Monday, July 25, 2011

A Valentine for Daisy - Reprise

Sorry to be posting so late today!  In my defense, it is still morning here on the west coast - and I've been working like a Trojan on cleaning and organizing my house, AND spending time with my daughter and grandchildren who are visiting here from the east coast...anywho, things just got away from me this morning.

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.

Act I:
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.

Act II:
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


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    I enjoyed this one, in a mild way. One point in the original edition's favor is the accuracy of the cover illustration--silk blouse-check! scarlet brocade skirt(made from inherited draperies)-check!
    There were several people I quite enjoyed meeting--especially Maisie! And I enjoyed the instant romance between Phillip the Fair and Beryl the Sister--especially because our RDD drove himself to worry about a link between Daisy and Phillip. Valentine's relief when Daisy tells him about Phillip and Beryl is a hoot.
    I did get quite tired of Daisy's denseness--thus book does not go on my keeper shelf.

  2. I've "inherited" just as strange things as curtains. My sister died several years ago and had only one son, our Ron, who is 40 years old now, with Down Syndrome. My other sister was Executrix and went out of her way to be sure that each of us got stuff from the 10 room and stuffed to the brim house. Bed sheets - a set that was nearly new and another set that was new. A wardrobe, a gorgeous old willow basket, a table our father made years ago and that Helen had nabbed when Mom had had enough of it (it's a beautiful piece but very large and rather difficult to find a good place for. My son has it now and it sits in the "same" place Mom had it - in front of the front windows covered with an abundance of plants and flowers. "Same" but not - same location, different houses. ;-) ) There are other odds and ends but I can't recall just now. So I can see a frugal person (Daisy herself?) nabbing a set of curtains made of good fabric when they'd otherwise have been tossed after Great-Aunt Ermentrudenzia passed on.

    I recall being irritated by this one, too, but only mildly so.


  3. Haven't read this book yet, but its coming up soon as I trawl through all 134 of them. This Valentine is the english way of spelling the name,whereas if he was a RDD it would be spelt Valentijn. Not sure if there was another doctor called that in another book but, I should know, my surname before I married was Valentijn and I have a cousin in Holland who is called Valentijn Valentijn, now there's something to complain about girls.

  4. This is kitap; can't post as me right now as livejournal seems to be down for me.

    Anyhow, Valentine's sister irritates me. If Katherine's sister-in-law from "When Two Paths Meet" had been nice instead of a royal witch she'd be Valentine's sister. Spend some time with your kids, for god's sake. One afternoon a week isn't enough.

  5. Oh, of course the whole Scarlett O'Hara curtains thing came to me in an absolute flash! And, I'm thrilled for the Carol Burnett/Harvey Korman photo which, conceivably is the funniest moment in TV ever!!!!!!

    Otherwise, a tepid romance with Beryl (barrel :)) and Philip being much sweeter and romantic.

  6. I second Betty Ilana's commendation of the Burnett/Korman photo and agree that it was a hilarious TV moment. Something like, "Oh, this? I saw it in the window and just HAD to have it!"

  7. Betty Andrea, and if memory serves (as Mr. Spock used to say) they actually managed to crack each other up, and those two were able to hold it together under the most dire of circumstances. Not sure what was funnier...the lines or them breaking. Sorry that was a bit OT.

  8. Betty AnHK
    The mother in Valedaisy is annoying, also the sister, Lady Thornly, the kids and Sir Hugh... none of whom do anything helpful for Daisy. Lucky she has Dr See-more because there's not much upside to her life. I liked this one, but its not a favourite.
    The protest louts at the end are not as exciting as a gas explosion, or violent boat wreck, but the use of a Dettol bottle as possible weapon is a sweet touch.
    Brocade curtains as clothes, hella yes.

  9. I believe my mom inherited a bunch of slip cover material that she wouldn't let any of us touch. Yes, there was some left after my Grandma made the couch covers (this was her job til she was 98!) and the outfits!
    And here'a a pic to make my connection to Maria Von Trapp even stranger. Imagine our 3 youngest girls running the streets in these get-ups.

  10. Wouldn't let me see the pic, BettyMary.

    But matching outfits always make me think of The purple Dress.

    My four older sisters were born in 5.5 years. When the youngest of those four (Hazel) started school, my mom got inspired to make the four of them matching dresses. They were of a purple plaid, and, as my parents were always living hand to mouth, while Dad was building houses (then eating high on the hog, so they say, when he'd get paid) clothing had to be passed down.

    Poor Hazel wore that purple dress all 7 years she was in elementary school! She was so sick of the purple dresses by the time she outgrew the last one! :)

    Mom never did matching dresses for them again.


  11. Oh - I love that Carol Burnett sketch, but not sure it's the funniest. The one where they're doing Mama's Family and Tim Conway is talking about the Siamese elephants cracks me up, too. And the dentist one, where Harvey Korman, the dentist, gets stuck with the novacaine needle - very very funny. And let's not forget the office of Mr Tudball and his secretary, Mrs Wiggins!

    They don't make comics like them anymore - more's the pity!


  12. Oh - I reversed that - it was Tim Conway as the dentist. :)


  13. Now that would start a psychosis. Seven years in the same dress. And what were people thinkng? That the dress grew with her! lol
    Great story Betty Cindy!

    I remember having to reuse and pass down the slipcover duds. But we only wore those at home.

  14. BettyMary,one teacher actually complimented my mother on her ability to keep making the dress over!

    Guess she'd never had any of my other sisters.



  15. Betty Cindy,
    I am SO grateful that my mother never got into the matching dresses thing. It probably wouldn't have affected me too much (being the second oldest and actually taller than my one older sister).

    Why didn't you have to wear the purple dresses?

  16. BettyMary, my parents had (effectively) two families. My sister Kim and I are much younger - my oldest sister was married a year before I was born,and Hazel married when I was only 5, so I was way too young (thankfully) to wear the Dreaded Purple.

    Just heard this bothersome nag the other day - when Kim & I were growing up, Dad had left the home building business (at Mom's insistence!) and took a weekly paying job - quite a good one. Kim and I rarely had handmade clothes - if we did, it was by choice. We were, as the older sisters have always said, "Spoiled rotten."

    In Kim's case, that was true - my older sisters treated her like a doll. Carried her everywhere, did everything for her, gave in to her every whim. I guess she was a BRAT! She was supposed to be the youngest. Five years later,surprise! I made my appearance (Dad always called me "The Caboose.") Mom was, by that time, so sick of Kim's demanding, spoiled nature, she put her foot down with me. I got none of that kind of spoiling. I did have lots of material thing - they were able to afford it by then.

    ONE TIME when I was going into 9th grade, my mother allowed me to use the credit card for the big department store in town (The Carrol House) and get three pairs of slacks, 5 tops, two bras and 6 pairs of panties. That was what I was to get. All I was to get, and I did just that. To this day - nearly 40 years later, when the sisters start talking about how rough life was for them (and there were times when my mother put canned tomatoes and soda crackers on the table for dinner) they finish with "But not Cinders! SHE got to go shopping with Mom's credit cards." ONE TIME!! :)


  17. what is the name of the book where she works for an elderly couple near the salisbury cathedral? and the hero lives nearby? and the evil gf and a guy relative of the naive elderly couple use her for nefarious purposes?

  18. Betty Francesca,
    You're thinking of "When Two Paths Meet" - and I think the evil gf and guy relative only try to use her - it's her fink of a brother that briefly gets his claws back into her.

  19. Betty Barbara here--
    Well Betty Francesca, I see that Betty Debbie beat me to the punch. I remember this primarily because of Dodie, the rotten granddaughter of our sweet elderly couple. Dear Dodie thinks she has her claws well into Dr James Fitzroy and he does nothing to really discourage her (the rat).
    The leech of a relative costs Katherine her job but doesn't otherwise harass her.

  20. Oh, thanks guys, you're wonderful!!!!

    I will go look it up.

    I just did some online research on the close at the cathedral and it looks very very limiting to outside residents wanting to "buy" any property and live there. very limiting.

    Most of the properties around the close are business related to teh cathedral. The rest are for those working at the cathedral. Such as the organist. So cool that the organist gets a Grade II listing ancient 2 story house at the close. So cool. Probably rent free. So cool...LOL

    The only really cool house there is the ARundel. Soooo beautiful. Gorgeous. It used to have tours. So I wonder if our Betty went on the tour and saw it and used it for her heroes.

    The ARundel was occupied (until his death recently) by a prime minister of England Sir something or other (from the 70's). Not memorable. But the grounds and the outside of the house are just so gorgeous and so BN.