“Even Little Sparrows” is a semi-autobiographical account of life as an animal welfare inspector in an English Midlands town around the mid-1970’s. The book was originally published in Britain and America in standard paperback format, but a newly revised and updated version of 300-plus pages is now being made available for the first time as a downloadable eBook (pdf format).
Bob Adams has passed his final examinations and is posted to the Wappingdon and District RSPCA Branch, his first ’station’ as a fully-fledged Inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The RSPCA is Britain’s largest and most respected animal welfare charity. Wappingdon is a sprawling, densely-populated industrial town in slow decline following a heyday of steel production in the early twentieth century. The local RSPCA Branch operates a busy animal hospital and kennels complex, and the Inspector’s workload is high. Bob would have preferred a more rural setting for his first ’station’, but he is determined to make the best of his situation and sets to work with a will, despite an obvious inexperience of the job.
Endeavouring to keep abreast of the ever-increasing worksheets filling his in-tray, Bob finds himself constantly side-tracked by matters not strictly related to an Inspector’s brief. When Eric McDougal, his predecessor in the Branch, secretly returns to enlist Bob’s help in proving Branch Treasurer Basil Ambrose a crook, he reluctantly agrees, but obtaining evidence to support that allegation proves more difficult than anticipated. His resulting scrapes and adventures soon begin to involve the influential Horace O’Flynn, head of the local Branch and Wappingdon’s elected mayor, and other members of the hospital staff, including demure, black stocking-ed Head Nurse, Anna Caldwell with whom Bob rapidly becomes infatuated.
Many books have been written on the subject of animal welfare, but “Even Little Sparrows” differs from its contemporaries. While highlighting the problems of suffering animals, the author focuses primarily on the lives of those people who carry out this vital work: their problems and personalities, their lives and loves. “Even Little Sparrows” is a poignant love story woven around the lives of characters dedicated to the creatures they care for. It is a tale both heart-wrenching and hilarious, guaranteed to absorb the reader to the very last page.
From the Inside Flap
When Bob Adams resigned his job counting chocolates in a Liverpool sweet factory, to train as an Inspector for the RSPCA, Britain’s largest animal welfare charity, he had hoped to wile away his days in a quiet country ‘station’, far from the bustle of big city life.
Training Superintendent George Arnold Pugh had other plans for Bob, however. Wappingdon was one of the busiest RSPCA ‘stations’ in Britain, with a population in excess of one million. Set in the heart of the industrial English Midlands, the town had expanded rapidly during the iron-ore revolution of the early twentieth century.
When Horace O’Flynn, local broadcaster, mayor of Wappingdon and Big Chief of the Wappingdon and District Branch of the Society, telephoned RSPCA Headquarters to complain that the Wappingdon Inspector had just quit his job and absconded with the Branch Treasurer’s wife, ‘Old Pugsy’ decided Bob would be the replacement.
Knowing there could be no appeal against this decision, Bob drowned his sorrows and reluctantly headed for the Midlands, little realizing his posting had triggered a chain of events that would cause him to thank ‘Old Pugsy’ from the bottom of his heart, for sending him to Wappingdon.
We sped towards the island at full throttle. The cob sensed our approach and began to move away. I aimed the boat straight at it, intending to slew broadside at the last moment. The swan had its back to us and appeared too tired for any determined escape attempt.
“This time, Mervyn.”
The bird was almost under our bows. I flung the helm away from me, at the same time leaning outwards over the gunwale to counteract the effect of Mervyn’s weight, as he reached over the opposite side of the boat to grab the swan. It was a maneuver we’d perfected during our time on the pool that morning, and would probably have been equally successful on this occasion had Mervyn, for reasons only he knew, not taken his eyes from the bird and let his attention wander to the pool bank.
“Here’s Brian coming back,” he yelled excitedly, and swung round so his weight complimented mine.
“GET BACK!” I screamed, too late.
There was a roar as the boat rolled onto its side and the propeller cleared the water. Mervyn landed in the pool with a splash, and disappeared. Only one arm remained visible, clutching a leg of the panic-stricken swan. The boat, engine chugging to the last, sank with a slow gurgling into the depths. I was still in a sitting position, but floating gently in my lifejacket.
On the bank, Marty Freedman was taking pictures as though his life depended on it, and behind him our friendly, neighbourhood park keeper was swiftly retreating into the trees in the direction of his office.
Mervyn rose to the surface, spluttering. Almost immediately, the swan tried to take off and the unfortunate ambulance man, still clinging desperately to one leg, was towed slowly behind it.
“Mervyn!” I gasped, spitting out oily water, “If you let go of that bird I will personally drown you.”
He tried a reassuring grin, but the swan sat on his head and pushed him under. For a second I worried it might prevent me carrying out my threat, but he surfaced again quickly, and as the cob decided to head for the bank Mervyn had little choice but to follow. I decided the island was much nearer and struck out for its shore. By the time I’d hauled myself onto the muddy bank, Mervyn had mastered the swan and was almost at the far side of the pool.
~ From Chapter Thirteen, “Even Little Sparrows”
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