Thursday, March 31, 2011

Once For All Time--Discussion Thread

What size barf bag, do you suppose...?
Clotilde meets Dr. Thackery in the hospital parking lot. He has a Jack Russell in his car with him. Clotilde says 'you look as though you ought to have a Great Dane'...he does - one that gets car-sick. 

Her parents were only insured for the first week of their vacation.  My question is, if you bothered to purchase insurance at all and go through the trouble, why not just get coverage for the whole thing?  Not that I am a stranger to traveling without proper insurance...On the day before my wedding, my Very Famous Auto Insurance company called to cancel my policy (Were there tears?  Oh my, yes.) as getting a title transfer from a relative (who was living rent-free as a guest of the state at that time) was problematical.  Did I go on my honeymoon with a lightly-insured car?  I plead the fifth.  Happily, nothing adverse happened (God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, I suppose.) and my moral compass has since evolved to the point of being aghast.   

After she is dumped by Bruce, Clotilde storms out of the pub...and starts walking.  She is picked up by the police around midnight and driven back to St. Alma's.  I like to think that the firemen still rescue kittens from trees and that the policemen still help stranded damsels after dark.

Clotilde and Katrina (Dr. Thackery's 21 year-old sister) go shopping. Katrina spends as much as she wants since James(Dr. T.) has given her a bunch of signed cheques.  I can think of a handful of people I would trust with a signed (but not otherwise filled out) check.  My mother, a few sisters, one friend...most certainly not a Katrina.
There was only one house rule...

Katrina is studying Economics at the university in Leyden. Clotilde says she must be clever, James says she just barely gets high enough marks to scrape by.  I would wonder what she hoped to parlay an economics degree into, but Humanities majors live in artfully decorated glass houses...

Dr. Mary Evans has her hair permed and wears a padded bra.  Betty Neels did not like permed hair.  There are few statements about the Great Betty I can make with more certainty that that.  And padded bras?  Some of her heroines could benefit (I'm looking at you, Becky, of The Promise of Happiness) but The Venerable Betty never stoops to sending them off to Victoria's Secret.  But she gets around that by having her be fattened up with good food. (If only that were where all my extra inches went to!) 
As a revenge fantasy, it was crude but satisfying...

One of his younger brothers is a physicist in Canada of all places.  Betty Debbie and I agreed that Canada was an interesting place to be a physicist.  Maybe all that land...

Dr. Mary is always spiteful. At one point Clotilde imagines reaching over the desk to pull her hair and box her ears.  Revenge fantasies...I don't have explicit ones but I appreciate creative thinking.

Once For All Time - 1984


The title of this week's pick is less than memorable. A lot less. There are a few things about Once For All Time that stand out. A very few. The most memorable bit for me is when the hero goes to France to pick up a couple of dead relatives for the heroine. Scenes like those tend to stand out.

Clotilde Collins + Bruce Johnson = an engaged couple who are not destined to make it. Why? Let me count the ways...
  1. Clotilda is a long tall glass of inch taller than Bruce.  Not. Good.
  2. Bruce is 'money hungry'. Clotilde's dad has promised to help Bruce buy himself a practice when the two get married.
  3. Bruce is...well...not cool.
  4. Did I mention that Clotilde is way too hot for a guy named Bruce?
It isn't that Clotilde is too tall,
it's that Bruce is too short. 
There's one more reason for those crazy kids not to make it,  unfortunately:
  1. Clotilde is either blind as a bat OR
  2. Dr. James-I'm Half Dutch-Thackery is shy to the point of being tongue-tied?
Yes,  there's a hot R1/2DD in the offing. Clotilde and Dr. Thackery have been working together for three years.  THREE YEARS.
Twice a week x 52 x three years = 312 cups of coffee (and biscuits) = 0.  All those ward rounds and cups of coffee have led to, well, nothing.

Meanwhile, Clotilde's parents have been on vacation in Switzerland...unfortunately, on the way home, they both come down with a serious case of Death By Car Crash in France.

Dr. T has plenty of time for jibba jabba...
with Clotilde.

Poor's a good thing she has Bruce for help and comfort...oh wait, no she doesn't. He can't be bothered...he's too busy. Dr. T comes through like a champ and even goes to France to pick up the bodies. He's here, there and everywhere. Helping with the arrangements, driving Clotilde back and forth, taking her out for meals, going to the funeral. When he's not there, he's sending messages via Bruce to Clotilde. Bruce, being Bruce, isn't bothering at all with visiting or relaying messages - after all, there's no bottom line, financially speaking.  Especially after the terms of the will are disclosed. In the grand tradition of Neels Estate Planning, Mummy and Daddy Collins have died insolvent.

Bruce dumps Clotilde.  Like we didn't see that one coming. Dr. T is there to pick up the pieces...again,

What follows is a lovely look at James wooing the clueless Clotilde.  She needs broad shoulders to cry on? Check. She needs someone to secretly buy the family home? Check. She needs a night out dining and dancing? Check. He's there through thick and thin.

James introduces Clotilde to his younger sister Katrina.  Katrina is a handy sibling to have around - not only does she go shopping with Clotilde (instant bonding over retail therapy), she can be relied upon to invite Clotilde to visit Holland for a few days before Christmas - James can bring her over when he comes.  A trip for two to Holland? It's time for a little kissing!

Sadly, Dr. Mary Evans would never
be a real contender for the title of
Miss Wales.
Meet the Grandparents! Grandma likes Clotilde, but she unintentionally murks up the waters a bit by telling Clotilde that I'm glad James has decided to marry at last. Which is a surprise...but doesn't fill Clotilde with dismay. A day or two later Katrina mentions that James has fallen for someone at St. Alma's.  Again, no dismay...until Clotilde starts wondering if it might be Dr. Mary Evans, the little Welsh tartlet...she of the padded bra and permed hair. What a tearing shame! Ah, our girl is concerned for James.  That's a start.

Back at St. Alma's, Dr. Evans is quick to imply a deeper  relationship with James than is strictly justified. If there happens to be a birthday party for one of the other doctors, Dr. Evans implies that she and James will be meeting for drinks together.  Clotilde is not alone in disliking Dr. Evans.  One of the other nurses goes so far as to call her a very unflattering name.

Clotilde has really been enjoying having James around - so when he's gone for a week or two her spirits lag - but she really doesn't feel she can ask around to find out where he is or how long he'll be gone (hospital gossip being what it is and all)...When James walks into her office unannounced it's suddenly rainbows and unicorns and fluffy bunnies. Dang, she's in love. And now Clotilde is wondering who the mystery woman is. The mystery woman that James plans to marry. Is it Dr. Mary Evans??? You can bet next month's mortgage payment Clotilde is going to keep an eye on the little harpy.

All this new found love and angstiness does give Clotilde the push she needs to make a change. Time to put in her notice at work.  She just knows that she won't be able to work around James and...[insert name - possibly Mary Evans]...
A sweet good-bye...or is that hello?

Christmas...James has no gift for her this year - because he can't give her her what he'd like.  What would he like to give her? Hmm. I'm guessing an engagement ring, the deed to her old home and a great big sloppy one...but the time is not quite right. Well, it's not right for the first two, but he does manage to give a pretty good 'farewell salute' to Sister Clotilde Collins. 

Soon after, James  is ready to clear some things up - and perhaps propose?
  1. Mary Evans? There is not now, nor has there ever been anything between the two of us.
  2. Your house? I hold the deed.
  3. My darling.....
RING! Yes, it's a hospital emergency - which serves no discernible purpose besides bumping up the page count. A wedding party with food poisoning. Just go with it.

Proposal Part II:
  1. (Stroking her wrist with his thumb) Now where were we?
  2. Oh yes, you finally fell in love with me...I was afraid I was to be cast in the role of  'good friend' forever.
  3. I've loved you for a long time - since before you and Bruce became an item.
  4. Kiss....
RING! Interrupted again!

Proposal Part III:
  1. Drive down to his folks home in Dorset.
  2. Find a quiet place in the garden with NO PHONE.
  3. Will you marry me? We'll live in London and go down to your old family home on the weekends with the kids and....
  4. Whoa, cowboy! I haven't said yes and we're already talking kids?
  5. Marry me?
  6. There's nothing in the world I'd rather do.
  7. We need to make up for those three wasted years....
The end.

(slightly gratuitous Richard Armitage,
as if there could be such a thing...)

Rating: I love how James is able to make Clotilde smile, giggle and laugh. I like the way we get to watch the natural progression of Clotilde's regard for James...respect, friendship, liking THEN love. My biggest gripe is that I'm not fond of the "I fell in love with you before you started dating your fiancee, but didn't say anything until after he dumped you three years later" plot device.  I wouldn't mind it so much if the Great Betty ever let him give us his reason for waiting. This is not the only book in the canon with this plot device (see Heidelberg Wedding or Fate is Remarkable).  In the end, Once For All Time is pretty solid. I appreciated the break from the long string of MOC's that I've been reading. While never quite reaching it's full potential, I found it a nice little comfort read. What to rate it? I'll give it a boeuf en croute (which seems to be my fall-back rating) - partly on the budding romance, and partly on the strength of Mary Evan's padded bra.
Food: chicken in a basket, vol-au-vent financiere, tournedos, Saute Massena, sherry trifle, smoked eel, roast pheasant with vegetables, with a gigantic and very ornate ice cream for dessert. Globe artichokes in a piquant sauce, lobster Newburg, mushrooms with chopped truffles, Waldorf salad, Ananas Fiona, angels on horseback.
Fashion: Long silver-grey jersey with sequins on the jacket, wool dress and fur jacket, brown and coral patterned silk jersey. Dress for the hospital ball: pale grey silk dusted with silvery stars. Mary Evans wears a green dress with a lot of sequins, far too skimpy and low necked.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Question of the Week

The Artful Dodger, cruelly rejected by Mrs. Dickens, would live again.
'She's not Miss Pomfrey,' said Peter.  She's Mintie.'
'Indeed?' He looked amused.  'You have rechristened her?'
'Well, of course we have, Uncle.  Miss Pomfrey isn't her, is it?  Miss Pomfrey would be tall and thin, with a sharp nose and a wart and tell us not to get dirty.  Mintie's nice; she's not pretty, but she smiles...'
Nanny By Chance

We've talked about names before.  I like to think that La Neels had all these names she loved and not enough children/pets to spread them around--or maybe, like me, her husband vetoed her all her most inspirational names (Don't you agree that the world is diminished by lacking a Maximilian Santiago van Voorhees?  I do.)

So, my question is, what name (for a pet or child, perhaps) were you ever thwarted from using and are planning to secret into a novel?

Question Two:  (Oh yes, Bettys...I'm going off the grid.) In Nanny By Chance, Araminta talks out loud to herself a LOT.  Sometimes it gets her in trouble and someone overhears and sometimes it's just her talking smack to her reflection.

I am a big fan of talking out loud to myself.  I'm always finishing conversations I'm in the middle of or conversations I'm worried about. (ie., cornering my kids' teachers about whatever...)  About a month ago I was running errands with my croup-y baby.  I had been in self-imposed quarantine (for the public good) for about three weeks as 5 of the 6 members of the household came down one at a time (why not all in one go?!) with a barfing flu.  They were finally all puke-free but it was wretched.  So, the Littlest van Voorhees is in the cart and he's coughing up a storm and it's loud and, worse, I know I'm bending the rules of polite public behavior (but I needed (needed, Bettys) to leave the house) but I wasn't going to be out for long.  That's when a woman came up to me to diagnose my child, sum up the entirety of my character and called me selfish.
It was awesome.  I drove home crying.
I'm not about to assume she is a horrible person in real life.  She's probably fine.  Maybe she had a medically fragile child at one point for whom croup was life-threatening instead of mildly irritating.  Maybe she'd been sick for three weeks and had finally come into public to be confronted by Typhoid Mary and her Croup-y Spawn.  Maybe I was to her what she was to me, the last straw in a very bad month.  I don't know. (shrug)
I do know that I wasn't over it (the crying and the anger and the hurt) until I had stopped running through retorts (kind and unkind) while brushing my teeth in front of the mirror or driving the car or sitting still. (Two days if you're wondering.)

Question: Do you talk out loud to yourself?  And when?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Upcoming Reviews

This old thing? I just whipped it up on my serger.
Monday, April 4th. An Independent Woman. Curtains into dresses! Three sisters get married. Julia writes the text for greeting cards.

He was just looking for a basic three bedroom semi-detached
in a nice little village.  A quiet place to raise his little baby
bikers. The family silver was just a little too tempting.
Thursday, April 7th. A Summer Idyll. Or What About Basil? Phoebe gets beaten up by a biker,  Mrs. Thirsk gets the flu just in time for Phoebe's first dinner party.

British Word of the Day

Alba in Aubergine
aubergine [ˈəʊbəˌʒiːn]n
1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Plants) a tropical Old World solanaceous plant, Solanum melongena, widely cultivated for its egg-shaped typically dark purple fruit US, Canadian, and Australian name eggplant
2. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Plants) the fruit of this plant, which is cooked and eaten as a vegetable
3. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Colours)
a.  a dark purple colour
b.  (as adjective) an aubergine dress
[from French, from Catalan alberginia, from Arabic al-bādindjān, ultimately from Sanskrit vatin-ganah, of obscure origin]

'How about marinated aubergine to start with?  And would you like sea bass to follow?'--Nanny By Chance
So it's not technically a British word (as it comes from Catalan) but Americans would probably never call an eggplant an aubergine.  New York fashion designers, to a man, must have fallen to their knees in an attitude of thanksgiving when they heard the word, saving them, as it did, from the silent implication of grandmotherly dowdiness that 'eggplant' implies.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nanny by Chance - Discussion Thread

Marcus drags her off to dinner.  '...she hadn't wanted to come, and it would be entirely his fault if she chose caviar, plover's eggs and truffles, all of which were on the menu...' Back in my dating days I was pretty careful to choose items from the less expensive end of the menu (of course I pretty much only dated guys from the less expensive end of the menu school poor starving students). In fact, it was pretty rare to be taken out for a meal at all.  I had better luck in high school - I dated a very nice guy for a while that actually had a paying job - he could afford the occasional dinner and a movie.

Marcus claims the right to comment on her personal life as he stands 'in loco parentis'. If someone said that to me, it just wouldn't fly. Araminta is 23 years old - I don't think it matters whether her parents are there or not - she's old enough to make her own decisions...does anyone besides me find it a little creepy that he's basically saying he's standing in as a father figure?

Araminta should have known that the nursing thing was a non-starter  when she meets someone who introduces herself thus, 'I am the warden.'

British schoolboys on holiday?
How very Lord of the Flies.
When Peter and Paul's mom invites Araminta down for the weekend she says, 'And, of course, she is fortunate in that it is an exeat at the weekend and that she will be there for the boys who stay at school.'  What is 'exeat'? I admit I was stumped, but wiki has my thanks, for making the world smarter one word at a time.
The Latin word exeat ("he/she may leave") is most commonly used to describe a period of absence from a centre of learning. Exeat is used in Britain to describe weekend leave from a boarding school."

When Araminta has some free time she wanders around Eastbourne.  'The cinema was showing a horror film, which didn't appeal...' Gosh, if there's one film genre I stay away from, it's horror. I looked up what might have been playing...I didn't find one 'horror' movie on the list that I'd actually seen.  Here's a partial list:
  • Bride of Chucky
  • Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
  • I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
  • Blade
  • Halloween H2O
Yeah, I'm not putting any of those on my Netflix queue.

Marcus' manservant is mildly impertinent which he ascribes to Briskett's 'addiction to American films'. I'm hoping it wasn't horror films.

Nanny By Chance--1998


Araminta Pomfrey's parents didn't want her very much.  They were aging intellectuals whose implied conjugal relations were just that--implied--and it must have seemed puzzling when the little blue stick turned green.  But maybe they thought they'd make the best of things; name the little nipper Caratacus, found a dynasty of little Celts to carry on their work.  Alas, it turned out to be a girl and she didn't look all that bright either...
They lost no time thumbing through the baby-name book, determined to do their best by her.  But it all became a tedious bore long before they reached Boadicea ('What a brain-wave that would have been,' they thought to themselves in the ensuing years.), and The Book of Kells was calling, so they dragged their fingers down the page and stabbed at 'Araminta'.  That would do well enough.
She'd been a handy little homebody for several years (being more or less at their beck and call and working locally at a children's convalescent home) but now, at 23, she wanted to branch out.  Training to be a nurse was a parochial little calling.  Her parents, more disappointed than anything, had decided in the dark watches of the night that they would try very hard to accept this alternative lifestyle with good grace.
But first they'd farm her out like an indentured servant to a friend of a friend who needs a temporary nanny.  (Much of a muchness with their previous treatment of her.) What could be better?
Professor Marcus van der Breugh, 36, has been landed with twin nephews Peter and Paul for a month.  He's a busy, dedicated medical professional who is looking for 'a nice unassuming girl who won't intrude' to keep the kids out of his hair.  If there's not a junkyard dog and a 'Trespassers will be shot' sign on his heart, then there is, at least, a modest, but firm, brass-plated 'No soliciting' placard.
They hie off to Holland and settle into proscribed roles.  He to work hard and play sparingly.  She and the children to 'be [them]selves in the nursery'.  Occasionally, thoughts about her hair (of all things!), like dive-bombing sparrows in springtime, assault his brain.  And then he is disturbed about the way Miss April Mevrouw Lutyns Christina and 'Mintie' (just work past it, Bettys) seem to be circling each other.  Add that to the guilt he feels over his neglect of Araminta during her off hours...He caught her eating a paper bag full of chips!  He wouldn't let his worst enemy have a lonely meal like that.  And, worse, she seemed to be enjoying herself! Her frankness made him ashamed.  'I bought the chips because I was hungry.'  Why, he must wonder, can't things just go back to the way they were before...?
During one of their many expeditions, Paul and Peter and Mintie (urp) get locked in the top room of a toy store.  Like she's in an episode of Man vs. Wild, she whips off her stockings, breaks out a window and flies a distress flag.  And that's what a mildly-panicky Professor finds when he rushes to the scene of their disappearance: Mintie's (gah) tights waving in the breeze.
Does she get wrapped up in a bear-like hug?  Commended for her cool head under pressure?  No.  An icy-cold rage is on requisition...She'll be shot at dawn.
Things go from bad to worse.  The boys get mumps.  The only positive things to arrive from this are that Christina is loathe to darken the Professor's door and...and that's it.  The bad things are:
  • Araminta must invent new and exciting ways to tell the boys they can't get out of bed, eat anything substantive, or have any fun. 
  • The Professor leaves.  Why should he stay around just because his relations are nigh unto death?  (No.  That's unfair.  He leaves only when they are in the irritable/recovery phase.)
  • Araminta meets Dr. Piet van Vleet  (Oh Betty.) who is agreeable, presentable and disposed to take her out on dates!
(But Betty Keira.  You have made a grievous error.  You have bullet-pointed that into the 'bad things' column.)  Piet is one of those rare auxiliary males in Neels-dom who neither has long hair nor wears purple velvet waistcoats nor attempts to maul heroines on deserted by-ways in an unwelcome fashion nor chats one up as a blind for their dastardly assignations with married ladies.  (Betty Keira.  You have made a grievous error...)  So what's his problem?
The Professor couldn't get it out.
Araminta is too excited at the prospect of a day out with a real XY man to find out.  The Professor could tell her.  He sees her quiet happiness with misgiving (--and annoyance. She's never looked at him that way.)  He finds out that Piet has asked for a follow-up date.  He sees Araminta's new outfit and his stomach turns over.  But he never makes/gets a chance to say what ought to have been said.  So Piet says it. Piet van Vleet is engaged to Anna in Canada.  (Toungue Twister!)
What a rotten night.  Araminta is crushed--well and truly crushed.  It wasn't even that Piet was Young Love's Dream but he was a very good contender for Young Love's Back-Up Plan Because, Seriously, No One Else Is Interested and I'll Go Stark, Staring Mad if I Have to Listen to Celtic Lore 'Til I Die.
She holds it together until the door is closed and the Professor, already knowing how bad it must be, lets her fling herself at him and cry it out.
Editorial Note:
He assures her that it will be better if she gets it all out and I beg to differ.  When one's pride is keeping company with the Titanic, the last thing you want is a witness to it all--and, worse, a witness who has never starved for admiring females in his life
For his part, he is gently aware of 'the softness of her person' (I love our Betty) and the wholly unexpected concern he feels for her.  But that's not enough to get the train out of the station.
The household decamps back to England and Araminta, driving away from Marcus' home, has the bottom drop right out of her world.  She loves him.  Great.
Within days she has said goodbye to all that has become beloved and dear and has been escorted home by Briskett (The Manservant) who sees the empty house and the chilly welcome and the brisk note telling Araminta to fend for herself and relates it all to The Boss...who is furious.
Editorial Note:
This is his Dawning realization, I think (Even if he's still not quite man enough to admit it).  I love it because Marcus didn't even see Mintie (ick) off.  He managed to be at work and he probably congratulated himself on the level of I-don't-care-ness he (with difficulty) achieved.  And then he finds out that she was abandoned at home and the rage he feels is all out of proportion.  See, he didn't know her or her family before they met.  He'd gained an independent idea of her worth and constructed this whole life for her based on how much he treasured her.  Her homecoming, he realizes, ought to have been approximately the size of  Texas and, instead, it rises to the level of a boiled egg and some stale bread and he can't do a thing about it and he hates it.
'He took himself for a brisk walk and went to bed--but he didn't sleep.'
The following week brings Araminta to her nursing career at last--which is what she wanted in the first place.  Because she's a little behind the others, she has to get the hang of things as she goes along and she has to fill the place of an ominously washed-out student nurse on Sister Spicer's ward.  Long story short: She's a flop.  She hates it and Sister Spicer rides her hard and she's always doing something to earn her wrath.  And just when the flood-waters have risen to her chin (Can you tell we've had a sodden March here in Oregon?), Marcus catches her on the stairs and allows himself the luxury of letting her weep all over him.  (And he enjoys it.  Ugh.  He's so pathetic, he thinks to himself.)
Zippo-Chang-o and he's talked a certain nurse out of her contract (Unbuttoning his collar so the SNO could oogle his chest hair was so demeaning but what had to be done had to be done.) and into a position at a young boy's boarding school as Assistant Matron.
When she gets time off to visit Peter and Paul for the weekend he attempts a little wooing but he's only successful in unpacking all the red herrings he brought.
Oh Troy.  I can't say if I'll still love you when
board shorts become the fashion...
Her: Are you going to be married?
Him: Heck yes.
Her: Is she pretty?  I want to hack my tongue off for saying that.
Him: Yes. I think she the most babe-a-licious babe in the universe.  Do you recognize my description from anywhere?  The bathroom mirror, perhaps?
But they don't get anywhere...until she is dismissed from her job (right before Christmas!) and crying her eyes out (Part II was a bit of a weep-fest.) in a beach shelter.  (The theme music to A Summer Place is playing in my head right now.)
He makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he won't crack open a book about Celtic history for as long as he lives.
The End

Rating: Queen of Puddings.  I don't know if this rating would apply to every reading but this book just happened to land at just the right time for me in the TBR queue.  Yes, Araminta is the quintessential Araminta--plain, put-upon and poor(ish)--but she manages to be a great match for the Professor--always plucky but never snappy (maybe she's tart during the worst of the mumps but hardly ever).
One of the details that I can't quite swallow is fact that she can't make it as a nurse--her circumstances for success (prior experience with ill children, good sense, and her slightly more mature age) all bode well for a career as a professional fevered brow soother.  Also, the ending (in what, I swear, sounds like a sea-facing bus shelter) is a little anti-climactic.  Oh, and I loathe the idea of everyone calling her Mintie forever.
But these are small quibbles.

Food: Apple tart and whipped cream, roast guinea fowl, marinated aubergine, sea bass and sticky toffee pudding, chips (which offend the Professor greatly), krentenbollejes (currant buns), mushroom soup (which my childish self would probably describe as floating boogers...), cold lemonade when the boys get the mumps, ice cream and yoghurt.  When she returns to her abandoned home, Araminta eats a boiled egg and stale bread (Make French toast, silly!).

Fashion: Though she doesn't have a whole lot of money, Araminta manages to wear a brown two-piece jersey with a corn silk tee shirt (both ladylike and sensible, which her Celtic-loving mother would approve), a soft, blue crepe dress described in scathing terms as 'adequate' and 'sober' and a scanty nightie that he sees her in, looking like a 'normal girl'. (How many of those has he seen?)  Mevrouw Lutyns wears a black silk trouser suit that probably looks wonderful until she bends in any direction.  For her ill-fated dates with Piet van Vleet she buys a dress and loose wool jacket in a pale amber.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Betty Goes to Church

They went to church on Sunday, took the dogs for a walk, with Puss tucked under Serena's arm, and spent the evening pottering around the garden.
-A Good Wife

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Betty and the Real World

The Right Kind of Girl:
I'll take the kitchen clock for $69, Bob...
So, technically this next bit isn't exactly 'Real World' material but we didn't discuss it anywhere else and it was a weird little moment:  After Mama passes on to her eternal reward, Emma brings Mr. Dobbs, Cook and Alice to pick through her left-over things.  'If I could have some of Mrs. Trent's clothes?' Alice had whispered...She had gone away delighted, with Cook clutching several pictures she had fancied.  As for Mr. Dobbs, he had had an eye on the clock in the kitchen for a long time, he had told her...'
Like I said.  Weird. A little The Price is Right-y in her time of grief.

When Emma is desperate for work she wishes (often) that the Buckfastleigh otter sanctuary were hiring for the season.  The good news is that it exists! Here's a link to their home page:
We also have facilities for the treatment of any sick or injured otters that may be brought to us. It is hoped that having seen and enjoyed our resident otters, and been given an insight into their secret way of life, visitors will be more aware of the plight of otters world-wide, particularly of course our own native British Otter Lutra lutra.
I'll dust off my Grand High Poobah Arbiter of Everything badge to designate this an Official Betty Pilgrimage Site.  I'd bet my fortune that Betty took the grandkids.

Emma describes the darkness as she drives out to the travellers camp as 'Stygian'.  Hey.  Fun fact:  The River Styx's (meaning 'hate' and 'detestation') adjectival form is Stygian. 

A Good Wife:

Son Antoine: the Grand Bastard - le grand bâtard
The principles go to a musical in 1999 which excites me no end as I simply adore the music of ABBA:
The musical, Mama Mia!, opened in the West End at the Prince Edward Theatre on 6 April 1999.
Though I've never seen the movie (must have come out when I was nursing), my a favorite song in the stage show (thank you, wiki) is 'Take a Chance on Me' (they don't even break out 'Waterloo' until after the end!).

Our hero has a job in Luxembourg.  Luxembourg, you might not have known, is not an entirely made-up place at all:  In 1437, the House of Luxembourg suffered a succession crisis, precipitated by the lack of a male heir to assume the throne, which led to the territory being sold by Duchess Elisabeth to Philip the Good of Burgundy (son of John the Fearless (who in his turn was son of Philip the Bold) and father to Charles the Rash and Antoine, bastard of Burgundy or The Grand Bastard).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cinema Betty

The Right Kind of Girl has a dying mother.  Well, then, I have a million Disney/Pixar movies to choose from:
Finding Nemo (2003)

Unlike The Right Kind of Girl, this film has an awesome and involved father but nothing says pulmonary embolism to me quite like a horrific barracuda attack...(So sudden!  So deadly...)  Mama Clown Fish is carried away (enjoyed for dinner) and the little tyke with the gimpy fin (Oh why didn't I do this for Esmeralda?!) must make his way without her.  If, in the world of Nemo 'all drains lead to the ocean', then in the world of Neels, 'all death leads to an RBD'...

A Good Wife has a deathbed promise that ought to be disregarded.  My pick this week has one that was:
Sense and Sensibility (2008)

There are a lot of versions to pick from and while I love the Emma Thompson one, I can hardly stand Kate Winslet as Marianne for love or money (She does a good job being annoyingly stupid but does such a good job of it that I want to drop her down a well...but I always have a hard time stomaching that character, I confess)--though I adore Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon with a scorching desert heat.  But this isn't about that one.  The 2008 mini series is a gem (though it begins rather racily) with a cast that so totally retreats into their characters that I am never tempted to say 'Oh there's so-and-so being a very good such-and-such'.  It ultimately triumphs for me because the Marianne/Colonel/Rake triangle is carried off so well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Good Wife--Discussion Thread

Serena's kitchen lacks up-to-date equipment...the one concession to modernity was a cumbersome fridge which more often than not ran amok.  I'm wondering what the oven ran on: Electricity?  Natural gas?  Hunks of hewn timber?  Peat?

Serena's mother died 5 years previous and made Serena promise to take care of Daddy Dearest. What a horrible thing to do to a girl!  On the subject of deathbed promises...I've never really been in a position to make any and I hope I am not so lost to all reason when it is time to meet my eternal reward that I would make a binding promise that would shackle my only daughter for the rest of her life.  Do any of you have fun deathbed stories?

When her father has a serious stroke and later when he dies, her brothers offer her no help...she's expected to do everything and be grateful for the chance to keep busy.  We have a saying in the Hanna family: Brothers are useless.  Which sounds a little harsh.  Surely, Betty Keira, they aren't really useless?  Well, no.  Not entirely useless.  (Compared to sisters, though...) Rather, too often they are only as useful as their wives allow them to be.  (Which sometimes is very useful but, if you'll allow me a metaphor, if brothers are a water hose, the wife is the spigot.)

Before the family home is handed over to the charity, Henry goes through the house and takes the best stuff, Matthew and his wife get second best and Serena takes only what will fit in a suitcase--and that stuff has to be packed around her sensible skirts and cardigans.  You couldn't even manage to stuff a paper-mache work table or Coleport glasses in the crannies of that.  (But you probably might manage a hideously beaded Victorian 'Wedded Bliss' pillow...)
Sure she was addicted to meth...but the floors had never shined so bright before...

She gets a job as a shelf filler at a supermarket (Francesca from The Fortunes of Francesca gets a seasonal job doing the same).  I am a very good manual laborer--attacking my repetitive household tasks with the enthusiasm and ferocity of a jungle cat (take that, shower scum!)--but it's not for everyone.  I think it requires a rich imaginative life and an inability to be fussed over dishpan hands.

A Good Wife - 1999

Serena Lightfoot is having a pretty crummy 26th birthday. Her self-proclaimed invalid father could care less, her older brother Henry probably doesn't even remember it, likewise younger brother Matthew. Gregory, her unromantic, stingy boyfriend, doesn't even send a card. Since his stand on birthdays is that they are 'scandalously overpriced' he doesn't bother sending anything else. Time to climb a hill.

Serena had no idea that she would
meet her destiny on that hilltop.
A handsome stranger is sitting on her rock. The two strike up an instant friendship...and then Serena has to return wait on her vile father hand and foot.
The handsome stranger (Mr. Ivo van Doelen, 37) goes back to his friends home and questions them about the untidy girl with the shabby clothes...they know just who he's talking about...the daughter of the horridest old man Mrs. Bowring has ever met.
A few minutes chatting with a pleasant stranger have given Serena a little glimpse of what life could be like...and enough gumption to request a holiday.  Holiday? Yeah, a request for time off for good behavior.
Older brother Henry: What do you need a holiday for! All you have to do is wait on Father hand and foot, clean the house and cook and grocery have plenty of leisure.

Mrs. Lightfoot extracts a heavy promise from Serena. It
was really the painkillers talking.

Younger brother Matthew: What he said.
Gregory the Not Quite Fiancee: What would be the point?
Vile Father: (Sends for the family solicitor and disinherits her).
Her family and friends are the sort that give patriarchy a bad name.
Dictatorial, bullying Father demands sweetbreads in a rich sauce for lunch, then throws them against the wall and has a well-deserved stroke. Daddy isn't long for this world, there is no deathbed re-inheritance for Serena.  She's not quite penniless. Daddy has left her the obligatory five hundred pound legacy - in his will he says that she can fend for herself.  Henry agrees and Matthew, well, Matthew toes the party line here. Gregory dumps her like last week's compost.
All Heather really  needed was her very own
kitty to love.
Mr. van Doelen is able to keep tabs on Serena's situation through his friends, the Bowrings. Why would he want to? It's a case of can't get her out of his mind...yes, he's in love.
A brief interlude with Henry and his spitefully mean social climbing lovely wife, Alice. Just another episode in her roster of unpaid household slavery.
Mr. van Doelen knows of a temp job that will suit. In a charmingly forthright and not sneaky way, he sends Serena a letter letting her know of it. She spends the next six weeks or so taking care of Heather, a neglected thirteen year old girl. Mr. van Doelen knows exactly when her temp job ends, and manages to be on hand to drive her to her destination.  What destination? She has no idea where she's going, but Mr. van D. does.  He takes her to his little pied-a-terre in Chelsea.  No hanky-panky, he's just offering her a place to stay while she job hunts. He won't be there - he's got to go back to Holland, she'll be rooming with Nanny.
Serena strategically forgets to put her return address
on her letter to Nanny.
There aren't a lot of options open for a gal with no marketable skills, but she does line up a sweet gig stocking grocery store shelves. Not only that, her new boss knows where she can find a room nearby. Girlfriend moves, leaving no forwarding address. Mr. van Doelen is obsessed with finding her, his only clue? The postmark from the letter she sent to Nanny in which she neglected (on purpose) to include a return address. He searches as only a man in love can. Upon finding Serena, he immediately proposes. Editor's Note: Yes, it's another MOC, but I kind of buy this one - he is desperate not to lose her again. Plus, she likes him a lot. It's a good offer whichever way you look at it.

Ivo and Serena have a very small ceremony - no family from either side - and it's off to Holland.
Married life is moving along just fine. Right up until Serena sees Ivo with a stunning woman and goes all green eyed monster...then realizes she's jealous because she loves him. Ivo is hers, darn it! Ivo on the other hand is jealous of Doctor Dirk (I'm snickering over his name...Dirk). Doctor Dirk is a slimeball - quite aggressive at chatting up birds - married or un, but Serena is not one to fall for his lines.
Ivo just can't help himself...every time he sees or hears of Doctor Dirk being around he flips. Serena is honest about what's going on...or rather, what's not going on.  Go ahead and be mad at me, I only danced with him to annoy you  while you were dancing with Rachel the Hottie.

Ivo goes into retreat mode, as far as their relationship goes. He's getting more distant by the day. Serena doesn't just wonder, she grabs the bull by the horns and asks Ivo for a hint as to what's wrong.
Him: Are you happy with our current arrangement?
Her: (lying through her teeth)...ummm, yes?
Him: Well I'm not....(telephone rings)...We'll have to pick up this conversation later - the hospital always comes first.
Of course it will be days and days of awkwardness and a  medical trip to Luxembourg  and a stint of Volunteer Work Gone Awry before any type of resolution is reached.

Serena is left behind after serving soup to the riff-raff. No one else notices the abandoned Bosnian toddler. Fast forward a couple of scary hours and a frantic Ivo tracks her down. True love is kissing the girl even with a grubby, wet, vomit-covered toddler is in her arms.  Professions of love on both sides, kissing on the stairs with Serena wearing only her slip and his coat. The end.

Rating: Overall this one was okay for me. It's fairly solid, but lacks some of the brilliance of earlier offerings from the canon. Here's what I liked:
  • Serena has a refreshing honesty.
  • She has no problem recognizing her lack of love for Gregory and is quite alright about being dumped by him when he finds out she has no inheritance.
  • Ivo has his moments too. I love it when he tells her that they will be happy they are walking down the aisle to get married. 
  • The slimy Doctor Dirk is kind of fun for me - Serena never falls for him - but she does use him to get back at Ivo for dancing with the beautiful and mysterious Rachel. 
Here's what didn't work so well for me:
  • I hate that Serena puts up with her horrid father and brothers for years as an unpaid servant.
  • My biggest complaint is when Ivo goes all icy when she assumes Rachel might be more than a friend - after all, he was ready to assume she was falling for Doctor Dirk. 
  • If I had one wish for this book, it would be that there was more potential for future implied conjugal relations. Only once do we get a glimpse of barely suppressed passion: 'Ivo didn't kiss her because he wasn't sure if he could trust himself to stop at a peck on her cheek.' I'm not looking for trips to Brighton, but really, that's as much passion as we get? 
I'm going to be generous and give this one a Boeuf en Croute.

No one filled out a slip like
Elizabeth Taylor
February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011

Food: Mr. Lightwood orders Serena to serve him such delicacies as devilled kidneys on toast, roast pheasant and sweetbreads in a rich sauce. Coq au vin, Queen of Puddings, globe artichokes with truffle dressing, grilled salmon with potato straws, baked Alaska, sausage and red cabbage, jellied lobster (yuk), spinach and walnut salad, rump of lamb and an ice cream dessert 'which beggered discription'.

Fashion: A dress which Serena sends her father the bill for and then he fakes a heart attack, after that it's all old clothes like her faded blue cotton dress, wedding outfit of soft blue dress and jacket, russet jersey dress, honey-coloured silk and wool dress and jacket, pink silk and chiffon dress, patterned skirt and cashmere top, deep pink silk crepe with marabou stole, pink silk jersey dress, blue-green dress with embroidered bodice and wide taffeta skirt. Final outfit? A smelly slip and his coat.

*Editor's Note:  I was looking for a non-hoochy picture of a woman in a slip - and thought of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (which I have never actually seen - but I remembered the pictures)...anywho...I posted the final two pictures of Elizabeth Taylor before I found out that she had passed away.  I leave them here as a tribute to her awesome younger years. Admit it, no one rocked a slip like she did.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To Kindle or Not to Kindle?

I'd like to report that I read my first Kindle book. I'd like to report that, but the reality was that I read part of my first Kindle book. I started A Good Wife on Dr. van der Stevejinck's Kindle, but before I could finish, he borrowed it back. Yes, I could have asked for it back...or searched for it...but really, where's the fun in that?
Here's what I liked:
  • nice screen size.
  • easy to adjust font size (do it yourself large print!).
  • long battery life.
  • large memory. This will be great to take on vacation! No more running out of books to read and trying to find something suitable in a mini-mart on the Washington coast.
  • people are less likely to bug you by asking about what you're reading.
  • instant gratification - if a book is available, it takes next to no time to order it and download.
  • lots of free reading material is available.
Here are my quibbles:
  • other people may not bug you about what you're reading, but they will bug you about what you're reading on.
  • not really that convenient for searching (hard to 'flip through').
  • harder to use for note-taking.
  • expensive.
Conclusion: I'm not ready to buy my own...but I am glad that Dr. van der Stevejinck has one. I'll be using it on a regular basis this summer, you can bet on it.

Question of the Week

Take it, hon!  Before the fanny pack slips!
In The Right Kind of Girl, Sir Paul Wyatt is on sabbatical.  Here's the wiki exerpt on the subject:

Sabbatical is a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year)...In recent times, "sabbatical" has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. In the modern sense, one takes sabbatical typically to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or traveling extensively for research

Though Sir Paul seems a little unfocused during his sabbatical (visits to the hospital, substituting for a GP, lecture-tours), he seems to be working flat-out.
I live in a little unincorporated suburb outside of Portland, OR that is home to sports-clothing behemoth Nike and several large Intel fabs. Since many of our friends work for one or the other, they are beneficiaries to those companies' sabbatical policies (In the case of Intel, it is an 8-week paid sabbatical every seven years.  Nike's is five weeks sabbatical after 10 years employment and then every five years after.)
One of my favorite people in the world was able to have her husband take sabbatical a couple of years ago.  They did weeks of family trip-making and then farmed out their kids for a few weeks while she and her hub visited Italy.
The Major International Employer van Voorhees has no sabbatical policy.  (Dang it.)  But if they did...???

What would you do?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Upcoming Reviews

Nine months after Ma and Pa Pomfrey
read The Book of Kells...surprise!
Monday, March 28th. Nanny by Chance. 'Oops Baby', Araminta...semi-neglected daughter of Celtic scholars, RDD has twin nephews in need of a nanny.

Thursday, March 31st. Once for All Time. Clotilde Collins is a long tall drink of water...R1/2DD (Rich Half Dutch Doctor). Dr. Mary Evans...she of the padded bra.
Clotilde's new motto.

British Word of the Day

Balling the Jack was the follow-up hit to the wildly popular Whingeing the Flange...

whinge  (hwnj, wnj)
intr.v. whinged, whing·ing, whing·es Chiefly British
To complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner.

[Dialectal alteration of Middle English whinsen, from Old English hwinsian.]
'Mad as fire she was, ' Alice had said, with relish.  'You should 'ave 'eard 'er, Miss Trent.  And that lunch party--that was a lark and no mistake--'er whingeing away...' --The Right Kind of Girl

Why does 'whinging' remind me of the word 'flange'?  Like: Hey, that flange is loose.  Will you winge it a bit?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Right Kind of Girl - Discussion Thread

Several times in Neels books she refers to 'a soft Devon voice'  (Didn't Betty live in Devon?)...can we get some help here from anyone who knows? Is there an actor/actress with a soft Devon voice? Examples, people, examples!

I'm willing to bet ready money that this lady doesn't
have a baby under that blanket.
Doreen Hervey is too sensitive to breastfeed. I'm certainly not going to throw stones here. I'm not sure if her 'sensitivity' is physical or mental, either one can be a legitimate concern - I'm fully on the side of choice when it comes to breastfeeding. When I was a kid, breastfeeding was not popular amongst the women of my mother's generation...I only knew one woman who nursed her kids...and she would do it right in the middle of church.  She was very modest about it, but back then it was just weird. Nowadays it's much more common to see women nursing in public, which is great, but that wouldn't have been me, except in a dire emergency (frankly, none of my babies could stand being covered up by a blanket...and being...umm...'pleasing plump'(read generously endowed) myself it was always tough to juggle baby AND blanket with any assurance of adequate coverage).

Later on in the book, Doreen Hervey tells Emma about Nanny: 'This one's an old dear, and she's taught me a lot--you know, how to hold Bart properly and what to do when he yells.  I'm not afraid of him anymore.'
She was quite serious; Emma murmured sympathetically, reflecting that it was fortunate that the Herveys could afford a nanny. Doreen would have been an ideal RDD's younger sister. A nice person - yet totally self-absorbed and selfish.

The travellers are staying on 'common land'. Here's a bit of what wiki says about Common Lands:
Historically most rights of common were appurtenant to particular plots of land, and the commoner would be the person who, for the time being, was the occupier of a particular plot of land (or in the case of turbary, even a particular heath). Some rights of common were said to be in gross, that is, they were unconnected with ownership or tenure of land. This was more usual in regions where commons are more extensive, such as in Northern England or the Fens, but also included many village greens across England and Wales. Most land with appurtenant commons rights is adjacent to the common or even surrounded by it, but in a few cases it may be some considerable distance away.

Example rights of common are:
Pasture. Right to pasture cattle, horses, sheep or other animals on the common land. The most widespread right.
Piscary. Right to fish.
Turbary. Right to take sods of turf for fuel.
Common of marl. Right to take sand and gravel.
Mast or pannage. Right to turn out pigs for a period in autumn to eat mast (beech mast, acorns and other nuts).
Estovers. Right to take sufficient wood for the commoner's house or holding; usually limited to smaller trees, bushes (such as gorse) and fallen branches.
Hmm. I don't see 'right to camp', but it must be written somewhere, right?

Maisie's topics of conversation: 'It was refreshing, after all that sweetness, to listen to Maisie's down-to-earth talk, which covered everything under the sun--the royal family, the government, the price of fish and chips and the goings-on of the young couple who had rented rooms beneath hers--and all the while she talked she attended to the babies, raising her voice above their small cries.' I love how she always has something to gossip about.  I find it amusing that she talks over the babies...just like she was cleaning floors or washing dishes.

Boston Cream Pie...yum.
Emma hears him say he's going to Boston and replies, 'Boston, USA?' Here in the States the question would be,' Boston, Massachusetts?' No, no, never mind...when talking about a place we would just say, 'Boston?' The only other Bostons I'm familiar with are 'Boston Cream Pie' and the 70's/80's rock band 'Boston'.