Friday, August 18, 2017

Betty on the Brain

I once heard a story about a man who worked as a janitor on a night-shift for a large office building and the tedium was difficult so he invented a game for himself. In his away-from-work life he enjoyed fly fishing and spotting a trout in a stream so he migrated this skill to the office and, as he cleaned, he'd be on the lookout for unrecycled cans of pop (In Huis VanVoorhees, the Professor grew up saying soda and I grew up saying pop and every time I slip and say soda it feels like I'm surrendering my sacred honor...so I write pop.) that he could 'fish' out of the trash and redeem.

I find myself doing that with Betty Neels.

Yesterday, we returned home but stopped at the High Desert Museum (which was really wonderful). As I was wandering around the exhibits, Betty Neels was in the back of my mind as I went. I found all sorts of little links to The Canon.


There was an exhibit about Interior Western States contributions to the WWII effort. For instance, I found out that the Hanford Nuclear Site was integral to the development of nuclear weapons and that the need for secrecy was so great that the nearby town was entirely made up of employees and their families and that the police had a key to every single house in town. Shudder. Anyway, the exhibit included a replica of a war-era kitchen and Pledge Five went to town with all the play food. It reminded me of cottage kitchens in The Canon. The range above looks like a low-rent version of an Aga and I imagine that Florina is keeping Sir William's daughter happy at the table, rolling out her piece of dough with grubby hands.


Susannah Lightfoot, red-headed docent from The Chain of Destiny, was on my mind as this red-headed lady took us around the Oregon Trail displays. Here, she is standing in front of the Hudson's Bay Company exhibit, speaking excitedly about beaver pelts and top hats. I hope that someone swoops down from his vast height to kiss her from time to time.



Cowboy art and pictures made up the displays in one hall and I saw a quote that I liked quite well:

"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief...For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free" --Wendell Berry

Often, our heroes and heroines are off tramping into the teeth of a fine gale to clear their minds. The Great Betty seems very approving of long walks.


This is a bead bag from the Indian Peoples of the Columbia Plateau exhibit and it was so exquisite that it reminded me of the 'bits and pieces' that Arabella of Dearest Love is able to save from the foreclosure of her family home. (A tea chest, old damask curtains, chenille tablecloth, Coalport china, a Worcester teapot, a silver pepperpot and salt cellar, and the Waterford crystal jug.) Of course, the work is so fine that it also reminded me of heroines in The Canon who take up needlework to pass the time and vent their frustrations about being married but not MARRIED-married.

Does anyone else go along making these Betty connections...on the fly, as it were? We should have a name for this game. Suggest yours in the comments!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Vote of Votes

Let's rip off the Band-Aid and get to the results from our last vote, right out of the gate.

A Gentle Awakening (18) beat out Dearest Love (13).
The Promise of Happiness (20) beat Henrietta's Own Castle (11).  

This is when, if you were a booster of another title, I slap you on a sweaty shoulder and give you a pep talk about how the greatest reward is a fight well fought and how it wasn't your day and how you left everything on the field and how winners never quit and quitters never win...
(Image)
Henrietta missed the free throws that would have won the game
but #45 volunteered to carry her off the court on his shoulders anyway.
I hope you won't feel too forlorn to vote for our finalists. Remember when Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed became best friends and ran together on the beach with improbably bulky muscles? Time to dig deep, Betties, and show some love for your former rivals.
(Image)
Arabella wasn't too upset to lose the crown. She could hold
her head high and return to her hometown to headline a parade,
wear overalls and throw bubble gum to children lining the parade route,
her trusty plunger at her side.
Our final vote is between:

A Gentle Awakening 
and
The Promise of Happiness

See you on the other side, Betties.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Final Four Voting!

Are we ready for this? That isn't a rhetorical question. I'm not at all sure I'm ready for this! Below, we have the four novels that made it (clawing through a thicket of novels) to the semi-finals, winning their own brackets. 

As the young Hollywood ingenue might say, "It was an honor even to be nominated." (But she says so with her enameled teeth tightly clenched, vowing to take the crown next year (but not if it means working with that handsy art-house director.))

Below, we introduce each of the books (Thanks to the Betties who volunteered to speak on behalf of each title!) and at the end of the post, I've given the match-ups. So, just to make it clear, there will be four books in two match-ups, meaning we will have TWO books that make it into the next round. Best of luck, Bettties!


Representing The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket:
Dearest Love  
Betty Melissa
(Image)
Arabella is a resourceful girl with a plunger.
Be a pity for it to whack you in the kneecaps.
#VoteDearestLove

Oh, Dearest Love! Betty at the height of her later years! It is the book that famously begins with a letter, and ends with a letter. And what letters! Betty gives us beautiful word portraits in these letters. First we have Arabella, writing to apply for a job. From her letter we learn that she is polite, ladylike, accomplished, and matter of fact. Then we have the letter at the end of the book. And we see the passion beneath the aloof veneer Titus has been showing us (and Arabella) throughout the book. Anybody who wonders about the warmth of the marriages of Betty's characters only has to read that letter to know Betty's men are definitely not monks! And so many quotable quotes from this book. "I can only hope that one day before it's too late you will meet a woman who will turn you sides to middle and then tramp all over you". "He's what one would call a magnificent figure of a man...and also a very rude one!" And the immortal "I should like a plunger sir." And those are just from the first few pages of this delightful book. Dearest Love is not my favorite Betty. It isn't the Betty that made me realize I'd stumbled upon a great author. But it was the first Betty I began to go to again and again when I want to spend some time with the lovely people of Betty's world.


Representing The Handful of A Levels Bracket:
A Gentle Awakening 
Betty Donna
That scene! Best scene in all of Bettydom: “Cool off, Miss Fortesque.” Florina, who hadn’t realized that she could feel so royally angry, picked up the jug of lemonade on the table by Wanda’s chair, and poured it slowly over the top of her head. Reading this book again after a long time, it came to me. Satisfying. This is classic Betty on steroids. Florina is an Araminta, plain with sandy/ginger hair, BUT she is a Cordon Bleu chef. She has no false modesty about her cooking. She is an excellent cook and knows she could get a job anywhere. She has the classic awful parent, but this is no die-away voiced mother. No, this is a verbally abusive father and Florina makes no bones about the fact that she feels a duty towards him, but does not love him. He doesn’t deserve it. Once the doctor says her father is healthy enough to do for himself, Florina is gone. Sir William Sedley is the classic Betty doctor with a daughter from his first marriage, but he is not bitter and heartbroken. His daughter is delightful and loves Florina from the beginning. This is a man and a daughter Florina can fall in love with right away, and she does. Satisfying. Of course, this is a Betty, so we need a Veronica. Miss Wanda Fortescue, Sir William’s fiancĂ©e. But this is no languid, vague Diana from Judith. No, Wanda is VICIOUS. She comes out with guns blazing from the first time she meets Florina. Does Florina back down? No way. She turns on her mixer and spatters the front of Wanda’s dress with oily salad dressing. She doesn’t just think about doing it, she does it. Satisfying. Florina is an outlier in Betty’s world. She is English, but had a Dutch mother. When Sir William takes her to Holland, it is HER family she visits. She speaks Dutch fluently. Satisfying. Felix, the equivalent of the handsy houseman in this book, is given short shrift by Florina. She doesn’t fall for his smarmy manner as so many other Aramintas do. Satisfying. Then, of course, there is THE SCENE. I had forgotten that Wanda actually slapped Florina and that was the catalyst for the infamous lemonade pour. Nanny and Jolly heard and saw everything. They have Florina’s back, but she doesn’t need their support. Sir William asks her what happened and she won’t say, but he doesn’t make her apologize as we’ve seen in other Betty novels. He knows Wanda must have had it coming and he lets it go (while his daughter howls with laughter in the next room) Satisfying. Finally, the ending. Sir William doesn’t just find a millionaire to take Wanda, he pulls a “Parent Trap” on her. “He had, for his own purposes, taken her for a walk that afternoon; a long walk along bridle paths and over fields of rough grass… climbing any number of gates. Wanda, her tights laddered, stung by nettles and unsuitably shod in high heels, almost spat at him…” So, so satisfying. Having tied up all the loose ends, he goes to get her and tells her he loves her while driving in the fast lane. Back home to beautiful Wheel House with plenty of kisses. Satisfying.


Representing The Hocked Locket Bracket:
Henrietta's Own Castle
Betty Christina
(Image)
Marnix isn't here to insult you with offers of his undying love and a garnet necklace.
Surely the garnet necklace will be enough for your vote.
#VoteHenriettasOwnCastle

It is interesting to me that I love Henrietta’s Castle so much, because in some ways it has features I hate – our heroine and her RDD spend a fair amount of time being rude to each other, the Veronica is an implausible youngster, etc, but it also has some absolutely wonderful aspects that far, far outweigh the bad ones. In chronological order, they are: - The premise. Who hasn’t ever wished some unknown relative (since we wouldn’t want our known ones to die off) would leave them a house in a foreign county, with enough money to go on for a little while? I absolutely love the descriptions of her packing up in Charlie, her decrepit Mini, and leaving everything she knows to move, and then exploring her new home. - He brings her a kitten. And she puts the kitten in her tea cosy. - While they are both snippy or rude some of the time, there are also several cozy scenes of them talking and getting to know each other pleasantly. I never quite believe the books where they fight until the absolute last page. - A sufficient amount of drama – the plane crash! And the horse giving birth in a field in the snow! - The ending where he climbs the wall of her garden “with the agility of a much younger man” because she had told him she would never open her door to him. This scene is one of my favorites in the entire cannon. - And, best of all, a satisfyingly long ending where they both explain their confusions and their love. Too many Betties get wrapped up in a single paragraph, and this one gives you all you could want.


Representing The Imperiled Poppets Bracket:
The Promise of Happiness
Betty Pam
(Image)
Bertie and Pooch aren't going to tell you how to vote, okay?
Bertie and Pooch are just going to drip all over your Bentley and
look mournful until you do what you know you should have done all along.
#VoteBeckyandtheBarontheHotHotBaron

Why The Promise of Happiness Deserves to be Crowned “The Best Betty Book” 1. You run away at 4AM in the pouring rain with £30.06 to save your dog and cat from being put down by your step-brother. 2. You’re rescued by a handsome Baron in a Rolls. But later you hear him tell his nice sister that you aren’t his cup of tea. 3. He gives you a job, helps you find a place to live and dives into a nasty canal to free your wire-entangled dog who ran away in a storm. 4. He invites you to dinner, but you truly have nothing to wear, so he pretends that he really meant a picnic and gives his housekeeper 15 minutes to get it ready. 5. He drinks a sweet Moselle that he detests because he knows you’ll like it. 6. When you remind him of the “not my cup of tea” insult, he turns it around with “but you’re my glass of champagne.” 7. He drags Veronica to a dreary chamber music concert just to stare at the back of your head whilst you’re on a date with a houseman (not the Handsy type). 8. Then he offers you and your date a ride home with him and Veronica. He cleverly maneuvers so he ends up alone with you. Takes you to eat pancakes. Kisses you and says “goodnight, my pretty little mouse.” 9. Rescues you from Basil again, this time in London. Gives you tea, holds your hand and refuses to give it back. Says: “"I've been wanting to hold your hand for a long time, and now that I have it, I don't intend to let it go." 10. When you remind him that you have yet been asked to marry him, he says "dare to say no," and kisses you.



Now, that your mind is spinning with possibilities, here are the voting match-ups:

Dearest Love vs. 
A Gentle Awakening 

AND

Henrietta's Own Castle vs.
The Promise of Happiness

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thoughts From a Founding Betty





Dear Betties,

I'm trying something new and trying also not to be to persnickity about the blunders I'm making. I know my list of missing and mourned books is incomplete. Tell me yours in the comments!



Love and lardy cakes,

Betty Keira

Monday, July 31, 2017

Our Final Four

Well, well, well. When I had finished totting up the votes this morning, my pencil trailed down the list, putting stars next to the winners from each bracket. In my shock, I am channelling an RDD's grandmama. I am setting eyes on a silver metallic trouser suit draping the fashionably thin form of my youngest grandson's date--and my eyebrows are high and surprised.
(Image)

It wasn't that the old lady was hopelessly out of step (never that). It was that glitter seemed to get everywhere, even though the Vogue model limited herself to eating one celery stick and complaining loudly about girls in chiffon. Wim and Nel would be furious when they had to scrub off her seat.

Highlighted in soft pink (the color worn by that the plain little British nurse that my oldest grandson, the Professor Baron, can't keep his eyes off of) are the winners:

A) The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket:
Dearest Love vs.
Caroline's Waterloo 

B) The Handful of A Levels Bracket:
A Gentle Awakening vs.
Tabitha By Moonlight

C) The Hocked Locket Bracket:
Henrietta's Own Castle vs.
Dearest Mary Jane

D) The Imperiled Poppets Bracket:
Cassandra By Chance vs.
The Promise of Happiness

Look that over and tell me there haven't been a couple of upsets. My own personal tragedy is the loss of Caroline's Waterloo which always makes it into my top two or three. Caro is such a wonderful heroine and I love the set-up enormously. 

None of the votes were lop-sided--each coming down to a couple of votes either way. For that last bracket, I was holding my breath the whole time.

I'd like to do something a little different going into The Final Four.  The last books are sure to have passionate partisans and I'm going to hop on the Facebook page and solicit some Betties for whom individual books are the most favorite to write up a paragraph or two about them. When I've got those all turned in, we'll resume our voting and I'm not going to ask for trouble by mixing it up. The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket will go up against The Handful of A Levels Bracket and so on.
(Image)

Betty Franscisca considered the tin oven and began to write out her impassioned thoughts.
"Baking bread is a chancy business in any circumstance but the plucky Henrietta..."
 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Great Betty and Dunkirk

The Professor and I don't get out to see a lot of movies since we've entered the phase of life called Why Don't We Just See That On Netflix in Our PJs? (It comes directly after What Is This Spot On My Shirt? Kid Snot? and right before This Pre-Made Costco Dinner Can Feed Us Tonight, Lunch Tomorrow and Left-Overs on Friday.)

But we made an exception the other night by going to see Dunkirk because People With Good Hair Being Pursued By Nazis is his favorite movie genre (hence his love for The Sound of Music). We loved it even though my only quibble was that you never did get the scope of 400,000 people being evacuated off a small stretch of land. It has a really neat construction which I won't spoil but which was so rewarding to watch unfold.
(Image)

Dunkirk rescued French troops disembarking in England (1940).

I went back to The Great Betty's short autobiography and traced the route she describes. (The military nursing begins around page 16.) It sounds like her nursing group missed being trapped in Dunkirk, proper, by the slimmest of margins.

"Of course the war hadn't really started then. Although it seemed exciting enough..."

"...landed a few miles from Doullens..."

"After a week or two, however, the war really began...the war was creeping nearer now, with Holland invaded and Belgium and presently, France..."

"...he decided that the eight of us should go north and join up...near Lille."

"The roads were jammed with refugees, cars, carts, bicycles, people walking, and not all in the same direction..."

"We reached Boulogne after getting behind the enemy lines..."

"Boulogne was expecting an attack at any moment. They added kindly that we might just get the last hospital ship on the point of leaving, if we were very quick..."

If you'll watch this time-lapse progress of the war, I think you'll spot where The Great Betty must have been around the one minute mark.

And here's a close up of the pertinent areas.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Elite Eight

Here are the results of the last round of voting! I've highlighted, in Bilious Green, the titles that did not make it through the nasty bout of Gastroenteritus sweeping the brackets. The one that makes me the most sorrowful is The Hasty Marriage which is not your jam, Betties. This I know. But I am like Laura. The heart wants what the heart wants. And the heart wants Reilof.

(Image)
I'll go weep in my Alone Cone.


A) The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket:
Dearest Love 
Caroline's Waterloo 
Blow Hot, Blow Cold

B) The Handful of A Levels Bracket:
Wish With the Candles
A Gentle Awakening
Tabitha By Moonlight

C) The Hocked Locket Bracket:
Henrietta's Own Castle
Only By Chance
Dearest Mary Jane

D) The Imperiled Poppets Bracket:
The Hasty Marriage
Cassandra By Chance
The Promise of Happiness

Our next task is to take it from Eight swoony titles, down to Four. We'll do it in all one round. I hope that the Sustaining Chocolate we'll need to fortify ourselves, doesn't make anyone slip into a diabetic coma. Please vote on the following:

(Image) 
Lemonade poured over tinted hair was
duking it out with a pair of oil stained shorts.


A) The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket:
Dearest Love vs.
Caroline's Waterloo 

B) The Handful of A Levels Bracket:
A Gentle Awakening vs.
Tabitha By Moonlight

C) The Hocked Locket Bracket:
Henrietta's Own Castle vs.
Dearest Mary Jane

D) The Imperiled Poppets Bracket:
Cassandra By Chance vs.
The Promise of Happiness