Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Delightful Discovery


I received this email a short time ago and was delighted no end:

Hi, Betty Debbie, hi, Betty Keira,
Need an idea for a new post for the blog?
Did you know The Great Betty used the small town where her parents lived, where Betty and her husband Johannes sought shelter after they were bombed out of their new home in London, as the heroine’s home in one of her novels?
I was reading Betty Neels – the Author’s Own Story, that Betty Kelly uploaded for us on Facebook, and jotted down the name of the place where Betty’s parents lived. Actually, I typed it into a file, and days later found it Only By Chance—I had typed it into a list instead of below it...
Anyway, I checked if the place-name occurred in the Canon, and it does!
If you want to turn this into a post, go ahead. I would have done it myself, but, sadly, I am lacking any ideas that go beyond stating the bare facts. Of course, if you don't feel like doing anything other than stating the bare facts, that's fine. ;o)
Take care,
Betty Anonymous

The name of the village is Budleigh Salterton in Deveonshire. Betty Neels writes in her own history that her parents kept an open house during the war for "such of the family who needed a roof over their heads". 

The population was under 6,000 in the last census and it sits right on the ocean with two miles of pebble beach. I can imagine that La Neels, with her love of walking and fierce winds, tramped up and down it. 

If you chance to make your way into town, be sure to stop at The Cozy Tea Pot and walk the beach and think Betty-ish things.

Also, while leafing through Only By Chance I found this awesome paragraph which I want to paste into all the books in the Canon where our villainess gets an insufficient comeupance: "He said in a voice so coldly violent that she flinched, "Let me make myself plain. I would never, under any circumstances, want you for my wife." He added, "Nor have I given you any reason to suppose I would."

Wow-ee.

EDIT: Alas, Bettys, we always knew that The Great Betty cast a skeptical eye on "computer" and she was right--as she always is. Though I searched and searched for Budleigh Salterton in Only By Chance, I did not find it. (We were enjoying a family birthday celebration and I gave it up.) Anyway, dear Betty Annonymous tells me that it was The Gemel Ring (!) she meant me to see.
Here are her notes which (ALAS!) did not make it to me. I blame computer gremlins:
Betty Neels' Parents' Place of Residence
– BUDLEIGH SALTERTON –
Charity Dawson’s Home in The Gemel Ring

She still had a few days of her holiday left; driving down to Budleigh Salterton beside a calmed and rested parent, she was thankful for them. She hadn't really wanted to go to Bremen; she would have preferred to have stayed at home,
[...]
It was nice to be home again, back in the unpretentious Edwardian house perched up on the hill behind the little town, with its large garden and only a glimpse between the trees of the neighbouring houses. Charity had been born there and had been brought up—with suitable intervals at boarding school—in its peace and comfort. She knew, now that she was older, that there wasn’t a great deal of money, but looking back, she couldn’t remember feeling anything but secure and well cared for, and although the house was a little bit shabby now, it still provided the same comfort.
She went up to her room, and instead of unpacking, hung out of the window which overlooked the side of the house where her father grew his roses; they were in full bloom now and their scent filled the evening air. For some reason which she couldn't guess at, she sighed, unpacked and went downstairs again to undertake the task of setting the supper table so that Lucy, who was more or less engaged to the doctor's son down the lane, could pay him a quick visit.
[...]
The remaining days of Charity's holiday went far too quickly, taken up as they were with the pleasurable occupation of discussing Lucy's still distant wedding, taking her mother to Exeter to shop, exercising the dogs and helping her father sort through the mass of papers he had spent years in collecting, with an eye to writing a book on military strategy during the last war.
[...]

The quiet peace of home was wonderful to her. No one questioned her decision to leave St Simon's, there was plenty of room in the house for her, Lucy was delighted to have her home for a while and her mother and father absorbed her into their lives as though she had never been away. She tramped for miles with the dogs, gardened with her father and drove her mother down toBudleigh Salterton to shop and visit her friends. Her days were healthily full; she should have bloomed.
[...]
Charity had been home two weeks or more when her father was stricken with a touch of lumbago just as the early potatoes needed digging. Lucy was useless with a spade, there was no question of her mother attempting such work. Charity, glad of something to do, put on a pair of old slacks and a cotton shirt which had seen better days, and repaired to the kitchen garden. It was the best part of her father's modest grounds, up on the hill behind the house, with a view of the sea through the trees and the great sweep of Woodbury Common at its back. Even early in the morning it was warm work but rewarding; she had several piles of potatoes to show for her labours when she heard footsteps coming along the path from the house.
[...]

Home looked just the same. It was autumn now, of course, and the garden was full of dahlias and chrysanthemums and late roses. The virginia creeper which rioted over the house was turning colour, presenting a welcoming and well-remembered picture.


mentions of Budleigh Salterton in THE GEMEL RING, © 197


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Filling Out the Canon

Over on the Facebook page, we are all having a good time sharing which scene in The Canon we'd like to be a fly on the wall of. My favorites is in The Hasty Marriage when Joyce walks into Reilof's gorgeous home and realizes that his net worth is like Godzilla smashing a tiny Japanese village and that her sister Laura has everything.

Other suggestions included:

A Match for Sister Maggy when the heroine refers to the puir wee professor and he's standing within earshot.

The dropped pineapple in Pineapple Girl.

Anytime a hero looks in appreciatively when a heroine is backing out of a linen closet.

When Radinck proposes to Caroline in Caroline's Waterloo.

All great suggestions. But that last one made me wish to see a scene that wasn't written. I'd like to be a fly on the wall of Radinck's stately home when he realizes that that awful British girl has changed his house somehow and that the hole where she ought to be is so big that there is nothing to do but go find her in London and ask her--she'd better not say no!--to marry him.

So, what are some scenes you wish were written and weren't?

(Lots of mine would be where the Veronicas get bawled out properly for their shenanigans!)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cinema Betty

This weekend was wonderful and terrible at Casa van Voorhees. Betty Debbie traveled from Seattle and we...um...upended the whole house in a quest for greatness as we painted and shifted three of the kids' bedrooms. We ended up collecting 22 bags of things and working ourselves to the bone.

But we had a little downtime and Betty Debbie showed me a wonderful, very Betty, Netflix find.

From Time to Time (2009):

A haunting ghost story spanning two worlds, two centuries apart. When 13 year old Tolly finds he can mysteriously travel between the two, he begins an adventure that unlocks family secrets laid buried for generations.(IMBD)

We've got trusted family retainers who say terribly frank things to cranky grande dames, stately homes in danger of being sold, an aga stove, toasting bread before the fire, offers of hot milk, a beloved granny, an old nursery...

It was practically perfect. The nicest bit was that I was able to watch it with my 13-year-old and when the granny comes onscreen, she perked up and said, "Oh! Maggie Smith!", which is sort of proof of being raised right, no?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Betty the Church Lady


I was thinking of A Secret Infatuation the other day.

By the afternoon the drizzle had ceased but the mist was as thick as ever. It was almost teatime when the Reverend Mr. Watts phoned. He had a small house on the other side of the village, perched off the narrow road on the steep side of the open moor, no distance away but awkward to reach, some way away from the first of the village cottages. 
Eugenie, listening to his anxious voice, felt sorry for him. His cold was worse, he complained--if only he had some cough lozenges or even a lemon, and he had finished his aspirins.
"I'll come over with whatever you need," said Eugenie, cutting short his unhappy complaining. 

and later

There was a message for her when she got back home. Could she go and see the Reverend Mr. Watts about the Mothers' Union and the pram service and could she at the same time bring him some more aspirin?

Eugenie is just doing what a church lady do. Other heroines in the Canon bring flowers to the church or organize lines of Sunday School kids or host stranded travelers overnight because the Rectory is so massive and wash out large tea urns all in the normal course of church-y events.

I really relate to La Neels's church ladies. I belong to a congregation that exploits free labor puts one to work and over the years I've been a pregnant and nursing Cub Scout leader, Sunday School teacher, on the activities committee, president of the women's auxiliary, etc. Right now I have two jobs (never the flowers! Why don't I ever get the flowers?). For one of them I teach a class one hour a month on an assigned topic for an adult class of 30-ish people. The other is called 'Compassionate Service Coordinator' and I facilitate all the serving that needs doing. This means that at any given time I'll have a text on my phone that someone just had a baby or had surgery and needs meals brought to them or rides to the hospital or temporary childcare.

Anyway, I think it's made me wiser about my own human nature--how happy I can be when I've really done some good. And how hard it is to pick up the phone when I know who it is and what they'll need and how much time it will take.

Does anyone else have any fun church (or other secular service organization) service stories to share? Times you've been pressed into service like Eugenie up there?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Goals and the Making of Them

Rose tapped her pen and finally wrote:
"Graduate with the Gold Medal"
It was sure to come in handy sometime.
It's the first Monday of the New Year and the van Voorhees family will be doing what we always do: Reviewing last year's goals and making some new ones.
La Neels was probably that sort of girl herself. She has Caroline (Caroline's Waterloo) resolve to learn how to ride a horse. Eleanor (Roses for Christmas) makes a whole list of things she would like to have--and surely some of them would change her life. Lucy Lockitt (The Girl With Green Eyes) practically makes a campaign out of conquering the heart of her fair hero. And then there is the clever, disciplined and AWESOME Laura (A Hasty Marriage):

As they walked back, Reilof observed: "It would serve everyone right if you were to turn up in bridal finery and a dozen bridesmaids behind you." He looked down at her thoughtfully, and she thought that he was really seeing her.
"You don't look as old as you are," he told her kindly, a remark which left her seething, although she thanked him in a colorless voice and bit back the retort ready on her tongue, while a resolve, a little vague as yet, took shape in the back of her head that one day he should eat his words...

Does anyone have any New Year's Resolutions they would like to share? Strategies for success? Worthy ones that were not pulled off?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Greatest Fantasy Element in Neelsdom

Waterloo would bide his
time. And then when the dog
wasn't looking...
The Canon of Betty Neels contains many elements which, though not wizards and fire-breathing dragons, have just as much improbable magic in them.

  • Unattached, established bachelors waiting around for poor, plain, gently-bred, British nurses to steal their hearts
  • Loyal servants and enough wealth (usually) to afford them
  • Dutch stately homes in excellent repair dying for a mistress to poke through the linen cupboards
But the element that surprises and delights me more than most has to do with the pets. Whenever the two households (lady and gentleman) become one, there is the sticky issue of "How will the pets get along?" to work out. Betties, THEY ALWAYS DO.

I do recall one instance (but not the book, darn it) where a new cat was given a swat on the face from an older, more established cat before learning his place in the pecking order and taking to it at once but most of the time it's even more seamless than that. 

In 'The Promise of Happiness' (or 'Becky and the Baron (the Hot, Hot Baron)') Becky has to entrust her two beloved pets (Bertie and Pooch) to a near stranger for weeks at a time. Will they settle down? is the anxious question:

He put a hand on her back and swept her along and through the baize door, down some steps and into a large kitchen, equipped to the last skewer and still somehow looking delightfully old-fashioned. There was an Aga stove along one wall and on the rug before it were Bertie, Pooch and a Great Dane. All three animals turned round, half asleep, and then bounded to their feet and rushed across the kitchen, the Great Dane to hurl herself at the Baron, Bertie and Pooch to cover Becky with joyful licks, pushing and shoving her in their efforts to greet her properly after such a long time. She sank on to the floor and let them have their way while the tears ran down her cheeks...

The three animals seem to get on like a house on fire and in none of the calls from Becky to the Baron, over her weeks of absence, were mentioned litter box mishaps or antique William and Mary settees ruined by claw marks or soiling. 

Betty Kylene (whose heart is made of butter) found herself adopting a stray black cat a few months ago. Of course the cat was pregnant. Of course the cat and her other cat fight like brawlers. It's been fine since one was an indoor cat and the other was an outdoor cat. But did I mention the heart like butter?

The winter is cold and the outdoor cat is loveable so she's resorted to a baby gate to try to acclimate the two factions to one another. It's going to be a process...

Have you any experience blending pet families? Successes? Failures?