Monday, May 20, 2013

A Star Looks Down--Reprise

Dirk, Dirk, Dirk.  He's a point of contention in A Star Looks Down.  To some he is a misguided and no more than casually awful pre-pubescent boy.  To others, he is a holy terror.  Having spent some educational years as a leader of Cub Scouts, my offering is that I have met Dirk before.  And I don't like him. It all gets muddled when you consider that little people often engage in semi-murderous activity in The Land of Neels and that my willingness to proffer forgiveness swings wildly from case to case.  Locks heroine in abandoned warehouse to be potentially attacked by indigent hippies?  Poor baby!  Lures her into scary house with rotting floorboards?  The darlings! Sets a boat loose with children on board?  String up the wicked varlet!
So, in the words of Betty Debbie, your forgiveness mileage may vary...
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira  

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Langton Magna, there was an enchanted princess. 
Her name was Elizabeth Partridge.  Elizabeth Partridge of Chifney House.  At her christening an evil fairy cursed her with Plainness of Face - the curse was quite effective, but it couldn't diminish her violet eyes and titian hair.  The curse could only be broken by True Love

After the death of their father, the king, her evil stepbrother Philip assumed the throne and exiled Princess Beth and Prince William, her brother, to the Dark Abyss of London.

Prince William is left just enough money to finish uni and take a medical course. Beth is left much less...she becomes a nurse to supplement the tiny annuity that was given her.  The two exiles share digs which means that Beth usually covers the rent and the groceries and the cooking and the cleaning.  Prince William is diligent in his studies, but often borrows a fiver from the princess for dates or new clothes - never realizing that the plain little princess might want a new pair of court shoes herself - after all, she is quite plain.

On her way to the hospital one day, Princess Beth runs into a mighty wizard from a far country.  A mighty wizard with a keen sense of sight - he can see past The Curse of Plainness. The wizard is not only powerful, he's also hot.

My favorite wizard.
The wizard has a sister who is under a spell...a cruel spell that necessitates an appendectomy. Mevrouw Thorbecke (wizard's sister) needs an indentured servant to take care of her 4 little horrors.  Prince William has a man-crush on the wizard, and blithely volunteers Princess Beth. He sees no problem with her forgoing her upcoming vacation to be a temporary nanny. What does she need with a vacation anyway? It's not like she was going to have any fun.  Much better for Beth to work and make a bit of lolly(I♥Betty) that  she can share with him. Beth is tempted to turn down the job, but Prince William is right, Beth really didn't have anything better in the offing...and there is that hot, hot wizard.
The wizard stops by the digs and is treated to a meal of macaroni cheese and orange squash while giving Beth a description of the children, ages 5 to 10.  Mind you, he's a bit misleading - Beth has no idea she'll soon be minding The Bad Seed. More on that later.

Princess Beth takes care of the children for a week in Darkest London.  They all get along just fine, and Beth enjoys the late night chats with the wizard.  He's really a bit of a poppet.  On her morning off, she makes a bee-line back to her shared digs, where she spends the morning cooking and cleaning.  During one of those late night chats, Princess Beth tells the wizard about her childhood home, her old pony Sugar and her horse named Beauty.  They were left in the hands of the evil stepbro, Philip.  Hmmm.
Princess Beth's leave is extended (she has been 'lent' by the hospital) so she can spend a couple of weeks in the country!

Thank you for saving my horse.
You really are a wizard!
The wizard, whose real name is Professor Alexander van Zeust, takes the whole party - Mevrouw Thorbecke, the 4 little horrors and Princess Elizabeth down to his country home.Three of the children are just fine - but the eldest is another story.  More on that later...yes, yes, we'll get to it soon.
The wizard has a surprise for her...he takes her for a ride one day - right up to the palace of the evil stepbro. The wizard casts a spell or two and manages to flatten Philip and save Sugar and Beauty from the knackers. Professor Wizard is some kind of wonderful.  He even invites Beth to go riding with him - of course she knows how- what with being a princess and all.  He also tells Beth what his idea of a good marriage is.
Him: I want fun, fights and a love to toss me to the skies.
Her: You should marry a beautiful princess who wears beautiful gowns and runs your wizard castle beautifully and is a  super hostess too.
Him: That sounds like a dead bore to me.

Mevrouw Thorbecke has recovered enough to go for a ride with Professor Wizard, Princess Beth and the kids.  A journey to Cheddar Gorge!  The mevrouw stays in the car while Beth and the Wiz shepherd the kiddies around. It's all good fun...right up until the Wiz leaves Beth alone with the kids in the canyon (so as to take the mevrouw out for tea). The Bad Seed scampers up the cliff despite repeated entreaties not to. Princess Beth has to climb up and join him. Of course she can't get him down...but the Wizard comes to the rescue. Up until this point, Dirk (The Bad Seed) has been a fairly normal boy of 10 - but he comes out of the Wizard's study a changed boy.  From here on out he is sullen, moody, full of rage, dislike and contempt.  He's loaded his emotional M-16 and pointed it directly at Princess Beth.  It's too bad she doesn't own a bullet-proof vest.

Because Mevrouw Thorbecke suffers from SSoRDD Syndrome (spoiled sister of rich Dutch doctor), she needs Princess Beth for MORE time (so far Mevrouw is at least 3 weeks post-op) arrangements are made for Princess Beth to accompany the troupe to Holland. A quick stop off in London - just enough time to cash her cheque, cook and clean for Prince William and leave him part of her hard earned wages (grrr...), and they're off to the continent and the Thorbecke's hometown of Willemstad! Not before a little foreshadowing in the form of an enigmatic incantation from the Wizard, "I'm waiting...."

Willemstad is a lovely little town, right smack on the waterfront. This is important.

Princess Beth has an incredible Dawning Realization.  Instead of  the usual "I love him and now must hide my love away"....she says the 'L' word right out loud! "Oh, my goodness, I love you...sorry.  I promise I won't bother you a bit - I'm quite sensible." It seems like her curse is broken.  Or is it?  She has accidentally spilled her emotional beans. In spite of all the clues we have that the Wizard is in love with Princess Beth, he fumbles the ball here.  Epic Fail!  She has declared her love and pretty much laid bare her soul, but for whatever unfathomable reason, Alexander the Wizard doesn't bother to seal the deal right then and there.
Her: harm done.  I may not have ever been in love before, but I promise not to moon around.  You're so hot and rich, I'm sure you can forget all about me with anyone you fancy - all you need do is lift a finger and they'll come running.
Him: I am not in the habit of chatting up the birds.
Her: Let's just forget this conversation.
Him: I have a retentive memory.
Sure, it sounds okay, and I'm a big fan of Beth right now - she isn't pretending that she's not in love - and she's woman enough to say it.  I am irritated with the all-knowing all-seeing Wizard.  As far as I can tell, the only reason he doesn't put a ring on it, is that she doesn't think she's his ideal wife.  Instead of words of encouragement, Beth is packed off to bed.

Lovely House Tour O' Love...with some even lovelier snogging.  Princess Beth kisses right back, 'may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb', thinks she. 'Call me Alexander', says he. He dances around the subject of outright, she's fobbed off with 'Next Time we'll talk about love'. (grrrrr...teeth grinding).  You just know that something will happen...Alexander was tempting the fates when he left her hanging like that. 
The Revenge of Moby Moody Dirk!!!
Ten year old thug Dirk decides it's time to make Princess Beth pay for her alleged crimes.  He nicks a small sailboat and bundles his other three siblings in - they will all go sailing! Beth sees them and tries to stop the young felon.  Since he won't stop, she sheds her shoes and swims out to the boat.  Now they're all in trouble.  Bad weather is coming, Moody Dirk is all talk and no trousers - he doesn't know how to sail.  Princess Beth may ride horses but she's hopeless at water sports...the other three kids are just ballast. By dint of working together, Moody Dirk and Princess Beth (mostly Beth) manage to finally make it into a harbour and off the boat.  Alexander is in a white hot rage, Mevrouw Thorbecke has roused herself enough to be mildly put out that Beth would endanger her children.  Yes, Moody Dirk has managed to shift the blame to Princess Beth.  Everyone, it seems, is mad at Princess Beth and ready to blame her for the entire nautical debacle.  She's suddenly tired of the whole business, so instead of explaining, she leaves.  Leaves Holland and takes the next boat to England. It seems she's back under the curse again.

Moody Dirk confesses his sins to Uncle...the little toe rag finally feels remorse for his transgressions. Alexander catches up with Beth at the train station in London. A final few kisses to break the curse, proposal of marriage...
...and they lived happily ever after.  
Epilogue: Beth kept a wary eye on their children...she had to be sure that the taint of Moody Dirk was not hereditary. All the right fairy godmothers were invited to every christening to help ward off the whiff of Bad Seed-i-ness.

Fancy waistcoat?
Rating: Gosh, there's a lot of fun here, but it's a real curate's egg for me. I have a tough time with Beth being such a doormat for Brother William.  I don't mind that they share digs, I don't mind that she does the lion's share of the cooking and cleaning (some people are just like that).  What I do mind is that she constantly sacrifices her wages so that Willy Boy can go on dates and wear fancy waistcoats - that behaviour just strikes me as beyond the pale. I also have a problem with the dear professor.  He works just fine for me right up until the point Beth has her dawning realization and blurts out her love.  She's adorable...really, really adorable - but he's a bit of a prat.  Although it's never stated, it's pretty obvious that he fell in love at first sight, and now that the girl confesses her love...he fumbles the ball. Moody Dirk leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I don't have a problem with his first foray into disobedience - it really only affects himself...and it is something a naughty ten year old would do (thus speaks a woman who has had 5 ten year old boys of her own, and dozens of 10 year old cub scouts.  I know what I'm talking about here).  The entire scene where he takes his younger siblings (including 5 year old sister) on a boat ride is frankly disturbing. That and the fact that he would hold a grudge and act on it. Ew.  I really can't do better than Mince Pies on this one, but if someone can give me a really good reason for a) giving money to brother William for dates and fancy waistcoats and b) why Alexander doesn't get off the dime sooner, I'll be willing to reconsider.
Food: Sandwiches and yoghurt from the canteen, macaroni cheese and orange squash, anchovy toast, rich chocolate cake, beef olives Provenḉal (which strangely enough, don't have any olives...), apple pie and cream at least twice, pâté of cod's roe, Sole bonne Femme, bread and butter pudding, ratatouille, fillet steak, cake batter licked from the bowl.
Fashion: Brown tweed skirt and sweater, William has a taste for wildly expensive waistcoats, suede jerkin, leaf green jersey dress, Irish tweed suit, uninteresting brown woollen dress, deep mauve jersey dress, Alexander wears proper riding gear while Beth wears slacks and borrowed wellies, quaker grey jersey dress.


  1. Ooh, this is one of the ones that I just read, and I will admit I utterly adored it. Bonus points, of course, for a heroine named Beth (HOW was this not one of the first ones I went looking for?!), but also Dirk being my father's name, well, that clinched it. Not one, but two family names approved by Lady Neels in a single book!

    I rather liked Beth, and I'm not just saying that because I can. I thought looking out for her brother was a sweet older sisterly thing to do - she was selfless but just barely missed being saintly in my book, which let me continue to like her. And I did like the children, too, but then I usually like the relatives of the doctors in Neels stories - the boating incident didn't seem too bad in my book, but I agree, it is a bit off-putting that he has such a great grudge against Beth so quickly. But still, this books rates a bit higher than a Mince Pie for me... I think I would put it in my top ten, actually!

    ...But then, I'm allowed to adore an ACTUAL Betty Neels Beth, aren't I?

    -Betty Beth

    1. I think that it the same way I adore Caroline from Caroline's. The fact that we share a name makes us practically kin!

    2. Meant Caroline's Waterloo.

  2. Thoughts and prayers to any Oklahoma Bettys. I'll get around to the book later.

    Betty AnoninTX

  3. Yes. Good wishes to everyone.

  4. I was watching it on the news earlier. So horrific! My heart goes out to everyone involved or who knows someone involved. So sad!

  5. All Bettys please pray for my cousin in Oklahoma, he is a state trooper and he is out there trying to help contain the chaos.

    B von S

    1. Dear B von S, I hope he will be able to help and return home safe and sound. Please keep us informed.

  6. The Boeier - read: booyer

    She walked along the edge of the water, using all her persuasive powers with absolutely no effect. It was when she heard Alberdina's small voice wailing that she slithered down the bank, took off her shoes, slid into the water and began to swim laboriously towards the boeier. She hadn't really stopped to think, which was just as well, for she ...

    audio: in the video Boeier Mientje

    We zind hier, eh, aan bord van, (0:12) eh, de boeier Mientje. Dit schip is, eh, dit jaar hondert jaar oud...
    We are here, er, on board of, er, the boeier Mientje. This ship is, er, this year a hundred years old...

    Boeiers Friesland, video

    Boeier Albatros, video

    Pictures of boeiers,
    Eigenaar – owner
    Bouwjaar – the year they were built in

    Meer informatie: more information(measurements, Ontwerper ( what do you call the person who designs a ship?), materials)

    1. Hey, the first one pictured is named for an Betty RDD!

  7. Betty Magdalen and I usually go a few rounds on this one. Perhaps a clever Betty can link to previous discussions (as some of the early Bettys know, I flunked linking class). However, I will have to save my best ammunition for later because Betty Magdalen is ill in the hospital with pneumonia. I'm sure Brit Hub 2.0 is lavishing dozens of tulips on her while she recuperates in her satin robe.

    To summarize: Betty JoDee really, really loves Beth. She really, really loves Alexander--right up to the point when he is furious with her for endangering the children. Betty Magdalen blames Beth for criminal dereliction of duty at the pier then not crawling on bended knee with contrite explanation to Dr. Jump-to-Asinine-Conclusions. At least that's how I remember it....

    This may inspire Betty Magdalen to heave herself up from her bed to crawl her way over to the laptop that the lisping blonde nurse neglected to remove from the ICU room.

    Plus, BIG THANKS for the GP shot (along with one of my favorite and oft-used Betty quotations).

    1. Betty Magdalen, get well soon!!

      Betty AnoninTX

    2. Betty Magdalen, please get well soon! We miss you.

      Betty Anonymous

    3. Betty JoDee vs. Betty Magdalen and it's gloves off.

      ...get your collective heads out of the treacle tarts!...

    4. Hey, you guys are thinking of me. That's so sweet. Thanks!

      I'm recovering, but still in the hospital. I've been reading Bettys on the Kindle--so comforting. I came over to TUJD to figure out which of the (many, many) confusingly similar titles are the books I want to make sure I have loaded.

      Yes, Betty JoDee and I see things differently when it comes to Alexander. Currently, I'm madly in love with Julius van der Berg Eyffert...who is, I realize, a Normal Romance Hero age (33). All that business about George wearing uniform, and it still doesn't work to stave off his love. (This is Damsel in Green, by the way.)

      Anyway, I'll come and comment on the books I'm reading, but it will be slow. Betty Ross brings me my laptop once a day, during visiting hours. And right now, I need to spend that precious time figuring out which books to read next.

    5. If only you were a skosh closer I would come and read to you in my lovely voice (get one of those vocoder things and program to "well-educated but down-on-luck young English upper-middle class woman in the 1940s"). As it is, may I extend instead simple but sincere wishes for your very complete and relapse-free recovery. The pneumonia is nothing with which to mess.

    6. You ladies are all awesome, because the debate and linkage made my laugh like crazy.

      Best of luck to Betty Magdalen - by now I hope you are home again being tempted to take a more active turn in the garden by your devoted housekeeper. I'm reading my Neels on Kindle, too - I'm glad I'm not the only one!

    7. Dear Betty Magdalen, I hope you are much better by now. Regards to Betty Saint Ross - willing to share visiting hours with The Great Betty and your laptop! What a great guy. Now that I call true devotion.

    8. I am happy to report that Betty Magdalen is home in her small castle (well, it IS really cool and historic).

      Spending time with Julius of Damsel in Green is enough to cure anyone.

    9. Good news for sure. Betty Magdalen, take it easy for WEEKS. You have our permission.

      Betty AnoninTX

    10. Yes, it is lovely here -- soft and warm and fresh and delightful. I'm taking it really easy, reading Kathleen Gilles Seidel's AGAIN (for the first time). It's a hoot: set against the backdrop of a costume soap opera called My Lady's Chamber, but the romance is between the head writer, Jenny, and the new actor, Alec. (Can't tell yet how Brighton-y it will be.)

      I think I reread a dozen (round or baker's, not sure) of Bettys while I was in the hospital. They were perfect reading material--completely consistent and delightful. Although I have to admit that if you read two quite similar books back-to-back, it is possible to get a teeny-tiny bit annoyed with the hero who's known for 80 pages that the heroine is vital to his happiness but he can't quite pull the trigger. (I'm thinking of you, Oliver Trentham...)

      It does make me appreciate her best all that much more.

  8. Yoohoo, Betty in Mountain View, off to bed now! It's way past your bedtime. And no more reading with a flashlight beneath the covers either, mind. Pleasant dreams.

    1. I used to get in trouble for that, I had an awesome Scooby Doo flashlight, too......

      B von S