Heather Smith

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love to read books by James Herriot. I describe them to people as comfort books - feel good reading material sure to give you the warm and fuzzies. However, I have always added a disclaimer when recommending James Herriot saying that, while they are lovely books filled with lovely anecdotes, don't expect a great work of literature. But now, as I am re-reading James Herriot, I realize what a disservice I have done to him - what a bloody good writer he was!

Here is a passage from Vet in a Spin. In this scene he describes Roddy Travers, an interesting character who shows up in Darrowby to do odd jobs:

Roddy stayed around the Darrowby district throughout the summer and I grew used to the sight of him on the farms or pushing his pram along the roads. When it was raining he wore a tattered over-long gaberdine coat, but at other times it was always the golf jacket and cordouroys. I don't know how he accumulated his wardrobe. It was a safe bet he had never been on a golf course in his life and it was just another of the little mysteries about him. I saw him early one morning on a hill path in early October.

It had been a night of iron frost and the tussocky pastures beyond the walls were held in a pitiless white grip with every blade of grass stiffly ensheathed in rime.

I was muffled to the eyes and had been beating my gloved fingers against my knees to thaw them out, but when I pulled up and wound down the window the first thing I saw was the bare chest under the collarless unbuttoned shirt.

"Mornin' Mr. Herriot," he said. "Ah'm glad I've seen ye". He paused and gave me a tranquil smile. "There's a job along t'road for a couple of weeks , then I'm movin' on."

"I see." I knew enough about him not to ask where he was going. Instead I looked down at Jake who was sniffing the herbage. "I see he's walking this morning."

Roddy laughed. "Yes sometimes 'e likes to walk, sometimes 'e likes to ride. He pleases 'imself."

"Right, Roddy," I said. "No doubt we'll meet again. All the best to you."

He waved and set off jauntily over the icebound road and I felt that a little vein of richness had gone from my life.

Aaaah. I can't wait to wear my wax jacket as I walk the tussocky pastures of the Yorkshire Dales. Grass stiffly ensheathed in rime? No problem! I'll have my fetching khaki wellies to keep my feet warm and dry.

I will never again state that silly disclaimer when discussing James Herriot. He may not have been a Pulitzer Prize winner but his works are truly remarkable - not only because of the charming semi autobiographical stories but because of the way in which they were written.

If for some reason, my James Herriot books were taken from me, a little vein of richness would be gone from my life as well.

To find out more about James Herriot (Alf Wight) click here.
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4 Responses
  1. Nancy Barnes Says:

    I have never read a book by James Herriot. But I did enjoy the passage you stole without checking with copyright people to see if you could sneak it into your blog!!

  2. CLB Says:

    I need to buy myself some James Herriot. I think I would quite enjoy it.

  3. Kent Says:

    I thought that was heading somewhere interesting when he started leering at his pal's exposed flesh...

  4. I am sure you are the first person to have ever found even a hint of homoeroticism in a James Herriot novel!

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