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Tuesday, 30 October 2007

If Only They Could Talk


I can be a bit slow when it comes to trying out other people's recommendation and this book is proof of that. My boss lent me this book after I lent her Teacher Man. You're going to love this, she enthusiastically beamed.

I'm happy to report that she is absolutely right. After 5 months of letting it sit still on my shelf, I picked the book up a few days after first Syawal.

If Only They Could Talk follows the journey of veterinarian James Herriot in his first year on the job. It was it first (and last) job fresh out of college, serving the agriculture community of North Yorkshire in the 1930s. He was hired by Siegfried Farnon, an experienced and dashing fellow practitioner. Siegfried had earlier bought over the practice and was running it with his younger brother Tristan.

I'm not sure if it's Herriot himself or the folk of North Yorkshire, but it seems as the place is never short of amusing stories, in and outside the farmyards.

In one story, Herriot was called to examined a sick cow by a very sceptical farmer who watched his every move like a hawk. Herriot, struck by nervousness, proceeded to take the cow's temperature by inserted the thermometer in the animal's rectum. He only turned the other side for only a second, and saw the thermometer had disappeared inside the rectum. I was cracking up as I imagine the look on both Herriot's and the farmer's faces.

Another particular story that still makes me laugh every time I recall it is about an old man who worked a caretaker for a wealthy widow's little pig. She named the pig Nugent, after her uncle. The old man couldn't properly pronounce the name Nugent, probably because of his accent. So whenever Herriot came to attend to the pig, the old man would ask, "Has you come to see Nudist?"

(If you don't know what a nudist is, do look it up. :D )

There are also stories of his boss and his boss's brother. Siegfried, despite being a top-notch veterinarian, has the tendency to be forgetful sometimes. Meanwhile, Tristan is more laid back, maybe too laid back for his own good. On several occasions Tristan even had been fired by Siegfried (like the time he lost the chequebook). But after some time had past and Siegfried being the forgetful person that he is, the brothers went on to work as usual, as if Tristan was never fired.

Herriot writes frankly about his successes and failures. The charm of the book lies in his optimism when times seemed bleak and his willingness to write of his blunders and failures. It's hard not to root for him whenever we find him in tricky situations.

According to ulama, some Prophets were trained by Allah as shepherds before they were given their first revelation. This is because working with animals can be a humbling experience, as evident throughout the stories.


In the US, this book is collected together with the second one (It Shouldn't Happened to a Vet) as All Creatures Great and Small. I disagree with the renaming, as it downplays the humourous feel conveyed in original titles. I feel the same way about the new cover, but you be the judge.

(UPDATE: Actually the renaming was an idea by Herriot's own daughter.)

Herriot has written a total of 6 books in the series. I'm slowly making my way through number 3, Let Sleeping Vets Lie. In this one, we get to see how Herriot pursued his future wife, a local farm girl who shares his love for animals.

As Herriot pondered at the end of of the book, if animals do could talk, what would they say about us humans? Well, if the the farm animals of the Yorkshire Dales could talk and read, they'd probably be telling us to go on and check out Herriot's books.

4 comments:

mudin001 said...

If only they could talk, they'd probably be telling us to go on and check out Rol's blog!

:D

rol said...

Haha! Thanks. Do check out the books if happen to have the time. Herriot's a marvelous storyteller. The challenge would be trying to figure out the UK English vocabulary.

ieka said...

jxwah...looks like someone who has a number of secret admirer is much interested in rollie's blog.. heheh hebatlah hang shahrul, diminati oleh org yg ramai peminat ni..kekeke gurau jaa ek..

anyway, selamat berkenal2an utk anda berdua.

p/s: apa cerita berdua haritu, nampak kusyuk je..dengar banyak isu2 hangat terkinin dikupas ..teringin plak nak tau :P heheh

rol said...

Hari tu aku banyak interview tok mudin sebenarnya...

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