The iconic Yorkshire Veterinary Surgeon James Herriott has a lot to answer for- certainly amongst my generation of Vets. The BBC tv show "all creatures great and small " of the early eighties ran for years and was a dramatisation of Herriotts series of books about his adventures with the characters, the farmers and their diverse animal woes over his many years as a country Vet. Herriott wrote like a combination of Wodehouse and Flann OBrien with each tale a vignette of rural farce where cunning rustic folk invariably had alaugh at the expense of the sincere earnest but often hapless young vet.
The books themselves are hilarious but are also a snapshot of rural British life in the thirties and forties- with this way of life starting to change in the fifties with better drugs, bigger factory farms, better roads and competition from imported produce threatening old assumptions.
It resonates with me again as I write this in a way that makes Herriott seem relevant to Ireland.
The people and countryside Herriott describes were familiar to me , oddly enough, growing up in 1970s rural Ireland- thats right ,not a million years and miles from 1950s Yorkshire.
We have come a long way. Agriculture has declined in relevance, but has streamlined and thankfully lost much of its hardship and poverty, largely because of the EECs initial help to Ireland and our continuing vocal central role at the heart of Europe.
This progress must not be taken for granted and the heritage of where we came from in a short three generations must not be forgotten.
I am canvassing for the local elections at the moment with a Kildare candidate Suzanne Doyle.
There is anger and bewilderment at the moment about our recession, our irresponsible bank,s lending policies and the staggering way world cash flow has just stopped like a tap being switched off.
Much of this response in born out of fear as we are all indebted to a level that our new 2009 incomes cant cope with. My advice to you as a businessman sharing my own difficulties of cash flow to liability shortfall is this. Dont ignore the banks. Send them all the information they want about your finances. Then pay them what you can pay them on your own terms. Dont try to meet all your repayments if it is going to lead to hardship for your family or closure of your business. But pay all your institutional debtors some sum of money every month.
Ireland will never go back to the bad old days of state sanctioned evictions of families. We have a very strong constitution which upholds the rights of individuals. Dont believe the media hysteria about repossessions of homes and worse- these are just the people who have been ignoring every bank letter and not paying a penny for perhaps two years.
If you make a little effort to meet your debts the system we have, such as it is , will be in your favour.
Herriotts second book " it shouldnt happen to a Vet " told tales of the young Vets mistakes, setbacks and frequent kicks from truculent livestock. As the celtic garfield has now well and truly lost its nine lives I can look back and say I made mistakes by over-investing, over-paying staff, expanding too quickly and over-estimating how much potential growth there was in the market. But my family are alive andhappy. My wife and three little boys are my universe. Thats all that matters and thats not a cliche.
My associate Vet Simon rang last night to say he had just broken his arm. He took a hard fall while schooling a young horse. He can now expect to be out of work for up to six weeks. It will be a torrid time at Groome Pet Vets without his valued help.
A young newly married man who is starting to build a house he can ill afford as a self-employed Vetto be unable to work for six weeks.
Now THAT shouldnt happen to a Vet!