As I mentioned in my previous column, August was the month I took on the ZSL London Zoo’s Streak for Tigers. Being a naturist, the idea of running around a famous London space sans clothing was an opportunity too good to pass up and had I discovered the event in enough time last year I’d be entering the 2015 streak as an experienced campaigner.
It’s for a very good cause. There are just 300 Sumatrian Tigers left in the wild, and London Zoo have a number of them; the streaks have raised upwards of £130,000 towards their care and their conservation. The collective noun for tigers are a streak, and the circuit the streakers follow is a mere 300 yards to represent the dwindling numbers.
It cost £20 to register; this pays for the infrastructure, and the registration costs of conducting the event, held on Thursday 13th August 2015. By registering I also promised to raise £150 towards their appeal and set up my JustGiving page.
Also, I re-enrolled at a local gym; while I can walk with ease for 20 miles plus and have some long-distance low-intensity fitness, I was never much of a runner and can only do short bursts of pace. I had no intention of completing a 300 yard dash breathless. It gave to an interesting conversation in the gym locker room when I admitted I was motivated to go because I was “training” for a run, like him. He was doing the marathon, which was 26 miles and 385 yards. I wasn’t even doing the 385!
But as the date drew nearer, the money from friends and family trickled in. People I’d not spoke to for years dropped some cash into the metaphorical bucket, somewhat amused by the concept of pegging it around London’s famous destination au naturel. Many know of my naturism; I don’t hide it. But some didn’t.
The seven day forecast the Thursday before the event predicted bright sunshine until 7pm on the day when it would start raining. The three day forecast predicted thunderstorms. English weather has always been a changing smorgasbord of wild, variant weather caused by the half-dozen competing weather systems. A summery London can be blistering hot to compete with the Mediterranean beaches or downpours that would have Noah worried. Planning anything outdoors in Britain is always a risk.
But us Britons are hardy souls and my fascination with the weather for the week was perhaps misguided. Once before in France had I been caught at a naturist venue in a bout of intense rain and it was gorgeous; running between the trees in the twilight as the sun sent the sky a fiery kaleidoscopic mix of bright colours, while water slid down my running body. It was a closeness to Gaia and a liberating experience. And one that I’d not hesitate to have repeated. So, I just did what any ex-boy scout would do, I went prepared and packed a towel!
I left my place of work slightly earlier than usual, caught the train into London Victoria and crossed the capital city to Camden Town tube station; I’d left plenty of time to cope with rush hour traffic but needed none of it and arrived early, queueing up outside the venue with a handful of other souls, looking on and clutching printed pieces of A4.
I signed in (#15) and bought my “I Streaked for Tigers” T-Shirt before being shown to a room upstairs, with male and female changing rooms. After getting undressed and covered with a foil blanket, I checked my bags into the cloakroom and went outside onto a small plaza. I wasn’t the only one who abandoned the foil wrapping shortly after arriving; I felt like a turkey and with my previous visits to naturist resorts in France, the nakedness disappears quickly.
I felt relaxed and free; I got talking to a stranger and then another. The hour flew past as naked people just socialised with each other. No barriers, just friendly chats as we took pictures, drank juice, ate cakes and laughed. For that hour alone, it was an enjoyable experience; I could have done that all evening just standing in the open air and socialising.
Many of the people wore bodypaint; some on their face but a lot on their bodies, covering their skin with violent orange with black streaks. Others decorated their skin with paw prints or other artistic displays; they all looked fantastic and had made far more effort than myself who had simply turned up and got undressed.
We were given the option of wearing a mask; I know many did but I didn’t bother. I don’t hide my naturism and have no ideas if there are recognisable pictures of me naked on the Internet; I’ve put a few on there myself. It’s not something that worries me.
The run was brilliant; scores of “spectators” lined the route and there were dozens of video cameras and photographers. I’d learn later that the story had been syndicated to the major news sites and outfits with dozens of pictures and stories appearing in the coming days. I’ve no doubt the publicity helped the zoo and their fundraising aims.
I only did one lap of the circuit; some did many more, and in hindsight I wish I had. I just followed the people in front of me, but it was a brilliant experience.
It was fun, social, liberating nudity that was for a good cause and it was a long time since I’d had an evening in London that was as enjoyable as that. I will try and get some of my friends to do it next year. I’m sure that they would find the evening to be as fun, enjoyable and liberating as I did. Indeed, I’m told that many of the people who do it, return the following years.
And in that, was some tigers to save. A very good cause and a very good evening.