Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wholesome Recreational Activities

Lance the American, in his attempt to steal a bony-chested blonde from a Dutch doctor, had suggested a weekend of backpacking.  And he didn't know if the sinking pit in his stomach was the granola or a gnawing certainty that THIS WOULDN'T END WELL.
I am preparing for a journey into the bowels of the netherworld  a 50 mile backpacking trip next week with my 73-year-old father and 11-year-old son.  (Betty Kylene and her 11-year-old will also be death-marching hiking with us!)  Mijnheer van Voorhees (and most able-bodied men of our acquaintance), however, will be enjoying a life of luxury, air conditioning and indoor plumbing back at the little Casa and it all got me thinking.  (Why must I think of Henry V:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.)

What would Betty consider a wholesome family activity?

We know she would walk for miles (sometimes into the teeth of a gale) around the assorted beauty spots of the Dutch, British and Portuguese countrysides.  She would have picnic lunches with fresh made lemonade.  She'd teach her little nippers to swim in the North Sea and they would probably fish, swim and sail with equal aplomb--but backpacking?  I just don't see it.

Still, I think she would have made a great backpacking traveling companion.  First, you can't go wrong with a trained medical professional along.  Second, she had a great fondness for endowing her heroines with pocket scissors and pocket knives for all kinds of emergencies.  Third, I cannot help but think fondly of her biographical description of her own mother bursting into tears at the sight of La Neels' post-war Dutch cottage (which, if memory serves, had been reclaimed from sunken lands!).  So, she knew how to rough it.

So, I'll have her along with me in spirit (and maybe a copy of The Promise of Happiness) even if she maybe didn't do this sort of thing...

*Of course I had to link to this.  Duh!  And another for the lame-o-s who weren't in German class...


  1. First of all, I resent being called a lame-o (not really, but I feel obliged to speak for those who are too shy to admit that they too did not feel that German was absolutely necessary for their academic advancement).

    Second of all, good luck! I'll be the first to send out the rescue teams if we haven't heard from you by, say, September (or October if the weather is decent).

  2. Actually, those of us in German class (despite getting to learn all the German Beatles songs (which is the coolest thing about the Beatles and about German class)) always felt a sense of inferiority towards our Spanish-speaking cousins--what with their sombreros and fiestas and whatnot...

  3. Betty van den BetsyJuly 28, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Is it terribly sad that Betty only had one child, when most of her heroines want six or so? I like to think she and the (small) family did do some variation on backpacking, though with typical British reticence they'd call it "walking." Devon (didn't she live in Devon after retirement?) is great country for hiking. I see her packing sandwiches, apples and chocolate bars into her knapsack, lacing up some stout and sensible shoes, and setting out across the fields. Of course they'd help each other over stiles and have a route planned that brought them to a cottage serving teas round about 4pm. I don't imagine her camping, though I'm sure she could, because she needed to get back to her typewriter.

    And I *so* picture wholesome recreation around the piano of an evening, singing "The Happy Wanderer" in Dutch. The clip is priceless at about the 55 second mark when we see a white-haired woman in the audience snapping awake to clap and sing the chorus!

  4. Betty Barbara here--
    This lame-o took many years of French, thank you very much! So we got to sing along with Edith Piaf.

    "Happy Wanderer"--LOL!! haven't thought of that song since 6th grade, when it was a staple of classroom sing-alongs.

  5. Betty Barbara here again--
    I can't believe YouTube doesn't have Mitch Miller's version of "Happy Wanderer". That Fred Waring clip is a hoot--those lovely gowns on the ladies are just WRONG for the song.
    Here's another great version.

    You left out cycling. This is the kind of bike I always pictured our heroine riding.

  6. Speaking of Maria von Trapp...Have you ever read that woman's biography? She didn't just camp, she high adventured.

  7. La classe Francais ici, and we got to sing lovely French love songs while eating cheese. Win!

  8. Ich LIEBE Deutsch! I was so glad I took German when I started reading Betty Neels because Dutch is related. Because of Betty, I even started to learn Dutch online and found out the pronunciations are way different than German pronunciation of diphthongs and vowels. My favorite Dutch learning site is -- love the Dutch audio there.

  9. Wie gehts! Betty AnHK here. Vielen Dank für den Song, link. My German is shocking considering how long I have lived previously there and the fact that the little ones and my husband speak together all the time. But I have a terrific accent and understand most, of course I fake it really well ;-)
    Betty loved to ramble, an Elizabeth Bennett type. That's just like slow romantic backpacking. Have a great trip, good luck. Its not my thing, I like hotels and urbanism...but that is also the joy of Neelsland. You get to vicariously love living in a picaresque little English village.
    After hearing so much Deutsch, Dutch sounds incredibly weird, like wrong. Sorry to the Dutch in advance. Also same here for Swiss Deutsch, no apologies there ;-) But I love the kissing three times, so sweet. Maybe that's also that another reason are so many different types kisses in the books, I hope she had a lot of dutch male kisses to analyse.
    Betty only had one child, but sometimes I feel she had a strange way of writing about bonding with kids, especially nanny caregiving and motherhood. Either the mother's were saints or uber-evil. I wonder what sort of mother she actually was...and what sort of bond she had with her daughter. Certainly she wrote about how much work kids were to raise.

  10. Betty Kiera, now you too know what cannibals think are the tastiest parts!
    I loved both her books. Being as I identify with the whole 'wanted to be and nun and got jilted by Jesus thing'.

    Spoiler Alert to those who have not yet read this!

    I love the part where she tells the Lord off for making her marry Georg! They didn't put that in the movie. And the real Georg was such a sweetie compared to C.P. (rod up his whatnot). That was one of Maria's chief complaints about the movie. They got Georg all wrong. He fell for her at hello, and she fell in love with the kids. She'd never had hugs or kisses til those kids. The scene in the book where she goes to ask the sisters if she can come back and they make her go back to Georg, and she walks all the way home and he's waiting for her. He ask what Mother Sup. said. And Maria sobs "I have to marry you." He takes her in his arms and rejoices. And for her it starts out as a MOC. Did you catch the between the lines thing about the honeymoon being 'postponed', sickness and then not wanting to leave the kids. From the way I read it, it sounds like the marriage wasn't real until after her 'talk' with the baby Jesus at Christmas time. Now there's a Betty hero in real life.

  11. Betty Kylene, Une autre estudiante Francais ici! Quatre ans dans le lycée.
    Mais j'ai souhaité que j'aie étudié l'espagnol. Il est plus facile les satisfaire en parlant là la langue.

    And the fact that we lived 2 years in Spain and 6 in south Texas. But Spanish is easier to pick up once you know one of the romance languages and the Spanish and Latin American people are very kind about helping you despite your mistakes.