Monday, August 12, 2013

At the End of the Day--Reprise

Afternoon, Dear Bettys,
Today's question revolves around THE eternal question:
Who is The World's Most Unfanciable Man?
Now, I ought to say Russell Crowe as he has let himself go a bit and likes to throw things at people but I love him.  I. Love. Him.  
Fat Marlon Brando?  Bring it.
But I can't stand either Brad Pitt or Matt Damon (commonly fanciable types) for anything unless they're in an Ocean's movie...
Such is the variety of individual taste.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

Anyone familiar with the work of Betty Neels knows that she had a somewhat limited repertoire of plot lines. Her genius was more about filling in the little details.  At the End of the Day is a variation on a theme. It had some awesome moments and some great lines. Shall we see how we feel about it at the end of the day?

tick...tick ...tick.

Julia Mitchell, a ravishing fiery redhead of Junoesque proportions, has just turned thirty. The big three-oh.  She's nominally engaged to the slippery Nigel Longman.  Nigel is an up and coming doctor, with an up and coming job interview in Bristol. In the meantime, she's Sister for Women's Medical at a hospital in London. Sister Julia has a thorn in her side. Professor van der Wagema (41). Everyone knows they don't like each other.  He runs the gamut from tiresome to icy cold to bitingly sarcastic. I know what you're thinking: He's the hero? Julia doesn't have a good opinion of him, but then again, he barely registers on her radar. She doesn't know a thing about him, and what's more, she doesn't care. 


There must be some kind of trigger that gets the two antagonists thinking about each other - that trigger never gets revealed - but think about each other they do. Maybe Julia just needs to think about a vertebrate...and surprise, surprise, Professor van der Wagema has a fine backbone. Mighty fine. Even from the back he looked distinguished. Yeah, bum check. Her burgeoning interest in him just so happens to coincide with her dawning realization that the magic has gone out of her relationship with Nigel. Mind you, it's all baby steps at this point. In spite of working with Professor van der Wagema for over three years on the ward, she knows nothing about him. Is he married? Does he have children? Where does he live? None of these questions have ever flitted across her consciousness before. One of the questions is answered quite soon. He has an eleven year old son.  That must mean he's married. 


Julia  showers a little unused maternal instinct on a stray kitten. Nigel is off in Bristol and doesn't bother to call her with a status update. In order to find out if he got the job, Julia resorts to calling the Invertebrate's mother. Yes, her darling boy got the job. Julia shows way too much forbearance with Nigel. He is thrilled to get the job, but not keen on getting married anytime soon. Maybe next year. Julia is supposed to be satisfied with his less than thorough kissing.


If you haven't guessed by now, the sound that you're hearing is Julia's biological clock. Nigel figures they can live in the hospital-provided-flat and Julia can continue to work for a year or two (that's after waiting the better part of a year to get married)...Julia is not a nurse for nothing - she knows she doesn't have all that many childbearing years left. She reflects to herself that '30 is such a depressing age.'
 In order to fight off her depression, she decides to take a holiday back at Casa de Mitchell.  She can potter around, do a little horseback riding and think. Think about what? The depressing lack of commitment that she's getting from Nigel. He's proving impossible to pin down and have a serious discussion with. In fact, Julia wonders what exactly they have to talk about - beyond work?

Let's just get off the subject of Nigel, okay? He's really not worth the word count.

Remember when I said that Professor van der Wagema has a son? Young Nicholas is a pretty useful plot device. The Professor hires Mr. Mitchell to tutor the lad in Latin. It's a wonderful excuse for him to meet Julia's family.
Julia's mother is like a marital-status heat seeking missle. In less time than it takes to say 'lobster Newburg' - she manages to winkle out the fact that he has been widowed for eight years. Cha-ching! He's single. And happy to drive Julia back to London at the end of her weekend. For No Reason Whatsoever, Julia tarts herself up for the ride home...even wearing her Gucci shoes! I hope you dressed yourself to kill on my account...says he, and then he kisses her! An engaged woman (yes, she's still engaged)! Their relationship is quickly changing from adversarial to friendly.
Nicholas is more than happy to spend weekends at Casa de Mitchell. Julia goes home for another visit and the two go riding together. Papa van der Wagema rides up on his white charger hired horse and manages to get an invitation for the weekend. It's just a tiny step from spending the night to being on a first name basis. My name is Lauris. And now for some muddling.
Her: Nicholas needs a mother...
Him: He'll have one soon...
Yes, it's that hoary old chestnut: I'm In Love With You and Plan to Marry You, But Until Then You Can Just Assume I'm Engaged to Someone Else. Aargh. This will continue for the next 80 pages. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Lauris is looming larger and larger in her thoughts.  Yes, that's the prelude to a Dawning Realization.
Lauris sees her distraught face in the morning and drags part of the truth from her - 'I can't marry Nigel'. He doesn't get to hear her confess her love for him yet, but you can bet he knows which way the Thames is flowing.  Lauris snatches the opportunity to offer Julia a ride to Bristol - so as to have it out with Nigel. Risky business that. Taking the girl you love to meet her fiancee - there's always the possibility that they'll make up. Nope. After an initial 'You're throwing ME over?', Nigel seems positively relieved to have dodged the matrimonial bullet. Very lowering to a girl, but Lauris is right there to get the post-game wrap-up. He invites himself to dinner at her flat and asks for all the gory details.
Now that Nigel is out of the way, let's start dating! If only it were so easy. Julia is firmly of the opinion that Lauris is engaged. She does go out with him a couple of times, but always under protest 'what will your fiancee think?' Lauris could seal the deal  PDQ if only he'd tell her that he loves her...not a mythical fiancee - but that's not how things roll in Neeldom.  There are formalities. First of all, Julia must have lunch at his house, meet his housekeeper and his dog Digby (whose name always reminds me of an old article about the 'redshirt' characters in Star Trek - the author named the redshirts 'Digby and Johnson'...but I digress). The Sad Tale of Nicky's Mother is told. She left them when Nicholas was little - and went to America only to die of viral pneumonia (as you do...).
Then a little excitement is in order. Julia feels the need to walk home from Lauris' place.
No, that's too far.
Okay, I'll take the bus from the British Museum.
Fine, but I'll walk you there.
It's a darn good thing he does, because they get caught in a demonstration. Lauris pushes Julia up against a wall and shelters her Excuse me while I grab a fan.  Wow, did it just get a little hot in here? Not only does he protect her, he then proceeds to Kiss Her Fiercely
Christmas is coming and Lauris has invited Julia's two younger brothers to go to Holland for a few days with him and Nicholas.  Would Julia please come too? Julia is only too happy (it will give her a chance to check out the fictional fiancee). But first she has to get a streaming head cold. Lauris comes up to her flatlet and bullies her into getting better. I'll have you up on your feet if it kills me. He makes tea, heats up soup, feeds Wellington (the kitten) and offers to wash her hair. Awww. His motive (besides being in love) has got to be the trip to Holland.
Lauris picks up all three boys, then stops by to get Julia. Night ferry from Harwich, he's got a lovely small castle with pepperpot towers, this is my mother, sleep well...
Julia gets up early in the morning to go exploring and is proposed to for her pains.
Him: You love me now, don't you?
Her:Yes, but what about your finacee?
Him: I never said I had a fiancee...I merely stated my intention of getting married. Nicholas knows I want to marry you, so does my mother, so does your mother.  You're the only one who didn't get it.
Proposal, kissing. The end.

Rating: This one was a mixed bag for me. Julia has dug herself into a very boring rut with Nigel. She's not getting any younger - and she's watching her dreams of a house in the country with 2.5 kids, a donkey, a pony, two dogs, a cat or two and a husband who loves her - slip slide away. Her dissatisfaction with Nigel isn't anything new in a Betty Neels, but it does ring true. She really does like him - but Nigel is unable/unwilling/too thick to see Julia as a  real woman who has needs and a biological clock that is running down. I didn't appreciate how long The Nigel Affair lingered on in the book (she doesn't officially dump him until page 114!!).  If you assume that the antagonistic feelings between Julia and Lauris at the beginning of the book are from suppressed desire, then his iciness and her statement "He's the most unfanciable man I know" (I♥Betty Neels)make more sense.  Betty Neels dealt with a somewhat similar plotline much more deftly in Heidelberg Wedding (published the year before this one). If I had one wish for this book, it would be that we knew more of what Lauris was thinking. Such as, when did he fall in love with her? Before she fell for him, that much is obvious...but when? The best I can give it is a Mince Pie.

Food: A whole meal with capitalization - salad Niçoise, lobster Newburg, soufflé Harliquin. Macaroni cheese, cheese sandwich and lager after the cinema, cress sandwiches, chocolate cake, smoked salmon with brown bread and butter, omelette Diplomate (more capitalization!), peaches poached in champagne,  mince pies, doughnuts, lobster soup, roast duck, syllabub with lashing of cream.
Fashion: The Professor wears slacks and a sport shirt (off duty), Julia wears old slacks and a disreputable sweater, an elderly corduroy skirt with a cotton sweater that had seen better days. She goes riding in slacks with an old out-at-elbows sweater and a bright scarf. When she 'dresses to kill', she wears a knitted jacket and skirt with a tucked silk blouse, all in grey, with her Gucci shoes.


  1. The cutest "souffle Harlequin". I wanted to know what it looked like and typed in (google images)

    souffle harlequin

    Then I thought to narrow the search down a bit by adding quotation marks.

    "souffle harlequin"

    Image #8. The cutest little souffle! Ha ha.

  2. One of the things I love about this book is all the verbal and non-verbal sparring - he cool voice, cold eyes, cold politeness - she fuming inwardly, talking back (without fear of getting the sack), or trying to match his cold manner. Love it.
    All that icy coldness, but when he smiles at her...
    le sigh
    Which reminds me: Yoohoo, Betty Francesca, are you out there?

  3. Uniforms, Caps and Capes – pictures

    Four nurses on bikes wearing caps and capes.
    Nursing - Nurses raise money 1980
    [...] The nurse's are Marie Mcgovern, Karen Barnes, Caroline Maxwell, and Hillary Clark.

    Another four nurses on bikes – sans caps and capes. Caroline’s Waterloo, 1980

    The National Health Service - Nurses - Wirral - 1958
    New style nylon uniforms for nurses being shown at Clatterbridge Hospital, Bebington, Wirral, Cheshire. centre of attention is 20 year old student nurse Gene Williams.

  4. Not Once but Twice

    [...] I haven’t been at St Athud’s all the time, you know. I came to London when my parents died and took the job I have got now. Before then I was living near Yeovil. I worked at the hospital there, but I trained at Bart's.'
    They had stopped to watch an old man feeding the birds and presently Dr ter Brandt said: 'The post I have to offer you is that of Third Sister in the Accident Department at the Theofilus Hospital. [...]

    Taken in nurses home Yeovil 1968
    Me as a 3rd year student. Engaged and waiting to take finals
    Not a clear picture, but look! Cuffs on her short sleeves.

    St Bartholomew's Hospital 1961
    The lecture room in the nurses home at St Bartholomew's Hospital. (Bart’s)

    Stratford Tunnel Crash 1953
    After toiling all night at their grim but merciful task among the injured of the railway crash these four nurses came up from the tunnel of tragedy at 4.30 this morning.

    Ward sister and hospital matron Moorfield Eye Hospital, 1961
    Look at their caps!!!

    The Duchess of Gloucester presents an award to student nurse Curtis, 1961.

    Hackney Hospital, London 1957
    Two nurses who are to be presented with Gold Medals being congratulated by Matron Rees, right. The nurses are Marian Knowles, left, and Margaret Norman. Real gold medallists.

    1. Bettys out there, you have to click on the one with Matron's cap to believe it!

    2. It's the extensive ruffle under the chin that really makes that Matron's cap. On the Stratford Tunnel crash photo, the two nurses in the center both look quite happy despite their grisly-but-merciful night's work.

      Thanks, Betty A.

    3. Oh my stars. I would never be able to move my head, bend over, ... without losing that cap. I'm sure, though, that it was a source of pride for the matron.

      Betty AnoninTX

    4. If matron would bend the tip of her cap forward juuuust a little (Phrygian style) she would look just like Papa Smurf. That bow under her chin looks like a white beard.
      Her cap also sort of reminds me of a squid. Sorry, matron.

      B von S

  5. Norland Nannies

    She washed her hair and had a shower and sat down again in her dressing gown, the kitten on her knee. She gave it one of her fingers to nibble and allowed her thoughts to wander and was surprised to discover after a few minutes that she wasn't thinking about Nigel at all but the professor—home with his wife, she hoped, he might even have taken her out for the evening—dinner somewhere rather grand and dancing afterwards. One didn't expect someone with a name like Martha to dance well, but probably she was quite super at it. There would be a mother's help or an au pair to look after the other children, of course, although surely with a Rolls Royce, the professor would be able to afford a Norland Nanny? She frowned; he wasn't all that young, the boy he had seen off to school that morning could have been the youngest child, the others would be teenagers...
    She got up and put the kitten back on the scarf.

    Norland Nannies - Pictures of Students
    Girls on balcony. A cheerful lot.

    Back to school...
    All students are reminded that they need to arrive in full summer formal uniform, complete with hats, white gloves, name badges and flesh coloured tights.

    These pictures remind me so much of our Neelsian heroines, especially the nurses ...
    hair & hats 1
    hair & hats 2 (As you can see, one of the students is not required to were the uniform dress...)

    Summer formal uniform in Bath

    Winter formal uniform in Bath I want a coat like that, cashmere, of course.

    Winter formal uniform in Bath, cheerful girls

    Picture gallery,

    Mary Poppins meets Norland Nannies photocall at Bristol

    My favourite Norlander picture:
    (you should have seen my eyebrows shoot up when I read its title)

    The Norlanders at Emma’s wedding

    Ha ha ha. Emma’s wedding. Get it? Emma’s Wedding. Well, I thought it was funny. Anyway, if you ever were in doubt about all those hats in Neelsdom this picture proves the Great Betty right. In Great Britain, to this day, even young women like to wear some form of headgear to a wedding. You have to scroll down to see the same girls in their Norland uniforms.

    I hope that, later this year, we will be treated to a glimpse of Betty JoDee wearing the hat she chose or will have chosen for her charming niece’s wedding. You will be wearing a hat, I trust, Betty JoDee?

    1. So far, it appears to be a ceremony under a pavilion in a city park in the evening in October in Austin with a reception following in a, wait for it, cheese house.


      Technically after straw hat season, but it can still be warm weather-wise. A broad felt hat with a jaunty ribbon? How late in the day is too late for a proper hat? Will I have to do the little cocktail hat thingy instead?

      It's so much easier in the Mother Country with a morning church ceremony followed by a champagne (okay, I don't really drink but it's sounds so lovely) brunch reception on the vicarage lawn....

    2. I'm afraid it will have to be "the little cocktail hat thingy". Not sure. Perhaps these links will be of help: The 12 rules of wedding hat etiquette Outdoor weddings lend themselves to a brimmed hat, and an evening wedding requires a more cocktail style.

      Cheese house. chuckle Saw the cheese market in Alkmaar on tv a couple of weeks ago. Complete with an artisan cheese maker giving explanations with a tour of his storerooms and delighted visitors raving about the taste of the cheeses in his cheese shop.

    3. I wonder if they'll want to weigh me on the Witches' Scales at the cheese house reception. Hope not. Or, am I getting my Dutch tourist spots confused?

    4. Yes, you are getting your Dutch tourist spots confused. Fortunately, I might add. The witches's scales are at Oudewater. Mind you, I had to look it up myself, and because I meant to add a picture link I found the following little treasure. Great pictures of the witches's scales in a Picasa web album titled Nederland 2009. And Bettys, I am almost, nearly almost convinced the lady was a Betty Traveler. Or else it's just another proof that TGB writes the best travel guides. Spot on, as usual.

      The album begins with pictures of the Heksenwaag, the witches scales, and other pictures taken in Oudewater. Next we see her withTante. Perhaps she is visiting family? Anyway, Tante is in Eindhoven. Lunch in Amsterdam. Visiting in Den Haag. Standing in front of the Paleis Hotel in Den Haag in the Molenstraat, OK, it’s not the Parkhotel, but close enough. The Mauritshuis + Binnenhof , a must for tourists. Next we see them in Wassenaar. At the gates of the royal palace Huis ten Bosch. On the beach in Scheveningen. And then we see them in Kijkduin where they, wait for it - thank you, Betty JoDee - go to a pannenkoekenhuis where she eats a pannenkoek. YEA!!! Although, sadly, not a spekpannenkoek.

      What a find!

      in an aside:Hahaha, while I was writing, a kids choir was singing Edelweiss on television. It's a small world.

  6. Who photoshopped the hip-hugging shorts into the picture?

    1. I concur. To cover David's beautiful bum but leave Nick Nolte's face uncovered? Just wrong. Taking this "family venue" thing a little too far.

      B von S

  7. I'm always late to the party. I really love this book. I think it is Lauris's saying to Julia "at the end of the day all we need is to love and be loved" that has stayed with me. Such a nice (and true) thought.

    Betty AnoninTX

  8. I really wonder what happened to Mickey Rourke. If you've ever seen him in Nine and a Half Weeks with Kim Basinger ... oohlala.

    Anyway ... I had to go back and read this again (thank you, Clevnet! I wuvs you and I don't care who knows it). I had it messed up with the one where she'd been working with the hero for three years while engaged to a good-friend-type who fell in love with ... her sister? Oh, well.

    I, too, love the sparring. Nice to have heroines who stand up for themselves.

    BTW ... which book is that is completely from the hero's point of view?