Thursday, September 30, 2010

Betty in the Real World

Ring in a Teacup:
Lucy has to attend a meeting of W.R.V.S when she goes home to visit her parents. It stands for Women's Royal Voluntary Service: was seen “as the enrollment of women for Air Raid Precaution Services of Local Authorities, to help to bring home to every household what air attack may mean, and to make known to every household [in the country] what it can do to protect itself and the community...The organization evolved to helping isolated and lonely people, particularly the elderly. They are particularly well known as providers of the Meals on Wheels service which delivers hot meals to the housebound. Their mission is ‘To help people to maintain independence and dignity in their homes and communities, particularly in later life.’

At the Dutch hospital ball, Lucy is slightly jealous to notice that Mies looked like 'the front cover of Vogue' but I wonder how on earth The Great Betty would know. This 1978 edition (left) from Paris Vogue seems pretty representative of the era--massive head shots of googly-eyed models with the barest scraps of 'fashion' tucked in around them. I mean, from this I know gobs of eyeliner are 'in' but otherwise...?

The End of the Rainbow:

Waldo drives a Lamborghini Euraco S. (which is actually a misspelling of Urraco). He trades it in for a Rolls Royce Corniche convertible, because it's more of a family car....I remember going car shopping when I was a young child. We bought a bright red Ford Econoline 15-passenger van (just like the one on the right but much redder and more conspicuous. I would be driving it as a teenager on all my dates...). Now that's a family car.

We also get some poetry! will be something to remember for years...Olympia: the next line goes, "to remember with tears" That's from a poem by William Allingham. Here's the whole thing:
A Memory
William Allingham, 1824-1889

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
What a little thing
To remember for years-
To remember with tears!

The End of the Rainbow--Discussion Thread

Olympia's dad was an archeologist - met her mum while on a dig in Greece...that's why she was named Olympia. Her parents my have expected her to be a tall voluptuous blonde - but since they died in a motoring accident before she could toddle, they never had a chance to find out how wrong they were. I didn't approach naming my kids with any sort of philosophy--merely attempted to avoid the pitfall of unspellability (but why, Betty Keira?) and unpronouncability (but why, Betty Keira?). Sure, Olympia passes on both measures but it infers a certain...hmmm...full-bosomedness I would be loathe to hang like a millstone around the neck of any innocent 14-year-old girl. But then, having said that, I remember Olympia Dukakis is a fabulous actress who once said my favorite movie quote ever ("Old man, you give those dogs another piece of my food and I'm gonna kick you 'til you're dead!") and I love it again.

Olympia has to work split shifts for her aunt...7:30-10:30am, then 1pm until the night shift came on. These make for ridiculously long days. And not only long days but no (zero, zilch) love life. What kind of man wants a spread sheet of his lady love's off time?

The room she has in Aunt Betsy's house (Waldo's aunt) is pink, pink, pink. PINK. Now, I like pink--it's a friendly shade (hence all those flattering rose tinted lamp shades) on the skin but doesn't it have a shelf life for a grown woman? My own room is grey/blue but a man sleeps in there so it's not apples to apples. Maybe all that pink boosts estrogen levels and might increase ovulation...I'm just spitballin' here...

His dog has recently died so she suggests a new one. Does this seem callous? The Founding Bettys are notorious pet-free Bettys so don't have a feel for how soon is too soon. I suppose it depends on how beloved the pet was as I hear that they are not all created equal...

We get to meet cross over characters Gijs and Serena van Amstel from Uncertain Summer--a couple I always have particular anxiety about as his cousin (Laurens the Fink) was the cause of so much turmoil. I'd like to hear that those crazy kids have just returned from a funeral wherein they had to discretely memorialize the Fink as his body was unrecoverable in the Amazon rainforest airplane crash that claimed him and the blonde tartlet he was luring away from respectability...

"She picked up her knitting, attacking it with a ruthlessness which had no regard to the intricate pattern." Betty Kylene is an avid knitter and brings her knitting to things like Cub Scouts Pack Meetings. She is doing a complicated star stitch (whatever that means) and looks as though she might use some beastly Dutch oaths to get through it. I'm not much of a knitter myself, and like to take the position on some patterns of 'Just because you can doesn't mean you should.' (see right)

The End of the Rainbow - 1974

Oh my stars, I love this book. Poor little The handsome, genial giant, Waldo. A cavalcade of aunts: the evil aunt, the not-related-but also evil aunt and the good aunt. The sullen step-daughter. Everyone has an their own long con...some work out, some do not. Here's a preview:
Aunt Maria: adopts Olympia as a toddler and cons Olympia into making a promise to be her slave for the rest of her natural life.
Elisabeth: plans to sweet-talk her way into marriage to Waldo, even though in the time he's known her, he's been married twice and had one child. She'll go to any lengths, including destroying Ria, all while conveying an air of sweetness and light.
Waldo: 1. Pretends that Ria is his daughter instead of the ill-conceived child of his younger brother. 2. Marries Olympia to take care of Ria and his household, causing her to trade slavery for a gilded cage. 3. Mysterious London connection.
Olympia: Falls in love with her husband and plans to hide it - forever if she must.

Our story opens with Olympia working as a Aunt Maria's nursing home. Aunt Maria runs a tight ship, and Olympia is lashed to the helm. Not only does she work there full-time for peanuts, but she has to work split-shifts and be on call every night. No wonder she's skin and bone. Aunt Maria even has her run errands during her "off" hours. Olympia seems doomed to a life of indentured servitude. The only loophole she has managed to negotiate is that she can quit working at the nursing home if and when she gets married. Like that's ever going to happen. The only people she meets are the geriatric patients and their occasional visitors.
Olympia plays a little hooky during her off hours (I'm not sure that doing what you want during your off hours constitutes hooky, but that's how Aunt Maria would see it...). After buying the first white sheets the salesperson shows her at Selfrdiges, she's off to the National Gallery to have a solitary look at the special exhibition. She's got to hot foot it, so as to return before she turns into a pumpkin...SPLAT! Enter Dr. Waldo van der Graaf - as stunning an example of Rich Dutch Docterness as she's never had the pleasure of seeing before. Olympia has done a face plant right at his feet. Shoot, I never catch a break! Dr. Hotty van der Hunkyness dusts her off and convinces her to stay and see the exhibit with him. After establishing the fact that she's not married. And so it begins.
Waldo (which is so not a name that comes to mind when thinking of hunky RDDs) has a knack for putting our girl at ease. He takes her to tea at Fortnum and Mason's and makes her comfy amongst the Givenchy scarves and crocodile handbags. Comfy enough to spill her life story.
Waldo and Olympia share a taxi back to the nursing home where she is dropped off and he rides off, into the sunset...never to be seen again?
Much to Olympia's surprise, Dr. van der Hunkyness is a friend of dear old Dr. Sims who tows him along to the nursing home a couple of days later. Olympia thinks that he's the nicest man she knows.
Waldo now starts dropping by with delightful regularity. His next visit is on the pretext of needing shopping advice - would Olympia come help him pick out a gift for his daughter? His daughter? Dang, he's married. No, no - his wife died a week or two after Ria was born. A fully kitted out dollhouse is chosen by Olympia - because it's something she would have loved as a child. How bleak was her childhood on Primrose Hill Road. It turns out Waldo has come over from Holland just to see offer her a job? He does have that 5 year old daughter - he must need a nanny. Too bad, that won't fulfill the terms of her servitude with Aunt Maria, it's marriage or nothing. Waldo squires Olympia around London for a couple of weeks, then takes her to visit his Aunt Betsy. A majestic and elegant woman, who endearingly confides that she buys her woolies at Marks and Spencer's too. Aunt Betsy leaves them alone for a few minutes so that Waldo can make an offer. Surprisingly, it's an offer of marriage, not a job offer. Olympia is understandably gobsmacked. This would get her away from her dismal life on Primrose Hill Road, but Olympia has qualms. What about the elderlies? Who will get up during the night and take care of them? Waldo promises to find a nurse to replace her.
Meanwhile, Aunt Maria is getting fed up with Olympia having a gentleman caller and tells Olympia that she's going to revoke dating privileges. Not going to happen. Waldo shows up and spikes her guns. Announces the engagement and the replacement nurse and tells Olympia to run and get packed - they're leaving right away! Aunt Maria has no choice...but she spitefully issues dire predictions before washing her hands of her. Olympia shows her backbone and snaps back. I've been working for years for little more than pocket money! Sadly, it only takes Olympia half an hour to pack up all her worldly possessions.
Waldo is appalled at the pittance Aunt Maria paid Olympia. That's hardly enough to keep you in stockings - or is it tights? No wonder you wear that old tweed suit all the time. Never mind the old tweeds now! Waldo has arranged for Olympia to stay with Aunt Betsy and to accept a new wardrobe (to be picked out at Harrod's). Waldo is taking Olympia out to celebrate, so girlfriend gets herself all gussied up. It's worth the effort - Waldo is not a stingy man when it comes to compliments - you look like a princess in a fairy story. Awww. It's time for some family jewels of the sapphire and diamond variety.
Dr. Sims gives away the bride, then it's off to Holland in Waldo's Lamborghini. Home to daughter Ria. Ria who looks at Olympia with unveiled hostility. This sounds like fun. Waldo gives the obligatory house tour and ends with an impersonal kiss and I hope you'll be very happy here.
Well, that you put it that way...yup, it's a dawning realization. Too bad love isn't part of the benefits package. There's really not too much time to reflect on her love, before you can say Jack Robinson, in walks trouble. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with E and that stands for Elisabeth. Trouble all wrapped up in sweetness and light. Courteous, kind, cheerful, she's just like a sister to Waldo. Okay, that's just creepy...remember, she's playing a long con, it's been going on for years now. Elisabeth just comes off as an incredibly helpful friend. She is always stopping by and offering her services. Ria adores her - she's known her for her entire life. So, Elisabeth gets smiles from Ria while Olympia gets scowls, frowns etc...
Elisabeth has spoiled Ria - so Waldo tells Olympia that it's up to her to help change things. Yeah, that's going to go well - discipline a child who dislikes and distrusts you? Olympia takes it on, but she does hand the little over to daddy to deal with at times. Good for her.
Things are starting to look up - Waldo wants to have a 'chat' about something...but then Elisabeth barges in...natch.
And now the plot thickens. Or the waters are muddied. Or something. Olympia is just conversant enough in Dutch to answer the phone when it rings. RING! The other party is female, English and has a pretty voice. She'd like to speak to the doctor, but on no account should his wife know about the call. Olympia tells Waldo about the call - but although willing, he'd really rather NOT tell her who the phone caller was. Olympia is rightfully miffed.
In the middle of the night, Olympia draws on her 'on call night nurse' background and hears some suspicious noises coming from Ria's's Ria hurling her dinner. And then hurling again. Waldo and Olympia rush her to the hospital where she is whisked into an operating theatre to have her appendix removed. Little Ria is going to be fine - but what's up with Elisabeth? She assumed that at 1am she should have been called to be in on the drama.
Elisabeth is being a busy bee - giving Olympia helpful hints such as not bothering to knit a sweater for Waldo as he hates hand knitted sweaters. Olympia wisely ignores the advice and buys a boatload of yarn and a pattern. Waldo says there's nothing he'd rather wear, then rewards her with a fierce kiss. Editor's Note: I find Waldo's faith in Olympia's knitting ability quite touching. Frankly he's taking a bit of a gamble here - what if the sweater is hideous?

Back home Waldo takes another mysterious call. Olympia overhears, "Don't telephone here anymore...the risk is too great...I don't want my wife to find out." Wow. Just when she's starting to forget about Mysterious Phone Call from London #1. Mysterious Phone Call #2 is even worse. It's quite upsetting for our gal - and it's no wonder she is a little extra friendly to the housemen at the hospital. Waldo chides her a bit for chatting them up.
While Ria has been in hospital, Olympia has used her sewing skills to make a new outfit for Ria's doll. She puts it on a wee hanger and leaves it by Ria's bed - so she'll see it when she gets home...Imagine Olympia's surprise when Elisabeth gives Ria an identical outfit! Oh, Elisabeth, you dirty rat! Olympia puts it down to a cruel coincidence...surely Elisabeth, dear, sweet, Elisabeth wouldn't do something like that on purpose?
If that isn't enough, Waldo gets Mysterious Phone Call #3 and announces that he is going to London the very next day. Olympia wasn't raised by an emotionally distant aunt for nothin'...she knows full well how to hide her feelings. Waldo sort of offers to tell her why he's going (but he'd rather not), Olympia doesn't want him to tell her. She's imagining all the wrong things...and Waldo is as clueless as he is innocent. In a bit of a non-sequitur, Olympia asks him if he had ever been in love with Elisabeth. Good lord, no!
It's just as well, because Olympia is starting to get a bit suspicious of Elisabeth. Elisabeth not only pulled a fast one with the doll clothes, she also was misleading about the sweater issue and now she gives Olympia another bad piece of advice about spring cleaning. Elisabeth also manages to lurk around the house so as to be at hand when Waldo returns gets back from London. Waldo passes right by her and greets his wife first. He hasn't come back alone...he's hauled Aunt Betsy back too! Yay! Aunt Betsy is no fan of Elisabeth's - and the feeling is mutual. Elisabeth makes herself scarce for a few days. But like a bad penny, she turns Olympia's first dinner party. Yes, she is an invited guest, but had it been me, I would have given her a pat on the back...only with my foot instead of my hand, and a few vertebrae lower. She comes in slightly late and proceeds to tear Olympia to ribbons. In a very 'sweet' way.
*How nice you look in the van der Graaf corals...translation: Those corals should be mine! All mine!
*I thought Waldo was never going to give them to you...translation: If I was married to him, he would have given them to me at the wedding.
*It must be difficult for you, learning our way of life...translation: White Trash!!
*Ria is such a naughty girl not to like you...translation: Loser!
The really unpardonable thing about this whole episode is when Waldo takes dear Elisabeth home after the party because she is upset - she always was a sensitive girl.
Olympia is so incensed she takes off the van der Graaf corals (why couldn't it have been diamonds...or rubies...or sapphires? Coral just doesn't sound as classy) and gives them back. She obviously isn't worthy of them.
Wouldn't you know it, a Mysterious Letter from London shows up in the morning post. Just what she needs!
Aunt Betsy is driven in some state to Schipol - and Ria throws a monster tantrum on the way home. Being a stepmother is just not getting any better. Ria is still resentful and sullen. Editor: In my experience five year olds just don't have that kind of commitment to a grudge, not that kind of attention span. Of course, Elisabeth is whispering sedition at every opportunity.
Waldo clears up a little misunderstanding...Ria doesn't miss her mom - her mom died when she was only a week or two old. Oh, and by the way, he, Waldo, is not her father. He's never told anyone else...Olympia can see that someone else is listening at the door. Waldo walks out, and in walks...yes, it's Elisabeth. She is all sweetness and light. Just thought I'd drop by and take Ria shopping. We'll only be gone a little while.
The little while turns into a long while...Olympia finally puts in a call to Elisabeth's house. Her mum tells her that Elisabeth has gone...wait for it...wait....she's gone to....BELGIUM!!!!!! As we have demonstrated time and again on TUJD, Nothing good comes of rich Americans, skinny finacees or trips to Belgium. Frankly this is the last we'll see of her...but like a bee who has left it's stinger behind, the poison is still pumping. Elisabeth has told Ria the facts of her parentage and told her to run away. Yes, you heard right...she encouraged a five year old child to run away.
Olympia finds Ria... and then they are found by Waldo...who thinks that it was Olympia who did the dirty deed. Why? Elisabeth's stinger. She slapped on the lies with a thick trowel before high-tailing it to Antwerp.
Now is the hour of Olympia's despair. Ria is finally coming around to liking her stepmom, but Waldo doesn't want the recent unpleasantness mentioned - so he is laboring under the misapprehension that Olympia told Ria and caused her to run away. The big problem for him is that in spite of all this, he loves his wife. There's only one thing to do. Take the family to London. Where Ria blurts out the truth to Aunt Betsy.
Best lines in the book:
Him: I deserve to be shot!
Her: Yes you do!
One more mystery to clear up - who is the mysterious woman with the pretty voice? It's none other than Mrs. Doreen Betts. No longer young, dumpy and married. Say what? Mr. and Mrs. Betts are the new caretakers at the nursing home on Primrose Hill Road. Waldo bought out Aunt Maria (who unfairly gets to retire to a villa in Spain, instead of the Black Hole of Calcutta) and has been improving the nursing home - using all of Olympia's ideas.
And now some kissing -a satisfying and lengthy operation. A gleam in Waldo's eye, implied conjugal relations...The End.
Rating: Gosh, this was great. Waldo is charming. He grins, he smiles, he beams. All at Olympia, and all before he knows he's in love. Olympia is pretty great herself. She has been trod upon by Aunt Maria for so long that you could excuse her if she didn't have a spine...but she does. Her spine gets spinier and spinier throughout the book...natural progression. Elisabeth is deliciously evil...she is described as 'a snake in the grass' which sums her up pretty well. Lashings of Whipped Cream.
Steamed pudding, Gateau St. Honore, a mug of cocoa, Marmite sandwiches, ratatouille, Charlotte Russe, salmon steaks with herb butter, apple pie twice, turbot decorated with lobster coral?
Fashion: Waldo buys our girl THREE coats: cashmere, velvet and mink! Two-year old tweed suit made of a material that refused to wear out, leather gloves, apricot wooly bought at Marks and Spencer, a brown bow to set in front of her bun of hair, red corduroy shirtwaister.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

British Word of the Day

zebra crossing

Oh, we have them here in the U.S. we just don't call them that. They are merely white longitudinal stripes painted on the dark surface of a road to indicate a crossing. In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy they are reference to Man using the improbable creature called the Babel fish as proof to the non-existence of God... the novel says, "Man then goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed at the next zebra crossing."

In Ring in a Teacup, Lucy stands at a zebra crossing "in Knightsbridge, having spent her morning with her small nose pressed to the fashionable shop windows there, and among the cars which pulled up was a Panther 4.2 convertible with him in the driver's seat. There was a girl beside him; exactly right for the car, too, elegant and dark and haughty..."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Post Game Wrap-Up

We received a charming email from Betty Mary today...wherein she included a photo. Nothing loathe, we present it in its entirety:

"Thank you ---You've no idea ---Oh Thank You Very Much"
[Winter Wedding: Emily to Renier after he bought back her locket that her nasty sister Louisa sold and then gave it to her for Christmas.]
The Bassetts Allsorts and some very charming book accessories came today. The bookcover is just what I wanted, You have no idea, just last week I was trying to make an oversized, yet still uncrushable jersey bookcover fit my slim Betty tome and having no success. (I was going to the football game to watch BettyMegan in the marching band and wanted to keep my reading material 'undercover') Self, I said, I need a smaller bookcover, where shall I find one. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a lovely windmill adorned pocket-book cover and a cute bookmarker, too.
Dank je Wel, Betty Mary

Dear Betty Mary,
You are very welcome. Betty Keira and I have decided to christen your bookcover "The Emily", in honor of your awesome use of a quote from Winter Wedding (which is very possibly Betty Keira's favorite Betty Neels).
Love and Lardy Cakes,
The Founding Bettys

Upcoming Reviews

Monday, October 4th. Wish With the Candles. RDD has auburn hair and is named Justin - how weird is that? Emma drives a 3rd hand Ford Popular.

Thursday, October 7th. An Apple From Eve. Orphaned family, family home is rented out -lock stock and tattered rugs, evil fiancee (Diana) has a case of the mumps.

Question of the Week

The End of the Rainbow has a scene wherein Waldo takes Olympia with him to choose a gift for his young daughter/not daughter. Olympia's choice falls on a fabulous and gorgeous doll house because it was just the sort of thing she would have longed to own as a child.

My question is: What were some gifts that you longed to have when you were a wee tot?

My answer is the Barbie Dream House that Mom and Dad bought for Betty Suzanne (probably because they loved her more), with working hand crank elevator and a bundle of extras--the best of which was a loaf of bread that set into a miniature baking tin. I probably got a jump rope or something similarly uninspiring but I really hoped for Miss Barbie and her sweet, sweet pad.

Here's Betty Debbie, shoving her oar in:
For years I wanted a slot car race track for Christmas - they were always prominently displayed at a local store we frequented. My younger brother (4 years younger) finally got one (which I am sure he didn't appreciate nearly as much as I would have). Considering the fact that older sister, Betty Marcy, and I had been brought up to expect things like Tonka Trucks for Christmas, an electric race track would have seemed to be in the natural progression of things. Which is why I probably got something girly - a clear case of trying to close the barn door after the horses were already out.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ring in a Teacup - Discussion Thread

"I expect your pride's hurt, but it doesn't need to be; everyone thought you were smashing, and I would have gone to sleep even if you'd been Michael Caine or Kojak." I might have stayed awake for Michael Caine (I love his voice), but frankly, Kojak never appealed very much to me. He's sort of a poor girl's Yul Brenner.

Doctor de Groot is a very aggressive driver, turning into a speed demon as soon as he gets behind the wheel, 'slightly more maniacal' on his native soil--'driving like a demented Jehu'. I had to look this one up. Had. To. Thanks to Google, I was able to search for "Jehu" and found the following:
1. (Christian Religious Writings / Bible) Old Testament the king of Israel (?842-?815 bc); the slayer of Jezebel (II Kings 9:11-30)
2. a fast driver, esp one who is reckless (from the phrase to drive like Jehu. II Kings 9:20)
II Kings 9:20 And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.
I shall now endeavor to find a way to use "driving like a demented Jehu" in casual conversation.

When Lucy saves the kitten she runs toward a street looking for someone with a pocketknife. Sadly, Betty Neels tells us, the street is full of women. (Naturally they wouldn't carry one?). I took a minute to think about whether I had ever carried a pocketknife in my purse. Sadly I must report that no, I have never intentionally carried a pocketknife in my purse. I now feel the need to go and purchase one. The kind that has a gadget for taking stones out of horses hooves (like the one carried by Haughty Harry in Nurse Harriet Goes to Holland).

Dr. de Groot waltzes her to a rather spirited Rumba. The 'rumba' mostly reminds me of the kind of tights I used to buy my daughter when she was a baby, back in the early 80's. You know the kind, they had rows of ruffles stitched onto the backside.
When Lucy gets back home, she mentions to her mother that most of the woman at the Dutch hospital ball 'could not have been wearing anything under the bodice...they were cut so low there just wasn't room.' If they were busy dancing the rumba, I guess I can see why...most of the costumes for Latin type dances seem to be held up mainly by a thread and prayer.

Fraam asks Lucy if she can milk a goat and she replies, 'Of course.' She probably learned how to as a Girl Guide. When this Betty was young (six to sevenish) our family owned a cow named Bossy. I was terrified of that big animal, but I did attempt to milk it once or twice. Totally grossed me out. I hated fresh milk - couldn't stand the flecks of cream that floated on it. I did like the butter that we hand churned, but that was the only thing about that cow that I liked. In looking up 'goat milking' (there's an example of due diligence!) I find that goats are considered much easier to milk than cows.

Fraam finally gets to the bottom of things and refers to it as 'the nigger in the woodpile' Eek. I've run across that phrase a time or two in reading. Agatha Christie used it in more than one of her books. I am surprised that Betty Neels used it as late as 1978 - as it would have been considered very offensive to use the term 'nigger'. Maybe the phrase wasn't quite as offensive in Britain at the time. I don't know. Here's what I found on Wikipedia about the phrase:

A nigger in the woodpile (or fence) is an English figure of speech formerly commonly used in the United States and elsewhere. It means "some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed – something suspicious or wrong"...

Both the 'fence' and 'woodpile' variants developed about the same time in the period of 1840–50 when the Underground Railroad was flourishing successfully, and although the evidence is slight, it is presumed that they derived from actual instances of the concealment of fugitive slaves in their flight north under piles of firewood or within hiding places in stone fences.

Ring in a Teacup--1978

Two points: A) The cover doesn't match the book hardly at all. Our Lucy has really, really green eyes--not so our cover girl--and long hair. Still, don't you just love it to pieces? B) Upon her marriage, our heroine would take the name of Lucilla Linssen. I vote no.

Lucilla "Lucy" Prendergast, 23, is swimming upstream. She has four distressingly gorgeous siblings, pleasing (though not pretty) features, and blazing emerald eyes which she has just managed to prop open when the cold and disapproving stare of a hospital guest lecturer greets her. It serves him right for making the Night Duty Student Nurses attend a speech about...(rifles through notes, checks spelling)...I don't care already. A feeling I am sure is echoed in poor Lucy's modest bosom.
For his part, Fraam der Linssen, nudging forty and possessing 'the kind of good looks so often written about an so seldom seen', has strode into the lecture hall, appraised the audience and prepared himself to hold forth on a topic near and dear to his heart when he spots that most insignificant of hospital denizens (possibly ranking even lower than a good ward maid with rheumatism and a smoking habit)--a student nurse--nodding off in the center of the front row. How dare she? Wickedly, he directs a question at her...
I didn't hear what you were saying, sir--I was asleep.
To hear him tell it later, he had the most difficult time not whisking her out of her seat then and there and marrying her out of hand.
She has to apologize, naturally.
They next meet at the scene of an accident. She saves the life of a little blighter...uh, boy...who has run into traffic. Fraam (which name is difficult to murmur endearingly, I imagine) scoops her up and (after she drops off to sleep in the Casualty area) 'examines' her--finding only bruises and scrapes. If there were a sliding scale of things you don't want handsome men to see/do around you, where holding your hair while you vomit canal water onto a grassy verge is a 10 and catching you in a minor fib is a 1, then I'd rate this a solid 7.
Although it doesn't seem like he likes her very much, she thinks about him from time to time and wishes she'd been engineered better.
They meet again in Holland.
An old friend of her father, Doctor de Groot, wants her to stay with him and his only child Mies for a holiday.
(whistle, whistle, blatant plot device, whistle, whistle)
Don't you like each other? says a confused and beautiful Mies when they meet up with Fraam (an old family friend of Mies' too).
That remains to be seen. (Oh Fraam. You're at your best when you're as enigmatic as a Russian arms dealer.)
Lucy also meets Willem de Vries who I thought was destined to be a colorless, slope-shouldered suitor until I found out he had money. Then, naturally, he was better suited to be a young lovelorn fellow meant for Mies.
While Fraam moonlights as a one man chauffeur service by offering numerous women of a variety of hair hues rides in his swanky Panther de Ville, Lucy plots to bring Mies and Willem together. Maybe, she suggests, Willem could pretend to be interested in her. Waters are slightly muddied.
At the Dutch hospital ball, Lucy arrives in a horribly modest emerald number that Fraam just loves. If he could waltz her into a corner...Alas, she had told everyone that she wasn't dancing in a bid to not have Mies scrounge a date for her. Willem doesn't take no for an answer, however, and leads her onto the nearly empty dance floor...where she shakes her moneymaker in a jaw-dropping fashion. She's clearly the best dancer there.
Fraam plucks her out of a clutch of young people and claims a dance. But then he's a little insulting about it. I shall be sadly out of fashion if I can't say that I have danced at least once with you. Notice, he didn't risk asking her to dance (she might turn him down) and then he excuses his behavior as duty. Fraam is being very weenie. Forgive him though. He loves her very much and already thinks she thinks he's too old for her. He puts things to right by finding a quiet balcony and praising her dancing and her dress and laughing a little at the precarious fashions being held up by sticky tape and prayer out there on the dance floor. Detente.
The rest of Holland comprises a rescued kitten, Willem doing the psychological equivalent of taking Mies across his knee and walloping her, Fraam telling Lucy that he does his utmost not to see her and then a whopping kiss.
Sailing home with an upgraded stateroom and a massive bunch of flowers, Lucy is unaware of the palm greasing Fraam engaged in to make it so.
Fraam comes to England to give another lecture and this time Lucy takes care to sit well in the back to avoid him noticing her. Skipping down an unused corridor afterward, she is nevertheless irritated that he gives her nothing more than a frosty nod in passing. It bugs her all day and she decides to skip socializing and go to bed.
But she's pulled away by a message. There's a man down there in the waiting room. A real live man. For Lucy.
It's Fraam. Looking about him at the unwelcome surroundings he comments, 'I wonder how many young men survive a visit here? She answered him seriously. 'Well, if they're really keen, it doesn't seem to matter,' she told him, and wondered why he smiled.
And then he has time to be either a weenie again or a strategist. Mies made me promise to take you out for a meal while I was over here. Will you come now?
(Oh Fraam! You'll never defeat the Nazis if you don't charge out of the foxhole!)
At the end of a very nice night he catches her close. 'I almost forgot,' his hand came up and lifted her chin gently: 'I had to give you this from Mies.' She had never been kissed like that before.
They next meet during a blizzard in her home village. Fraam just happened to be in the area...He goes out in the teeth of the storm to assist her in the at-home delivery she's had the misfortune to get roped into. Oopsie. The baby's breech. Double oopsie. The baby is twins. In a blizzard. Way out in the country.
This is one of those moments that underscores my deep and heartfelt affection for the easy charms of suburbia...
But I digress. Lucy is so glad to see Fraam. She is just a student nurse after all and another pair of hands is more than welcome. Attach those hands to the body of a hot, hot RDD and then I think we've got the makings of a triple word score.
Fraam cooks and holds the babies and shovels snow. Lucy collects the eggs and milks the goat and makes hot mash for the chickens. They wait for the sound of a helicopter or snow-plow to rescue them. It's like Little House on the Prairie meets the Rebel Alliance on the ice-planet Hoth.
And when they finally do make it back to her parent's house Lucy nods off from exhaustion. Fraam scoops her up and carries her to bed. Mrs. Prendergast tucked her in. 'The darling's absolutely out cold.' 'The darling's absolutely darling,' remarked Mr. der Linssen at his most suave. Putting aside the fact that I think 'suave' is a perfectly horrid word choice at a time like that, we've got some very telling signs.
When Lucy is shoveling snow with Fraam the next morning her dawning realization hits her over the head with a snow shovel. Eureka! I love him! What now?
Fraam asks Lucy to come to Holland to nurse Doctor de Groot who happens to need surgery for the very complaint that Fraam lectured on (and Lucy slept through). No matter. He'll fill her in.
She arrives after a long and weary day of travel dressed in the most utilitarian clothes possible when he stops at his house and invites her in to meet his family. If he'd tried that with me I'd feel legally bound to tell him that for his own safety and for the safety of others he'd better get used to wearing protective shin guards. But Lucy doesn't kick him under the table. They have a lovely dinner and she thinks how lucky some girl would be to get those in-laws.
When Lucy finally (after some very light nursing) gets another free day Fraam kisses her gently and then bundles her into a car. (THE Panther de Ville?) I'm going to marry you. You can think about it on the way to the house.
Now before we get all judge-y about his delivery I'd like to make a couple of points:
  • Sure those three little words weren't said ("Account at Harrods.') but he has been kissing her pretty steadily. Oughtn't she to have known?
  • As soon as he read her brainwaves and angry Japanese snowmen as a token of her undying love for him, he proposed just as soon as he could. He's been waiting to ask her for months and it's as though he's a contractor who didn't let his foundation properly cure before slapping a house on top of it. The cracks from all that unseemly haste will soon begin to show.
She accepts and very sweetly tells him she loves him (which is his cue for...?) but wants to work out her notice at the hospital--so that he can be extra sure. Mies, who heretofore had been kind of a dim-witted and fairly kind parallel character, at this point gets under my skin.
Wow. You're, like, totally engaged. You are so not his type. He's liked a ton of other girls before. Let's sit down and make a list of them. No, no, we're going to need the thick pad of paper... Alright, now first the blonds...
Mies mentions a name Lucy hadn't heard before--Adilia. (Pity that I have not the time to find a font with daggers and dripping blood because Adilia looks a little innocuous in the default blogger font.)
To her credit, Lucy asks him about it and though he is cold (Framm-speak for uncertain and worried) he answers her well enough. He even invites Adilia to lunch and tells Lucy 'Now you know what she's like' which settles it as far as he's concerned.
And then Aunt Sophie gets to Lucy at a family function. (Marvelous that you young things know how to look the other way when your husbands play the field...) Fraam manages to say that he loves Lucy (to his aunt! which is nearly unforgivable as Lucy hasn't heard the words herself yet) so feathers are smoothed.
And then Lucy sees Fraam driving Adilia in his Panther de Ville (What is he a taxi service?!) at a time when he is supposed to be 'at work'. They begin to have a tearing row but Fraam doesn't waste time being icy and aloof. 'Now, now, my love,' he said soothingly, 'what is all this?' He kissed the top of her head. 'I believe Tante Sophie's hints and spite did their work, after all.' And then he explains. The reader begins to wonder if this will be the whole of their married life--jealous rages and solicitation all the way into the grave.
So she is calmed again.
And then he says he has to go to Brussels which got my Disaster-o-meter ringing bells like crazy. Shall we recite, class, the First Commandment of Betty:
Danger lies in Belgium.
There, be pirates and death rays and all manner of villainy.

(I'm going to get a cease and desist letter from the Belgium Chamber of Commerce--you see if I don't.)
Lucy is in the front parlor of Fraam's (they're living together, didn't I say? Properly chaperoned!) when Adilia (imaging the gore and daggers) walks in. I have come to suck your blood!
No, she does something worse than suck the life out of her dooming her to an eternity of pallid skin and a monotonous diet. She uses little truths to make a gigantic lie. Fraam is in London! I vill soon be there! Ah, Ah, Ah! Let's ask Fraam's faithful butler vere he is. London! Ah, ah, ah! You can have his ugly babies and I vill have his heart!
Lucy, having the grottiest day ever, keeps it together until Adilia leaves and then, flinging her ring into a teacup, dashes upstairs for her coat and gloves. All she knows for sure is that Fraam said he was going to Brussels when he actually went to London.
She walks all day and checks into a nice hotel when she can't walk any more. But she doesn't have her purse/money/passport. Blast. And when she tries to explain to the check-in clerk that she's Doctor Linssen's fiancee and that she doesn't have it, the glorified pencil pusher's eyes dart to her ringless hand.
They ask her to wait in her room...and then lock her in. Before she has a chance to fashion a make-shift rope out of bedsheets or stage a prison riot (No justice, no peace!), Fraam walks in. His rage (which I sympathize with) evaporates when she explains. Tears and kisses. He went to London to get her released from having to work out her remaining time at the hospital so they could get married sooner. Brussels was a head-fake. (Whew.)
He'll give her a week to get her wedding dress and in the mean time that ring is to stay put.
The End

Rating: I remember liking this book but I also remember being irritated at the end. Why doesn't she trust him more? Why does she take off so fast? But upon re-reading I noticed some things that helped me like this waaaaay more. 1) Adilia called Lucy's future children plain. This is a super big deal--the bony brat found Lucy's insecurities like Luke Skywalker hunting womp rats and imploded them faster than the Death Star. 2) Though this Betty is not a fan of weekending in Brighton, she is an enormous fan of pre-marital snogging in the vicinity of Southern England. (Keep your hands to yourself!) Much of Fraam's problems would have been evaporated the second he decided to use that William and Mary settee in the front parlor for more than tea-sipping. 3) What guarantee do we have that Lucy's doubts are finally banished? On the final page Lucy flings her arms about Fraam's neck and kisses him. Heretofore, she had been cheerfully accepting his kisses but worried about invading his personal space on her own bat. This all changes when she finally (finally!) realizes that he's been waiting for her as long (longer, actually) as she was waiting for him.
Still, it would have been nice had there been a few fewer Adilia's waiting to shank Lucy when Fraam's back is turned.
No matter. I give it a Queen of Puddings!
Also, there are really wonderful bits with her family and as a nurse on the ward that I didn't cover very thoroughly in the review but which are well worth the read.

Food: Roast beef, fish and chips, currant buns, Sole Picasso (Cubed Sole?), vanilla ice cream, milk pudding, Poussin en Cocotte, carpet-bag steak (This sounds as tough as old boots.), cheese straws, bubble and squeak, and fried bread.
Fashion: She wears a jersey dress and jacket, a tweed skirt that she hates, a full rose-patterned skirt and (to the hospital ball) a green silk jersey gown with a modest neckline that she'd like to take some shears to and slash the bosom of. Tourists make themselves conspicuous with clothes made of 'uncrushable man-made fibers'. Fraam has a trendy waistcoat and a beautifully cut suit with the pant legs stuffed into wellies. Lucy meets her future in-laws in her traveling clothes--a tweed skirt, a shirt blouse (?) and sweater.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Betty Goes to Church

In the morning, after matins in the cathedral, she walked back with Felicity.

An Ideal Wife

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anchovy Toast

I bought a new cookbook last week (on Bettysday!). Frankly, I'm in need of a little culinary inspiration...

I probably picked the easiest recipe in it - and wow, was it easy. I expected mixed reviews from my family, and I got them, but I was surprised that I actually like anchovy toast. It's quite the staple in Betty Neels' stories (it's in The Moon for Lavinia, for example). I get it now. I can see it being comfort food, especially if you grew up on it. It's quick and simple to make - just keep some in the refrigerator for the next time your RDD needs a midnight snack after spending the evening doing a spot of emergency surgery or gets in late from a trip to Brussels.

Anchovy Toast

2 oz. can anchovy fillets in olive oil, well drained (I patted them with a paper towel after draining)
6 oz. soft butter (original recipe calls for unsalted...I used what I had, which was not)
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (again, fresh if you've got it...I didn't, so I used dry)
generous squeeze lemon juice
ground black pepper
4-6 slices of bread

Crush the anchovies to make a thick paste, add the butter, parsley and lemon juice. Mix well, season to taste with black pepper. (I skipped a step and just threw it all in my Braun mini food processor, 'cause that's how I roll). Cover and chill until required.
To serve, toast the bread, trim off crusts, spread anchovy butter, then cut into fingers and serve immediately.
Verdict: While not something I'd like every day, I could see making this occasionally...I might even buy a couple of tins of anchovies to have on hand in my pantry, especially for my 19 year old son. He loves anything salty, and this was definitely salty. My fifteen year old son wasn't nearly as fond of it...he tried one bite and said he'd stick to salmon. Dr. van der Stevejinck is generally not a fan of anchovies - he grudgingly said that this was 'as good as anchovies could be.'

Friday, September 24, 2010

We Have Lift-Off

Betty Keira gives me way too much credit.

For what, you ask? For being a hard worker...being organized...getting things done. She usually then indulges in a bit of self-deprecation - describing herself as 'bone-idle'. She hardly ever lays around eating bon-bons while reading Betty Neels. Hardly ever.

All week I have had our Bettysday prizes staring at me...I could have sent them sooner, but I had to look up addresses (I finally saved them in a folder for easier access), find boxes (one of the boxes I ended up altering to fit), find the right tape, and then ship them. It's not like I live a long way from the post office - it's only 3 miles away. It's not that I have to take anyone with me, such as toddlers in car seats...I think it's just that I don't like extra errands, and the post office is the opposite direction from most of my other weekly errand destinations.

I can't tell you what a relief it was to drop four packages off at the post office. All our Bettysday Tribute Contest winners should be receiving their prizes by the end of next week. I even included an extra prize for Betty Ross for coining the term 'Bettysday'.

Cinema Betty

A Girl Named Rose has nothing to do with the Irish, leprechauns, poaching or pots of gold. Still, as I read it, it would keep giving me a vibe straight from:
Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)Yes, please. I'll take two.

Katie O'Gill is the kind of woman who is not interested in snagging a man or being patronized. Michael McBride, 'a good steady lad with temperate ways' (soooo RDD), has no intention of climbing off his high horse for a local girl. Somehow or other that doesn't stop anyone from kissing anyone else. Did I just describe the plot of A Girl Named Rose? Why, I believe I did...

Favorite line? 'And him a Dublin man!'

How could you resist Sean Connery--singing!

An Ideal Wife has a matchmaking heroine and, more importantly for our purposes, a hero engaged to the wrong person. With a caveat we recommend:
What's Up Doc? (1972)That's what you're wearing to bed? We should talk.

The caveat is that both Betty Keira and Betty Debbie remember watching it and loving it but as it has been a few years, we are willing to admit that it might not stand up as well as, say, Sean Connery singing.

Barbara Streisand, Ryan O'Neal and the divine Madeline Kahn star.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Betty and the Real World

A Girl Named Rose:

Rose's aunt lives in Ashby St. Ledgers (the manor house is right), a village famous for being the host of much of the Gunpowder
The plot was revealed to the authorities in an anonymous letter sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, on 26 October 1605. During a search of the House of Lords, early in the morning of 5 November 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder – enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble – and arrested. Most of the conspirators fled from London as they learned of the plot's discovery, trying to enlist support along the way.

Rose is warned (futile warning) against going to Dam Square on her tourist-y ramblings. (There below is a picture of the war memorial our heroines are always determined to see. Look at the bottom. If I might borrow from Star Wars...'You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.' least in the land of Neels.) In my wikipedia research I came across this story which I had never heard and which is adequate reason to avoid the square:

On 7 May 1945, two days after German capitulation, thousands of Dutch people were waiting for the liberators to arrive on the Dam square in Amsterdam. In the Grose Club members of the Kriegsmarine watched as the crowd below their balcony grew and grew, people danced and cheered. Then for some sort of reason the Germans placed a machine gun on the balcony and started shooting into the crowds.

It has always remained uncertain why it happened but the sad result was that at the brink of peace 120 people were badly injured and 22 died.

The shooting finally came to an end after a member of the resistance climbed into the tower of the royal palace and started shooting onto the balcony and into the club. Then a German officer together with a Resistance commander found their way into the Club and convinced the men to surrender.

Lesson Numero Uno: Do not mess with the Dutch Resistance.

An Ideal Wife:

The heroine notices that the picture over the hero's fireplace looked like a Landseer--a 19th Century landscape and animal painter. This one to the right is called Windsor Castle in Modern Times. Note that the Princess Royal is clutching what looks to be a dead bird. There are animals all over the place (again at least 5 dead fowl), Prince Albert looks magnificent and Queen Victoria (while plain) has a very nice dress... It's like Landseer was drawing our very own RDD and Araminta!

An Ideal Wife--Discussion Thread

Migraine? Sure. I'll buy that.

The housekeeper, Biddy, has passed out in the front yard from a migraine, Dr. Gifford is able to tell right off it's a migraine and tells Louisa to let her 'sleep it off'. Hmmm. What else could it have been? A hangover? A stroke? Narcolepsy? What has Biddy been doing with the cooking sherry? I know I'm not a trained physician but I think I'd want a second opinion on this one.

Sir James has a 'fruity voice'. Okay. Let's just dance (mincingly) around this and steal a line from The Princess Bride, 'I do not think that means what you think it means.'

When making arrangements for her new flat, our heroine's landlady declines paperwork saying "I won't do the dirty on you". What a clever landlady. I think a court of law would have a difficult time finding anything bindingly legal about the phrase 'do the dirty'.
I live in a KitchenAid.

Aunt Martha's kitchen philosophy is that all she needs is a bowl and a wooden spoon...none of them new-fangled gadgets. I am not really much of a gadget chef but until this year I could not live without my rice cooker...until it broke and now I do. Also, I had let my bread machine collect dust and take up precious cupboard space until this year. Now I am churning out batch after batch of homemade dinner rolls. I don't have one of those fancy KitchenAid mixers but I am fairly sure that if you have one all you need to do is leave your ingredients on the counter and leave the room. That's when the KitchenAid elves come out of the casing and make your meals magnificent, right?

Betty Debbie notes that there is a town named Gussauge-up-Chettle. What does that mean? I found a book called Chafins of Chettle with this quote: Beyond Chettle the road mounts up over Gussauge Hill.
Now that I've wrapped up that one I will now attempt to explain the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle... ;0)
Don't call it a comeback.

Sir James' wife is suffering from a severe attack of shingles. I was once given 'shingles' as my word to draw during a game of Pictionary (why don't people play that anymore?) and lost that round due to the simple fact that I was attempting to draw the disease and it completely fled my mind that all I would have to draw was a house, a roof and some arrows. Grrr.