Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Brides

Gosh, Dr. van der Stevejink and I were just babies!
This past weekend was my wedding anniversary (well, OUR wedding anniversary - Dr. van der Stevejink's and mine). Thirty-one years of wedded bliss. We didn't really do anything this year - except spend the day together...which was just fine for 31 years.  Last year (30) we sorta kinda went to Hawaii...4 months late. This year I got a serger...from craigslist...the lady was selling it cheap since she couldn't get it to work. Turns out the timing was off.  My awesome engineer husband fixed it up just fine - and if you refer to the handy chart below (that I found here), you'll see that he wasn't far off the mark.

I had a good time reading some of the gift items to my husband...I warned him that groceries (44th anniversary) weren't going to cut the mustard. My favorite anniversary 'present' is travel - but I don't expect it every year.

My question is, what do you consider appropriate gifts for wedding anniversaries AND what has been your favorite anniversary gift (it doesn't have to be a gift that you've gotten - it could be something that you've seen someone else get).


1st Paper Clocks, Plastic, Gold Jewelry
2nd Cotton China, Cotton, Calico, Garnet
3rd Leather Crystal, Glass, Pearls
4th Fruit, Flowers Appliances, Linen, Silk, Nylon, Blue Topaz
5th Wood Silverware, Sapphire
6th Sugar, Iron Wood, Candy, Amethyst
7th Wool, Copper Brass, Desk Sets, Onyx
8th Bronze, Pottery Appliances, Linens, Lace, Tourmaline Jewelry
9th Pottery, Willow Leather, Lapis Jewelry
10th Tin, Aluminum Diamond Jewelry
11th Steel Fashion, Turquoise Jewelry
12th Silk, Linen Pearls, Jade
13th Lace Textiles, Furs, Citrine
14th Ivory Gold Jewelry, Opal
15th Crystal Glass, Watches, Ruby
16th Silver hollowware, Peridot
17th Furniture, Watch
18th Porcelain, Cat's Eye Jewelry
19th Bronze, Aquamarine
20th China Platinum, Emerald
21st Brass, Nickel
22nd Copper
23rd Silver plate
24th Musical instruments
25th Silver Sterling silver
26th Original pictures
27th Sculpture
28th Orchids
29th New furniture
30th Pearl Diamond
31st Time Pieces
32nd Conveyances (e.g., automobiles)
33rd Amethyst
34th Opal
35th Coral (Jade) Jade
36th Bone china
37th Alabaster
38th Beryl, Tourmaline
39th Lace
40th Ruby Ruby, Garnet
41st Land
42nd Developed real estate
43rd Travel
44th Groceries
45th Sapphire Sapphire
46th Original poetry tribute
47th Books
48th Optical goods
49th Luxuries, any kind
50th Gold Gold
55th Emerald Emerald, Turquoise
60th Diamond Gold, Diamond
75th Platinum Diamondlike Stones, Gold
80th Diamond, Pearl
85th Diamond, Sapphire
90th Diamond, Emerald
95th Diamond, Ruby
100th 10 Carat Diamond

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 4th. Making Sure of Sarah.
Litrik falls in love with his first glimpse of Sarah,
drenched though she may be with canal water.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dearest Love--Reprise

I reminisced once upon a time: When Arabella cooks for herself she is so very self-disciplined. My husband is gone this week on a business trip and even though I have the kids to feed it's been frozen things from Costco on plastic plates put on a table whereon the craftiness of Betty Keira has exploded. I think Arabella must have run a very tight ship. When my husband is gone it's every man, woman or child for him/herself. I love when I have driving age children and can give them money and say "go buy a pizza". It's truly a wonderful thing.

That Arabella is going to be quite a catch.

Starts with a letter, ends with a letter. Tea chest with treasures! Painting! Plumbing! Hoovering! Blown fuses! Net curtains! Rescued puppy! Luxury cars! Reclaimed pony AND donkey! Marriage of Convenience! Wedding hat! Harrods! Queen of Puddings! Evil woman doctor! Implied conjugal relations! Baby!

Everything and a bag of chips.

Arabella Lorimer, age 27... small, plain, with mousy hair, (the "Arimanta") recently orphaned. Her parents died in the #1 way Neels parents die. In a motor crash. Trust me, this is not the last time you'll hear of a heroine's parents dying in a motor crash. Left penniless (these parents never seem to have considered estate planning), she applies for a job as the "caretaker/housekeeper" (a janitor who also answers the door) for a couple of doctors. Her application letter is our first introduction. She's looking for a job where she can not only live in, but can also bring Percy. Her cat.

Titus Taverner...40 year old English Doctor. Drives a dark blue Jaguar. He also happens to be an orphan. In the words of Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest: " to lose one parent...may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness". Unlike Arabella, he does happen to have a grandmother up his sleeve along with a few other assorted relatives that are only trotted out for Christmas. He shares a medical practice with the delightfully matchmaking Dr. Marshall - who is the one who actually hires Arabella.

The story: Dr. Marshall (genial matchmaker) is reading letters of application. He chuckles over Arabella's and decides to hire her. When Titus expresses doubts about her suitability, Dr. Marshall laughs and says, "Titus, I can only hope that one day before it's too late you will meet a woman who will turn you sides to middle and then tramp all over you." Sides to middle. Love it. Needless to say, Arabella gets the job. She goes about it in a very professional way, and after examining her work supplies, has one request. "I should like a plunger, sir.". . She had me there - one of the best lines penned by La Neels. During her off hours we are treated to a fairly thorough blow by blow of Arabella setting up housekeeping in her little basement bedsitter. Or is it a flatlet? She brings a few "bits and pieces" that she was allowed to keep from the foreclosure of the family home. My favorite thing that she brings with her is her tea chest full of treasures. She pulls out old damask curtains that she can rework to fit her new windows and make cushion covers out of, and a matching red chenille tablecloth. She also managed to salvage some of the family Coalport china, a Worcester teapot, a silver pepperpot and salt cellar, and the Waterford crystal jug. She is a cordon bleu cook, so I guess it would be important to have nice serving dishes. I do wonder why she didn't think to pack some sewing supplies - needles, thread and scissors wouldn't have taken up much room - and would have saved her a little money while she was setting up house. She makes some major purchases: a can of apricot colored paint, a paint brush, net curtains, and a large roll of thin matting to cover up the ugly floor. It all made an awkward bundle to carry with her on the bus. I'm wondering how she did it at all. Back at her flatlet she proceeds to paint over the ugly wallpaper. While I applaud her painting prowess (Betty Debbie has been known to wield a mean paintbrush), I shudder at the thought of painting over wallpaper - no matter how ugly. Meanwhile, Dr. Taverner is having issue with leaving her alone in the building at night. He stops by her flatlet a couple of times to check on her...lured there by the delicious aromas wafting upstairs (she is a cordon bleu chef). I nearly forgot, she also rescues an abused and abandoned puppy.

Dr. Taverner worries about Arabella being alone - he also thinks that the work is somewhat beneath her...he talks to the Matchmaking Dr. Marshall who says, "She would make a good wife and a handy one too - no need to call out the plumber or the electrician...she would suit you very well..."

One morning the electricity fails. Arabella, sensible as always, finds her torch, locates the blown fuse and gets down on her hands and knees to dig in the cupboard for a new one. Enter Dr. Taverner. (This is a common occurrence in Neeldom - the heroine in an awkward yet appealing position.) Then comes probably the most abrupt proposal ever..."There is something I wish to say to you. Unfortunately there is not time to explain fully but I should like to make you a proposal". Yes, THAT kind of proposal - marriage. He goes into his office, sits down and wonders if he had gone mad. "Arabella had no doubts about it - he had been overworking and had had a brainstorm...she would ignore the whole thing". He convinces her he likes her, misses her when she's not around, and thinks it will be to their mutual advantage - she will gain a home, he enjoys her company. She thinks about it for a few days, then agrees - after telling him that she is old-fashioned when it comes to divorce (me too).

He takes her down to his country house - where his grandmother and her companion live (in their own wing). During a tour of the grounds they head into the stables and find.....her old pony and donkey!!

Their wedding is nice, marriage is pleasant, she looks good in her new clothes (you knew there had to be some new clothes...from Harrods)They go dancing...
Him: "It's like dancing with a moonbeam! What a treasure I have married - not only a first rate plumber but a delightful dancer. We must do this more often before I get too middle-aged!"
Her: "Middle-aged? Of course you're not. Aren't you supposed to be in your prime?"
Him: "...thank encourage me to fend off the encroaching years." (Hilarious! I too shall give a stab at fending off the encroaching years.)

They go to Holland and stay with old friends of his (and cross-over characters)Aldrik and Cressida van der Linus (from A Happy Meeting). Enter Dr. Geraldine Tulsma (evil woman doctor). Arabella gets jealous...and in a fit of pique invites Dr. Tulsma to visit if she's ever in London. Which she does. Titus doesn't like Dr. Tulsma - but she throws her opulent self at him. Arabella goes to spend a week at the country house, falls in a steep sided gully, in the freezing cold, is rescued by Titus, given some medicinal brandy, he tells her he loves her, kiss kiss.....

Then comes the final page - it's eighteen months later and Arabella is holding a little baby boy and reading a letter from her Dearest Love. (see, I told you there were implied conjugal else would Titus Junior be there?)The end.
Fashion: She wears a blue wool jacket and skirt with a matching velvet hat for their wedding. After they are married Titus tells her to go to Harrods and "buy anything and everything that takes your fancy". She buys a copper jersey dress.
Food: Cheese souffle, apple chutney, scones, Spanish omelet, cucumber sandwiches, potato puree, queen of puddings.
Rating: Good solid queen of puddings.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You May Already Be A Winner...

999 times, Mrs. Bueller...
Whew!  999 posts!  But you have to say it like Ferris Bueller's Ed Rooney reporting school absences with fiendish glee and over-enunciation.  ("Nine times.")

I didn't know, when I signed up for this gig, that breaking a thousand was in the cards.  I very likely would have chucked a patent-leather court shoe at Betty Debbie, stuffed all my uncrushable jersey dresses into handy plastic bags and taken myself and my well-named cat off to well-bred poverty.  I think we can all be glad THAT didn't happen.

Also this week (well, every week on Wednesday night) I worked on genealogy with my mother-in-law.  We had a bit of a breakthrough last night and the upshot is that there is a VERY good chance the Founding Bettys are Dutch (alas, south Holland is nowhere near Friesland but let's cross our fingers that all the copious documentation bears out!) through our father's mother's side (the very same Betty Helen that sat for so long in nurse garb on the margins of TUJD).  Even better, one of the surnames was...(wait in delicious anticipation for it)...Lieveling!  Truly the Betty from the Great Beyond was smiling upon me.  I can't think of a better payoff for 999 posts!

Thanks for the fun fellow Bettys!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, June 27th. Dearest Love.
Some of my favorite lines in Neeldom:
 'I should like a plunger sir.'
' encourage me to fend off the encroaching years.'
'Titus, I can only hope that one day before it's too late you will meet a woman who will turn you sides to middle and then tramp all over you.'

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bachelor's Wedding - Reprise

There is a ton of stuff I love about The Bachelor's Wedding.  I do love a plucky heroine, and Araminta fits the bill.  I adore how she deals with the recalcitrant teenagers. Here are a couple of clips from my discussion thread:
  •  Dread Pirate Alice...or Alice the Supposedly Anaemic. On the strength of some doctor a couple of years before informing Alice the Gigantic Pill that she needed to lead a quiet life, she made a career of it. No energy for cooking, cleaning or grocery shopping, but plenty for buying trashy clothes and going out with her friends. [Betty Keira] I love the idea of her marrying a fat American millionaire who showers her with lurex gowns and gaudy jewelery. [Betty Debbie] I can't see her marrying an American Millionaire. Alice is pure trailer trash. She's more the type to get knocked up and live on the dole, spending her days watching the telly and getting fat. Since the doctor's 2 year old recommendation, she hasn't been back. I'm in love with Jason for shooting her down at their first meeting. "I'm sure you must be relieved to know that...whatever it was your doctor diagnosed has apparently cured itself..." Jason must not believe that there's anything to DNA...
  • Mrs. Pretty. Best use of occasional household help in a Neels novel. "...a lady whose appearance had nothing to do with her name; she was a big bony woman, nudging sixty, with a craggy face and a disconcerting squint. She had a powerful voice, smoked like a chimney, and had an elaborate hair-do which was tinted an unsuitable chestnut with highlights." She was a treasure. I especially like that she calls Araminta "my lovely". No one had ever called her that before. How did they stand the smoke smell in their house?

Nothing like this ever happens in the book.

The Bachelor's Wedding was a well-liked novel in my library but with this reading, and the attention to structure and character and the copious notes taken, I began to see more. Let's go, then:

Surgeon Jason Lister lives in a Regency house in London, has a cottage in north Essex, two married sisters (who we get to know and everything), two golden Labs (Goldie and Neptune), spectacles (he must be half-blind when he reads because he wears them a lot), a dark gray Rolls Royce and reads Homer, Juvenal and Horace in the original...of course. I do not know his age but I guess mid-thirties.
Araminta Smith (yes Araminta of The Araminta fame) is twenty-three and, by his description, "Plain...nicely plump, large dark eyes, and a very direct manner." She is also saddled with the two most useless relations in all Neeldom. Alice (as in Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Alice) and her father who goes around in the background muttering things like, "I gave Alice the housekeeping to buy a faux-leather coat. You're hard, Araminta" and other similar guilt-inducing lines.

Jason's sister's husband is sick in Chile (somewhere with something--we never know what) and she needs him to get a temporary nanny so that the 13-year-old Gloria and the 15-year-old Jimmy can come stay with him and his two trusted but old retainers. Hmmm...Two kids would upset a house that much? I would have said no, Araminta. Still, she's dispatched to Tisbury to collect the horrors, pour tea down everyone's throats and bring them to London.

They stay in London. The children don't do anything like light her braids on fire but that is probably only because they couldn't find the matches and she wears a bun. They are rude, disagreeable and constantly begin arguments about not picking up their clothes or unpacking or raising a finger by starting each sentence with, "Patty doesn't..." or "Patty always does it..." (Patty is their nursery-maid cum slave who is away with a dying mother.)
She also takes the children back to Tisbury after the week for another week or two. Jason sees her occasionally and reads the kids the riot act for treating Araminta like a servant (which she is, in a way, so I don't get why it's so outlandish that she should eat in the kitchen with the staff). He thinks to himself that it might be nice, having a wife like Araminta, being a buffer and a friend.
When she returns to London she gets to hear that her father and sister have been running up bills (never with a credit card...always just a 1995). She gets a part-time job ("I hope you're strong.") tending a cranky geriatric woman whose only occupation in life is spoiling sheets and berating the help. But it's okay because Jason's shown up and whisks her off to lunch where he proposes, beginning with a line most calculated to have the butter dish upended over his head, "I have decided to take a I must settle for second-best." He then makes her quit her job which should offend my feminist sensibilities but never does.
Bloody Alice and Finkish Father react with typical selflessness and the upshot is that Araminta walks down the aisle on her father's arm (who was probably bribed to be there--her sister, receiving no incentive, fails to show up) in a new suit bought from proceeds that Jason secretly channeled through her father. And, as in the old game Telephone, funds were lost in the transfer. That's right. Jason is the U.N., Araminta is a starving Serb and her father is a Balkan warlord.
She takes up tapestry work (you know what that means), goes through the linen closets (always the first order of business for a newly-wedded bride) and spends no time wondering why none of his family was invited to the wedding--and neither should you. It's not important.

And then they go shopping. Bless our Neels heroes for their stubborn adherence to the maxim that if some clothes are good, more clothes are better. But then he ruins it by failing to be properly bowled over by a nut brown crepe-de-Chine with a wide Quaker collar and cuffs in cream silk.
To illustrate: A hot Quaker...well, Puritan.
Hmmm. I too fail to understand why he would fail to be bowled over. Anyway, his inattention brings her attention to the fact that she would like his attention. To Harrods!
Some lipstick and powder applied with liberality and a soft rose-colored lamp finish the job. His eye is caught. Alice the Red and Finky Father have to be dispatched--which they are--to Bournemouth (a mere 86 miles away--which isn't as far as it needs to be) and their house is sold. Of course Jason did it. So, follow me here. The price for Araminta's happiness stands somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred thousand pounds. Have I mentioned I love Jason?
A storm comes, a nephew is saved, his leg is set (ew.) and a lot of Burberry is tossed about.

Enjoyable kissing!
The end.

Wrap Up:
Until the wedding (on page 144) this is Jason's book. His progression from uninterested employer to unwilling friend to convenient fiancee is plotted along an unbroken line. There are no great leaps in logic and, I suppose, if one were planning a marriage of convenience this would be the way it came about. I take issue with his last name, however. Lister. Fine enough on its own merits but her name is Araminta and those young relations of his are one freak brainwave away from calling her Auntie Listermint.

Araminta consults a vicar when she wants to know if she should marry Jason. Actual religious duties of this nature are not unheard of but on the rare side for Neeldom.

Gloria and Jerry go to their rooms and play loud music on their "record players" in 1995. In that year it might have been Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise. Just saying.

Most un-Betty line: "I must stop drooling."

Queen of Puddings. There are some seriously charming bits and the best line ever delivered to an awful child:
"We always do what we want," declared Gloria.
"So do I."
The couple are likable from beginning to end and if Dread Pirate Alice and the Fink are a mite two-dimensional, I humbly submit that 220 pages is on the short side for nuance.
Araminta plots her attack on the heart of her husband with a touching faith in the power of Harrods but is borne out in the end so there must be something to it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Betty Takes the Back Roads...

Betty's heros and heroines are always taking the back roads...or wishing they were.  Yes, they do take the motorway when speed is important (that's when the Great Socking Bentley eats up the miles in a well-bred manner), but that is definitely not the preferred manner of traveling.

I was on a trip last week - one of those 1,000 mile 'bum-burners'.  I am personally acquainted, first name basis, with every sage brush between Rexburg, Idaho and Marysville, Washington. The ones that line the freeway, that is. Dr. van der Stevejinck graciously allowed me to choose a slightly different route home this time (actually, he graciously drives wherever I tell him...) - so we drove a slightly shorter (distance wise), but slightly longer (time wise) route.  It made for a nice change...especially when we found ourselves in the middle of a cattle drive.

I'd like to think that the Great Betty would have approved.

So, tell me, are you a freeway (motorway)  gal, or a backroads gal?
Cattle drive = awesome backroad adventure.
The cowboys were some kind of wonderful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, June 20th. The Bachelor's Wedding.
A sick brother-in-law in Chile, flooding in Tisbury,
horrible sister Alice.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Enchanting Samantha

This book should have been great.  I am a Betty that always grades the Araminta novels on a curve (You noticed?) and I hope it doesn't mean that I need my head examined or that in my real life I abide any of that Cinderella muck about poverty and rescue.  But in a book?  Oh. My. Yes.  Enchanting Samantha fails to clear even that bar though for the simple reason that if you're poor and plain, you shouldn't bowl a turkey and be stricken with a bad personality too!  That's breaking the rules.  The plain ones have to have the soul of an angel.  Don't ask me why.  It's just so.  Yours always,  Betty Keira

Last week I reviewed the book "Cassandra by Chance", 1973 vintage Betty Neels. It was a fun, imaginative book. We here at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress, in an effort to portray all sides of the Betty equation, are now going to review...."Enchanting Samantha"...a dud. Not a complete dud, not a bottom of the barrel dud, but a somewhere in the bottom half of the barrel dud. A dud that was published the very same year.

Samantha Fielding, small, plain and "plump" (the Araminta), age 24, is a staff nurse at Clements Hospital. She shares a flat with 3 other nurses. That is unusual in Neeldom - usually heroines either live-in or have a ghastly bedsitter that has a balcony overlooking the dustbins. We don't see too much of the flatmates, but they do play a role in creating a misunderstanding. Samantha doesn't have any family except for a set of aging grandparents that live way the heck outside of London, in Langton Herring, near Chesil Beach. Chesil Beach? Southwest of London by nearly 150 miles.

Enter Giles ter Ossel, Handsome Dutch Doctor. He is described as "large" (he weighs in at 15 stone...that's 210lbs. to us Yanks). At this point I begin to doubt that my definition of "vast" or "large" is the same as Betty Neels. Dr. van der Stevejinck just so happens to weigh in pretty close to 15 stone. He is right at 6 foot tall...that puts him (in my book) "tall", not "exceedingly tall". Those of you who know Dr. van der Stevejinck, I think, would agree with me that he is in no way "vast". Maybe Mr. Neels was a shrimpy stringbean.

Story: Klara Boot, Giles Dutch housekeeper is admitted to St. Clement's with burned hands. Klara has come in alone and only speaks Dutch - so no one knows who she is at first. Giles comes to check on her
"Samantha felt inclined to take umbrage at his tone, but perhaps he had been up all night like she had and wasn't feeling very amiable. She got up and led the way to the ward, ...'You'll come again? Day Sister will want to see you - have you a telephone number?' He grinned, 'Now we are making strides - we might even arrange a date.' She lost her breath and caught it again with an angry snort."
Giles is pleasant and a little flirty..and Samantha gives him an angry snort? She spends most of the book being rude to Giles, who keeps coming back for more. This does not add up to "enchanting" in my book. She realizes she's in love with him on page 68, and then there are another 117 pages of rudeness and misunderstandings to wade through. Enough about Shrewish Samantha.

Why you should read this book
(even though Samantha is less than enchanting):

Giles. He's awesome. If I wasn't already married to the world's greatest husband, I might have a go. He helps wash dishes at the hospital when the ancillary staff goes on strike. He takes Samantha out for breakfast (she works the night shift) at the Waldorf. He irons her uniform for her. He's unrelentingly nice to her...the only time he gets out of sorts with her is when he thinks she is engaged to the mythical "Jack" - a fiancee that her flatmates made up so that sweet little Shrewish Samantha won't get hurt. *Snort*.
A Bomb. In Piccadilly Circus. Betty did like to use bombs as plot devices. London seemed to be rife with bombings and riots...even Holland comes in for the occasional bomb.
Crossover Characters. Rolph and Sappha from Tangled Autumn, and Rolph's mother and younger sister, the beautiful Antonia. Stupid Samantha is asked to be a private nurse to Antonia, who has hepatitis, and on the strength of Antonia being friendly with Giles, decides that the two MUST be going to get married. Never mind that nobody ever says that they are. Never mind that Antonia is a friendly girl. We shall call this plot device, "The Antonia Effect", wherein the heroine decides the hero is going to marry someone else.
Brazil. Brazil??? In a Betty Neels? Sort of. Snorting Samantha decides that she needs to get away. Far away. She applies for a nursing job in a mine in Brazil. As she is contemplating her interview she tries to talk herself into it "...a job at a super salary. The slight drawback represented by her reluctance to go down a mine and her dislike of high mountains were details she would deal with once the job was secured." I don't suppose tropical diseases and deadly animals would have fazed her.
Food: cauliflower cheese? porridge, cottage pie, soup laced with brandy, beef bourguignonne, Blini au saumon, Entrecote Minute Odessa, strawberries Romanoff.
Fashion: A couple of jersey dresses, a wooly dressing gown that won't wear out (I own one just like that!), a nurses cape with a quaint little bonnet.

Most Dated Quote, Ever: "She was aware that men kissed girls, even plain ones if there were no pretty ones around, if they happened to be feeling like it." *Snort*.

Rating: I'll give it a "cheese board"...mostly on the strength of the hero washing dishes and ironing a dress. Oh, and that Brazilian mine.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bettys Are No Pillocks

One of the perks of running an internationally known Betty Neels blog is all the SWAG that comes with.  Spa weekends, complimentary botox sessions, bosom augmentation vouchers, organic knickers....the lot.  And speaking of knickers...The Estimable Betty Trio of Magdalen, Cindy and JoDee (whilst enjoying an afternoon tea in a secret lair in Central Pennsylvania) sent along a lovely card and their regards...AND THE BEST BOOK I'VE EVER SEEN!

Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang

Sure it's no bosom augmentation voucher,... but still!

Now I'll have a handy way of deciphering common, everyday Britishisms such as:
"I say horses for courses if he wants to get up to some bit of jiggery pokery." (To each his own if he wants to be up to untrustworthy behavior.)
"She was keen as mustard to gen up on geegees." (She was very enthusiastic to study horses.)
and even
"The gaffer was ready to pop his clogs when he saw his daughter running around like a blue-arsed fly."  (The old man was ready to die when he saw his daughter running around like a chicken with its head cut off.)

Seriously ladies, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  It was an honor just to be missed...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Decorating With Betty

It's no secret that Betty Debbie and I let pretty much everything in our lives go to pot when we embarked on our Betty World Tour.  So, it's been really interesting to take my nose out of a book and look around the house for once.  Eek.  It needs refreshing.
One of my current obsessions is design blogs (here's one I follow) and as I was cruising around the inter-web-nets this morning I saw a rug that I didn't just love a little.  But...was it Betty-worthy?

Not this rug but like this rug
On one hand it was referencing a classic element (sort of a wicker caning) but on the other hand, it was clearly contemporary.  So, what do you think?  Would The Great Betty have given this a pass on it's classical merits or would she scorn it as unworthy due to its obviously non-Aubusson origins?

I usually adore the world that The Venerable Neels decorates in my mind's eye: Shabby-cozy for the cottages and Grandly-traditional (but no less cozy) for the castles which is also echoed in a smaller manner for any RDD's pied a'-terre.

My question is: Using two words, what is your decorating style and how does it part ways with La Neels?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, June 13th. Enchanting Samantha

A hero who not only washes dishes, but also irons! Samantha contemplates a future in a Brazilian mine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Convenient Wife - Reprise

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Venetia - sure, she's married to a hottie...but not only does he ignore her for practically the whole book, he saddles her with the worst excuse for a teenage ward EVER. Despite those lemons, Venetia manages to make some lemonade. One drop at a time. Over a period of several months. I love the little bit about the antique necklace, it's adorable and gives hope for Duert and Venetia's future. 
Second year student nurse Venetia Forbes has had a very nasty accident in the woolies section of Woolworths. The old lady with the missing shoes sitting next to her keeps on patting the glass (embedded in her arm) further into her skin. She faints and then tosses her biscuits while being stitched up by a senior consultant brain surgeon...that's right. We're not even on page 10 and our heroine has committed relationship suicide. I love this book.

Our principles:
  • She's a plucky and plain (The Araminta) heroine who lives with her granny whenever she manages to escape the nurses' home. Twenty-three (ish) with a handful of A-levels and broken dreams behind her, she is only a second-year student nurse at St. Jude's (in the East End which is code for run-down and bleak). She is actually called a jolie laide and has beautiful gray eyes.
  • Professor Duert ter Laan-Luitinga is 35 and has a 17-year-old plot (Beware the Neels ward. They bode ill.) He alternates between his home in Hampstead and another outside of Delft. He is loaded.
This book really stretches out over a good deal of time He stitches her up. He drives her home. Her granny dies (leaving her utterly without family which begs a demographic question). He helps her out in his cold and aloof way. She visits with the professor's registrar's pregnant wife (which was quite fun to type) which leads to him taking her out a bit. They come across a piece of antique jewelry that she likes, made of amethysts. The store owner tells them a lovely, possibly fabricated--he is a capitalist--story about the original owners and some violets. Violets. This is called foreshadowing.

Her life on the ward is un-fun due to a hectoring staff nurse and when Duert proposes in the ward office we, along with our heroine, are allowed to savor a lovely petty feeling of payback. (Stick that in your sluice room and smoke it!)
He needs a babysitter for his plot device until she turns 18 and goes to America. In return she will get a home and family and security in her old age. (Did no one ever hear of IRAs?!)
But it all manages to make sense and before the week is out she's Mervrouw ter Laan-Luitinga. The registrar observes that she will probably run rings around Duert. Her wedding bouquet has violets in it (Foreshadowing!). Duert begins beautifully by dismissing her clothes, is off-hand about the wedding and suggests a stop in Leiden (to visit a patient!) on the way home on what should be their honeymoon. She wisely lets him dig his grave.
Outside of Delft we meet Anneta the Ward (not to be confused with Jabba the Hutt)--a lovely girl that practically has a neon sign situated above her head reading, "I am a plot device and will portend doom." Duert proceeds to neglect his wife terribly as evidenced by her taking up the art of tapestry. Whenever a Neels heroine stitches tapestries I am put in mind of Homer's Penelope--stitching twenty years while her idiot husband wanders back home. So, yeah, Venetia's tapestry is symbolic.

Why is my husband lamely neglecting me?

Anneta takes our heroine on a lot of shopping trips (This is not symbolic.) and she "repays dressing". But a fat lot of good it does her as Duert only takes her to parties full of crowds. He had obviously never spoken to our father on the subject of 'date night'. Venetia learns Dutch and how to drive a car without anyone bothering to notice. Anneta makes up a lot of suspicious dental appointments and the like which clearly point to trouble but Venetia would have to actually see a crack pipe and roll of dollar bills to become truly alarmed.
Duert, briefly coming out of his stupor enough to aid his wife, sends Anneta to Paris (no one good ever visits Paris) for a week and takes his wife off to visit Aunt Millicent on the coast in Salcombe. She looks like Miss Marple.
I detect with my Marple-vision that you are perfectly suited.

All is going swimmingly in Salcombe but on the return trip he stops in Leiden again for another patient and she gets forgotten! Passive-aggressive behavior and a row ensue! A row!

Four months later (yes, four! they potter along like that for four months!), Anneta is getting ready to go to off to America when Venetia discovers Jan the Rat (not to be confused with Jabba the Hutt) in the professor's garden meeting illicitly with the serial liar Anneta the Ward. In walks the professor. Anneta insinuates that Jan the Rat and Venetia the Patient have been "meeting".
  • Coldness.
  • Threats of suicide. (And you really wish Anneta would just do it already.)
  • Flight to Salcombe.
  • Anneta the confesses her moral bankruptcy...from America.
  • Violet jewelry is produced.
  • Kissing!
This was published in 1990, when Betty Neels was 80, and she has the cheek to say of the granny, "...she was way behind with modern ways and habits." At one point the professor asks Venetia if she is euphemistically (and I mean euphemistically) living with someone. Also, Venetia is being called upon to curb Anneta for her "wayward lifestyle"--which as far as I can tell includes wearing tight clothes and kissing cads on the street. Conclusion: I love Betty.

You get to hear a lot about driving tours through England (take the exit at Oxford, skirt the city, drive toward Buford-upon Tyne...), menus (I'll cover that later) and shopping expeditions (only one of which puzzled me (when Venetia talks Anneta out of a tight black short dress and into a ruched electric blue "suitable" short dress...)). All this would be tedious except that Betty Debbie will be making all the food eventually.
The pacing is flawless and, happily, the emotions make sense. She's mad when she's supposed to be mad, resolute when she's supposed to be...etc., etc. Which all hearkens back to that vomiting in the Casualty room. Venetia is a heroine that makes sense. I love her. She makes this a boeuf en croute. The hero, for all my calling him an idiot, digs his way out of the hole he made quite nicely.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crafting with Betty Debbie

For the last week or two I've been working on decorating my hall bathroom (the only room in my house that I'd never actually painted). The theme was "The Empire Strikes Bath"...and as part of the decor I made these little darlings:

I took the magnetic containers from my office ($5 from IKEA for 3 - lots
of other stores carry similar containers)...that meant I needed to
replace I took the opportunity to tart them up ala Betty Neels.

All you need to do is find an image you like, print or copy them, take out the ones that come
with the containers, then trace around those and cut out your new pictures.

Refill with your favorite office supplies (or sewing...or craft...)...

...and enjoy!