Planners and Politics: Watching our Backs…

The post title sets both the picture theme – looking over ones shoulder and watching backs – and is also in answer to several e-mail questions about visiting this rather strange vacation centre we’ve fetched up in.

A few miles south west of us, in the extensive coastal ‘Parque Natural da Ria Formosa’, lies an island called Ilha da Armora, where a number of wealthy people have built holiday homes. Like up to one million Euro holiday homes. It’s a superb location and a short ferry ride away from the village of Olhão, close to the airport town of Faro. The local planning authority (similar to the one which controlled the development of our present centre) granted the permissions.

Pause for a picture – a slightly bizarre ‘take’ on acro pyramid building!

A gay couple – British theatricals, one of whom is the chief executive of the National Youth Theatre and presumably knows a bit about financial deals and working with ‘authorities’ – bought two rather derelict properties to build into one  in 2014 and have now spent a total of €600,000. Suddenly, the Portuguese Institute for Nature Conservation and Forestry, supported by the Environment Agency, have told them that they had no right to ‘build’ and that their home will shortly be bulldozed. They have apparently exhausted all rights of appeal after some lengthy court proceedings (which must be tough for non-Portuguese native speakers).

Edward Upcott shows off his shoulder flexibility and balance:

“Illegally built” – but with planning permission from the local authority. Whilst the pair are claiming that they are being discriminated against because they are gay – and that other homes on the island are safe – local gossip has it that about 60 homes overall in the Olhão region are now also deemed illegal and their owners have received demolition notices.

Putting a kiddy slide to good use:

Portugal is allegedly gay friendly (and supports gay marriage). It is also – up to a point – naturist friendly and tolerates a small number of designated beaches, one being conveniently close to here. But we have been told that permission to build and operate this site was hard to win, and the management (Russian led, involving Scandinavia and a touch of the City of London which my mate Roger has something to do with) have been continuously ‘edgy’ about falling foul of local authorities they don’t fully understand.

A strength move on rings:

It was part of the ‘deal’ that the place would not operate as an ‘open’ facility that anyone could turn up to. In fact, there is no sign outside actually saying what it is at all, although obviously there is plenty of local knowledge since dozens of local people work here or deliver supplies. It is strictly ‘members only’ – which has been interpreted as ‘investors only’ and their invited guests. Every visiting family, group or individual has either paid a significant sum for some sort of ‘bond’, or has been invited to stay here by someone who has. And they must still pay quite a sizable fee up front to pay for their visits, investors of not.

Judging by the numbers building up, significant numbers of people have done exactly that – paid up I mean. It is not like a timeshare, where you have a specific week in a specific apartment allocated to you – more like a gentleman’s club atmosphere where you can ‘book’ a slot if you are a member and if space is available either for yourself or for your guests. And, all the time, management is nervously looking over its shoulder. Why? Because the family ‘half’ is explicitly naturist friendly, and the adult-only half (just opening), describes itself both as naturist friendly and also LGTBQ+ (or whatever I’m supposed to write these days to be politically correct) friendly. And it is clear that the Russian/Scandinavian/Eastern-Europe fraternity do, indeed, appreciate a place where they can ‘let it all hang out’. About 50% of them are going naked about half of the time, we would guess – whether fit and muscular or whether grossly obese! Mind you, the temperature is consistently reaching the 90s (F) this week despite being a little bit cloudy from time to time, and the nights are exceedingly warm when trying to sleep.

Don’t despair!

Of course, there are rules. Separate pools available on the ‘family’ side for those that do want to wear cozzies and those that don’t – ditto sunbathing areas – specified times when the gym can go naked (and we’ve put in two short ‘ladies only’ and ‘men only’ slots at less popular times: we’re learning as we go along). And so forth. And, all the time, the management is trying hard to please all of the Portuguese authorities all of the time. And (fingers crossed), so far, succeeding. But given the unpredictability of some official bodies (and the evidence that they do not talk to one another), there remains some nervousness, as you might imagine.

Appropriate behaviour is expected at all times in all public areas, especially on the family side where kids are present.

Probably we can allow the ‘odd’ kiss…

So, in a sense’ this place is operating ‘under the radar’ while very much on the official radar which we sense is keeping a strict eye. Two large apartment blocks and the central services buildings including our own four-story residence block, in a park area surrounded by walls themselves surrounded by pine trees can hardly go unnoticed: nor can our regular shuttle bus to the nearest beach ferry point. If some official body like the nature conservation people suddenly decided to go ‘rogue’ on us, heaven alone knows how the organisation would handle it. We’re not in the conservation area (Rio Formosa) which is only the coastal strip (islands, sandbanks, inlets and immediately adjacent coastline), so that probably helps. In fact, an original site proposal right on the coast was apparently turned down instantly by the planners.

Rowing exercise is great for backs!

I doubt that the fact that the British pair faced with a demolition order were gay had much to do with their predicament – although they have suggested in the press that it has – but we ’employees’ are all required to ‘keep a low profile’! And hence, my reluctance to identify precisely where we are, although it’s between Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio and a bit inland! Google Earth seems to be blissfully unaware at the moment! And, much as we would love to share the place with all you obviously like-minded readers of this blog, for the moment, that’s not going to happen. To the several that have already asked for more details like ‘where do I book?’, all I can really say for the moment is ‘patience please, and thanks for your understanding’. I think that the way to get casual visitors in here will eventually emerge (after all, it will help to pay dividends to the investors!), especially if there are quiet periods where it isn’t really paying its way. Let’s see!

This next guy’s vest doesn’t stop us from admiring his shoulder development…

So, at the moment, if you want to get closer and share our lifestyle, the best bet is to get the books! That’s the first three, as shown at intervals in the rest of this post. Click on a cover for more information, and you will find us on Amazon and with e-books too. A fourth book (on its way) is total fiction: the first three are based on fact but well edited to give a better reading experience and a strong storyline.

And, with that, on with the picture show!

A small gay celebration, here (and a couple of Portuguese-grade suntans):

A chance to compare the back with the front…

A ‘headless’ body?

A ‘Chinese’ (wide) handstand:

And finally for today, British Olympic gymnast Nile Wilson shows off his powerful back as well as his box splits (and his Olympic rings)!

Plenty more ‘backs’ archived waiting to be posted – and hundreds of other fitness-inspiring pictures. Keep watching!


About tony

Born Northampton UK
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1 Response to Planners and Politics: Watching our Backs…

  1. Platinumboy says:

    I would imagine part of the problem is that different cultures (nations?) within the EU have varying degrees of toleration to naturism. I am sure you have noticed the same cultural differences within the United States. For example, the level of casual public nudity for all ages in San Francisco is far greater than even in Chicago, which is very gay-friendly. I have a feeling that trying to balance all the different cultural attitudes about nudity and sexuality throughout the EU will always be a present challenge.

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