We spread out three large maps of Northumberland on the floor in the lounge, joined them at the edges and grabbed the list which Mac had provided for us, writes Rosie Mould.
The two of us pored over them, excitedly spotting farms from the list which had wonderful evocative names, like Whiskershield, Snipe House and The Gusset. They were to be our new workplaces.
We spent our first few weeks visiting the farms, introducing ourselves, getting to know our clients and finding our way round the county, in between the actual work Even though both of us had roots here, there were many beautiful corners to explore.
We met fabulous characters, including caricatures straight out of a Henry Brewis cartoon, and landed gentry who made Tom Sharp’s The Throwback seem completely normal.
All had veterinary and farming stories to make me go boggle-eyed.
There were bulls who had escaped and rampaged across the gardens of Alnwick, collie dogs who had miraculously found sheep buried in snow and the pet sheep who had survived surgery beyond all odds, became part of the family and so was declared the oldest living mule ewe in Northumberland.
Farmer Bernie was perfectly serious as he recounted his medication for rain scald in his thoroughbred was to pour neat bleach on its back. Needless to say, this was not a treatment I had come across at veterinary college, thank goodness.
We soon discovered where the best of Northumbrian hospitality could be found: June’s shortbread made a lasting impression and the roast pheasant at Elilaw was legendary. We made friends quickly, largely due to the generosity of the neighbourhood, who presumably thought that since we didn’t have any resemblance to Martians, we might be okay as vets!
I was particularly grateful to Mac who, in his wisdom, had always employed female vets, so having XX genes didn’t seem to be a disadvantage on the farms.
One evening Dick went off to a calving close to home about 9pm. By about 10pm, I retired to bed and didn’t hear another thing until the wee small hours.
Apparently the calving had been followed by one for the road, followed quickly by one for the ditch and another, and another, until the bottle had gone and the next one started, when the playing cards came out.
It’s always a big mistake to take on a Thompson at cards, especially after a skinful.
This, unlike the rest of the population, seems to sharpen the Thompson memory and their card savvy, so their skills are honed to perfection.
Dick returned well into the next morning telling me he had ‘jusssht won a farm at cards’ (At least I think that’s what he said, the words were a little slurred). Not just a farm, but in fact the best stock farm in Northumberland. I was delighted, just when I thought I had got started in Alnwick as a vet!
Suffice to say, in the cold light of day, the gentleman’s agreement became the best of three and the client’s reflexes had sharpened a little!
A lot has changed over the years, my own job has altered beyond my wildest dreams, people have come and gone and we have had fun and sadness, but I can honestly say that I have had the most challenging, rewarding and exciting career as a partner in the practice, with the support and friendship of many loyal and hardworking staff.
Now I am moving to a different role in the same business, I look forward to a new challenge.
See you all at Rothbury!