Monday, 27 January 2020

Some Thoughts on Loss & Grief



My mother died at six-thirty this morning. 'Died' sounds so harsh but something in me resists the 'passed away' or 'passed' terms. I always feel that they're terms of avoidance that have taken over our expression of this common destiny we all eventually experience. But forgive me if you find that offensive. I'm just writing what I feel personally.

Mum had been deteriorating health-wise for some time but it was only a couple of months ago that she was diagnosed with cancer. She had surgery to de-bulk her tumour (mostly to relieve pain) shortly after her diagnosis and we were surprised that she recovered as well as she did. (She's had heart trouble for many years and wasn't a great candidate for an anaesthetic.)
We'd just returned from our trip to the UK when she was hospitalised so my older daughter and I went to see her just before the surgery and I am so grateful for the time we had with her. My Mum has never been really demonstrative and it's taken me a long time to realise how much her experiences in childhood affected her ability to express her love. Rejection hung over her all her life and she rarely allowed herself to be vulnerable.
She was in quite a bit of pain when we went to see her and as she held my daughter's hand and mine, she told us how much she loved us, called us 'My bonnie wee lassies,' and kept kissing our hands. I have five sisters and each of us experienced a similar outpouring of her love during those few days before and after surgery.

Our extended family is scattered all over Australia but one of my sisters organised a family get-together over Christmas and Mum was able to meet some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren during this time.
Unfortunately, the tumour just enlarged again and she was back to where she started prior to surgery within a couple of months.
I was devastated when I went to see her on New Year's Eve. She stared at me very distrustfully and snapped at me a few times. 'The lights were on but there was no one at home.' One of my sisters saw her the next day and Mum recognised her but there was a withdrawal of the real person as the days and weeks passed.
As her pain increased, she was placed on palliative care which later involved a morphine pump and so she was uncommunicative for the few days before she died.



I was given a book of Robert Burns' poetry for my birthday recently and I found this prayer that I read out loud to myself a number of times as she came closer to death:


A Prayer, in the Prospect of Death by Robert Burns (1781-2)

O THOU unknown, Almighty Cause
Of all my hope and fear!
In whose dread Presence, ere an hour,
Perhaps I must appear! 

If I have wander'd in those paths
Of life I ought to shun;
As Something, loudly, in my breast,
Remonstrates I have done. 

Thou know'st that Thou hast formed me
With Passions wild and strong;
And list'ning to their witching voice
Has often led me wrong. 

Where human weakness has come short,
Or frailty stept aside,
Do Thou, ALL-GOOD, for such Thou art,
In shades of darkness hide. 

Where with intention I have err'd,
No other plea I have,
But, Thou art good; and Goodness still
Delighteth to forgive.



Helen Macdonald, in H is for Hawk, a memoir written after the sudden death of her father. Struck with grief, she bought a hawk and set out to tame it, untaming herself in the process. She wrote:

'I thought that to heal my great hurt, I should flee to the wild. It was what people did. The nature books I’d read told me so. So many of them had been quests inspired by grief or sadness. Some had fixed themselves to the stars of elusive animals. Some sought snow geese. Others snow leopards. Others cleaved to the earth, walked trails, mountains, coasts and glens. Some sought wildness at a distance, others closer to home. ‘Nature in her green, tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions,’ wrote John Muir. ‘Earth hath no sorrows that earth cannot heal.'
Now I know this for what it was: a beguiling but dangerous lie. I was furious with myself and my own unconscious certainty that this was the cure I needed. Hands are for other human hands to hold.'

My mother had had a 'great hurt' - a number of great hurts - and in some ways she 'fled to the wild.' She always loved animals, especially those that were abandoned, neglected or unwanted by others, and sometimes she seemed to me to care more for them than people. This, and her reticence to display her feelings, came out of her sense of rejection. But fleeing to the wild wasn't the answer. It wasn't until she was facing the prospect of her own death that she knew she needed to hold our hands.

We've had a good share of grief and loss in our family, especially in the past six years, and I know my natural inclination is to withdraw during these seasons. I was struck with Helen Macdonald's words above, 'Hands are for other human hands to hold.' We need each other, 'the wild is not a panacea for the human soul; too much in the air can corrode it to nothing.'












Sunday, 19 January 2020

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré (1974)



'...Mr George Smiley was not naturally equipped for hurrying in the rain, least of all at dead of night...
Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London's meek who do not inherit the earth.'


Control, the commander of the Circus (the highest level of British Intelligence) is eased out of his position and dies not long afterwards. His second in command, George Smiley, is later forced out into retirement after a series of operational disasters and the Circus is restructured.

'After a lifetime of living by his wits and his considerable memory, he had given himself full-time to the profession of forgetting.'

But Peter Guillam, a former colleague whose role in the Circus has been curtailed since the restructure, has evidence that Circus has been infiltrated by a mole over a period of decades. He recruits Smiley to 'spy on the spies.'
As Smiley works to uncover this betrayal in the upper echelons of the organisation, he also faces a  betrayal in his personal life.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was the first Cold War novel by John le Carré that I'd read (see my review in this post).
* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, was the second. The two books have similarities and share one or two characters but they both may be read as stand alone titles.
Betrayal is a dominant theme in both books, but it is more fully explored in the second.
Le Carré writes superbly and his plots are complex. Both novels are psychological thrillers and somewhat dark, which is not surprising for books about espionage.

Normally I'm only attracted to softer vintage espionage - authors such as John Buchan and Helen MacInnes - but le Carré sucked me in with his masterful exploration of character. He made me care about some of these characters. People such as Smiley and Bill Roach, the new boy at school who was considered dull, if not actually deficient, and blamed himself for the break-up of his parent's marriage; Jim Prideaux, the enigmatic hunchbacked teacher who arrived at the school as a temporary replacement:

'Bill had a feeling he could not describe that Jim lived so precariously on the world's surface that he might at any time fall into a void; for he feared that Jim was like himself, without a natural gravity to hold him on.'

And Peter Guillam, who in a moment feels not only betrayed but orphaned by the man who inspired him most: 

'His butchered agents in Morocco, his exile to Brixton, the daily frustration of his efforts as daily he grew older and youth slipped through his fingers; the drabness that was closing round him; the truncation of his power to love, enjoy and laugh; the constant erosion of the plain, heroic standards he wished to live by...
His suspicions, his resentments for so long turned outwards on the real world - on his women, his attempted loves - now swung upon the Circus and the failed magic which had formed his faith.'


This is an excellent, gritty read but I sometimes felt out of my depth with the complexity of the plot, although I found with both of le Carré's books that once I have the whole picture at the end of the book it helps me untangle some of the threads and I can then skip back to sections where I got a little lost and work things out.

* When a movie was made of the book in 2011, the commas were removed for the film title.





Saturday, 4 January 2020

A Tweaked Version of Ambleside Online Year 9

We finished up AO Year 9  at the end of 2019. I made a few changes and omitted some things for various reasons. Australian titles were substituted in some areas and I've marked these with an *
Books written in black are from the Ambleside Online curriculum.
We only did one of Plutarch's Lives and two Shakespeare plays during the year.
An overseas trip during August and September, some additional family matters, and preparation for a Cello exam over the course of the year meant that we were a little stretched for time.
The following is basically what we did for Year 9:
Devotional/Theology/Apologetics

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

* The Flying Scotsman by Sally Magnusson - a biography of Eric Liddell

* Chariots of Fire - the movie of Liddell's life

Biography

* Captain Cook by Alistair Maclean (I've written about it here - scroll down) Enjoyed by everyone here.

* My Love Must Wait by Ernestine Hill - I really liked this (review) but it was a bit too descriptive/wordy in Moozle's opinion.

* Napoleon by Albert Marrin - a couple of my children have enjoyed this bio of Napoleon as well as  other books by the same author. A well-written & engaging book.

* Currency Lass by Margaret Reeson - all of my girls read and appreciated this book about a young woman growing up in the early days of Sydney.

Age of Revolution by Winston Churchill

* A Short History of Australia by Ernest Scott - I had books by modern historians (Geoffrey Blainey and Manning Clarke) but I prefer Scott for this time period.

* Personal, Career, and Financial Security by Richard J. Maybury 

Essays by Jane Haldimand Marcet

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason - we finished Book I

How to Read a Book - plodding along slowly with this one


Literature 

The History of English Literature for Girls and Boys by H.E. Marshall
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Science

Great Astronomers 
* Men, Microbes & Living Things by Katherine B. Shippen (Biology)
Napoleon's Buttons & Phineas Gage - both carried over from the year before

* A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - this has been a favourite book in Year 9. It is full of evolutionary content but Bryson has a light-hearted touch and is quick to point out holes in scientific thought and the quirks of scientists through the ages.
Cosmology, Biology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry...a broad sweep of what we have discovered about the Earth and what scientists have deduced from these discoveries; odd scientists, accidental discoveries and a good amount of humour sprinkled throughout. This has been a read aloud & discuss type of book and it has generated many good conversations, not to mention guffaws from my daughter, over some of the stuff that has gone on in the scientific world over the past two hundred or so years. The chapters are quite long so we'll be continuing this book in Term 1 of year 10.

Natural History/Nature Study

* All Things Bright & Beautiful by James Herriot - this is the second memoir in Herriot's series about his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the years just before WWII.
We visited this beautiful area on our 2019 overseas trip (which I wrote about here, here, and also here!)




* Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies

* The Art of Poetry - I reviewed this here. This is an excellent resource but I think for some students it might be overkill. 

Plutarch: the Life of Demetrius
Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice & Measure for Measure

The Arts by Van Loon

Free Reading

Rafael Sabatini re-reads of a number of his books. Scaramouche, * Seahawk, * Captain Blood, * The Gamester
* The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge
* Henrietta's House by Elizabeth Goudge   

* Murder Must Advertise & The Nine Tailors by D.L. Sayers
Agatha Christie - various
Ngaio Marsh - various
Margery Allingham - various

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren - I bought Moozle a lovely HB copy of this as she didn't have the book. it's written to a much younger age level but that didn't stop her enjoying it.


This Present Darkness & Piercing the Darkness by Frank Perretti - there are some excellent aspects touched on in both of these hard to put down books but there are also some negative aspects. I though this article explained things well and it was good to discuss those points. I read the books when they first came out and found them quite inspiring but I understand the concerns stated in the article.


Geography

Longitude by Dava Sobel
A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland by Samuel Johnson - we saved this for reading after we'd been over there.


Art & Music

For Picture Study we looked at works by John Everett Millais, Francisco Goya, and El Greco.
We've used YouTube videos to learn some art techniques and Pinterest for ideas at times but I wanted something more structured for Moozle to work through.
I bought the art course below just over a year ago in the Black Friday sales and it was very good so at the end of 2019 I bought the Pastels 101 for her to work through this year. With our low Aussie dollar everything from the USA seems exorbitant to us so a decent discount is always appreciated. At the time of my writing this they have a 40% off sale for the Art School Bundle which includes Drawing, Watercolour, Oils & Acrylics, and Pastels.
I added an account for Moozle on my Instagram so she can display her prodigious art work and various projects. It's missy_hudson05 if you want to have a peek.




During 2019 Moozle prepared for her Grade 8 Cello exam so we incorporated music by Haydn, Edward Elgar, and Ernest Bloch that she was studying into our Composer Study and read through sections of The Arts by Van Loon that were scheduled in AO 9.
A highlight of the musical side of the year was an 11p.m. orchestral performance Moozle was involved in just before Christmas for the launch of the latest Star Wars movie at a local cinema.

Clear Music Australia was recommended to me for sheet music about two years ago by one of Moozle's accompanists. A supplier we used closed down so I had to scour ebay and random internet stores to try to find what we needed and for an instrument like the cello it was really difficult. Clear Music has been excellent - great service, reasonable prices & everything arrives quickly and undamaged (!!) so I highly recommend them.


Architecture

I added this subject in Year 7 and have continued with it. The exciting thing was that in 2019 we travelled to the UK & Paris and saw some of this stuff first hand. The oldest building we have here (Elizabeth Farm) only dates back to the 1790's so it was incredible to walk through castles, churches, and ruins that have been standing for centuries, and in some cases, millennia.


Stirling Castle, Scotland


York Minster



Bath, England



Notre Dame, Paris, September 2019


Swimming in a competitive squad continues three to four times a week with a two week break over  Christmas. We're nearly at the end of that and she's itching to get back into training.

An example of a week's scheduling:



























Monday, 30 December 2019

A Trip to The Orkney Islands

The Orkney Islands is an archipelago off the northernmost coast of Scotland. We took a 40 minute ferry ride from John O'Groats across the Pentland Firth to get there.
I lived in the lowlands of Scotland as a child and the nearest I'd ever been to The Orkney Islands was when I went to the Edinburgh Tattoo with my parents and I was too young to remember that. I had a strong desire to visit the Orkney Islands and had to convince my husband who wasn't enamored about going to some remote area that experiences gale force winds and bleak weather for most of the year. (The Orkney Islands in latitude are only about 50 miles south of Greenland.) However, we went; the weather was better than expected - some wind and rain, but nothing exceptional and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was surprised to discover that there was no Gaelic influence here - no clan system or tartans. The predominant influence historically were the Vikings or Norse from Norway, who were only about a day's sailing trip away. They settled on Orkney in the late 700's displacing the Picts, and their influence is all over the place.








The Churchill Barriers - in 1939 a German submarine sank a British ship in the Scapa Flow. Winston Churchill, at that time the First Lord of the Admiralty, ordered a series of four causeways or barriers to be built to block the channels between the islands. These barriers were topped by roads which enabled better access to local communities for the Orkney residents.




St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

This was one of highlights of the Orkney Islands for me. I felt like I'd stepped back into the world of Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter - it's such an atmospheric place that you really do feel like you're stepping back in time to medieval Norway.



A modern wooden statue of St Olaf that I think is a replica of the one found in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. The Nidaros Cathedral was built over the remains of King Olav II, the patron saint of Norway. More information here.





The Cathedral here was named after Saint Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney, also known as Magnus the Martyr. There's some history here.







Kirkwall


Stromness


The Standing Stones of Stenness - Neolithic monuments



Skara Brae, a 5,000 year old Neolithic village, was uncovered by a storm that swept the area in 1850.







Sunset as we head back to John O'Groats










Friday, 20 December 2019

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J.A. Myhre




A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest is the story of Mu, a ten year old African boy, who has lived with his uncle after being orphaned as an infant. It is the tale of his search for identity, a search not of his own making, but one that was initiated by a very unlikely guide: a talking chameleon.
With echoes of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, a modern Pilgrim’s Progress, and Hinds Feet on High Places, Mu’s quest takes him on a journey into the unknown that is fraught with danger.
He encounters enemies in the form of his own insecurities and fears; men who know his true identity and want to keep that knowledge from him; a band of rebel soldiers who enlist him as a child soldier, and the shame that comes from his own act of betrayal.

'He had come to the moment of truth about himself, and the truth was not beautiful. But in the very act of committing the worst deed of his life, he also saw something deeper than that truth about his own soul. He saw forgiveness, forgiveness freely given when he least deserved it.'

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest is a well-written book that has a very real sense of place. The author has captured the feel of Africa through the descriptions of the land and the characters. It’s a modern Africa that presents some of that country’s problems in an appropriate manner for children around about age ten and upwards.
The author handled the aspect of Mu's inner world very well. Mu didn’t know his true identity and measured his worth by the way he was treated. It would make an excellent family read aloud and I think it could generate some good discussions and help to address some of these issues that children sometimes struggle with.

'Again Mu thought of his cousins and home - though objectively he had not been treated as a son, it was the only home he had known. He had, over the years, come to believe that his state of affairs was the only one possible for him, that there was some inherent defect in his person that determined his lot as a servant, scapegoat, last in line, not-quite-member of the large household.'

This book is the first in the Rwendigo series of four books. My 14 year old daughter has read the first two books and enjoyed them so I think there’s a wide age range appeal especially for anyone who enjoys adventure with a bit of fantasy/allegory. The African setting is unique and adds another dimension to the story.

Many thanks to New Growth Press for providing me a free copy of this book for review.

#3 A Christian Allegory - see 2019 Christian Greats Challenge






Saturday, 14 December 2019

Bookish Catch-up




The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860)

The Mill on the Floss is the story of the imaginative, temperamental Maggie Tulliver and her practical and unsympathetic brother, Tom. Their father muddles through life, honest but also ignorant and belligerent. His poor judgement leads to destitution and great emotional pain for his wife and children.

‘Certain seeds which are required to find a nidus for themselves under unfavorable circumstances have been supplied by nature with an apparatus of hooks, so that they will get a hold on very unreceptive surfaces. The spiritual seed which had been scattered over Mr. Tulliver had apparently been destitute of any corresponding provision, and had slipped off to the winds again, from a total absence of hooks.’

‘Mrs. Tulliver was what is called a good-tempered person - never cried, when she was a baby, on any slighter ground than hunger and pins; and from the cradle upward had been healthy, fair, plump, and dull-witted; in short, the flower of her family for beauty and amiability. But milk and mildness are not the best things for keeping, and when they turn only a little sour, they may disagree with young stomachs seriously.’

I really appreciated Eliot’s evocative descriptions of the joys and pains of childhood, her detailed descriptions, and the deep Christian themes she wove into this story. Considering that the author rejected Christianity as a young woman, her writing suggests that some of the seeds that were sown when she was younger still clung to the hooks and she never quite got rid of them.
A tragic story with a tragic end.

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (1960)

The Dean’s Watch is beautifully written and incorporates themes of service, sacrificial love and redemption in an interesting and poignant story.
The Dean is a misunderstood man. He is thought to be proud and unapproachable but in reality he is extremely shy. He is married to a beautiful woman who is selfish and distant. He loves her dearly but his love is not reciprocated.
When he encounters Isaac the watchmaker, a crusty old fellow, the two strike up an unusual friendship which changes both of them. There are various other characters in this multilayered book. One of my favourites was the elderly Miss Montague.
At one point she was reflecting on her adolescence and thought back to the moment when she realised she’d been living in a dream world. Crippled by an accident as a youngster and neglected emotionally by her parents who were vaguely ashamed at having produced so unattractive a child, she knew back then that she would never marry and being a gentlewoman, a career was not open to her. What should she do?

'She never knew what put it into her head that she, unloved, should love. Religion for her parents, and therefore for their children, was not much more than a formality and it had not occurred to her to pray about her problem, and yet from somewhere this idea came as though in answer to her question...Could mere living be a life’s work? Could it be a career like marriage or nursing the sick or going on the stage?...So she took a vow to love.'

This is a lovely book and my 14 year old daughter really enjoyed it too.

No Highway by Nevil Shute (1948)

Mr Honey, an overlooked but brilliant scientist, is working on fatigue in aircraft structures. The story is narrated by Dr Scott, Honey’s new boss. Scott initially judges the man by his ugly, dishevelled appearance, eccentric behaviour and bizarre interests, but finds that there’s much more to him than meets the eye.
Honey has a theory that the tail of the plane he’s been testing will crack from fatigue after a certain number of flying hours but he hasn’t proved anything yet. However, on a work flight over the Atlantic he discovers that the plane he is on is the same Reindeer model that he is performing his tests on. He is interested but not alarmed until he discovers that somehow the plane has been allowed to fly hours over his estimate where fatigue would be likely to occur.
He raises an alarm with the crew but they basically think he’s crazy so when the flight makes a short stopover he uses the opportunity to put a spanner in the works, so to speak.

As usual, Nevil Shute takes an unlikely person, fills in all their little details, and makes them the centre of the story. Shute is probably the only writer I know who is able to incorporate technical detail (he was an engineer) and not lose the non-technical reader who prefers a character-driven plot  (e.g. moi) in the process. His characterisations are so well done and people such as the unlikeable Honey become characters we sympathise and identify with in Shute’s hands. Unlike many of his other books, this one has a rather happy ending!

A little quote I liked was when Dr Scott was asked what he thought of Mr Honey after he threw the spanner in the works (metaphorically speaking). Scott’s reply was:

“I think exactly as I did...I think that there’s a very fair chance that he’s right about the Reindeer tail. I think he has a very logical mind. The fact that his interests spread very wide doesn’t mean he’s mad. It means that he’s sane.”

Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James (1971)

The title of this book is a clever little play on words. James has set this story in a teaching hospital and I think she captures the atmosphere of the hospital system really well, even if it differs in detail  from a more modern setting.
The plot is cleverly convoluted with twists and turns; multiple murders occur and suspicion changes from one person to another.
As I’ve said numerous times before, P.D. James has a wonderful literary style. Her life experience obviously contributed to her knowledge of human nature but I often get the sense that the only person she has genuine regard for is her Chief Inspector Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh. Everyone else in her novels degenerate into nasty specimens of humanity and the reader doesn’t get into sympathy with any of them, although there were one or two characters in this book who had some redeeming qualities.
There's a good amount of tension with some dramatic events and the ending was completely unexpected. A good read, especially for anyone who has worked in a hospital setting.

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers (1937)

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are married at last and set off to a quiet country house for their honeymoon.
The story starts off with extracts from the diary of the Dowager Duchess of Denver (aka Lord Peter Wimsey’s mother) and they are just delightful. She goes over some of the details of the development of the relationship between the two lovers and puts in her own funny little interjections.
It continues with snippets of gossip about the wedding from a variety of sources such as a letter written by Lord Peter’s nasty sister-in-law, Helen, who in writing to her friend observed:

‘Peter was as white as a sheet; I thought he was going to be sick. Probably he was realising what he had let himself in for. Nobody can say that I did not do my best to open his eyes. They were married in the old, coarse Prayer-book form, and the bride said ‘Obey’ - I take this to be their idea of humour, for she looks as obstinate as a mule.’

Unsurprisingly, Lord Peter and Harriet’s married life is inaugurated with a murder. The cosy cottage that Peter bought for Harriet and where they went to spend their honeymoon turns out to be not so cosy after all when the body of the previous owner is found in the cellar.
Busman’s Honeymoon is a combination of a detective novel and a romance and is an enjoyable conclusion to the long-running and tumultuous relationship between the two protagonists.

Harriet said: ‘I have married England.’

Wimsey said: ‘We’ve got to laugh or break our hearts in this damnable world.’

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)

This was a re-read for me but I’d read it so long ago that I’d forgotten many of the details.
Sayers wrote this novel after Strong Poison (where she introduces Harriet Vane) and Have His Carcase (where they work on solving a crime together) and it comes just before Gaudy Night which also features Vane. However, The Nine Tailors has no mention of Wimsey’s relationship with her.
I’ve really enjoyed the Wimsey & Vane novels and thought I might be disappointed going back to Wimsey on his own but I have to say, I found it quite refreshing. It gave Sayers the opportunity to delve into the personalities of the very engaging characters in this story and to concentrate her efforts on an intricate and baffling murder mystery.

The Nine Tailors
is set in the remote fen country of East Anglia. It is an original and very clever detective story centred around a church, its practice of the ancient craft of bell-ringing and a twenty-year old unsolved crime. ‘Nine Tailors' refers to the nine strokes which start the toll to announce to the villagers that a man has died.

‘The art of change ringing is peculiar to the English, and, like most English peculiarities, unintelligible to the rest of the world. To the musical Belgian, for example, it appears that the proper thing to do with a carefully tuned ring of bells is to play a tune upon it. By the English campanologist, the playing of tunes is considered to be a childish game, only fit for foreigners; the proper use of bells is to work out mathematical permutations and combinations.’


All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot (1973 & 1974)

This is the second volume of memoirs written by James Herriot and contains Let Sleeping Vets Lie and Vet in Harness.
James is now married to Helen, a farmer’s daughter, and they live in the little Yorkshire village of Darrowby. Its the 1930’s, Britain is on the verge of World War 2, and veterinary science is still in the dark ages in many respects.
I’ve loved these memoirs which started with All Creatures Great and Small where Herriot begins his practice in Yorkshire after his training in Glasgow. By the end of the first memoir, James and Helen were married and spent an unorthodox honeymoon carrying out tuberculin-testing. In this second memoir, they have settled into life as a married couple and James is in partnership with his former boss, Siegfried Farnon, in the veterinary practice in Darrowby.
The author is so good at combing humour and pathos in his writing. I’d be laughing at something hilarious in one chapter and in the next I’d be close to tears.
These memoirs are a window into a way of life that has passed and are great books to read aloud.

'There's another lamb in here,' I said. 'It's laid wrong or it would have been born with its mate this afternoon.'
Even as I spoke my fingers had righted the presentation and I drew the little creature gently out and deposited him on the grass. I hadn't expected him to be alive after his delayed entry but as he made contact with the cold ground his limbs gave a convulsive twitch and almost immediately I felt his ribs heaving under my hand.
For a moment I forgot the knife-like wind in the thrill which I always found in new life, the thrill that was always fresh, always warm.


The Yorkshire Dales, 2019