Friday thought #8 Authors and stories that stand the test of time

Whether you are an avid or a reluctant reader, everyone has a favourite author and a favourite book, whether it be a childhood memory or a novel read as an adult. Asking to choose your favourite book of all time is a dreadfully difficult question, and one which I feel I may do a blog post on in the not too distant future…! But I certainly have my favourites, and a precious few hold that special place on the bookshelf and have been returned to more than once! I have spent a lot of time recently reading and researching different books and something that has really struck a chord in me is the books and authors which stand the test of time. Being a primary teacher I feel I am fairly up-to-date with the books children choose and the authors they come back to time and time again and I am endlessly fascinated by what is popular and in fashion. Of course there are many many new, modern authors that are becoming hugely popular with children of all ages, but I can’t help but notice that the Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls of the World will never fade. Children and adults worldwide are still enraptured by the Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG, not to mention the Famous Five and Malory Towers. In fact in just a mere few months I am taking my class to see a stage production of George’s Marvellous Medicine! Some of these stories were written for children over 60 years ago (Enid Blyton was born in 1897!) yet are still as popular today as ever, so what is it that makes an author or a story last for decades, despite the revolutionary changes the World has seen in the interim?

The reason I’m writing this is because of a particular favourite author of mine, and it’s not even fictional writing! The man in question is James Herriott, he of the All Creatures Great and Small fame, Yorkshire’s most famous veterinary surgeon. These books, charting the trials and tribulations of a vet in rural Yorkshire in the 1930s, were dramatised on the BBC during my childhood in the 1990s and have stayed with me ever since. They were the reason I wanted to be a vet (as I’m sure most children did at some point in their lives!) and the subject matter of many a wonderful family holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. I have recently re-read a lot of his books as well as listening to them on audiobook, and they have lost absolutely none of their sparkle. In fact I would even go so far as to say that I now love them even more than I did as a child. Their pure simplicity and wonderful, idyllic description of life as a country vet just makes me wish that life was still like that. I think that Yorkshire in the 30s is how life should be and I want to thank James Herriot for keeping my feet on the ground by reminding me of a simpler time, one that continues to make me smile. I will forever have my copies of ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ and ‘Vets might Fly’, along with my all time favourite childhood book, ‘James Herriot’s dog stories’, and I will most certainly be passing them along to my children.

Long live the authors who manage to stand the test of time.

It still has the magic for me...
It still has the magic for me…
Ah, what wonderful stories!
Ah, what wonderful stories!

Happiness and choices

Thoughts on happiness

How your life choices can have such a profound impact on your life and happiness.

I spend a lot of time thinking about lifestyle choices, career choices, and just choices in general. Why and how do people make the choices they do? What really rings true for me, is how many people I come across that quite openly admit that they either hate their job, hate where they live, or can’t stand the people they live with. So why continue on with a lifestyle that clearly makes you unhappy? Obviously there are countless answers to this question, and of course for some, there is no other choice, but this is not the case for so many. It is a true cliché that the grass is always greener, and I will hold my hand up and say that I, along with so many others, am a victim of this. Yet rather than view this as a negative, as something that you must try and avoid at all costs, I see this as a healthy way to live your life. It is perfectly natural to dream of different things, or to wonder what the next adventure or challenge might be. Of course you must be happy with what you have, but if you can’t look forward and dream of more, won’t you just stand still for the rest of your life?

From my personal experience, I have found that one of the main reasons people become stuck in a lifestyle that doesn’t fulfil them, is the fear of the unknown, and the sheer terror of stepping outside of their comfort zone. I have been living in France for several years, and even now when I return to England I am told by friends and acquaintances that I am ‘so lucky’ to be living the life I do. As gentle a sentiment as this flyaway comment is, I am often left resenting the inference that my lifestyle landed on my lap, as if I had recently stumbled across an unexpected inheritance, or a lottery win.

Of course not everyone can up sticks and follow their dreams, but what I am finding more and more are those who either have a dream and are too afraid to follow it because it would disrupt their safe life, or those who are spending their life doing a job or living in a place they hate, but can’t muster up either the energy or the drive to find something that inspires them. Statistics say that for people working 40 hours a week, over 30 percent of their lives are spent working. It is a large chunk of your life to throw away on a job that leaves you feeling unfulfilled, or at worst, unhappy.

I have found that the other important factor in quality of life and happiness, is where you live. Yes you may be in a job that perhaps wouldn’t be your first choice, and is a bit of a drag. But if you can spend every evening and every weekend doing the things you love, in a place you love, life suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Sometimes it is necessary to stick out a rough few years in order to get where you want, but if you are aiming for a goal, or doing something uninspiring to pay for something you have had your heart set on, it makes a huge amount of difference to your motivation and work ethic. I spent a fairly unhappy few years in places I didn’t really enjoy, but I had my goal in sight and I was aiming for it. You can make the most of a less than perfect situation, if you have the courage to look further afield, and pursue something that will make you happy, even if at first it seems out of reach or too much hard work.

Amazing stones, Vancouver
Amazing stones, Vancouver