Posts Tagged ‘All Creatures Great and Small’

Service of Honorifics

Monday, February 26th, 2024

Dog Aging Project Chief Veterinary Officer Kate Creevy, DVM, is looking for people to contribute to valuable research into prolonging dogs’ lives by signing them up. Super Pet Expo visitors at the New Jersey Convention Center, Edison, March 1-3, can see presentations by Dr. Creevy who will share highlights of preliminary findings based on 47,000 four legged participants. Her goal: 100,000.

I’m a huge “All Creatures Great and Small” fan as I’ve mentioned here before. I read all the books when they came out and devoured the first TV series in the late 1970s. When this season’s last episode of the current production ended, I thought about what good friends the housekeeper Mrs. Hall and vet Mr. Farnon are and how, after all they have been through together, they maintain the formalities of addressing one another as Mrs. and Mr.–true to the period. The series takes place in the mid-1930s.

After decades living across the hall my parents’ next-door neighbor remained Mr. Schechter and my father Mr. Reiss. At the time, I wondered about it. Everyone called Mr. Schechter’s wife Missy, the name I’d given her when small in my attempt to pronounce Mrs. Schechter.

I called my parents’ friends Ellie and Ed, Alice and Larry, Alice and Charles, etc. My youngest aunt eventually succeeded in prying me away from calling her Aunt.

At my first job out of college at Dun & Bradstreet there was a clerk who was much older than any of us or our bosses. We called our bosses by their first names but I could not bring myself to call him by his although I was told it was OK. He had gray hair.

In North Dakota where I lived as an Air Force wife, I became close to a local family. I was in my early 20s. I never called Mr. McNabb anything else although others did. He owned a secondhand furniture shop. He was my parents’ age.

My mother was called Mrs. Reiss by most and she corrected nurses who’d call her Ruth.  

I suspect most doctors like to be called “Dr. XYZ,” and not Sally or Sam.

I’m still in touch with students I mentored years ago. One, now a father of two with a prestigious job, still calls me Ms. Byington.

Door staff at my apartment call me Jeanne or Jeanne-Marie [!]; porters and maintenance men greet me with ma’am or just say “hello” or “how are you?” and smile.

I scheduled interviews with students recently and signed the email Jeanne Byington. “Hello Jeanne Byington,” and “Hi Ms. Byington” was how two of the students responded. A high school senior dodged the issue and wrote “Good evening!”

The countless fundraising letters I get dive right in with my full name minus honorific.

Do you care if someone calls you by your first name? Do you prefer Ms., Mrs., Mr. or Mx?

Service of Reruns

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Blue Bloods, November 16, 2018

Watching reruns is soothing. Top of my list is the original Law and Order with Jerry Orbach and I’ve had a decades long crush on Sam Waterston. I once saw him on the train I took upstate every Friday after work. He could take a limo home but prefers public transportation. Nobody bothers him. I am the worst celebrity identifier, but I also saw other favorites on that train—Christine Baranski and Robert Clohessy who plays Lt. Sid Gormley on Blue Bloods.

I look for old Blue Bloods episodes because I was late to the game and missed the early ones. I find comfort in watching Seinfeld, Law and Order SVU and if I’m in the mood, Friends.

If I could find these series–The Odd CoupleAs Time Goes By with Judy Dench and Geoffrey Palmer and the original All Creatures Great and Small–I’d like to see episodes again. I do love the current version of All Creatures. Kudos to that production company.

Which reruns do–and would–you watch?

Law and Order SVU

Service of Chutzpah II

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

A picture by Edward Hopper at the Whitney Museum

It’s been eight years since the first post with this title so I’d best translate chutzpah for those still unfamiliar with the word. According to the Urban Dictionary it means “Unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. Audacity; nerve.” There have been plenty of examples since then that appeared under different titles.

A Vuillard at MoMA

Here’s an example. Mrs. Beck illustrated chutzpah in the recent “Surviving Siegfried” episode of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. First, she chiseled the price of neutering her cat Georgina to way below market value and next she created more work than expected for the time-pressed vet. She handed the James Herriot character and his bride Helen an empty box. She told them to find and pick up her rambunctious feline who was roaming in the garden. Then she scampered inside her house. When the vet returned the cat—who had badly scratched several in the household—Mrs. Beck grabbed the carrier–a nice one while she’d started with a ratty cardboard box–and skipped out of paying the reduced fee saying she would at the checkup in a week’s time.

However, the instance in this charming series didn’t inspire this post. A friend’s irritation about a pushy couple at a Manhattan museum did. She wrote that “People who join your private group and latch on when it’s meant to be intimate and exclusive,” is what got her. The tour of the landmark Hopper exhibit at the Whitney Museum was organized by a university alumni association. She wrote that a couple slipped into their group of eight which was deliberately small as “crowds get unwieldy.” She continued: “eventually the woman asked our guide if she and her companion could join.” The stranger admitted she wasn’t a graduate of the university. “I thought our guide said ‘no’ but in the end, she let them stay.” My friend added that the guide’s voice wasn’t loud so to hear her you had to stand near which made adding two more to the group even more uncomfortable.

Impatient, entitled and pushy New Yorkers cross the line all the time—literally and figuratively– but human nature being what it is, residents were also doing it in a lovely town in the Yorkshire Dales in the shadow of WWII and long before. Some feel that they are above the informal rules of etiquette that are made to help people live together in peace. I wonder how they acquire that approach.

Don’t you think that the trick is for the rule-followers to learn how not to be disturbed by the obnoxious ones while figuring out how to stop them from taking advantage and overstepping? Any ideas?

A picture from the Tudor exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Service of I Love All Creatures Great and Small

Monday, January 31st, 2022

I fully expected not to like the remake of the PBS series “All Creatures Great and Small,” because I so loved the original that I saw in the late 1970s. But I love it! And I’m thrilled that we can expect to enjoy seasons three and four.

In the day I’d also read the books, written by veterinarian James Alfred Wight under the pseudonym James Herriot. The first in a series of eight was “If Only They Could Talk,” published in 1970. “All Creatures” was a compilation of a few titles for the American market. The series has sold over 60 million copies.

“All Creatures” takes place in the Yorkshire Dales from the 1930s Depression to the 1950s. The actor Rachel Shenton, who plays Helen Alderson,  James’s love interest, [and wife eventually], is natural and understated, pictured in oversize overalls pitching hay and mucking around her family farm. No glamour girl here. Her straight arrow, clean, no artifice persona is representative of the show and what’s so appealing about it, the other characters, the sets, countryside and animals.

Rachel Shenton as Helen Alderson

Harriet Sherwood, arts and culture correspondent for the guardian.com wrote: “American viewers are enthralled by its bucolic setting, the small, everyday dramas and its old-fashioned sense of community. And, of course, the animals.” She wrote that the series “has become a surprising hit in the home of fast-paced thrillers and warring dynasties.” Like other British shows like Downton Abbey and Bake-Off it has “shown US audiences that sex, violence, celebrities and swearing are not essential to success,” wrote Sherwood.

The actor who plays Siegfried Farnon, Samuel West, said in a podcast, “It’s strangely revolutionary to be making a series about people trying to be kind to each other.” Executive producer Colin Callendar told Sherwood “A combination of the pandemic and the very uncivil society that we live in the US has meant the simple values of community, friendship and kindness have got lost in a very ugly political debate. The show serves as a relief from the stresses and strains that people are feeling right now.” It covers human frailties and flaws that exist in every decade and in most societies.

Guardian reporter Mark Lawson, who writes about television, said: “It goes back at least to the 1960s. British viewers who find British television too cosy have craved the edge of American television, and American viewers who find American television too edgy have craved the cosiness of British TV.”

Dice and slice the reasons I and others like it as much as you want: It’s a joy to look forward to watching the program on PBS at 9 PM eastern on Sunday night. What are some of your favorite series regardless of subject and country of origin?

Callum Woodhouse as Tristan Farnan, left, and Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot


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