The referral came via Angela. "You will find them interesting people. They are Scottish and they go without clothes but not in my hotel please. They have stayed here already and I can recommend them."
We could pass them onto Barrie and Joan who are mainly private naturists in that they do their gardening naked, although sometimes they mix with other common or garden naturists on the beach at Montana Roja. Their house stands alone close to a high buttress of hard sandstone; close by there is the beginnings of a road awaiting development and a street lamp. Their garden has a high brick wall surrounding it and at the bottom of their garden is a rather charming bungalow that can accommodate four people - the shower is outside on the patio. Word has got around naturist circles that this is a perfect location for naked relaxation and we have to be careful when we visit in case their visitors are caught unaware. The house commands a great location at La Mareta, very close to the sweeping beach at Montana Roja, and on that beach there is a long wall of rock about ten feet high running into the sea. You climb over this rock and beyond lies the strip of beach where naturists gather. It sounds idyllic and brings forth a mental picture of sun and sand and the abandoned joy of total obedience to nature.
It is not advertised, there are no notices, but Montana Roja seems to be widely known among naturists. We know of it purely by hearsay via Barrie and Joan and when asked can state with confidence that the water is clear with a clean sandy bottom. Wade out waist high and shoals of tiny fish are swimming round you. It is a charm factor that draws people and ensures that the little bungalow at the bottom of their garden is rarely unbooked.
But presently it is occupied, so we will put our Scottish foursome into Paloma Beach 1. They are "really nice people", and no children, so our owner will be pleased. The only drawback is the veranda which may be a focus point as it faces a dozen or so similar verandas on the same level and within a stone's throw; I point this out with a note of apology as this apartment is the only one available.
They arrive at Paloma Beach decently clothed. The first thing that happens is a large notice taped to the door. It says:
THIS DOOR MAY BE OPENED BY A NAKED MAN.
PLEASE DO NOT BE OFFENDED.
NO OFFENCE IS INTENDED.
Outside some kids from the 18 to 30 club are having a giggle, daring the boldest to knock on the door.
I ignore their childish romps and knock firmly.
"Ah, Mr Mann. Do come in. Thank you for taking us in at short notice."
Inside, the eye does not know where to settle. I smile politely. A lady making sandwiches, wearing glasses and yellow house gloves greets my averted gaze with a shriek of laughter - "You look so funny, Mr Mann. I'm quite used to being looked at."
I am not a worshipper of way out stuff, and yet rigid conformity is the hobgoblin of little minds, so, broadmindedly, I ignore the crumbs in her bush. "We do supply aprons," I suggest. "In the drawer with the tea towels."
The other three are unpacking cases. The next startling irrelevance that crosses my mind is - why do naturists need so many clothes? I say, "We do hope you will be happy here." And my encounter with the holiday club outside prompts me to add "It might be best to remove your notice, for I guess you will be getting some unwelcome house calls."
The playtime behaviour of that juvenile club has, on previous occasions, warned us to avoid them. Mostly they are housed in the small rear-facing apartments in Los Angeles. The police have been down there occasionally.
But these people want to rent a car. So I'll put them onto John Brace. "I do hope you will be driving properly clothed. I don't want you frightening the horses!"
More shrieks of laughter. I get the story of Harold and the cows that stood round him and followed him right to the gate.
I smile broadly, but somehow I don't find that funny. I am not at one with animals.
It's levelling, you see! Naturism. Yes, I saw that. But not for me - a polite nod covers my disavowal. "Why don't we try it? Well - I'll ask Lizzie, see what she thinks".
We are not beach people. In the years we have lived here we have been on the beach at Los Cristianos three times, and then it was to please family people. But a naturist beach is something else.
We discuss it over dinner. Over apple crumble the subject of crumbs naturally arises. Petal thinks it rather funny. Jokes about birds in the bush get bandied about, pecking at one's pecker etc. Shrieks from Shirley who can't understand why people who come from the frozen North should want to dispense with clothes "I mean Scotland of all places, all those thistles and midges!"
"It's rather like religion," says Peter, "an indulgence, a product of inventiveness."
"Maybe we should try it. Can we go through life never having sampled bare bums on hot sand? If we don't do it now we never will. Think of the grandchildren!" says my Petal.
"They would find it weird, though we have seen them naked quite often."
"As infants it doesn't count."
I was thinking of other things, for my sweet Petal is moderately yet beautifully endowed; and though not predisposed to reveal all to public display, I feel there is a wanton will to submit if I will take the lead.
So, here we are, over the rock wall and onto the beach of totality. The white bits make you feel conspicuous, rather like going to a formal party wearing trainers. Apart from that - what's so special? There are no 18 to 30 sex antics here. Not that we would want such happenings, just the visual aspect of youth would be welcome. I haven't seen many naturist magazines, but those I have seen all bear covers of young and naked girls in artistic poses. So where are all these young girls in artistic poses? I look around discreetly. Not a sausage! No. Wrong. A rather gorgeous black lady catches my eye. I try to form a distinction between looking and staring but somehow I can't get it right.
"I bet she's a pro model," says Lizzie. "There's a big art colony in Adeje."
Lizzie looks great without clothes, but she's lucky. In my mind's eye and from love's perspective I shape a drawing of her, a showcase of perfectly miraculous nature in classical mode. Call it artistic sensibility if you will, a sensibility instantly doused by the very opposite of a perfect miracle standing by the water's edge: a very hairy barrel-shaped lady wearing flip flops, smoking a cigarette and carrying a handbag. Perhaps she is pretending to wear clothes, for I could see no other indulgence that might carry her through with such uncaring nonchalance. The polite smile carries no weight here. I can't really bear to look.
There are watchers on the rocky wall; men looking us over. Defiantly naked Lizzie stares back. Then a man photographing his children turns his camera on the watchers who promptly disappear.
Our picnic goes down well. The scotch eggs beautifully made, the salad crisp and dressed within thin sliced brown bread, the wine in thermos flasks to keep it cold.
"Mind the crumbs!" I toss in.
"Hark who's talking!" she tosses back.
"Is there a point to all this? What do you think, mouse?"
"OK, it's nature; but can mother nature really bear to look at us behaving like this?"
"Prehistoric? Well, yes. But what hidden secrets emerge when you take off that last bit of clothing? Am I less or more human? Do I leap across a void to enter a heaven previously unseen?"
Lizzie shakes her head. "Your poor little willie doesn't look very happy. Thing is stark naked is just slightly different. All these minges and willies flying about are a sort of patronage enjoyed by people who don't have to struggle with the wilder forms of nature. It wouldn't do in Wanstead. What would our neighbours think of us, standing in a bus queue in the pouring rain? As a fashion thing naturism doesn't really go with a bang. Let's go home."
"Is uncaring nonchalance an oxymoron? What do you think, Dollychops?."
"A definite maybe. It's two similar descriptions meeting, forming a contradiction."
"You could say in this case that one word reinforces the other."
"Same difference!" she smirks.
"Clever clogs! It's staying in."
Work will keep us away from further dalliance with our Scottish naturists. We've got the elderly Booths coming in, and they will have to be met at the airport so we need to reserve a hire car. They will have their usual cocktail parties for all their friends who always arrive at the same time. And the hairdresser must be notified, for Marjorie Booth whose one luxury is to have her hair done twice a week, is arriving late on Saturday and will need longer bed legs. And there will be a packet of strong cheddar cheese, a present for the Manns, for good cheddar is unobtainable out here. And we shall be invited to their shindigs of retired friends who are polite and kind and know how to behave themselves - These lovely people meet in some very strange places, but not on naturist beaches, so far as I am aware. I could tell a funny story about naturist people, about standing in a bus queue in the pouring rain wearing Wellingtons and carrying an umbrella, and the lady with the flip flops and a handbag. But no, our elderlies may find it in bad taste. Lizzie nods her head. Quite right. Say no more.
Only for the record a childhood incident that has persisted in my mind; while waiting at the top of Wollaton Road hill for the No 5A bus to Nottingham we were approached by the dreaded funny woman who lived in Anderson Crescent. Silence fell upon the assembly. I could almost feel the collective wish that the bus had been early for once. We could see it distantly, stopped at Sidney Road, almost hear the Dennis diesel engine revving up. But, sadly, the funny woman would arrive before the bus. People stood back stony-faced. "We shall be naked before the Lord and the wicked shall be punished. Naked, naked, all will be revealed. The wicked shall be cast naked before the Lord of the Flies and He will consume them." She came and stood before me. Gripped with horror my back against the wall of the golf club I could not retreat. "Naked before the Lord," she shouted and began pulling at my trouser belt. People were keeping their distance, nobody wants to tangle with a mad woman. I wished I had brought my raincoat. I could have hidden inside it, instead I kept my hand gripped tightly over my belt buckle as she hooked and clawed. The 5A coming up the hill as the mad woman screeched on honked twice, I saw the knowing grin on the driver's face. Desperate, I managed to leap aboard first and ran up the stairs. But she followed me and - horrors! - sat next to me. "The Day cometh, and the child who has not known sin will be judged mercifully." She began pulling up my jersey. In that distant day and age one was not rude to adults, one could only escape as best one could. "My mum knitted this!" I blurted out. Scrambling to my feet I bypassed her bony knees, ran down the stairs and dismounted on Dennis Avenue followed by the conductor's hoarse shout as I hadn't paid my fare yet. It would mean a half hour wait for the next bus. And I hated Dennis Avenue, their gang was bigger than my Farfield Avenue gang.
The Booths will go into Paloma Beach 2. They have special needs; because of her arthritis Marjorie's bed has to be lifted four inches, an electric heater in case they feel cold and spare duvets and extra pillows. Despite their fussy needs they are charming and delightful people and we love to see them.