Street Life Samotechny Lane: Nudist beach stripped of its decency
Tuesday 15 June 1999
The stray dogs at the wholesale market stretched out in the dust, their tongues lolling. The traders sweated as they manhandled crates of soft drinks. No sooner had I swigged one can than I wanted another.
I was there with Sveta, who was buying groceries in bulk, enough for her mother-in-law to feed her children all summer in the family village north of Moscow. Sveta would have to stay here and work, economic necessity having made long, lazy summers at the dacha a thing of the past for able- bodied adults.
Sveta's trolley was piled high with macaroni, porridge, tins of tushenka, the Russian equivalent of Spam, and boxes of orange juice to provide vitamins. "Maybe you should get some jam to go with the porridge," I said.
"Never mind that. The bilberries will soon be ripening. For now, it is luxury enough for them to be by the lake."
The said lake at Valdai, so clean that beavers swim among the water lilies, sounded enticing. But I did not dwell on it. After I parted from Sveta, I decided to try out the Olympic swimming pool, just down the road from Samotechny Lane.
"You're supposed to put flip-flops on beyond this point," scolded a fat woman with a blue rinse, acting as the self-appointed matron of the changing room. "And you can't use that locker."
The old men were nicer. A former naval officer flirted with me in the shallow end. He actually called me a mermaid! But there is not much excitement to be had in ploughing up and down, overtaking pensioners. Or to be nearly kicked in the head by teenagers jumping from the diving boards.
Suddenly, I had a better idea. I would go to Serebryany Bor (Silver Forest), an area of beautiful, mature pine trees and sand dunes on the "clean" upper stretches of the Moscow river. At one end is a peaceful little enclave for nudists. At least, that is how I remembered it.
The nudist beach was one of the triumphs of perestroika. A small group of people gained the confidence to come here and enjoy the sun as God had made them.
With nothing on me but sunglasses and a notebook, I once conducted some vox populi interviews on this beach. It was a real Garden of Eden that had nothing to do with sex. The nudists were all gentle, hippie types. I especially remember one man, speaking earnestly of merging with nature. He was naked except for an absurd little triangle of paper covering his sunburnt nose. But he would not drop it on the sand. The nudists never left litter.
When I arrived this time, however, I sensed a change immediately. Socks and bras were hanging in the pines like garlands on Christmas trees. Noisy groups were playing volleyball and quaffing beer. Glass crunched underfoot. A few bewildered nudists were wandering about but most people were wearing pants and were all the more aggressive for it. Furtive sex was even going on in the bushes.
I did not stay long. When I got home, I read in the local paper that police had arrested some "real nudists", who had strayed from the beach in search of a new paradise. Apparently, the police had "patted" them with their truncheons.
It would have been funny if it was not so sad. And still I was yearning for water. I took a gin and tonic from the fridge and ran a bath.
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Mother of newborn Baby No 59 trapped in sewer pipe told Chinese police she 'heard crying' when she raised alarm
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
AirAsia QZ8501: Black box reveals warning alarms 'screamed' before crash, as more bodies recovered from near fuselage of jet
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
David Cameron says anyone criticising Eric Pickles' letter to Muslims 'really has a problem'
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...
£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...