It is a strange sensation to be interviewing someone while completely and utterly naked.
“Relax,” soothes Andrew Calow, the 58-year-old subject who is also as bare as when he was born. “You’re the way nature intended.”
That may be. But in such circumstances one can’t help but wish she’d been more generous with those intentions.
Still, here we are at Chapeltown Baths for the monthly naked swim of the British Naturism Yorkshire and East Midlands branch.
These sessions have been running exactly a year now. And they’ve been such a hit – it regularly gets 40 swimmers and numbers are growing – The Diary has been sent along with a towel but no trunks to get to the, er, bottom of what the fuss is about.
“Swimming naked is one of life’s great pleasures,” explains Andrew, a former shop keeper of Firth Park. “There’s a lovely freedom to it. If people say that’s odd, I say give it a try. It’s far more enjoyable than swimming in a soggy, clingy costume.”
Plenty of people, it seems, agree.
Today, there’s so much bum and boob on display The Diary doesn’t know where to put his eyes. “Anywhere you like,” suggests one rotund chap with a grin.
The British Naturism group itself has more than 10,000 fully paid-up (if not fully clothed) members. Just under 1,000 of those come from our region.
The monthly Chapeltown swim is one of the local branch’s more popular events. People come from Sheffield, but also from as far away as Hull and Worksop. They range in age from 18 to 80. The oldest is a D-Day veteran. There’s a farmer, a doctor and a will writer.
“Being naked is a great leveller,” explains Andrew, swim organiser. “When someone’s in clothes you judge them by what they’re wearing. When they’re naked you see them for who they are.
“Do I get nervous when I take my clothes off? The first time, in 2007, I did.
“I was hesitant for five minutes but you soon forget.”
Being starkers is a great social scene too, according to Paul Battey. At 28, he’s one of the group’s less senior members.
“It’s like being part of a great club,” says the will-writer from Kimberworth. “I’ve been doing this seven years and I’ve made so many friends. This summer, I’ve spent every weekend at naturist camps.”
Ah, the camps. These run at venues across the UK every weekend through the summer. There’s one in Doncaster, and the Yorkshire branch often organises trips to those further afield.
“They’re great fun,” says Paul. “You have activities, bands playing, events put on. It’s just you’re naked too.”
There’s no truck with notions of vanity either.
“No-one cares what you look like,” says Andrew. “This isn’t about having a perfect body. When I first told my wife I wanted to do it, she was against it. She said she didn’t want other women looking at my bits. But it’s not like that.
“How does she feel now? We went to a naturist camp this year and she got naked so that’s a success. Actually after most people try it they find they enjoy it so much they want to do it again...”
As we leave the pool, the suggestion hangs in the air.
Will The Diary be doing it again, he wonders? Never say never, although for now we’re happy simply to have got the bare facts about this flesh-filled hobby.
Next swim December 1 at Chapeltown Baths. bn.org.uk