When I was younger, I was an optimist. I both thought and felt that the world would be gradually becoming, you know, a better place. I was an ecstatic spectator of the original Live Aid, after school. During the Velvet Revolution I was inebriated with joy: toppling tyranny non-violently was a real and valid option. The night Pink Floyd gave their Berlin Wall gig, I stayed up until late to witness the moment; I saw Rabbin and Arafat shake hands; the first time I saw a letter from South Africa with Mandela as its president on its stamp I fought hard to suppress tears. This seemingly unstoppable path to freedom, peace and justice was coupled in my mind with the, I then thought, irrepressible drive for tolerance and equal rights, for the final prevailing of healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships, for the defeat of prudism, abstentionism and sexual repression.
I was so completely out of synch with the rest of the world, it turns out.
While on holiday, in late August, I had a brief glimpse of such a utopia of tolerance in a tiny Greek island, which will remain unnamed. On its four beaches — remember, the place was tiny — I could see people in varying stages of nudity: swimming gear, partial swimming gear, no gear. Was this mingling disturbing? No. Did anyone seem to bother? No? Should anyone bother? Definitely not. Instead of the everywhere else customary segregation according to where you fasten your lycra and how much of it, we were all a motley bunch, mainly suntanned, as nobody went for the Victorian neck to toe sort of swim suit.
Before you pester me with questions about where this island is, a tip and a warning: if you are looking for tiny barren paradises of the Med, follow select Italians: usually they are the ones to discover them first. Then the locals arrive and make an utter guck of the place, sometimes followed by Attila the Hun (sorry, Cordia): Brits. Which brings me to the warning: one of the islanders told me that the aforementioned increasingly popular paradisical enclave of tolerance will feature deckchairs and umbrellas on its beaches come next year’s season. So, decency and segregation (nudists will be alloted a place, surely) will once more defeat tolerance.
Before closing, in case you think I am exhibitionistic or biased: I rarely take anything but my top off in public.