I had never been married before so there was nothing in my past experience to go by but it was beginning to dawn on me that I was very nicely fixed. I am talking of course, of material things. It would have been enough for me to be paired with a beautiful girl whom I loved and who loved me. I hadn't reckoned on the other aspects.All Things Bright and Beautiful, James Herriot 1974 regarding his life in the thirties.
This business of studying my comfort, for instance. I though such things had gone out of fashion, but not so with Helen. It was brought home to me again as I walked in to breakfast this morning. We had at last acquired a table - I had bought it at a farm sale and brought it home in triumph tied to the roof of my car - and now Helen had vacated the chair which she used to sit at the bench and had taken over the high stool. She was perched away up there now, transporting her food from far below, while I was expected to sit comfortably in the chair. I don't think I am a selfish swine by nature but there was nothing I could do about it.
And there were other little things. The neat pile of clothing laid out for me each morning; the clean folded shirt and handkerchief and socks so different from the jumble of my bachelor days. And when I was late for meals, which was often, she served me with my food but instead of going off and doing something else she would down tools and sit and watch me while I ate. It made me feel like a sultan.
It was this last trait which gave me a clue about her behavior. I suddenly remembered that I had seen her sitting by Mr Alderson while he had a late meal; sitting in the same pose, one arm on the table, quietly watching him. And I realized that I was reaping the benefit of her lifetime attitude to her father. Mild little man though he was she catered gladly to his every wish in the happy acceptance that the man of the house was number one; and the whole pattern was rubbing off on me now.
In fact it set me to thinking about the big question of how girls might be expected to behave after marriage. One old farmer giving me advice about choosing a wife once said; "Have a bloody good look at the mother first, lad. " and I am sure he had a point. But if I may throw in my own little word of counsel it would be to have a passing glance at how she acts towards her father.
Watching her now as she got down and started to serve my breakfast the warm knowledge flowed through me as it did so often that my wife was the sort who just liked looking after a man and I was so very lucky.
"Here are your sandwiches, Jim," Helen said, putting a parcel in my hand. I was spending a day in the Scarburn district, tuberculin testing for Ewan Ross, and my wife was always concerned lest I grow faint from lack of nourishment on the long journey.
I kissed her, made a somewhat ponderous descent of a long flight of stairs and went out the door. Half way up the garden I stopped as always and looked up at the window under the tiles. An arm appeared and brandished a dishcloth vigorously. I waved back and continued my walk to the yard.
Driving away, I marveled at the way she indulged my little whims, too. I have always had a pathological loathing of fat, so Helen carefully trimmed every morsel from my meat.
I realize now that many do not know James Herriot. He was a country veterinarian in England. After he retired he wrote about his practice. Often the tales are hysterically funny (exploding cows, anyone?). Sometimes they are sad. What unites everything he writes is a genuine love and compassion for both people and animals. He writes with great compassion about the foibles and foolishness of his patients and their owners.
Years ago when I worked, I commuted a fair distance. I had an audio book of some of his animal stories. I would often sit it in the car after I got to work so I could finish a story (I was the kind of person who often arrived an hour to half an hour early). Some of his stories would make me laugh so hard I would almost wet my pants.
So his books are certainly endorsed by me.
A wave to Sarah. Yes we did have the BBC series my parents and us children used to watch them on Sunday afternoons. It was one of the few shows I deigned to watch with my parents when I was in HS. They were delightful. In fact, I think I would like to find them on DVD when the girls get bigger.
Also, I've discovered that the audio book I had was narrated by the fellow who played him on the series and that he has narrated most of the books written by Herriot. I should think they will be on my Christmas list at the end of the year.
I had read his books when I was in High School off my parents shelf and I haven't read them since and when I saw them at a thrift store I picked them up. I should be reading Jane Eyre for book club next Thursday! I hope I manage it.