Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pour yourself a cuppa and pull up a chair...

via email (make sure you watch the youtube link and read the conversation over 'tea':

Dear Founding Bettys and Betty van den Betsy:

Didn't know if you'd seen this, and/or if you thought it worthy of inclusion in the blog:

The Rijksmuseum museum in Holland had an idea:
Let's bring the art to the people and then, hopefully,
they will come to see more - at the museum. >
They took one Rembrandt painting from 1642,
Guards of the Night and brought to life the characters in it,
placed them in a busy mall and the rest you can see for yourself! > >

This afternoon, I had tea with the British Army and Dutch Army wives in the neighborhood.  Both had read a couple of my books to prepare for my questions.  I made sure to include some with Evil or Dirty Belgians.

We drank "American tea"  -- "A happy medium dear....not as strong as British tea, not colored hot water as is drunk in Holland" and had scones and Madeira cake.  The Madeira cake was buttery yet dry.....if you could imagine shortbread crossed with cake, that would be it.  Properly made tea -- loose leaf, in a proper pot, in Spode teacups, with milk and sugar.

Regarding tying hair back with "a handy bootlace" "a bit of twine" "a handy ribbon":
British Betty (BB) "I should like to send your Betty a packet of proper hair elastics.  We did have those readily available from any proper chemist when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s."
Dutch Betty (DB) "I thought my English wasn't as good as it should be when I read those bits, why on earth would anyone do that?"

Regarding all the faithful retainers who stay with the heroine or the heroine's family when said family can't afford them:  
BB:  I don't think Americans would ever understand how it would be more important to keep paying the faithful retainers' salaries than to pay for university for strapping young heroines.  It is a moral obligation; I would consider it quite despicable to abandon retainers.
DB:  The Dutch don't quite get that, either.  Or at least those in my income bracket don't.

Regarding the convenient exchange programs between Dutch and English hospitals:  
BB: We do relate better to the Dutch than other Europeans, but I have only seen these exchanges in NATO hospitals.
DB:  I've never seen a British nurse in a Dutch hospital.

Regarding the NHS:
BB:  One should strive to be a private patient in Britain.  

Regarding nurses' uniforms:
BB: Some still wear sister's caps, which Americans always think look like nun's headgear.  Most wear scrubs.  None wear cuffs anymore.

Since BB had read Roses Have Thorns, I asked how the servants knew Sarah was from "the other side of the baize door":
BB:  The accent.  Sarah would have had a posh accent.  The servants would not have.
Me:  What does a posh accent sound like?
BB:  I have a posh accent.  Don't you watch Downton Abbey?
Me:  No.
BB:  You should.  Listen to the different accents.  You can even hear them in old reruns of Upstairs/Downstairs.
DB:  I watch Downton Abbey, and I haven't noticed different accents.
BB:  My dear DB, you are becoming downright American!

The ladies were, I thought, sufficiently warmed up to hit them up with my real question:  what about the Belgians?

BB:  Oh, dear, not until we've had some sherry.
DB:  Did you get it at the British Exchange?  I can't find decent sherry here.
(Note to self:  Time to take advantage of my military ID and shop at the British Exchange.  Wonderful sherry!  Once I find the Exchange, I'll pick up an extra bottle for BvdB)

Me:  So, about the Belgians...
BB:  Not until our second glasses.

Me:  We are midway through third glasses.  Can I ask you about the Belgians now?

This is the point in the conversation where both ladies insisted I not use their names.  They do not want to be quoted saying anything that might not be complimentary about a NATO ally.  "We have to be nice to the Belgian wives at NATO teas, you know."

DB:  You've been to Belgium, haven't you?  What did you observe?
Me:  Well, we only went to Bastogne, which was pretty much a WWII museum and tourist town catering to Americans.  But it looked a lot like Holland, and they even spoke Dutch.
DB:  (Gasps)
BB:  My dear, they speak Flemish in Belgium.
Me:  What is the difference between Flemish and Dutch?
DB: (Snorts and coughs) BB, do you have any gin?

(Gin and tonics served.  I'm allergic to juniper, so was able to stick to sherry.  I think G&T tastes like sugared petrol, glad to have developed the juniper allergy.)

DB: (Drains a good third of her G&T)  Flemish is a dialect of Dutch which can be unpleasant to the Dutch ear.  Unless you are in northern Belgium, near the Dutch border, where the Belgians speak proper Dutch.
Me:  But I could understand Flemish just as well as Dutch.
DB:  You speak Dutch?
Me:  No, but I speak German, and anyone who can speak both German and English can understand enough Dutch to survive.
DB:  (Drinking deeply) BB, could I please have a refill?  Back to your comment....I presume you couldn't hear the difference in the Dutch and Flemish accents?
Me:  No
DB:  Far more marked than the difference between posh English and servant English.  I don't find Flemish attractive.
BB:  I confess I have trouble telling them apart as well.
DB:  But if you were in Bastogne, you would not have heard proper Dutch.  That is Walloon country.  Most of the people would be speaking French.
Me:  My husband speaks French, but he couldn't understand Belgian French.  Most of the Belgians spoke Flemish to me when they realized I could sort of understand them, even though they could speak English.  

BB:  I think we have to address the dirty, shifty, untrustworthy Belgians who mistreat animals and women depicted in the World of Betty.  Her Belgians are just a step up from Travelers.
Me:  Travelers are Gypsies, yes?
BB:  (Also gulping gin)  Dear heavens, Betty is talking about Irish Travelers!  There aren't many gypsies left, Hitler wiped most of them out.
Me: Oh, my.  It was not pleasant flying to Dublin from London with an American passport and an Irish last name.
BB:  I imagine not.  You would be pegged as an American IRA supporter by security.
Me:  I got the "suspected terrorist" screening.
DB:  Back to the Belgians.  Did you not notice how dirty Belgium was?
Me:  Dirty?
DB:  They don't sweep their streets and sidewalks or wash their windows, particularly down south, not like we do in Holland.
Me:  Oh, like we had to do when we lived in Germany?  (We had to sweep the sidewalk and street in front of our house every Saturday, and wash the windows weekly, or our German neighbors would politely tell us to do it.)
DB:  Yes.  The Belgians take after the French that way.
Me:  The French are also dirty?
DB:  You've been to Paris? You see the litter and the dirt and the grime during the day?  It's only magical at night when you can't see the filth.
Me:  Well, Paris was NOT as clean as Germany, Holland, or Britain.
DB:  It even smells bad.
Me:  Well, yes.
DB:  Europe is becoming Americanized; the people are adopting American hygiene standards, so these distinctions are becoming more and more blurred.  The EU is causing even more European homogenization.  In your Betty's youth, there would have been a marked difference between Dutch and English hygiene and Belgian and French hygiene.  The French were kind of smelly, which they disguised with fabulous perfume, and their hygiene standards were dismissed as unimportant in comparison to their contributions to culture.  The Belgians were just like the French, but without the culture.  That is probably what your Betty perceived.
Me:  That sounds like her Belgians.
DB:  But Belgian chocolate is spectacular.
BB:  Better than Swiss chocolate!
Me:  Do they sell Belgian chocolate at the British Exchange?

By this point, I had lost count of the glasses of sherry I'd tossed off, and DB had fallen asleep on BB's couch after her third or fourth G&T.  It was time for the big guns:
Me:  So, why would Betty have considered America "the place where only vulgar characters relocate".
BB:  Because compared to Brits, you Americans are rather coarse and vulgar.  Oh dear, I could have put that better, it must be the gin talking.

I thought it prudent to stumble home at this point.  So glad I walked!



  1. I am DYING, Betty Lynn, with how hilarious this is! Do get together another time and be sure to ask about the Dutch leaving their drapes open, the openness of marrying into the Edel (? am I remembering that correctly?)and the possibility of seeing the queen (now King) scampering about the countryside on her bike.

    Also, I read the Daily Mail, I suspect that post-war Britain is riddled with all sorts of vulgarity. Seriously, is ANYONE married to their missing child's baby momma? I kid. But I have the feeling that The Great Betty got her ideas about America from our mid-century equivalent of the Daily Mail which isn't exactly seeking diligently for high-brow news...

    1. Betty Keira, I will certainly ask. I am to teach my neighbors how to make a proper margarita next week. Any other questions from any other Bettys?

    2. Ask the Brit Betty if Brighton really does have that terrible reputation! Also, what's the current reputation of Dam Square? Is crossing that in sensible court shoes with a guide book at hand still likely to earn you an accosting?

    3. I asked Betty Henry and Betty Ross about Brighton. It used to be the place you took a woman for an illicit weekend, so yes, it had that reputation. This would be in the 50s and 60s, I believe. At some point even the British eased up on the notion of the illicit weekend, so now Brighton is just a seaside tourist destination, but it definitely had that reputation in my lifetime.

  2. Oh, well done, Betty Lynn. This is so funny.
    "I watched Downton Abbey and I haven't noticed any different accents." Ha ha, hilarious. Thank you for asking all those sticky questions!
    Betty Anonymous

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    Oh Army Betty! You have outdone yourself in the service of Bettyhood. You got an answer to 'the Belgian Question'!! Thank you.
    Thank you.

  4. Betty Barbara:
    Thanks for recognizing me despite my failure to sign my email properly -- due to the aftereffects of Way Too Much Sherry.

  5. Just great and those puzzling questions answered!!! Personally, I'm still struggling with what the Great Betty means by curvy. As in Olivias being tall and ample. Would that be like "Joan" in Mad Men, if anyone watches that??

  6. Muddy waters. I wonder how our Belgian Bettys feel about "the Belgian Question".

    Dear Belgian Bettys
    Please tell us how you feel about these prejudices.

    And, Bettys in the United States, did you know that when Americans come to Canada they are impressed because the cities are so clean...

    Muddy waters.

    1. Cities in Canada, England, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, and Germany all looked amazingly clean to me.

      Cities in Belgium, Italy, and Hungary looked normal to me.

      Paris looked like New York, from a cleanliness perspective. Dingy but not horrifying.

      I'll refrain from comment on the other countries I've visited....

      My neighbors were very clear they were talking about cultural opinions of 30 years ago, which are fading away year by year. They were also reluctant to voice them until plied with generous amounts of alcohol.

    2. Opinions of 30 years ago. That explains it. Sister Peters in Amsterdam, first published in 1969, (How many years ago was that, class? Get out your pencils and do some rather inaccurate sums on the back of an old envelope.) contains both the Belgium Question and the dislike of red hair.
      She was disappointed in Belgium; it looked untidy and faintly neglected after the neat houses and gardens of Holland.

      But wait, dear Belgian Bettys, all is not lost, the Great Betty then continued to say something complimentary of your country, contrary to some Bettys' beliefs she had something good to say. Yea!

      It was a pity that there was no time to stop at Bruges; it looked delightful, but the professor drove straight through the town ...

      In Hilltop Tryst, Beatrice and Oliver and his secretary Ethel spend more than twenty-four hours in Brussels. And not even a hint of a negative word about Belgium. (By the by, this Beatrice must be the most a-typical Betty heroine, for what does she do in Brussels, that European capital steeped in history (and politics)? The morning she spends shopping, yes, shopping, "buying very little" (choclates for her sisters, a tie for her father, a brooch for her mother) and prettying herself up for lunch with Oliver. But wait, it gets even better. How does she spend her one and only afternoon in Bruxelles? Huh? Packing her things, having tea in her room and a leisurely bath. In Brussels! Huh? What? Are you daft, girl? Oliver said to make the most of it and that's the best you can do? Not a single church, not a single hour at a museum, not even a single look at the manneken?)

  7. Want to hear the difference between Dutch and Flemish? The languages in a „regular“ accent, the way you would be taught at school, taking a course. Because, as you can immagine there are all kinds of different accents, regiolects, same as in English. I found these on YouTube and I think the girls are delightful.

    dutchfornoobs Learn Dutch – Introducing yourself

    Flemish for Dummies 1

    Flemish for Dummies 2: introducing yourself

    And I just love this clip. This is sooo well done.
    Easy Dutch Episode 1 – Best of Basic Phrases

    Betty Anonymous

    1. Thank you so much! The last is especially good.

  8. Oh, Army Betty. How I adore you! Thanks ever so for the offer of my own bottle of proper sherry. As the Jonkheer has recently decided that ten years with me is about 1.5 months too many (and so pulled the plug on our relationship at nine years, ten-and-one-half months) and my employer has recently decided that with revenue reduced thanks to sequestration they can do without me, I could use a sherry. Or six. And about a pound and a half of Belgian chocolate. Or Dutch chocolate, which I've always found wonderful.

    1. Betty Barbara here--

      Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Sisterly Betty hugs to you, Betty van den Betsy!!

    2. Dearest Betty van den Betsy, and here I was wondering why you were so quiet of late, I was getting "that worried". I would go easy on the sherry, we don't want you to develop a headache. Ah, but the chocolate may not only improve your mood but be actually good for your health (60% cocoa or darker, about 30 grams/an ounce a day.) Wish I could send you a box right now through the ether. Sisterly Betty hugs from me too!

    3. Oh, dear, when it rains it pours!

      In the World of Betty, such a confluence of events results in An Opportunity To Create A New Much Much Better Life. The Leutnant-Kolonel is also new to the local job market (which he's been calling Carousel after Logan's Run), however my rolodex of Former Contracting Students and weekly analysis of Which Federal Agencies Can Still Afford To Send Their Employees To Contracting Class is getting him some very promising leads. Let us put my rolodex to work for you in search of opportunities much more appealing than being a school nurse in the north of England, sewing curtains and tapestries in a Grand Yet Flammable House attic, or crossing to the other side of the baize door! Will email you directly.

      Toasting your brilliant future a I type!

  9. More sisterly Betty hugs from me too, Betty van den Betsy! We find yourself terribly charming and can't imagine anyone thinking otherwise. Really, Really, all our love and, if you should find yourself in need of sedate grey superfine wool to grizzle into, I hope you get it.

  10. Would it be very, very, wrong of me to hope he boards a (doomed) plane to South America? Grrrr.

    B von S

    Sisterly hugs from me, too.

  11. Touche, B von S......I share in your hope!

  12. I'm actually perfectly happy to allow him to live, wallowing in regret until the end of his days. The dope. What he actually said was, "I'm no longer sure whether I'm better off with you than without you, and I think we should have a trial separation so I can decide." To which deranged piece of blathering I replied, "Well, I know I don't want the putative love of my life to be a man who can't decide whether he loves me, so let's just do the separation part, and skip the trial."

    Army Betty, did the L.C. retire? In *this* gov't contracting environment?!? Thank him for his service, please.

    1. Bravo, BvdB, bravo!

      Mijnheer LC retired in 2004, Mevrouw LC retired in 2005. His contract was "descoped" thanks to sequestration -- but with two retirement checks, we can't complain too much. However, his job hunt had resulted in both of us having a good handle on where to look in the current economy. DHS is hiring! Contractors and Federal civilians!

  13. And did I mention that you are all incomparably lovely in your kind wishes? I didn't?! Well, then I do so now. It is actually a magnificent bit of deck clearing, and I have a lovely feeling of lightness as I keep thinking, "I can do anything! Anything I want!"

    Road trip!!

  14. Oh my. I'm sorry to hear the bad news, Betty van den Betsy! It stinks to high heaven that he would say that to you. Hugs to you from Texas.

    Betty AnoninTX

    PS Road trip to Texas in September for our tea

  15. Betty van den Betsy -- You are more than welcome to come stay with us for a while. (All the mod cons, plus a pool, plus the peace & quiet of a thatched cottage on the Fens, etc., etc.) Just say the word--Betty Ross and I would love to have you!

  16. I've been off the internet for a bit (darn you, Candy Crush!) so only just saw this. Hugs from me, too. Hope the last month has been improving.