11 January 2013

The Young Vet's Tale - The Canary.

The young vet's tale

This story was told to me by a fine manly vet I met at a Barbie Doll exhibition, though it is told in the first person I did not happen to me, oh no indeed not ...

The story goes like this, in times gone by house visits tended to be much more normal than they are now for vets. In these enlightened times health and safety regulations mean that house visits even at 3.00 in the afternoon in a Surrey Stockbroker belt are to be viewed as a potentially very dangerous situation
and if vets go at all they go in pairs or take a member of lay staff along so they can have a nice girlie chat on the way. I however actually used to quite like home visits, sometimes it was relaxing to be away from the surgery in the afternoon, a drive through the country side in summer can be pleasant and sometimes it was interesting to chat with the clients and see them in their own homes, predictably though for the sake of this story sometimes odd things used to happen in client's own homes ....

One such memorable house visit occurred one summer afternoon. I had to visit a lady in the next village to tend to her canary. When I arrived the canary was obviously close to death and indeed it died as I was examining it. This is not an uncommon event under the circumstances but still a sad event not only for me but for the owner as well. The owner tearfully asked what could be done with the body, I replied that I could take the small soul back to the surgery and have it cremated, that being the usual thing to do, this seemed to very much upset the owner so I offered to bury it under the nearby apple tree in her garden, she brightened up at this suggestion and I set to using a spade from the nearby garden shed and soon I had completed the sad task.

The lady then asked if I would like a cup of tea and being a bit guilty at the turn of events but against my better judgement I agreed and joined her in the house. When I arrived in her fastidiously tidy front room I saw that tea had already been previously prepared for two, the crockery was of the finest and most delicate and there was a section of petite fours. As I took my tea I had a chance to form an opinion of the lady opposite me , she was around sixty five years of age, spoke with an obvious German accent and clearly had been strikingly pretty in her younger days as she was still graceful and dignified in her older years.

She proceeded to tell me of her life how she had met her husband a British soldier in the last days of the second world war and had been brought to the UK as a war bride and in those days she had suffered some degree of prejudice which I commiserated with her about and told her that Scots people were often treated the same way. Soon there was an uncomfortable gap in the conversation and in this long silence she looked at directly into my eyes and said in a clear voice " One day the world will thank Hitler for ridding the world of all those Jews, what do you think? " I was of course very much taken a back but hopefully did not show it. Of course I am no Nazi and am appalled at the treatment of the Jews but what was I to reply to this question? As I was still under the spell of her direct and searching steely blue eyed gaze was I to argue with a woman of this age and a client to boot? This was not a normal situation, the lady was clearly not right to say such things so I took the path of least resistance and said " Yes of course you are right " She looked at me quizzically and said " do you really mean that ", " Of course I said, Hitler was quite right " at that she smiled conspiratorially took my hand and gently rubbed it for some thirty seconds. Oh my god I thought, what have I said? What have I done? I have got it all wrong yet again!

The conversation then returned to more normal subjects, I took my tea and then returned to the surgery and thought no more of the afternoon's events. Till some three months later I got a phone call at the surgery from the neighbour of the German Lady, it appears she had suddenly passed on and joined her canary, while I do not like to hear of any death of a client I was not particularly upset. The neighbour then said something strange, she said I should attend the funeral which was to take place in a few days time, I made the excuse that I hardly knew the German lady and was busy and so would not attend but the neighbour then said I think under the circumstances you really should attend, I replied what circumstances and the neighbour mysteriously said you will find out.

So out of curiosity I did attend the funeral at the little church on the hill. There were not many people there I knew other than a couple of clients but there was something very strange, the mix of people I did not know we staring at me with what seemed a mixture of contempt and loathing, a bit like the kind of gaze that you would give to a convicted paedophile at a kids Christmas party except worse! What had I done? What was it all about! I had no idea and was very glad to leave at the end of the service.

Well I did find out early the very next week what had been going on in the form of a solicitor's letter, apparently the German Lady had left me all her money in her will and the people at the funeral who were giving me the evil eye were her three daughters and other relatives. Why had she left me the money after just meeting me once? Was it the canary? Was it my apparent Nazi sympathies? I will never know I guess. As luck would have it the sum of money I received just covered my legal fees and a rather large divorce settlement so I actually got very little money to actually fritter away. In the course of time I received a cheque from my solicitor for four pounds ninety five pence he having kindly deducted his fees and my divorce settlement fees so there was just enough there for a pint of beer to drink the German Ladies health and a can of beans for my dinner, ... however they were very good beans ....

Related Links

As far as veterinary medicine goes the most prominent story teller has to be Alf Wight or James Herriot as he was known by his pen name. His timeless tales started many a young vet on to the path of their chosen career { Myself included }. His  books are still avidly read today by animal lovers of all age groups and make excellent presents.

Follow this link for more information on his written books, kindle books, films and videos : LINK