.
Just as Beth was about to enter the tub, her phone rang. Fortunately for her, she was right by the pile of her clothes where the phone still lay. “Oh!” she said, looking at the display and quickly accepting the call. “Hello, Anne. Where have you been hiding yourself?”
“Well, most of us took ourselves off to Wales for a few days, and the signal where we were staying was dreadful, but your dad was still around here, with his mobile phone on.”
“We’re all at Susan’s place. I was about to get in the Jacuzzi.”
“Yes, you should be.”
“Okay, we’ll see you in ten minutes then. Bye.”
“Was that Anne? How is she?” asked Lena.
“Oh, she’s been busy with uni and volunteering at the hospital. She’s coming over.”
It wasn’t much longer than ten minutes before the door bell rang, and Susan went to answer. When she saw on the TV monitor that Anne was accompanied by a tall, lanky man in his mid-twenties, she quickly reached into the coat closet and pulled on the bathrobe she kept there for emergencies.
"Hello, Anne. It's nice to see you again. It's been what... almost three months?" said Susan.
"Hello, Susan... yes, you're right; ever since Scott's accident. Susan, this is Noel, my boyfriend. Noel, this is Susan, the mother of Scott's girlfriend. Are the others here?"
"Yes, everyone who is not at work, that is. They're in the Jacuzzi."
By this time, the three had reached the dining-room. "Oh, wait... I'd better dress the part, hadn't I," and started to remove her clothing. Susan looked at her, bemused.
Seeing Susan's expression, Anne asked "May I leave these here? Oh, you're thinking about Noel... it's nothing... he knows we're all naturists. He's cool."
Susan hesitated. "Oh, very well," and undid her bathrobe, leaving it draped over a dining-room chair.
|When Anne finished draping her under garments on the chair, the three continued on to the patio door; Anne and Susan nude and Noel dressed in casual slacks and a white open-necked shirt with red pinstripes.|
"Hello, everybody! Mum, I'd like to introduce you to Noel, my boyfriend. Noel, this is my mother, Beth."
"Hello, Mrs. Lowry. It's nice to see you again in better circumstances."
“Hello, Noel. Please call me Beth.” Beth did a double-take and stared more closely at Noel. She thought, as well, that she had seen him before, but couldn’t quite place him. She didn’t want to say anything, to avoid looking foolish; it would come to her eventually.
Anne continued the rounds of introducing Noel to everyone else. As she did so, Scott arrived and knocked on the gate for entry. Chloe got up from her spot and ran to the gate to let Scott in. Anne saw his entrance and immediately dragged Noel in his direction.
“Hi, Scott, I have someone I’d like you to meet,” said Anne, on approach. “This is Noel, my boyfriend.”
“Hello, Scott,” said Noel.
“Hello, Doctor Andrews.” Scott said, with a wry grin.
“Well, that’s astounding,” said Noel. “You saw me for, what? Thirty minutes? And that was when you woke up after coma. And you still recognised me?”
“I have an ear for accents, and yours is the only one I’ve ever heard from Hampshire, except those I’ve heard on the telly,” explained Scott.
“Spot on; Winchester to be exact.” Noel said.
“Are you going to join us in the tub, Noel?” called Beth.
“I might do in a minute,” replied Noel. “Although I’m used to patients being stripped, I’m not used to healthy naked people or my own nudity amongst others. Let’s say, Anne’s been giving me the guided tour to myself this past week or so, and I found that quite relaxing.”
“The easiest way is to just strip off and get in here,” called Henk.
It was midday before Max arrived with Stuart and Ben. He had arranged delivery of the timber and the scaffolding tower for that afternoon, and had two hired nail guns in the car. He and Henk would be working on the second skin to the riding school so they were glad when Susan moved lunchtime to be earlier than originally planned. Emma would be out with Jocelyn, leading a trek up the valley, so they would be free to use the nail guns without hindering the riding centre’s operations. They couldn’t expect to be alone, however, since people would be stopping by to feed and exercise their horses that they kept in livery. This meant a hard and sweaty afternoon was in store for Max and Henk. Max also had use of the Land Rover, which Emma had signed over to the ownership of the riding centre. If there was time, he hoped to have the paddock posts out and cleared away.
When the timber wagon arrived and had dropped its load in the back field, Max and Henk were all set with the scaffolding tower in its first position. By the time they were called in for tea, they had the entire back plane of the school building completed, and about ten half-rotten timbre posts uprooted. Wanting to make the most of the extended daylight, Max and Henk agreed to return after tea and to work on until the light faded.
|Friday morning was going to be a new experience. Chloe had never previously invited textiles over specifically to enjoy the Jacuzzi, but Donna and Nicola were a special case, both already knowing that Chloe and her friends were naturists. Breakfast was taken undressed, as usual, and the families gathered to discuss the day as Mark and Eddie headed for work.|
The men and the boys older than eleven all dressed and took themselves off to the riding centre for the day. Since the back field was now almost totally enclosed, Henk blocked the view up the access path with the motorhome and all the guys stripped off again so that they could work without breaking a sweat. Robert and Ben busied themselves playing with the football, whilst Scott and Stuart carefully set about cutting the barbed wire from the remaining fence posts. Stefan was tasked with staining the new planks on the outside of the riding school, with Thomas and Jean-René assisting Henk and Max in the deconstruction of the old school shed. Max had identified that the shed uprights would serve adequately as gate posts, and most of the other material was ear-marked for re-use.
After the breakfast conference, Bettina and Sylvie took Alisha and Claude next door to play whilst they enjoyed the sunshine on Jenny’s roof terrace. Jenny had again disappeared into the studio, this time commenting that she was nearly finished. This left Susan, Beth, Lena, Chloe, Jess, Famke and Yvette dressing in casual summer attire, to await the arrival of the day’s guests.
It was about ten o’clock when Nicola, her mother and Donna arrived at Chloe’s house. Susan answered the door, showed them through to the back garden and made introductions between Nicola’s mother, Stephanie, and Beth and Lena. All the guests had looked nervous on entry, but seemed to relax a little when they saw that everyone there was still dressed. Susan showed Stephanie into the kitchen, followed by Lena and Beth who set about helping Susan make refreshments.
“Hi Nicola, hi Donna,” called Chloe, who was sat on the lawn with the other girls. “Have you got your swimming costumes and towels?”
“Yes.” Nicola replied. “Is there somewhere we can get changed?”
“Just make like you’re at the beach and use your towel,” called Jess.
Nicola and Donna just shrugged at each other, wrapped themselves in their large towels and began to wriggle out of their shorts and knickers, and exchange them for their bikini bottoms. As they did so, Chloe and Jess peeled off their t-shirts and shorts, to reveal their swim wear underneath. Yvette and Famke just sat there, looking glum.
“What’s up with you two?” asked Chloe.
“I didn’t pack a swim suit.” Famke replied.
“Neither did I.” Yvette added. “I didn’t expect this.”
“It should only be for a little while, just until Donna, Nicola and Nicola’s mum get used to the thought of them sharing the tub with other girls in the nude,” comforted Chloe.
Donna and Nicola moved on to changing their tops, by a process of unhooking their bra straps before tying their bikini tops in place under the bra and t-shirt that they were each wearing. Nicola was having a hard time, trapping her bra straps as she tied those of her bikini top. As she lifted her t-shirt away and slipped her bra from her shoulders, the nature of the entanglement became evident. After a moment or two of cursing under her breath, Nicola simply pulled the ties of her bikini top and unknotted her bra from them, before retying her bikini top. Knowing that she had bared her breasts, Nicola shot a glance towards the kitchen to see where her mother was. Guessing that she hadn’t been spotted, she smiled in relief. “Well, that was pointless. I don’t know why I was hiding.” Nicola said.
Donna quit her own struggle and, removing her t-shirt and bra, put on her bikini top in a more efficient manner. “If it wasn’t for your mums being here, I think I could have even stayed topless.”
Nicola stared at Donna on hearing that admission. “We’d better get in the Jacuzzi before her head starts spinning round,” she laughed.
“I’d better call Reverend Randell and see if he knows anything about demonic possession,” Chloe joked.
The four bikini clad girls stepped into the Jacuzzi and Chloe activated the jets. Yvette and Famke came and sat on the side, still dressed, with their feet dangling in the water.
“So, Donna, why would the presence of adults put you off from being topless?” asked Famke.
“I don’t know really… maybe it’s because I don’t want to be open to them judging me. I mean, they’re bigger, fully mature. I only ever remember being n…”
The girls all waited for that sentence to end, but it never did, with Donna covering her mouth and taking on a dazed expression. Jess concluded that it was one of those bad memories that Donna was running from, so put an arm around her and persuaded her to sit back in the jets, to let them massage her worry away.
It was a few minutes before the silence was broken. “This is definitely weird,” said Chloe. “I can’t recall the last time I was in the Jacuzzi with a swimming costume on.”
“Me neither,” replied Jess. “For me, the whole point of being in the Jacuzzi is to be able to relax, and this just doesn’t feel relaxing.”
“Blow this, I’m coming in,” said Famke, stripping out of her t-shirt and shorts, under which she wore nothing else. She stepped in the Jacuzzi and settled down between Chloe and Jess.
|Yvette, who was similarly dressed, also denuded herself, and slipped in between Jess and Nicola. Chloe quickly grabbed Yvette and Famke’s garments, threw them down by the foot of the Jacuzzi, where they couldn’t be seen from the kitchen, and reactivated the jets in an obscuring froth of bubbles. Jess quickly cottoned on and followed Chloe in removing her damp bikini top and bottom and throwing them to where the other clothes lay, obscured. Nicola and Donna sat there, aghast; knowing that although the bubbles hid the nudity of their fellow bathers there would be the inevitable moment when they would be discovered.|
That moment soon arrived when the four adults came out into the garden from the kitchen; the refreshments having been prepared. Susan positioned the drinks table within easy reach of those in the Jacuzzi. Donna was the first to reach for her drink, revealing that she was still wearing her bikini top. Stephanie picked up a drink and made her way around the tub to the steps that led to the lawn. That’s when she spotted the discarded items on the ground.
“Hey, I didn’t say it was okay for anyone to be going nude. I’m not ready for that.” Stephanie shouted.
“Stephanie, what made you agree to Nicola and Donna coming here today?” asked Susan, directly. “I mean, they had told you and Donna’s mum that their friends were naturists, so why agree if you object to the girls being nude?”
“We all recognised that both Nicola and Donna needed to develop more friends.” Stephanie said. “But this is too much, it will upset them. Nicola was always so shy, and Donna, well, after moving schools she just hasn’t been herself.”
“I’m more myself now than I’ve been for a long time.” Donna cut in. “If it wasn’t for Jess and Chloe, and even Scott, I would’ve probably fallen back in with the wrong crowd. Their friendship means the world to me, so if they or their friends want to go nude then I won’t object. I’m certainly not upset and neither is Nicola. The only person upset here is you.”
“That goes for me too,” added Nicola. “It’s not like it’s anything new to us. We’re with naked girls when we get changed for swimming or take showers after games. This is why you’re here, and why we weren’t invited along without your permission. In fact, why did you even have to say that the boys couldn’t be here if Donna and I weren’t going to be allowed to be nude? I mean, Aunt Leanne agreed to Donna trying it out, didn’t she?”
Yes, Leanne had said that Donna could join in, just so long as she didn’t feel pressurised into so doing, and it looked like that moment had arrived as Donna stood up and simultaneously pulled the cords of her bikini top and bottoms, allowing the material to fall away. Stephanie still didn’t have any reasonable objection when her own daughter, once in the shadow of Donna, made her own decision to bare all, and then settled back in the tub.
“Do you have anything stronger than fruit juice?” Stephanie asked Susan. “I don’t know whether to celebrate their independence or mourn their childhood.”
“It may be the start of their independence,” counselled Lena, “but this won’t end childhood. Let them explore the feeling, without prejudice, and you’ll see.”
As the morning rolled on, the girls vacated the Jacuzzi in favour of playing badminton; Chloe being grateful that Scott had brought the rackets back over that morning. Jess and Donna played against Chloe and Nicola, with Yvette and Famke acting as line judges. The mothers had occupied the tub instead, all wearing swim wear though, so as not to stress Stephanie further. Lena, Susan and Beth had all manoeuvred themselves into place so that Stephanie was facing the lawn. As she watched the girls play, what she saw was Nicola and Donna in their natural state. They were positively beaming with joy, revelling in the fun. There was no mistaking it; in this state her daughter and niece were totally without their shells and were as confident as if they had been raised that way.
Stephanie had polished off her second premium Belgian beer and, although not drunk as such, would require lunch and the whole afternoon to be totally sober. Her inhibitions were suppressed enough and her mind was still sharp enough for her to ask a few pointed and pertinent questions.
“Chloe, Jess, I was wondering something. Perhaps you can help.” Stephanie called.
Chloe and Jess abandoned their game in favour of Yvette and Famke and joined the women back in the tub.
“I hear you two have boyfriends. Is that right?”
Chloe and Jess both nodded.
“You know that Donna has had boyfriends in the past, but they all treated her like… well, a trollop.”
“Aunt Steph!” Donna had missed her shot.
“Sorry sweetie, but it’s true.” Stephanie called back. “Anyway, I’d like to know how it is with you and your boyfriends. Do they have wandering hands, so to speak?”
The two girls and the other women giggled with more than slight embarrassment.
“Well,” said Chloe, “Scott is Beth’s son, so you won’t get me saying anything naughty about him here anyway… No, Scott knows where to keep his hands… and his eyes.”
Jess didn’t enlighten anyone with the knowledge of how Stuart liked giving her a naughty little pinch. That was always in fun and he knew to go no further.
“So he has no wandering eyes or philandering looks, either? No pressure at all?”
|“Scott knows that I love him, and he knows that won’t change. There’s no rush for us; we both have plans in life that mean it will be years before we’re ready for that kind of relationship, besides the fact that we’re underage. I know that being nude would be a sexual signal to a textile lad, but for us it’s about letting down your guard to show your trust. I know that Scott wouldn’t betray that.” |
“Textile?” questioned Stephanie.
Jess replied with, “People who need clothes to either contain themselves or hide themselves.”
“I know this is embarrassing, Chloe, and thank you for being open with me.” Stephanie said. “But even I know about the early sexualisation that is happening to young girls in this country, and the poor record that Britain has got for underage pregnancies. I just want reassuring that our girls won’t be heading for trouble if we let them be nude around boys.”
“You can see how it is for other girls at school.” Jess began. “There is so much pressure on them to behave sexually, from their boyfriends and from society in general. All the female pop stars and celebrities use sexuality as advertising, so it’s no wonder that young girls think that’s the way to behave. A naturist lifestyle is the antidote to that. Our parents, or in my case my mother, share so much of themselves with us that we learn from their behaviour, not that of the next, self-publicising idol. What Chloe said about her and Scott goes for me and Stuart too. I feel no pressure from him, just warmth and love.”
“You make them sound like real gentlemen. There are two final questions I’d like to know the answers to. Firstly, will they behave themselves around these two? Secondly, are there any more knocking about the place if Nicola and Donna were looking for a boyfriend?
There were various cries of “Mum!” and “Aunt Steph!” emanating from the now, stalled badminton match.
“Firstly, yes, absolutely, one hundred percent. Secondly, there is one textile lad that knows his manners.” Chloe sent Jess a questioning look. “Nick Barber?”
Jess nodded. “And I would guess at his friend, Anthony Price. I wouldn’t want to double date with Nick, though, it might hurt his feelings to see me with Stuart.”
“He should be okay,” said Chloe. “He seems to have accepted things with good grace.”
“Since you’re busy plotting our love lives,” started Donna, “I hate to point out that they are maths and science geeks.”
“So is Scott, but you won’t hear me complaining,” replied Chloe. “Besides, you, of all people, shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions about people based just on impressions.”
Donna conceded that point.
It was nearly tea time before Stephanie took a disappointed Nicola and Donna home. Both the girls knew and accepted the limitations that their homes and families would place on them. Neither girl wanted to gross out their dads by being nude, and Donna’s mum, although willing to try anything to get Donna to come back out of her shell, wouldn’t be in favour of letting her daughter wander around with nothing on.
“That was wonderful,” said Nicola, dreamily, as her mum drove them back to her home. “You know, Mum, that if we go again, then the boys will probably be about.”
“Well,” said Stephanie, “we probably should fill Leanne in about how it went first, but if the two lads are as well behaved as Chloe and Jess make out then I don’t think there will be a problem. Maybe you and the boys should remain dressed whilst the other girls go nude. Then maybe the boys could join them, and finally…”
“Baby steps, girl.” Donna interrupted, laughing. “Take baby steps.”
|“That’s it, finished!” said Jenny, to herself, out loud.|
The last fine brushstrokes had dried overnight and Jenny stood, regarding the wide format canvass with satisfaction. She had taken the time before anyone else was up on that Saturday morning to position the work for display in the living room, knowing that the weekend and the event of their visitors’ departure would ensure a large audience for the unveiling. She was a little dissatisfied that the only thing she could find to cover her artwork before the reveal was a pair of maroon velvet curtains from her old house. If this was a professional gallery, something more fitting would have been made for the occasion. The curtains would have to do, so she hooked them up over the edges of the canvass before stepping back again to check that the painting was properly hidden.
When breakfast was over, Jenny accompanied everyone over into Susan’s garden, where the Bakkers and the Eveshams were just finishing their own breakfasts at the crowded picnic table.
“Hello, stranger,” said Susan, rising to give Jenny a hug. “Is it done?”
“Yes, all complete.”
A ripple of excitement passed through the group, in anticipation of getting to see what Jenny had accomplished. Jenny would have to make them wait, however, until everyone was there. The Lowrys soon arrived, followed by the Schmidts. Knowing that it would be busy later in the day, Eddie had Mike and Thomas pull their cars onto his drive. Jess had discretely phoned Stuart to see where he was, only to find that both Max and Louise, together with their sons, were just pulling into the main yard of the riding centre and would be over shortly.
Once everyone was gathered, Jenny led them all into the central courtyard of her home and went to open up the bi-fold doors to the living room. The easel, which held the curtain covered painting, stood just within the opening. The wait, even though it would only be short now, was almost unbearable.
“Yvette, Stefan, would you like to do the honours, please?” asked Jenny. “When I give you the nod, just lift the curtains and take them away.”
Yvette and Stefan stood to either side of the easel and waited.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you the painting I’m calling ‘Defenceless’.”
With that, Jenny nodded and Yvette and Stefan carefully lifted the curtains away from the middle and took them to the side. There was a palpable hush as the crowd took in the detail and the extent of the large painting. The next noises heard were Alisha and Claude giggling in recognition and happiness, followed by a growing clapping of hands and approving murmur. Eddie wrapped Jenny in his arms, from behind, and kissed her cheek. Each of the adults took a moment to break from viewing the painting to give Jenny a hug and a kiss, telling her how beautiful and creative the painting was. Stefan and Yvette each gave their younger siblings a hug for being such wonderful models.
Having given Jenny their congratulations, Scott and Chloe returned to regard the painting, with an arm around each other. Jess and Stuart joined them in the same manner. Jess was struck by the detail that Jenny had gone into in depicting the water droplets in the spray from the water guns and the reflections. The main image was that of Alisha being hit by a jet of water from Claude’s Supersoaker, with the spray fanning out from the contact point on her back. The primary reflection, however, was not that of the first image but of Alisha getting her own back with her pistol whilst running in the opposite direction. The secondary reflection was entirely different, with Claude and Alisha stood facing each other whilst holding a flower. The following reflections were diminishing repeats of the flower scene.
Scott was no art critic, but nor was he ignorant. He knew that the message would be lost on those who would get hung up on the children’s nudity, but he understood. “We are not truly defenceless against aggression, but we are when confronted by love,” he said.
Chloe raised her right hand and ran it warmly over Scott’s chest. Scott simply turned in and met Chloe with a warm but light kiss. They then turned back and studied the painting more.
|Time wasn’t a friend now. During the past two weeks, time was marked by the moments of fun and laughter shared with friends. Now, time was only marked by departures. The morning passed, bringing the time for the Simons to depart, chauffeured by Mark. They had a long train journey to make, back to their Parisian apartment, with the inevitable battle to make sense of the London Underground. There was no hiding the tears between Yvette and Jess as they said their goodbyes. Chloe and Famke were not immune either. Stuart comforted Jess with the reminder that August was only four months away.|
All the other families dressed and made their way over to the riding centre, from where they would wave goodbye to Famke and her folks. Emma came out to extend her best wishes too, before Henk fetched the motorhome from the field of the naturist camp, with Max closing the, as yet, unfinished field gates. There was a flurry of hugs and kisses between Famke, Lena and all others present before Henk jumped down to share more kisses with the ladies and girls and bear hugs with the lads and dads. There were more tears and waves as the motorhome trundled out of the yard, down the lane and out of sight.
Thomas was confident that they would make it to the ferry faster than Henk and his family in their motorhome, so the Schmidts hung around at the Eveshams’ for an hour; making good use of the sun before, sadly, they too had to depart. Stuart had promised Stefan to keep him apprised of developments at the naturist camp, so Stefan asked Scott to forward his e-mail address on to Stuart. Thomas promised to spread the word about the campsite as soon as it was ready. Bettina and Beth shared a tearful hug; with Bettina telling Beth to let her know how she was coping as her pregnancy progressed. Beth reminded her that they would see each other in August, well before the due date.
Stuart wanted to hang out with Jess, Scott and Chloe for as long as he could, so he was glad that his dad wanted to spend time kicking ideas about with Emma well into the evening. Mike accompanied Max, with a sketchbook in hand so that he could visualise anything that needed clarification. Come sundown though, the Lowrys and the Clays took their leave from the Eveshams and the Finnegans, and headed home. The invasion was over, and a quiet emptiness descended into the void left by departed friends.
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