Heather Smith

This week I have been taking care of two sick kids, all the while being sick myself. After the first five days of misery I decided that a trip to the doctor was in order. The verdict: step throat. Once I got over the guilt of not getting my children checked sooner, I went home and continued my Florence Nightingale role.

Needless to say, my house has been neglected this week. I haven't even bothered to "fake it" (see previous post). So as I sit, up to my ears in clutter listening to the Smith family hack-sniffle-cough-cough chorus, I feel the need to escape. So I allow my mind to wander back to the Yorkshire Dales (as it did in my post dated January 9):

It's wet and rainy outside, but the wood fire burns brightly inside my thatched cottage. My husband, Edgerton Smythe, sits next to me, his spectacles resting comfortably halfway down the bridge of his nose. He is engrossed in a novel devoid of elves, trolls, hobbits or anything otherworldly (this is my imagination after all). In fact it's a mystery book. The plot revolves around the murder of one Lord Kendrick Kenneth Kensington, who disappears during a fox hunt only to be found later, dead as a doornail, in a hastily vacated hippy caravan. "Release the hounds!" my husbands yells, in his excitement. I pat his hand gently, "Maybe it's time for some chamomile tea." "Capitol idea!" Edgerton exclaims. I put on my wax jacket and wellies and go pluck some from the garden.

We sip our tea, listening to the pitter patter of the rain and the crackling of the fire. Just as we get into a discussion about the controversial fox hunt, we hear a scratching at the door. It's Frank, one of our beloved pigs. I scoop him up in my arms. "He has the sniffles!" I declare. My husband jumps to his feet. "I'll ring the veterinary doctor at once."

The rain, now hammering the cottage, comes down in sheets and floods the windows. We wait. Then ... a knock at the door. I open it. A figure stands in the rain. The sky, once a mixture of greys and blacks, suddenly turns to crimsons and purples. It is a phantasmagorical sight. As the identity of the figure becomes clearer, I realize my wildest dream has come true. No it's not the Queen Mother, resurrected. It's James Herriot himself. My fourteen miniature schnauzers greet him happily.

"Hello there good chap," says my husband. "Very good of you to come."

"Where's Jack? Our usual vet?" I ask, my voice trembling with excitement.

"Why, my good lady," says James. "When I heard the call was for Heatherington Cottage, I knew I must come. Why, you are my biggest fan. I couldn't let you down."

He sticks a thermometer up Frank the Pig's bum.

"Let me take that for you," I say, as he gently pulls it out. I wrap it, unwashed, in a Victorian lace handkerchief, and put it in a keepsake box.

James Herriot turns to me, his brow furrowed, his face one of seriousness and concern. "I'm afraid Frank is a very sick pig."

I open my eyes as wide as I can. "Sick?"

"He won't make it through the night."

"Noooooooo!" I screech, collapsing into Mr. Herriot's arms. I can sense that he and my husband are exchanging surprised glances so I take this moment to burrow my nose into his tweed blazer and caress the suede elbow patches lovingly.

After a while, Edgerton pulls me off of James.

"Mr. Herriot is a busy man," he says tersely.

"Yes, yes, of course," I say, my index finger lingering on James' pinkie finger as I slowly separate from him.

"Say hello to Tristan for me," I say as we bid each other farewell. "And of course, Helen, your lovely wife."

And he was gone.

"What the hell was that?" asks Edgerton.

"I'm a big fan."


My husband throws a pitcher of water on the fire. "Why is it always bloody sweltering in here?"

"I like wood fires."


I stare out the window and watch James Herriot turn out of our lane and onto the country road.

"Now what shall we have for tea tonight?" my husband asks.

I shrug, not really caring. "Frank?"

Okay, now I feel much better.

I hope my husband understands that the use of his middle name, Edgerton, was essential to this story. "Rob" just doesn't lend itself to a character that says "Capitol idea."

And I realize,too, that Edgerton's snobby accent doesn't suit that of someone who lives in a thatched cottage on the Dales but this is a fantasy after all.

Anyway, this post would have been a lot shorter had I just said what prompted me to write in the first place - that when I am sick I reach for a "comfort book". A comfort book is like comfort food, but, um, not edible. It has the same effect as a bowl of chicken noodle soup. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. As you can tell, my comfort book is anything by James Herriot.

So please, feel free to share with me your comfort book(s) by posting them here, at Old Biddy Rambling.
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6 Responses
  1. Aunt Nancis Says:

    My husband, Edgerton Smythe, sits next to me, his spectacles resting comfortably halfway down the bridge of his nose. He is engrossed in a novel devoid of elves, trolls, hobbits or anything otherworldly (this is my imagination after all) HYSTERICAL!!!!

    Comfort book...let me think...I don't have a book in particular, but more a particular book type. British chic lit is my comfort food for the mind. Witty, often insightful, with a satisfying ending. Like a good meal with a yummy dessert.

  2. CLB Says:

    I have a few comments to make. I think you should stop writing young adult books and concentrate on a series of Life on the Yorkshire Dales. I quite enjoy them. I also would like to see a story on Lord Kendrick Kenneth Kensington and the mystery surrounding his death. As for comfort books I read To Kill a Mockingbird. Attics Finch always makes me feel better. Now I was wondering if I should read something by this Herriot chappy. Do you think I would dig it?

  3. Iron Monkey Says:

    Well, as the "inspiration" for Edgerton Smythe, I feel compelled to post my comfort book. It is one wholly undevoid of elves, trolls, hobbits, orcs, dwarves and wizards! It is, of course, Lord of the Rings - the mighty tome I have read over 15 times!

    One book to rule them all (in three parts)!!

  4. Aunt Nancis: Glad you enjoyed the Edgerton Smythe bit.

    Iron Monkey: Lord of the Rings would not work as a comfort book for me as it would give me a blinding headache and make me sicker.


    Lord Kendrick Kenneth Kensington died at the hands of a bunch of dread-locked, tie-dye wearing squatters.

    And yes, you would like James Herriot. Start with All Creatures Great and Small.

  5. Becky Reimer Says:

    I just stumbled across your blog when I googled the quote about "Seabiscuit's ass." I immediately saw the name of my favorite author, James Herriot! Me and the kids were also sick for a week. My only relief was my ipod and Herriot audio books. We may be soul mates....do you like to crochet?

  6. Becky,

    I only crochet in my imaginary life ... it's a really relaxing thing to do in my cottage on the Dales :)

    Herriot audio books for iPod??? Why had I never thought of that?? Great idea!

    Googling 'Seabiscuit's ass'. Interesting....

    Thanks for visiting.


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