A slice of the rainbow

2013-12-20 00:00

I READ somewhere that the male sperm cell (carrying the Y chromosome) swims faster than the female one ( carrying the X chromosome).

So, if the egg was ready and waiting patiently for the suitor to arrive, then the chances would be that the fastest swimmer would get there first and the result of the union would likely be a baby boy. Conversely, the female sperm has greater endurance. The males, having diced their way up the passage with typical masculine bravado and competitiveness, would be stuffed by the time they arrived and would be good for nothing if they had to wait for the egg to rock up. The girl cells, after a leisurely meander taking the scenic route, including frequent gossip breaks, would arrive at the rendezvous in good shape and wait patiently. Daughters would be the consequence.

In 1857, the Eastern Cape German settlers were obviously in a serious hurry and accordingly produced a surfeit of boys. The 1820 English settlers, in the meanwhile, not only outnumbered the Germans but also gradually, leisurely and gracefully, accumulated a posse of good-looking girls. Lots of them. Appealing and available and presentable. They wore smart clothes from Muirhead and Gowie in Grahamstown, dined at the Pig and Whistle in Bathurst and shaved their armpits.

And they loved to party.

Came the forties and the German boys had, over time, been integrated into the English social scene so it was logical that a significant number of these girls fell for the hard-working Germans. It was no surprise, then, that many of these lads fought for the Allies in World War 2 and returned eventually to marry their English girlfriends. They left as colonials, returning as South Africans.

And this union produced boys. Lots of them. Old habits die hard.

My father was one of six youths (no sisters at all). My mother was the only girl among three brothers. My folks produced three males (one deceased) and my boet has two sons, one of whom has produced two grandsons.

The English colonial gene pool in Natal, in the meanwhile, was in serious danger of complete desiccation, so they sent for some good Eastern Cape hybrid vigour and I arrived carrying the dominant German genome with some Cockney, Huguenot and, more than likely other, undisclosed, immeasurable and probably unwanted genetics. I met a girl with strong English roots in Maritzburg. Appealing and presentable. Clothes from Rodseths, perfume from Nagles and her family occasionally dined at the Imperial.

Then we got married, dressed ourselves from OK Bazaars, ate out at the Pie Cart and went to movies at the drive-in. Whenever I feel in need of good cheer, I remind myself that I am the sperm that won. Our first born is a boy. A strong swimmer. Upright and solid. The wonderful thing about selective genetics is that the outcome is superior to the parent stock. He got married on Sunday. Bring on the next generation, may they have both speed and endurance. Our last born is a girl. Blonde haired, blue eyed and beautiful. Uncle Adolf would have been proud. She loves to party. Maybe the English genes are dominant after all.

• The writer is a practising vet.

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