Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wait For Me!--Perilous Finances

Continuing the series from Deborah Mitford's memoir "Wait For Me!" which is chalk-full of Neels-ness. This one is about making do with not much:

"We all knew that if Muv had been in charge of our family finances everything might have been different. As it was, she had to juggle with what she was given and somehow remain solvent; intuition took her in the right direction and she never overspent. She was the one who put down roots and became part of the place where she lived, and it was she who bore the brunt of my father's extravagances and unlucky investments.
Muv told me that had she had to earn her living she would have been happy as the woman at the caisse in a Paris restaurant, usually a formidable female dressed in black who sat enclosed in a raised glass cage above the tables and collected the cash from the diners' bills. The nearest Muv go to her ambition was to be County Treasurer of the Oxfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes. When she was totting up at the end of the year, a few pence out caused her major anxiety and we knew to keep out of her way."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rocky Shoals of Political Dischord

As ever, we paddle away from them like mad. Enjoy this MadLibs to help you through the madness:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Wait For Me!--Nanny

"...hymn-singing and prayers at bedtime. Nanny's real name was Laura Dicks.  Her father was a blacksmith...How she got the nicknames 'Blor' or 'm'Hinket' I do not remember. In 1910, when my mother interviewed her, she was thirty-nine and not robust, and it seemed doubtful whether she could push the pram up the hill from Victoria Road to the park, laden with heavy toddlers...She arrived to stay for more than forty years.
Like my mother, Nanny was always there, unchanging, steady, dependable--the ideal background for a child...always scrupulously fair.
Her clothes were those of her profession: grey coat and skirt, black hat and shoes and, in the summer, a quiet cotton dress with a white collar.
She did not criticize us much, neither did she praise...We would have become impossibly pleased with ourselves had we been indulged with such a thing (self-esteem). As it was, our ups and downs were high and low enough, and Nanny sat on any ups.
Nanny's own holiday was the worst moment of the year...We never considered Blor's own life...she was so much part of the family that she was not consulted about moves or anything else that might affect her. She just came with us. Long after her role in the nursery was over, she remained a vital part of the household, washing, ironing, sewing and darning; just her being there meant the world to me and my sisters."

Deborah Mitford, "Wait For Me!"

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wait For Me!--Cared For Clothes

This sounds awfully like some of the better mothers in The Canon:

"(Mother) like my father, she had blonde hair and blue eyes, and her fine, regular features were a softer version of his. Totally without vanity, she did not seem to care what she looked like in everyday life, but when dressed up for an occasion she outshone her contemporaries. She loved clothes but possessed few and must have one the same ones for years. I remember individual coats, skirts, and dresses and an occasional evening dress; they were always original and exactly right for her. She was selfless to a rare degree and lived for her husband, her children and her small circle of friends, many of them family. High on the list of people she minded about were those who worked for her. She belonged to a generation of women who were brought up to accept their husbands' decisions and to make the best of their circumstances. "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer," were widely accepted conditions of marriage then."

--Deborah Mitford, "Wait For Me!"

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Wait For Me!--The Lady

I picked up Deborah Mitford (Cavendish), The Duchess of Devonshire's autobiography "Wait For Me!" last week and I am struck over and over again by the little touches of Neelsism throughout her story. Perhaps it is because the women covered a similar time period (1920-2014).
Here's a little bit from her wiki page:
She married Lord Andrew Cavendish, younger son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, in 1941. When Cavendish's older brother, William, Marquess of Hartington, was killed in action in 1944, Cavendish became heir to the dukedom and began to use the courtesy title Marquess of Hartington. In 1950, on the death of his father, the Marquess of Hartington became the 11th Duke of Devonshire.[1]
The Duchess was the main public face of Chatsworth for many decades. She wrote several books about Chatsworth, and played a key role in the restoration of the house, the enhancement of the garden and the development of commercial activities such as Chatsworth Farm Shop (which is on a quite different scale from most farm shops, as it employs a hundred people); Chatsworth's other retail and catering operations; and assorted offshoots such as Chatsworth Food, which sells luxury foodstuffs carrying her signature; and Chatsworth Design, which sells image rights to items and designs from the Chatsworth collections. Recognising the commercial imperatives of running a stately home, she took a very active role and was known to man the Chatsworth House ticket office herself.

Manning the ticket office! 
Anyway, I thought it would be fun if I did a running series of posts here and there of portions of the book where the Neels-ishness spills over and has to be posted. Here's the first:
"Grandfather Bowles gave my father a job in the office of The Lady, the magazine he had founded in 1885 specifically for women and which is still famous today for its classified columns advertising for domestic and other help..."
She goes on to tell how her grandfather fell in love with his children's nanny (Tello) but that she had had an affair with a man which produced a child.
"Tello went out of the children's lives for some years after they returned to England. Then one day my mother was walking down Sloane Street when she saw, to her joy, Tello accompanied by four little boys in sailor suits. It transpired that the eldest was the son of the naval officr in Alexandria, but the next three were sired by Grandfather and were my mother's half-brothers. He had forgiven Tello her peccadillo, set her up in a house in London and made her editor of The Lady, a position she held for many years (including those when (Father) was managing director of the magazine). My mother always wondered why he had not married her but guessed it would have been because of the eldest boy. Tello and Muv (Mother) took up their friendship where they had left off..."

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."


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
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