One of my favorite bits in A Valentine for Daisy is the part where she gets a new skirt fashioned from an old INHERITED curtain. I have two thoughts about this. First of all: Betty Keira was wondering about curtains being left to them by a dead relative. I have a bag of zippers that were given to me by my grandmother - nearly 30 years ago (grandma has been gone over 20 years now). Just last month I pulled out 2 zippers and used them for a project I was working on. I'm pretty sure the bag is bottomless - which is pretty impressive considering that it is smaller than a plastic grocery bag. Second thought: Upcycling is all the rage now.
- Betty Debbie
A passing glance at the title of this book might lead you to believe that the Venerable Neels was making a pun on the name Valentine and Valentine's Day. You would be dead wrong. They are related insofar as a Valentine is another word for sweetheart but, as the timeline is mid-Summer-ish into Fall, it skips the February commemoration entirely.
Ah Young Love:
Daisy Pelham--yes, Daisy, there is no getting around it with a charming abbreviation--the name that only conjures feckless hippies and that spineless twit from The Great Gatsby. In the world of feminine flower names there are two sorts: offensive and other. For me, Daisy falls in with Hyacinth and Amaryllis as offensive. Lily or Rose do not make the bile rise, as it were. Such is the unfairness of life.
Daisy is 22, plain and plump with a pert nose--an Araminta down to her toes. Her sister Pamela (15) occasionally acts as the Deus ex machina in moving romantic disclosures along and helps Daisy chose semi-unflattering outfits from time to time but is otherwise happily unprecocious. Their mother is the sort of Neels woman so often littering up the landscape--widowed, cosseted,lazy and ineffectual. She is not cruel but is clearly a financial burden, slowly crushing our plucky heroine under her gauzy sleeve, spouting lines like, "We're having lamb chops for supper but I forgot to buy them."
Valentine Seymour is a paediatrician with dark hair and dark eyes which La Neels never fully gets behind but which gives me an excellent excuse to think of Clive Owen..........................Okay. We're back. No one ever makes fun of the name Valentine as he lives in a protective bubble wherein the name Valentine is entirely normal and certainly no excuse for levity. He owns a dark grey Rolls-Royce and homes in Salisbury (in the close) and London.
Daisy peddles her bike and sees a stranger in a gorgeous car. She thinks to herself that this must be important. Replace the bike with a laundry cart and the Rolls-Royce with an industrial washer and instead of seeing his "thin-lipped smile" you saw...well, something else altogether, then you've pretty much got my meeting with Minjeer Nathan van der Voorhees down pat.
Daisy works in a Victorian nursery school which, being Victorian, already foreshadows disaster. If a lame fiance's mother owns heavy Victorian furniture, or an elderly convalescent home is in the Victorian style or a house has Victorian architecture then you can bet dollars to donuts that a fire or an earthquake or an awkward schism will ensue. Beware Victoriana! There be danger.
A case of food poisoning (possibly engineered by the ghosts of dead Victorians?) sends the whole nursery school to the hospital. Demon twins, Katie and Josh, find their uncle and Daisy impresses him by catching throw-up in a plastic pinny (British word alert!).
Of course she is fired by the manager--a horrible woman named Mrs. Gower-Jones (who reads the Tatler!--clearly an indictment on her character). Daisy is told that Mrs. G-J will post her check. The "seldom roused" Daisy responds, "I'll wait while you write it."
"Seldom roused", huh? She rouses herself no less than seven times in 93 pages after which I stopped keeping track of how many times this "mild by nature" girl lit into somebody.
Briefly considering a job as a "pigperson" (true story), Daisy is tracked down by Lady Thorley (mother of the perishing terrors) and asked if she wouldn't mind being a temporary governess. Choices, choices...I myself would have gone with the pigs but there is no accounting for taste.
Daisy dreams of buying her mother new shoes and her sister "one of those baggy sweaters" she is mad about. Of course it was Valentine who recommended her for the job. At one point Valentine visits the nursery. Her neck is rubbed by his thumb. This is the apex of Betty Neels' carnal heat.
Lady Thorley's husband (who as far as I can tell has never spoken two words to his children in their lives) has to travel to The Hague (or den Haag as they refer to it ever after). Would Daisy mind terribly...? Of course she goes and to round out her wardrobe dips into the stash of raspberry red brocade curtains (left to them by a dead relative--Is this normal?) to fashion herself a long skirt. I approve.
In Den Haag she meets cheerful Philip Keynes. If this were a Star Trek episode Philip Keynes would be wearing a red shirt. He would be shot by Romulans in an ambush and credited as "guy". But if Daisy's looks are redeemed by long-lashed grey eyes then Philip Keynes is redeemed by his unfailingly friendly manner and freaking awesome surname.
Enter the good doctor who is none too thrilled about Daisy's new friend--made worse because he's a perfectly amiable fellow. (He wants to hate him but he can't!) Philip serves as a nice contrast to Valentine and while Daisy is not yet in love she thinks to herself that Keynes would make a great brother and that Valentine would be "romantic in a coal hole."
Meanwhile, Lady Thorley makes unreasonable requests on Daisy's time ("Hey, would you mind taking the twins off to the beach in the rain? I'm super tired!") and seems incapable of watching her own children for hours at a time, Valentine figures out the dress/curtain (though keeps mum) and Daisy is personally insulted by a Dutch tartlet.
Back in England, Daisy is once again jobless and worried enough to consider working in a shop ("But how would one help customers?!") or cleaning offices (horrors not bearing contemplation!). Happily she is saved by the suggestion (tangentially from Val) that she apply for a position as a hospital orderly which is described as "not a domestic", a domestic and ancillary staff. Either way it's rough going. Also, her co-worker is Maisie. Yes. Rhyming. Daisy and Maisie.
From time to time, just for kicks, Lady Thorley monopolizes her free time and pushes the kids at her. "Yipee! Run off my feet all week and a Saturday filled with tantrums and snot!" Can you tell I don't much care for Lady Thorley? Neels is clearly trying to communicate that she is a likable little feather-brain but I just can't work up any emotion more gentle than hostility. "Sorry to ruin your free time from your physically grueling job but these children are murder! Take them!"
Philip Keynes (yes, now I'm just doing it for fun) comes back into town and takes her out--rousing the jealousy of our good doctor. "Well, if that's what she wants..." he muttered so savagely...' But then Philip Red Shirt falls in love with a pretty Sister named Beryl (which name is so awful that it reconciled me at last to Daisy).
Maisie gets sick.
"Kids on the rampage", "hooligans", and "louts" swarm the hospital chipping at long-dead consultant's busts (!) and then the founder's bust(Double !). Daisy makes a heroic stand, is saved by Valentine and bursts into tears at home.
It's okay though. He proposes the next time he sees her in the ward sister's office.
Queen of puddings! Daisy has just enough pertness without becoming a doormat or veering into waspish Enchanting Samantha territory. She is mostly irritated with him because she doesn't recognize Valentine's flirting for what it is. He is vexing but gently so and usually not without provocation. Her mother the widow never gets disposed of. Neels allowed annoying parents to die (if they were considerate), remarry or be taken care of by old nannies. Mrs. Pelham does none of these and presents a problem.
"not in a tin" vichyssoise soup, chestnut souffle, castle puddings with custard, cold lettuce soup with cream (ew.), game chips (?), beef sandwiches and "wholesome stew and ice cream" that causes the kids to vomit
Him--dark grey superfine wool waistcoat and an Italian striped tie (the proposal), and evening clothes (she admires "the inspired cut of his coat")
Her-terrible plastic mac, navy blue jersey dress, curtain/dress, good suit