About thirty-five years ago (meaning, about a dozen years after everyone else) I picked up one of James Herriot’s story books– All Creatures Great and Small, I think– to see what all the popularity was about. It was a book of short stories from his life as a vet caring for animals. The stories were mostly quite ordinary, but were made interesting by Dr. Herriot’s way of telling them. Like the one about the farting dog, whose owner couldn’t tolerate the eye-watering pungent ‘windiness’ and had to give the dog away. The new owner was a tradesman and bachelor who loved the dog. The punch line was that he had no sense of smell.
I became fascinated by the possibilites for ordinariness made interesting by proper telling. I practiced on my boys. They’d ask me to tell stories from my childhood, you know, the olden days. I tried to tell the stories without lying and I believe I did a pretty good job. Justin and Ben started thinking I had the most exciting childhood. By now they know better. And they have children, so now it’s their turn.