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A rambling tale, but sadly no naked truths.

Byline: Nathan Bevan Thinking inside the box

IUSED to have a recurring nightmare wherein I'd find myself lost in an anonymous multi-storey car park in just a pair of underpants.

(Yes mother, before you ask, it was a clean pair.) I don't know what the dream was supposed to represent or what brought it on but, even now, I still find myself blushing incontrollably and crossing my legs whenever I see someone in a Hi-Vis NCP jacket.

For Stephen Gough, however, my night terrors are like manna from heaven, the 54-year-old having spent the last decade rambling naked all around the British Isles.

From Land's End to John O'Groats he and 'little Stephen' -I'm referring to Gough's nether regions, not Bruce Springsteen's touring guitarist - have let it all hang out on the nation's highways and byways, much to the consternation of passers-by and the local constabulary.

And BBC One's documentary The Naked Rambler attempted to get under the skin - an easier job when there aren't any clothes to negiotiate - of a man who some regard as a true English eccentric, while others prefer phrases such as "todger-touting weirdy-beardy" and "barebummed badger botherer."

On which side of the debate you stand, however, probably depends entirely on whether you've ever had your early morning constitutional suddenly interrupted by a man resembling Mick Fleetwood appearing from behind some hedgerow wearing only a rucksack and a smile.

But, whatever your viewpoint, this documentary will have done little to change your mind.

During its 50 minutes, Gough remained frustratingly vague in his attempts to justify what he does - especially since it's cost him his marriage, his relationship with his kids and, on more than one occassion, his freedom - as did his detractors when it came to expressing why they thought him the scourge of everything decent.

That said, his refusal to judiciously place so much as a Thermos flask over his bits whilst walking past the gates of a local school will have done little to help his cause.

In this age of post-Savile paedogeddon, it was difficult to see Gough's antics as either flying the flag for freedom of expression (given that what he was trying to say was never made clear) or as a throw-back to some more innocent time.

Ultimately, he just came across as a bit of a sad individual who, as a result of stubbornly clinging to some spurious ideal, has done untold damage to both his health and sanity.

He certainly didn't look the full shilling as he shivered, skeletal and muttering, across a freezing cold Yorkshire Dales en route to his mum's house in Hampshire.

And, throughout it all, the BBC sought to make a point by not pixelating out Gough's private parts, which were left to swing from left to right as he marched along - like some fleshy metronome.

Not that it mattered much, given that the majority of filming took place in the depths of winter.

At minus two degrees, most men's undercarriage would have retreated out of sight into their stomach cavities before they'd even reached the garden gate.
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion, Columns
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 26, 2014
Words:514
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