My grand nephew stood on the scales this afternoon, “I am four stone,” he declared.
Actually, he was four stone twelve pounds, twenty per cent more than the weight he claimed, but at eleven years old he is as slight as was his grand uncle when he was his nephew’s age.
Asthmatic and frail after suffering measles at the age of five, there were frequent occurrences of standing on scales. They were times when nurses, armed with scales and wooden measures, would carry out annual visits to primary schools to check on the health of the pupils, and when a visit to the doctor might mean a suggestion that my being weighed might provide him with useful information.
The best efforts of the local doctors were to be of little avail, and just after my fourteenth birthday I was sent to a special school for sick and delicate boys. Deep inside Dartmoor National Park, the school was three miles from the nearest village. The school’s answer to being a frail and skinny kid with poor health was exercise: exercise, exercise and more exercise. There were exercises outside every morning, cross country runs, organized hikes on the moor, and the encouragement to play football or to do something active during every spare moment.
At the end of my second term at the school, I had just reached five feet tall and my weight was one pound short of seven stone. At a recent attendance at the asthma clinic at our local surgery, I measured “five foot seven and a bit,” the measurements were only expressed in centimetres and the nurse tried to convert it back into a height I understood. However, touching twelve stone, I was not as skinny as I had once been.
Sometimes, it seems that stature can shape character. Of course, there are many determinants and being a short and skinny kid is never a bar to being whomsoever you might wish to be, but it always seemed that being tall and well-built was a much better foundation for self confidence and assertiveness. Lest anyone doubt such a thought, watch the demeanour of the members of a school’s first fifteen rugby team and compare it with that of those who would never be considered for membership of any sports team.
Perhaps it’s about one’s perception of oneself, the grand nephew is a lively, outgoing and imaginative character. In his mind, I hope there is nothing that he cannot be.