Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Animals”

Word Nerd: Kangaroo Words


Ah, words within words…

Kangaroo Word: A synonym within a word, like a little joey tucked away within the mama kangaroo.

alone=one

astound=stun

blossom =bloom

calumnies =lies

cavern=cave

contaminate=taint

dazzle=daze

enjoyment=joy

fabrication=fiction

honorable=noble

impair=mar

joviality =joy

lighted=lit

myself=me

nourished=nursed

observe=see

plagiarist=liar

quiescent =quiet

respite=rest

substandard=bad

A word within a word that reflects the host word—now that is a Word Nerd discovery of delight!

All Creatures Redeux


As a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, both the books and the original television series, I have mixed feelings about the recently released update to Herriot’s classic.

New faces for an old favorite

On one hand, I’m thrilled to see an updated version since the old version’s filming style was not very creative, just basic camera angles and editing.

Then again, an update might focus too much on making the series “pretty” through extra scenery shots which takes away from how the books focused on the dynamics of the people, as well as the wonderful animals.

On one hand, I look forward to seeing new faces in old roles.

Then again, how can anyone expect to replace the absolutely marvelous cast led by Robert Hardy?

So—last night I tuned in my PBS Passport (best ever Christmas present to myself) and watched the first two episodes of the first season.

Verdict:

It is a pretty update, with its sweeping shots of Yorkshire, and there is plenty attention on building dynamics within the cast. We’ll make that a positive.

As for the cast itself. Samuel West brings credit to the inexplicably frustrating, insufferable, yet charming Siegfried Farnon. The other cast members are unknowns, and hold their own. I am puzzled by Mrs. Hall, the housekeeper. I remember her being much older in the books, and in this update she appears to be Siegfried’s age, and their inevitable clashes come off more as married couple bantering than the respected nemesis that the original Mrs. Hall appeared to be. This is a marring point, because Mrs. Hall apparently has a wayward son by the name of Edward, but she doesn’t appear old enough to have a son able to be out and about living independently. Sadly, this is a sticking point for me. Mrs. Hall wasn’t that prominent of a character, yet here she is quite entrenched in the household.

Overall verdict:

To be fair, I will have to put aside my strong allegiance to the old series and view this new series on its own merits.

What are your thoughts on the updated All Creatures Great and Small?

Stressed? Try Cow Hugging


I have long appreciated cows. They have an inherent lassitude that encourages one to slow down to stop and smell, or in their case, eat the roses (do cows eat roses?)

Well, the world is discovering how therapeutic a cow can be. Cow hugging is now a thing.

Hugging a cow helps with emootional release

Having been around cows, I had not considered them as hug therapy candidates. They are rather massive. rather bony, and rather, well, they are rather a bit on the earthy side of clean. Apparently I am missing something.

Hugging one another, especially those outside of our “safe” circle is risky these days. I’ve been sent videos where it shows people hugging their pets as a means of relieving their anxiety. A hug is immensely therapeutic. And if hugging humans is not readily available then a pet often suffices.

Pet therapy is well-known, which is why there is such a surge in therapy animals. And this was prior to COVID-19.

So, hugging cows is understandable, and cuddling with a dog or cat is well-established as therapeutic, but hugging a person truly can’t be replaced, and I look forward to returning to a world where a hug isn’t life threatening.

Someday We Will not have to be socially distant although hugging cows can remain a practice. I imagine cows need hugs too.

Author Spotlight: James Herriot


Eons ago I became smitten with the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small—both the books and BBC show.

The gentle humor, the insights into human nature, the animal stories, the quaint English countryside with all of its unique characters, the appreciation for life even in the hard circumstances of being a country became a tonic for this reader.

james herriot life work

It wasn’t until recently, while researching for a writing project, I came across James Herriot once again. This time I paid more attention to the writer. I came away more impressed than ever, and developed more respect for James Herriot or rather James Alfred Wight, the man behind the stories. Here are some facts I learned while reintroducing myself to his works:

  • He choose to write under the pseudonym of James Herriot due to strict veterinary association ethics of not writing under one’s own name to avoid self-promotion. He took the name from a professional football (soccer) player who played for Wight’s favorite Sunderland team.
  • Born in England, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland when he was a baby. He spent 23 years in Glasgow and naturally developed an accent causing people to think he was Scottish.
  • He decided to become a vet due to the combination of loving animals, reading an article about choosing a vocation, and listening to a guest lecturer from the Glasgow Veterinary School.
  • Wight was an avid reader, one dedicated to classics and authors such as Sir Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells, H. Rider Haggard, O’Henry, P.G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare. These literary influences are evident in Wight’s writing with his ability to inject humor in unexpected moments with irony, imagery, and a turn of a phrase. His ear for natural dialogue added greatly to the rhythm of the story.
  • Being born in 1916 put Wight at a disadvantage since it placed him in the middle of an economic depression by the time he graduated from vet school, making it difficult to find a position.
  • He first worked with a veterinarian in Sunderland (where he was born) but due to the vet’s contract with the dog racing track having ended, Wight had to find another placement. This led him to Yorkshire where he would work with Donald Sinclair (Siegfried rom the books) for nearly fifty years.
  • After being hired by Sinclair, Wight had to run the practice single-handedly because Sinclair had joined the Royal Air Force.
  • Wight had tried publishing other stories before writing his country vet tales, yet only met rejections. He didn’t begin publishing his memoirs, his life as a country vet, until he was 50 years old and continued writing through his early 70s.
  • His initial book, If Only They Could Talk, was serialized in the newspaper, and a favorable literary review launched further reader interest. Soon after, his books sold constantly and his career as a writer began and to this day people are still fans of his writing.
  • Wight claimed 90% of his stories were true, having had the need to change names and situations, yet some dissenters, particularly Graham Lord, a biographer, say it’s closer to 50%, making his memoirs more fiction than fact. However, Wight’s son, Jim, maintains in his biography of his dad that 90% true is accurate [Does it really matter? The stories are marvelous—so what if there are embellishments?]
  • Wight continued his veterinary practice even while becoming a successful author, as he truly enjoyed being a country vet.
  • His books were bestsellers, sometimes remaining on the New York Times list for over six months.
  • To this day Wight’s books have sold over 60 million copies.
  • Thousands of fans, mostly Americans, would trek to Yorkshire to meet Wight and he would personally sign books and meet with people and he took the time to answer the cascade of letters sent to him. Today there is a World of James Herriot museum located at his original practice where devotees can learn more about the author.
  • James Alfred “Alf” Wight was always surprised at his success as a writer; he remained humble and in awe of his publishing achievement throughout his life. Though he became a millionaire author, he nevertheless lived a simple life, enjoying his marriage to Joan “Helen” for over 50 years and had a loving relationship with his two children, Jim and Rosie, who both became doctors (Jim carried on in his father’s practice, and Wight talked his daughter out of becoming a vet due to the strenuous work, so she became a general practitioner).
  • He received the OBE for his contribution to veterinary science, along with many other significant awards.

His original books published in Britain had titles such as It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, The Flying Vet, and were short volumes, which were combined to create longer volumes and retitled from lines of a famous British hymn: All Creatures Great and Small. Although I have read most, if not all of Herriot’s books, including his biographies, I do have my favorites:

Picture Books

Oscar, Cat-About-Town

Moses, the Kitten

Collections

James Herriot’s Cat Stories

Image result for james herriot cat photographs

The Best of James Herriot, Favorite Memories of a Country Vet

Biographies

The Real James Herriot, Memoir of My Father by James Wight

Television and Film

The entire BBC series with Robert Hardy

Image result for all creatures great and small bbc

The first film with Anthony Hopkins

Young James Herriot

Debatables: Mouse Appeal


Another round of Debatables starts today. Mike and I are both pro-rodent (although I am not a rat fan since Ratigan and Willard *yikes*). And we celebrate the arrival of Mike’s new book:

So–it makes sense to make our February Debatables all about mice, particularly the Most Appealing Mouse of Middle Reader Literature.

Mike’s vote is for Amos from Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me.

I am promoting Reepicheep from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series.

Voting takes place at Mike’s blog. This shall no doubt be a lively round. Stop by and cast your vote (for Reepicheep, of course).

Dogs–the new cigarette?


When I was a kid, the family dog was in the backyard and cigarettes were found everywhere. Today, dogs are everywhere and smokers are banned to their backyard.

I’m not complaining. Just wondering how dogs have reached such a thumbs-up public approval.

Check out this New Yorker article in which the journalist trots a turkey, a snake, a pig, and an alpaca in public places.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/pets-allowed 

Now, before we get started. I need to state right up front. I like dogs. Our family dog taught me to walk (I grabbed on to him and he patiently led me along), and we were buds until he died at age of fourteen. I still miss him. Not that it’s a big deal, but I nearly died trying to protect our neighbor’s Cock-a-poo who had been attacked by dogs gone wild.  I have considered becoming a trainer for guide dogs once I finally retire from teaching. And just today I reunited two boys with their list Labrador. So–I do like dogs.

I just prefer dogs in the proper setting. Restaurants, hotels, the library, grocery stores, the farmer’s market, my local Home Depot, and the post office are not places I expect or desire to interact with dogs. I have no issue with true service dogs. They are trained and serve a needed purpose. The wolfhound blocking the sidewalk at the local farmer’s market (where it is posted “No Dogs in Park)–purpose?

Some communities are crazy for dogs. Oregon’s Hood River is such a place. San Francisco is another city gone to the dogs, and many of its citizens are wondering if they have gone too far in embracing doggy appreciation (3-1 said yes in a poll). It’s become so prevalent to see dogs when I go out to eat that I’m tempted to ask if there is non-dog section when going to a restaurant. True service dogs stay at their owner’s feet, they do not share their table, nor their lap. No fuss is made over them because they are on duty. They are well-behaved. They aren’t that noticeable.

Regular dogs and their owners–that’s a different matter.

Even though it’s posted at our local community park, where the local farmer’s market is held, that no dogs are allowed, that does not deter either the locals or the tourists from bringing their canine with them as they shop for garlic cloves and search for the perfect scone. I see the sign “Service Animals Only” posted on the door of most businesses, yet that request does not apparently apply to the lady with the Pekinese stuffed in her purse as she rolls out her grocery cart.

The value of a posted ordinance, rule, or request is only as good as it is enforced. The farmer’s market association says it’s the job of the city to enforce the ordinance. The police department says they will stop by the park if they don’t have other pressing duties. The store manager says they risk a lawsuit if they ask the person if their dog is a service animal. Clerks have developed a “we don’t ask” policy at the library and post office. The people I encounter in public places who do not have their dog on a leash, although it’s posted to do so, say “Oh, no worries. She’s friendly.” Maybe so, but I still don’t want that friendly nose snuffing my leg. There’s a set of teeth ever so close to that friendly nose that may decide otherwise. It’s happened. 

I’m wondering if society has replaced the cigarette, a selfish, noxious habit that can harm those in its presence with another risky habit. Whoa, C. Muse. Equating cigarettes to dogs is a bit harsh. Maybe so. There remains a deep-seated amazement that people seriously think I want to share my space with their four-legged habit. I am not the only one who is wondering about this new dog-permissive attitude.

David Lazarus of the LA Times decided to test the new doggy permissiveness. Even though there are health codes, he acknowledged, he took his dog Teddy with him one day, wondering why no one stopped him when he decided on taking his dog everywhere he went. Perplexed at being ignored by those around him he summed it up: “I have only one answer to that. It’s L.A., dude.”

I will expand on that answer: It’s America. Americans don’t like being told what to do. Americans like to celebrate their freedom. Americans like their dogs.

Has anyone else noticed the new dog permissiveness? Are dogs as prevalent as cigarettes once were in public places? Dog gone it, I just don’t understand why society wants to have such dog day afternoons. 

 

 

The Writing Mews 


As Hemingway once said: “One cat leads to another.”

This is exactly what happened to me. 

I wrote a story for Highlights magazine about Mark Twain’s affection for cats and decided to keep going with other writers and the cats in their life.

This has become a much bigger project than anticipated. 

One great thing about the Internet is that there is the ease of getting information. It’s only a click away. The truly terrible thing about the Internet is the ease of posting information. There is way too much traffic of absolutely wrong information out there. It’s a game of “telephone” in an exponential factor of believability because it’s so vastly repeated.

Their are no less than a bajillion sites devoted to writers who loved cats. They all say pretty much the same thing about the same set of writers. For instance, Sir Walter Scott, famous for Ivanhoe, as well as being credited for creating the historical adventure nivel, is down for being a wondrous cat lover.

Getting correct or first source information takes determination and endurance. 

I spent all day yesterday tracking down Sir Walter Scott’s supposed love of cats.

Where did people who have posted on their cat sites that SWS loved cats? He owned at least five dogs and owned ONE cat. They didn’t even spell the cat’s name right.

But I dug, and I dug. I reformatted my search inquiry again and again. I looked and looked in Google books. It’s a delightful accomplishment to find that grain of sand in that vast sea of information.

This process has been repeated pretty much for each of the writers selected.

Sigh…

I have a couple of more weeks to get my first draft in working order, because end of August is the beginning of school and once school starts my brain and writing time goes into teacher mode.

So while the muse is available I will focus on my mews.

BtW: if you know of any agents, editors, or publishers looking for an amazing book about authors and that special cat connection, send  them my way.

Here’s some fun cat/author facts:

1. Edgar Allan Poe really loved animals. Don’t let his story “The Black Cat” mislead you.

2. Macho man Ernest Hemingway was a total softie for cats. He kept over thirty of them at one point. 

3. Ray Bradbury was another cat collector. He and his wife owned around twenty felines during their marriage.

4. Louisa May Alcott connected cats with having a happy home. Check out Little Women sometime.

5. L.L. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables fame, definitely depended on Luck, her cat, when it came to writing happily.

As for me? I’m felineless for now, but I married my husband because he owned four cats. Okay, that’s not the only reason why. His house had an ocean view. I’m also prone towards freckles.

And we did own quite a happy little clutch of cats when we lived out in the country. Seven. They did not sit on my desk or shoulder while I wrote. They had their house and we had ours.

See, old Poe did like cats.

Tis the Month of Maying


April brought showers, daffodils, moose eating tulips (again), a trip to see the First Folio, unprecedented warm temperatures, and a month of poetry. Now we are on to May.

May–yes, may I just say that May makes me tired, and we are barely five days into the month. As I write this it’s 3:30 a.m., about two hours too early to be so wide awake. My head is spinning with how much I need to do this month. May I just stop a moment and reflect what the month of May involves…

  • Complete the Victorian Era unit with my seniors, yet leave enough time for Modern and Post-Modern by end of this month
  • Post progress grades by 3 pm Thursday–today!
  • Create my unit exam
  • Figure out my second semester final
  • Create a meaningful series of activities for my AP students for the rest of the month now that they have taken their exam and are basically done with the class, yet still need to attend. Did someone say film appreciation unit?
  • Speak at the annual Women’s Tea talking about getting a “piece of quiet” which is based on my essay in Chicken Soup for the Multi-tasking Mom’s Soul (I should be nervous but I’m too worn out to be nervous–wait it’s next week? I am nervous)

(Survivor of the nefarious Tulip Moose)
Just thinking about my “get’r done” list makes me tired enough to maybe go back to sleep. May I, might I, may I get it done because all this is going through my head:

Tis is the month of maying:

  1. May I get my gradebook straightened out
  2. May I get my lesson plans written up
  3. May I win against my everlasting match with yard maintenance (Weeds 3, Cricket 1)
  4. May I get caught up on my book reviews
  5. May I get a month of blog posts going
  6. May I send off yet another volley of queries to editors and agents
  7. May I actually find time to pack for my escape weekend–that’s right, I’m taking two personal days and making a four day getaway. By doing so I may survive the outbreak of senioritis at our school.

May I just go back to sleep so that I’m not a zombie impersonating an English teacher… 

Still Crazy About Cows


If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you will have noticed I have a thing for cows. I don’t know why, except I’ve been around them off and on for most of my life and as a result I’ve written a cow joke book, which, by the way, gets the nicest rejection letters. Mike Allegra has even pitched in and contributed a cow drawing. In my quest to come up with even more cow jokes for a sequel to the first cow joke book (thinking positive here) I came across a website that has 100 words related to cow.

My intent is to become inspired and come up with some original bovine blockbusting humor. Here is the site:

And here are a couple of udderly hopefuls:

#74: freshen–related to cow, as in coming in to her milk

Why did the cow take so long getting ready to leave the barn?

She had to freshen up first.

Okay–

How about this one then?

#45: kine–archaic plural of cow

Why are cows such a popular animal?

They are the best kine of animal on the farm.

Okay–

Maybe Cow Too will be a bit longer in the draft phase.

In the mean time, I keep sending out my udderly wonderful cow joke book to publishers and editors, as it will behoove me to get it published sooner than later as it cud drive you all crazy hearing me milk it for all its worth.

image: morguefile/jackse “All this bovine banter is making me have a cow–it’s driving me mad!”

It’s Howdy Doodle Time


I finally possess a Mike Allegra doodle. It’s a dandy doodle. I’ve been working on a cow joke book (for heifer and heifer, it seems), and figured the best way to get it published is to have it illustrated. I almost had a publisher, but part of the package was providing an illustrator. Well, that opportunity evaporated, so I am still trying to market my herd of cow jokes. Possibilities are looking better since I now have a sample doodle and a willing illustrator–now I need to find a willing publisher.

Kids love jokes and riddles. I know. I have an eight year grand kiddo who loves telling me the same knock knock banana/orange jokes (you know the one). If banana jokes are funny, cow jokes are dairy funny, it’s finding an editor or agent who thinks so as well. Now that I am equipped with my doodle I feel more confident venturing forth in my quest for publication, and feel it won’t be udder folly this next go round.

I claim the joke. Mike Allegra claims the artwork. You decide who is the more talented.

What do you call a cow who is a thief?
A Hamburglar!

Okay, maybe the doodle is better than the joke. Now that I have Mike’s doodle to accompany my submission I am feeling this book will become a published winner–it might just become outstanding in its field.

Yes, you too, can gain this confidence with your very own Allegra Doodle. I suggest you secure one sooner than later. Since I have yet to win one through his ever popular doodle contests, I have sought other avenues, and if you are unable to get your entry slip drawn, and need an Allegra doodle in your life, then I suggest you contact him.  And, yes, his talent goes beyond cows.

BONUS: there is dairy funny pun-off happening between Sarah W and I. Mike wants to know who the winner will be. It would behoove you to take a look at our witticisms–look in the comments section.

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