Monday, January 31, 2011

The Daughter of the Manor - Discussion Thread

One of the early signs that Tony is the villain is that he is 'useless around the house'. I don't generally have high expectations that anyone these days (man or woman) is great around the house, but a willingness to pitch in even if you're not brilliant does rate high marks in my book.  I'd like to say that all five of my boys are helpful and knowledgeable about helping around the house...I'd like to...but frankly, their skill sets vary quite a bit. They can all run a washer and dryer, wash dishes and do at least basic cooking (a couple of them are actually quite good cooks), in other words, none of them will starve to death or go naked due to lack of clean clothes.  My oldest son could make a lemon meringue pie, including crust, from scratch when he was twelve years old.  He didn't go on to culinary greatness, but I know he can read a recipe.  #2 son is a much better all around cook - as a teen he specialized in rolls and pizza crusts, but he can do quite a bit more - he likes to experiment. #3 son is my chef.  Although he's majoring in computer science in college, he's also taking a cooking class this semester. #4 son can follow the directions on a box of pretty much anything - but he's not much of a improviser (unless you count putting srarachi sauce on nearly everything) His strong point is cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes (I'm looking forward to having him around for a little while when the current semester is over also). He's not too bad at laundry either. #5 son. Hmmm. He can cook - but doesn't very often.  He can do laundry - but doesn't very often. He's passable at loading and unloading a dishwasher...but....yeah, I've got some work to do on that one.

Leonora comments about how 'Tod' is an unusual name for a dog' and I'm like, huh?  They don't call people Tod in England?  (Also, isn't that the name of the puppy in Fox and the Hound?).

James' manservent is named Cricket which is 1) Awesome and 2) Betty Keira thinks that maybe, just maybe that it's the name of a female character on The Young and the Restless (right?--I can't believe she knew that.)

James' sister is a 'farmer's wife' which sounds really normal until you find out that they also have a Nanny and a land agent.  Land agent? Here's what the infallible Wikipedia says about land agents:
A land agent is traditionally a managerial employee who conducts the business affairs of a large landed estate for a member of the landed aristocracy of the United Kingdom, supervising the farming of the property by farm labourers and/or tenants and collecting rents or other payments.
I'm not sure that means James brother-in-law is 'landed aristocracy'...but it does sound posher than what I think of as a farmer.

James spends around 7 minutes with each patient. Is that enough? Discuss.

There is a prodigal runaway (Janice the Vamp) in the district who just had twins (illicitly) and abandons them to return to her wild life in London.  James wisely asks Leonora to be his chaperone when he goes out to visit her at her mother's house. Discretion is the better part...etc.

Leonora...had been cudgelling her brains as to how to present sausages disguised as something else...I had a conversation with my youngest college student last night...he wanted some dinner menu sort of boils down to the same problem Leonora had.  I had to dig deep into the further reaches of my memory to come up with the stuff Dr. van der Stevejinck and I lived on in our poor starving college student days. I didn't bother going further back to my single and starving days...I'm pretty sure I lived on ramen noodles and oatmeal (*shudder*).

The Daughter of the Manor--1997

 'Leonora wondered where the money was to come from.  Dinner parties cost money.  They could pawn the silver, she supposed with an inward chuckle; on the other hand she could make an enormous cottage pie and offer it to their guests...'
That's our girl--Leonora Crosby, daughter of the ramshackle manor, engaged to be married to Tony 'something in the City' Beamish and crushed under the weight of financial burdens and her parents' unrealistic expectations.
 She's hit a bad patch and metaphorically taken a nasty spill.  She's also stepped on some ice wrong and actually taken a nasty spill.  Both her bottom and her soul can feel the cold, wet awfulness of reality seeping in.
Enter the hero.  (What?! Our hero is not her intended?  To which I answer, 'His name is Tony, is it not?')
He skids to a well-bred halt in his great, socking something-or-other and takes in all that fallen loveliness, suffers her rudeness and is charmed when she apologizes.  Charmed but, alas, not enchanted.
Dr. James Galbraith (a man with a name that all but screams, Come with me and be my love and we shall all the pleasures prove...), the newly engaged G.P. for the area, tells us right at the outset that Leonora is 'not a girl he could be interested in'.  My, my his pride is climbing a mighty tall ladder...
For her part, she is a little embarrassed to have met him in such a way, is thrilled to have a 'something in the City' kind of fiance to dangle on her arm and tells him, 'I am never ill.'
Editorial Note: She says it a couple of times and I kept waiting for La Neels to strike her down with a case of exhaustion or measles or even a horrible flu but she stays as healthy as a horse for the duration. 
So let's discuss Tony instead.
This novel can be bisected into two parts.  Before, (with) Tony (BT)and After Tony (AT).
Before she throws his can to the curb, Leonora puts up with flying visits, intermittent phone calls (and no letters, love or otherwise), pompous discourses on subjects ranging from 'Why I am the most important person in the room' to 'Why you should pay more attention to me', and appallingly dismissive comments that set the seal on his scum and villainy, such as, 'Don't bother your pretty head...'  Of course her mother loves him.
And let me tell you about that piece of work...Father, not quite a villain, adores his daughter so much that he'll let tradition and pride make her old before her time.  Mother, meanwhile, hardly ever complains outright about the things they lack (new clothes, bridge money and...oh, intact roof) but flits (even that word sounds too full of purpose and point) around avoiding all the unpleasantness of life in a moldering ruin. 
So, for Leonora, life BT is an unending juggling act of meeting everyone's needs but her own.
Is it any wonder, then, that Buntings, the newly purchased home of Dr. Galbraith, calmly presided over by Cricket (!), is, in contrast, an oasis of civility and comfort?
But the manor isn't all that bad, thinks Tony 'something in the City' Beamish.  With a good deal of money poured into fixing it up, the old people carted off to a modern home (...where Sir William would be less likely to contract pneumonia, he tells Leonora while employing his puppy eyes), and it could be a gathering place for all the other 'somethings in the City'.
And then Leonora finds out.  (Release the Kraken!)
Pouring out her troubles to an admiring and still charmed (but still un-enchanted) Doctor Galbraith (who never liked Tony and thought Leonora was a good deal too good for him), he suggests following Tony to London and getting explanations from the source.  Oh, and he'll give her a lift. 
She opts for the Blitzkrieg approach and before we know it she's chucking her engagement ring at his flummoxed head (You mean you didn't want to be wed for your material goods and shoe-horned into a life of urban misery?)
Leonora supposed she was happy the engagement
was broken but, just too late, had a brainwave about
a cake that would have saved the day.
 Doctor Galbraith is once again there to mop of her tears and respond matter-of-factly.  (All he knows of his own motives at this point is that he'd thought of Beamish as a 'lucky man' to be engaged to Leonora, that he is hostile to Tony and that he was watching a train wreck in the making.)
Mother is crushed.  (Isn't it always about Mother?)  Father seems to be aware that he's not been paying attention.  But no one really helps matters.  Mother even begins thinking of match-making between Leonora and James (as long as there's a stray man with a Rolls lying about unclaimed...) which makes her daughter want to go into hiding.
And she does for a little bit.  Though Tony continues to skulk about...
...until James asks her to be a part-time, temporary receptionist for him.  It turns out that being a daughter of the manor is a transferable skill-set.  She knows everyone for miles, knows how to deal with complaints and upsets...She's a gem.  So James asks if she wouldn't mind working for him for keeps.  And since that leaky roof isn't fixing itself...
Tony makes one last try and James gets to dump tea all over him (awe. some.) and Leonora gets to keep her dignity intact.
Of course, if one wanted to snog in a
cupboard and Peter O'Toole wasn't about,
 James was not a shabby substitute...
It isn't until James is having a weekend away to visit his sister that he twigs to why he wants to see Leonora dripping with diamonds and why he wants to chuck her mother from the top of the stairs and why his manservant, Cricket, is nearly moved to tears when she visits for meals.  He's in love. 
Life After Tony is pretty great but now that lovely, gentle, undemanding relationship is thrown off the skids.    She is aloof and he is confused but they'll get there.  But first his sister is coming to check her out.  They play-hide-and-seek which is, in this case, not entirely a euphemism for snogging in a cupboard...Leonora has a dawning realization while James walks her home from this excursion.
Nanny gets ill.
James advertises for a part-time receptionist (but he has one!) and Leonora is fit to be tied.  He finally sacks her outright and she demands an answer to the $64,000 question 'Why?!'  Happily, he offers to explain.  But first we'll have a break for a medical emergency. (A barn roof collapses with children inside which begs the question, 'What did The Great Betty have against children?')
But when that's cleared up (you know, aside from the ruined lives of all those families...) they adjourn to Buntings where he proposes.  But what about Mother and Father and Nanny?  (Yes, yes, is Mother to be dipped in boiling oil or merely defenestrated?  Enquiring minds want to know...)
James' answer, superficially similar to Tony's 'Don't worry your pretty head', is its polar opposite in meaning and intent.  'Will you leave everything to me?'
The End

Rating: I was deep into this one before I decided that I really like it quite well.  There are almost nonexistent sparks between our hero and heroine initially, but what saves this from being boring is the Terrible Machinations of Tony 'something in the City' Beamish and the Sensible Un-knotting of Her Love Life from Leonora.  Sure, she's a watering pot while severing her engagement with that awful slug of a man but her great good sense is a comfort and a prop to the reader even while she's grizzling into a certain British G.P.s wool suit coat.
After Tony (ugh) is disposed of, things pick up between Leonora and James nicely.
One of my favorite things about the book is getting a peek at how she holds the manor house together by being thrifty, hard-working and unfailingly patient with her self-absorbed parents.  How could James fail to fall in love with that?
We're handing out a lot of these lately but I give it a boeuf en croute.

Food: Leonora is hard-up but gets a lot of mileage out of eggs.  She makes souffle and scrambled eggs and omlettes.  We also get scones, grilled sole, mushroom and garlic soup eked out with chicken stock, Melba toast, oxtail soup, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, apple tart, artichoke soup, cheese pudding, baked potato piled high with baked beans (which The Great Betty passes off as comfort food), his and hers beverages (beer and lemonade in that order), corned beef pie, and junket with clotted cream.  Cricket, over the moon that Leonora has come for lunch, breaks out a mortar and pestle to make some anchovy paste stuff.

Fashion: Our poor heroine doesn't show to her best advantage while wearing shabby tweeds and wellies, an elderly mac, an old blue dress, a sensible pinny, a scarf, and a bathrobe.  Her party dress is a dire-sounding modest silver-grey velvet (and I'm all for modest but you just know that neckline is under her chin).  She wears a stone-colored jersey dress to drop a stone.  And Janice the Un-Wed Runaway  Mother wears shorn locks in vibrant and improbable chestnut, a stud in one nostril, long, dangling earrings and the shortest skirt Leonora had ever seen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Betty Goes to Church

...The church was almost full and she was conscious of being stared at, not unkindly but in a speculative fashion, but Nik's reassuring bulk beside her in the high pew gave her confidence and after the service, which, despite the lengthy and thunderous sermon, wasn't so very unlike her own church...

-At Odds With Love

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Betty and the Real World

Love Can Wait:
Kate has a kitchen helper who tells her that she's planning to use her overtime pay to take a trip with her husband to Blackpool, a popular seaside resort:
Documents have been found to suggest that the reason Blackpool escaped heavy damage in World War II was that Adolf Hitler had earmarked the town to remain a place of leisure after his planned invasion.  Despite this, on 11 September 1940, German bombs fell near the North railway station and eight people were killed in nearby houses.  
Hey, Kate, let's put the 'fun' in funicular
I think I threw up in my mouth a little at the thought of Hitler in swim trunks...

Kate is unable, while in Bergen, Norway, to take a funicular up Mount Floyen. (Only the o has one one of those Norse slashes through it that I'd rather grouse about than look up.  Betty Magdalen, I look forward to ignoring your tutorial on the subject.)

At Odds With Love:
Betty Debbie left this note for me on this post: "Jane and Nik take a walk through Hog's Bottom (real world??)"  To which I reply, 'Maybe.'  I did come across a purveyor of vinegars, dressings, jams and chutneys named Hog's Bottom but no nearer clues.  It's a wonderful name, if you don't mind coupling a part of an animal's anatomy made for wallowing with, er...dressings, jams and chutneys...

Nothing says 'what's for dinner?' like Hog's Bottom
They lunch at Le Poulbot in London.  My online French dictionary suggests that this means 'urchin' but I'm not willing to promise it does.  Betty Debbie suggests that it sounds like Robot Chicken.  I am not willing...ahem.  A review of London restaurants suggests that it is patronized by the 'early-rising bowler-hat brigade'.  The same review generalizes: Since the British waste so much money on soccer, dogs, horses, warm beer, cold women and breakfast, there is not much left for decent dining on most of the island. If you want to eat well in England, have breakfast three times a day, postulated savant-vivre Somerset Maugham.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Betty's Mailbag

It's a little hard to pick out individual cities in Europe and
the East Coast of North America.
When we spread out our little revolving globe (see sidebar) we can click on any of the dots and see when and where visitors stopped by TUJD. Go ahead, you can try it too! Just click the little box with four arrows pointing outward and a little circle in the middle.  That will take you to a big revolving globe...right above it and a little to the right is a 2D flat map on that and you'll get a fairly large flat map of the world.  From there, just move your cursor over the dots to see where and how many times we've had visits from that particular place (mind you, the dots are not always accurate - so don't be upset if you don't see your hometown - the inter-web-nets are a mysterious place).
This morning I was thrilled to open up TUJD email and find a note from a new commenter:

Hi Betty’s,
I just love your blogs! They are so amusing. Never thought there were so many Betty fans in the world.
Though it has taken some time, I´ve managed to find all Betty´s books and I still read them from time to time. They are a very good read when you are a bit blue. Every time I read a book, I look for well known phrases, like mousy hair, lobster Thermidor, his weel shod feet,etc.
Have you ever tried to make a trifle? It´s delicious and very easy to eat, I can recommend it.
Greetings from Amersfoort, the Netherlands,

We love to get mail too!
Dear Betty Cisca,
I wonder if you can understand how excited The Founding Bettys were to receive your email. A reader? From across the sea? In the Netherlands?! Where The Great Betty lived?! You just can't buy that kind of awesome.
We love Betty in just the way you do and nothing can make us feel better when we're a bit blue than dipping into our favorite reads. We hope you continue to follow the site and hope you'll leap in to our comments section when we've gotten stuck over things like Dutch name pronunciations and the possible dangers of Dam Square.
Love and lardy cakes,
The Founding Bettys
P.S. I am assuming that your first language is Dutch and that your English is particularly fabulous (dare I say, quite on par with a Rich Dutch Doctor's?). May I ask how you stumbled across The Venerable Neels?

Garlic Mushrooms

Betty Magdalen brought up the subject of garlic mushrooms.  Thank you.  In spite of the fact that I'm the only person in my house that likes mushrooms.  These are super easy to make and pretty dang cheap (which is right up my alley).

Garlic Mushrooms

8 oz small button mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper

Wash and dry the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a small pan then add mushrooms and cook at a medium heat for a couple of minutes stirring constantly. Add the garlic, continue cooking & stirring for another minute or so. Sprinkle a dash each of salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to absolute minimum then cover with a tight fitting lid. Leave the garlic mushrooms to sweat for at least ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

Verdict: Yummy and easy?  That's my kind of dish.  Unfortunately not one I'll be making often - I'll wait until more of my kids are home.  I asked Dr. van der Stevejinck how they were: "They looked good - and tasted good...for mushrooms." In the interest of full disclosure, you should be aware that a) Dr. van der Stevejinck is not very fond of mushrooms and b)he ate more than half of them.

You can find garlic mushrooms mentioned in A Little Moonlight, The Bachelor's Wedding and The Most Marvelous Summer.

Cinema Betty

Love Can Wait had a passel of relations scattered about England.  Dr. James Tait-Bouverie had an embarrassment of aunts--ranging to irascible but tolerable to patronizing and intolerable. To that end, I recommend:
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Kate needs a job but, for heavens sake, don't offer her any elderberry wine!
Mortimer (Cary Grant) finds a corpse hidden in a window seat and assumes that Teddy has committed murder under some delusion, but his aunts explain that they are responsible ("It's one of our charities"). They have developed what Mortimer calls the "very bad habit" of ending the presumed suffering of lonely old bachelors by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic, strychnine and "just a pinch of cyanide". The bodies are buried in the basement by Teddy, who believes he is digging locks for the Panama Canal and burying yellow fever victims.

At Odds With Love features a horrid hospital in the back-of-beyond.  What says chancy medical service like:
The Disorderly Orderly (1964)

An orderly has "neurotic identification empathy" - a psychosomatic problem that causes him to suffer the symptoms of others and interferes with his ability to function effectively on the job. 
It's a Jerry Lewis vehicle so I assume you know what you're in for.  I rather like him, myself (I get wobbly when a man puts on a pinky ring), so don't find the slapstick terrible.  I warn you, though, that a reviewer said of it, "[The film] runs dry at the end of the first third — like a juiceless watermelon — and splits open, with about the same results."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

At Odds With Love--Discussion Thread

  Jane reads Phineas Finn to dying granny.  Though passingly acquainted with the works of Anthony Trollope, I confess to having to closely con the wiki entry for the plot.  (Young man, through a series of events, wins a seat in Parliament, is unable to win the hands of several heiresses, eventually resigns his seat and returns home to marry his sweetheart, Mary Flood Jones.)  It sounds nice but on your deathbed?...I intend having a copy of Caroline's Waterloo and The Promise of Happiness to speed me homeward.
Got mail?

At Lady Grimstone's the mail is in the hall, under the tiger's head.  (Appropriately stuffed and mounted, I hope.)

At the private hospital in Carlisle, her cap 'was a plain Sister Dora' instead of the goffered muslin trifle from her last hospital.  I looked her up and Sister Dora (whom I had never heard of but whom they compare with Florence Nightengale) was a CofE nurse in the Midlands during the eighteen hundreds.  Her epitaph read, 'Quietly I came among you and quietly let me go'.  She's kind of a babe in that cap.
Sister Dora

Bessy says to Jane 'I just wish your granny could see as not she can'. 

Nik has left her a roll of notes by her plate in the morning....Betty Debbie tells me that she wishes her husband would do that.  (Here, I crassly imagine her stuffing the roll into her Maidenform.) I often wonder what the financial set-up is for our heroines upon their marriage to the RDD.  Rolls of notes to begin with and then a check book and an allowance after she is established in the house.  But is that allowance put in their own separate accounts or is it to be mentally tabulated and taken from a common account? (I'm leaning towards the former.)  I have a friend who does it that way--her husband puts a set amount into her account for the household expenses and since the money is regarded as hers, she is encouraged to be as thrifty and prudent as possible so that any leftover can go for things like Gina Fratini models.  My husband and I do it the other way--The money is in a common account and when I am off to shop for fripperies and ask how much he'd like to keep things down to he says awful, quelling things like, 'I trust you.'

At Odds with Love - 1993

It seems like every book we've reviewed lately has had excruciatingly forgettable titles.  At Odds with Love falls smack dab in that category.  What does it even mean?  Often there will at least be an obscure reference to the title somewhere in the pages...but either this one didn't, or I dozed off during that paragraph.A title like Jane Gets Her Man...or Jane, the Hot, Hot Baroness would help me remember which book this was.

Jane may be a 'plain' name, but really it's her last name that says it all. Fox.  Jane Fox is a H.O.T. twenty-seven year old nurse with russet hair, built like a brick house.  She's taken leave from professional nursing to nurse her dying granny.  Gran wishes that Jane would find a nice doctor and settle down, but Dr. Willoughby is already spoken for. Speaking of Dr. Willoughby, he's called in a specialist, one Professor van der Vollenhove who is no slouch in the good looks department.  Despite the ministrations of the good doctors, granny dies.  She's lived a long and prosperous life, so don't grieve too deeply. 
For some reason, granny has left the house and bulk of her estate to cousin Basil. Anyone familiar with Neeldom will instantly recognize his type...evil, thy name is Basil. Basil swings by with his fianceé, Myra. Evil Basil and Myra will be moving in before the decorators even finish tossing the rubbishy antiques on the bonfire.  Jane is not welcome - even though granny stipulated in her will that Basil should help her out - give her a home.  Not. Happening. Evil Basil helps her out, alright.  He provides the impetuous for Jane and faithful family retainer, Bessy, to flee the coop.  Bessy has a sister in London that will take her in, but Jane has a problem.  Or rather, Jane has three problems.  Bruno, Simpkins and Percy. Bruno the dog, Percy and Simpkins the cats. Yes, she is that Neels heroine who chooses to go through life with three animals and no home.  Two words, sweetie...Pet. Adoption.
Professor van der Vollenhove to the rescue.  He knows a friend of his mother's who is in need of a temporary companion (her regular companion is in dire need of a holiday). He's careful not to paint a rosy picture of the job, but he's pretty sure the pets will be allowed.
Lady Grimstone is indeed grim to work for. Not only is she selfish and paternalistic, but worse yet, she is a fad dieter.  We shall draw a veil over the deprivations of Jane...suffice to say she has to stock up on tins of biscuits and Bovril just to stave off starvation.  After a couple of weeks of this, the professor stops by.  He stays for lunch - or rather, what passes for lunch, then takes Jane out for some real sustenance.  Girlfriend takes advantage of actual food and dines heartily.  It's a lovely 1/2 day off, but Jane realizes she is starting to like the professor and that Just Won't Do. He offers to give her a lift to wherever she's going when the job is over, but Jane manages to give him the slip.  She finds a nursing job clear at the other end of the country, in Carlisle.  The pay isn't great, but she can bring her herd of animals, so off she goes on what has to be a grueling train trip.
The Hospital of Horrors!
The job at the private hospital in Carlisle is not quite as advertised.  Short rations (again!), long hours, no days off and completely inadequate staff.  Not only that, but Jane gets in trouble for calling the on-call doctor to treat a man with peritonitis and someone else with something else. The geriatric ladies have been sorely neglected - no one has been changing their sheets at night.  She's near her breaking point when The Professor drops by.  He's had a bit of a hard time finding her - he finally tracked down Bessy in London (who had been sworn to secrecy!) and got her to divulge the whereabouts.   Editor's Note: According to Google Maps, it's a little over 5 hours from London to Carlisle...just thought you might want to know.  After a quick kiss, he beards the Matron in her office, then the professor bundles Jane into his great socking Bentley and they head back to London. With the herd.
The professor drops Jane off at his friends Julie and Rex's home - they are more than happy to take her in.  Her and her herd. It isn't long before talk of a Marriage of Convenience is bandied about...which is really what the dear girl needs if she's going to be hauling around three animals and one faithful family retainer.  You thought Bessy was happy with her sister?  Not so much. 
On paper the MOC looks sound:
  • They both like each other.
  • They are both medical professionals.
  • He needs someone to entertain his friends and fend off too much social life.
  • She's a good listener.
  • The herd will have a home.
  • Ditto Bessy.
  • They can spend the next two weeks getting to know each!
It sounds sensible and tempting...and on the strength of that, Jane buys a new dress!  The Prussian Blue Silk Dress, Part I.  Since they are practically engaged, the professor trots out his first name.  It's Nikolaas,"Isn't it time you called me Nik?" (Nik? The name is fraternal twin to 'Nick'...who is nearly always the bad guy in Neeldom).  The date hardly even gets started before BAM! An auto accident right in front of them.  Being medical professionals, they help out.  Never mind causalities, The Prussian Blue Silk is ruined by Jane kneeling in blood, and the date is pretty much over.
The next morning Juliette Jane sees Nik from her balcony.
Her: You'll catch cold down there!
Him: (with a wicked grin) Is that an invitation to come up? (I♥Betty)
Of course it's only a matter minutes later, sometime between bites of toast and marmalade that she realizes she's In Love. That makes the idea of marriage all that much more appealing.
Nik takes Jane shopping - so that he can purchase The Prussian Blue Silk Dress, Part II.
The wedding goes off without a hitch, and as soon as the 'I dos' are said, Nik loads up the Bentley with Jane, Bessy, Bruno, Percy and Simpkins and they're off to Holland! Wagons Ho!
Jane sets her mind towards winning the heart of her husband. It's a three part plan.
Part 1. Make sure she's always looking hotter than usual. Adjust lighting accordingly. 
Part 2. Try and make Nik jealous...without any actual flirting...just looking hot. Add a little devastating use of eyelash sweeping.
Part 3. Drastic measures. Swipe the Bristol and drive to Amsterdam, expressly against doctor's wishes. Take advantage of an earthquake, then confess all to husband.
Jane's three step program works like a charm. Kisses in the hospital courtyard and semi-explicit references to implied conjugal relations.The end.

Rating: This was a lovely, gentle story.  Seldom do we get to witness both sides falling in love so naturally. At first Nik is very slightly inclined to mocking looks and cool indifference...but behind that facade he's unfailingly kind, so I'll give him a pass. Jane recognizes that she's in love well before Nik and actually Takes Steps. When Nik does realize he's fallen in love with his wife, he goes for a drive and a long walk in the country trying to figure out what he should do.  He's completely clueless that Jane loves him, and quite unsure of what to do about it.  Lucky for him that Jane is working hard enough for the both of them.  Also lucky for both of them that Amsterdam experiences an earthquake at precisely the right moment for greatest efficacy.  I'd love to give this a high rating, but frankly, nothing really happens. All of Jane's trials eventually work out just fine. Even without the earthquake, Jane would have gotten her man sooner or later.  I think I'll go with a serving of boeuf en croute (8).
Fashion: Jane is wearing a blue cotton sweater with a darker denim skirt when they meet, silvery grey jersey dress, Prussian blue silk dresses x2, Jane wears his dressing gown and car coat.  Wedding outfit is a dove-grey wool suit with a light lavender blouse. Connubial Shopping Trip wherein she acquires a cream taffeta ballgown, three short party dresses, several fine wool sweaters and all the undies  she liked at Maison de Bonneterie.
Food: Homemade shortbread, chicken ragout in England, chicken ragout in Holland, short rations at Lady Grimstone's - special cereal like shredded cardboard, dry toast spread with vegetable extract, soup so thin it was probably an Oxo cube dissolved in water, bread and butter so thin she could see through it, very small lamb chops, Blancmange for pudding, tin of digestive biscuits to fight off hunger, semolina shape(??). At the Hospital of Horrors she had fish paste sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, casserole of beef, milk pudding for afters.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Long Dark Tea-Time of The Founding Bettys

or...Why We Love our Fellow Bettys.  

That's me in the middle - except for the cigarette.
When Betty Keira and I first embarked on this blog over a year ago, we knew it would be hard work - and it is.  That's fine, Betty Keira and I are no strangers to hard work - it's written into our DNA ... Despite our age difference (which is on the far end of a RDD/Brit Nurse scale) of 17 years, we work extremely well together.  Our productivity is not just doubled by working's on a much greater level of magnitude (think Richter Scale).  Had either of us attempted to do this alone, TUJD would have dribbled off into obscurity after a couple of months.  But it didn't.

Reading and writing one review each week is an incredibly grueling schedule - with attendant good and bad side effects. The good? We will be able to review the entire canon of 134ish books.  All of them - in a timely manner. The bad?  Sometimes it's just hard to do justice to The Venerable Neels awesomeness. 

There's a difference between reading a book for pleasure and reading a book by assignment.  That's part of the reason I don't usually care for book clubs - I really love to read - and I have a very eclectic taste in literature.  In doing this blog, our discretionary reading time/material has been severely limited - which is a great trial to both Betty Keira and myself.  It's like eating the same food that you love, every week.  You have to eat it, even if you're not in the mood.  To take the food analogy a little farther, let's pretend The Canon is actually the menu at a pizza parlor (do they actually still call them that?).  I'm using pizza for this example for two reasons. 
  1. Pizza is one of my favorite foods.
  2. Pizza is incredibly versatile...within the confines of its genre - much like Betty.
As much as I like it, and as varied as the toppings are...I don't want to eat it for every meal.  I also like hearty soups(Dickens, Sayers), desserts (Austen), meat and potatoes (non-fiction), and salads (hmm...too bad I'm not into gardening books).

All this is well and good you're saying, but what does it have to do with loving your fellow Bettys??? I'll tell you. 
It's your shared enthusiasm that makes it worth it.  Sharing your own 'pizza' recipes with us...which makes us cheerfully skip the laundry, procrastinate dinner and ignore the sticky floor in the kitchen.  As long as we have you, we'll still have pizza. 

Question of the Week

Sloppy Joe Bites.....wear a bib.
Aunt Edith (James Tait-Bouverie's second and less annoying aunt in Love Can Wait) asks her cook, Kate, to prepare a menu for her birthday party and includes this rider: 'Sweets, of course, something which can be eaten elegantly without trouble--possibly ice cream, which you will make yourself.'

...which got me thinking about the phrase 'something which can be eaten elegantly'.  I once had a date in college take me out to a nice (well, nice for a college student) Italian restaurant on our first date.  There I learned that spaghetti is quite difficult to 'eat elegantly without trouble' and I cursed him in my mind the whole evening.

Conversely, Mijnheer van Voorhees and I escaped my roommates and their judgments (people will get fussy when you snog on the only couch for months on end) on many a warm Utah night by taking a two mile walk up a hill to go get the cheapest ice cream in town.  I didn't slop once.  (Aunt Edith was right!) I like to think that that's why he edged out the first fellow.

Anyway, imagine you need to bring an appetizer or sweet to a party.  What, among your recipes, immediately pops to mind to fit the bill of 'eaten without trouble'?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Upcoming Reviews

A little money spent on the roof and the
manor house would be right as rain.
Monday, January 31st. Daughter of the Manor.  The new doctor in town is hot but Leonora has her hands full with scheming fianceé Tony (with a name like that, you just know it won't end well).
No, not this kind of magic.
Thursday, February 3rd. A Kind of Magic.  Rosie, a Junoesque shorthand typist and  Hot Scottish Doctor, Sir Fergus Cameron.  He bags her groceries at the supermarket. Rosie's maiden aunt gets married.

British Word of the Day

"If you don't show up at a party, people will assume you're fat."--Stephanie Vanderkellen
nibs (nĭbz)
A person in authority, especially one who is self-important. Used with his or her: His nibs says we must do it.
Origin: Perhaps alteration of nob2

You  have your work cut out if Her Nibs is going to have parties and such.--Love Can Wait

An American wouldn't use the expression--might we say, Mr. Fancy-pants?--but it is gloriously eloquent and the kind of word you know the meaning of just by hearing it.  It makes me think of Julia Duffy playing Stephanie Vanderkellen on Newhart.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love Can Wait - Discussion Thread

Lady Cowder (which I always read as 'Chowder') is always asking for things like 'a morsel of fish and a light sweet' which Kate has learned to interpret as a desire for 'Dover sole with shrimp sauce, Avergne potato puree, mushrooms with tarragon and a portion of braised celery--followed by a chocolate souffle or, by way of a change, creme caramel.'  She has an enormous appetite while telling everyone she can only eat like a bird.

Lady Cowder has a lively sense of Victorian paternalism toward her servants.  When Kate tells her that she will be late back from her day off, Lady Cowder replies, 'I hope you don't intend to stay out all night, Kate.  That's something I'd feel bound to forbid.'  Forbid?  Wow. I completely agree that single ladies shouldn't be having sleepovers at Brighton, but the thought of such a paternalistic employee boggles the mind. 

When Mr. Tait-Bouverie finds out that Kate is saving up her money he asks if she's saving it for her 'bottom drawer'.  Her reply: 'Heavens, no.  Girls don't have bottom drawers nowadays.'  I found this reference on the term (which I had never heard before, but had deduced its meaning):
A place where valuables are stored, especially the clothes, linen, etc., that a woman might store in preparation for her marriage. Literally, the lowest drawer of a chest of drawers.
...It is odd that the similar phrase 'top drawer', which refers to items of the best quality and which also derives from a literal reference to the drawer of a cabinet, should be otherwise unrelated to 'bottom drawer'. We might imagine that if 'top drawer' is the best, then 'bottom drawer' would be the worst. It's not so, which amply demonstrates the difference between the literal and the metaphorical.

There doesn't seem to be enough room left
for a modicum of undies.
Back in my day (and my region) girls didn't have 'bottom drawers' - lucky girls had 'hope chests'.  I was not a lucky girl.  Betty Marcy had the dubious honor of being the only Hanna Betty to have her very own hope chest. I was amused by the wiki article about hope chests - also know as a 'glory box' in the UK and Australia.  I'd love to hear from someone who had a glory box...or who knew someone who did.

Lady Cowder tells Kate that she envies her health and youth (as a pretext for leaving her with all the cooking and unpacking right after their return from Norway). I am totally pulling that one on Betty Keira the next time we go on vacation together!  

Kate (and La Neels?) observed, 'Seventy wasn't all that old...' The Great Betty was around 87ish when this was published, so to her, seventy really wasn't that old.

But there's another even older aunt.  Aunt Edith is having her 83rd birthday party and Kate tells James, 'I hope she had some lovely presents--it's quite an achievement to be eighty-three and still have so many friends to wish one well...' I think that's sweet.  Sure, 83 is fairly old, but to have many well-wishers when you're 83 pretty amazing.

Love Can Wait--1997

Love Can Wait is a boring title.  It just is. The memorable story is briefly obscured by the vanilla title and, just by way of freshening things up, I suggest forever-after thinking of this as Claudia Gets a Kiss-Off.  You're welcome.

...and a Cup of  'Blog about Betty whenever you want'...
Editorial Note: (Today, I begin with editorializing.) I am going to allow myself to succumb to the enormous temptation, since our heroine is a professional cook cum housekeeper, to shoehorn this review into one of those darling (cough*tacky*cough) recipes for a Happy Marriage that someone near and dear to you might have worked in embroidery as a wedding gift and which currently hangs in the guest bathroom (aesthetic purgatory) above the decorative towels with heavy beading.  
(Oh dear. When you speak of me, speak of me kindly...) 

Recipe for a Happy Marriage:
...a tall Cordon Bleu with generous curves...
Take One gorgeous Cordon Bleu cook.  For our purposes, a well-seasoned 27-year-old with generous curves and a predisposition to hard work is just right.  If you can find one with a sickly mother, crushing financial obligations, and a snobbish employer, then all the better.  (You may call her Kate.)
Gently fold in 14 stone of James Tait-Bouverie brand Rich English Paediatrician (35-year-old vintage).  This superior brand comes with an aloof nature, an aesthetic appreciation of curvy working-lasses, is wedded to his work and possessed of relations littered over the British countryside.
Dump in one Tiresome Aunt.  Though both class-conscious and penny-pinching, this is the glue that holds our dish together long enough to let it set.  Lady Cowder is to Kate and James what the movie Footloose is to Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker--an unhappy if integral link in the chain that connects our star-ingredients.  (Of course I'm joking.  I love Footloose.)  
Claudia takes one too many cheap shots...
Add one Maraschino cherry.  The combination of sweetness and toxicity, coupled with its improbably scarlet color will add just the zest needed to make this dish a winner.  Since this ingredient, we'll name her Claudia, is highly reactive when combined with Cordon Bleu cooks, it may be necessary to chop it up into tiny bits (though that may not be enough to mollify La Cordon Bleu, as she would prefer 'strangling', 'dumping soup on' and putting a dead rat in her bed.)
Stir together with a Dash of Indifference and a Pinch of Attraction.  Any social occasion may serve to stir the pot, so to speak, but ones in which our heroine does all the cooking with little support and scant gratitude (Argh.  That Tiresome Aunt is getting lumpy again.  Beat it!) would work well. If your Rich English Paedetrician is not beginning to integrate with La Cordon Bleu, you might throw them together (like taffy).  I have always found the fjords of Norway very handy for this sort of thing.
Chill.  Ah, so you took my advice.  We're in Norway and though the consistency of La Cordon Bleu is curdling from too much overexposure to Tiresome Aunt (and her incessant bridge-playing and enforcement of segregated dining times), this mess can be mitigated by adding teaspoon-fulls of iced Brit Paeditrician.  
Car wreck?! BAM!
Knead the Dough (which is a euphemism for getting involved in a multiple-car car wreck in a tunnel (like a sausage extruder!) and suffering the outraged put-out-ed-ness of a disapproving employer). Through the violence of tossing about the dough, the material begins to yield results. ('He knew as he watched her smile that he was going to marry her.')
Throw in some Hard-boiled Eggs (Kate is mugged (those thugs!) and loses her savings (100 pounds!) just as she is on the point of delivering it to the bank which would have enabled her to set up her own 'cooked-meals service'.  (Cut her some slack.  She's a recipe ingredient.  She doesn't do math.) ) At that, the souffle has fallen flat.
Pour in Generous Amounts of Salt-Water, Mop up with British Superfine Wool  What's a crisis if it doesn't end in tears and a painfully avuncular embrace?
Cool the Pie on a the Window Sill of an Old Poppet  All that sturm and drang is upsetting your mixture.  Time to move it.  Find another aunt with deeper pockets.  Persuade her to employ La Cordon Bleu.
Shake it Up (Throw a party, introduce a future mother-in-law into the mixture and have Kate's mum develop appendicitis--trust me, the meal will go down as smooth as silk if you don't skip this step.
Pick out the Bits of Maraschino Cherry and Toss them in the Garbage Disposal  ('Yes, I got your message, Claudia.  I'm afraid that it is a waste of time including me in your social activities--indeed, in any part of your life.  I feel that our lives are hardly compatible.  I'm sure you must agree.')
Give Yourself a High-Five.
 James proposes: ''Shall we throw Claudia out of the window?'
Take Your Picnic Lunch to the Bosham Cottage.  Corner your prey and pounce. 
Turn off the oven, clean up the kitchen and await future pledges of mutual affection.
The End

Rating:  This book is one of those meals that sticks to your ribs--hearty but plain fare.  Kate the Cook makes some memorable dishes, treats her nemesi to some wicked-hot mental violence and suffers some enormous reversals of fortune--though some of that is due to pride. When she loses her money we get a chance at some real pathos--it's almost heart-rending to be along with her through all the crap she has to put up with from Lady Cowder, only to have it be all for nothing.
James is no slouch himself.  Like a casserole, he took a little time to prepare but baked up to cheesy goodness once placed within the Oven of Love.  (Okay, I'm done now.)  I do wish that the first half of the book had more movement down the field (It's all a lot of 'Oh, nice legs.  I'm not interested but I'll help her anyway and forget her as soon as I can.') but once he decides to marry her it all gets way more interesting.
I really enjoy the bits with Claudia and Lady Cowder--they're a couple of nasty serpents in the garden. When things with James and Kate are a little dull, you can always count on his aunt making a crack about the dubious table manners of her housekeeper to keep it interesting.  Though why The Great Betty kept insisting that Lady Cowder wasn't intentionally unkind is a sort of backhanded compliment as the alternative is to think that she is socially moronic...
Mince pie. 

Though their implied conjugal relations were satisfactory,
 Kate kept telling him not to call her The Naked Chef...

Food:  Kate is a cook so there is a lot.  Chocolate cake, meringue nests with strawberries, roast duck with sauce Bigrade, raspberry sorbet, strawberry cheesecake, madiera cake, strawberry tartlets, lamb sweetbreads (a dish with the most mis-leading name in the history of food as they are neither sweet, nor bread, but rather the thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork), ham on the bone, whole salmon, toad-in-the-hole and Kate knocks back some cooking sherry (!! Isn't that supposed to be salty?) when life gets her down.

Fashion: Precious little clothes to talk about.  Her housekeeper's uniform is a white blouse paired with a navy skirt, she wears a pale green jersey, wears a mole-colored jersey all over Norway and dons a jersey dress the shade of warm mushrooms (which, despite my ambivalence to mushrooms, sounds yummy).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Betty Goes to Church

Kate, arriving home for her day off with barely time to get to church, since Lady Cowder had declared in her faraway voice that she felt faint and mustn't be left, had no time to do more than greet her mother and walk rapidly on to the church.
She felt a little guilty at going, for she was decidedly out of charity with her employer.  

Love Can Wait

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Betty on the Subject of Home Decorating

I often feel a little sorry for Araminta Cassandra Emily Dawlish Davenport.  Sure, she gets to marry the man of her dreams. Sure, she gets to live in her dream home(s).  But - have you noticed that  92.385 percent of the time she doesn't get a chance to put her own stamp on her home?  One could argue "Don't mess with perfection"...that's not the way we Hanna Bettys roll. 

I adore the parts in books where the happy couple buy a cottage together and then make it theirs.  Here's a couple of my favorites:
The Vicar's Daughter - Margo and Gijs buy a home in London (to go along with the stately home in Holland) and proceed to furnish it.
Marrying Mary - Roel asks for Mary's advice in redecorating the kitchen and servants quarters in his country cottage.

I bring all this up as an excuse to post these pictures of the painting done in Betty Tia's kid's rooms.  Betty Keira went over and helped with the paintings.  I have to say, well done ladies.
Argyle - how cute is that?
Similar (but better) than the mural Betty Keira and I painted
several years ago at my house.

Betty in the Real World

Stars Through the Mist:

Deborah's mother tells Gerard that she saw Queen Wilhelmina once in London during the war.What a fascinating biography she had!  Churchill described her as the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London.  She outlived three older half-brothers to become Queen at the age of 10.

 When Gerard travels to Friesland with Deborah, she sees some artwork by Jacob de Gheyn--small animal paintings, mice and things.  There were three de Gheyns (I, II and III--like the Superman movies) but I think she meant the second.

Gary Glitter.           Yes.            Really.
The botany class from St. Julian's sings Rule Britannia and pop tunes to keep the chill out during their night on the moors.  Here are a few of the best hits of 1973 in the U.K.: Donny Osmond 'The Twelfth of Never' (the dreamiest!), Gary Glitter 'I Love You Love Me Love' (How can I rail properly at Lady Gaga with this stuff floating around the internet?!) and Dawn featuring Tony Orlando 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree' (Sheesh.  Now I hate Americans.)

A Star Looks Down:
Everybody does the maze at Hampton Court Palace:
The ghost walks at midnight...
In 1537, the King's much desired male heir, the future Edward VI, was born at the palace and the child's mother, Jane Seymour, died there two weeks later.  Four years afterwards, whilst attending Mass in the palace's chapel, the King was informed of his fifth wife's adultery. The Queen, Catherine Howard, was dragged away, screaming, from a gallery leading to the chapel. Her ghost is said to haunt it...After the reign of George II, no monarch ever resided at Hampton Court. In fact, George III, from the moment of his accession, never set foot in the palace; he associated the state apartments with a humiliating scene when his father had once struck him following an innocent remark.
About Henry VIII...I've mentioned to Betty Debbie before about this--my muddled feelings per the Reformation vs. the Reformationists.  I'm a big fan of the Reformation (thumbs way, way up!)--though not Protestant myself, I certainly benefit from religious pluralism.  But Reformationists are another kettle of fish--though maybe Henry VIII might be more an Opportunist?  Anyway, I always feel more sympathetic to the non-Reformationists as people--Wolsey, Katherine of Aragon, etc.  (And, yes I understand that that puts me in the shady camp of Bloody Mary rather than Elizabeth I whom I have always felt would annoy the heck out of me.  Riddle me that.) 

The title quote is 'a star looks down...' from a Thomas Hardy poem called Waiting Both:
A star looks down at me,
And says:  “Here I and you
Stand each in our degree:
What do you mean to do,—

  Mean to do?”

I say:  “For all I know,
Wait, and let Time go by,
Till my change come.”—”Just so,”
The star says:  “So mean I:—
  So mean I.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Swotting Up

Despite the abundance of trained nurses in Neeldom, it's pretty unusual for the main characters to ever do any actual studying...aside from learning to speak Dutch.  Younger brothers and sisters study...the younger ones are always looking for help with either Latin or Maths...Why do I bring this up?

Here at the van der Stevejinck household, it's Finals Week.  My youngest (and only one at home) child is a high school sophomore.  For the past two and a half years he has been attending WAVA (Washington Virtual Academy - through  That means he takes his classes online.  He has teachers for each subject, textbooks for most (but not all) subjects, class discussions and field trips.  There's very little bullying (unless you count me nagging him to get his classes done...), no commute, no dress code (except mine), no snow days, very few sick days...Ideal, right?  Sigh. We've been up until nearly midnight the last two nights as he was finishing up assignments before the deadlines...

Here's a sample of my day yesterday:
Me: How are you doing?
Him: Good.
Me: Do you need any help?
Him: I'm fine.
Me: Are you almost done?
Him: Almost.
.....15 minutes later...........
Me: Are you finished yet?
Him: Almost.
Me: Get a move on, you've got to finish this before midnight!
Him: I'm working, I'm working.
Me: sigh.

This morning we'll be reviewing 45 years of US history, in preparation for his History final this afternoon. He'll do just fine - but think how much easier it would be if he had Betty's version of US history 1900-1945:

WWI: Americans FINALLY pitch in.
Prohibition: What? No pre-dinner sherry, 2 wines with dinner and an after dinner drink? Barbaric.
The Great Depression: Let's just blame America for that one.
WWII: Americans are tardy again and then indulge in vulgar ostentation to end the war.

Cinema Betty

In Stars Through the Mist, we meet Deborah as she is wearing a surgical mask and another hidden mask over her real self.  Which brings me to:
Roman Holiday (1953)

Ann is a royal princess of an unspecified country (so much more tidy than having actual subjects!) who chafes from her rigid life.  Upon her escape she meets Joe the reporter, falls in love with him and must, in the end, renounce him.  (The same year, Princess Margaret was proposed to by Group Captain Townsend--two years later it was to end in public renunciation.  Eek.  Holy, drama, Batman.)

It's not my favorite movie.  (Though, when I told Betty Debbie this was my choice she said, 'Oh I love that movie.')  Peck I enjoy (in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, here or there, anywhere...) but I'm not an enormous Hepburn fan--like Cary Grant she played a lot of the same character over and over and either you liked it or you didn't--I don't mind it usually but the story is terribly sad.  I'm always wanting to shout into the screen, 'It's Gregory Peck!  Grab him and run for the hills!'

A Star Looks Down.  Betty Debbie suggested that I find something with a boat rescue because at the end of the book the Dreaded Dirk nearly maroons them.  Will do:
Lifeboat (1944)

"Hitchcock's inventiveness extended to the problem of how to justify a cameo appearance on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean."
When an Allied boat goes down mid-ocean, the survivors pull a German aboard and proceed to squabble over whether or not to drown him outright. I love any movie where Tallulah Bankhead goes slumming.