Interview with Dr. Harriet Bailey

Lithograph after W.J. Allen. Original public domain image from Wellcome Collection


I’m delighted to have veterinarian Dr. Harriet Bailey, the main character and resident sleuth of the new Cobble Hill Farm Mysteries, here with us today. 

Harriet, that’s a cute “self-portrait” you’ve supplied, but how about telling our readers what you really look like? 

I’m pretty average looking, with brown eyes and long dark hair that I usually wear in a pony tail while working. I’m in my early thirties, petite, but strong, although my size still causes clients to doubt my capacity to do the heaviest tasks in a large animal practice. 

The way I hear it, you soon prove yourself to be more than up to the job. 

Yes, so far, I’ve been able to tackle most jobs with Polly’s or Will’s or the client’s assistance when needed.

Speaking of Pastor Fitzwilliam “Will” Knight, you seem to spend a lot of time with him. Is romance in the air? 

Do I? 😳 He’s been a good friend. But I wouldn’t want you to get any ideas about us. He’s a self-proclaimed bachelor.

How did you come to inherit your grandfather’s veterinary practice? 

That was an unexpected surprise. I assumed Cobble Hill Farm and everything connected with my grandfather’s estate would be divided between his two children–my Aunt Jinny who lives in the dower cottage and my dad. But my mom and dad love their life in New England. So, I guess my dad told my grandad to leave his share to me. It helps that I’m an only child. And I’m already a qualified vet–a career inspired by my grandfather from the time I was small.

But for you to leave your practice in the US and relocate to the UK must have been a huge adjustment? 

It was. But leaving was easier than it would’ve been a year or more earlier, when I’d been blissfully planning a wedding with a fellow vet at the practice. After Dustin broke off our engagement, continuing to work at the same practice was beyond uncomfortable.  Of course, it is taking the Yorkshire farmers a while to get used to their first female large animal vet. But as they like to say here in the UK, most folks have been brilliant about making me feel welcome. 

It must help that your grandfather’s practice was already well respected? 

Absolutely. In fact, I’m the third generation of Baileys to practice here. My great-grandfather opened the practice the year before the outbreak of the Second World War. The place has seen a lot of change since then, I can tell you. But I occasionally still use some of my great-grandfather’s original equipment, too. 

Your grandfather was also a talented painter, opening his own art gallery here on the farm to display his work. Do you plan to follow in his artistic footsteps as well? 

<Blows out a breath> I’m not sure that particular gift was passed on to me. And at the moment, the veterinary practice consumes most of my time. But…it’s something I might try my hand at one day. You never know unless you try, right? 

What was the most difficult adjustment for you since arriving in the UK? 

Hmm, there’s a few dishes, such as black pudding for which I still haven’t managed to acquire a taste. And understanding what some of the oldest clients are saying can still be a challenge, with the way they drop their ‘t’s and ‘h’s at the beginning of words and use many words I can’t for the life of me decipher.

But probably the biggest initial hurdle was learning to drive my grandfather’s beast of an old Land Rover on these hilly, narrow country roads. Never mind that I had to get used to roundabouts and driving on the left side of the road. I’d never driven manual and learning to do that on some of the incredibly steep grades we encounter in the moorlands is no easy feat. Add to that how close the stone walls enclosing the pastures are to the road in spots, well… I admit I’ve come close to clipping the side mirrors more than once whilst trying to pull over enough to pass a car coming from the other direction.

Notice how I slipped in the word “whilst” for “while”? 😀 I love the sound of that word. 

Driving is easy peasy when the roads are flat and empty like this, but…

it can get a little dicey when you encounter buildings that are practically on the road and you can’t see what’s coming around the corner. 

Then when I actually encounter oncoming traffic!!! I was catching a lift in a friend’s Renault when I snapped this pic through the windshield and the car’s warning siren was beeping hysterically because our “wing mirror” was scraping through the hedgerow camouflaging the stone wall behind it. I was glad not to be driving that day!

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