World Naked Bike Ride 2011
London 11th & Brighton 12th June
Have you ever had one of those dreams? You know the ones: you suddenly become aware that you are in a public place where everyone is looking at you and you are trying to behave nonchalantly as if you hadn't noticed that you haven't got a single stitch of clothing on?
Well that happened to me for real last Saturday 11th June in central London when I got separated from the rest of the naked bike riders. I took a wrong turning and found myself cycling along unfamiliar roads, totally lost and starkers!
So why was I naked in the first place? Well, every year in various cities around the world, thousands of cyclists turn up to make a protest for more and better facilities to encourage greater use of bicycles as the preferred mode of transport and they do it NAKED.
I wasn't actually totally naked - I had my shoes on and my cycling helmet with 5 MNDA promotional balloons floating above it - so I don't think many people noticed me!
What's MNDA? Well, the MNDA or to give them their full title The Motor Neurone Disease Association are the main UK charity offering support to MND victims and their carers. I say VICTIMS because there is no known cure for MND. Everyone who gets MND dies from it (5 people every day in the UK). Professor Stephen Hawking is the rare exception and has survived for many years but his brilliant mind is locked in a useless body. That is the horror for every MND sufferer; they gradually lose all their physical faculties one after another until they are totally reliant on others for even the most basic of functions but their mind is unaffected and they are fully aware that they are going to die very soon. Imagine that for a true horror scenario!
My own dear wife, Audrey, who had seemed to be in normal health, suddenly started to lisp in late 2008. Six months later she was diagnosed as having Motor Neurone Disease. Eighteen months after that she was dead, having first lost her ability to speak, then to swallow, so she couldn't eat or drink, and finally she lost the battle for life when she could no longer breathe.
No one knows how you get Motor Neurone Disease; there is no defence against it; no effective treatment for it and THERE IS NO CURE FOR IT! It can affect anyone. Your ethnicity won't protect you; nor will your religion. Motor Neurone Disease is not picky, it WILL KILL ANYBODY!
Yet ask a hundred people in the street what MND is and you'd be lucky to find a handful who'd even heard of it, let alone knew what it was.
That is why I was naked and lost in the middle of London - because I was using the event to try to raise public awareness of MND and to encourage intelligent thinkers amongst them to make donations to the MNDA's efforts to help fund research to find better treatments and, eventually, a cure for this most insidious and evil disease.
I should elaborate: I am 73, have had two major heart operations, one in 1998 when I had 5 bypass grafts and a second operation in July 2010 when I had an Aortic Valve replaced with an artificial one made from titanium and bovine material. So, if I should start mooing in my sleep, please do not wake me up to tell me it's milking time!
I have been a naturist for most of my adult life so the opportunity to combine my passion for nudity with explaining the horrors of MND to more people was too good to miss.
I created a placard to fit over the rear wheel of Audrey's bike - it seemed more appropriate to use her bike - and festooned it with hard hitting messages about how evil MND is and the desperate need to help the MND Association raise funds to further the research to find more effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure. I also added some photos of Audrey, who was only 59 when she died - far too young and far too beautiful to die such an awful death.
So, come the day of the London World Naked Bike Ride, I took my place amongst the many hundreds of others, most of whom were protesting against oil dependency and urging greater use of bicycles. A little hypocritical I felt since most of them, including me, had travelled by car to be at the event !
Although there were countless riders, we were vastly outnumbered by photographers, most of them overweight and underwashed-looking amateurs, who lacked even basic manners as they barged their way through the assembled riders in their eagerness to get pictures of the more attractive young lady cyclists. At a time like that I was glad I was a male senior citizen!
Due to the need to stretch their diminished finances as far as possible, The Metropolitan Police did not attend this year's event, leaving us all to take our chances in the cut and thrust of London traffic which, even on a Saturday afternoon, is diabolical. Consequently, within a very short time, the pack was strung out into increasingly smaller groups as we were constantly baulked by cars, buses, taxis and all manner of other vehicles including London variants of pedal powered rickshaws!
Not being young and sprightly any more, it wasn't long before I found myself in the rearmost group and then the rearmost cyclist in that group! After each hold up I would desperately scan the road ahead for a glimpse of the group, eventually seeing just one bare bum disappearing into the distance.
After the next tangle with traffic I found myself all alone; no other naked cyclists, no marshals (there were none of them to be seen anywhere anyway) no direction signs - nothing - just me, stark naked, with balloons floating above my head surrounded by crowds of startled looking weekend shoppers.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I remembered that I'd clipped my underpants to the carrier on the back of the bike but, when I reached around to get them, they'd gone! Probably taken by some light fingered lowlife who thought there might be something of value in them. I hope he is very happy with his new acquisition, skid marks and all!
There's only one thing you can do when you find yourself in a situation like that: tough it out and carry on, so that's what I did. For the next forty five minutes or so I rode along streets I'd never seen before, discovering the sights of London, whilst being one of them myself!
It's an amazing human characteristic that, if people see such an unusual sight as a naked geriatric pensioner cycling calmly along a street of the nation's capital city, they will look away immediately if you glance at them and pretend that they haven't seen you.
After a while I actually started to enjoy the uniqueness of the situation but that was before my legs started to feel like lumps of lead and my backside was becoming uncomfortably saddle sore.
During my unplanned diversion, I met a young lady, out on a hen party before her wedding the following day, who asked if I would mind being photographed with her. Well, come on! A 73 year old naked nutcase and a twenty something, very attractive, young lady; what would you have done? She did make a modest donation for the MNDA though.
Eventually I found a roadsign pointing the way to Hyde Park Corner, the start and finish point. I got to within 300mtrs of my destination but didn't recognise it, making yet another wrong turn and finishing up in Green Park instead of Hyde Park. Eventually the penny dropped and, with directions from a visiting South African gentleman, who also made a small donation to the MNDA, I at last staggered into the finishing area where crowds of overweight and underwashed amateur photographers were still elbowing each other rudely out of the way in their desperate efforts to get yet more pictures of naked young ladies. What morons - and I'd forgotten my camera!
There to greet me on my safe return was Sarah, one half of my back-up team who, after recording my arrival at the finish point with a few more pictures, handed me my trousers and shirt.
Having done my bit to protest against the gas guzzling car culture, we flopped into John's 3 litre Mercedes and roared off home to rest up before doing it all over again the next day in Brighton!
Brighton, 12th June 2011
In contrast to the fine and dry weather we had enjoyed in London the previous day, Sunday was cold, wet and bleak. The drizzle, had it been coming down vertically instead of at an angle of 45 degrees, would have been bearable but add in the 10 degree drop in temperature from the previous day and you can imagine how much I was wishing I'd stayed in bed! It was freezing cold!
A few brave souls bared all but I covered myself with a rain cape and, as it was not transparent, I had 2 shirts on underneath as well. However, to maintain the spirit of the event, I was trouserless and, courtesy of that lowlife thief the previous day, still underpants-less!
Brighton Police turned out in force, riding bicycles to shepherd the naked riders and to prevent a repeat of the entanglement with other traffic that had occurred in London.
Learning from my experiences the previous day, I made sure I was well in the middle of the pack this time but the efficiency of the Police worked against me because the free flow of cyclists meant they all took off at speed and yet again guess who was left bringing up the rear?
The planned route had been to end the ride at the extreme eastern end of Brighton seafront so that's where my back-up team were waiting with my trousers. However, the organisers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cut the ride short, because of the bad weather, at a town pub called Hector's House where a clothes optional gathering had been arranged. Guess who found himself, once again, waiting at the side of the road in the rain, in the middle of Brighton for his back up team to rescue him?
If anything it was even more embarrassing than getting lost in London, standing on the edge of the pavement wearing a plastic cape, no trousers and with 5 helium filled balloons floating above my cycling helmet!
Would I do it all again next year? If I'm still fit enough, you bet I will! But I think I'll try to coerce at least two more riders to stay with me throughout.
Please go on-line to www.mndassociation.org and make a donation in memory of Audrey Luff, to help find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease.
Also google:- audrey.luff.muchloved.com to view Audrey's memorial web site. Donations in Audrey's name can also be made at:-
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