My Naked bike ride

On Saturday 8th June, I didn’t want to go in the morning, I wanted to stay in bed. It looked cloudy, and I am not generally great with the cold. Still my boyfriend rang to encourage me which always helps, and I did not try to rush myself. Too much time in a crowded place if you are not in the mood would backfire. By the time I left, sun was shining and I felt glorious for what would happen that day. It’s all about the attitude – doesn’t matter if I miss the body painting bit, or even my friends; if I am on form I will have the best time ever no matter.

I had noted directions to the secret spot for painting our bodies, and after alighting the train at Victoria, cycled over there, not far from Marble Arch. Pretty quiet when I arrived, Natasha was painting Will, Susan was at the ready and a few others were about. The photographers had not yet sussed us and descended! I messed about with my watery bottles of silver and pink which did not nearly cover me thickly enough, much to my sunburnt grief later, but at least I had a sort of glittery golden sheen about me! A kind woman painted Spirited Bodies in big letters across my back, and I helped with painting others where I could. Generally I was getting all excited by this time, if only internally and my painting skills which normally might be more reasonable, were pretty basic.

A friend made a stencil, so I had small letting on my front, big on my back

A friend made a stencil, so I had small lettering on my front, big on my back


More friends and others arrived, and so too the camera’d masses… well you have to expect that, ideally revel in it, but it is testing even for the hardiest exhibitionist at times. Being a female, they tend to crowd especially if you are nude. Oh for a world where naked humans are more normal.

It seemed to take an age to get the ride going, but at this point Richard who has come to draw at Spirited Bodies before caught me as he was making his WNBR documentary.

The World Naked Bike Ride, London (2013). from Richard Agnew on Vimeo.

When the ride finally got going, and we were at the end almost (of the long trail of 100s of cyclists), I felt heroic! Crowds cheer lining the streets and the freedom of being nude on your bike as you streak down Park Lane is awesome!

Landmark occasion!

Landmark occasion!

Highlights of the ride? Having friends to share it with mainly, that meant a lot. Seeing all the extraordinary cyclists in their stunning attire and some works of art on skin. Chatting with strangers as we rode, recognising friends too, sharing in blissful moments like when people who were not on the ride suddenly decided to join in, you know, random cyclists, and especially people in rickshaws in the West End where we were. We saw them strip off, stand up and pose to applause! Just getting into the spirit of it. The overwhelming joy that kept me high for some time after, is of course still with me. The luck of the mainly warm, sometimes hot weather that day, especially considering the following greyness of subsequent days. The sunburn was worth it, and kept ‘Spirited’ on my back till now even!

Oh and I remember singing ‘Just can’t get enough’! (Depeche Mode) whilst riding down famous streets of the capital. It’s a number from the East London choir I am part of, Hackney Secular Singers. Felt most apt to sing in such high spirits. My original intention to bring more women to the ride did not exactly transpire, but it is in the intention that matters. My presence was there, and Natasha remarked that there were more women than the last year, we just want to keep growing that number.

When we stopped at the lights, Steve caught me and Julian

When we stopped at the lights, Steve caught me and Julian

celebration, and lovely painted women

celebration, and lovely painted women

with Natasha, who managed to raise money whilst riding (and being photographed) for Help for Heroes

with Natasha, who managed to raise money whilst riding (and being photographed) for Help for Heroes

gorgeous group shot - other friends were scattered about, but this unit emerged to keep reconvening!

gorgeous group shot – other friends were scattered about, but this unit emerged to keep reconvening!

best painted rider - took 2 days to prepare apparently! He had a tail too. Photo by Camila Gelber

best painted rider – took 2 days to prepare apparently! He had a tail too. Photo by Camila

Camila caught us at the beginning of the ride

Camila caught us at the beginning of the ride

One more thing. At the end when we were dressed again at Hyde Park Corner, and people were disbanding, I did not know what to do. I was not ready to go home. Just like that and it confused me, so when friends had gone, I stayed a while and cycled back towards Marble Arch uncertain where to or why. Then I saw a couple who had clearly been on the ride (he was still almost nude except literally a loin cloth), and I recognised the woman who had been riding near us. Older couple, very sweet, in fact are good friends not partners. They said hello and invited me to have tea with them in the dusk of the park. Turned out to be the perfect way to unwind, chatting with fellow riders, from Wales in this case, quietly after the chaos. Making friends and sharing stories of naked escapades (these two travel far and wide for it), and having friends to be nude with when your partner isn’t that bothered about that scene. Made lots of sense, I’m sure I’ll see them again.

With thanks to all who shared in this, and Steve, Camila and Matthew for sharing photos and Richard for the film. Here is a link to more pictures discovered on Flickr by Darren –

Till next time!

The Death of Sam

I am with my Mum this evening and we are talking about her step-Father Sam, who died 26 years ago today. Nonny (my Grand-Mother) couldn’t have moved from East Germany to London without the help of a man – not for his money, but his emotional support which she needed after living away for 14 years.

Sam was married but his marriage was definitely on the rocks. In those days both parties had to agree to divorce, or you had to have strong evidence of adultery, desertion (for 7 years), physical or mental cruelty. Nonny and Sam lived in sin for 3 years before his wife cooperated.

As a teenager Mum & her sister Karen said to Sam, “You’re not our Father and you can’t tell us what to do!” He said, “I know.”

Nonny & Sam married on Euston Road at the registry office in 1967.

Mum said he was a good man, especially for Nonny; he looked after her. She was a bit vulnerable and he had the quality of friendship, as well as being her husband and love. He was kind and generous and easily approachable.

Mum says, “As I grew older, I regarded him more as my Father. My real Father only asked me once to come to East Berlin, but it was on my son’s birthday so I couldn’t. I went there on my Dad’s birthday instead. Usually if I wanted to see him I had to invite myself, which I did.

In England, before they were married I was ashamed of Nonny & Sam not being so, and I didn’t know how to introduce Sam – the situation was unusual.”

Sam knew Nonny & Gramp from way back in the late 40s through the Communist party.

Mum says, “After living in East Berlin I vowed never to join the Communist Party, or any party. You might accuse me of sitting on the fence but I speak from experience.”

Nonny & Sam’s marriage was always positive, favourable and stable. He nor she ever did the dirty. She was 45 when they got together; she had been through a lot, lived in several countries and wasn’t having more children. She was ready for a calm life and he was the right man.

When Sam was younger he was devoted to the Communist Party. He founded and ran a non-profit organisation which sold stationery. He did not particularly share artistic interests with Nonny (she was an artist) nor did he have much taste. Nonny made sure he wore nice clothes and he didn’t mind. She wore the trousers in a nice way.

Sam’s influence helped in Mum’s choice of husband. His caring nature proved enduring and Mum was affected by this. His easy going affability won over the volatility represented by her Father.

Related Article:

Anatomy of Love: Topless Sisters, Mum, a Beagle & a Hirst Sculpture

Following on from my Femen inspired exploits last week in Central London with my Mum, sister and boyfriend’s dog, here is the rest of the photo collection from that awesome day out – Friday 13th April 2012. By this point Steve Moore of Occupy City of London had seen us on our way… to the other side of the river.

After all this time showing off on my own, Rebecca decided perhaps she would join in...

Mum being supportive on a slightly unusual day out

It was getting busy by the sculpture so we found our own patch

Dee getting restless

Sisters doing it for themselves on Millennium Bridge