Monday, September 2, 2013

Off With the Old Love - Reprise

This time of year (right before school) always takes me back to my childhood.  My August days during  the late 1960's to mid 1970's were spent in the bean fields of the Willamette Valley - along with all the other kids I knew.  It was a rite of passage...or something.  What it actually was, was a way for parents to get rid of their kids who were totally bored by this point of summer vacation.  

Betty Marcy and I were dropped off at a bean field in the morning and spent what felt like ALL DAY toiling in the hot hot sun...but which in reality was probably more like 4 to 6 hours spent doing as much slacking and socializing as the bosses would allow.  Sure, some of the kids that came worked hard and made good(ish) money, but we were not amongst them.  You could really tell we were not amongst them when the season ended and we picked up our meager earnings.  Three or four weeks of work, 5 days a week (except for the occasional day off) and we made usually around 50 dollars.  

This money was earmarked for School Clothes

I know, I younger Bettys are thinking that 50 dollars would go a long way back in 1970.  I think it might have, but for some reason, it seemed that most of our money went to buy a coat.  Not a windbreaker, not a hoodie, but a knee length coat - the kind that was appropriate to wear with a dress - because back in the 60's/early 70's, our school dress code mandated dresses for girls.

What does this have to do with this week's book, you ask?

Betty Marcy was always a struggling fashionista...she really wanted to be stylish.  One year she earned enough money for a coat with a REAL FUR collar.  Pretty sure it was rabbit.  And that's what I always think of when I read this book.

Betty Debbie

This is the rabbit-fur jacket book.  That's how I remember it...

Radmer van Teule, 35, can't as much as order roast beef sandwiches or boost a co-worker onto a step or offer his surgical notes to his theatre sister Rachel Downing, 25, without every gesture bespeaking an endearment.
'That (chair) will give way one day...Won't you sit on mine, sir?'  
Something was obscuring her vision...
'Only when you're not here, Rachel.'
And it's as though he's found one of Shakespeare's lost love sonnets. (Shall I compare thee to my special forceps?  Thou art more useful and more shiny...)  But she can't hear that.  He's just an enormously respected surgeon about whose home life she has not a speck of interest.
The mote (cough*beam*cough) in her eye, blocking her view of all that solid, good-humored worthiness is Melville the Slim-Hipped Man-Child Hipster.  And what a piece of work he is.  
Melville is a television producer which is enough to excuse enormous reservoirs of bad behavior.
Melville Grant knew he was the bee's knees...
  • He's critical of her clothing?  He's a TV producer!
  • Doesn't like the country?  How could he?  He's a TV producer!
  • Breaks dates? TV producer...
  • Dismisses her profession?  See above.
Sure, she hates his friends and the bad food and gasoline flavored drinks and extravagant lifestyle and how he's always darting off in the middle of dates to network with fast TV types (Just think how wonderful this book would have been had cell phones been at all common in 1987!  He'd be that loud blue-tooth wearer, smugly sure that everyone is listening in to his conversation because it's that awesome.) but what's a girl to do?
Editorial Note:  Yes, Rachel is stupid to love him but in a way that makes me want to take a slow drag from a French cigarette, execute a Gallic shrug and mutter 'C'est l'amour' into my steak tartar.
For his part, the Professor looks on at her romantic drama with despair...and then he hatches a plan.  I imagine him spending the first year he loved her telling himself that he was too old for her.  And then when she meets Melville, he plunges further into hopelessness.  (Because she's happy, right?)  But now he can see that she isn't happy and she's likely to make a dreadful mistake and even if he is too old, he's surely better than Melville!
And that's when he assigns himself as her personal agony aunt.  His plan is simple really.
  • Listen to her troubles.  Assure her that his motives are altruistic as he has a girl waiting in the wings to marry.  
  • Seem to gather all your advice from the wildly improbable if strangely popular book The Rules(There are 35 'rules' and these are the ones he passes on: "Be a creature unlike any other", "Always end call and dates first" and "Don’t See Him More than Once or Twice a Week").  No, he doesn't actually have a pocket edition in his suit at all times but it feels like he does. (It was published in 1995 and the estate of La Neels should consider pursuing litigation against the authors.)
  • Spread a large trapeze-grade net under her in the more-than-likely event that Melville will fail to pick up what she is putting down.
And things do appear to get better between her and the Man-Child for a time.  He is more-or-less attentive and very near courteous but they always seem to be on the outs anyway.  Perhaps it's because he's snogging a blonde American "actress"!  (Yes. He. Is.) Radmer wishes she could think it all out calmly and dispassionately somewhere miles away and then has a stroke of genius.  He'll send her to an International Convention for Theatre Sisters (but secretly, because girlfriend would probably refuse to go if she thought she was that much trouble to him).
He's one of the presenters so they get to hang out a little and she has the dawning realization that he is H.O.T. (alas, nothing more) but on the last day, when Radmer is practically stalking her behind the potted palms, he is just too late to prevent her from seeing Melville arrive with that bosom-y blonde starlet tartlet who wants the room key from him because she wants to take a shower! (The Venerable Neels writes this so as to leave no other construction on it than that this European hotel is also doubling as Brighton.  She also points neon lights at them.)
Tears and ugliness are postponed until Radmer gets her back up to her room--but ugliness there is.
To prevent a full-on theater melt-down, he sells a pack of lies to her nursing superior and whisks her off to his parent's Friesian estate.  He's understanding ('We've all been fools in our time...') and his patience with her makes me want to do him a favor and be patient with her myself.
No one ever expects the 2x4 of Dawning Realization...
But reality beckons and duties must be shouldered again.  Rachel returns to her home and that awful nursing rut when she is suddenly and gloriously pole-axed by theBlinding Two-By-Four of Dawning Realization between the eyes.  Radmer, his perceptions trained to be ultra-sensitive to the slightest tremor of Rachel's emotional life, understands at once.
He calls her to a committee room.
Lots and lots of kissing and a firm date to be married five days hence.
The End  

Rating: Boeuf en croute.  I really like the set-up (that rabbit-fur coat is unforgettable) and it's not hard to believe that Radmer would happily walk across a lake of molten fire to fetch a left-behind lipstick for Rachel.  (Think Rachel and Jacob-I-worked-seven-years-to-marry-you kind of love.)
Melville is a peach...the kind rotting in the compost pile--and it's so much fun hating him, contrasting his meaningless 'darling's and brow-puckered sartorial criticisms to Radmer--the kind of man whose every action says I will love you til I die.
Swing Dance Guy makes another conquest.
So,why does she love that fink?  I'll illustrate with a metaphor.  Melville reminds me of Swing Dance Guy.  (Not all Swing dancers are Swing Dance Guys) You know him, right?  That guy was at every dance I've ever been to.  (His face changes but his identity remains the same.)  At first, you're pleased and surprised that Swing Dance Guy plucked you out of obscurity to practice his dynamic and intriguing moves on--that his gyrations are for you and you alone.    And then it slowly dawns on you that Swing Dance Guy needs a partner (or else he's no better than Dancing With Herself Girl) and that all you are is a skirt and a pair of heels.  Also, it dawns on you that Swing Dance Guy is convinced he's the special-est snow flake ever and that he's a bit smug about not being one of those 'regular' dance people.   That's when you leave Swing Dance Guy to the tender mercies of some other starry-eyed young flower of maidenhood and trot off to find someone to disclose your inner-most secrets to and shuffle awkwardly around the dance floor with--someone like Sure, I Can Give You a Ride Home Guy.  

Food: The hospital serves fish-pie on Fridays (from religious roots?), Melville takes her to bars and parties where the best she can expect are salted nuts and crudites or potato straws.  We also get roast beef sandwiches, sausages, crisps, watercress soup, steak and kidney pie, home made ice cream, turnips and instant mash ( food), ginger cake, drinks that taste like 'sugared petrol', an omelet and caramel cream, and oyster patties.  (Pretty much, if it sounds awful, Melville peddled it and if it sounds delish (and homey), Radmer did the honors.)  When her whole life crumbles before her eyes, Radmer takes her off for omelet Arnold Bennett, a water ice (?) and cold cucumber soup--which all sounds like he's a Medieval doctor trying not to inflame her humors.

Fashion: She wears a lot of expensive and eye-catching clothes that she can ill afford just to please Melville (high heels, vivid blouses...), even though he's always giving the wrong answer to 'How do I look?' (The right answer is always, 'Darling, you look wonderful tonight.').  Radmer doesn't mind her quilted jackets and sensible shoes.  She wears a short rabbit-fur jacket to a tedious party and gets a lot of mileage out of silk jersey dresses.


  1. Don't be hating on the rabbit fur coat. Thirty years ago I was so proud when I saved up enough money to buy my momma a beautiful white/cream rabbit fur jacket. Not bad on a grocery store checkers salary.

    B von S

  2. I thought this book really dragged through all the days of surgeries - who had a long list, a short list and an unexpected kidney transplant, but I did like how Rachel was infatuated in with Melville and how her she had so much unrest about him.

  3. The PRT gave me a rabbit coat for Christmas the first year we were dating. I felt so lovely. And loved. :)

    Betty AnoninTX

  4. I think each and every one of us has at one point in our lives been supposedly head over heels in a love crush with someone but then at some point realized "what was I thinking" and moved on.

    I love "the Blinding Two-By-Four of Dawning Realization" line. Hahaha Perfect.

    Betty AnoninTX

  5. Oh, I see our Betty from Amersfoort. Just this afternoon, I thought I had not seen her for a long time. And now, there she is. Ha!

  6. Do you like horses? Want to see some traditional costumes?

    Ringsteken / Ringrijden

    Ringsteken/ringrijden – ring jousting, performed on horseback or riding in a carriage.

    To quote Betty van den Betsy: Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: in Tangled Autumn (1971), Sappha Devenish and Rolf van Duyren visit Uithuizen in the Netherlands, Betty von Susie’s family’s ancestral homeland. That’s right: Uithuizen! In the Netherlands! Where Betty von Susie’s ancestors lived! They look around Menkemaborg Castle in UITHUIZEN. Uithuizen, Uithuizen, Uithuizen.


    Photos: Ringsteken Uithuizen 7 Juni 2013 (33 pictures)
    All manner of carriages drawn by horses or ponies. Most people in the pictures wear plain clothes, but some of them are dressed up, some of them in garments from another time.

    # 5: in the background to the right, two ladies in long evening dresses with not a great deal of top to them
    # 9 + 25: dressed in Austrian/Bavarian style tracht.
    # 15+16+17: the bride from # 18
    # 18: bridal couple and a gorgeous dog riding in the front. Australian shepherd?
    # 32: RDD and pledge (ok, just kidding, but he has the good looks) in front of GP practice Huisartsencenter Uithuizen

    Paardendag 3 Augustus 2013 - Uithuizen (54 pictures)
    Dresscode: formal
    This year, the Paardendag (Horses Day) had to be moved to a different location due to work being done to the venue’s usual terrain. This year, the Paardendag took place right next to Menkemaborg Castle!!!


    Video: Ringrijden Joure 25 Juli 2012 (2:55 min.) The winners.

    'Ringrijden' is a typical Frisian piece of folklore: a couple in traditional costume (dating from the early 19th century) ride in a 'sjees', a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a thoroughbred black Frisian horse; the woman tries to collect mounted rings with a pointed wooden stick while riding past at a steady trot, as here in the town of Joure.

    Sjees, plural form: sjezen, is Dutch for 'English' – hahaha - chaise.

    Listen: In the video, they are singing the National Anthem of Friesland.

    At the End of the Day

    The road ahead of them was almost empty, with the high wall of the dyke shutting out the sea on one side, and on the other the Ijsselmeer, dull and grey in the reluctant light of morning. But the paucity of the view did nothing to dampen the boy’s high spirits; indeed, by the time they reached land again Nicholas was singing the Friese National Anthem and trying to make Jason and Gregory sing it too. The professor obligingly translated it for Julia’s benefit.
    "Frisian blood, rise up and boil," he explained gravely with a twinkle in his dark eyes.
    "How very rousing! Is Nicky singing in Dutch?"
    "No, in the Friesian Language. If you look at the signposts, you’ll see that the names are written in both Dutch and Friesian."

    Video: The Voice Of Holland winner Iris Kroes sings the anthem (0:45)

    (Listen for the sneaky intrusive r. Can you hear it?)

    De Alde Friezen, versie Halbertsma/Van Loon
    Frysk bloed tsjoch op! Wol no ris brûze en siede,
    En bûnzje troch ús ieren om!
    Flean op! Wy sjonge it bêste lân fan d'ierde,
    It Fryske lân fol eare en rom.

    Klink dan en daverje fier yn it rûn
    Dyn âlde eare, o Fryske grûn!
    Klink dan en daverje fier yn it rûn
    Dyn âlde eare, o Fryske grûn!

    Audio:audio file found on wikipedia

  8. ZEELAND about traditions in Zeeland: Ringrijden (Tilting at the ring)/Sjezenrijden
    The fun thing about sjezenrijden is that the participants often dress up in traditional costumes and the horses and carts are always beautifully decorated.

    Photos: Demonstratie Burgh sjezen (71 pictures)
    Traditional costumes!!!

    Ringrijden 2012 (89 pictures)
    Traditional costumes!!! Little girls & boys in streekdracht / Zeeuwse klederdracht too!


    Video: Ringrijderij Blokzijl 11 August 2012 (15:29 min.)

    This one is taking a bit too long perhaps but it takes place in Blokzijl. You can see the ladies catching the rings with their little pistols (at least that’s what I thought they looked like). There are mostly larger carriages.

  9. It's a small world. While publishing these comments, I am watching documentaries on tv. First, Zeeland. Now the Ijsselmeer. They are in Volendam at the moment where people like to have their picture taken in Volendams kostuum.

  10. I had a rabbit hat and muff as a child, I still remember it vividly....nothing has ever topped that Christmas gift.

    1. Awwww, a little friend of mine had a muff when we were little. I thought it was so neat.

  11. This book is full of the Professor’s advice. I don’t believe any other hero gave the heroine as much advice as Professor Radmer van Teule did in Off with the Old Love.

    - Our Betty !!!

    The meaning of the name Radmer is 'famous for his advice'.
    Radmer Name Meaning: from the Germanic personal name Radmar, composed of the elements rād, rāt 'advice' + mar 'famous'.


  12. page 175

    He drove her back along the road bordering the Rhine and crossed the river by the Dreirosenbrucke, through the outskirts of Basle, past the main hospital and Spelentor because he said that it was something she could see, if only briefly.

  13. Betty Illustrated
    'Welcome to my home,' said the Professor. 'Come and meet my mother and father.'
    They crossed a vast, marble-floored hall and opened double doors into an equally vast room with a lofty ceiling, tall wide windows draped in velvet and a polished wooden floor covered with a silk carpet. The furniture was exactly right: great bow-fronted display cabinets along the walls, a rent table between the windows, a Frisian wall clock above an armoire, its marquetry in the style of Berain, flanked by a pair of eighteenth-century armchairs covered in Beauvais tapestry.