Picture: Rosie Hastie / Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
This could be the most ballsy blog I’ve written on a couple of levels. It is rated M for a mature audience. It contains coarse language, nudity and adult themes.
Back when I were a boy, Sheffield Primary School in Tasmania had learn to swim lessons for students in grade three and four students at the Railton pool.
Being a big fan of ball sports and living in the country I decided very early that swimming wasn’t my thing. I went on to conquer the best the swimming world could throw at me. Teachers, coaches, volunteers…I beat the lot. Nobody could get me off the bottom of the pool. There was even an instance when I was at the school swimming carnival and, coerced into competing, that I was asked to get out of the pool so the next race could start.
The only person hasn’t failed to teach me to swim is my former swimmer wife, Sarah, who has repeatedly and persistently offered to teach me. I’d take her up on that offer but I don’t want to see her cry.
With all this in mind I have decided to sign up for an event that involves swimming. Although, I’m reliably informed wading is also an appropriate term.
So, what do you know about the winter solstice?
It’s June 21, the shortest day of the year, the unofficial first day of winter and the day when a whole heap of people get their kit off at a beach in Hobart and, basically, skinny dip!
It’s going to be cold, wet, confronting, cold, exhilarating, frightening and cold.
So, why do it? Well, because why not.
I grew up in a traditional household with traditional parents and grandparents and for a long time followed that line that I was going to do well at school, live cleanly, go to Uni and get a good job, wife and three kids…one for mum, one for dad and one for the country.
But when I turned 18 I moved out of home, shacked up with a partner, got married young, divorced young, lost my mind, contemplated suicide changed jobs every 6-12 months, did not gain any qualifications to crow about and learned quickly that stability wasn’t my strong suit.
The five years after I turned 18 I gave up cricket and hockey and turned away a lot of close friends for a life that provided precious little stability.
Since then life took a while to gain a sturdy foothold. My new partner (now wife) and I moved to Queensland, partied hard, changed jobs, moved to Victoria and then finally back home to Sheffield. But that wasn’t the end of this manic period of my life. We moved to Hobart on a whim so I could follow a dream.
This still wasn’t the end of uncertainty and it all came to a head in 2014 with a diagnosis of Bipolar II that we did not expect and changed our lives.
Since then life has been great. Behaviours of the past could be explained. I’ve changed jobs once in three years and will set a personal best of attending the Christmas party at the same place of employment for four times! We have three kids who are all doing well at school and life is grand.
What’s this got to do with baring my arse to the unsuspecting public you ask? Well, I’m glad you ask. The reason is threefold.
Firstly, it seems part of my chemical makeup is to get my kit off. It was largely a catalyst for a trip to the doctor before the diagnosis. I know that sounds a little bit weird but over a stubby I’ll tell you more about it. Suffice to say I had the cleanest shed in Forcett.
Secondly, after a period of great stability for the first time in my adult life, it’s time to do something stupid! It’s like a pressure release valve. There is only so much day to day I can do without lashing out in some sort of manic fashion. This gives a great opportunity to do this as opposed to drinking all night with a mate and driving to get coffee.
Thirdly, is a phrase I’ve recently discovered through Uni, and this is where the study angle to this blog is, the phrase “deviant leisure”
In a nut shell, deviant leisure is leisure activities that society my look down on. I’m thinking binge drinking, smoking/vaping, taking drugs, casual sex and, in this case, public nudity. I love deviant leisure activities as, mostly, they take you away from social norms and allows you to push boundaries set by “decent society”.
Smoking and excessive drinking are the number one forms of deviant leisure and, to a degree, might not fall into this category the same was as drugs and going to your local Spearmint Rhino to ogle scantily clad women who will remove all for money.
Legal deviant leisure activities are usually shunned (smoking/drinking) but this one is celebrated as part of the Dark Mofo event held in Hobart each year by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
It’s been eating at me for a while and is something I have always wanted to do but have always found an excuse, but not this time.
So, stripping down, cheeks to the wind and getting wet on a cold Sandy Bay beach with a bunch of random people with not a stich among them seemed like the best idea for acting completely reckless and giving some of the people I know something to talk about that doesn’t involve cricket!
Please make comments below. I’d love to hear from you and find out if anybody is actually reading this!