Monday, November 7, 2016

The Founding Betties in Bath (and Lesser Environs)

 The Founding Betties returned from London and Paris (and just the smallest slice of Iceland comprising the tarmac and the terminal and some pretty swanky toilets) a couple of weeks ago and I have been meaning to post a little about our time there for you.

To begin with I must comment on a subject of intense interest: the weather. It was glorious in England. Our umbrellas came out for 30 seconds in Trafalgar Square before we popped under a colonnade. In Paris the rain was more like four good hours (and much colder). But if you consider that we were there for two weeks in October, this is astonishingly good luck.

Betty Keira is behind the camera.
Betty Debbie and her Mijnheer, Pledge Two
and Doting Aunt are in front of it.
Pledge Two and I landed and went straight to Bath to meet Betty Debbie and her Mijnheer. My favorite thing about Bath was seeing all the places Captain Wentworth had snogged or gazed with RDD-like intensity at Aramin--uh...I mean, Anne Elliot.

The scene of the snogging
Landing in Bath was lovely but there was all that jetlag to work out and the Marks & Spencer Cafe was just the place. Cheap, plain food that any Neels-ian heroine would recognize at once. Chicken and leek pie, jacket potatoes, massive mugs of hot chocolate...

No undies were purchased at this time.
My other favorite thing was Roland the Tour Guide Who Became Justifiably Agitated Over 70s Architecture.
In my head, Roland populates a small village with a really beautiful Norman church. His role is to pester everyone about funds to replace the roof or the bell and to offer one knowing comment to Araminta about her interest in the new doctor. Because he was so helpful, the RBD coughs up the money and the church is restored to its former glory just in time for the wedding.

We stayed in a cottage in a village called Midsomer Norton and the roads were shocking. I mean it. I could handle the driving on the left side of the road (not me driving, thank heavens. I was busy praying.) much better than roundabouts that looked nothing like roundabouts and roads going through small towns that just turned into one lane affairs. Dear England, you convinced me that I am not up for driving on your surfaces. Kudos to all who are.

From Bath we went to Chawton, last home of Jane Austen. The most precious things I took from that location are the belief that Jane was a genius, this gif of Pledge Two in the Regency dress-up clothes,
"Mr. Darcy is worth HOW many pounds per annum?"

..., and this view. I dare anyone not to think romantic thoughts while tucked in the little wilderness at the side of the house.
Lizzie discovered the yew hedge at her back.
Darcy's look told her he wasn't going to extricate her.
Indeed, he seemed intent on pressing her into it.

I was determined to purchase a Tatler and a Daily Mail while in England (not knowing yet that in London they hand out really basic newspapers morning and evening at the Metro) and was not disappointed. British tabloid/news writing is better than American writing hands down (The Great Betty would not be surprised to hear). It's dishy without being idiotic. The Tatler, in particular, was fantastic and I wish I had discovered a huge stack of back issues in the corner of a musty Oxfam shop to squirrel away in my luggage.
Louisa was asked by the photographer to "think of something serious".
So she tried to remember that time she almost poisoned the Twins.

More installments to follow...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cruise to a Medical Emergency

I was driving Pledge Five off to preschool this morning and was listening to the news on the radio about a man bleeding internally on a cruise ship off the coast of Washington State. The Coast Guard had to retrieve him* and deliver him safely to a hospital in Port Angeles.

Of course, I thought of my favorite nurse-aboard book, "Never While the Grass Grows" and the drama therein. It's not all handing out doses against sea-sickness and sunburn, fending off the drunken hands of boozy passengers. No. Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy is operated on whilst feelings of love are discovered.
"Love....exciting and new...We're semi-staffed....for emergency surgeries on you!"

Here's hoping that over the agonized yelps of a patient in peril, the medical crew of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas had a little time to pitch some woo, as the kids say.

*The most interesting part of the radio broadcast (that the article doesn't even bother about) was when they talked about how the helicopter DOESN'T LAND on the cruise ship. It sends a rescue diver down with a basket and the diver (assuming he hasn't had to jump in the water for any dramatic reason) helps the person in the basket and away they go. If they asked me to do that I would just:  

"I'm fine internally bleeding."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Happy Bettysday!

As I type, Bettysday commemorations are happening all over the globe with various of our Betties minding young children, curling up with a favorite book, partaking of tea or a lavish dessert tray.

My own celebrations are smaller this year. I folded a mountain of laundry and turned out several cupboards (the Mijnheer thought my backside was splendid as he saw me working, I am sure) and will take some flowers and chocolate to a friend who is celebrating her own birthday.

As I worked, I was watching the program Very British Problems and I leave it to our British Betties to tell me if it's accurate at all. A man was being interviewed and I had a full-on Dawning Realization. Well, not a full-on one. That's reserved for Mijnheer van Voorhees. But it was adjacent. It was Betty-idealization At First Sight.  

Meet Nigel Havers. Well, don't really meet him. The wiki article tells me he's a fan of, if you take my meaning. (We can't have everything, Betties!) But he is undeniably RBD material. Graying hair, broad shoulders, perfect accent. Check. Check. Check.

It's not much but it's my only gift to you. Let's raise a glass of tea, take a bite of scone and bless the day Betty was born!
"Darling girl, You've left me standing on this sidewalk for long enough.
Do let's go in so the net curtains will stop their infernal twitching."


Saturday, September 10, 2016

What's on TV?

TV does not figure prominently in The Canon. It feels like the only time we see them is at Professor Baron de Werd van den Platz ter Brant's ancestral pile. It's often tucked furtively away like a girlie mag in the small sitting room Araminta is expected to make her own in the coming weeks and months of her loveless marriage of convenience.

TV is something she might watch after wrestling with difficult Dutch verb conjugation, already consulted Mrs. Jolly about dinner menus and is waiting for her husband to come home. From a surgery? From driving to Belgium? From taking her sister, Nefarious Model, out?

The programs on offer never seem interesting. And I don't see the new baroness indulging in more exciting fare like my current TV obsession Stranger Things. (That is, as they say, another book. The only gorgons in Betty Neels novels are peppery night nurses.)  

(Actually, in the interest of honesty they share a bit more: Casseroles, a loveless marriage, bicycles, romantic yearning, working in a grocery store, teenaged hooligans, resourceful heroines, missing children, a plain best friend to the pretty one who really deserves a great love story...Oh my gosh, Betties. Oh my gosh.)

I digress. I was thinking of what might be enjoyed by the Baroness when she figures out the whole thing. Here is Betty Keira's Well-Bred Baroness Programming Guide:

Netflix has Martin Clunes: Heavy Horsepower. I really enjoyed it. The baroness needs to understand the massive Friesians on her new husband's country estate.

Singin' in the Rain. Oh. A musical. How diverting. (My 13-year-old was watching it last night and said of the meet-cute when Gene Kelly jumps from a tram into the passenger seat of Debbie Reynolds elderly car "That must be the best meeting in film." And then when Lena Lamont (a Veronica. Boo. Hiss.) comes to blackmail the owner of the studio into making Kathy dub ALL her films, she said, "Some people just want to watch the world burn.")    

Persuasion (1995). A tasteful remake of a well-loved classic sure to keep the baroness hopeful that her own wayward romance will find its own happy ending. In the mean time, Ciaran Hinds will not at all hurt the eyes.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi For the cooks in The Canon (Florina of The Great Lemonade Caper, Kate with her improbably small 100 pounds of seed money) they will appreciate the skill and beauty of a dish well-executed. For the nurses, they will recall that handsy houseman who tried to feed them on Asian food and then get familiar. Olivia wonders when her own husband will try to get familiar...

Antiques Roadshow UK Araminta, being tossed out of her ancestral home by an evil brother/step-mother/cousin with only her mother's old work basket and a papier mache table to show for her years of hard work tending a crotchety and ill man, will enjoy the idea that if things get really dire, maybe there's money in some of Mama's old things.

Hop to it Betties, we need a full complement of programming so that the baroness doesn't become so frustrated by her husband's continual absences that she is tempted to take off in her Loveless Mini to a hiding place so secret she already told him about it. (cough*The Blue Pool*cough) 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Covers That are Ballooney Tunes

Oh Harlequin. 

I got up this morning to get my kiddos off on the second day of school and turned on a video series Pledge Three likes called Good Mythical Morning. They were doing a bit called Judge a Book By It's Cover and found this stunning gem that, once seen, cannot be unseen:

The Duck Shack Agreement by Muriel Jensen. I have notes, as they say. First among them is that the appalling cover may in no way reflect on top notch content.  

The back sounds pretty standard: 
One plus one equals three...
It was a match made in heaven. Rachel Bennett and Brian Tate loved each other; he adored her young daughter. The Oregon coastline was an idyllic place to live, and Rachel's balloon delivery service was booming. What more could a person want?

The Duck Shack Agreement! It wasn't ominous--just a simple arrangement between two consenting adults. It was drawn up on the shore of a peaceful lake, with not a second thought in mind. That is until life became a little more complicated than expected...and the rules suddenly became a little harder to play by.

The mystery to me is who the agreement was drawn up with. Brian Tate? But they love each other so where's the conflict? Another man? Then why does Brian get a name and the hero doesn't? Why is a grown woman wearing a sweatshirt that says Ballooney Tunes?! (Just kidding. It was the 80s. Grown women wore that stuff all the time. Dark days... Dark days...)

The Betty question is: Which book cover or title is the greatest let-down? Or which one fails to fully convey the awesomeness of the content?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Language Lessons From Professor de Wit

I was cleaning with my family the other day in preparation for the first day of school and when we do that we listen to a Spanish-language ska album. (No, I don't really know why except that it makes me want to run away from home and join a band to become their dedicated sports whistle blower.)

Though I studied German in high school and college I have often wished (particularly since becoming Señora van Voorhees Dominguez) that I knew Spanish. My ability to sing along with the lyrics of this album is unparalleled however, so there's that.

"Cuando comienza a irse el sol
Y la cerveza ya se empieza a acabar
Yo me pregunto por qué
Por qué mi amor se fue
Tan solo me dejo, olvidado en el bar..."

I do wish I actually knew Spanish beyond the restaurant smattering one can't help but pick up and a phrase here and there. And, it got me thinking about Caroline of Caroline's Waterloo who bounces around on a horse for weeks to surprise her husband and so many of the other heroines learn Dutch verbs on the sly or even spring good dress sense on the unwitting men under the glow of a rose-shaded lamp. Even The Great Betty's husband must have been stunned when she told him that after all that time as a nurse, she was going to be a writer.

Is there something you wish you could learn that you haven't started yet? Anything your spouse or partner or friends would be particularly pleased by?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Great Mary Stewart

We love Mary Stewart. I can say, very definitively, that her Touch Not the Cat  (found among the Reader's Digest editions in my parents' library when I was in 6th or 7th grade and passionately recommended to all of my friends that year) began my fascination with Mary Stewart, Gothic mysteries and romance all in one fell swoop.

I found this wonderful interview with her on YouTube and thought you might enjoy. If you haven't encountered her before, she is a writer contemporary to The Great Betty though her books are more 'romantic suspense'. There are very few I haven't read and very few that I do not love whole-heartedly. (The Ivy Tree, I'm looking at you.)

When she describes living in a small town and having nothing else to do but read voraciously, I get a pang for what having cable has done to us. (kidding/not kidding)