Friday, 1 June 2007

Health and sauciness

There's an article in yesterday's Guardian about the declining interest in naturism. Apparently, these days it's seen as old fashioned. It's quite a trick, to move from risqué to demodé without ever remotely touching mainstream, and we should be proud of the phenomenon for that, if nothing else. But what I feel most nostalgic about is less naturism itself and more that most wonderful of all top-shelf publications, Health and Efficiency.

I used to buy it as a schoolboy in towns near mine, scattered around the Midlands and the Potteries, sneaking it home to ogle over the photographs of naked men. In a world as starved of male flesh as that of provincial England in the 1960s, they were all there was, and it was endlessly thrilling to see how many different versions they came in. Old and young, fat and thin, hung and not so hung, sometimes, even, with the hint of an erection. It's something contemporary consumers of run-of-the-mill gay porn never see: the sheer variety of it all, both sexy and reassuring, as ordinary men performed mundane and occasionally dangerous activities (I'm thinking barbecues) with their kit off. The sexiest ones I'd cut out and stick into the programme of the Stoke-on-Trent Arts Festival and keep with my Phaidon monographs. I don't know where it's gone now, but I'd love to have it back, There's one photo in particular of a man coming out of the sea...

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