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Where it all began...

It seems that TV has had a huge impact on my life which is surprising as I haven't owned a TV for over 30 years.

In the days before YouTube, Netflix and the other rapidly expanding streaming services, we listened to National Radio, read books and remained blissfully unware of the advent of The Simpsons, Shortland Street and the rise of reality TV.

Even when the streaming services started to appear our Internet connection wasn't up to it for the first few years. Now we have fast wireless Internet and a host of phones, tablets and laptops with access to almost anything we want to watch. So what are we watching? Well, at the moment we're watching 'All Creatures Great and Small', the series that originally screened in the 70s and 80s.

The series is based on books by James Herriot, a pen name used by veterinarian Alf Wight and centres on the life of a young rural vet in Yorkshire. I vaguely remember watching it as a child but I was too young to appreciate what a great series it was. When I was older I bought all the books and read and re-read them, learning about mastitis and prolapses and the joys and heartbreaks of lambing.

The series is set in a time before antibiotics and many of the diseases we deal with easily today were untreatable then. The vets wore suits and ties and stripped to the waist in freezing weather to assist calving cows.

What I notice watching now is how small the farms were. A farmer may have only 30 acres and a dozen or so cattle. Now they'd be lifestyle farms but around a century ago they were commercial farms. A case of TB could make the difference between a farm being viable or facing foreclosure.

Another striking feature I didn't notice as a child is that it's all real – the actors really do have their arms inside the cows, the lambs that are born are not fluffy, dry, cute lambs but slimy, floppy, spluttering ones. All Creatures Great and Small doesn't sanitise farming but it does show the best and worst of farming.

Then of course there was 'The Good Life' where townies Tom and Barbara Good deal with a mid-life crisis by attempting to become self-sufficient and farm their suburban garden. Goats, chickens and vegetable gardens abound and it all seemed to be fun, even when it went wrong – which was all the time.

Do these early influences have anything to do with my off-grid farming life? I don't know. But as a little girl in Runcorn New Town I sobbed at the same Herriot stories that still make me teary-eyed today.



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