Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Interview With The Betty

I have this daydream that I'll be clicking open my email one day and a message will land in my box titled something like, "The Great Betty As I Knew Her: A Granddaughter's Story" or "I Found this Box of Notes in Gram-gram's Attic and You Guys at TUJD Seem Super Interested in Her Legacy". Maybe Betty Neels wants to haunt me in a friendly and collaborative way and can't quite get enough signal boosted. I don't know her #AfterlifeGoals.
Betty Keira felt a warm wind waft through the room.
It smelled of sausage rolls and stroopwafels... "Betty?" 

So I thought it would be nice to throw together some interview questions in case I do have her ghost popping out of the van Voorhees woodwork. I would not like to be unprepared:

  • What did you enjoy more? Your nursing career or your writing career?
  • Which sort of heroine did you identify most with? Rich Olivias, somewhat down-at-heel? Plain Aramintas even more down-at-heel?
  • Did your hands hurt from typing?
  • The Canon describes a LOT of work, some of it really hard work. What was the hardest work you ever did?
  • What did your friends and family think of your Second Career?
  • Why did you make Laura wear a wedding turban in The Hasty Marriage? And then made her meet her sister while wearing a denim dress?
  • What book was your favorite? I know you're going to say they're like babies and you can't possibly choose but let's pretend you can.
  • How long did it take to pound out Sister Peters in Amsterdam?
  • Are you okay with TUJD? I would not like to be encroaching.
  • Tell me how you really feel about private nursing...

Does anyone else have a question they wish they could put to The Great Betty?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bettysday Eve

Bettysday, our once-yearly commemoration of The Great Betty's birthday, has leaped upon me this year like a street gang of youths in Dam Square. Happily, it's nowhere near as dangerous to my person or my pocketbook. Sadly, it's also less likely to end in me being stuffed into an idling Rolls Royce Corniche by a furious (but, nevertheless, swoony) Dutch doctor who warned me to avoid it at all costs.
Dam Square--Hive of scum and villainy

My own celebrations will be modest but very Betty. I am meeting with my writing group in the morning and we will all try to recover from the effects of Summer. (Getting me back into the swing of things after having all the Pledges home all the time looks like those cowboy westerns where they're trying to revive the drunk sheriff in time for the shoot-out with Black Hat and plunging his face over and over and over into the water trough.) Thanks to The Great Betty, I will tamp down feelings of being too old for this and feeling like it's too late to begin to be awesome. The Great Betty would have none of that.
None. Of. It.

Sometime in the afternoon, I will have something sweet. Maybe a whole table of something sweet. And though it won't really be the place for it, I will close my eyes and sigh, "Heaven is a cucumber sandwich."
...and scones and fresh raspberry jam and apple cake
and things that can break but have not yet been broken.

What is everyBetty else doing?

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Bite of Betty

Reading Betty Neels is weird. Well, it's not her fault. But you feel me. The whole reason The Uncrushable Jersey Dress exists is because fellow Founding Betty Debbie and I didn't know one single other soul whose jam was vast Dutch doctors, socking, great Bentleys, shocking ward emergencies, swooping kisses, tiny bedsits and the loneliness of stone-cold foxes staring thirty in the face.
Annis wondered if Jake even knew what a biological clock was.

So you can imagine my delight when I was on a long road trip with a friend of many years and she said, "The Betty blog. I don't get it. I think I should get it. You need to let me read one of those."

Oh Betties. It was like someone ringing the Avon lady's doorbell and asking for three tubes of Fearless Fuchsia, extra toner and something for the eyelashes.
"I suppose I'd say my make-up routine is Elizabeth Arden blusher...liberally applied."

I decided to pick out five titles. And I'm not going to pretend that I spent a massive time weighing my options or that she is going to read them all but I figured I would offer her the equivalent of a tapas night of Betty books. A little of this, a little of that...

Here they are:

A Kiss For Julie--we have a classic Oliva, homemade clothes, an attempted burglary and a faithful family retainer. My copy is a large print and that can't hurt. I want to make this trip into BettyLand as painless as possible.

Magic in Vienna--My friend will get to enjoy the classic Betty tropes of negligent parenting, medical emergencies and handsy housemen.

The Little Dragon--I picked this because it's so different than a large number of Bettys. Lies and farce and drinks down dresses. If the others don't hook her, maybe this off-beat number will?

Discovering Daisy--My friend is interested in old things and I hoped that this book, revolving around antiques, might pique her interest. It is also a wonderful example of the Late Canon.

The Promise of Happiness (or Becky and the Baron, the hot, hot Baron)--I really went back and forth about whether or not to give my friend any of the top 10-ish novels. I don't want her to peak too early and think of the others as "Fine...but..." Nevertheless, it's a masterpiece (if that's your chocolate covered digestive biscuit) and I hope it casts a spell like a dryad sucking a sailor onto rocky schoals.

"Well, it was like this. One second Tiele was purchasing
two tickets to a chamber music concert and the next second..."

Tell me in the comments if you have some better ideas and let me know if your own stabs at Betty Evangelism have bourne fruit. I'll let you know how this goes!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Found: One Beagle

Betty Keira considered the name of her temporary dog for several minutes. "Blot!" she said. 
"Escutcheon or landscape?" came the inevitable voice in her head.

Today, several of my children were off to visit their grandmother (the Dowager Baroness van Voorhees) and it was just me at home with Pledge One, who was diligently studying the finer points of English grammar in anticipation of his SATs.

"Is that a dog?" I asked, gazing across the back expanse of sweeping green lawn abutting the Professor Baron's ancestral home. "And without a collar too...Oh the poor dear."

Pledge One sprang into action, checking on the pup and offering a dish of water, as I trotted out to the drive, holding one well-manicured hand over my brow and looking across the flat, Dutch countryside for any sign of the owner. Alas. Not so much as a bicycling tour of British nurses was to be seen. 

After attending to Blot's needs, I sent a letter to my near neighbor in a tight, elegant hand. My Dutch, you see, is lacking (Professor Wit seems to think I am coming along nicely but my verbs do get in such a tangle. Oh what a beastly language Dutch is!) and she would know just what to do. Mevrouw Alberts is the dearest woman. She looks so bland when the Professor Baron is late for our dinner parties, is always a font of knowledge and never attempts to poach my husband.

Meanwhile, Blot was on his finest behavior--padding around the lawn, sniffing and inspecting, waiting most patiently in a sitting position when food was offered.
When attending his business, I am happy to report that Blot did not compromise
the dignity of the Professor Baron, the tulip beds or the ancestral mansion.

Mevrouw Alberts directed me to the local animal shelter and they popped over in a trice, discovered that Blot had been microchipped and delivered him directly to his owners. 

All's well that ends well. Pledge One was sorry to see him go and it's just as well that Pledges Two through Five were away, as the mighty tsunami of sentiment would have been difficult to stand athwart. 

During my adventure today, I discovered that any Beckys or Aramintas looking to perform a similar spot of animal rescue should keep the following in mind:

If you decide not to bring the dog/cat to the shelter, you are required to take several steps. These steps include:
1. Notify the shelter that you have the dog/cat so that we can connect possible owners of the lost pet to you. You must leave a description of the dog/cat with us. You must also leave contact information with us so we can make sure that people who think the pet you have found may be theirs can talk with you. You can report the dog/cat as "found" by calling us at 503-846-7039 or by coming down and filling out a short "Found Pet" form.
2. By law, you must advertise that you have found the dog/cat in a general circulation newspaper once a week for two consecutive weeks. (For specific information about the legal responsibilities of finding property, refer to
the Oregon Revised Statutes section 98.005.) 
3. After you have listed the dog/cat with us and advertised in a general circulation newspaper twice, you are still not the lawful owner of the animal until 90 days have passed. If the owner comes during that time, you are required to surrender the animal back to their owner.
4. You will then need to contact us a second time to let us know that it has been  over 90 days, you have done all of the above and you are now taking ownership of the animal. 

That is Oregon, USA law, of course, and just applies to dogs. Last month, another neighbor and I were chatting across the street when her grandson found that a tiny newborn squirrel had fallen from its nest and onto her lawn. Ten minutes later, we discovered another just a few feet away, well-hidden in the grass and barely alive. With that, it was a simple matter of popping them into shoe boxes and keeping them hydrated long enough for her daughter's mother-in-law (who does animal rescue professionally) to come pick them up. 

The Canon is rife with instances of saved kittens and rescued dogs--of small scissors or pen knives being used to extricate animals from danger. Do any of our Betties have any stories of that sort to share?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Betty of Bettys

Your winner, Betties:

The Promise of Happiness 
(or, as we have been affectionately calling it for years: Becky and the Baron, the Hot, Hot Baron)

(Do you think we need a soundtrack on this? Yes. Definitely. Let's have a soundtrack. Feel free to dance around the kitchen.)

It was a hard-fought contest of titles and The Promise of Happiness only beat out A Gentle Awakening by FOUR votes. So it seems fitting to pause a moment and give the runner-up a moment in the sun.

I like what Betty Janice had to say about A Gentle Awakening: "...she leaves her mean father, earns Nanny's respect and devotion, teaches Pauline to bake, gets Sir William to eat his daughter's attempts, responds to fiancee Wanda's slap with an entire jug of lemonade, nurses the sick household, speaks Dutch... delicious book!"

Florina is such a sweet and unassuming heroine and I writhe for her, having jumped from the frying pan of her father's house (Is there a more loutish father in Neelsdom?) and into the fire of Sir William's employ. She's top over tail in love before she knows what's hit her and the prospects look dire. But her sterling qualities (fluent Dutch, Grade A cookery and a real affection for his daughter, Pauline) coupled with Sir William's willingness to do menial housework (make coffee, bring morning tea, deliver trays of food, hoover (!), scrape potatoes and wash dishes in the midst of the measles epidemic) make me sure that these crazy kids will go together like vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

Now, on to our winner. The Promise of Happiness is often my favorite Betty (Always top five but these things shift around like the sands of an outgoing tide. You feel me.) because of the indomitable spirit of the heroine. Though running away from the only home she has with two pets and no real luggage or money is dramatic, the part that gets me by the throat is when she regrets that the Baron only sees her as "a dowdy girl who wore cheap clothes and didn't know how to make the best of herself--and she wasn't really like was difficult to splash out...and he was so secure himself that he would never have known the insecurity that not having money brought with it." 

There is an entire library filled with things Doctor Baron Tiele Raukema van den Eck doesn't know but, by the end, he's taken a seat in the front row of the Becky Saunders Memorial Lecture Hall, composition book open, pencil at the ready. He sees her at last.

Tiele wondered if there was extra-credit labs offered or opportunities for field trips.
He'd offer to drive the instructor in his Rolls Royce Corniche...take it in easy stages...stop off at every handy lay-by.
He was a very dilligent student.

I do think it's interesting that both of our top finalists had instances where the hero (A Rich British Doctor in one and a Rich Dutch Doctor in the other, as has been noted.) did not scruple of be slightly caddish in pursuit of his ends. 

Sir William's fiancee, Wanda the Wicked, gets marched through briar patches so she'll run back to London in her laddered tights, flinging her engagement ring (in a modern setting, you just know) over her shoulder.

Nina van Doorn gets dragged to a chamber concert to provide the flimsiest cover to Tiele as he stares at the back of Becky's head all night. It was perhaps as flimsy as Nina's evening gown that, no doubt, exposed far too much bosom of the salt cellar variety. (He would have disapproved of it if he'd bothered to glance at her even once.) 

This has been such a fun ride, Betties, and I'm so happy you all took it with me. The final vote, as we all know, hasn't settled anything at all. I'd love to hear your Top Five books in the comments section and whether any of your favorites changed over the last months as you've reread the selections.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Betty in the Wild

Eclipse Day here on the Oregon coast could not have been more idyllic. No crowds, beautiful weather and all the science-y guages and sensors you could ever hope to have. Something was missing though...
I feel really lucky to have been close enough to the path of totality to see this event. I feel fluttery and kind of in awe and, dare I say, like a vast Dutch doctor has swooped down and kissed me soundly. Here's hoping his kids like me!

Midnight Sun's Magic feels particularly appropriate since my brother ended up running a little scientific outpost for the eclipse. No broken bones occured in the carrying out of these experiments.

While the moon was covering the sun entirely and the corona was a brilliant gold circle (no heirloom sapphire to set it off), whisps of light were coming off it like chiffon dragonfly wings. And Pledge Four said, "The first star of night!" Venus. Our own midsummer star.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review of The Rose-Garden Husband (1915)

One of the Betties (Betty Amanda, I think?) recommended The Rose-Garden Husband sometime ago and I finally got around to reading it. It was a treasure.

Here is the text of the poem I read from in the video. It's lovely:
HAVE shut my little sister in from life and light 
  (For a rose, for a ribbon, for a wreath across my hair), 
I have made her restless feet still until the night, 
  Locked from sweets of summer and from wild spring air; 
I who ranged the meadowlands, free from sun to sun,         5
  Free to sing and pull the buds and watch the far wings fly, 
I have bound my sister till her playing time was done— 
  Oh, my little sister, was it I? Was it I? 
I have robbed my sister of her day of maidenhood 
  (For a robe, for a feather, for a trinket's restless spark),  10
Shut from love till dusk shall fall, how shall she know good, 
  How shall she go scatheless through the sin-lit dark? 
I who could be innocent, I who could be gay, 
  I who could have love and mirth before the light went by, 
I have put my sister in her mating-time away—  15
  Sister, my young sister, was it I? Was it I? 
I have robbed my sister of the lips against her breast, 
  (For a coin, for the weaving of my children's lace and lawn), 
Feet that pace beside the loom, hands that cannot rest— 
  How can she know motherhood, whose strength is gone?  20
I who took no heed of her, starved and labor-worn, 
  I, against whose placid heart my sleepy gold-heads lie, 
Round my path they cry to me, little souls unborn— 
  God of Life! Creator! It was I! It was I!

*I whiffed the name of the hero. He's Allan Harrington, of course. Not Allan Braithwaite.