Call it what you will.A sexist cliche. A female figleaf. A ball of opperession, or a ball of liberation.
But the beachball was more than just a cheap rubber or plastic plaything; more than a convenient prop for photographers. Sport and naturism have always been closely allied. Enid Blyton is said to have enjoyed a round of tennis in the nude, while today one can join naturist clubs for cycling, rambling, running, even ski-ing and sky-diving. Most shockingly of all, there is a nudists’ swimming club in Edinburgh which, in 2002, apparently threatned to pose for a fundraising calender, fully clothed.
Since it espoused the cause during the 1930s, the journal Health and Efficiency – fonded in 1900 and the only monthly commerccial neturist magazine in the world today – has provided a sober, if often airbrushed window onto the world of British naturism.
As for the magazine’s penchant for inflatable balls, all is revealed in the July 1955 issue.
Why, asks Hugh, a visitor to one club, do members play obscure games seldom seen elsewhere, rather than, say, tennis?
Replies Jim, a committee member, ‘It’s largely a matter of resources. Space and $ s d.’
A tennis court, he explains, takes up an awful lot of room, something few British naturist clubs have in abundance. It requires upkeep too, and his committee have quite enough on their plates as it is. Also, only four can play at one time.
Besides which, ‘tennis breeds its own kind of snobbery: the proficient player despises the rabbit and is impatient during every minute that beginners occupy the court’.
‘We ought never to let such a tendency creep in’, insists Jim. At his club they prefer games that everyone can play, on more friendly and casual basis, regardless of skill.
Like beachball and volleyball for instance.