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James Herriot was the pseudonym of a Scottish veterinarian who wrote several bestselling books about his experiences.
In All Things Bright & Beautiful, Herriot tells the story of working a normal day, which in the time consisted of traveling between farms and performing various procedures. As with many of his anecdotes, things go wrong and he is running late. However, he is relieved since his last procedure of the day is relatively simple; inserting a ring into the nose of a bull. He is also relieved since the farmers are there at the gate, saving him time, instead of somewhere around the farm.
The next and final visit was only a couple of miles away ... I could still be... [at] Mrs. Hodgson's table by seven o'clock.
A classical way for a vet to waste time is ... waving madly, trying to catch the eye of a dot on the far horizon.
(Herriot, All Things Bright & Beautiful, Google Books)
In the 1930s, when the book is set, very few people -- especially farmers -- had telephones. On the rare occasion that a person running late could get to a phone, there was no assurance that the other party was within earshot, and there were no answering machines. Herriot, in this case, was worried that he would be late to dinner with friends, and the previous appointments had all taken far too long and caused him great frustration; each case should have been easy, and in each case there were unforeseen complications. In this last case, although the bull runs off, the farmer is able to bring it back so the ringing can be done, and Herriot makes it to dinner.
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