Thursday, July 21, 2016

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 1/3 All Creatures Great and Small

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 1/3 All Creatures Great and Small

Our Three of a Kind feature for this week is Dr. James Herriot. He was a British veterinarian. He was born James Alfred "Alf" Wright but used the pen name James Herriot. He died in 1995 at 78. His books are all about his experiences as a country vet in Yorkshire. His books are filled with anecdotes and his funny encounters with different unique characters and animals in the farms he visited. His books are my first initiation into the world of veterinary medicine and the hazards and fulfillment that came with it. After reading his books I realize that I need not just read joke books to make me laugh. There are actually novels that are comical and outrageously tickling that I can read. I just have to sharpen my book-finding-senses. After reading Herriot's books, I have started to rummaged for other books with the same theme - the witty, funny and hilarious kind. Books that have authors who do not take themselves seriously. And true enough, I have found a few.

The first book on the list under James Herriot would be All Creatures Great and Small. This is the first book he has published as a journal to his veterinary practice. It was published in 1972 but it was about his experiences in the 1930's - the early years of his practice. Those years where also not so advanced yet for veterinary medicine. The methods were still a bit primitive and crude. The book may be called an autobiography in some way since most of what is written were his real encounters. His books are now a classic.

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 1/3 All Creatures Great and Small 2

His books have become widely known not just in Britain but also in America. There is even a TV series and a movie of the same name. I am actually curious to watch the film. Would it be as hilarious as the book? 

There is also a train service operated by Grand Central Railway that runs from Herriot's hometown, Sunderland to London King's Cross that was named after him. 

All Creatures Great and Small narrates the story of Dr. James Herriot's early years as a vet. After he qualified and his being accepted as an assistant to Dr. Siegfried Farnon of Darrowby. His life as a country vet thus begins and he is initiated into country-living. A totally different world from having grown in the city.

You would be surprised to know that Herriot's life as a country vet is far from boring. In fact, his everyday life is filled with various interesting characters of both animals and humans. In the Skeldale House alone, where Herriot lives with Siegfried and his brother Tristan and five dogs, is a riot. Siegfried and Tristan may be related by blood but they are polar opposites. Siegfried is temperamental and moody but a good boss. While Tristan is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who sees the world as a big playground. I actually love Tristan's character compared to Siegfried. Siegfried is at times bordering on bi-polar tendencies. But even so, you'll find that the characters are all adorable even with their individual quirks and sometimes annoying antics. Not to mention the animals who also have personalities of their own. This is a really hilarious read. I often caught myself laughing, good thing I'm just at home and my family is used to me giggling and laughing alone while holding a book or an e-book reader. Beware if you are outside and reading Herriot's book, someone might think you have loose screws. There are just a lot of silly things here that you can't help but be amused and laugh out loud.

As I have mentioned, Herriot does not take himself seriously. I can vividly imagine his experiences in the book and if I were there in the farms, I would have rolled over in the grass with his antics. You just can't help but fall in love with the adorable and warm character of James Herriot. He's definitely one of the best writers I've known. Even to this modern day and age, his books have not gone out of style. I can't feel any generation gap. His humor is universal, even if you do not love animals, you will find yourself turning into a grinning idiot. His books are priceless and a pleasure to read. I read the books again for my three of a kind feature and I am taken back to the same  feeling I had when I first read the books, only this time it is much better because I had to be reminded of the experience and relive it again. It's a double doze of the amusement.

Yes, you are right, the titles of his books are from a famous poem of Cecil Frances Alexander. These titles are actually a series but the titles do not follow the order of the lines of the poem. The poem begins with All Things Bright and Beautiful but Herriot's series started with All Creatures Great and Small. The titles are really fitting. The book for me is like an ode to God by Herriot. Thanking Him for the blessings and experiences he has in his everyday vet life. It has been a very interesting existence. If I were him too, I would not trade it for anything. 

Here are certain rules and scientific theories that Dr. James Herriot has formulated after his two years of attending to various farm and domestic animals:

  • That it was always the biggest men who went down - like seeing blood
  • That big dogs were kept by people who live in small houses and vice versa
  • Clients who often said "spare no expense" never paid their bills, not ever.
  • When he asked his way in the Dales and told "you can't miss it", he knows he will soon find himself hopelessly lost.

If you are in dire need of entertainment and would want to belch out the excess gas in your body or want to exorcise the bad energies that is hindering your potentials, then by all means read a James Herriot. I am definitely positive, you will feel a lot better. You'll see the world in a different light and get a new perspective. And mind you, this is all clean fun. No swearing and cussing. Just a lot of muck and animal body parts. 

...but you never know what's in store for you. It is a funny profession (veterinary medicine). If offers an unparalleled opportunities for making a chump out of yourself.

-James Herriot

2/3 All Things Bright and Beautiful
3/3 All Things Wise and Wonderful