Thursday, 03 September 2015

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Skinny dipping for charity? Just put your money in a tin

In a conspiratorial whisper, she made me promise never to reveal her secret to her daughter. Goodness knows why – she was going to reveal everything else to all and sundry, without a qualm.

“I’m going skinny-dipping for charity,” she said, in low tones, to let me know she wasn’t joking.

“You’re joking!”

I was convinced only that she’d either lost her marbles or I’d missed the punchline.

No woman, let alone one nearer 60 than 50, should go skinny-dipping for anything less than a king’s ransom. Strip off and swim? In public?

Why couldn’t she make a simple donation? Hand over a cheque to a home for gentlefolk distressed by regret for their tattoos. Adopt a badger, collect coins for disappointed victims of gastric-banding.

If she needed to feel good about herself or find new ways of filling her spare time, why could she not enrol in an underwater pilates class or enter a sky-diving crochet competition? Sometimes you can’t help but despair of your friends’ outbursts of eccentric exhibitionism. Unless...

“I get it. This would be in the Caribbean?”

“In Northumberland. In the nude. How exciting is that?”

The truthful answer would probably have been hurtful – or deflating, anyway. I hadn’t the heart. So I mumbled something vaguely encouraging.

“Aren’t you worried about paparazzi? Consider what happened to the Duchess of Cambridge.”

She wasn’t. In fact she gave the impression she might quite enjoy a snatched photo of her birthday suit going global.

There was never going to be much chance of that though. Her nakedness would be very unlikely to arouse international voyeurism or a flurry of expensive court actions across Europe. She might be sectioned, of course. But that was the last thing on her mind. She has always been accepting of her tendency to craziness.

It never ceases to amaze me just how far some people will go to raise money for their chosen charities. Or – to be more accurate – how far some older people will go to support good causes.

Younger folk have a different take on charitable giving altogether – as was confirmed this week by the Charities Aid Foundation.

According to that august body, the generosity of Britain’s older generation continues to be remarkable, with many charities depending heavily on their support.

Young people, on the other hand, are altogether more careful, thrifty, savvy, scrutinising and – not to put to fine a point on it – mean.

There were no hints of regional variations given in this report of eagerness to give – or not. Had there been, we might have had more to feel cheery about. Few signs of meanness here. Support for charity is a cradle to grave business in Cumbria.

Perhaps because we tend to be forgotten by everybody from weather forecasters to government ministers, we’ve a penchant for fending for ourselves – and our neighbours. Young and old take it for granted they’ll need to spend a lifetime taking part in and sponsoring haircuts and toddlers’ races; spelling tests and Santa dashes; bunny runs and fundraising bun-bakes.

That’s not true everywhere, clearly. And it isn’t a subject I chose to raise with my ditzy skinny-dipping pal. She’s not from Cumbria. She might well suspect I’m suggesting she’s – well, if not old, then getting on a bit.

I wouldn’t dream of it. Ever.

“I’m so impressed,” I lied. “What a wonderfully brave gesture. You must have had to make a lot of preparation.”

She studied for a little while – at least I think she did, because the line went unusually quiet.

“I have, obviously. Spray tan and depilation – body hair could be embarrassing – and not necessarily in that order. Pedicure. Oh and I lost a few pounds and bought waterproof mascara.”

Preparing for cramps from sudden plunge into icy cold water had been more my drift. But I was already feeling I had too much information, so said nothing.

Her daughter will be none the wiser from me. I will keep my promise. And the donkey sanctuary will be enormously grateful, I’m sure.

But I can’t help but wonder whether those poor needy creatures might have been equally as thankful, had she opted to wear a wet-suit.



Should organ donation opt-in be automatic?



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