One grim December, when I was a student, I went to see practice in Ulverston.
'Seeing practice' is what vet students had to do in olden days in order to learn practical skills from vets working in practice. Makes sense, no? It isn't called seeing practice anymore, it is called something like EMS which is an abbreviation for Extra Mumble Scumble. I do not know what EMS is. But I'm guessing that it stopped being called 'seeing practice' because that made it sound like a very passive process and not the hands on, doing, experiencing, participatory thing that Extra Mumble Scumble is.
I am ashamed to say that I would have hated being forced to push myself forward, but I would have learned about being a vet much sooner. And probably gone crazy much much sooner.
That's explained part of the first sentence.
Ulverston is a town at the bottom end of the Lake District. When I went there I knew several things about it.
It was the birthplace of Arthur Stanley Jefferson, better known to the world as Stan Laurel, and for this reason had a Laurel and Hardy museum.
It had more pubs per person than any other town in the country.
It was near to Barrow in Furness which was home yo the Vickers ship building factory and my big brother had started an apprenticeship there but had not completed it. While he was there he had taken a very long time to give me a birthday present, to the point where I didn't really believe he had bought me anything, but eventually he did give me the present and it was an excellent computer game called Dun Darach. And the second thing he dud while he was there was smoke some dope. Or so he told me, with much authority, when he was explaining about a phenomenon called the munchies.
This seems like an ideal time to talk about overeating but that is not why I'm giving you information which, honestly, may not all be accurate.
Ulverston in the winter was, it seemed to me, quite a grim place. I had to do all my Christmas shopping there and although there were a lot of pubs, the only shop was a small stationers that had a lot of stock dating from the early seventies. Hence my family mainly got notebooks, biros and 1977 diaries and calendars that year. The Laurel and Hardy museum was not the hilarious Aladdins cave of comedy that you might imagine. And the flea pit cinema was showing 'Hocus Pocus' and was the only cinema I have ever been to that actually had an intermission halfway through a quite short film.
However, Ulverston was a very friendly place and I was put up for the two weeks I was there by one of the vets and his wife. Which was nice.
I arrived at Ulverston station quite late in the evening. I had been given directions to the house and walked there through the freezing rain. I was warmly welcomed and they told me that although they had already eaten they had saved me some food. And then they left me in a dining room with a roast dinner and a lot of Brussel sprouts.
I hate sprouts. But I had been made to feel so welcome that I didn't want to cause offence. So I ate them all. Every single one. And felt sick.
Mrs Vet came in and said, "Gosh, somebody likes sprouts!"
And they fed me sprouts every day I was there.
Which led to more farting than even I consider normal. And is a lesson in why polite eating is bad for you. And why you shouldn't let concern for other people's feelings force you into eating stuff unnecessarily. In particular I am talking about the starving children in Africa who would be very grateful for those sprouts, young man, so eat them all up.
So thank you, Ulverston, for being so kind and lovely and for teaching me an important lesson. Shame it took me twenty years to learn it.