Saturday, 27 October 2007

Bonsai

Having rather unfortunately written my car off a few weeks ago in a misunderstanding with the laws of physics, I needed to indulge in a spot of car hunting. I was somewhat horrified to discover (upon having contorted my frame into a Fiesta which at first sight looked alright) that my long gangly arms do not fit sufficiently within the confines of the car to be able to turn the steering wheel, assuming that, like the rest of the population, I prefer to drive my car with the door closed. The sales lass, who I think may have been a bit new, unhelpfully suggested I leave the window permanently open to provide a bit of elbow room. Hello? This is the UK. It gets cold here. I drive long distances. I do not fancy zipping along the M1 at 2am with the window open in January. No thanks. Not being amenable to the adaptation suggestion, I therefore find myself in the position of having been designed out of owning one of the UK's most popular small cars. I feel something of an outcast, snubbed and ignored.

I was relating this in an idle and increasingly silly conversation with Stray the other day, in which I was complaining bitterly about having been disbarred from owning a popular car by virtue of being been well-fed and having a pair of (originally) tall parents and conditions conducive to growth, including plenty open space for me to "grow into". It occurred to me that perhaps had my parents taken measures to control my growth, for example, by stopping feeding me, or giving me some understanding that there were situations in which being a bit taller might be a disadvantage, I might be less gangly than I am today. There was some strand of logic to this, which if I recall rightly, goes as follows...

Goldfish in a tiny pond stay tiny. Given a bigger home, they turn into sharks, or grow a bit bigger, something like that. (I was never particularly good at biology.) This may also work with people. I grew up in Yorkshire, with plenty space at home and around the city. I got fed with the expectation of growing. I grew to be a decent, perhaps excessive size for a human, and could probably have made a half-capable coal miner. Stray, on the other hand, did most of her growing in an area which is noted rather more for the density of its population than for its vast tracts of open space. She is rather beautifully adapted for life in a metropolis, fits into public transport with no legroom issues, could squeeze into the spaces between commuters on the tube, and at a pinch, could probably slot into an overhead luggage rack. Open spaces appear larger, streets feel less claustrophobic, and yet she still has sufficient height to reach the oyster card readers. This all seems a bit too handy to be an accident. I wondered if there might actually be more to out respective adaptation to our environments. So perhaps if you don't get exposed to vast open spaces on a regular basis and have a calorific intake in keeping with the expectation of being small, you stay small. Perhaps Stray isn't a genetic mutant. Is it possible that she was Bonsai-ed through growing up in an overcrowded (read underspaced) city?

This might not be as ridiculous as it sounds. Take Japan, the home of Bonsai. Japan needs to Bonsai trees because it doesn't have enough space for proper trees such as giant redwoods, oaks, or even the humble beech. There's barely enough living space for its population (at least in the bits of the country geologically suitable for development), and consequently homes are compact (estate agent speak for small). This is the nation who came up with the concept of the capsule hotel, otherwise described as a chest of drawers in which people can sleep off the worst excesses of their night out without the wife finding out. They have lots of people, not much space, and the obvious answer to prevent stress from overcrowding is to make everyone smaller. Have you been to Japan? They have effectively Bonsai-ed the entire nation...

There's also evidence of the reverse effect. Think Scandinavia. Lots of space. Loads of herring protein. Not many people. The result? Tall people. Or, for a further example, Canada. Masses of open space. Plenty moose to eat. Big abodes. Massive, hulking people.

I think a sufficient case has been made for further study of this phenomenon to be justified, and am considering the uses to which this knowledge could be put. Following the rationale of my earlier post in which I made the case for a selective breeding programme to reduce the average size of a person, it occurs to me that we can take the next step and encourage the minaturisation of the selectively-bred short people by bonsai-ing them.

And for the rest of the weekend, I'm off house-hunting in the capital, where I shall no doubt find myself wishing to be rather smaller than I presently am. Mind, if moving to a gardenless shoebox means the turd of commuting is removed from my life (at least in its present changing-trains-at-Clapham-Junction form), and if the place comes with some form of heating, I'll be ecstatic.

11 comments:

Casdok said...

Some interesting thoughts there!
Good luck on the trains!

trousers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trousers said...

Ooops sorry about that, my deletion - getting into a bit of a pickle as to whether my comment sounded in the (silly) spirit in which it was intended.

But Why? said...

Casdok,
I'm hoping that I wont have to do battle with the trains for very much longer. I was so very unimpressed with the disappearance and non-running of the 0921 from East Croydon. Still, it gave me a welcome opportunity to do a bit of navel-gazing and pigeon-watching... xx

Trousers,
Silly? Seemed OK to me. It's not the most sensitive and PC post I've ever written, so I wouldn't worry. (And yes, by the way.) xx

Pixie said...

OH I can't wait, Dr But Why living in the Capitol,the opportunities for even more geekiness, Bring it on I say.
Good luck with locating perhaps to a boot box to acommadate your bits.
pxx

KindaBlue said...

I think you may be on to something here. Having grown up in north Wales, and being six foot something-or-other, I am constantly surprised that I can fit easily into a Citroen Saxo - which leads me to believe that Saxos are bigger on the inside than out.

Oh, and Pixie: geekiness is always good. Drop by my blog if you need another source. Long may it last!

DJ Kirkby said...

Lol. Heating is definitly always a bonous..except in the summer perhaps. So have you decided on a car?

But Why? said...

Pixie,
Oh yes. London, here I come. I understand the streets are paved with gold there. Mind you, I have for some time now been standing at Clapham Junction observing the happy and fulfilled behaviour of besuited commuters and known for some time that only be moving to London will I be fully able to live the dream... And I fully recommend the short trip to see The Blue One in full swing.


Kindablue,
More evidence in favour of the reverse Bonsai effect. I'm thinking that I should get measurements of Stray and Badger before they move to Yorkshire and see if there's any growth a year or so later. I suspect that rather than shinking when I move to the capital, I'll merely develop poor posture and premature aches and pains.

Interestingly, it is a little known fact that Dr Who's Tardis was inspired by an early prototype Saxo.

DJ,
Whilst in the mornings when I can see my breath condensing as I exhale, I'm a big fan of toastie central heating, I do find that most places I wander into off the streets seem rather stuffy, stale and unwholesome. Living in an unheated quarry has definitely left its mark.

Car-wise, I left an able colleague with my requirements and he found me something with four wheels plus spare, an engine and an MOT certificate. It seems to work fine. It also has power steering and central locking which, whilst not on my list of requirements, never fails to leave me rather pleased (they are new and exciting toys). It's a pity he's not around to work the same magic on finding me somewhere to live whilst I see through my current contract.

Hugs, all. xx

trousers said...

I'm sure it was fine (my comment), but I occasionally write something and, regardless of the intent, start to bother myself about how it might come across.

Daft really ;-)

Linda and her Surroundings said...

My parents are Danish and subsequently I am 5'9" tall which I think is no big deal. But here in Australia, the average height of a female is around 5'4" and during my school years I felt like a giant. When I go the the Swedish Bazaar at Christmas time I am dwarfed by the tall girls with wide faces and big feet - I love it. You will have to practice your body folding tecniques if you want to own a small car!!!

But Why? said...

Trousers,
I would hate a visit to my blog to become for you a source of stress. Fret ye not...

Linda,
Hello. Surely Australia has enough space for women to grow a bit bigger than 5'4"? Perhaps the theory needs a bit of refinement... Regardless, I also like being dwarfed occasionally - the shop where I buy my (oversized) shoes is usually full of extremely tall people. It's one of the few times when I feel able to fully uncrumple myself and stand up straight. I guess that's one of the reasons I eventually succumbed to something with marginally more space than the Fiesta.