Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tangled Autumn--Discussion Thread

The book starts with Sappha stranded in the middle of nowhere - because she neglected to fill up her tank. This has only happened to me once and never when I've been the driver. My mother was taking me to the dentist and we coasted to a rather anti-climactic stop at the bottom of a hill. I think she made me run the rest of the way.
I read a study (you know, one of those studies somewhere with no attribution or citation) about male and female comfort levels related to the gas gauge--that women were more likely to fill-up on half a tank and men were more likely to go a little longer. I have a phobia of being stranded while pregnant in bad weather with all my little ones on the side of the highway with no cell phone and no gas...and a one-armed man walking toward my minivan with a Bernard Herrmann score playing menacingly in the background. So when the gas light comes on I am frantic to find a station. Not so my husband. Riddle me that.

The Baroness is having a bad year, health wise. Besides the parathyroid osteodystrophy, she is also in mild renal failure AND after her thyroid surgery, she fell and fractured an arm AND a leg. Betty Debbie has a much greater acquaintance with the world of fractures. My third had a maybe/possibly hairline fracture. But Betty Debbie could probably count them on more than one hand now.

Gloria, the local nurse, has a set of copper pots and pans in her cottage that Sappha covets. I used to work for a department store in the kitchenware department. We didn't sell a lot of copper--it's beautiful but if done cheaply is very cheap and tends to be prohibitive for a basic home cook if done right:

The copper provides the best thermal conductivity of any common metal and therefore the most even heating; the tin lining prevents the copper from reacting with acidic foods. Traditional copper pots, however, are heavy, quite expensive, and require occasional retinning.

When she breaks the vacoliter of blood it's a good thing that our girl is also O positive (or in Bettys words 'O blood, Rhesus positive). My husband is O neg and donates to the Red Cross quite often. Nothing discussion thread-y about that--just note that the vacoliter probably came from an ordinary citizen putting a drop in the bucket.

Antonia, age sixteen, says that Rolf won't let her go on dates, unless there are several people and he knows them. (Later on in the book she sneaks out with Dr. Andrew, ex-fiancee of Sappha). Sixteen is the age of dating at our house and I'm a bit bewildered by all this 'hanging out' that goes on. When I was 12 I didn't want to be caught dead doing social activities with a mixed-sex group. At fourteen I was dying to bat my pubescent eyes at hollow-chested specimens (yay, church dances!) and at sixteen caught the tail end of teen-aged 'dating'. But even in the mid-90s there were some boys who knew how to ask a girl on a date, plan that date, and pay for the date (I never went Dutch (I was willing to) but always took 20 bucks, just in case) but there were plenty who didn't. Now it's all about hanging out and hooking up and it feels so drearily pedestrian--ugh, a world of eternal twilight where everyday is casual Friday. I pass. (Oh dear me. All I need is loose false teeth, a sagging bosom and an unhealthy attachment to my prize chrysanthemums to complete my transformation. 'Get off my lawn! You whipper-snappers!') Anywho...opinions? Dissent?

Rolf gives Antonia 'a brotherly slap on that portion of her anatomy best suited to receive it.' Oh Betty. How I love you.


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    With tales of the gas tank...
    I have never run out of gas, because I dread running out at the worst possible time/place (pick time and place that best suits your imagination).
    My dearest husband has run out twice (with me and our son in the car each time). Neither was disastrous, but both were caused by his trying to stretch it just a little bit further! I do not let him forget!

    A query for those with knowledge of England in the Neels era (Betty Magdalen, maybe?). Often on trips, our RDD and traveling companion will pull into a Service Station, that sure does NOT sound like a US 'service station' (ie gas pumps and a mini-mart). I end up thinking of the travel plazas that are often found on toll-roads and turnpikes--fast food restaurants, big restrooms and, of course, fuel pumps. Am I close?

  2. Betty Barbara --

    Travel on the motorways (which have M as a prefix: the M1, M4, M60, etc.) is equivalent to our interstates (I-90, I-10, I-81, etc.): limited access dual carriageway. And like those of our interstates that are toll roads, there can be service areas, which are just called "services" in the UK.

    Betty Ross and I have to take the M62 & M1 from York to Manchester and there's a lovely service area that has a view over a spectacular valley. But the weird (to an American) thing is that there is a motel effectively attached to the service area. You walk in to a huge atrium (with the view at the far end) and there's a food court on one side and four floors of motel rooms on the other.

    These services are identified by the company that provides the food: Moto, Road Chef, and M&S (Marks & Spencer, which is affectionately known as Marks & Sparks). But the signs on the motorway will tell you what services you get -- food, hotel rooms, petrol, etc.

    So, yes, it's similar to the travel plazas, even though the motorways in the UK aren't toll roads. I think that's because it would be impossible to tell motorist how to get to appropriate services from any exit. I love the blue signs you get here, which tell you first about points of interest, then lodging, then food and finally gas stations. Very useful! That would never work in the UK because as soon as you exit a motorway, you're at the mercy of roundabouts, A roads, B roads and worse!

    (Word to the wise: if anyone is traveling to the UK, get a car with an automatic transmission. I can negotiate the roundabouts or I can use a stick shift on the wrong side . . . but I can't do both!)

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    Thank you Betty Magdalen for your expertise.

    Now I just need to know about the Happy Eaters and the Olde World Tea Shoppes. The righteous Betty drops these names as we Americans would drop McDonalds or Dunkin' Donuts.

    Enlightenment requested.

  4. Happy Eaters don't exist anymore -- which explains why I didn't know about them. (I got dragged around the landscape in the 70s, but we never stopped at roadside service areas.) Here's the Wiki article.

    Olde Worlde Tea Shoppes -- that may just be Betty Neels' tart sense of humor; with that many ersatz final-e words, one suspects it's not really all that Olde Worlde. (Which she might have pronounced "Oldy Worldy" with a slight sneer.)

  5. Happy Eaters are gone?! How will I ever complete my Betty Neels travel bingo without having visited one?!

  6. Betty Neels Travel Bingo? Do we have such a thing? Can we buy one? Is there a trip included?