Another postcard from beyond
Fingers crossed, but spring seems to have arrived down here. Lambs frisk and daffodils bloom in the hedgerows. Actually they bloom in the fields too, and Tesco has opened its Polish and Balkan food section for the noble migrants who come over to save the harvest. Our own native labour force are reluctant to engage in such menial work. I remember my own youth in which tasks such as hop and raspberry picking were a way to earn enough money to survive another term drinking at University.
It is also a sign of the season’s change when country women emerge like butterflies from their wool and oilcloth cocoons, burgeoning into light floral prints – or whatever the fashion dictates. Actually, such manifestations are confined to the stalwarts of the various ladies groups that sustain our sense of community and provide credibility to claims that we are ‘close-knit’ in more than just cardigans. Female yoof continues to wear the same jeans and loose tops all the year round however wet and windy the weather is. This oblivion to appropriate protection may also explain the birthrate.
The builders and postmen go through the entire year in shorts. I wonder if this is because they are the only males who have access to village women at home during the day. This is not to suggest anything lubricious in the motivations of these fine men or the women they serve – if one can use the term in reference to the professional context. It may be a subconscious anthropological thing. There she is, knitting quilts in her kitchen, surrounded by garden and geese, her accustomed and dull bloke off burning gorse or in his fishing boat; here’s the postie or the craftsmen, with tanned bare legs and merry demeanour.
But these enticing bucolic images must be treated to a reality test. There has been no frost and so pests will eat everything. Moreover, our country women (bless them), when they burgeon, need to be thoughtful about what fashion they select. I note from government statistics that 64% of the UK population is overweight or obese. That is, with a BMI of 25 or over. The Government’s Chief Medical Officer (Professor Dame Sally Davies) has expressed dismay that obesity has become the norm in public perception. When nearly two-thirds of the people you meet are overweight, of course it is the norm – what did she think?
Down here, it has long been a matter of amaze how big our regional women’s bums look not just in ‘this’ but in everything except a tent whether floral or sail canvas. And please kindly Fate spare me the naked reality. Thanks to Government statistics (just type Obesity into your search engine), I was able to discover that my region is in the top quartile for fat (69.8% over 25BMI versus the national average of 64%). Of some comfort it seems places in the north (Yorkshire mostly) are top at around 75%. For some reason, Sedgemoor in Somerset is also near the top. I would blame the presence of an M5 motorway service station there and bugger all else for people to do in the county except drive to IKEA to eat meatballs (swimming to work in the occasional flood doesn’t count); whereas in Cornwall our fondness for pasties is mediated by a climate that keeps us active. The London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is the thinnest place in Britain (46% overweight). Well of course it would be. That’s where Harvey Nichols has its frock shop. If its customers eat at all, they are very selective. And they never need to ask how their bum looks in anything – perfect darling, perfect.
The importance of bums in physical attraction is remarkable. The proximity to the genitalia is of course fundamental – yes, ho ho. But the aesthetic is much more interesting. When I was in charge of a large advertising agency department one of my female staff urged me to make sure we recruited ‘enough young men with tight bums’. Both men and women like a neat bum. I am slightly surprised that male clothing purveyors don’t emphasise the ‘makes your bum look good in this’ element of their design. My wife insists on this style attribute whenever I am forced to buy new trousers. Given my tendency to frontal overlap I find her optimism endearing and a tribute to her kindly nature.
Except quite evidently there is a totally different parallel aesthetic associated with the ‘booty’ as we have learned to call it. In this popular cultural milieu the big fat arse apparently represents a hugely desirable attribute. It is almost certainly a primitive thing related to the role of the buttocks as a food store for wandering tribes long ago
As I push my trolley through Tesco I find it hard to associate the bulbous rear-ends of late teenage and motherly women who throng the aisles, with survival strategies on the plains of Africa. It is notable that the men are generally less obese. I wonder what happens when one partner gets very fat. I wonder who looks at fat porn sites. Would Rubens be happy nowadays?
Equally, if one thinks about sexual desire and presumes it can only flourish in the presence of idealised body shape we will all just lose interest in sex altogether. So without dissing the health-cost jeremiads of our medical advisers I feel much of the concern voiced in the media about the fat issue is a visceral ‘Jesus Christ, have you seen the arse/belly on that’ reaction from unkindly blokes; although the joke fatty of either gender was always the stock-in-trade of the seaside post-card. Nowadays the ‘fat is jolly’ defence has been reinforced by the rise of a ‘size 16 is the new size 12’ movement. Doubtless, media iconic fatties (Jennie Murray, Dawn French for example) will soon go public on a ‘fattism is evil’ crusade.
Men put tend to weight on the belly, women more on the bum. This is Nature’s joke and says fat people shouldn’t fuck each other. Nor should those of us – I include myself – no longer in the first flush of youth or our sylph-like early form expose ourselves as objects of desire other than when a near and dear companion solicits a moment of sensual gratification.
Be that as it may, in my village there is a group of young mums (I hesitate to call them yummy mummies which is a bit condescendingly urban) who daily trundle their baby buggies around the four or so mile circuit of lanes that form our hinterland. They are making laudable efforts and look trim enough. I am sure they have helped keep Cornwall below the disgraceful 70% fat mark. Watch out Kensington & Chelsea.