Minor British Institutions: The Naked Rambler

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The British, unlike, say, the Germans or the Nordic peoples, have always had a slightly ambivalent attitude to public nudity.

In principle, the nation wants to follow its liberal, tolerant instincts and be OK with people going around with next to nothing on, especially if they happen to be young and attractive.

But when nudity becomes de-sexed, as it does when it finds itself coupled with the traditional outdoor pursuit of rambling, the tendency to prudity takes over.

Stephen Gough, The Naked Rambler – a proper, capped-up title apparently – is the victim of this collision of attitudes. For since Mr Gough began his pioneering walks in his birthday suit in 2003, he has been arrested and prosecuted so many times that he has now been warned that, if he persists in his starkers mission, he will spend the rest of his days in jail.

Without any clothes on, presumably. In February, he was sentenced to a 21-month imprisonment by a court in Perth. And it is awfully cold up there.