Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bikes, bikes, bikes.

Britannia (of Britannia All at Sea) spends a lot of time riding, repairing and falling off bicycles. Even Jake gets his vastiness up on a bike.

Lots of Neels heroines use a bike as their primary mode of transportation. Before they marry their RDD or RBD. I'm not sure they ever get back up on a two wheeler after marriage. I personally like cruising around flat country on a bike, I own a fairly sweet ride (it even has a basket!), but I haven't been on it for nearly two years...not since I broke my wrist. I miss riding, so now I live vicariously through others. I have had two options this past week.

The Tour de France.
The Tour de San Juan Islands.

Okay, that second one is not real, but that's what my 15 year old son is finishing up with his Scout troop today. Do you think he'll need a pillow to sit on?

100% Pure Betty

In light of my busy week this week (camping, bridal shower throwing and husbandly desertion), I'm skipping my regular Betty in the Real World post in favor of a much easier...erm...much more substantive post. (For you, Bettys! All for you!).
This is the one where I share the one-sentence blurbs on the back of some vintage editions and hide my slacker-ish-ness behind the broad, broad shoulders of Gergory Peck. (I digress.) Anyway, how did they distill these awesomely-awesome books into just one sentence? Let's find out:

It was obvious. Nick wasn't coming back!--Sun and Candlelight (Yes! I want to read who this clearly rat-finked Nick is!)

Love wasn't part of their bargain.--An Apple From Eve (Light housework, hostessing, and decorative pink-lampshade baby-sitting is part of their bargain...)

Emily was the envy of the nursing staff.--Winter Wedding (I love this book a LOT more than I love the blurb.)

It was more than a family matter...--Not Once But Twice (Epic fail, Harlequin. The blurb lies there like a bowl of blancmange.)

He was a bad-tempered annoying, arrogant man!--Never The Time and the Place (Sign me up. I must meet this manly paragon who, in my head, looks suspiciously like a certain bookish Mijnheer Peck.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Life After Betty - Nevil Shute, Part I

Yes, Nevil Shute was a guy. No, he didn't write Harlequin Romance novels. That's not to say he didn't include love stories in his novels, it's just that most of my favorite Shute novels are not primarily about romance.

*He's a Dead British Author (which is something he has in common with most of my fav authors)
*He was a successful Aeronautical Engineer. I have a decided yen for aeronautical engineers...(Dr. van der Stevejinck just so happens to be one)
*While tending to be slightly earthier than La Neels, his characters seldom go to Brighton, at least, not the main characters.

The first Nevil Shute book that I was exposed to was A Town Like Alice. I think I saw the 1981 mini-series before I read the book - but it was well over 20 years ago, so I couldn't say for sure (there's some eye candy...a young Bryan Brown as the ringer Joe Harmon). They meet during WWII - both are prisoner's of war on the island of Malaysia...Joe (an Australian) drives a truck for the Japanese, Jean (an English girl) is with a group of women and children prisoners that have no camp and are forced to march from one village to the next, while their numbers dwindle due to disease and death. Joe steals some chickens, to give to the hungry women and is crucified for his troubles, while the women are forced to watch. Fast forward several years...Jean is back in Malaysia and finds out that Joe didn't die that day, Joe is in England, having recently discovered that Jean wasn't a married woman...Much of the story is narrated from the point of view of Jean's solicitor. You can find both the book and VHS tape on Amazon. I own both.

Cinema Betty

Before my re-read, Britannia of Britannia All At Sea (a book I am convinced was named before it was written) was such a stalker. But, as I have mentioned, upon reflection I began to see that she wasn't chasing our hero so much as leaving openings for him to ask her out wide enough to drive an articulated lorry through. But, still, she does follow him to Holland. And so, my pick is:
Three Coins In The Fountain (1954)
Look at her Louis! She has no soul in her cold, dead eyes! Run!

Three secretaries in Rome. One bags her Prince by pretending to love the piccolo and memorizing lists of his favorite things (Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes...). This is a flawed movie, for me, (the dark secretary is mis-cast (I find her impossible to like.) the author's story is needlessly tragic and the earthy secretary (while awesome) wallows more than a bit in Italian jungle fever) but I would walk a mile barefoot across busted glass to see anything with Louis Jourdan in it. Rossano Brazzi did not waste my time either.

The Chain of Destiny features our hero attempting to find an un-ending stream of jobs for our heroine. Why, says Betty Debbie, it's like he's a one-man employment agency. Hmm. A movie about jobs and temp agencies:
Dave (1993)
Kevin Klein plays a genuinely decent fellow who comes to the presidency by chance--supplanting the look-alike rotter that was in there before. He romances the smoking hot first-lady while he's at it and pushes a jobs bill because he was a temp agency owner in his previous life.
Dave asks the question: What kind of narcissist thinks he should be the president?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Chain of Destiny--Discussion Thread

Aunty is ill will a brain tumor or something, and the doctor doesn't tell her. A common trope in The Land of Neels, I wonder if The Great Betty ever aided and abetted behavior of this kind in her earlier nursing days. I once read a story about the composition of Edelweiss--the last song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together. Oscar was dying of stomach cancer but didn't know it yet, however, Richard Rodgers was let in on the secret. Thereafter I was unable to hear the melody without thinking it had a certain poignancy wholly unattributable to looming Nazis.

Our heroine has a tough time finding a job - but won't give up Horace the cat. I do not make any bones about my unsuitability as a Neels heroine. While filling the short, plump and plain bill (on occasion), I admit to being a loather of animals--a tolerater at best. Horace would be given a bowl of milk and bread to munch on while I high-tailed it after the city-bound bus.

Our plucky heroine buys some wool fabric to make a skirt, then has to hand sew it! I don't pretend to be a great sewer--everything I know, Betty Debbie taught me--but I do know that hand sewing large items would be horribly tedious (especially if you had to keep re-fitting it) and the outcome would probably have lumps. Girlfriend needs to barter with people and cultivate a wide circle of exploitable acquaintances if she wants to keep living on the razor's edge.

Susannah spends two days knitting like the furies. The Furies are from Roman mythology--deities of vengeance. Their heads wreathed with serpents, their eyes dripped with blood, rendering their appearance rather horrific. Sometimes they had the wings of a bat or bird and the body of a dog. But when I googled 'knitting furies' (because something about that tickled my brain) up popped references to the Madame Defarges of the French Revolution:

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Furies of the Guillotine (The).
The tricoteuses—that is, Frenchwomen who attended the Convention knitting, and encouraged the Commune in all their most bloodthirsty excesses. Never in any age or any country did women so disgrace their sex.

Susannah gets to visit the Panorama Mesdag while in The Hague. Here's some sweet, sweet wiki goodness: In 1880 Mesdag was engaged by a Belgian company to paint the panorama, which with the assistance of his wife and many student painters, was completed by 1881. However, the vogue for panoramas was coming to an end, and the company went bankrupt in 1886. Mesdag purchased the panorama and met its losses from his own pocket. The panorama is now the oldest surviving panorama in its original location..
I think the operative words are 'vogue for panoramas' and 'coming to an end'. It looks like an awful lot of hassle for one painting and reminds me of my Zumba class (yes, my Zumba class.) that I tell my husband is too dance-y to be exercise and to exercise-y to be dance. The panorama is both history and art without really committing to either...

The Chain of Destiny - 1989

It's a lot easier to write a review for a book that you loathe, than it is to write about one that is just "okay". So...apologies ahead of time. I find The Chain of Destiny to be inoffensive...Suzannah can pretty much give as good as she gets (which I like)...but she really doesn't get enough material to work with.

Suzannah Lightfoot, 22 year old redhead, has a part-time job as a house guide. She shepherds tour groups around Sir William's stately home as a way of staying close to her aunt and helping the household budget (after losing both parents in a motoring accident she has been living with the aunt). Don't get too attached to the aunt - she kicks the bucket fairly early on in the story. Suzannah meets our hero while house guiding...she thinks the large stranger is lost from a tour group and thus shoos him away from the private part of the house.

Auntie is not feeling quite the thing...which worries Suzannah. The pesky inoperable brain tumor that Auntie doesn't know she has, is finally taking it's toll. Gosh, where's a brain surgeon when you need one? Staying with the local doctor, that's where. Professor Guy Bowers-Bentinck turns out to be the handsome straggling stranger from the house tour...but even his awesome brain surgeon skills are to no avail when it comes to saving Auntie. Enter Phoebe. Niece to Sir William (he of the stately home). Besides having a go for the Professor, she also takes it upon herself to evict Suzannah and give her notice as to her job. That would make Suzannah a)homeless b) jobless c) alone in the world. Yep, Phoebe's a peach. Suzannah walks out of her interview with a face like skimmed milk. The Professor sees her and That Face starts popping up in his thoughts - with increasing regularity. For some reason, he feels compelled to help her.

And thus begins Professor Bowers-Bentinck's career as a one man temp agency. A temp agency devoted to finding gainful employment for Suzannah.

Job 1: Archiver
Sorting trunks of family papers for two old ladies...zzzzz...huh? The job is ideal for her, as it comes complete with pet-friendly flatlet. Did I mention she has a cat named Horace? Yes, Suzannah is one of "those" people. A pet person. The Prof. stops by occasionally to swap compliments with Suzannah.
Him: Well, well, this is a pleasant surprise.
Her: A surprise...I don't know about it being pleasant.
Him: How outspoken of you...I should be flattered you remember me.
Her: I'd be silly if I didn't - you're vast, you must know you're good-looking; and you're here to see your aunt.
Him: Such an abundance of compliments.
Her: They're not meant to be, just facts.
Of course, this job is just soon as the trunks are sorted and cataloged, it's time for the Prof. to find another job for her. The next one is in...wait for it...Holland!

Job 2: Keeper
Julie van Dijl is a post-surgical patient of the Professor's. After having a spot of brain surgery she doesn't need a nurse, just a keeper. Prof. B-hyphenated-B sweetens the pot by inferring that Suzannah is reliable, dependable and "what is that other virtue? - sensible?"
Him: Sorry, I put that badly...I intended nothing personal.
Her(kindly): I don't expect you did, but you should be more careful when you are talking to girls like me.
Him: Huh??
Her: I'm no beauty, I've no money, no job and the future's a bit vague; I don't want to be reminded of any of those things...It was nice of you to offer me a job, but I can't take it.
Yeah, she turns him down. There's no way she can take a job in Holland! What would become of Horace the Cat? Prof. B-B will cat-sit, that's what. The job is just about what she expects - Julie is a spoiled rich girl who expects the world to fall at her feet. Julie is not deliberately mean to Suzannah or deliberately nice. All in all, it's a job. She does have one nice day. The professor takes Suzannah on the Tour de Holland. In his great socking Bentley. He tries to get Suzannah to tell him what her future plans are...SCREECH! That's the sound of Suzannah putting on the brakes. She's just fine, thank you. She has no need of the Professor Bowers-Bentinck Employment Agency! Guy (That's what I'm going to call him, deal), drives Sue (That's what I'm going to call her. Deal again) back to England, puts her up at his house and kisses her. Huh?? Time to disappear. Editors Note: Betty Keira would like to make much more of this particular "flight". She'd like to think that Suzannah was in love at this point, which was why she couldn't accept help from Guy. I'm not sold on that theory. Suzannah doesn't show any symptoms of love...yet. We could spend hours analyzing her motives...but let's not.

Job 3: Daycare Worker
Sue finds a subsistence wage job working at a day-care center. The job comes with a basement flatlet, so Horace can come with. Meanwhile Guy is annoyed at not knowing her whereabouts. And annoyed with himself for spending too much time thinking about her. The job is hard work - especially the post-holiday days wherein she spends a good deal of the day cleaning up puke. Nice. Guy spots our girl while she's out with the tykes...he tracks her down to the daycare so as to check up on her. I'm fine, just fine. No, I'm not lonely...I have Horace to keep me company. So Guy leaves and Sue decides that she kind of likes him - he's not all bad. Time for a little drama. The daycare catches fire and girlfriend is a bona fide heroine...rescuing a toddler and his teddy bear from fiery death. And Horace. Unfortunately she is injured in the process - her hand is burned. So are all her belongings...except Horace. Guy sees her in the hospital, swears quietly, uses his brain surgeon skills to bandage her hand and takes her back to his house. Don't worry, Cobb and Mrs. Cobb are there. Mrs. Cobb helps her bathe and tucks her up for the night. Guy drugs her 1am she can sleep again. Mrs. Cobb is pretty sure that the Professor is sweet on Suzannah, and Mrs. Cobb likes her. Which is a good thing, since Mrs. Cobb is the person who gets to buy Sue a new wardrobe (with instructions from the professor not to buy anything brown or grey). Sue is not happy to take the clothes - but Mrs. Cobb reminds her that she owns nothing. NOTHING. Not a stitch of her clothing made it through the fire, and she certainly can't leave "mother-naked" (thank you Betty). Guy sends Sue off to his aunts while she recuperates. They're happy to have her and she's happy enough to stay for a very short while...but Sue has a problem. She'd like to be able to get a job, but she doesn't have a two penny pieces to rub together - she can't afford to ride a bus, make a phone call, buy stamps, etc....Guy stops by and the first words out of her mouth are "Would you lend me a pound?"
I'd like a round of Dawning Realizations...
Guy invites Sue to visit his ancestral birthplace with him, she doesn't care what it's like, it could be a "two-up and two-down with no mod. cons." and she'd like it if he was there. Of course it's much fancier than that - it comes complete with wood carving over the fireplace and two old donkeys in the paddock. It's too bad Sue doesn't realize that an invite like this is tantamount to a public declaration of love in Neeldom. If she'd known that, she might not have allowed herself to be taken in by the lies, wicked lies, told by Phoebe, the big Phat Liar. Even though Phoebe hasn't made much of an appearance lately, she stops by and lies like a rug. According to her, she and Guy will be getting married soon, and they'd be happy to give Sue a job working for them in some menial capacity. Which leads to (after Horace ripping Phoebe's tights):

Job 4: Nanny
Sue just has to leave...and get far, far away. Her "flight" instinct is way stronger than "fight". She jumps temp. agencies and finds a job on the community message board. Horace is parked with an old friend and Sue heads off to the wilds of Yorkshire as a fill-in nanny for a family with three kids and a mother who is describes as "airy-fairy" *snort*. Guy tracks her down, and they kiss in the drizzling rain. The end.
Verdict: Suzannah is an okay heroine...sort of the archetype of the red-headed Neels orphan. In the rare scenes that she shares with Guy they have chemistry. Early on, Sue seems almost like a scientist cocking her head to the side as she observes a petri-dish...interested, but not emotionally involved. It's cute. I think the main problem is that there are far too few pages where the protagonists get to interact. Guy is an okay hero...but more than a bit two-dimensional. We do get glimpses of his growing interest...but the glimpses are just that - glimpses. I would have liked a few full on stares. I'm going to rate this somewhere between treacle tart and mince pies. On a side note, I would like to know what, if any, significance there is to the title "The Chain of Destiny". There are several other books out there with the same name and even a short story by Bram Stoker. Plus a quote by Winston Churchill...who was quite possibly quoting some other source. Help. Anyone?
Food: croissants, kas broodje, crumpets, smoked eel on toast, roast pheasant and red cabbage, paper thin pancakes with syrup, salmon in lobster sauce, caviar, cheese souffles, steak and kidney pudding, bread and butter pudding.
Fashion: fine green wool fabric for a skirt - which she HAND SEWS, very plain silk jersey dress in pewter grey, checked cotton blouse with plain dark skirt, Julie buys a gold-tissue dress with roses (can anyone picture this looking good?), blue-grey crepe with a discreet neckline, threadbare brown coat, passable gloves and handbag.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lemon Sorbet

Another easy-Parcheesi summertime dish! Only 4 ingredients, and one of those is water! I got the recipe from the pamphlet that came with our Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker. Hopefully they don't sue me:

Fresh Lemon Sorbet

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest

Combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely. This is called a simple syrup, and may be made ahead in larger quantities to have on hand for making Fresh Lemon Sorbet. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
When cool, add the lemon juice and zest; stir to combine. Turn the machine on. Pour the lemon mixture into the freezer bowl, and mix until the mixture thickens, about 25 to 30 minutes. The sorbet will have a soft texture similar to a freshly scooped Italian ice. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours.
Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Verdict: If you have the ingredients for fresh-squeezed lemonade, you have the ingredients for this sorbet. It's both sweet AND tart. I really liked it - but beware, a little goes a long way, taste-wise. Dr. van der Stevejink found it a tad strong (which sooo won't keep him from having seconds) two teenage boys liked it - although they found it a bit strong too, although my 15 year old kept eating it and eating it...

I'd like to put a plug in for the Cuisinart appliance. Not only is it simple and easy to use, it's a lot less messy than traditional ice cream freezers. Ours came with two containers - you just keep them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. No muss, no fuss. I could see this being a problem if freezer space is limited, but if it's not, this is a nice little appliance to have on hand.

Lemon Sorbet can be found in Roses and Champagne and Britannia All at Sea.

Question of the Week

She was torn between pleasure at being called a handsome creature--even though it put her strongly in mind of some outsized horse--and annoyance at his casual dismissal of her appearance...
Britannia All At Sea

Handsome. I like the word myself, feeling that it expresses sentiments similar to Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany's:

Not that I give a hoot about jewelry. Diamonds, yes. But it's tacky to wear diamonds before you're forty...

Handsome is a wonderful thing to be...but not until you're some age I haven't reached yet. My 4-year-old is tyrannical on the subject of adjectives. He is not cute. Girls are cute. Boys are handsome...and they don't even have to be forty.

Question is: What describer words do you like to use and what constraints rest on these? (ie. My husband allows himself to be called fabulous (You're a fabulous husband.) but would prefer not to 'look' fabulous.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Upcoming Review

Monday, August 2nd. The Proposal. Orphan taking care of younger sister while working as companion to a cranky old Lady who has a dog named Bobo.

Thursday, August 5th. The Vicar's Daughter. Birthin' babies in a tent! Unfortunate motor-car fatalities, rescuing toddler from drowning, a potential mother-in-law who makes Margo help with the plum jam while being catty to her.

Word of the Day

The plumbing was complicated and noisy and the bedpan washer made a peculiar clanging noise, but because some time in the distant future the hospital was to be re-sited and become a modern showpiece with every conceivable mod con the architect and Hospital Committee could think of, the antediluvian conditions which at present existed were overlooked--not by the nursing staff, of course, who had to cope with them and voiced their complaints, singly and in groups, round the clock.
Britannia All At Sea

Noun: mod con
Usage: Brit
Modern convenience; the appliances and conveniences characteristic of a modern house (ie, heating, electricity, plumbing)

I can honestly say that before I picked up a Betty Neels I had never heard the phrase mod con. When you read this the entire inhabitants (including the short diapered fellow) of La Casa van Voorhees will be the wilderness...without the mod cons to which Mevrouw Betty Keira van Voorhees is so lovingly attached...without even a metered geyser to call my own.

Happily, if you're willing to share with hundreds of others, Honeyman State Park boasts warm showers and flushing loos. It was created by the CCC during the Great Depression under the FDR administration--which reminds me of the TVA (another FDR program) designed to deliver a few mod cons to the Tennessee Valley...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Britannia All At Sea - Discussion Thread

To compensate for the totally pedestrian last name of Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Smith named their daughter Britannia. Very patriotic of them. It brings to mind the song "Rule Britannia", whose lyrics were taken from a poem by James Thomson. Here's the first of six verses of the poem:

When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
"Britons never will be slaves."

The Founding Bettys also had patriotic forbears. Amongst our ancestors can be found a George Washington Brewer and a Joseph Eggleston Johnston Walley (that's patriotic if you happen to be from the formerly Confederate state of Mississippi).

Sisters have coffee with the doctors in their offices. The lowlier staff have to drink their tea or coffee when and where they can. Staff nurse Britannia drinks her coffee in the linen cupboard sitting on a hamper--where the little people take refreshment.
An unusual sartorial statement is made by the dear Professor. This is not the only time The Great Neels has her heroes dressed in scrubs...however, this very well may be the least flattering example. "The professor, being the size he was, looking as though he might burst every seam although his dignity remained unimpaired". Sorry, not quite buying the dignity unimpaired bit, I'm snickering as I type. A tight theatre smock doesn't seem conducive to comfort in the operating theatre, except as a way to lighten the atmosphere with a few repressed chuckles.

She packs a pink dress to Holland because her mother told her that 'men are susceptible to pink'. That phrase makes it sound like the colour pink is a disease that is gender specific, such as colour blindness. I guess that makes some sense.

Commenting on Nurse Joan's hot date, Britannia says, "I thought he looked nice..." Jake replies: "...If by nice you mean unmarried and able to support a wife and anxious to marry your friend, then yes, he is nice." That's the money line.

This is such a fun book. Britannia and Jake play duets on the piano! Not just chopsticks, they thunder through a mazurka and skim through a waltz.

Jake's sister Corinne dumps her baby on pretty much anyone who will hold it. Brilliant strategist!

We are treated to a double cross-over! One is pre-marriage (Laura and Reilof from The Hasty Marriage) and one post-marriage (When May Follows). I'm wondering if The Great Betty may have felt the readers needed reassurance that Jake and Britannia ended up happily ever after.

Britannia All At Sea

Britannia All At Sea did not have a good name with The Founding Bettys. Betty Debbie called to divvy up a month's worth of reviews a few weeks ago. One by one the books were taken until...oh, did you hear something? What was that?...just the sound of Betty Keira falling on her sword. Brittania All At Sea. That one where the girl practically has to arm herself with snares and an elephant tranquilizer gun to land our hero, right? Um, not exactly. This is yet another book that upended my derision and scorn to become very well liked indeed. Does Betty Neels rock or what?
P.S. The cover art. Bikes? Okay. Interesting heroine? I grant you. Hero? While not ugly, per se, he has too much hair for a self-respecting RDD.

Britannia Smith, 24 (but carries herself like a confident 35), is a splendidly built Staff Nurse at St. Jude's. She's engaged in a spot of multi-tasking in the sluice room--comforting a shattered student nurse and directing traffic. She doesn't know who that vast giant of a man is who wants to get on the ward but he'd better come up the other stairs like all the regular riff-raff and look smart about it.
Professor Jake Luitingh van Thien is ultimately worth all the trouble it will take to write that name out on checks for decades to come. He describes himself to Brittania less than an hour into their acquaintance as 'getting on for forty, unmarried, rich and something of a hermit; I need please no one.' Well. Hello, Mr. Fussy-britches. I'm imagining Kurt from The Sound of Music stepping out from the line and saying, "I'm Kurt and I'm incorrigible." and daring Sister Maria to do her worst.
They fall promptly in love with each other and it's not just about looks either. Haven't they just colluded to save that poor student nurse from false specimen-dropping charges (Wait. Is that poo? Does she mean poo?) wherein traits like loyalty, discretion, generosity and self-disinterest were on full display? Being in love is not going to make our Brit nurse tongue-tied and giddy though. If Jake has bad manners, well then, Britannia is going to educate him in the Miss Smith School of Manners and Butt-Kickery. Britannia manages to thread the needle--neither needlessly catty nor boringly meek. As evidenced by the time she wrinkes her nose at him in church and makes a face, she's practically a master's thesis in cheeky.
Jake, not letting the grass grow, invites her to a swanky meal at the end of her very long day. Bacon sandwiches at Ned's--greasy spoons and plastic tables evidently epitomizing London romance in the same way aggressive panhandlers and street mimes spell it in Paris? Jake gives her the third-degree concerning her marital prospects and dating status then asks if she's in love. "Yes," she said briefly, and wondered just what he would say if she told him it was himself. ...He observed in a nasty smooth voice, "I suppose I am expected to say what a lucky man he is." She puts him in a half-Nelson and makes an exit. (Okay, sure she didn't but you can't get the image out of your head now.)
Shoot. Now they'll never meet again and she's wasted her chances. But Fate is in an interesting mood and she gets an opportunity to accompany a friend to Holland on her two week vacation. She asks her parents if she should go and we are treated the the most delightful three-way dialogue about the Professor's 'suitability'. It puts me forcibly in mind of the famous "Who's on First" skit.
Editor's Note: I remember thinking that this was way way more stalker-ish the first time I read it but upon...ahem...mature reflection I rather admire Britannia for it. She has met the man she wants to marry. That man is in Holland. She must go to Holland. Betty Debbie likened it to lurking around the classroom doors of the fella you wanted to have ask you to the Homecoming Dance on the principle that proximity leads to opportunity. Britannia isn't going to chase Jake...she's just going to make chasing her a little less difficult for him.
In Holland, they meet under less than ideal circumstances. She's always on a bike. The weather is always crummy. Jake is always jumping into his Rolls (after shouting at her) and tearing down the Dutch equivalent of the inter-state leaving her to pedal on without him.
"You're not fit to be out on your own."
"...You can come with me if you like...nothing like fresh air to blow away bad temper...oh well, perhaps you can't cycle anymore."
Just when it seems like they will never make headway and that he's doomed to only see her in dumpy anoraks and sweaters for the rest of eternity, he shows up with his bike. Ah-ha! The cheekiness paid dividends. Or maybe it was calling his manhood into question...
Before you know it she's meeting his mother and Madeleine, a trendily dressed beanpole with a personality to match. And then on page 84--84, mark you! No good can come of mutual declarations of love on page 84!--he tells her that he'll never marry the beanpole because it's Britannia who makes the sun rise in the east, makes unicorns spring from baby tears and lollipops rain from the sky. Seriously though, he's quite eloquent but, though she says she returns his love, she's having none of it.
Editorial Note:
This was the other thing that nearly drove me to drink when reading this book. She spends all this time creating opportunities for him to fall in love with her and then when he tells her he has fallen 'more than a little in love with her' (a phrase which ought to be banned from proposals of marriage hereafter) she, to use a Betty-ism, funks. But upon re-reading I think Britannia had a point which, if you will grab your chair and inflatable pillow and hunker down for a spell, I will be happy to explain.
He is much, much richer than she had any reason to assume when she decided to do a spot of man-chasing. Britannia is the 'jug-of-wine-loaf-of-
bread-and-thou' type and has to adjust herself to the inadequacy of her upbringing in preparing her for a life like his (which she only finds out about 30 minutes before his proposal). She has a good point.
Having decided so firmly that she loved him and wanted to marry him, it looks as though her chasing (mild though it was) is paying off. Eek, she must be thinking to herself, I shot him with my tranquilizer gun and now it doesn't look like a fair fight. What if she is merely a passing fancy for him? What if she 'caught' him? Also, good points.

And so we move on to the second portion of the book which I refuse to waste a ton of time on as it in no way lives up to the truly wonderful first act. It slows waaaaaay down and gets a little dreary.
Jake continues to try to persuade Britannia to marry him and she continues to refuse. We do get some lovely spots of snogging to relieve the tedium of her monotonous refusals and a very frustrated doctor.
On the very last day of her holiday she takes a bike ride to take one last look at his castle. Cast aside the dubious sense it makes to be bike riding in Holland in December...No, don't cast it aside. It's the whole point of the next episode which leaves her with a badly sprained ankle, nausea, a concussion, facial bruising and two (not one but two!) fainting spells. Happily, Jake knew just where to look for the future Mevrouw Professor Jake Luitingh van Thien.
Faster than you can say 'convenient plot device', it is decided that she has to stay in Holland--at Jake's. Like a sherpa on his way to the summit, he carries her around an awful lot. But he is a little aloof--she did, after all, plan to abandon him entirely and he's understandably miffed (if still determined to make her his wife).
On St. Nikolaas she is allowed to come downstairs to the family festivities--dressed like an invalid. The only beanpole in the ointment is that Madeleine is there. Britannia is offered no better explanation than, "She always comes." Like hayfever and the seasonal flu, she always comes. (Sounds like it's time to take some Benadryl...)
After dinner, Jake proposes again (in a really lovely way) and this time Britannia is persuaded to accept. "That's better." He kissed the top of her head. "Now let us be sensible and assess the situation." He paused: "Well, let us be sensible presently." But it's still only page 154 and I worry about those two crazy kids...
The engagement is not to be made official for a week or so but things seem to settle down. Britannia is still worried about entertaining on a massive scale and caring for the Weesp china but as long as she has Jake's absolute and unconditional love...
Suddenly, that is cast into doubt. Madeleine hasn't wasted the best years of her life to come in second to some anorak-sporting, tea-swilling, British bumpkin. She makes one last throw of the dice by showing up at the castle with tears and evidence. No, let's go back and capitalize that: EVIDENCE!
The letter begins, 'Mijn lieveling...' and ends, 'all my love, Jake.' Madeleine is happy to translate. I know what you're thinking but while it is easy enough in retrospect to suggest that Britannia demand the letter (not just peeks at the intro) and trot over to the Dutch to English Dictionary for hours of painstaking translation, at the time she was upset.
Jake returns to find Britannia nothing more than miserable and confused (not accusing or Weesp china-throwing or anything) and he flips his lid. (And I don't blame him too much either--he was simple-minded about Madeleine's ability and desire to muddy his waters and spent a lot of time press-ganging Britannia to accept him and his millions.)
He practically drags Britannia back to England by her hair (30 minutes to pack her things!) no matter how she tries and tries to talk things out. She is dumped at her fuddled parents' house and he wipes his hands of her.
Less than a fortnight later she is thinner and pluckily working out her notice on the Geriatric ward. Up walks Jake (with an appropriate number of pages left in the book to make it stick this time) to engage the old lady Britannia is putting to bed in a spot of conversation. "I hope that when Britannia here is your age, my dear, she will be as charming as you, and yes, I have come to fetch her; she's my girl, you see..."
Gulp. They retrench to Ned's (bacon sandwiches) and he makes her agree to marry him tomorrow.
The End

Rating: This was so much better than I remembered. I began it in such a grumpy mood ("Oh, it's the one where she has to chase him down.") and wasn't twenty pages in before it had me laughing out loud. The first 85 pages feel like something out of a Fred and Ginger musical--the kind where if they're not singing and dancing they're slanging like fishwives. The remaining 130 pages were not as good but I don't quibble with the writing or the plot (though I don't love, love it). Rather it's a pacing problem. The Mighty Neels peaked 60 pages too early. First half: Acerbic and effervescent courtship. Second half: Doubt and Anxiety and Bodily Injury. Final pages: Cute as a bug's ear. Britannia will have a interesting personality to manage in her husband but she is more than up to the task. I give this one a boeuf en croute.

Food: Speculaas , roast leg of lamb with spiced peaches, bacon sandwiches at the beginning and end of the book, cheese on toast, disguised eel (it would have to be), lemon sorbet and a pipkin (I want a pipkin!) of soup.

Fashion: Hospital nurse's cape, autumn colored tweed suit, short dark green dress, long pink dress (her go-to in Holland), a vast and elderly blue guernsey sweater that he makes her meet his mother in (Un. For. Give. Able.), a Gucci scarf and countless anoraks. Madeleine wears a red fox fur jacket and suede skirt.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Betty Goes to Church

The day went slowly by, following the exact pattern of all the Sundays Letitia could remember at home. Church, breakfast, church, lunch, then help with Sunday School and Evensong to finish the day...[she] sat quietly through Matins, listening to her father's voice and the enthusiastic singing of the surprisingly large congregation, and admiring, as she always did, the carving on the rood screen, and all the while her thoughts were miles away, with Jason Mourik van Nie, driving his great Jensen motor-car back to his own country.

-A Small Slice of Summer

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Contest Winners

I had a contest post all ready to go...and then we got a just-under-the-wire set of e-mail entries from Betty JoDee. Drat her evil genius! Kidding...about the evil thing. Betty Keira and I, in our roles as The Grand High Poobah Arbiters of Everything, decided to add a separate category just for her. The right hand picture in each collage is Betty JoDee's, the center is an original, and the left is our winner. Best re-naming of The End of the Rainbow, congratulations Betty Barbara. Elegantly simple. Betty JoDee used this contest as a family project (extra points for awesomeness!). Her helpers for this entry included "The Heir and The Spare".
Best re-naming of The Most Marvellous Summer? Thank you opramum! We here at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress are suckers for double lower-case "f's". Well played. Betty JoDee took it over the top with her is the note she added: Parental Advisory: Professor van der Hertenzoon ventured that the title includes a slang connotation (of what, I have no idea. If men spent more time painting porches and fixing window screens, they would have less time to dream up such foolishness but I digress…). He postulated that a RBD would certainly know, a RDD would probably know, but perhaps few Bettys would. So in the spirit of A Neels Naïveté: Can I get a raise of hands of all those who just snorted milk out their nose?

Best re-naming of A Small Slice of Summer? We love the allusions to both Tishy's deplorable temperament AND the bull chasing episode. Well, done Shilpa! Betty JoDee nailed the pink car to the wall! Hil-freakin-larious. Of course she had some girly help: "The Princess Royale and The Littlest Princess".

Betty Barbara, opramum, shilpa AND Betty JoDee!
*Send us an email with your address and your prize preferences. Winners are eligible for a super-cute tote-bag OR a super-fantastic book cover OR a Betty Neels book (we have about 3 dozen to choose from).

Life After Betty: Summer of Summers (Final Edition)

It's been a fun little spree through some of the collected works of Miss Essie. I thought I'd toss you tossers a few more titles and some retrospective for our final post on her.

First the wrap-up. Essie Summers is not for everyone but the things that set her apart are, for me, excellent. Early Harlequin had a masculinity problem, confusing awesome manliness for testosterone-fueled temper tantrums. Essie has plenty of heroes who get flaming mad but it's never a prime character trait. They are intrinsically decent traditionalists with a great work ethic, gentle tolerance towards old people and children and a nice sense of humor. That they don't engage in yucky sexual double standards is also a bonus. Essie heroes are 'saving themselves'. Right on.

Another thing I love is how hard everybody works in the world of Essie. Much though I adore La Neels it's shopping and eating an awful lot. For Essie, work is not stigmatized as an undesirable end.

In one of my recently acquisitions (thank you!), Goblin Hill, some characters are discussing the death of an author. "He's a loss to the world. In the main, these days, you either get very tame books, which we can't stand, or books that are morbid and depressing and...what is the word I want Chassie?" "Ugly, I should think...Your father's books are strong meat, yet never distasteful..."

That is Essie to a tee.
The House of Gregor's Brae For those Bettys who like Cassandra By Chance, here's another go at the blind hero. As a young journalist, Gregor MacGreor (!) contributed to young Jenny getting adopted and moving to New Zealand. Now back in Scotland and raising her parents' other children she meets him again. How dismaying that he's crabby and aloof and blind. He also can't remember her. This one has a lovely villainess and Gregor doesn't regain his sight (of course he does!)...until after the wedding.

South Island Stowaway Best title ever, right?! When Julia 'stows-away' in her brother's car so that he'll have to accept her help as his housekeeper, she is flummoxed to be making such a long the South Island! Adam didn't mean to take on a hitch-hiker but when his fiancee' finds her (cramped horribly from crouching so long on the floor of the back seat and needing to pee desperately) all heck breaks loose. Engagements are broken, heroines are awash in guilt and it doesn't take long for the hero to become awfully philosophical about being dumped. I love this one.

Summer in December Also one of my favorites. Joanna has been brought up to be decorative and attentive to her employer/foster-mother, a famous television star. When she strikes out on her own to discover her roots, she becomes hopelessly stranded in a remote sheep station with a bachelor and three kids. What rotten luck, our hero thinks, but at least she'll be able to help us cook. Um...about that. She wasn't brought up to be domestic at all. Watching her learn is all the fun.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cinema Betty

When Betty penned the words 'Laurens has a very good post in Pittsburgh' I knew immediately which movie I would suggest:
The Valley of Decision (1945)

Like Tante Emilie's obsession with her son and nephew's status as jonkheers (and her pointed refusal to see Serena as worthy of them), the wealthy steel mill owners of Pittsburgh see Greer Garson as a maid and nothing more. The son of the household (a very young and RDD-looking Gregory Peck), however, falls in love. Class struggles follow, Garson runs off to England (sound familiar?), Peck marries another (another what? Exactly.), and happiness is found (at last) in the end.

A Small Slice of Summer has a famous incident regarding a bull. So, obviously, I had to choose a film with some bull fighting and the one that made the strongest impression on me was:
Blood and Sand (1941)
This is sure to end well...

I'll be honest, this one is the teensiest bit of a downer. Tyrone Power is an impoverished boy who runs off to Madrid, becomes rich and famous as a bull fighter, marries Linda Darnell (his childhood sweetheart) and becomes ensnared by Rita Hayworth (what's good enough for Orson Wells is good enough for Tyrone Power). He returns to his wife after losing everything (honey, don't they all?) and vows to give up fighting after one last match. But it isn't called Blood and Sand for nothing. If only he'd had Tishy in the wings ready to distract this charging bull...

Re-name That Book II! Final Call.

We have such clever Bettys! Here are the entries thus far:

The End of the Rainbow:
1. Olympia's Finish Line Surprise (opramum)
2. Where's Waldo? (Betty Barbara)
3. Blood is Not Thicker than Water (Bettyellen)
4. A Titian for Olympia (Betty Kylene)
5. A Tale of Two Terrible Aunts (Betty Barbara)

A Small Slice of Summer:
1. Tishy Takes a Tumble (opramum)

2. Love, Beta Edition (Betty Keira)
3. Tish Tosh (Bettyellen)

4. Tish's Take Two (Kandidly yours)
5. Letitia Won't Go To Brighton (Betty Kylene)
6. Letitia's Trust (Betty Kylene)
7. Letty's Longings (opramum)
8. Tishy the Wet Tissue (Betty Barbara)

For The Most Marvelous Summer:
1. Lumps for Matilda (opramum)
2. Lumps, Mumps and ffrumps (opramum)
3. The Many Careers of Matilda (Betty Kylene)

4. Matilda's Messes (opramum)

It's not too late for more entries! The Founding Bettys, in their roles as Grand High Poobah Arbiters of Everything will be selecting the winner (or possibly winners) sometime Saturday morning. Not interested in entering? Let us know which one's are your favorites.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Betty and the Real World

Uncertain Summer:

Serena, for their first dinner party, chooses a dish (the nasty sounding Gurkas Norge) from the Galloping Gourmet. The Galloping Gourmet began in 1969 and ended in 1971 after a car accident that left Graham temporarily paralysed. (Seriously? What a wonderful plot for a Betty Neels book.)

Their engagement is announced in the Telegraph and Elseviers Weekblad. During the Second World War, The Daily Telegraph covertly helped in the recruitment of code-breakers for Bletchley Park. The ability to solve The Telegraph's crossword in under 12 minutes was considered a recruitment test. The newspaper was asked to organise a crossword competition, after which each of the successful participants was contacted and asked if they would be prepared to undertake "a particular type of work as a contribution to the war effort". The competition itself was won by F H W Hawes of Dagenham who finished the crossword in less than eight minutes

A Small Slice of Summer:

When the surgeons are doing their work they get a woman in for a Caesarean Section. They charmingly call it a Caesar as though they were ordering lunch from a greasy spoon. ("I'll get two flyers, slap 'em down and make 'em moo. Slip me a Caesar while you're at it.")
Caesarean section usually resulted in the death of the mother; the first recorded incidence of a woman surviving a Caesarean section was in 1500, in Siegershousen, Switzerland: Jakob Nufer, a pig gelder, is supposed to have performed the operation on his wife after a prolonged labour.
This pic to the left is of one being performed successfully in Uganda in 1879. Wow. Show of hands for all you ladies willing to let a pig gelder anywhere near your delivery room?

A Small Slice of Summer--Discussion Thread

A Small Slice of Summer begins with a 'Commando operation'. For the potty-minded among us (imagining a team of surgeons operating without their knickers on), I offer the true definition: Surgery A term attributed to Hayes Martin, a pioneer in head & neck surgery, for the en bloc removal of an advanced 1º malignancy of the oral cavity, usually SCC–lymphoma is amenable to RT or chemotherapy; the CO is a very aggressive procedure, and entails partial removal of the mandible, floor of the mouth and/or tongue, accompanied by a radical neck dissection. Bo-ring.

I don't like Tishy much but can totally relate to her penny-pinching ways. 'Buying her meals had become a major exercise in basic arithmetic.' During my second semester of college (after my scholarship ran out and before I got my first paycheck) I was in a similar way. I had a 10 pound sack of potatoes, a few sticks of butter and some salt. Maybe I was hoping for a repeat of the Old Testament miracle (the one about the meal and oil and the widow) as it would have to last me two weeks. I would have done it too but my student congregation (my ward) was having a pay-it-forward week going on and one day I stepped out of my front door at 6:30 in the morning (in the freezing cold and snow to head off to work) and found a large (for a student) sack of groceries. I never found out who that person was but it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me and probably represented a sizable amount of their food budget. I felt very Tishy-esque.

Jason drives a Jensen Interceptor convertible (right). (Can I get a show of hands for those that mentally hear "The Dauntless is the power in these waters but there's not a ship that can match The Interceptor for speed."?) When he drives her home he does so with the 'hood down'. Those crazy Brits--calling hoods 'bonnets' and tops 'hoods'. I live in rainy Oregon so 'hood down' driving is more theoretical than actual. But even if it were sensible, I have hair issues. No, better to cover it up and crack a window...

Gypsies with Typhoid! Whenever La Neels discusses gypsy caravans I know I'm supposed to picture crummy RVs but I instantly conjure Stromboli from Pinocchio with the wooden cart. As for Typhoid... Typhoid Mary, was the first person in the United States to be identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. Over the course of her career as a cook, she is known to have infected 53 people, three of whom died from the disease.Her notoriety is in part due to her vehement denial of her own role in spreading the disease, together with her refusal to cease working as a cook. She was forcibly quarantined twice by public health authorities and died in quarantine. It is possible that she was born with the disease, as her mother had typhoid fever during her pregnancy.

'Typhoid is not the long drawn out thing now that we have Chloramphenicol.' Sure, but once upon a time it was a real danger. First Lady Abigail Adams, the third son of Abraham Lincoln, one of the Wright brothers and Prince Albert (consort of Queen Victoria) all died from the disease. The moral of the story? There were no good old days.

Tishy usually tries to keep her food budget around 40 pence a day, she tells the doctor while dining with him at Le Gaulois in Chancery Lane. Not to harp on my desperate college days, but if I recall correctly, my monthly food budget was around $50. Lots of rice and potatoes and eggs and barbecue sauce and ramen noodles. I don't think a RDD would be on a speaking acquaintance with ramen noodles.

Jason buys her a painting of a gypsy caravan which she nails to her wall with the heel of her winter boot. I wonder if nailing things to the wall was strictly allowed in the nurse's home. To me it sounds like a cross between a nunnery and a dorm room--places where the integrity of the walls are guarded like a Romulan warship. Stands to reason that she couldn't get a hold of a simple hammer.

A Small Slice of Summer - 1975

I'm giving warning upfront that my gut reaction to A Small Slice of Summer is "Gah" (pronounced with a glottal stop and a slight gagging sound). A Small Slice of Summer is a real Curate's Egg.

Letitia Marsden (almost exclusively referred to as "Tishy", yuk.) is a recovery room nurse. Perhaps the only recovery room nurse in Neeldom. She has had "an unfortunate experience" with a Medical Registrar. Which sounds waaaay worse than it was. He invited her to go to Brighton for a weekend and she turned him down. He got back at her by shocking her with the news that she is "old-fashioned" and not even very pretty. Ouch. Yeah, that's pretty much the whole "unfortunate experience". Because of this, Tishy doesn't trust any man under the age of 50 years of age. That's quite the sweeping indictment of an entire sex, based on one weasel. Right off the bat I don't have much sympathy for her.

As a recently certified nurse, Tishy is not exactly rolling in the dough. She spends a fair amount of time calculating how much money she can spend in the cafeteria. All the girls are "protective" of poor little Tishy. Maybe if they weren't she could grow a spine. As it is, she is an invertebrate jellyfish. Squishy, yet occasionally poison. Deadly poison. Her version of poison is to scowl at men who have the temerity to smile at her. Which is precisely what happens when Doctor Jason Mourik van Nie smiles at our gal. Dr. Jason is good friends with cross-over character Julius van den Berg Effert (from the much more delightful Damsel in Green). Jason knows all about "the unfortunate incident"...seems like everyone knows about it. Move along, people, move along.

Evil Medical Registrar stops by the recovery room for a spot of dumping on our gal...and who should walk in, it's Doctor Jason! Who is Tishy riled up at? Doctor Jason. Why? Exactly.

Time to head off to Aunt Maud's to cool off. Disregard Aunt Maud, she never makes an appearance. On the way to said mythical aunt, Tishy falls off a curb, into the path of a grey Jensen Interceptor. The car belongs to Jason, and never fear, he manages to brake nearly in time to avoid hitting her. Nearly. Her ankle is sprained due to her lame-o attempt to fall in a way that won't hurt her new outfit. Her tights are ruined...when Jason cuts them off of her, neatly, just above the ankle. Instead of taking her to Aunt Maud's, he kidnaps her...and takes her to Dalmer's Place. Yes, THAT Dalmer's Place...the part-time home of Julius and Georgie van den Berg Effert. It's okay, she's been there a couple of times before...her older sister Margo is a great friend of Georgie. Georgie immediately puts her matchmaking cap on and sees hearts and flowers where there are none. Yet.

Jason has a few things to tell Tishy:

1. Not all men are villains.

2. Tishy is almost pretty when she smiles.

3. Tishy is a very touchy girl.

Jason drives Tishy home - it's sort of on his way to Plymouth. Thus begins the Typhoid Infected Gypsy Interlude. Tishy and Jason bond over feeding the scruffy dog, boiling water, and burning their clothes. After wasting some perfectly good Rich Tea Biscuits on the hungry dog, Tishy gets her knickers in a twist because...well, really for no good reason. Tishy does not take well to some implied criticism of her old clothes...and the implied hint that they should have been burnt months ago...and this leads naturally to the realization that she is in love with Jason. Right. In typical Neels style, Tishy will now have to hide her love away. She knows it's a bad idea...she's more sensible than that. "Common sense at times could be a dead bore."
Jason and Reverend Marsden bond over a mutual love of porcelain figurines, such as Shepherd Boy with Dog. Men and their hobbies...

Back at the hospital Tishy pines a bit. She is looking plainer than usual. Her modest looks are suffering. Margo (remember the older sister?) shares a birthday party invitation to Georgie's birthday. Which is all well and good until she hears, I mean overhears Julius and Jason talking about her...and Jason damns her with faint praise. She's not that plain and she's a nice girl. She's mad...and she's not going to take it. Take what? Exactly.

House party at Dalmer's Place...Tishy saves the Day! There is an episode involving a bull in a field...she not only saves Georgie and her daughter Polly, she also distracts the bull so that she can save Jason too. During the house party, Tishy spends a fair amount of time with Cousin Karel...who is pretty close to her in age. They laugh and joke and have fun...almost like he's a brother. Let's keep that term "brother" in mind.

I could go through the play by play, but let's not. Suffice it to say, Tishy is in love, and spends a lot of time being snippy, cold, sour, uneasy...all traits that seem to endear her to Jason. Yes, Jason is in love (why, oh why?) but thinks that Tishy might really like the younger man, Karel. Jason finally proposes, but neglects to say the three magic words - I love you - so Tishy declines. Jason discovers that Karel really loves Mary, Tishy is rude and icy to him - which must be quite the attraction, because he tracks her down at work where Tishy shows her true colors, again, and is shrill, cross and furious. I predict a ton of make-up implied conjugal relations in their future.

Verdict: Gah. A Small Slice of Summer is the pathetic Side B. A few good moments, but overall, not so much. Tishy is even more unpleasant than the less than enchanting, Samantha. Jason is not unpleasant, but he just doesn't really register that much. There seems to be no good reason for him to fall for Tishy...maybe it's a gratitude thing for saving him from a charging bull? Kidding. The Great Betty was not on the top of her game with this one. The quote I used (from Pirates of Penzance) for yesterday's trifle would work just as well for this book, so here it is again."Individually, I love you all with affection unspeakable; but, collectively, I look upon you with a disgust that amounts to absolute detestation." I'm going to be super generous and give this a beans on toast.

Food: A slab of treacle tart because starch was filling. cold roast beef, rhubarb pie with clotted cream, bread and butter, scones, Rich Tea Biscuits mixed with canned corned beef (for the gypsy dog).

Fashion: Tan jersey cardigan with a shell pink blouse that she had bought instead of eating properly, old slacks and a cotton shirt that have to be burned, last year's blue and white striped dress, green voile.