Two teenagers met on a French beach. The meeting was brief and casual yet it changed their lives forever.
‘You’re coming with us and that’s final’ said Dad. He was in no mood to argue with a mere snotty nosed seventeen year old. We’d gone to the south of France every year since I was a baby. Cote d’ Snore I called it. It took two full tedious days to drive down there in our overloaded Ford. The cottage was comfortable enough and the lady who owned it was lovely. She treated us as family and always gave us a huge welcome and an even bigger meal when we arrived.
My older sister Elise had married the year before so I wouldn’t even have her for company this year. I wasn’t looking forward to three weeks of sun, sea, sand and solitude.
The cottage was five kilometres from the nearest village and we traipsed there every Sunday for lunch. Walking to the L’escargot D’or and back was good for us mum had decreed. Her real reason for walking was she didn’t want father driving after he’d consumed his usual bottle and a half of wine with our leisurely three hour meal. I was allowed only one glass of watered down wine. I longed to be treated as an adult and have a couple of glasses of the rich local red but no they still treated me like a kid. But this was to be my last year of childhood.
Outside of our front gate a short path led to the beach which stretched to infinity southwards. A mile to the north there was headland jutting out into the sparkling blue/green waters of the Med. For an energetic teenager the empty beaches were dull, dull, dull. The local younger folk had all moved away from agriculture to better themselves in towns and cities. What people were left in the vicinity all seemed to be at least a year older than God’s granny.
By the second Saturday morning I was bored mindless. Mum and dad were sprawled in deck chairs on the veranda engrossed in their books. ‘I’m going for a walk’ I shouted from the gate.
I heard my mother call ‘bye darling don’t be too long.’
‘I’ll be as long as I damn well please’ I muttered rebelliously as I departed.
Around the headland the beach curved into a sickle of white sand. There was a stand of stunted pine trees on a slope to my right. Nature called. I could have just stood there and peed but, being an Englishman, I felt compelled to go behind a tree. I had just finished when an angelic voice behind me said ‘’ello.’ I was dumbstruck and stood there frozen rigid penis in hand.
‘Don’t be embarrassed’ came the soft lilting voice again ‘everyone ‘as to pee.’
I hurriedly tucked myself away inwardly cursing as the last drops ran down my leg. I turned to see the most beautiful vision I had ever beheld. She was about my age, tall and slim with cornflower blue eyes, retrousse nose and a tousled mane of blonde thatch. She was stark naked.
I recoiled in stunned amazement and sat down with a bump as my foot found a tree root. Her laughter sounded like the tinkling of little silver bells. ‘Oh you Englishmen’ she snorted ‘ you are so funny.’
I flushed, anger now diluting my embarrassment ‘why are you sneaking up on people without any clothes on?’ I asked peevishly my red face angled downwards. ‘How did you know I was English anyway?’
Her laughter rang again ‘by the way you are dressed of course’ she said her voice radiating amusement ’those ridiculous baggy shorts and the sandals with socks ‘alf way up your skinny legs and that straw ‘at I would not put on the ‘ead of the donkey.’
I looked forlornly at my skinny legs ‘’They’re not skinny’ I said defensively ‘they’re slender.’
Her feet came into view of my downcast eyes. Her hand extended downward ‘come I ‘elp you up’ she said. It was a command rather than an offer and I extended my hand obediently. She pulled with remarkable strength and I found myself in front of her gazing in wonder at her glowing amber beauty.
‘What is the matter?’ she asked ‘ave you never seen a naked girl before?’
‘Well..er no, not really’ I stammered ‘I saw my sister once by accident but that doesn’t count’ I blurted ‘anyway aren’t you afraid you’ll be arrested?’
She looked at me pityingly ‘Don’t you know where you are? This is a naturist beach we are, ‘ow you say, nudists.’
‘Oh’ I said feeling stupid ‘I see.’ I wondered who the ‘we’ were I couldn’t see anyone else about. ‘Are you alone here? I asked.
‘No my family is behind those dunes’ she pointed down the beach to where the low sand dunes rose ‘I’ve come ‘ere looking for firewood for the cooking. Anyway what is your name?’
‘Oh I’m Charles they call me Charlie.’
‘Pleased to meet you Sharlee I am Margot from Alsace a long way from ‘ere. We are on a camping ‘oliday and you?’
I explained my situation as she listened sombrely ‘Ah parents can be so difficult; even mine’ then she smiled again ’you would like perhaps to swim with me?’
She had an unabashed natural attitude as though she had spent her entire life naked. I liked this confident girl with her bossy manner. I felt my shyness beginning to melt.
‘What about your firewood?’ I asked
‘Later it would be nice if you ‘elped’ she said ‘but first we swim non?’
‘Yes’ I said ‘why not.’ I felt relieved now because she would be mostly covered by the water and I could relax control of my wandering eyes We moved to the water’s edge and I slipped out of my clothes. I was wearing swimming trunks under my shorts.
As I stood before her she tutted disapprovingly ‘Do all Englishmen wear those strange knickers?’
I blushed again my trunks were hand knitted by mother and sagged atrociously when wet. Mother was keen on home economy. Why anyone would pay what she considered extortionate prices for a garment so infrequently worn was beyond her comprehension.
‘They’re not knickers’ I chided ‘they’re swimming trunks.’
‘Well take them off’ she ordered ‘they look even more ridiculous than your shorts.’
‘But..but’ I stammered.
She stamped her foot on the sand impatiently a frown marring her beautiful face. ‘Look’ she snapped ‘if I go around that ‘eadland where you come from I put on the clothes yes?’ I nodded dumbly. ‘So if you come around to my side you take off the clothes non? Come, off with them before I take them off for you’ she said with mock seriousness.
I felt very foolish being scolded by this feisty girl and in truth we were alone so why not? I slowly slipped the baggy costume down my legs and stepped out of it.
I was instantly transformed as my inhibitions fell away with that last ugly garment. The warm breeze blew about my naked body and a sense of joy washed over me. Never had I felt so free, so liberated. We swam racing each other out to a distant rock and back. She beat me easily her lithe form cutting the water with the grace of an otter.
We lay side by side on the sand drying in the sun asking each other about school and friends and our different lifestyles. Her father was a pharmacist with a shop near Strasbourg. Mine was a family solicitor. My mother was a housewife hers a teacher. I raised myself on my elbow the better to gaze at her loveliness and the inevitable happened. I started to stiffen. She noticed straight away and gave it a hard whack on the tip.
I collapsed onto my stomach with a cry of pain burning with shame. I hadn’t meant to get excited it just happened. Like any seventeen year old cock the damn thing had a life of its own. Then I felt her hand rubbing my shoulder her voice soothing.
‘Sorry Sharlee’ she said ‘I didn’t mean to ‘it you so ‘ard. It’s just that naturism isn’t about sex it’s about freedom; about being unafraid to be seen as who you are’ she sighed deeply ‘I should have explained before but you see Sharlee I am so used to being with other naturists.’
After a minute I rolled onto my back flaccid once more. She smiled ‘please forgive me Sharlee.’
‘It’s me who ought to ask forgiveness’ I said humbly.
‘Nonsense you are a normal ‘ealthy boy I should ‘ave expected it.’ She suddenly changed the subject ‘oh dear the firewood I forgot and you poor boy ‘ave ‘ad no lunch.’
We quickly went about gathering armfuls of dead wood. ‘Please you must come and ‘ave lunch with us’ she pleaded ‘my family will adore you.’
‘Are you sure it’ll be alright?’
‘But of course and my brother Sylvestre will be so envious’ she giggled pointing at my manhood ‘you are much bigger than ‘im.’
Her parents were delighted to see us and her mother hugged me kissing both cheeks. Sylvestre hung back then shyly shook my hand. He was a really good looking nineteen year old with the same brush of wild blonde hair as his sister. Lunch was excellent with fresh grilled sardines and a huge salad with tons of olives. The wine and chatter flowed freely.
Christophe, Margot’s father, started talking about things that I had not considered before. ‘This German fellow ‘itler’ he said ‘seems intent on starting another war I don’t know what will become of Europe if he does.’ He glanced towards Sylvestre his face bleak. Margot senior quickly changed the subject and then Sylvestre produced a guitar and we sang.
The wine slowly crept to my head and I started feeling woozy. Fortunately Margot’s mum saw the signs and put a stop to my indulgence. ‘Whatever would your parents think if we sent you ‘ome drunk?’ she said full of concern. After that she forced strong French coffee on me.
When the happiest afternoon of my life was over Margot held my hand and walked me back down the beach. My clothes were slung casually over my shoulder on a piece of old string I’d found on the tide line. We stopped opposite the pines.
‘We are going ‘ome tomorrow Sharlee’ she said sadly ‘you will write yes? Maybe you will come again next year?’
Before I could answer she leaned in and kissed me passionately. ‘You are such a sweet boy Sharlee and so ‘andsome please say you’ll come again.’
I promised and returned her kiss clumsily my heart thumping wildly. I headed off home feeling an exhilaration I’d never experienced before. My joie de vie and the wine conspired to lift me to heights of bliss beyond my wildest imaginings. I was still deliriously happy and naked when floated into the cottage. My parents stared aghast.
‘What is the meaning of this outrageous exhibition?’ my mother asked angrily. My father spluttered incoherently in the background his face crimson.
‘I’ve become a naturist mother that’s all’ I smiled stretched my arms wide and did a slow pirouette. ‘What’s the matter with you two have you never seen a naked boy before?’ with that I went to my room leaving then open mouthed and speechless. I sank onto my bed giddy with happiness and drifted off to sleep. My parents never mentioned it again and acted as though it had never happened.
I did return to France the next year 1940 but to a much different beach. It was a grey beach I was queuing waist deep in a grey sea waiting for a grey boat to take me home from Dunkirk. Overhead grey Stuka dive bombers howled their banshee wail stouping like grey metallic vultures dropping angry grey bombs on us. My whole world had turned grey. It was five long years before I visited a French beach again this time in Normandy.
After the war I tried to trace Margot but found only an elderly great aunt of hers in a small village called Uberach in Alsace. What she told me broke my heart. Margot’s parents had been shot by the Gestapo because they had been caught disseminating news from the BBC. Sylvestre had perished in the war poor boy. Margot had escaped to Vichy France and later married a policeman.
I went home and in 1949 married a blonde blue eyed beauty called Sandra. In 1952 we had twin girls I insisted they were named Margot and Sharlee. It was the same year I became chairman of the British Naturist Society.
Post script: In 1972 I received a letter from Margot she’d traced me with the help of Army records. She had been a widow for two years. I was also widowed my poor Sandra having succumbed to breast cancer in 1969.
Margot and I are now both in our nineties and living out our twilight years in a cottage close to the beach were we met. We still walk naked hand in hand on our beach most days albeit a lot more slowly now.