11 December 1998

Vets far-flung posts in the Third World

BOOKS based on true or elaborated veterinary case histories have proliferated since James Herriot hit the media jackpot

The basic plot was in danger of going stale but vet Patrick Guilbride has come up with a format* which reads as fresh as a daisy. In 655 pages he traces his experiences over 38 years in far flung postings with the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Sent initially and with considerable reluctance to what was then Northern Rhodesia, his veterinary travels included the Caribbean, Uganda, Peru, Brazil and finally Mozambique.

His true tales include hazards as much to man as the animals he did his best to protect and cure. Discomforts included primitive housing conditions, potholed roads, difficult communications with threats from wild animals, ants, mosquitos, tsetse flies, heat, cold and a lack of oxygen in the higher reaches of the Andes, all thrown in for good measure.

Man-made frustrations included the lack of co-operation and positive obstruction from local government officials, particularly in south America and the political absurdities of Marxist Mozambique.

There are

chapters which are best described as genuinely exciting Boys Own stuff, but throughout it all the author, his wife and large family obviously had the strength of character to overcome all their frustrations and perils. The message comes through strongly that they made the best of whatever circumstances they were in at the time and enjoyed life immensely.

A gripping read by a first class story teller and excellent value for money. HPH

*Far Away Cows – Veterinary Vignettes from the Third World, by Patrick Guilbride, The Book Guild Ltd, 25 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2LU (£18.50).