Monday, 21 June 2010

It really, really shouldn't happen to a vet. Or any mortal.



Earlier this year, I went to see James Herriot's old veterinary practice. (It's in Thirsk, which was on my long cycle ride. I mention that so that it doesn't seem like I went on a pilgrimage to see it. Then again, the reason I am sensitive about you thinking that is because I did, a bit.) Anyway, it's been turned into a small museum of both him and veterinary history, and it's jolly good. One of the exhibits is a case of editions of his books from around the world. Most of the covers are gentle to the point of torpor, and feature some combination of rolling dales; loyal sheep-dogs; vintage cars, or all three. This one, which I think is Chinese, but apologies if I'm wrong, goes for a slightly different approach. 


Crikey. Shirt off, steely glare, stance so heroic his feet are pointing 180 degrees in opposite directions - it's James Herriot the hero of the Glorious Communist Struggle for Agricultural Supremacy. Except, no, he's not muscled enough, and, oh God, something really horrible's happened to his torso and face - it's more like All Creatures Great And Small as retold by Kafka. And, Jesus Christ, who is that woman? Helen? Mrs Pumphrey?? What's she doing there? Why is she wearing a floor-length evening dress in a cowshed? And why are her sightless eyes glowing with crimson fire?

We're not in Darrowby any more, Toto. 

10 comments:

Ross Bennett said...

Mrs. Pumphrey? Yeesh! That would make that enormous beast Tricky Wu, wouldn't it? The image of that flopbot will torment my dreams for a week.

http://liberal.nationstates.net/nation=tricky_wu

The DVDs of the The Complete Collection have just been released here. It's wonderful how well the series has held up over time.

Irrelevant Side Note Prompted by Certain Impending Series Finale: Do you watch Doctor Who at all? The first episode of this season featured Olivia Colman as "Prisoner Zero." (Credited as "Coleman" presumably for export considerations.)

In the big showdown scene, Olivia--or rather Prisoner Zero--is facing the Doctor grandstanding about how he's just saved the world. The speech culminates with the Doctor saying, "The word is out and that word is 'zero.'"

I just wanted you and your colleagues to know that I jumped up wildly, pointed to the set and yelled, "...AND THAT'S NUMBERWANG!"

I was very proud of that, but it was completely lost on everyone else in the room. Texans are, as a rule, deprived of the quality programming that is Mitchell and Webb. Probably everyone thought I was having an aneurysm.

Eagerly anticipating Series 3 of Cabin Pressure. Hope it's going happily for you.

Anonymous said...

The text on the cover of the book is Japanese. It combines simplified characters from the Katakana syllabary (one character = one syllable) with the more elaborate Kanji characters borrowed from Chinese (one character = one word or idea). The first five characters spell out Heh-Ri-O-Tsu-To: Herriot.

Anonymous said...

Under the main title you can also see "Shi-E-I-Mu-Su Heh-Ri-O-Tsu-To" : James Herriot.

John Finnemore said...

Thank you very much! Are you able to translate the title of the book for me? I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Jessica said...

I am seriously contemplating a change of career to become a vet. I was an avid fan of "All Creatures" when I was a child and, up until seeing the cover of this book, was really keen on the idea of re-training to be a vet! I don't recall James Herriot looking quite so pained and with a Beatles hair cut (perhaps this explains the pained expression though).

As for the cow's owner.... are you sure they haven't mistakenly put a character from "Life and Loves of a She Devil" into the picture?

THink I m,ight need to take a trip to THirsk to look at this museum for myself!

Anonymous said...

Pure guesswork here (I don't actually read Japanese, I just have a copy of a Kanji guide) but I think it's a translation of "If only they could talk". You can't expect a one-to-one match between English words and Japanese characters.

If you open JH's Wikipedia article and flip to the Japanese version, you can see what looks like a list of book titles. The first in the list looks like it matches the title in the picture. Warning: if you don't have the Asian character sets loaded you only see a lot of funny squares with ones and zeroes instead of Japanese.

Claire said...

Hi, just passing through (Google search for "All Creatures Great and Small" brought me). It's Japanese (so no Communism here) and the title translates roughly to "The Travails of Dr. Herriot." I find it hilarious how this edition doesn't elide the more unseemly side of the business and just throws a fecal unimpaction right at you on the cover. Makes me question who would pick up the book based on this image, though.

Mr. Dines said...

Even looking away from the derriere of that bovine, Mr. Herriot is executing a pretty disgusted squinty grimace.

Eric Betts said...

'Shouldn't happen to a mortal...'
What about the poor cow?

Anonymous said...

Well, as soon as I read the first sentence of this post I went: Oh how cool! So, from where I sit there is no reason to be sensitive about taking a trip there.