When I was little, my father was 5’ 8” tall. Now I am big (6’ 3”) he is several inches shorter than he used to be. People get shorter as they get older. I don’t know why. For me this will have a plus point. By the time I am in my late 90s I reckon I will be able to sit up in my Hilleberg Akto tent when I am heating up the water for the Ready Brek in the morning. Nor will I have to contort myself into a hideous, hunched up shape when performing in the tent that function which most middle aged men undertake in the middle of the night, sometimes several times. It may also mean that I will not constantly brush the condensation dripping sides of the over rated Trailstar. That shelter, incidentally, is to be the subject of another blog at another time, now that my prolonged field research (3 nights in it) is complete.
So whilst we get shorter, it is also, empirically at least, a fact that certain male appendages actually get longer with age. Just look at the ears of old men. They often appear to be of an enormous length. Having done some extensive research on this subject, which involved typing into Google the question “do men’s ears get longer with age?”, I find that Italian scientists have now proved that this is, indeed true. They have discovered that the male ear will grow by about one inch in one hundred years. Now this raises two important questions. Firstly, why were Italian scientists working in imperial units rather than metric? And secondly, have Italian scientists nothing better to do with their time?
This brings me on to the matter of other male appendages which also appear to get longer with age. I am, of course, writing about feet. Being tall, and perfectly proportioned (apart from my nose being too big and my head too small), I have always had larger than average sized feet. However, recent purchases of footwear for my hill walking activities have proved disconcerting. 30+ years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I used to buy shoes sized 44 and walking boots sized 45. For any Italian scientists reading this I should explain that this means size 10 or 10 and a half. Over the last 3 years I have purchased 3 pairs of expensive, size 45 trail shoes that I have given away to impoverished student sons (I suspect they binned them once I had gone home) as they had proved to be too small for me. A year ago I bought a pair of Scarpa walking boots and ended up purchasing size 47 (that means size 12, Mr Italian). They are a perfect fit. Yesterday my new trail shoes, the discreetly coloured La Sportiva Raptors arrived, courtesy of the Royal Mail. These, too, were in size 47 and seem to be a good fit. This can only mean one of two things. Either shoe manufacturers have altered their lasts and sizing policies; or my feet have got bigger.
Now any reader with a forensic mind will be seeing some linkages here. Scientists involved – Italian. La Sportiva Shoes – Italian. Scarpa boots – Italian. If I was paranoid or a racist I might form a hypothesis that the Italians were playing mind games with British hill walkers. This could be some Latin inspired plot to lower our self-esteem and make us think that we have over large and unstylish feet to go with our ill-fitting Next and Marks and Spencer clothes, and our poor personal hygiene. But my first ever proper mountain boots, those size 45s, purchased when the old Tuff Workboots were no longer deemed up-to-the-job, were made by the then popular boot manufacturer Dolomite. Also Italian. So I can only conclude that my feet, as well as my ears, are growing with time. I feel an experiment coming on. I am off to measure and record the length of my fingers.
(I am sure that all readers will be gratified that I did not use any personal photographs to illustrate this post)