Monday, November 22, 2010

An Ordinary Girl - Discussion Thread

'The vicarage was as imposing on the outside as inconvenient on the inside', which is a rather adorable description. I'm left wondering at what the 'inconveniences' were. Here are my guesses:
  • non-existent or grossly inadequate central heating
  • grossly inadequate plumbing (especially the hot water heater - also toilets that don't flush on the first try)
  • draughty windows and doors
  • shabby and outdated furnishings

The exterior of the van der Stevejinck home is anything but imposing...but most of the inside is pretty 'convenient' (and by 'convenient' I mean

When Philly babysits at the wedding the baby 'pukes on her shoulder'--I'm trying to remember if this is the first use of the word 'pukes' in a Neels? Looking at the copyright date (2001) La Neels would have been over 90 years old when this came out. Conspiracy theorists (not me! not me!) might argue that the use of a word like 'puke' was put in by a ghostwriter...I like to think that her editors were just getting younger.

'Philly, reflecting that elderly grannies should never be written off as dim old ladies, filled her glass obediently.' As a 'granny' myself, I hope I don't get written off as a dim old lady before my time...but somehow I don't think I'll be quite as 'with it' in my nineties as The Great Betty was.

Someone gives Philly a tee shirt 'emblazoned with American slogans which she didn't think would go down well in Nether Ditchling'. First of all, Philly is showing her age. Had she been ten years younger she wouldn't have balked at it. Very seldom do we see Neels heroine wear anything so crass as a tee shirt emblazoned with anything. Betty does branch out on the subject of silly sayings on pinnys (Claribel in The Course of True Love has a plastic pinny that says 'Work Hard').


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    I think you nailed most of the 'inconveniences'. A kitchen with few mod-cons is probably on the list too.

    Hmmm, Our Betty actually using 'puke'--that one has to be an editor--just sayin'.

    Both my grandmothers lived into their mid-90's and were sharp as tacks up to the end. No dim old ladies there. I only hope I do as well.

  2. Inconveniences? Oddly-shaped rooms that don't connect up in sensible ways, like you can't get from the kitchen to the dining room without going through the pantry, down a hall, then into the dining room. A kitchen that's huge in terms of square-footage but because there are so many doors leading to pantries and mud rooms and alternate mudrooms, there's literally no sensible place to put a fridge-freezer, so it has to be out in the hall. The hot water heater is also the only way to dry clothes in bad weather, so there's a device that drops down from the ceiling to hang the damp wash on -- and it's in the one bathroom for a house with 4 bedrooms.

    I've been in houses with features like these. Hell, I've cooked in kitchens with features like these! (The drying rack is pure English -- my brother- and sister-in-law have one in their upstairs bath. They did put in a shower room downstairs, though, so it's not so cramped as it sounds.)

  3. My husband grew up in a house with THE most inconvenient kitchen. It was tiny and yet had 5 (five!!!)doors. One to the living room, one to the family/dining room, one to the outdoors, one to the pantry and one to the only bathroom in the house. There was about 3 linear feet total of counter space...maybe...and she had seven kids to cook for.

  4. Betty Barbara here--
    Yes! yes! A non-Betty and I make a trek every year to our local county historical society's "Show House". Which is usually a 100+ year old house: this year's house had one of those 'you can't get there from here' passageways from the back half of the ground floor to the front half--right through the kitchen! Very bizarre and certainly qualifies as 'inconvenient' and 'inadequate'!!
    Betty Magdalen--oh my! You are describing several of the houses we looked at in Melbourne (Aus)back in 1982. We didn't want a really new house--we wanted one with 'atmosphere' and 'character'--but yet livable! It took a while but we found one and we loved it! (Side note--we heard later from our neighbors that after we moved out in 1985, the owner had it torn down and put up 4 villa townhouses on the property! Sigh.)
    After all this my tiny 1950's rancher doesn't seem so bad!!(LOL)

  5. It's all about the era. Betty Ross and I live in a house built around 1800 in what was then a very new settlement not too far from the Susquehanna River.

    With the exception of not having any closets (wasted space, from their point of view), our house is remarkably well laid out: Front door to tiny lobby with stairs leading up to bedrooms. Go left into the room the original owner used for business, so it's a bit fancier, with wainscoting and nicer trim. Go right to the dining room. At the back of the house, and connected to both front rooms is the "keeping room" -- stretching the width of the house and open so all cooking & chores were heated by the huge fireplace.

    In fact, all the rooms have fireplaces, even the bedrooms, although the hearths are very shallow. The trick, we're told, is that just before going to bed they'd carry hot embers from the big fire downstairs and place them in the bedroom hearths. The embers die out, but the heat they gave off was enough to fall asleep. (Bet they still had to break the crust of ice on the wash water...)

    The keeping room is a prototype of the modern house's "great room." The Victorians were wealthier and could afford plumbing (needing lots of little rooms) and servants, so all the cooking -- hot in summer and smelly year round -- was in the back, well away from the gentry.

    My dream house, alas unlikely to ever be built, would be the perfect marriage of 18th, 19th, and 21st century: A Queen Anne Victorian with a wraparound porch, gracious proportions, and still a large room with the kitchen, fireplace, and mod cons together.

  6. My goodness, Betty Magdalen - not only do you know how to spell "Susquehanna," you live near it so obviously you know where it is. ;-)

    Main or West branch? I'm near the West north of Williamsport.

  7. We live in Susquehanna County (and I used to practice law in the Susquehanna Court of Common Pleas, so you better believe I know how to spell it - LOL!), quite close to I-81, but south of Great Bend. (We're between Harford and Kingsley.)

    The story is that in the 1790s nine families from Attleboro, Massachusetts (SW of Boston), contacted Daniel Cooper (James Fenimore's dad) and asked about settling in Cherry Valley, NY, north of Cooperstown. He said nope -- too cold even there. He took them down the Susquehanna and they ended up in the valley I can see from my deck.

    Which is a bit of a mystery, actually. The spot where the original Nine Partners settled is more than 10 miles from the nearest bit of the Susquehanna River (Great Bend, right before it crosses into New York and heads toward Cooperstown), so that had to have been a goodly amount of portage. But possibly they figured there was less chance of flooding here -- the elevation's about 1,200 feet even down the hill. (My house is up near the top of a hill; at the top is a grass airstrip used by the local plane enthusiasts.)

    Anyone wants to come see the Nine Partners Monument, let me know. It's listed on all the Fun Things To Do In The Endless Mountains brochures, but I swear you can't find it without a GPS...

  8. When we look at how recently in history most of this country was settled, Pennsylvania's history seems...old. :)

    My first "American" ancestors settled in Germantown, near Philadelphia, and one ancestor had 9 - NINE - sons who fought in the Revolution at the Battle of Germantown. (This got him into the Compendium of American History as somewhat of a rarity.)

    His eldest son, John Gearhart, my ggggggrandfather, along with two other men, took off to the "West" just after the Revolution - early 90s, I think, and ended up settling what is now Clearfield County. When looking at the genealogies of families who still live there, those three men's names come up again and again. Good water out there, I guess - they all had large - 12+kids - families, and shockingly, most of them lived for several generations. Much intermarrying ensued so that my great-grandparents share a great-great-grandparent!

    I say all of that to say that John and Co. got there by canoeing out the West Branch of the Susquehanna, reportedly the first white men to go all the way to the end.

  9. Oh, and in a state like ours that is filled with beautiful scenery, your area is right at the top for beautiful-ness! :)


  10. I'd thank you for the compliment, as it is a very beautiful part of Pennsylvania, but that would somehow suggest I had anything to do with it, and of course I didn't. It got beautiful all on its own, and it will be beautiful long after I'm gone. (Assuming gas drilling doesn't destroy it...but I'm not going to discuss that in such pleasant company.)

    Supposedly, an ancestor of mine and two brothers were kicked out of Ireland for being tax collectors for the British, so they emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1814. That's what my dad told me. But no amount of research on the Internet can confirm that, and all of Daddy's documentation went to my brother Dan . . . where it will not see the light of day until HE dies. (By which time, our branch of our surname will have died out.)

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