The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Short Legs

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 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.


Kate said...

It's funny you should say that, because my paternal Grandfathers family were originally from Brittany (several generations back) and he was 5'7" too. Like you, it was all in the legs, he was actually quite a sturdily built man and when he was sitting down he looked much taller . . . if that makes sense LOL My oldest son takes after him, he is a little taller (around 5'9") but has the same stocky build.

Binty McShae said...

Most people lose height by the evening (although possibly not as much as an inch). When you are lying down in bed your body stretches itself out to it's true height but all that standing up and letting gravity take effect during the day causes all your bones to sit down on each other more, hence height-loss...

...and I'm not making this up!

Kim Ayres said...

Kate - I see from your profile that you're the same age as me, another Scorpio and Year of the Horse. Looks like we could be cousins too then :)

Binty - and there's me thinking it was the weight of responsibility bearing down on me... ;)

Jupiter's Girl said...

I saw this documentary on DNA one time that highlighted why the Lapp's have shorter extremities, which was to keep their inner organs warmer - or so the theory goes.

I wonder why cowlicks evolved. I have two big ones that came from some Irish ancestral genes.

Andraste said...

I've always been fascinated by family resemblances and genetics. I can thank my Scotch/Irish ancestors for the good (though pale blue) skin, and the French-Canadian side for work ethic, but I'm not sure who to curse for the goddamn cellulite.

Dr Maroon said...

Andraste, you're saying the French/Canadians have a more pronounced work ethic than us? That's what you're saying?
Did I read that right? Is that what you profess?

Ahhh, you're probably right.

All men have long trunks and wee legs. We'd look bloody odd the other way round, not to say confusingly attractive. You're right about the French though. I've been to Paris 5 times now and am always amazed how short the police are. The only ones that are my height are the ones in the black biolersuits with the big sticks. I am not tall.

Kate said...

Kim, I didn't realise we were both 'horses' All the best people are you know LOL

You are right, if you do have a connection with Brittany it is possible that we could be distant cousins. It is a small area, and not that heavily populated. I'm in the early stages of researching that side of my family, I'll let you know if I find any Ayres :-)

Kim Ayres said...

Jupiter's Girl - I didn't say all my extremities were shorter. Hrumph. Mumble mumble

Andraste - so are you saying that your work ethic isn't as good as it could have been?

Dr Maroon - But you're taller than me, if I remember from our meeting. Or were you wearing heels?

Kate - Let me know of anyone called King, Huggins or Howarth too

Severin Bloodclot said...

yeah man, I always wake up with a hard-on too, but an inch? christ man, you should get that seen to (you can get extensions).
oh, and for the rest, yeah, sure... short arse.

Andraste said...

Bah, though I do have a pretty good work ethic, inherited from my Canuck father, I just said work ethic because I was tired after composing my 'ode,' and couldn't think of anything else.

I should have said "ice-skating talent," or "house-cleaning neurosis."

French-Canadia women are world-renowned for the spotless homes they keep. I'm quite serious.

Andraste said...


Attila The Mom said...

LOL! My younger brother has the opposite problem. He has extra long legs, and has a hard time finding pants that fit right (36 1/2 inch inseam).

He's always wondered if there's some spider back in his ancestry somewhere.

I'm 5'11 and built like a linebacker. My hands are bigger than many men's. My birth family on my mother's side are all petite people.

I asked my birth mom if my birth father was a big man.

"I can't remember if I ever saw him standing up!" she replied.

Well, at least the demented sense of humor seems to be genetic. ;-)

Kim Ayres said...

Severin Bloodclot - extensions are only any good for flacid penises and are about locker-room vanity. They make no difference to performance or technique. You don't want to believe everything they tell you in the porno mag adverts...

... so I've been told, anyway...

Andraste - and a damn fine ode it was too!

Atilla - I still have that image of Xena, Warrior Princess, that you used for your avatar once as my image of what you look like.

Jupiter's Girl said...

I meant only the arms and legs; not at all thinking of your privates, or those of the Lapp's I mentioned. I will take your word for it that everything is in order there. It matters not.

I used to want bigger breasts when I was a teen, but my Grandmother, who was very endowed, said she couldn't golf very well because of that. I am glad to not have had that limitation, just in case I ever wanted to golf.

Mary Witzl said...

How interesting -- my mother always said we had gypsy blood too. I was excited about this, but after searching extensively, could find no evidence of it. Nor could I find anything that proved we were related to Edgar Allan Poe, another one of my mother's contentions. I did discover, though, that one of my great-grandmothers was a cousin of Frank and Jesse James, the outlaws. I have heard that for all they liked to run around shooting up the town, they had lousy aims: now I know which side is to blame for that.

As for short legs, my father was 6'4" and my mother was 5'2". I've got his build from the waist up and the rest of me is my mother. Wish I'd inherited her head: she was great at mathematics.

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