A case of mind over matter à la Cony

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A case of mind over matter à la Cony

Postby cony on Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:38 pm

A case of mind over matter à la Cony

It all started with a small notice that was on the notice board, which Mary saw after her swim.

ÔÇÿWhat are your children doing this summer?
Watching television and sitting in front of the computer?
Or
Learning about the world around them and getting out into nature?

If the second choice is what you want
Come and hear what we are offering
your 5 ÔÇô 9 year olds

Meet us on Tuesday 24th at
St. Mary's Church Hall
8:30pm.ÔÇÖ


It was certainly a much better idea than having the children sitting in front of the computer all day and she did not really relish taking off so much time from work to find alternative activities for them. They, Mary and John, her husband, had already planned to take the children on holiday in France to a camp site which they had been to before and had many friends there, but this could be a partial solution with what to do with them the rest of the summer holidays. She decided that she would discuss it with him later that evening and see what they would do.

Mary spoke with John and they both agreed there was nothing to be lost by hearing what was on offer. They had both tried to get their children out into nature more often and had many activities in their back garden to try and entice them out, but with the long cold winters and modern technology it was proving very difficult to move the children outside.

On Tuesday evening Mary arrived at the church hall. There was quite a crowd there and she could see that she was not the only one who was looking for suitable activities for their children during the summer break. She noticed that most of the people there also went to the swim, at least those she recognised.

"Good evening everyone, could I have your attention please. My name is Julian and I am a student here at the university studying social work. Together with my colleague Jane we would like to organise summer activities for children to try and get them out into nature. We admit in advance that we also have an ulterior motive to organising this activity. We would like to use this experience to write a paper as part of our university requirements on the effects to children in getting them out into nature and away from modern technology."

This last sentence caused a general rumble of discontent amongst the people present, as Julian suspected it would.

"I think this is a good point to open for questions before we continue, at least on the statement I have just made."

Julian looked and saw that a few hands started going up, followed by more.

"Alright, excuse me I do not know your names, that lady there," he said, pointing to one of the women

"Is this an exercise in using our children as guinea pigs?"

"No, certainly not. First and foremost, we really want to get the children out into nature. Next question, you please."

"Will our names be in your paper and what about the children's privacy?

"We will not mention any of the children by name and their privacy will be maintained."

"Then what is the point of your paper?"

"This is part of an exercise a large group from our year is carrying out under the supervision of our tutor. Some of the groups will be doing exercises indoors and some of them using computers. This is a preliminary start to a much larger study in the future to see how children relate one to another in different scenarios. At the moment all we are required to do is organize the activities and note how the children relate to each other, relate to the activities themselves, people outside the group and other factors which might occur during the activities."

"What are your credentials to organise such an activity, and do you have previous experience in this?

"Both Jane and I have been organising activities at the swim for youngsters and during my gap year I worked with handicapped children. Jane is a leader at the local guides group and has experience from there. Apart from this, one of the compulsory courses we took as part of our studies was 'organisation of youth groups' and we are state qualified organisers. Those who had not done the course were not allowed to take part in this activity. Jane is also a registered first aid practitioner."

Julian noticed that the hands started to go down. Presumably the majority of those present had received answers to their questions.

"All right, I think that you have received the answers to your most pressing questions. I suggest we move forward and explain to you what we are planning to do this summer."

Looking around he did not see anyone who desperately wanted to ask a further question.

"We are planning to get the children outdoors into nature, as far as is possible, and give them the experience of seeing where they live, and basically feel nature with their own hands. We have made arrangements, for example, with local farmers and we will go to their farms and see where milk and eggs come from, visit orchards and help picking some of the fruit, maybe even grow some vegetables of our own if we can find somewhere suitable to do it. We want to get to local nature reserves and look at wild flowers and animals. We also have an arrangement with a local private bus company to supply us with transport when required. This we will need to get to the farms and nature reserves. We are also aware of the infamous British weather which could make us change our plans at very short notice and we have the use of the small enclosed pool at the swimming pool, or we will go to the local nature museum."

Jane noticed that one father had his hand up. "Julian, before you continue, I think that gentleman there has a question."

"Ah yes, thank you. All these activities you have mentioned sound nice and wholesome, but, what is it going to cost us, what about insurance and how many days a week and for how many weeks will these activities be going on?"

"We envisage that the costs will be low, at least when compared to any other alternative available. We have been able to get many of the planned activities for free. The bus company have agreed to charge us cost only. With respect to insurance, the faculty at the university has arranged insurance for the whole project at no cost to you. We are talking about two days a week for the six weeks of the summer break."

"Why are these activities aimed at 5 to 9 year olds?"

"In the project as a whole there are also groups which will be organising activities for those over 9 years old. The reason is basically to have pre-pubescent children and remove from the study, of this group at least, children who are going through puberty. Regarding the under 5 year olds, they are considered too young for the kind of interaction we are looking for or hoping to see."

"I have two children, one eight and one ten. The ten year old is pre-pubescent. Can he not attend, while his sister can?"

"Specific borderline cases we can discuss later, and I think this should be done privately. It is important that the children are pre-pubescent."

Seeing there were no more questions Julian decided to go towards a conclusion to the meeting.

"It would seem to me that we have given you an overview as to the program we are proposing and more or less answered your more urgent questions. We are planning to start the program in a monthÔÇÖs time. We have prepared a more detailed plan for you all to take along with our contact numbers and registration forms. We request that you return these forms within two weeks to the box office at the swim as we wish to interview all the participants and their children before we start. In general we are looking for a group of about 10 ÔÇô 15 children, but if it is less we will not cancel the program. Thank you for coming and we hope to see your children this summer."

With that the meeting more or less broke up and Julian and Jane handed out the information and registration forms.

-O-O-

The following evening after the children had gone to bed Mary and John sat down and discussed the program being offered over the summer for the children. Mary was happy with the program getting the children out into the countryside and allowing them to learn about life, and the fact that on bad days they would be at the swimming pool. At least they would not be at home in front of the television or computer. Also the fact that Julian and Jane would be writing a paper at the end of the program did not really bother her. It would be interesting to read the paper, and the others in the study, to see what conclusions they come to.

"What really bothers me, dear, is that Simon is outside their age group. How can we tell him he cannot join in while Abbi can?" Mary noted, as basically the only objection she had.

"If I remember from what you said, they will be coming to interview us and the children before the summer. We will have to convince them to accept him."

"And if they don't?"

"We will have to cross that bridge when we come to it, and decide if we will allow Abbi to attend without Simon or not."

Not an ideal solution choosing between oneÔÇÖs own children. They read the information they had received along with the registration form and eventually decided, for the meantime at least, to register both children and deal with only one being accepted at a later date.

They filled out the registration form for both the children and Mary took it to the swim box office the next day.

-O-O-

A week later the phone rang.

"Mrs. Archer?"

"Yes."

"This is Julian Jones speaking. Jane and I would like to come and visit you regarding your application to the summer program. When would it be convenient to meet you and your husband?"

"Either tomorrow evening or the day after. I seem to remember that you also wanted to see the children, is that correct?"

"Yes, it is."

"In that case it would be best sometime between seven and nine in the evening before they go to bed."

"Fine, if it is alright with you we will come the day after tomorrow sometime between seven fifteen and seven thirty. I imagine it will not be more than an hour, unless of course you have questions you want to put to us. I understand that your son is ten years old."

"Correct, and we really want him to take part in the activities along with his sister."

"OK then we will discuss it at the same time."

And with that the phone call ended.

-O-O-

Two days later the door bell rang at seven twenty in the evening. John opened the door and greeted the two people there.

"Mr. Archer?"

"Yes, you must be Julian Jones and Jane. I'm sorry, I don't know your surname."

"I'm not one for surnames so you may call me Jane, if you don't mind that is."

"No, no, of course not. I'm John, please come in."

John led them through to the living room and was immediately joined by Mary.

"Would you like something to drink? Tea, coffee, soft drink?"

"Plain water if you don't mind."

Mary quickly brought their drinks through along with their own coffees and a few nibbles. Following the usual small talk they got down to the main reason for the meeting. There was no problem with Abbi, she was in the target age group, only Simon was just a little older.

"As we explained at the meeting in the Church Hall," Julian started "we are looking for pre-puberty children. This project is part of a greater study to see how children of different age groups react to various environments. It is important that the children for our group be pre-puberty as we wish to remove this variable from the study. There are other groups being set up to evaluate how puberty affects this behaviour."

"Could you please explain more about this study, how our children are involved in it and more important how their privacy is ensured?" John asked, wanting to be sure of the children's privacy.

"Yes of course." Julian explained, "This is only a preliminary study which is being set up by our faculty to see if there are statistical differences to children's behaviour due the way they do certain activities. Many of the students are taking part in this over the summer vacation, each one of them in their home town. The age groups and activities have been spread out amongst us. We offered to do this age group in nature and so we advertised at the swim. The children's identities will not being recorded in the report which we eventually write. The report will not have any reactions of any individual child but only the group reactions and the interactions between the children. You are of course entitled to receive a copy of the report before we deliver it to ensure that your child's identity is not compromised and to make any comments you might have."

"Would there be a chance to receive a copy of the whole final report, the one covering all the groups?"

"We do not know. We would have to ask. Why would you want to see a copy of the final report?"

"I think it would make interesting reading. As you said, you are comparing between the various groups to see how they react"

"As I said, we would have to ask. Possibly a summary report without all the references and the statistical analysis, but it would not be ready for a long time due to all the individual reports having to be analysed and then the preliminary comparisons made."

"Thank you for the explanation. What about Simon? Can he join your group or not?" Mary asked.

"We saw Simon when we came in and we feel that he will be able to join in our group," Jane answered.

"Thank you very much," Mary answered, very much relieved. "What else do you need from us?"

"I think we have everything here on the application form with one exception. Do your children have any health issues we should know about, medication they need to take on a regular basis or if they are allergic to anything?" Jane noted.

"Will it affect if the children can join in or not?"

"Yes and no. We need to know these things, to ensure we are able to handle any event that may come along. If the child is allergic to bee stings we need to know that he has the appropriate antidote with him and that we will need to evacuate him immediately to hospital. This we could possibly handle, but there are things we might not be able to. In that case we would have to, unfortunately, say that the child cannot join in. Do your children have any health issues?"

"No they don't," Mary answered.

"In that case then we look forward to seeing your children on the 25th. We meet at the Church Hall at nine thirty and the first activity will be at the local nature reserve. We will be wandering around looking at the flora and so on and also collecting some of the rubbish left by others. Do not forget to send the children with water to drink, good footwear, hat and towel to every meeting, all in a small backpack which is easy to carry. You can also give them some light refreshments if you wish, but please no sweets or fizzy drinks."

-O-O-
Last edited by cony on Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A case of mind over matter à la Cony

Postby cony on Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:39 pm

The 25th arrived, and Mary took the children to the Church Hall. After all the children in the group had arrived they were ferried onto the waiting coach and taken away for their first activity at the local nature reserve. When they arrived at their destination the children disembarked and were sat down at the tables in the car park there.

"Good morning all of you, I am Julian and this is Jane. We will be your leaders for this series of activities and we hope you will enjoy yourselves. If you have any problems or questions please do not hesitate to ask one of us and we will do our best to solve it. We will learn your names as we go along. First we need to lay down some ground rules. We need to stay together, as we don't want to lose anybody. You must follow our instructions, it is only for your wellbeing and anyone who persistently does not follow our instructions will not be allowed to continue with us. You are here to have a good time, so make the best of it and enjoy yourselves."

"Julian, if I may add a few words," Jane said and turned to the children. "I realise this is the first time you are out without your parents and you are bubbling over with energy, but if you make too much noise we will not see any wildlife. Also remember we are here to collect rubbish left by other people. Julian and I have large bags for you to put any rubbish you find. Now are we ready?"

With a huge ÔÇÿYESÔÇÖ from all the children, they set off. Within a few minutes the children had already found old plastic bottles and crisp packets to collect. While they slowly walked along the path Julian and Jane took the chance to show the children different types of trees and flowers they saw on route. The children seemed to be enjoying themselves and were not too noisy.

After a while they turned off the main path onto a side path and Jane reminded the children to try and keep quieter as they knew there was a badger sett not too far from them. Maybe, although it was highly unlikely as they were normally nocturnal animals, they would be able to see a badger. They came quite close to the badger sett and they were not at home, or more likely, they were at home, but not coming out. Jane took the opportunity to describe what they were looking at and the importance of not disturbing it. The children were very excited at what they saw as it is not something they would normally see.

Luckily for Julian and Jane the weather was good for the first field trip and by now some of the children were getting quite warm. Some of them came to Julian and Jane to ask if it was allowed to take off jackets and sweaters. They were told they could and were helped to safely stow or tie them to the children's packs.

By now they had come to a very quiet part of the nature reserve which was not used by the general public. There was no rubbish to pick up but there was the opportunity to see much more wild life. After a short while they reached the banks of a stream and were lucky to see a kingfisher on the opposite bank.

Walking along the bank of the stream they came to an artificial pool which had been created for the wildlife. They were shown the small weir which was built in the beaver style. They were told that this was done to show how it would be if beavers were still here. The pool was also a stopping off point for migratory birds in the spring and autumn. They could see that a lot of rubbish had collected in this artificial pool.

"Alright kids, as you can see there is a lot of rubbish here that we need to collect." Julian said. "The pool is not deep and you can all go in with no trouble."

"But we didn't bring our swimming costumes with us," some of the children said.

Jane and Julian knew this question would come, so Jane calmly said "When you go to the swim with your parents what do you wear?"

"Our birthday swim suits!" they called out joyously, and with that they stripped off and ran into the water. Julian and Jane also joined them just in case one of the children got into trouble and to show that there was nothing wrong. It was a warm day and everyone was having a good time.

Eventually they managed to clean the pool of rubbish so Julian took the time to show them how a beaver would construct the weir. He also showed them where there were signs of holes possibly made by otters or water voles. In the shallows he showed them the small crustaceans that could be found in this kind of pool. It was also a chance to get close to the blackberry bushes and see if any of the fruit was ready, although it proved to be too early in the season.

After a while the children were slowly beginning to tire and climbed out of the pool to air dry and rest. In the meantime, Jane opened a few boxes and coolers they had brought there earlier that morning and set up a light meal for them.

"Alright kids," Jane called out, "it is important you all have something to drink so come here and we also have a light meal for you. Those of you who have brought something with you can also get them out of your bags and eat them as well."

The children came over and drank some water and had a bite to eat. Jane and Julian had prepared bowls with fresh carrot sticks, tomato and cucumber slices, and whole flour rolls along with hummus and avocado dips, and fresh fruit to finish. There were no potato crisps or other snacks. The children were hungry, and despite that for many of them this was the first time they had seen, or even tasted, this kind of food they finished it all.

Following the light snack the children were allowed to play for a little before they tidied up and prepared to return to return to the car park and the return journey to the church hall.

"Do we have to get dressed yet?" asked a few of the children. "We like it like this."

Jane replied, "No. not just yet, but when we tell you to get dressed there is to be no argument. Is that clear?"

"Ye e e s! They called out, only too happy to stay as they were.

They all slowly made their way back towards the main path. They could see that a few of the younger children were beginning to get tired, and they were, on the whole, quiet; so much so that Julian noticed a hedgehog in the undergrowth and called the children to come over quietly and see it. Since they were now quiet the hedgehog was not scared and did not roll up into a defensive ball.

Now was the time to get dressed, and after doing so they made their way along the main path and onto the waiting bus, which took them back to the church hall and their parents.

"Don't forget to take all your things with you," Jane reminded the children just before they got off the bus and ran to their parents. Despite reminding them, Julian and Jane knew they needed to go back through the bus and collect any remaining articles to be returned to them the next time they met.

Later that evening, at the Archer residence during supper, Mary and John were getting a report from the two children as to what they had done on the trip to the nature reserve. They were told about the birds, animals and flowers the kids had seen, and how they got see a hedgehog close up. Their children also told of how they were doing their part for the environment by collecting rubbish left by others.

"Why do people throw their stuff away instead of putting it in the rubbish?" Abbi asked. "There were plenty of rubbish bins on the way."

"It's 'cos they are lazy," Simon added.

"Yes, youÔÇÖre probably right," Mary concluded. "They were not taught as youngsters to do it."

They then described the good time they had at the stream and the food Julian and Jane had brought along.

"When did you two start eating carrot sticks, hummus and avocado dip?" Mary asked, astonished. "I can see that I will have to widen the menu I give you two. Also, I didnÔÇÖt see that your towels were wet. Didn't you go in the stream?"

"Of course we did," Abbi answered.

"We just air dried afterwards," Simon concluded.

"Mummy, what is the next activity?" Abbi asked. "I can't wait!"

"Well, according to the list we received you are due to go to a dairy farm, watch the milking and make some cheeses. That should be interesting."

"What, no streams or pools to play in? Where's the fun in that?" Simon noted.

"The list we received only gives the basic information. I am sure there is much more to do there and that you will both have a good time."

-O-O-

The trip to the dairy farm came a few days later. As described in the list, they watched the milking and saw how cheese was made. They also helped to bottle feed some young calves, which the farmer said had been orphaned. They were also given some of the cheese they had helped to make and had it with their lunch in a quiet spinney the farmer said they could use. There was also a shallow pool there, so it was possible to play in the water. The farmer told them that his children would go skinny dipping in the pool when they were younger.

After they had been at the pool for a short time the farmer called them to come and see the birth of a new calf, something that was definitely not on the original list.

The rest of the summer continued in this fashion with trips out to different places and on the days when the weather was not so good they had the use of the small private swimming pool at the large complex. Julian and Jane could see that as time went by the children began playing more and more together and would help each other. Another unexpected event was that the children decided to pool the food each brought along to the activity for everyone to taste and try.

After the Archer family returned from their holiday, the children were eager to get back to their summer activities, to meet and tell the other children where they had been on holiday and what they had done. This was something that was happening quite a bit and the children were contacting each other between activities to play together and exchange experiences.

The day following their return from their holiday abroad Mary received a phone call from her sister in law, Kate.

"Hello Kate"

""

"Yes we had a very good and restful holiday in the South of France"

""

"Yes at our usual camp site. The children were in the sea all day"

""

"Of course she can. It will be a bit hard on Abbi as she so likes the summer activities she is taking part in. She will have to miss a few to be with Sophi"

""

"Thank you for suggesting that, I will have to ask the organisers first. You do realise what kind of activities these are?"

""

"Oh I see. Sophi has heard all about it from Abbi and would like to join in as well. I will ask the organisers and let you know when you bring her over tomorrow."

""

"Bye"

And with that she hung up the phone. She was intrigued to know what Abbi had told Sophi and how her sister in law had agreed so easily.

"Abbi, can you come here a minute please?"

"Yes mummy" Abbi answered as she appeared at the door.

"What have you been telling Sophi about the activities you have been doing over the summer?"

"About collecting the rubbish, seeing all those animals, milking, making cheese and seeing the birth of the calf"

"That's all?"

"Of course, what else is there to tell?"

"Nothing. Sophi will be coming to visit for a week or so. Do you want to take her to your activities?"

"Yes please!"

"Alright, I will talk with Julian about it. Now off you go."

Abbi ran off to play in the garden. As Mary thought, her sister-in-law had only heard what she wanted. She still had the phone call to make to Julian to clear it with him.

""

"Hello Mrs. Archer"

""

"Yes of course she can, but only after her mother has signed the registration form. Since we are already talking, at the end of this week or the beginning of next week we are going to finish building a beaver dam for a friend and we will be able to fire up the sauna to show the children what it is and like."

""

"Yes we realise the problems with small children and saunas and are only going to let them use it in small groups for five minutes and then into the stream to cool off. Because of these potential problems we are also asking the parents to sign off on this particular activity."

""

"I will give you the registration form and the extra sign off for the sauna this evening when you pick them up after the activity. Please return them with Abbi when she next comes."

""

Well that was easier than she thought. All she had to do now was collect the forms from Julian that evening and get her sister-in-law to sign them the next day.

-O-O-

It was just after breakfast the next morning when MaryÔÇÖs sister-in-law and niece arrived, pulling straight into Mary and JohnÔÇÖs driveway in their Mini.

"Hello Kate, Sophi, come in,ÔÇØ called Mary, as she went to meet them. ÔÇ£Sophi, you will find Abbi upstairs, she will tell you all about the activity tomorrow."

"Mary you are a life saver. We are so glad you are able to look after Sophi at such short notice," said Kate, in reply.

"No problem. I spoke with the activity organisers but you have to sign the registration form and also because one of the activities next week involves a sauna we have to sign off specifically on this one. Are you sure you are fine with this?"

"Of course I am. If you are letting your children go why shouldn't Sophi also enjoy it? Now where are the forms I have to sign? Sophi has been talking about nothing else since she knew she would be staying with you. She has heard so much from Abbi, she is really jealous."

With that Kate signed the forms, made her quick farewells and left.

-O-O-

Since the weather the next day was not good, as predicted in the forecast, the activity was at the local natural history museum. Here the children were shown all the wild life that either lived or had lived in the area, including beavers. The children really enjoyed themselves and it also helped them to understand and connect with what they had seen on their field trips and what they were doing.

On their return home, Sophi called her mother and couldn't stop talking about what she had seen that day at the museum and that the next week they would be helping to complete a beaver dam and try out the sauna. It was obvious that Sophi was really enjoying herself and her mother was happy that she was involved in healthy, wholesome activities rather than the computer games and TV cartoons she would be doing at home.

-O-O-
Last edited by cony on Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A case of mind over matter à la Cony

Postby cony on Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:40 pm

The day of the beaver dam building and sauna finally came around. It was forecast to be a good, dry, hot day. The children were taken to an area in the countryside where they left the bus. After the bus had left they walked through an orchard towards a stream they could just see in the distance. They were told that this was private land but they had received permission from the owner to use it. This was part of Julian's and Jane's program to also show children the importance of respecting other people's property and looking after it. After a short walk they rounded a corner and went down a slope to the stream. On the other side of the stream it looked like somebody's back garden, but more important there was a huge log pile there and an almost finished dam.

"Alright kids we have arrived," Julian started. "As you can see the dam is already part built and beginning to cause the formation of a pool here behind it. We are doing this as a project with some friends of ours who live in the house over there. They have also agreed that we can fire up the sauna later so you can experience that also."

The children were extremely happy and couldn't wait to start.

"Some of you will need to bring us the logs to try and complete the dam and one or two of the elder children can help us by the dam, Simon, Frank and Charles would be best for that."

"Can we do this wearing our swim suits?" one of the children asked.

"Of course you can," Jane answered, "but it would probably be better to leave your sandals on."

With that the children started to get changed, but Sophi was stuck, looking a little embarrassed.

"I didn't bring my swimsuit with me!" Sophi turned and whispered to Abbi.

"Sophi," Abbi said, as she turned Sophi back around, "look around you. What do you see?"

"Err, " looking around somewhat surprised "no one is dressed."

"Everyone is wearing their birthday swimsuit. Come on hurry up or you will miss all the fun."

Sophi was still a little reluctant, but seeing how her cousins and all their friends had already got their birthday swimsuits on and were having fun splashing water on each other, she decided to join in. As soon as Abbi saw Sophi in her birthday swimsuit she gave Sophi a big hug. Then she told Sophi to wait a moment and went to Jane.

"Excuse me. Jane"

"Yes Abbi, what is the problem, and where did you get that lovely tan?"

"We were in the South of France for a holiday, I got it there. Do you have any sun cream? My cousin is a little textile and I think she needs some. We forgot to put any in our bag as were are already well tanned"

"Ah! I see what you mean," Jane said, taking a quick look in Sophi's direction. "Yes I do have some cream and I will be over in a second."

Abbi returned to Sophi. "Jane will bring you some sun cream for your textile parts, so you won't burn."

"What textile parts? I'm not wearing anything" she answered starting to be a little self conscious.

"Abbi stop picking on your cousin" Jane said as she arrived with the sun cream, "not everyone is as lucky as you to have a holiday in the South of France. Sophi, hold out your hands."

Jane then squirted some sun cream into SophiÔÇÖs hands.

"First, turn round so I can put cream all over your back and you spread the cream you have in your hands on your front and especially on all the white parts." With that, Jane began to carefully spread the cream on SophiÔÇÖs back.

"When we finish with the sauna later and you have air dried come to me and I will give you a second application of the cream."

"You do speak funny," Sophi said. "Birthday swim suit, textile and air dried"

"I am assuming you don't have a towel, most of the kids here don't bring one, so you will have to dry naturally ÔÇô air dry ÔÇô OK."

"Oh, all right now that I can understand, but what about the other words you used?"

"Sorry, I don't have time to explain now, but I am sure Abbi will love to tell you."

Jane departed to go and help organise the dam building activity, so Sophi was left hoping that Abbi would explain, but Abbi had other things on her mind.

"Come on," Abbi called, as she ran off to join the others. "We are missing all the fun.ÔÇØ

Sophi saw that she was the only one left on the bank side and, not wanting to be the odd man out, ran to join Abbi and the others. They spent the next hour or so slowly blocking the last gap in the dam with mud and twigs. The job was not as good as a beaver would do but it was the best under the circumstances. The pool behind the dam was beginning to fill up.

Julian and Jane got the children out of the water onto the bank side to rest a little.

"Very well done," Julian said. "I think Mrs. Beaver will be happy with the job you have done. Now rest and drink some water especially as today is quite warm and you have been all too busy to think about drinking. In the meantime I will go and fire up the sauna and get it ready. Jane will tell you about the sauna and the way it will be done."

Julian then went to the sauna, lit it up and got it ready for the children.

"Listen very carefully to what I have to tell you about the sauna," Jane started. "I think this will be the first time for most of you, and for those who have done it before with their parents, please do it as we are instructing. We do not know who has and who has not been in a sauna before. First of all it will be very hot inside, so everyone will drink water before going in. Second, you will enter in groups of five at a time for no more than five minutes. If one of you feels it is too hot or you feel faint you can leave before the five minutes is up. No one is going to think you have chickened out. Thirdly, inside the sauna you do not need sandals, so you can take them off, and you will sit on towels which we will have laid out on the benches inside. Lastly, when you come out of the sauna run down to the pool we have just made and jump in. Now please split up into groups of five."

The children split up into their groups, and once the sauna was ready they began the experience. Each time a group went in, either Julian or Jane were there to keep an eye on them and the time. Eventually all the groups had been in the sauna, but despite their requests there were no return visits.

"This is just to give you a taste of what it is like," they explained.

The rest of the time there was spent eating lunch, playing on the grass and in the water. Sophi did not forget after her turn in the sauna to get a fresh coating of sun cream.

Eventually the day ended, the children got dressed and they returned to their parents, tired but happy. Before they left the children were shown how the pool had grown and was almost its final size and that the next job over the coming year was to clean the pool from the mud and stones and plant new plants in keeping with the area to attract wild life to come and use the pool.

-O-O-

About a week later, Kate returned to Mary and JohnÔÇÖs house, to collect her daughter. Mary was there to greet her, along with Abbi and Simon, and, of course, Sophi. As Mary opened the door to her, Kate was almost bowled over by her extremely happy, lightly tanned daughter, who was bubbling over with joy and unable to keep quiet for a minute.

"Mum, I have had so much fun. We put on our birthday swimsuits and helped build a dam for the beavers and then we had a sauna and ran to the stream to cool off and then we all shared our lunches with each other and I eat pita bread with avocado dip and hummus and carrot sticks and next year I want to go to the South of France like Abbi with my birthday swimsuit so I won't be textile and "

"Sophi calm down. Let me talk with your Aunt Mary a bit. Now go and play with Abbi."

Sophi joined Abbi and Simon outside in the garden.

"Tell me, Kate, did you and Peter manage to do all you wanted to do?" Mary asked.

"Yes, thanks and we are eternally grateful for your help with Sophi. I have not seen her so happy in such a long time. I saw she managed to get a little bit of a tan."

"Yes, you should let her play more outside in the sun."

"We've been trying, but with both of us busy she has been either in front of the TV or playing on the computer most of the time. You are certainly lucky to have such activities for your children here. There is nothing like that in our area."

"To be honest, this is the first year and it is part of a preliminary study by the Department of Social Studies here at the university. We were lucky the activity leaders were really good."

"A study? What kind of study?"

Mary explained what Julian had told them just before the summer holidays.

"We are not sure if it will carry on next year. There are a great number of the parents in this group who are trying to find a way to persuade them to continue for a few more years. Perhaps as a follow up study to see how the group develops over the years."

"Now tell me," Kate started, "what did you do to my daughter?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, as I said before, I have not seen her so happy in a long time. But what is this new diet she is on? Pita bread? Avocado? Hummus? She would never touch any of this at home,"

"Well, I think itÔÇÖs due to the group Simon and Abbi have been going to this summer," Mary started to explain. "The organisers brought these along on their first outing, all the children tried, probably due to peer pressure, and since then we have had a wider and more varied diet here. Sophi probably just followed from what she saw the others eating."

"Yes, youÔÇÖre probably right. I will try to do this at home as well. If she says she doesnÔÇÖt want to eat it, I will simply tell her that it is the same as what she ate here. I have another question about what she said, what does she mean birthday swimsuit. I sent her with the suit I bought her at the beginning of summer, and what is this textile thing? Is she talking another language?"

"Not quite another language," Mary answered, not quite sure how to explain it. "Her birthday swimsuit is first the one she had."

"Her first swimsuit would not fit her and anyway I threw it away a long time ago!" Kate blurted out.

"I don't wish to argue with you Kate, but her first swimsuit will fit her for all her life."

"But I threw it away"

"Kate, listen carefully, her BIRTH DAY swimsuit", Mary answered patiently while expressing the two words. "Didn't Peter tell you anything about our family?"

I told you I threw away her first swimsuit, OH she suddenly stopped when she realised what she was being told. You mean she went swimming with nothing on! NAKED!

"Yes."

ÔÇ£How could you allow her to do something like that? Do you allow your daughter to do the same? I would not allow, and did not give you permission to allow her to go swimming without a swimsuit!ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Kate, calm down. Nothing happened to her, and yes I would allow my children to go swimming without a swimsuit in the proper circumstances.ÔÇØ

"What do you mean calm down! My daughter was skinny dipping and you think it is normal!"

"Kate, calm down." Mary's patience was beginning to wear down, but she knew this conversation was going to happen. "And you did give permission for your daughter to swim without a swimsuit."

"When?"

ÔÇ£As soon as you signed the agreement for her to join the group. If you remember, I asked you if you were fine with it.ÔÇØ

"You mean to say that in the agreement I signed they said the children would be naked?"

"If you had read it properly you would have noticed that it was intended primarily for the children who go to the naturist swim and that it was quite possible that at some point in time the children would be naked."

"You mean to say that the children were running around naked in front of everyone else?"

"Don't be so melodramatic. They were undressed only in places where they were by themselves and were fully supervised all the time. You only have yourself to blame for not reading the agreement properly, and apart from that, it seems to me that Sophi had a really good time and was not scarred in any way by it. Look at her, you said yourself that you had not seen her so happy in such a long time. I asked Abbi how Sophi was on their walks and swims and she said the first time she was a little apprehensive but when she saw all the other children getting undressed without peeking or snickering at each other she joined in with them without a second thought. It was as if she didn't mind at all, just like all the other children she was with."

"You mean to say that you don't mind that your children were running around naked?"

"Kate, listen to what you are being told. They were perfectly supervised and on private property. Nothing was going to happen to them. To the kids it didn't matter that they were not wearing swimsuits, and probably it was much healthier for them, you know sunshine, vitamin D and no wet swimsuit which can get moldy afterwards. So no, I didn't mind."

"I'm sure that Peter would agree with me that it is immoral to run around naked."

"Unless my brother has changed in his outlook on things since he was young, I donÔÇÖt think he would," replied Mary.

"You mean that as youngsters you ran around naked!"

"No, that is not what I said. When the time and place is appropriate we would prefer to by undressed, especially if it was in the countryside. Then people were much more free and easy. No one made a fuss of someone changing their swimsuit on the beach without fighting the towel. Us kids, and not just us but kids in general, were just as likely to remove our swimsuits and run into the sea to wash off all the sand before we got dressed."

"And that is how you lived your life ÔÇô naked?"

"You are choosing not to listen. We were not naked all the time, just when it was appropriate."

"And Peter joined in this?"

"He did not really embrace the lifestyle and was not really into the activities but he would go with us to swims and so on. I think he is basically embracing the textile life for you."

"You're wrong. Peter is not like that."

"You know what, phone him now and tell him I have invited you and Sophi to one of the swims day after tomorrow and does he want to come?"

"Peter's not like that!"

"Phone him, I know Sophi would like to go."

Being put in a spot and wanting to prove to Mary she was right, she phoned Peter. After the phone call Kate returned to Mary with a face as white as a sheet and looking very shocked.

"Well? What did he say?"

"He said he would meet us there. He didn't even ask where it was or at what time. Does he know where the swim is?"

"Of course he does, he's been there many times. Since it is your first time you can wear a towel, but entry into the pool is mandatory naked. I think you will find Sophi in the water with Abbi and her friends and you will probably look out of place wearing a towel all the time."

"What do you mean - 'out of place'?"

"Well you will be textile and everyone else will be 'au naturel'"

"You mean someone who runs around in the nude?"

"NO, definitely not. Naturists are not exhibitionists! It is just they prefer to do what you do in a natural manner. What you can do dressed can also be done undressed; it is just a state of mind."

"First Sophi, and now you. What is it with this textile thing?"

"That is the description given to one who does not embrace the naturist style."

"So if I don't wear a towel people will not call me a textile?"

"I don't think they will call you 'textile' if you wear a towel, at least not to your face, but it will be very obvious. Even if you don't wear a towel they will know, but will respect you all the more for the effort."

"How will they know that I am textile if I am not wearing a towel? I will be just like you."

"Well not quite, you have white patches where the swim suit usually is."

"And you don't?"

"No. Why do you think Sophi wants to join us next year in the South of France? To get rid of the white patches!"

"Don't you mind if she comes with you? Sees you without your clothes on?"

"Does it matter what I think? And apart from that I think Abbi will enjoy it."

Kate was slowly beginning to mellow into the idea of the naturist swim she had just agreed to go to without realising it. She saw how happy her daughter had been during her stay with her cousin despite the unexpected events of the activities. There was also, the fact that she wanted to join them in the South of France the next year. It seemed to her that she did not mind or it didn't matter.

"So youÔÇÖre telling me that it doesn't matter if I come to the swim and wear a towel all the time? Nobody will mind?"

"No you will be more than welcome. People will respect you more if you are there without the towel, but it really doesn't matter and they don't mind. Newcomers are always welcome and every effort is made to welcome them."

"Alright, it would seem that apart from me everyone will be undressed, including my husband, so why shouldn't I go ahead and try it."

"Maybe you will even join us next year in the South of France with Sophi."

"Don't push your luck! I am more than freaked out with going to the swim with you. I don't know how I will survive."

"You will survive. You realise of course that Sophi will be in the pool all the time, Peter will sit next to you all the time even though he would prefer to be in the pool, but you will enjoy it better if you come in a state of mind that it doesn't really matter that you aren't wearing a swim suit to swim"

"Yes, I do not want him to be unhappy so I will tell him to go and swim and not sit with me all of the time."

"So thatÔÇÖs it then ÔÇô we're going to the swim. The children will be very happy."

"But, but ."

"But what?ÔÇØ

"Does John have to come? I would not be happy with someone there that I know."

"I'll speak with him. He really likes the swims but at the most he will come later after you have acclimatized a bit. I'll ask him to phone first to check if it is OK to come."

-O-O-
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cony
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Re: A case of mind over matter à la Cony

Postby cony on Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:42 pm

Two days later they were at the entrance to the swimming pool. Kate was still very nervous of the fact that she would be naked in the presence of many other people. Luckily for her she did not know them and more important they did not know her. Also she saw how happy and excited her daughter was to be going to the swim. She could not chicken out now. They checked in and went to the area which was designated as the changing area.

"Mary, where are we changing?" Kate asked when she saw that every one, men and women, were in the same area.

"We all change here. Is that a problem?"

"I don't know if I can change here in front of every one, especially the men."

"All right, no problem, there is another place, I will take you there." Mary turned to Abbi and Simon "Abbi, Simon, you three get changed and go to the area where we usually sit. You will probably find your Uncle Peter there waiting. I am going to take your Aunt Kate to the other changing room."

Mary then took Kate to the changing room which was usually used by ladies on regular swimming days and there she was able to get undressed and cover herself with a large towel. Following this they went to join the children and found them waiting impatiently.

"What took you so long? We want to go in!"

"Alright, alright, keep your knickers on. Sophi, where is your father? I was sure he would be here already."

"I'm not wearing any and he wanted to get a swim in before you arrived."

"Off you go, you three. Enjoy yourselves. Kate sit down on one of the seats and try to relax, I am sure that Peter will come soon," Mary said.

"Mary, tell me, when you are talking to someone, where do you look?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't think I would be able to talk to anyone, I would be looking at their private parts all the time. How do you do it?"

"You tell me. When we were talking the other day at home where were you looking? At my private parts?"

"No of course not, I was looking at you, but then you were not undressed!"

"Well you do just the same here. When you talk with someone you look at their face, just like we did the other day at home."

"I don't know if I could."

"It's just a case of training yourself to do it conscientiously the first few times, after that it will come naturally, especially when you are more relaxed. Ah, good here is Peter."

Mary's brother came approached them he exchanged a quick kiss with Mary and then sat next to Kate giving her a hug and kiss.

"How are you holding up love?"

"Just about to bolt out of the door. Also I don't know where to look."

"Just look at us in the eyes and take deep breaths. Ignore everyone else, they are not there."

"It's easy for you to talk! From what Mary has been telling me you have been doing this all your life, even after we married."

"You are correct, I should have told you, but then I knew, or at least guessed, what your reaction would be. I meant no disrespect to you and only came here with Mary if I happened to be visiting her or my parents."

"And how many times was that?"

"Not many actually, as we usually had other things that needed doing."

"Not many times? And who were all the people talking with you? And I won't ask about the women who were giving you kisses."

"Actually, most of the people here I have know from childhood and as for the kisses, they were no more than like the kiss I exchanged with Mary when I came over. A quick peck on the cheek between friends, you know as we used to see on the continent."

"Well alright, maybe I am a little highly strung at the moment."

"Just a little? If you ignore the people and just concentrate on us it will be much easier."

"Not that easy because you arenÔÇÖt dressed either."

"Look at our eyes or faces when you talk with us, it will be much easier."

Suddenly Kate stood up, looked towards the pool and said in a very worried voice "Who is that man talking with Sophi?"

Both Peter and Mary looked to where Kate had pointed. Peter was not sure but Mary quietly said while trying to calm Kate's nerves without bringing attention to themselves.

"That's Julian, and he is one of the leaders of the youth group here. He is also one of the organisers of the summer activities we had, along with Jane who is just a few meters further along talking to Abbi and Simon. It looks like they are trying to organise something."

No sooner had she said that they saw the three children discussing something between themselves, as if something was cooking. A minute later they climbed out of the pool and came over to their parents.

"Oh, dear, here comes trouble!" Peter said.

"Mummy," Abbi started.

"Can we go to the sauna?" Simon and Sophi added.

"Neither Julian nor Jane will take us. They said that because our parents are here we have to go with you," Abbi finished.

"And they are perfectly correct. Just so you know in general children are not allowed in the sauna here, so I will have to ask. Give us about ten minutes and we will see what we can do," Mary said.

The children ran back to the pool, joined their friends and waited for the answer. It was clear they really wanted to go as every so often one of them would look in their direction to see what was happening.

"Well Kate, how do you fancy a sauna, and before you say anything we will get one of the smaller ones so we will be only ones in there."

"Peter, are you coming?" Kate asked.

"Do you want me to come?"

"Yes please, even if only for moral support."

"No problem then. LetÔÇÖs call the kids over."

"Just a moment," Mary said, "let me go and check that one is free and get permission to use it with the children."

She stood up and went to check and was back in minutes.

"No problem, there was one free and I put a note on it that it was reserved."

They signaled to the children to come over and Mary picked up a handful of towels.

"What do you need all those towels for?" Kate asked

"It is customary, at least in naturist circles, to sit on a towel in the sauna. Apart from that, it gets to be a bit hot on the bum if you don't."

"Uh. OH, I see," Kate answered laughing. "Very practical."

"A least you are laughing now, that is a good sign."

The children arrived had a drink of water and they all trooped off to the sauna. Very quickly they opened the door and all entered, closing it behind them so as not to lose too much heat. After Mary had laid out the towels out on the benches they sat down.

"Kate love, don't you want to remove your towel?" Peter asked,

"I don't know if I could," she answered, "you know with the children here."

"Don't worry, you haven't got any thing they haven't already seen today but suit yourself, you will be hot and uncomfortable, not us."

After about five minutes the children decided they had had enough and left the adults alone.

"Mary, arenÔÇÖt you worried about the children being out there by themselves with no one to watch them?" Kate asked thinking of all the reports she had read in the papers of predators at swimming pools.

"I think that here it is probably much safer than going to a regular pool. We all keep our eyes on the children and any new person is vetted before being allowed to join."

"You mean I was vetted before I came?"

"No not quite, because you came with us we are acting as your chaperone. The fact that Sophi came also helped."

"And no one falls between the cracks so to speak?"

"Nothing is perfect, so we also keep an eye on the new people, and if there is something untoward then they are ejected tout suit! Now enough of the paranoia, how about lowering you towel at least to waist level, you look really uncomfortable."

"What if someone looks in?"

"What if they do? You don't know them and they don't know you. At least you will less conspicuous with the towel around your waist, look less like a textile."

"There you are with that word again. Will I ever be able to get rid of it?"

"Not while you're wearing the towel like that in the sauna!"

"Oh, alright then." Kate said lowering the towel to her waist. "Is that better?"

"Much better! Now arenÔÇÖt you more comfortable"

"Yes I am. I did not realise I was so wet under the towel."

"Soon you will be a fully fledged, card carrying naturist and joining us in the South of France."

"Really, dear, you agreed to go on holiday with Mary and John to the South of France? You do know what it is, don't you?" Peter quickly queried. He had kept out of the previous conversation as Mary was doing such a good job.

"Not so fast!" Kate answered, standing up to wipe the sweat off from all her body with the towel she was wearing. She then sat down on the towel and continued "I was bamboozled into this little jaunt somehow. As for the South of France, there is a long way to go before then and somehow I do not see myself doing it. I can see how much Sophi is enjoying today so you never know."

Both Mary and Pater had seen how Kate had dried herself off and sat down on the towel. Neither of them said anything so as not to shock Kate into realising what she had done. At that moment there was a light knock on the sauna door and Simon came in with a telephone in his hand.

"Mummy it's daddy on the phone. He wants to know if to come or not?"

Mary took the phone from Simon

"Hello John, just a minute let me ask. Kate" she said turning her head towards Kate "John is asking what to do. Do I tell him to come or not?"

"If he would not mind I would prefer him not to come. Please give him my apologies and thank him for his consideration."

"John, did you hear that?"

"."

"Alright we will see you at home. I will give you a call when we are leaving. Love."

With that she hung up and returned the phone to Simon.

"Simon, what were you doing with a phone?"

"I wanted to ask daddy something" he replied

"Simon dear you were not to know but the sauna and naturist swims are one of the places where mobile phones are forbidden. Now turn the phone off, go and put it back and join the others. I think we will be out soon."

Simon left and Peter gave his wife a big hug.

"Thank you, but what was that for?"

"For being very brave."

"Doing what?"

"For sitting here with nothing on when Simon came in and not even reacting or freaking out."

At that moment she realised what he meant and started to grab for the towel to cover herself, but with her sitting on it, it was not immediately possible. Peter gave her another hug and Mary held one of her trembling hands.

"Now that wasn't so bad was it? Simon certainly didn't make anything of it and you acted as if everything was normal."

"To be honest, I am much more comfortable in here now," Kate admitted, although she still had reservations as to her state of undress.

"It's time we left the sauna anyway," Mary said. ÔÇ£We have been here long enough. The shower is just outside here so we can wash off the sweat." She collected the towels on the benches and lead the way to the shower.

Even though Mary had left Kate's towel for her she decided to carry it, at least to the shower, which she had seen earlier was shielded from the pool area. After that she would decide. She was not given much time to think about it because as soon as she came out from under the shower Sophi ran over and took her by the hand and dragged her towards the pool.

"Mum you must come and see me dive. Julian has been showing me how to do it."

With no choice in the matter Kate was dragged to the pool, followed by Peter. Mary was left to carry all the towels back to where they were sitting.

After a short time Kate and Peter returned to Mary. Peter was grinning.

"Peter you look like a cat who has just licked the cream. What are you so happy about?"

"I think you should ask Kate," he replied.

"Who me?" she answered, somewhat puzzled. "We saw Sophi diving into the pool. A good effort for her first time, but she will need to practice to improve on it. That Julian is a good instructor." Turning to Peter she said "Dear, she needs to come here more often."

"You want your daughter to come to a naturist swim?" Mary asked somewhat surprised. "Only a few days ago you were accusing me of all sorts of things because she was undressed."

"Yes you are right, Mary, but I can see how happy she is here, and Julian can help her improve her diving."

"Kate, I think you are missing the point," Mary said.

"What point?"

"Where's your towel?"

"Over by the shower, I never got a chance to use it, but I managed to air dry as you say."

"You are still missing the point."

"What point?"

"Well, Peter, you obviously agree," Mary said, "and I would like to add, Kate, that you obviously don't mind so it definitely doesn't matter."

"Darling, would you please explain all of that to me," Kate said, beginning to be a little exasperated.

"It is very simple my dear. You have been undressed from the moment Sophi dragged you out of the shower to see her diving."

"And I saw you talking with Julian after her diving attempts," Mary added. "You must be getting used to the idea. Next we will be seeing you in the South of France with us."

"Not so fast!" Kate said, beginning to cover herself up, but stopping when she realised how ridiculous she looked trying to do it. "Baby steps! Maybe I need to come to these swims a few more times with you, so Sophi can practice her diving."

"Of course, of course!" both Mary and Peter said in unison.

"And please invite John to come next time. I feel a little guilty that he was not able to come" Kate continued

"No," Mary said "I think you need to invite him. It will also help you to come to terms with the situation."

"Yes, you are probably right." Kate replied "Also I am beginning to see what you mean ."

"It's a case of mind over matter.
If you don't mind
It don't matter."
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cony
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