Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, February 6th.
Waiting for Deborah
Semi-catatonic stroke victim, carroty hair, measles!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paradise for Two--Reprise

We American Bettys are deep in the throes of election season.  (Never fear, Bettys!  I approached the dangerous shoals of political discord only to paddle away like madly!) And there's a term that gets tossed around that reminded me a little of The Great Betty:

Dog-whistle politics, also known as the use of code words, is a type of political campaigning or speechmaking which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience.  The term is an analogy to dog whistles, which are built in such a way that the high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs, but appears silent to human hearing. 
And that's just what The Great Betty uses when she tells us things about heroines (Tell me that loving cats is not code for "heart of gold".), heroes (If he scribbles his prescriptions in an appalling scrawl, he's sure to be a reliable husband with a penchant for draping deep-bosom-ed British nurses with the family sapphires.), and fink-y ancillary characters (If any man takes a woman anywhere near a Chinese restaurant, he is not to be trusted.).
Dog whistles all.  And we're her base, reading all the right signals.
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

Prudence Makepeace...I have to say that I love, love, love her name. And that's about as far as my love for this character goes for the first 60 pages. She is described as "a nice girl" and "good natured"...but heaven knows she isn't - at least whenever Haso ter Brons Huizinga is around. They get off on the wrong foot and Prudence spends lots of time being "chilly", "snappy", "pointed", "cross", "tart", "annoyed"... So much so, that I feel, snappy, cross, annoyed...you get the idea.
Prudence, an Olivia (tall shapely redhead) if ever there was one, has been a nurse at a London hospital, but has recently quit in order to apply for a job in Scotland. Why Scotland? To get her far away from Walter. She finds that she doesn't love Walter, and never has (a junior executive stockbroker who considers himself somewhat of an expert on "Modern Art"...which is just as bad, if not worse than a junior doctor who takes one out for Chinese food). Her Aunt Beatrix (who I am delightedly going to call "Aunt Bea") invites her to go to Holland with her for a few weeks. Aunt Bea is not really her aunt, Prudence tells Walter, she a "courtesy aunt" - she's Prudence's godmother and good friend to her real Aunt Maud. Prudence isn't too sure she wants to go, so Aunt Bea throws down her trump card...she's an unstable diabetic - and she's going to visit her sister who has been in the hospital with heart trouble. *WARNING* *WARNING* Many hours of unpaid nursing ahead. Off to Holland they go...with Aunt Bea and her mountain of luggage, including a trunk that takes 2 men to carry it. No, they don't drive, they FLY. Can you imagine the extra luggage costs? I can't.
At Aunt Emma's house (which is described as "massive" - so obviously the RDD doesn't live here), Prudence runs into a man she assumes is the gardener. Nope. She sees him a few minutes later (with clean hands, this time) up in Aunt Emma's room - where he is formally introduced as her nephew Haso ter Brons Huizinga. She speaks sharply to him, he's mildly insulting to her.....and we're off! Off on the wrong foot, that is. They never seem to be able to have a civil conversation...Prudence always has her daggers drawn. We find out pretty early on that he is only 33 years old to her 25 - amazingly close in age for Neeldom. They seem doomed to eternal bickering until Aunt Bea obliges them by sneaking a bunch of chocolates and going into a diabetic coma. Then they get to spend the night together while she is wearing a lovely crêpe-de-Chìne dressing gown with matching nightie and satin slippers. This dressing gown gets a fair amount of mileage in the book, so get used to it. Aunt Bea pulls out of the diabetic coma and promises to do better...Prudence gets an afternoon off (remember, she's not getting paid...)so Haso hijacks her and takes her to his fairytale castle of a home. The gardens and grounds are beautiful...as well they should be. Haso's mum adores gardening. She is to be found pruning roses in the greenhouse while listening to the radio (Haso's mum evidently lives with him...which fact is never really stressed). Another trip to visit her, this time with the aunts...while the old ladies have a cozy chat, Prudence is allowed off her leash to roam the gardens. She discovers a swimming pool nicely screened by trees. While sitting in this "Paradise for Two" who should appear? Haso and Christabel! Christabel van Bijl (which I always read as van Bilge) and Prudence are so not destined to become BFF's. Not even close. Their verbal cat-fighting is easily the best part of the book. I love and loathe Christabel. While Prudence is a tall shapely redhead, Christabel is a tall shapeless blonde telephone pole. A telephone pole with teeth.

Christabel: My what a large strong girl you are! I am sure to be bruised from your handshake. It must be ever so helpful for your job that you are so burly.
Prudence: It is a good thing I'm big and burly...someone has to take care of the weaklings of the world.
Haso: Fifteen all.
Christabel: We're going to a ballet this evening. I was fabulous at ballet until I grew to be a telephone pole.
Prudence (ever so sweetly): You would need stamina.

Little sister Sebeltsje(yes, that's her name) tells Prudence that Haso is not just a doctor, he's a professor and a senior partner. Really? At 33? But wait! That's Not All! He's a Professor of Surgery. Professor Haso invites hardworking Prudence out to dinner...without giving her time to say no. She decides that she will start faking a bad headache around 6:00pm - but that's a no-go. Haso calls her up in the morning and warns her that she'd better not get a headache. "I shall come and haul you out of bed and take you to dine in your nightie. A charming one, if I remember aright." He remembers aright (see, I told you that nightie would get some mileage). He might be a little interested in her at this point, but we're never really sure. Yes, he does take her out for dinner wherein, under the auspices of armed neutrality, he plies her with booze in the form of sherry, 2 glasses of hock and 2 glasses of champagne. She then asks him if it's okay to drink and drive in Holland. Of course not! Haso drinks a cup of coffee and off they go (I'm wondering at this point what the "legal blood alcohol limit" in Holland was back in 1988).
Guernsey Island Interlude:
Prudence and the courtesy aunts go on vacation - in spite of the fact that Prudence is still not drawing any wages and really ought to get busy and find a real job. It's here that she meets Jerome Blake, Fortune Hunter. The snake- hipped Mr. Blake seems awfully cozy with the hotel staff - they feed him all sorts of nuggets of information - verifiable and non. He learns that Aunts Bea and Emma are filthy rich - so he assumes their "niece" Prudence is due to fall heir to their filthy richness. Too bad he didn't do his homework. He does turn a bit nasty when Prudence turns down his proposal of marriage and tells him she doesn't have any money. Lucky for Prudence - Haso turns up to run the blighter out of town. And does a spot of comforting the sniveling Prudence. Hark! Is that the sound of a softening heart? Haso does ask Prudence if they are beginning to like each other...but she's not ready to go that far yet. He does go on to ask her why she isn't married yet...Prudence admits to the desire to be swept off her size 9's and showered with roses and diamonds and champagne (which sounds prickly, bumpy and sticky - all at once). I sense some foreshadowing going on here. A day or two back in Holland and it's time to go back to Aunt Maud's (real, not courtesy aunt). What's that Haso? You will drive Prudence home? Lovely. Tot-zeins! A handy bit of snogging (which Prudence decided that she enjoyed) on the ferry deck and then home to Aunt Maud where our heroine has some mail awaiting. Sister in charge of Women's Surgical in Aberdeen, Scotland! Let's get a reply to that in the mail! The very day Prudence gets a confirmation letter that she has the job, Haso shows up again. As soon as she claps her eyes on him she knows! Her Dawning Realization comes like a shower of cold water and leaves her breathless...which is just as well, because Haso is here to whisk her back to his castle...to do another spot of unpaid nursing. His mum has a ruptured appendix and peritonitis and she wants Prudence to nurse her. No, no, I can't go - I have a job in Aberdeen. Haso calmly dials up the hospital and gets her terminated. In spite of being wildly in love with Haso, willing to go through fire and water for him, Prudence is still mulish about going with him, but go with him she does. Back to Holland. (for those counting, this will be her third trip this summer!). Haso's mum comes home from hospital and Prudence puts her nose to the grindstone. When she finally gets an free afternoon (remember, not being paid!), Prudence borrows a bike and promptly gets herself lost in a thunderstorm. Haso finds her (but she doesn't spend much time probing his motives) and takes her back home - even though she is stubborn and mulish about it (again). His mum would really rather Haso fell for Prudence instead of Christabel, so she gets a bit sneaky and asks Prudence to come read to her (after Prudence has put on her fetching nightie) Oh hello, son - don't mind us. Prudence goes to bed, but then gets back up to leave a note for the cook...she hears Haso and his mum talking - waters are muddied...Prudence then calls up Aunt Maud and asks her to fake an illness or something so that she has a good reason to leave immediately. Aunt Maud is game, she calls in the morning saying she has a broken leg...needs Prudence home. Haso knows what's going on - he saw Prudence on the stairs the night before...so he volunteers to drive Prudence home - which of course horrifies her. He then takes her hand and pulls her into the house - in to a small room that is bursting with roses, there's champagne in a bucket and he offers her a sapphire ring with diamonds. Snogging ensues. The End. What?? The End??? Yeah...pretty abrupt.

Rating: Remember back at the beginning when I complained about Prudence? I never got to where I liked her. Her only shining moments for me was when she was having her verbal catfights with Christabel. Here is a sampling of words used to describe her or her tone of voice: waspish, sharp, shrill, pettish, snappy, wooden, scathing, chilly, cross, pointed, annoyed, etc...Ugh. She puts me in mind of Enchanting Samatha who I found less than enchanting. Haso comes off as unusually tepid for a RDD. I'm going to give this one a Madeira cake on the strength of verbal catfights and a trip to Guernsey Island.
Fashion: Jersey three piece in a flattering shade of pale green, the infamous dressing gown and matching nightie, slim sheath of corn coloured silk, indigo blue silk jersey
Food: enough lobster dishes to put the poor creatures on the endangered species list, a forbidden box of chocolate, tomatoes with forcemeat stuffing (ew?), trifle, courgettes in cream sauce, new (as opposed to old?) herrings served on slivers of toast, mouthwatering salad, Charlotte Russe, fresh mushroom salad, strawberries and thick Guernsey cream.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Betty by the Numbers: Heroine’s Jobs

Betty by the Numbers: Heroine’s Jobs

Betty Neels was a nurse. She was a nurse in peacetime, a nurse in wartime, a nurse in the UK, a nurse in the Netherlands, a certified midwife, a Sister, a night superintendent and maybe more. She told her publishers and readers that she loved nursing, and picked it as her career of choice. It seems reasonable to assume that Betty Neels knew early-20th-century nursing cold.

A Dorset advertiser’s depiction of a nurse in 1910, a year after Betty was born.

She was, further, a daughter, a sister (the relation kind as well as the boss-nurse kind), a wife and a mother. In the last third of her life she was an unusually prolific author. She used a library (at least once), and enjoyed Dickens, Thackeray, Brontë and Donne. She enjoyed touring stately homes and living in the country. One might guess that she enjoyed gardening, eating, cooking and at least learning about antique furniture, but then one might also guess, based on her heroines’ Advanced Driving Certificates and varying levels of comfort in driving, that she was a good driver. However, when Mills & Boon asked, “What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the courage to try?” she answered, “Drive a car.” And she certainly never married a rich Dutch doctor and quit her job to rear a large brood of children with the help of one to six servants. So is all the gardening and cooking her heroines do also fantasy? I cannot say...

A German nurse circa 1936, about the time Betty got certified (I cropped out Hitler, who added less than nothing to the image)

However, I do know that her heroines were all the things we know Betty was, if you’re willing to stretch a point on the author-ing and allow a greeting-card-verse writer to stand in for the creation of 135 romance novels. In keeping with her great love, her heroines were primarily nurses. While a few of them professed no understanding of or interest in “women’s liberation, whatever that was,” only four of her 135 heroines – that’s just 3% – didn’t earn money through work of some sort. And those four kept busy: two vicar’s daughters visited parishioners, ran the Women’s Institute, succored pregnant travelers and so forth, one QC’s daughter read to the very old and the very young, and one veterinarian’s daughter helped out in Dad’s surgery.

But the nurses! There are 79 nurses of our 135 heroines, or 59% of the total. From 1969’s Sister Peters in Amsterdam through 1982’s Judith, a total of 55 books, they’re 100% nurses. Then we move into a period of decline; from 1982’s A Girl to Love, which stars our first non-nurse in the marvelous housekeeper and sensible countrywoman Sadie Gillard, through 1994’s A Secret Infatuation (surgical sister Eugenie Spencer), 48 books, we have 23 nurses – 48% of the total. In the remaining 32 books, only Araminta Pomfrey (Nanny by Chance, 1998) can claim nurse status, and that’s only by dint of a short stint as a student nurse.

An English nurse in about 1969, when Adelaide Peters was making her way to Amsterdam, and romance history, via Mills & Boon. You can read her story, and a whole lot of other very brief oral histories, on this memory wall site. You can see how nurse’s uniforms, and especially the caps, evolved in this fantastic slide show of American nurse’s caps from 1900-1970, modeled by the nurses themselves.

[As an aside, I note that Mrs. Neels began featuring non-nursing heroines at about the same time she tried her brief experiment with non-doctoring heroes. There are a total of six non-medical heroes, beginning in 1981 and ending in 1984. For the record, they are: civil engineer Simon Savage of Heaven Around the Corner (1981), history professor Charles Cresswell of Judith, television writer Oliver Trentham of A Girl to Love, factory owner and board chairman Jake Royle of All Else Confusion (all 1982), accounting-firm owner Lucius Massey of Roses and Champagne (1983) and economics professor Gideon Beaufort of Year’s Happy Ending (1984). They loved, respectively: a nurse, another nurse, a housekeeper/sensible countrywoman, a vicar’s daughter/companion, an illustrator with family money and a trained nanny.]

Of those 79 nurses, 57% were sisters or hoofdzusters, 32% were staff nurses or zusters, and 11%, just nine heroines, were students. The first student nurse, Lucy Prendergast, doesn’t show up until 1978’s Ring in a Teacup, and then we don’t meet a student again until 1984’s Polly, when we’re well into the transitional period. The final nurse, as noted above, is also a student. Many scholars have speculated that The Great Betty may have moved away from nursing heroines as the work began to change dramatically and quickly in the 70s and 80s, so her experience from the 30s through the 60s became less relevant to her writing. If this theory is correct, presenting students might have been easier than writing about more experienced nurses – however, sisters continued to predominate through the transitional period, right up to her penultimate nurse heroine, A Secret Infatuation’s Eugenie Spencer in 1994.

Seven of our nurses, 9%, work nights, though if I recall correctly a few of the others occasionally had night duty. My Irish nursing friends in the 1990s worked one week of night duty every six weeks or so. My recollection is that they had seven 12-hour shifts, 8pm to 8am, and then seven days off. The retribution threatened to housemates making undue daytime noise when Marion and Dara were “on nights” involved – again, if my memory is accurate – scalpels, iodine, plastic tubing and digitalis. (Normally lovely young women, they suffered ugly personality changes with the drastic alteration to their circadian rhythms.)

Would you believe 18% of our nurses, 14 heroines, worked for private patients in some capacity or other? I’ve lumped people like Emily Grenfell, the student nurse blackmailed into nursing Sebastian van Tecqx’s sister privately (The Fateful Bargain, 1989), and Christina Forbes, who takes leave from the Theophilus to nurse her Dutch-language teacher (Not Once But Twice, 1981), into this category. Sticklers will note that their work is not the same as that of Roly Brown, forced by Authority to put up with the egos and hypochondria of the Private Patients wing (Tulips for Augusta, 1971), or Hannah Lang, forced by her hideous mother to give up hospital nursing amongst the premies and turn to the more-lucrative agency nursing for the idle rich (Hannah, 1980). A confession: I’ve probably left out a few, since page one or two often gives me the heroine’s title and specialty, and with that block filled it, I doubt I always came back to it when, on page 114, she scoots off to Leeuwarden for a stint with our hero’s whooping-cough-afflicted former nanny/ex-girlfriend/mischievous godson.

Operating theatre after Sister Greenslade and Staff Nurse Bennett finish restoring it to pristine condition

A UK ward in 1973 – unclear whether medical or surgical, but pretty sure the patients are women. And the nurses! L to R: staff, aide and sister?

As to specialty, we’ve got quite the mixed bag, including a bit of double-counting: 19 are on surgical wards, 15 on medical wards, ten in theatre (my favorites!), eight in casualty or related urgent-care areas (my second favorites), two in outpatients and two in offices – one in the hero’s consulting rooms, the other in uncle’s GP practice. Seven of our nurses, or 9%, care for kiddies; just two, or 3%, specialize in elderlies. I’ve classified six as specializing in a ‘body part,’ which includes three orthopaedics and one each of gynaecology, chests, and ears, noses and throats. Betty Anonymous is currently pursuing the ENT route in hopes of meeting Emily Seymour of Winter Wedding – but she quit nursing to marry Renier Jurres-Romejin back in 1979, Betty Anon!

Very well, unless you have questions, I shall move on to the 56 heroines (41%) without nursing training. Questions? No?

Then I have one for you: What’s the second-most popular career choice for Betty Neels heroines? Take a moment...

I bet you said, “Companion!” didn’t you? You are spot on; there are 17 companions, 13% of all heroines and 30% of non-nursing heroines. If you said, “Mother’s help!” (or “Nanny!” or “Governess!”), you weren’t far off. We follow the trials of 14 nanny/governess/mother’s helps in the course of the oeuvre – although only one of them is a trained nanny. That’s 10% of the heroines; 25% of the non-nurses.

Louisa May Alcott, who worked as a seamstress amongst her other jobs, traveled from Boston to Europe as a young woman by serving as a paid companion to an invalid – maybe a relation.

Glancing through the list of alternative professions, we can pretty much generalize heroines’ roles as domestic, medical, non-domestic childcare, business or outliers. The bulk are in the first two categories, as you’ve probably noticed.

The domestic sphere includes those aforementioned companions and mother’s helps, as well as six of what I call “professional daughters,” four each of maids, general household helpers and housekeepers, three cooks and three social secretaries, and then a seamstress, a docent, a cataloguer, and a caretaker (the joker in the pack!).

On the medical front, we’ve got nine clinic assistant-types, including clinic assistant Celine Bayliss, pathology-lab assistant and bottlewasher Eustacia Crump, and part-time physiotherapy assistant Henrietta Cowper. There are also seven doctor’s receptionists (you know which doctor), five medical typist/secretaries, two hospital administrators (canteen, path. lab), a physiotherapist, a hospital switchboard operator and a hospital-canteen worker.

Mrs. Angela Meehan is Matron of St. Paul’s School in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. If I were a home- and children-loving rich Dutch doctor, I would love her.

We’ve got four school-matron types, two orphanage assistants, two school assistants and a volunteer reader at a nursery school – that’s the non-domestic childcare. Of the businesswomen, count three typists, two B&B proprietors and two business owners (cottage tea shop; needle-crafts shop). So for outliers, I get seven shop clerks (supermarket shelf-stackers amongst them, plus Abigail Trent earning six gulden daily in a Friesian village store despite not speaking the language because Dominic van Wijkelen has not paid her for several months of nursing services), two library aides, an illustrator, a florist’s assistant (doesn’t count as business because she’s really lousy at client service), a farm worker and a writer of greeting-card verses.

The non-nursing jobs add up to a total of 114, held by 67 heroines. Eleven of our nurses make career changes in the course of a novel – like poor, workers’-rights-violated Abigail Trent as described above, although they’re more likely to take on companion-type roles with light nursing than grocery-assistant-ing. And then there’s the unflappable Annis Brown, who serves as both a nurse and a cook to the burly working men of the Spitzbergen radio station in Midnight Sun’s Magic (1979). (Her previous work as sister of the children’s ward at St. Anselm’s, London, stands her in good stead for her dealings with the rather bratty Jake van Germert.)

Never having figured out how to turn all those A levels into a remunerative career, and unable to work a cash register, Matilda Philomena can’t wait to see what’s next for her on the wheel-of-casual-work!

So the 135 heroines average 1.4 jobs each, but the nurses are only 1.2 per, while non-nurses carry 1.8 during the course of their stories. Bar short-term student nurse Araminta Pomfrey, none of the nurses holds more than two jobs. Araminta, however, is one of six heroines performing four distinct jobs in the course of her story, as she quits her job as an aide at a children’s convalescent home shortly after Nanny by Chance begins to work as (untrained) nanny to Marcus van der Breugh’s twin nephews. That assignment finished, she finally gets to start her nursing training, but quits in frustration at the heartlessness of modern medicine’s focus on efficiency over humanity. Dr. van der Breugh then finds Mintie a job as temporary assistant matron at a boys’ school in Eastbourne, which town possesses a seaside promenade convenient for lonely weeping and a cozy tearoom where formerly lonely weepers may receive marriage proposals. Suzannah Lightfoot (The Chain of Destiny, 1989) works as a docent, a cataloguer, a companion, and a nursery school aide. Matilda ffinch (The Most Marvelous Summer, 1991) introduces herself to her readers as a social secretary, but tries out assistant matron-ing, companion-ing (to Grandpa Scott-Thurlow) and temporary nanny-ing (to goddaughter Scott-Thurlow). Francesca Haley (The Proposal, 1993) has four jobs, as does poor Henrietta Cowper – three at once as she cobbles together part-time work in the physiotherapy department at St. Alkelda’s, nights cleaning offices and Saturdays at the fruit stall down the street. After a bad bout of ‘flu loses her all her jobs, Adam Ross-Pitt finds her work as a general household-helper – and that’s a three-fer, as well: she’s a maid, needlewoman and docent for Sir Peter and Lady Hensen, for which 53-hour week they pay her fifty quid plus room and board. Even for a 1996 copyright, that sounds like awfully skimpy wages. Finally there’s independent woman Julia Gracey, whose graceless and sexually-harassing boss/boyfriend Oscar does her out of her job writing greeting-card verses after she points out a few of their incompatibilities. With her sisters leaving home to marry, Julia needs an income – and finds it in companioning Gerard van der Maes’s invalid housekeeper, plying her clever needle at a northern estate (that catches fire) and finally opening her own needle-crafts shop for about two weeks of losses.

Here is the text of the job-posting for seamstresses at the very gorgeous, very historical, very gigantic Derbyshire property of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth. I really wish one of our Bettys would apply (Betty Kylene is very handy with a needle, isn’t she?):

Soft furnishing Seamstress x 2 (1 F/T, 1 P/T - 3 days per week) - 2 year fixed term contract

Chatsworth is embarking on the next phase of a substantial interior refurbishment project. This is an exciting time in Chatsworth's history and these posts offer an opportunity to contribute to the future of some important historic interiors in one of the country's greatest treasure houses.

We require two experienced soft-furnishing seamstresses to join the team, to work on large scale interiors projects. In addition there will be the opportunity to work on the alteration of historic curtains. Experience of making high-quality hand finished curtains, complex pelmets and other soft furnishings are essential.

The role requires previous experience of using industrial sewing machinery on a diverse range of cloth types. Proven pattern-matching skills, cutting, machine joining, and the ability to work to a consistent speed maintaining high levels of accuracy is essential. There will be some hand finishing, and the application of complex trimmings required.

Betty K, if you move to Chatsworth I promise to come visit.

The post holders will be required to assist with the removal and installation of soft furnishings, working from height. Candidates must be able to demonstrate experience of working on an industrial sewing machine as part of the selection process.

All applicants must have excellent written and communication skills, be self motivated and able to work effectively alone or as a member of a team.

Please click here for job description.

To apply please send your CV, including current salary details, to: The HR Department, Chatsworth Settlement Trustees, The Estate Office, Bakewell, DE45 1PJ or via email to hr@chatsworth.org.

Closing date for these positions is 3 February 2012.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lord Baden-Powell's Finishing School for Young Men

A hive of scum and villany
I was re-reading A Girl Named Rose the other day, a book suitable to almost all moods and seasons, when I ran across a bit that made me laugh:
Him: What did you have for lunch? Beans on toast? (he asks her of her date with an oily, Brighton-bound houseman)
Her: Yes, and a cup of coffee...
Him: I've never liked beans since I ate them out of a tin when I was a scout.
Her: You were a scout?
She looked so surprised that he laughed.
Him: It keeps little boys out of mischief.

My boy is in scouts.  He's about to earn his Tenderfoot rank.  I was his Cub Scout leader for several years several years ago.  I wrote on my mommy-blog at the time:  
The way to the heart of an 8-year-old boy lies through projectiles and food...but mostly projectiles.

and in another entry:
Scouts, scouts, scouts...(head cradled in hands) Can't live with 'em, can't legally trebuchet them off a ravine cliff...

After a very difficult den meeting (tears were shed, egos were bruised, mothers were called) I was packing up to go (baby on hip, toddler in hand and shepherding three cubbies out the door) and heard the fire alarm. All I could hear was a drumbeat of Yoda in my head: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the Dark Side.

Oh for the love of Jane Wyman!
Arg. Cubbies. The story is that it was mostly an accident--if hanging on the plastic box covering the fire alarm is ever an accident. But I was a little too soul destroyed to dredge up den motherly kindness. That's right. I went there. I recounted the plot of Magnificent Obsession.
--which is just what this situation was like if you see the Cubs as cavalier, playboy Rock Hudson who crashes his speedboat doing something silly and reckless (something suspiciously like hanging from a fire alarm box), keeping life saving equipment from Sexy Jane Wyman's husband who subsequently dies. I only hope that when Jane Wyman looses her eyesight and needs restorative surgery she will be helped by those same Cubbies who have fallen in love with the widow and also (freakishly fast, pre-internet) gotten to be expert eye surgeons all in the name of Christian charity (which is what Magnificent Obsession refers to although I'm pretty sure the movie makers wanted you to think that it was Sexy Jane Wyman).

And let that be a lesson to you.

So, no, I'm not really sure if it does keep young boys out of mischief.  I'm pretty sure it was invented to get young boys to want to adventure to the Antarctic for King and country.  (Non sequiter-ly speaking, my Canadian brother-in-law was a Queen's Venturer.)

I was massively pregnant with my latest pledge of affection while I had this job which I thought was bad enough  (those scout shirts are as unflattering as possible) and then I had the Pledge.
Hey Sister van Voorhees...Where did the baby go?  What's he doing under that blanket?

No, I'm not sure I can agree with Professor Sybren Werdmer ter Sane on this one.