Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Raggle Taggle Gypsy and the Hearty Goodwyfe - Or, Does Genetic Inheritance Form Physical Capability?

When we were first married the DH and I took a trip to Sorrento on the Amalfi coast. Whenever we went to a restaurant or shop the waiter or shop assistant would rattle onto the DH in Italian, simply because DH is so short, dark and curly-haired that they thought he was a native of Naples (they do the same in Spain), he looks as though he hails from the Med and not Northampton.

When you look at me you can tell that I'm English, and if not English then perhaps from Germany, or the Netherlands, or Denmark. I'm tallish (5'7"), heavy-ish, fair-skinned, blue eyed, stout of limb and hardy of body. There is no aristocratic frailty about me, I look like I could plough a field, and I probably could. Apart from yesterday, I don't think I could have ploughed a field yesterday, for yesterday I experienced heat exhaustion.

Now, we're having a heatwave in the UK, temperatures have hit the mid/high thirties and we're not used to it. I am not, and have never been "good" with heat, even as a child, even though I enjoyed the sunshine, I found real heat quite difficult to take and would often burn and throw up on our annual jaunt to Majorca. Yesterday, I did - as I normally do - a 3 mile school run (walking), went grocery shopping, dropped off some books and jam to a friend (walking) cooked tea, washed floors, folded laundry, vacuumed and the tutored in the evening. Towards the end of the day I began to feel distinctly ill; headachy, nauseous, fingers and ankles slightly swollen; it was so bad I could not eat my chicken salad, and that, gentle reader, proves without a shadow of a doubt, that I wasn't quite right. I was much better after I'd had a cold shower, a cool drink and had elevated my feet for an hour, but even so, the heat had affected me for the worse.

The DH loves this weather. He's like a lizard and thrives and basks in it. He comes home from work unusually chipper and suggests long, country walks. Indeed, when we visit my parents in Spain, whilst I sit quietly in the shade, he climbs mountains. The heat energises him, recharges his batteries, and brightens his personality. In short, the way the heat affects him is absolutely opposite to the way it affects me.

Here's the thing. The DH's maternal grandfather was proper Romany Gypsy, with a caravan and everything. This is why the DH is so dark, his genetic predisposition to dark skin and brown curls is because of the gypsy in him. Is there something about his genetic make-up that "remembers" an Egyptian past, that is to say, even though the DH's ancestors came to England hundreds of years ago, is there something about his genetic type which makes him not only resilient to heat, but to thrive in it?

Conversely, my maiden name is very English, it's an Old English word, and is also the name of a village not 15 miles from where I live. Is it possible that my ancestors, being quite the opposite to gypsies, have been Midlanders since the Anglo-Saxon times, staying put in cold, drizzly England for years and years? Is this why I find heat in England to be an abhorrence?

Now, these are just the musings of a heat addled brain, but I'm interested to see your experience of the heat. Are you dark and bask in it, like my DH? Or, are you fair and hate it, like me? Or, and I suppose this is more probable, you can simply take it or leave it?

Oh, and by the way, despite the DH's being a raggle taggle gypsy, he has never offered to read my palm, cook me a hedgehog, sell me some pegs or tarmac the drive (more's the pity). He does, however, do a mean David Essex impression. Enjoy the youtubery, goode huswives!


Anonymous said...

Oh I'm with you... I have a very pale 'english rose' like complexion, greyish green eyes and mousey hair.

27c is about as much as I can stand and much prefer Springtime temperatures.

Jenny said...

Well I have always been mistaken for a mediterranean type too but I don't function well in the heat. But as I have said before I think, my heritage is definitely anglosaxon with the surnames Booth, Higgins and Ponting plus Creighton which I believe is Scottish. Must be an ancient Roman hiding somewhere in the family tree though.

Thanks so much for the David Essex clip - I loved him back in the 70s and he still makes my heart flutter.

~~louise~~ said...

I can't remember whether I do better in the heat or the cool weather. We haven't seen sunshine on the east coast of the USA since...

If I recall correctly, my Italian olive skin prefers the sun. However, my Italian temper fairs much better in the cool weather:)

Niki RuralWritings said...

I am not a heat lover, in fact, I like to feel cool (but not cold). Explains why Autumn is my favourite season. Heat makes me lethargic, I swell up, (particularly my feet) and feel generally uncomfortable. My hubs on the other hand thrives on the heat, like yours, finds it invigorating.

As far as ancestry I'm of British and German descent, fair, green eyed and my husband is Irish descent brown haired and blue eyed, so no mediterranean roots.

There you have it, makes no sense :)


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Tina
When it reaches 27c in Scotland, ya knooow we're in a heatwave! I prefer spingtime or autumn days, too.

Hi Jenny
Ah, yes, Mr Essex. I find his glottlestop quite endearing. Eh up, Booth and Higgins are quite Northern names, perhaps your lot were border people if you have Scottish ancestry too.

Hi Louise
Come and bathe your olive skin in my over heated English garden amongst the drooping roses and sad sweet peas.

Anonymous said...

I'm Lancashire born n' bred - except for two great great grandmothers who came over from Dublin. I can't take the heat for long periods of time. On a girly holiday to Corfu as a student my friends spent the days sunbathing, I would sunbathe for an hour and then sleep all afternoon. Lol I remember some chap asking me why all my friends were so brown and I was so white :)

Hubs on the other hand has a Puerto Rican mother of Madeiran/Portuguese heritage. He loves the sun and will sit and bake for hours with no ill effects.

Hey my word verification is 'ranti'. I-a like-a a ranti, ciao. Oh dear, very bad joke.

monix said...

"I'm tallish (5'7"), heavy-ish, fair-skinned, blue eyed, stout of limb and hardy of body." Describes me exactly! And I have never been able to cope with heat, not just burning easily but getting light-headed. My ancestors were all Scottish and Irish, so they were used to cold winds and lots of rain. I'm sure it stays in our genetic memory.

Angela said...

Yeah, I'm with you lot - give me spring or autumn [neither too hot nor too cold] One daughter is a 'lizard' type, and relishes the heat [cos her dad is half Belgian and therefore continental] the other is more like me.
I'm positively wilting in this heat!!

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Niki
Perhaps it's a man/woman thing? It seems that nearly all the men mentioned like the heat. Hmm, I feel a full blown survey coming on. Yeah, I get light-headed too.

Hi Sarah
Yes, the DH can bake and bake and bake - like a great big, brown bun. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. It is satisfying when you have an amusing word verification.

Hi Monix
We peasant types must have had to endure so much hard work in rain and wind that our bodies must have just gotten used to it. I feel quite romantic talking of genetic memory.

Hi Angela
I have an olive skinned "lizard" daughter too, she plays tennis in this heat, and basketball. My youngest is all pink and white and is such a grumpy pants atm...just like her mum.

debbie bailey said...

Yikes! I hope your husband doesn't dress like David Essex when he sings!

I've often wondered about the genetic patterning myself. Why am I so drawn to the British Isles and am not at all interested in other places? Almost all of my ancestors came from the Isles. Could that be why I long for them?

I wonder if any studies have been done? If you know of any, please let me know.

I always enjoy your posts.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Debbie
No, he doesn't indulge in flares and open neck shirts! I don't know if there have been any studies done on this kind of thing, but it would be fascinating to know if there is some kind of genetic memory. It's a very Jungian thing, I think, the idea of a shared, cultural memory...although I'm no expert.

Nan said...

'fair and hate it' positively! Even your physical description is pretty much me. Some relatives in my past hail from Scotland, and became the 'Scots-Irish' who were kicked out in favor of sheep, settling in Northern Ireland before crossing that big ocean. The others are from Southern Ireland. :<) And somewhere there is an English connection and I am 1/16 American Indian. People around here are complaining about our cool spring, and cool-so-far summer, while I just grin. As long as the plants grow, that's all the warmth I need out of my least favorite season.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Nan
I've experienced a New England summer (hot) and a New England winter (cold) and I preferred the winter, although there were certain outdoorsy compensations in the summer. Perhaps I should visit New England in the spring and the autumn, that's when it's meant to be at its best.

Nan said...

It depends where one is in New England. Southern NE can be very hot and humid in the summer. Up here, we rarely have terribly hot days.

Gumbo Lily said...

I'm of the dark, curly hair and dark skin variety which thrives in the sunshine and heat. In fact, when it turns wintry here in the northern USA, I simply must spend some time out-of-doors every day or I get a depressed feeling. I'm quite sure it has to do with a greater need for sunshine (vitamin D?).

But.....since I do live in the north, I must be able to stand extreme cold and heat which I can tolerate if properly dressed.

My grandmother was adopted so my family insists that we have some "unknown Spanish or Italian blood" running through our veins. I am mostly of German descent tho.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
As you know, my hair is dark and curly, but my skin is pale and my eyes are blue. It does seem to be turning out that if you are darker you can tolerate heat all the better.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

First of all, DH sounds pretty dang cute. You oughta post a picture.

Every year here on the 4th of July there's a big local festival down by the river. All the hippies love it, and there's all kind of music. I never go. Why? Because the idea of milling around in the middle of the day in 95-degree(f) heat makes me miserable--and the same goes for milling around in 85-degree heat too. 65 degrees? Now we're talking. I'm pale, and the first touch of heat turns my whole face red (when I used to run, people would see my red face and ask if I was okay, I looked so close to toppling in a dead faint).

Hope you're feeling better today!


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Frances
I know what you mean about having a red face in the heat. All last week I looked like a greasey beetroot with a bad afro.

I will post a picture of the DH for your delectation. The man's HOT, HOT I tells ya!

Sara said...

Born and raised in a hot, dry Mediterranean climate (Southern California) I have always suffered from the heat, and it became worse as I got older. That's because nearly all my ancestors were northern people; thus my height (5'10", red hair, fair skin and freckles). I have never been able to tan and gave up trying 25 years ago! The heat makes me wilt; I empathize with you 100%!

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sara
I think we've got a case regarding genetic inheritance and ability to withstand heat!