A bit of Valentine’s Day lockdown timewasting … strange ways in which couples in books met, most romantic places which couples in books visited, key worker heroes in books (other than doctors, there are strangely few of these), and worst proposals in books. Useless fact of the day – speaking of strange ways to meet, the song by The Hollies, about a couple who meet when they share an umbrella at a bus stop, was inspired by a no 95 bus, which goes within a few yards of my house. Except that it didn’t then: it’s been re-routed since. I know that people needed to know that. As I said, timewasting …
During lockdown, people are finding it difficult to meet potential partners, except online. Five strange ways in which couples in books met:
- Meggie Cleary and Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds. He was her priest. Don’t try this one at home.
- Judy Abbott and Jervis Pendleton in Daddy Long Legs. He funded a college scholarship for a girl from an orphanage. She was the girl. He wanted her to write him letters telling him how she was getting on … but he didn’t tell her that they’d actually met umpteen times and he’d concealed his identity. I used to find this terribly romantic when I was about 9. It now seems a bit weird.
- Henrietta Rawlinson and Adam Swann in God is an Englishman. She’d run away from home and was washing her face in a puddle near Warrington. He gave her a lift on his horse. As you do.
- Madge Bettany and Jem Russell in The School at the Chalet. They were both on a train which caught fire. Madge bravely risked her own safety to help an unpleasant woman escape through a window. Jem was impressed by her pluck. Very feminist, really 🙂 .
5. Florentyna Rosnovski and Richard Kane in The Prodigal Daughter. They met when she was working in a shop of which he was a customer. Seems normal enough … but she was actually hiding her real identity, and it turned out that their dads were sworn enemies. Oh dear.
And, because of the infernal travel restrictions, we can’t go anywhere … five very romantic locations visited by couples in books:
- The Lake District is the most romantic part of the UK … and features in a lot of poems, but not nearly enough books. However, lucky Damaris and Brian in Elsie J Oxenham’s Abbey books don’t just go to Grasmere, but move there to live permanently.
2. Venice is the most romantic city outside the UK, and is where Katy Carr and Ned Worthington in What Katy Did Next get engaged. They aren’t a very exciting couple, and it isn’t a very exciting romance, but the fact that they get engaged in a gondola makes up for a lot.
3. The Italian lakes (I like water, OK) – the setting for The Betrothed, the eponymous couple being Lucia Mondella and Renzo Tramiglia. There’s a lot of plague in this, but never mind. Also visited by Elio Perlman and Oliver (who appears to have no surname) in Call Me By Your Name.
4. Lake Geneva – (more lakes!) – where Amy March and Laurie Laurence get together in Good Wives. There seems to be this idea that Amy betrayed womankind by stealing her sister’s man, but she really didn’t: Jo had turned Laurie down
5.Russia – ignore all the political stuff: Russia is a very romantic country. Yuri Zhivago and Lara Antipova in Dr Zhivago are one of its many well-known fictional couples.
- Five key worker heroes in books not already mentioned:1. Doctor – Gilbert Blythe, in the Anne of Green Gables books.
2. Vet – Guy Charlton in the Lorna Hill Sadlers Wells books. Guy is my hero, OK – I had to mention him somewhere!
3. Farmer-cum-heroic-fetcher-of-food-for-entire-town – Almanzo Wilder in the Little House books.
4. Policeman – there are loads of policemen in books, but, for some reason, most of them are either idiots or else just annoying. The best I could come up with was more of a secret agent than a policeman, but he’ll have to do – Bill Smugs/Cunningham in the Enid Blyton adventure books.
5. Postman/delivery man – this was even worse! I’m struggling to think of any postmen in books, other than Courtney Elliot in the Adrian Mole books, and he’s only a minor character. I suppose it’ll have to be Postman Pat, who does feature in books as well as TV programmes!
And, just because lockdown is not actually very romantic, unless you actually enjoy being stuck in, five really bad proposals:
1. Mr Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice – he tells her that her family are common and vulgar, and that he’s tried to get over his thing for her, but it hasn’t worked, so will she marry him. She says no. They do get together eventually, but he’s got his act together by then.
2. Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind – this is the best book of all time, and the proposal scene is brilliant, but it’s awful as well! Her second husband has just died, and Rhett says that he needs to go away on business so will she please get engaged to him before she goes, as, otherwise, she’ll probably have married someone else by the time he gets back. He does talk her into it.
3. Reg Entwistle to Helena (Len) Maynard in Prefects of the Chalet School – the unheroic Reg, who’s been pestering Len for months, is fished out of a stream by her middle-aged uncle, and put to bed in her parents’ house. She says he looks dreadful. He then says “I take it we’re engaged. Like it, darling?”. She says that, yes, they are, but they mustn’t tell anyone until the end of the school term. It’s grim.
4. St John Rivers to (his cousin) Jane Eyre, in Jane Eyre. He says that he only wants to marry her because he wants someone to go to India with him, to be a missionary trying to convert people. You do wonder how he’d feel if a missionary from India turned up in his Yorkshire parish and tried to convert all his congregation to a different religion. Jane is not keen on the idea of marrying someone she doesn’t love. He tells her that she’s “formed for labour, not for love”. She turns him down. Thank goodness.
5. Bill Thistleton to Anastasia (Tazy) Kingston in The Troubles of Tazy. He says “Are you game to fix up with one of us? [either him or his brother]”. Either one will, presumably, do. I think that this is the worst fictional proposal ever: even St John Rivers didn’t mention his brother (although, to be fair, he didn’t have one). She does actually accept. Him, not his brother.
Lockdown Timewasting over. Thank you to anyone who’s read that. Stay safe xxx.