It was my first day - six in the morning, standing on the Heath with the lovely head lass, Sarah, watching as the horses disappeared off into the morning haze. Life for a wannabe equine vet just didn’t get any better than this. But it wasn’t long before my bliss was rudely interrupted by what we’ll call a typical Louise moment…I was asked by one of the Baker McVeigh vets who was attending to the horses on the yard if I wanted to go with him and his assistant to castrate a few horses.
No need to ask twice, really! You see, just like every other nerdy vet student, a vet only needs to hint towards the word surgery, and I will be tripping over myself to be there!
So eventually Tristan the vet, his assistant Taff, and I, all jump into this jeep. I can’t honestly say there was a huge amount of chat from the vet – on first impressions he was one of the more serious intellectual variety. His assistant, on the other hand, was just about as friendly a guy as you could meet, so pretty much kept the silence to a minimum.
Anyway, just as we pull up to the gates of what could have easily been mistaken for Buckingham Palace, I reached down to undo my seat belt, only to realise that there was no release button!
“Oh dear,” I thought, whilst trying to answer the generic “how are you finding the course” questions he was courteously asking.
I started searching quietly yet somewhat frantically to see if there was something I could jam inside the buckle to release the belt. “Yeah, it’s great, love the course, amazing!” I said, as I pulled the belt out to try and give myself some space.
“So what topics are you covering at the moment?” he asked.
“Errmmm - anatomy and ermmm…” - but, just as I said that, the belt locked. Not good!
I tried to let it go to see if it would loosen; of course, it didn’t. Instead, it simply ratcheted me in tighter.
“Anatomy..? Oh, right,” he said, no doubt assuming I was very engaged with the veterinary curriculum. NOT!
Basically, it was like one of those moments that perhaps you may have had as a child where you have just spilt something everywhere, and you are trying really hard to clean it up before anyone notices.
Only, nothing I was doing was working.
The jeep eventually rolled to a stop outside the bustling tack room. The vet and his assistant jumped out and headed over to speak to the boss.
“Think, Louise!” I found a pen down the side of the door and jammed it down the buckle, but unsurprisingly, that didn’t work either! I was desperately trying to think of my next course of action when, all of a sudden, the door was flung open.
“Are you coming then, or what?” Tristan said.
“Yes, but give me a moment - I’m just a bit stuck here.”
“Oh, the seat belt - sorry! I forgot to tell you it doesn’t work.”
Amazing! I thought…how very helpful!
“Right, one second,” he said, racing around to the other side to try and get it loose, but it wasn’t budging.
“Okay, wait a moment.” By this stage we had several jockeys watching on in amusement.
He rustled around in the back of the jeep, then came round to my door with a pair of surgical scissors. “We are going to have to cut you out!”
“What! It’s fine, I can just stay in the car whilst you do the castrations…” I gabbled.
“Right, but then what are you planning on doing?”
Good point. “Okay,” I said, “there’s nothing else for it. Just let me see if I can squeeze out of this.” So, in least dignified fashion you have ever witnessed, and with what was, at this stage, a packed audience looking on from the tack room, I slid out of the truck hands first with these two distinguished gentlemen who were supposed to be helping me to freedom doubled over laughing. Eventually, I landed on the ground (minus one boot and a sock that had been caught on the belt).
Therein lay the first of many (thankfully not all so undignified ) lessons of the week - do not take yourself too seriously, because when you end up getting yourself stuck in the sh*t, you are going to have to get yourself unstuck by whatever means necessary - which brings me back to the story,
“What do you mean, you don’t want to be a nurse?” Judith (the head nurse) exclaimed. “Why did you apply?”
“Well, actually, I didn’t exactly apply to be a nurse, but I thought if it was something that I was going to have to do to get the job then I would.”
“Huh?” she said.
“I want to be a vet,” I said, awaiting the all-too-predictable response.
“Right…” Her look was slowly changing from confusion to scepticism. “But…”
Before she could finish I interrupted - “I know what you are going to say, but I still reckon I could make it work.”
“Um…okay…I’m not really sure what to say to you?” she said - but now her tone was more one of pity. “I have no problem with your work, Louise - but I am going to have to speak to the bosses and see that they say.”
A day or two later, Judith came down from the operating theatre and said that Mr. Grant wanted a word with me upstairs.
“Hello,” I said, as I knocked, and popped my head round the huge dark wood Victorian door of his office.
“Hello, Louise. Come in,” he said, whilst pointing to the seat.
“So, I hear that we have got our wires crossed somewhere?”
“No, no, it’s not that. I am more than happy to do the veterinary nursing course if it means I can stay! It’s just that, well….you see…”
“You want to be a vet,” he said bluntly, finishing my sentence for me.
He lent back in his chair and smiled. “Well…”
If I’m honest, I assumed he was going to start reeling off the list of reasons why I wasn’t going to be able to do it - but, instead, he just asked curiously, “Why do you want to be a vet Louise?”
And before I even had the chance to think of how to respond he said, “Look, you’re a young mother with a 9-5 job, you have most evenings and weekends off, and you are not burdened with an excessive amount of responsibility. You don’t want to have to deal with people calling you at 3am, then have to go to some field in the middle of nowhere to sort out a down cow.”
I couldn’t do anything but stare at him blankly. Everything he was saying was true, what on earth was I thinking! This plan was borderline insanity. In my head I was agreeing with him, but in my heart this was all I had ever wanted to do, and I knew if I only got the chance that I could be good at it.
“I know,” I said, “I know it sounds crazy, and I have no idea how I’m going to get there, but there is one thing I do know - that, somehow, I am going to find a way to do it.”
“Well then,” he said, with the look of scepticism all over his face, “if that’s the case there’s nothing more to be said. There’s no point in you doing veterinary nursing if all you want to do is become a vet.”
Oh dear, I thought, not good, not good…
“You had best get back to work.”
“Does that mean I can stay?!?”
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose it does.”
“Thank you so, so much!”
I remember walking out of work that day thinking - that’s the hardest bit sorted! Now all I have to do is finish my equine science course and apply to vet school…
But, little did I know, things where only just getting warmed up…