Monday, December 5, 2011

Two Weeks To Remember--Reprise

In the discussion thread of Two Weeks To Remember, much was made of the poorly drawn nature of her hair on the cover.  The swinging braid looks less jaunty and more Pippi.  Other than that, this book has some charming parts, of which our favorite is the Norway lodge/future in-law interlude where everyone plays Scrabble and skis and doesn't ski and generally trots out their 'We'd be the best family to marry into' resume.
Enjoy this one with love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

Charity Graham, 26, pretty - has dark, curling hair and a splendid figure (the dark curly hairs brands her as an Outlier). She is a shorthand typist, lives at home with her father (who loves first editions more than his daughter) and her Aunt Emily - who just doesn't seem to be able to make ends meet. She has been dating The Regrettable Sidney for a while now. She regrets that she is quite unable to daydream about him. He is some sort of civil servant - and acts like it. Very early on in the book she gives him the heave-ho. Charity works at St. Augustine's which is described as resembling Eustace Station, with more than a dash of the original Crystal Palace. Charity spends her days incarcerated in a room, typing, with the acidic Miss Hudson who is forever griping at Charity. Much of the typing Charity does is for Professor Jake Wyllie-Lyon (age 35ish) - who is the Senior Medical Consultant. We know right off that he's a good guy because of his atrocious handwriting that Charity has to decipher. Charity runs into Professor Hottie in the cemetery - where she is eating her ham roll while leaning up against an eighteenth-century angel. He leans up against a stone scroll - that lists the names of the family Wodecock...but I digress, he leans on the scroll and then invites Charity to go have a cup of coffee with him...which she does. He asks her about what went wrong with her date - and she, being an honest girl tells him that she dumped The Regrettable Sidney. Not long after that the professor takes her to lunch at The Cat and the Fiddle (pub) and he pumps her for more info..."Do you ever feel that you would like to change your job, Charity?" I sense some foreshadowing here. A couple of pages later he shows up at the Church Fête and watches Charity sell a crocheted bedjacket in a revolting shade of pink to a haughty lady from the better end of St. John's Wood. "I must say you have remarkably persuasive powers; no woman worth her salt would wear a pink monstrosity such as you have just sold her." Jake (I refuse to keep typing "Professor Wyllie-Lyon") takes Charity and Aunt Emily home - which is not unalloyed joy to Charity. "The professor had been a kind of secret delight to her, an interest in her otherwise rather staid life." He's about to become more - because he asks her if she will quite working at the hospital and come work in his office as his secretary is leaving in a month to get married. Well, duh. She does go to his office to be given the tour by his current secretary. His offices sound pretty posh, I especially like the touch of having a cheery imitation log fire in the consulting room. That would certainly help nervous patients relax. The work is hard, but she does get perks: much better salary, somewhat flexible hours, and a handsome boss. Unfortunately that boss has a girlfriend named Bad News Brenda. We know Brenda is evil because she calls the doctor at work saying that "it's urgent" in a high imperious voice and her name is "Brenda". Jake takes Charity home from time to time when she has to work late - her dad likes him "He's an Oxford man...went to Magdalen." Enter Dr. Kemble, Kiwi. He's in the UK for a couple of months to pick up some ideas about leukemia. Pick up ideas about leukemia? Yeah, and pick up Charity. The first time he meets her he tries to ask her out. That must have effected her in some way or another because by the end of the day she figures out that she's in love. In love with Jake - not Dr. Kemble. "And of all the silly things to do...that's just about the silliest." I beg to differ. The silliest thing she does is to walk over to his house and spy on him that evening. She ends up hiding in the area (British word alert!) of a house across the street. Charity goes out with Dr. Kemble wherein he confesses his love...his love for a girl back home in New Zealand. Which nicely sets Charity up with a smokescreen for her love. Crossing the street to work one morning Charity rescues a dog...with the help of Jake. Jake must find dog rescuing irresistible, because he gives Charity a kiss. After work Jake takes her back to his place so that they may take care of that important item of business, The Ceremonial Naming of The Rescued Animal. Since the dog is so bony, he gets the name of....Bones (perhaps La Neels was a closet Trekkie?) Speaking of names, Jake calls Charity an "echinus" - harmless and pleasing to look at but very prickly. Jake goes away on business for a couple of days - Charity drinks her coffee while sitting in his office chair - the picture of Bad News Brenda is staring at her, so she places it face down on the desk...and forgets to put it back. When Jake asks her to speak to the cleaning lady about it, she fesses up. Christmas rolls around - and Neels approved gifts are handed round...a Hermes scarf from Jake to Charity, a leather pocket book from Charity to Jake. And now we come to.....Two Weeks to Remember! Jake takes Charity to Norway for two weeks. Don't worry about the language, everyone speaks English! Jake happens to speak Norwegian - since his mum is Norwegian! Charity spends most of her days typing like a maniac, when she's not taking down shorthand. Jake does manage to take her the ski jump and Vigeland Park. She likes Vigeland so much that she goes back by herself the next day. (*no offense to Norwegians, but I just wasn't into the art I saw there...) When the weekend comes, it's off to the family homestead near Flam. After a coffee break en route, Jake kisses Charity...she tells him not to do it again, and he says, "Another word for Charity is love. Shall I call you that?" Girlfriend, he's hitting on you! Wake up! Charity says that they must remember Bad News Brenda...This is Jake's cue to say, Forget Bad News Brenda, but no, he says they will have to have "a little talk" when they return home and have more time...hint, hint. Maybe instead of spending the weekend trying to teach Charity to ski they could have had "a little talk"? He misses a great opportunity when he takes her to visit the stave church at Laerdal...I can't imagine it being crowded in January. Back to Oslo for another week of nose to the grindstone...while eating breakfast together on the last morning Charity is to be found staring at an appalling picture on the wall instead of peeking at Bad News Brenda's letter that Jake is carelessly strewing around the table. Seeing as it's Oslo, I'm sure the picture on the wall was appalling. Speaking of appalling pictures on walls in Oslo has anyone else ever noticed the murals in Oslo Town Hall? Just missing some black velvet to make them perfect...Back to the family homestead for the weekend - Charity accidentally skis down the slope and nearly into the fjord...only her good fairy kept her skis from tangling. Jake helps her stop, then takes her back up and makes her go down again. A quick trip to Bergen on the way home...sightseeing at Grieg's house, the Floien (Neels spelling) funicular, the Bryggen, King Haakon's Hall, King Oscar's Gate, you know, touristy stuff. Back home again, Charity goes on one last date with Dr. Kemble - and as if we need any reminders that he is not "Mr. Right" - he takes her to Poon's Chinese restaurant (which recently made an appearance in Last April Fair). Darn. La Neels didn't put any danger (except for a brief skiing snafu) in this book...let's slip it in on page 168! As Charity is taking a packed bus home from work - the bus gets hi-jacked by some young thugs and crashes. No one seems hurt until someone yells "FIRE", and the stout man in front of Charity elbows her right in the eye. That's enough to get her taken to the hospital where Jake sees her getting out of the ambulance..."My poor darling...." Methinks it's just about time for that little talk. Nope, after getting examined in the Accident Centre, Jake wisks Charity back to his house and has his housekeeper tuck her up while waiting for Aunt Emily to come and act as chaperone. When she has recovered a bit, it's time to go back home, but not before a handy bit of snogging in the hall and Charity confessing her love...(how about that little talk NOW???)...On her way back to her home, Charity stops by the office to see how things are going and finds her replacement! Replacement? Yes, she has been made redundant. Of course she cries (is that good for her black eye?). Jake doesn't come around for 3 days - not until she is stuck selling knitted baby booties at the church Fancy Fair. Jake hauls her off to the pantry and confesses his love and proposes. Kisses ensue...the end.

Rating: In spite of the name "Two Weeks to Remember", this is not one of La Neels most memorable books. Is it bad? No. Is it good? Well....sometimes. I am quite put off that Jake confesses his love on the last page of the book and says "I've been in love with you since the very first moment I set eyes on you. You were standing on a chair in Miss Hudson's office changing a light bulb. I took one look and knew that there would never be anyone else but you." It sounds lovely and all, until you consider that he's known her for about two years and did nothing about it except to date Bad News Brenda and put her picture on his desk. Lame. None of the supporting characters, with perhaps the exception of the acidic Miss Hudson, really seemed fleshed out. Despite a houseful of family in Norway, only Jake's mum is introduced, which is really a shame. Aunt Emily and Mr. Graham are better, but only slightly, and the odious Brenda is given one short scene, a phone call or two and a letter. I would rate this one somewhere in between treacle tart and mince pies.
Food: slabs of corned beef, baked beans and instant mashed potatoes on a take-it or leave-it basis, roll eaten while leaning on a stone angel in a cemetery, cheese soufflé, treacle tart, mushrooms in cream and wine, lobster Cardinal, purée of chestnets with whipped cream, shrimp cocktail, steak tartare, crêpe Suzette, ansjos (marinated sprats), torsk (cod), flotte vaffles served with cloudberries, riskrem.
Fashion: last year's moss crêpe in a pleasing shade of mushroom pink, fine wool dress in a pleasing shade of green, sheepskin jacket, hand knitted matching scarf, cap and gloves, white tie and tails, top hat.


  1. Betty van den BetsyDecember 5, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Who falls in love and waits *two years* to do anything about it? The debilitatingly shy and the married, that's who. Jake is neither. I think 'Victory for Victoria' is the only Neels that describes people falling in love and really enjoying it. Every other heroine gets about ten seconds of bubbles and then an "Oh, no -- doom and despair!" reaction.

    Thank you, Betties Debbie and Keira, for the photo of a stave church. I would never have visualized...

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    Just finished this one (can't believe I hadn't read it before!) and have to agree--not much to grab onto.
    I had the same problem with Jake--I didn't understand the picture on the desk. I cannot see why he didn't make a push with Charity when she was employed by the hospital (besides not wanting to feed the gossip).
    Oh well--another for the give-away bag. If any Bettys out there need a copy, I'll be happy to send along mine. Let me know soonest.

  3. Haven't read this one in a long time. How long had she been dating Sidney? For if she'd been involved with him then I'm afraid Jake wouldn't have done anything about it. (Like Hugo van Elven and Sarah?) Have to read it again.
    Betty Anonymous

  4. December 5th.
    It's Sinterklaasavond!
    It's that wonderful day when good little boys and girls and some of our heroines get little packages from the Sint during the evening. I have to get out my "Sister Peters in Amsterdam" and re-read the scene.

    Sinterklaas kapoentje,
    Gooi wat in mijn schoentje,
    Gooi wat in mijn laarsje,
    Dank u Sinterklaasje.

    I’m sure you’ve all seen the little Dutch girl in Miracle on 34th street singing this song along with Kris Kringle:

    This is more or less how they sing it:

    Sinterklaas kapoentje,
    Geef wat in mijn schoentje,
    Geef wat in mijn laarsje,
    Dank u Sinterklaasje.

    Betty Anonymous

  5. Betty van den BetsyDecember 5, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    Does Sinterklaasavond translate as St. Nicholas Day? I have a poignant regret reading the older Neels, from the early 70s, when SND is a more important holiday for the Dutch than Christmas. As the decade progresses, it slowly loses out to the English tradition.

    A couple of years ago, I stumbled on a confectioner's shop in Paris that had chocolate letters. I almost squealed in public, I was so excited -- bought them for everyone and brought them home for Christmas, to go with the crackers and paper crowns. Perhaps this year I shall essay olieboellen at New Year's...

  6. Betty Anonymous: And now I want to pop Miracle on 34th Street into my dvd player...good thing I own it!

    Betty van den Betsy: I was in Brugge, Belgium a few years back and remember seeing the chocolate letters in many of the chocolate shop windows - I didn't buy any, but would be happy to make the trip to get some. Oh wait, I'm not fabulously wealthy with unlimited time on my hands. Nevermind.

  7. Betty van den BetsyDecember 5, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Betty Debbie, you can write off your trip to Belgium as a business expense against TUJD, LLC. Especially if you can find a medical conference taking place in Belgium, and snap some photos of tall, fair-haired men with beaky noses there.

  8. Today is St Nicholas day and its also my daughter's birthday. Got her a chocolate letter from a chocolate factory not far from us. We can buy chocolate letters from dutch shops online in Australia and also from the specialty delicatessens in our Malls. I still remember that song from my childhood, didn't realise it was in the movie you mentioned. Will have to watch it this Christmas if its on again. Keep up the good work on your site, and merry christmas to all fellow Betty Neels fans.

  9. Betty van den Betsy,
    Dec 5 = Sinterklaasavond = St Nicholas Eve
    avond = evening
    Dec 6 = St Nicholas Day
    There is a concise Wikipedia article on "Sinterklaas".
    There is a more detailed article in Dutch. You can let google translate the page which makes it a funny reading experience. Google "Sinterklaas 2012 - Stichting Beleven".
    The Dutch get their presents on Sinterklaasavond. We would find goodies in our boots or shoes (placed on the window sill the night before) on St Nicholas Day early in the morning.
    I will now venture to post this revised comment. And I do hope that the bad little man in the internet doesn't wipe it out again. Do you think Santa will put him in his black book for being so nasty to me? He did this before to me you know.
    Betty Anonymous

  10. Aw, I actually liked this particular Betty, perhaps mostly due to the Norwegian backdrop and the "Wyllie-Lyon" -- I know it's pronounced willy but it's always been wiley lion in my head.

  11. Dear Bettys, make sure to keep your smelling salts close to hand, for, quite by chance, thanks to Betty Maddie, I have found the perfect accompaniment to Two Weeks to Remember. Before you scroll your way all the way down in the link, remember, these are works of art bearing the Betty Seal of Approval. Don’t miss the Flåm Railway link within the link. Gorgeous scenery.

    Point your shovels in a south-westerly direction, and burrow through to Bergen.
    Posted on July 30, 2013

    “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles
    Posted on July 1, 2013

    The most important things I learned in the last three months in convenient bite-sized pieces.
    Posted on June 24, 2013

    Two Weeks to Remember, © 1986

    page 168 (?)
    They left the following morning while it was still only half light, waved away by everyone in the house, and took the ferry to Gudvangen.
    It meant going down one arm of the fjord and up another but it was the only way to reach the road to Bergen.

    page 171
    'There's a funicular to Floien—that's the mountain you can just see. We'll go up there tomorrow. Now we are going to look at the market.' He walked her briskly past the shops down to the bottom of the street to the wide quay at the head of the fjord and then slowed his pace so that she might admire the flower stalls [...]

    Charity, oblivious of the icy wind and the snow underfoot, stood and took it all in, listening to Jake's quiet voice telling her about the Bryggen—a row of medieval buildings facing the harbour—and King Haakon's Hall at the end of the wharf.

  12. OSLO
    page 136
    She turned to look at him, and surprised a look on his face which she couldn't read, only it disquieted her so that she added hastily, 'Of course, it's like home to you.' 'Indeed yes. Although my home, or rather, my mother's home, is some way away from here. Near a small town called Flam on the Sognefjord. We're driving up there next weekend.' And at her doubtful look, 'You and I, Charity.' She turned away to look at the incredible view.

    page 136/137
    The following afternoon he took her to Vigeland Park where she viewed the sculptured figures with awe, led rather briskly from one to the other by her companion, although she refused to be hurried when they reached the Monolith, a fifty-foot-high block of stone carved into over a hundred figures. And when she had done studying this, she wandered round the groups of figures about it, depicting life from the cradle to the grave.

    page 137
    The professor wasn't free the following afternoon; he had a working lunch and, since she was well ahead with her work, she took a tram and went back to the Vigeland Park, where she wandered round in the snow at her leisure, staring wide-eyed at the statues, wishing that Jake was with her.

  13. Vigeland Park, Oslo. Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869 - 1943).

  14. Bn has problems when the hero is too nice too soon and when there is really not much plot. Both the case here?