I guess we’re all a mish-mash physical mix of our ancestry. Pure-blood usually means in-bred, which as any biologist, geneticist or dog breeder will tell you might create a specific look, but usually means deficiencies in other areas. It is the mongrels, those who are of wide and mixed races, who tend to be healthiest, immune to more diseases and live longer, unless there’s a eugenics agenda in place by those in charge.
Recently I’ve been tracing the family tree using the knowledge of relatives and hooking up with other people who have shared ancestry through the website genesreunited.com. Without doubt it is a fascinating exploration, especially as until I started I only knew the names of a few relatives as far as 2 generations above me. Now, for one or two strands I have names stretching back to the 17th Century. The strands that are easiest to trace are the ones who have stayed in the same area; the ones I have least information about are those who travelled widely. My father is convinced that we have gipsy blood in us from a few generations back on his father’s side, and from a cursory search on the Internet it seems that Ayres is not an uncommon gipsy name in the UK.
But since coming to Brittany I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a bit of Breton or Gallic blood in there somewhere too as I’ve begun to notice that most people here are quite short. At five feet and seven inches tall first thing in the morning (I think I’ve usually lost an inch in height by the evening), I’m shorter than the average British male (5” 9’). I knew something seemed a bit strange when walking around the French towns and markets, but it took me a few days to realise it was the fact that hardly anyone was taller than me. The vast majority of the population where we’re staying are the same height or smaller.
At the market on Sunday, I was sitting on the kerb with the kids, eating crêpes while waiting for Maggie to buy us lunch from a stall selling local sausages and potatoes steeped in local cider and fried in huge pans, when I realised where the shortness came from: it’s all in the legs, or not as the case may be. These are not an elfin race – heads and upper bodies are just as large as any other – it’s the legs that are proportionally shorter.
I’ve always said that from the hips up I have the body of someone who should be over six feet tall, but my legs are six inches too short. It’s not been a flippant remark either, because if I sit on a bench with my stepson who is, in fact, six feet tall, he’s shorter than me. Most of my height comes from my upper body and, as I sat at ground level watching all these Bretons strolling past, I discovered the same was the case with the majority of the locals. Obviously there were exceptions, but I realised that here I had found an entire group of people who shared my difficulty of finding jeans that were cut short enough in the leg.
I do like it here.