Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Summer Idyll--Discussion Thread

A Toadflax by any other name would smell as sweet...
The Principle Nursing Officer is known as the Tartar...she only smiled at Christmas and the Annual Ball.  Ugh.  Calling a gruff superior names behind her back?  Childish ladies.  I would sit better on my high horse, however, without the haunting memory of a shared giggle between high school Deutsch-class compadres over our pet name for the teacher: Der Frau.  Maybe you have to speak German to get how rude that is...

There are primroses and bread and butter under the hedgerows. What  are bread and butter flowers you ask?  Other names include: Common Toadflax, Brideweed, Bridewort, Butter and Eggs.  I love the names for all their literary possibilities (Bilbo Baggins carried Bridewort to his table...) but they crush the romance right out of the poor, inoffensive flora.

Aunt Kate's will: everything goes to charity. Phoebe is specifically mentioned - she is to get specifically nothing.  If Aunt Kate's ashes could be carted out with a load of rubbish to any nearby landfill...I hear the views are lovely.

'The name of your 10th grade shop teacher,
Mr. Smith, or it's back to Victoria!'
Customs and passport procedures were strange and exciting; she watched her passport being stamped and quite expected that her case would be opened and inspected...I always feel like I'm hiding a criminal past whenever I step up to a customs counter at a border crossing.  Will they see the bead of sweat glistening on my upper lip?  The slight hesitation when I struggle to remember my birth place?  Will I have to live in Canada forever!?  Not that Canada (particularly Ottawa, probably) isn't a lovely place but I have a friend whose baby-daddy had immigration irregularities--involving a long, sordid story of a stolen passport, my friend who knew better, his mother's failure to properly naturalize him as a baby, and the cold, unfeeling bureaucracy combining to keep him in citizenship limbo forever...

George explains how his family had become wealthy...his father's forebears had been what Phoebe privately called landed gentry and had invested wisely in the first railways...there were always doctors...his mother's family had made it's fortune in the Dutch East Indies in the seventeenth century.  It's funny but wouldn't doctoring be a massive step down from being fabulously wealthy? (It's a job, it really is.)  How many generations back would you have to go when mother's family would have screeched the house down if a daughter wedded a doc?

Unhappy Hipsters: The ultimate unwanted guest-room
Kasper's living room is ultra modern with curious tubular furniture, flame coloured paper and Corina on a hideous sofa.  Modern furniture (which I love to look at more than I love to live in) is given the most irreverent send-up in my nearly-favorite random blog: Unhappy Hipsters.  Check it.  It begs the question, 'Can a Mies Van Der Rohe chair and joy inhabit the same space?'

The freezer is being defrosted. When The Founding Bettys were kids, this was an all day job. Frost-free freezers are right up there with sliced bread...I remember sitting on the dryer once, reading The Little House on the Prairie, the blow-dryer going full-bore and ice raining down near the shop vac nozzle...I'd forgotten to unplug the freezer and it was gamely attempting to maintain temperature.  I was almost strangled for those five bucks...

1 comment:

  1. Ah, passport stories. I have two.

    When I was a youth, there were "student fares" to London, super cheap. I traveled at age 15 on a student fare, and again at age 20 (I was in college then), but when I went at age 24, the fare was available only in Canada. So I took a bus to Montréal and flew out. When I came back, my brother & mother picked me up in a car.

    On the trip back to New York State, we stopped at Customs. The officer asked my brother, who was driving, what the nature of the trip was. He answered truthfully, if incompletely, that "they" had been in Montréal for the day. That's when my mother volunteered the information that "they" had also picked me up from the airport. That got his attention! Next thing we knew, we were asked to pull over and someone was pawing through my dirty laundry. (Literal dirty laundry.) Gee, thanks, Mum.

    Second story. On my trip to London at age 20, I finally screwed up the courage to introduce myself to the Wards, friends of my brother's, who lived just a few blocks from Betty Henry's house. They were very sweet and included me in a 36-hour excursion to Paris.

    (For the next bit of the story, it would useful to remember that I was 20 -- and that's in Betty Neels years, were 24-year-olds are pretty old-fashioned and naive.)

    My passport had been stamped by Her Majesty's Custom officers with a 3-month-visa. I'd been invited to renew that, but I was leaving soon, and was too lazy (and stupid), so I didn't bother. Then I left the country to go to France with the Wards. It never occurred to me that I would actually be attempting to re-enter the UK on an expired visa...because I was stupid.

    The customs and passport control operation was actually on the boat, so the Wards went to the British-passport-holders-only queue, and I went to the Furriners queue. When I sat down, the nice man said, "But your visa has expired."

    "Right," I chirped. "But I'm leaving next week so it's okay."

    He wasn't amused, and only the fact that I knew the flight number, date and time of my flight back to the US (he made me repeat it twice, like those "what were the three words I asked you to remember" tests for Alzheimers) persuaded him that I was actually leaving the UK. ("And good riddance," was his attitude.)

    So I go back to my friends and they ask nervously if I'm okay. "Oh, sure," I chirp. They relax and explain that they have this friend, a woman, whose American boyfriend had pulled the same boneheaded stunt of letting his visa expire, not renewing it, then going to Paris for an excursion. In his case, they wouldn't let him re-enter the UK, he jumped off the ship and tried to climb the White Cliffs of Dover, fell off the White Cliffs of Dover, and ended up in a National Health Service hospital bed ("Men's Orthopedics") with a broken leg and an officer of Her Majesty's Custom and Excise at his door.

    I've been better about passports since then.