Monday, January 29, 2007

Charles Dickens

Small isn't beautiful...

The "Larios Cafe" , upstairs...
This last weekend this blogger of yours took two young Russian ladies to a bit of Madrid-by-night. And one thing astonished us. The average height of the people dancing at the Disco in the basement of Larios Café was around 1.60 while the average height at the Castellana Ocho (ex-Jazzanova) was 1.70 at least. Has the predominance of Cuban music in the first stop attracted an Hispanic American population which tends to be shorter, on average, than home grown Spaniards? Has the presence of innumerous expats from Northern Europe in the second drinking dent shifted the bell-shaped height-distribution curve to the right?

That reminded me of one of my most shocking memories during my Military Service (the Right Honourable Reader, if from the British Isles, might be more familiar with the term National Service).
The first period of training, the induction into the Armed Forces, so to speak, was done in Military Barracks in the South where two Companies were being formed with the new “enlisted” soldiers.

1st Company, to which this blogger of yours was attached, was formed by “cadets”, candidates to a NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) badge by the end of training. With University degrees all of us. Mostly medical doctors, engineers, economists, a couple of lawyers, an architect or two. Cheap highly qualified labour for the military institution, in fact. 2ndCompany, which did get a totally separate training, was made, on the other hand, of soldiers destined to be cooks, drivers, cleaners and “cannon fodder” (if ever one could still use this concept). They were mostly from Northern rural areas, with just primary school most of them.

We only get to parade together very near the end of training, close to the Honour The Flag ceremony. The two neat compact groups of uniformed young people, 1st Company and 2nd Company were closing ranks side by side for the first time. And then we became aware that something was not "right": they seemed to us a different “tribe” altogether! They were like pygmies, really.

The scientific explanation was simple and terrible. Our Company of “Officer-material” was composed of sons of rather wealthy people who had supplied their children throughout their growth phase with high-protein diets; while our Northern compatriots had had to struggle both against DNA (their parents being already not tall) and misery-related low-protein diet.

As I said, the Dickesian result was shocking and ashamed us, the privileged ones.

This was twenty something years ago. Things have improved quite a lot. But still…

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