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animal crackers

One of my greatest acquisitions in London came courtesy of felinitykat and, before her, slemslempike (thanks, slemslempike!), who presented me with a bag of rare literary treasures. And by "rare literary treasures" I mean lots of Sweet Valley University books, including, most brilliantly, the first title in an SVU spin-off mini-series in which Elizabeth Wakefield heads to London and proves herself to be, if I may put it so unkindly, a simpleton. Here is the evidence for my cruel assertion.

1. Elizabeth heads off to London from Illinois after a fight with Jessica, who has apparently seduced Elizabeth's new boyfriend Sam, to whom Elizabeth had been planning to lose her virginity (!!! I know! And just think, after three years with Todd she was still getting freaked out when he unbuttoned the top button on her simple yet elegant aqua cotton blouse. Thank God he never tried going near her sensible, classy Chinos). Of course, it's not really as it seems - Jessica knew that Sam was a really lecherous sleaze, and was only snogging him in front of Elizabeth to prove how unfaithful he was, but understandably enough, Elizabeth is not impressed. Okay, so this part doesn't prove her to be particularly stupid. Don't worry, there's more than enough evidence to come.

2. Elizabeth heads to O'Hare in Chicago and spends what seems like half the book crying boringly in various parts of the airport. She suddenly remembers that she was accepted at the University of London for a year long programme, and on a whim decides to cross the Atlantic, despite the fact that there are three months to go until the start of what her acceptance letter from an English university apparently calls the "Fall semester". While in the airport she meets an English student and realises FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, that oh my God, English people don't speak exactly the same way as Americans ("She was fascinated by the way he spoke. What was a 'bloke' anyway?"). Lest we forget, Elizabeth is supposed to be a devotee of English literature and has, we are told repeatedly, been dreaming of visiting England all her life. Oh, and apparently we are meant to forget her time there during the SVH days, when she was working as an intern on a London paper and was pursued by a werewolf, in what is possibly the funniest SVH mini-series ever. Sadly there are no werewolves in University, Interrupted.

3. This isn't proof of Elizabeth's idocy, but it has to be mentioned. Nigel says things like "being a Brit, I'm a tea drinker of course" but since visiting America he has learned to love coffee (there is no coffee in England, apparently). He also talks about cucumber sandwiches. At length. Ooh-er.

4. Elizabeth doesn't know what a youth hostel is. Seriously. Someone tells her she's staying in a youth hostel and Elizabeth asks what it is. I've never heard the like.

5. When she arrives in London, she tries to pay for her tube ticket with dollars.

6. She meets a "punk" and asks him if he knows where she could find an internet café. He has never heard of the internet. Oh, those backward Europeans!

7. She is amazed that, because she never replied to her acceptance letter, there is actually no place for her at the University of London (which, I might add, apparently is situated in a castle bedecked with ivy covered gothic towers - just like most British buildings, of course).

8. She has no money, because she's maxed out her credit card on a last minute flight to London, and so, at the very end of the book, manages to get a job in a "stately home" situated in rolling parkland in Hampstead - as a scullery maid! And the big house contains a kitchen apparently out of the 19th or possibly 17th century, as for no discernable reason it features a large "roaring fire" (not a range, I might add. A roaring open fire. I'm surprised there wasn't a pig turning over it on a spit). Sadly, that is where the book ends. I will not rest until I get my paws on the following books in the series, and look forward to seeing Elizabeth Wakefield in the role of Ruby from Upstairs Downstairs.

Of course, there is more to life than Sweet Valley. There is also lurgy. I think I am coming down with something, as I feel very ropy. I just hope it's not the same lurgy that kept half of my office out of work last week. I can, however, cheer myself up by gazing at cuteness. Fittingly for someone who lists "being twee" (it's situated on the list in between "being self righteous" and "bertolt brecht", which kind of sums up my personality, unfortunately) as an interest in her LJ profile, this is my new favourite photo. Who can resist the pathetic charm of "orphaned badger triplets"? I think they are the cutest things I've ever seen (although some, like David "Badger's Bane" Archer, would disagree) and tweely sent the link to various chums this afternoon.

By the way, speaking of odd animals, one of the things I missed when I first moved out of my familial abode was not having people to whom one could automatically say "there's you" in a deadpan voice whenever something ridiculous came on the telly. It wouldn't quite work with my friends, whereas in the C**** family, every nature documentary was practically a competition to see who could get in first as soon as a collection of freaky animals came on screen. When my two younger sisters visited the zoo in DC a couple of years ago, they actually had to make a pact ensuring that they could each only say "there's you and your mates" once during the entire zoo visit, so they had to save it up until they encountered the perfect animal. Anyway, this is a long way of saying that Patsington and I have reached such a state of domestic bliss that we do it all the time. In fact, the pupil has become the master, as when Patsington saw this photo he simply said, without missing a beat, "wow, someone managed to depict the various facets of your personality in pictorial form" and strolled off. We are soul mates.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
And don't forget that Elizabeth's story affects the space-time continuum, because she comes off the Tube (which is comfortable! and you can put your head back on the seats! as though you'd want to) at 1030, walks for 15 minutes, is told that the street she wants is 30 minutes away, walks there, and arrives at 11am</a>.
Mar. 12th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
Ha! I forgot about that. Also about the luxuriousness of the Tube, something that has always eluded me on my various London visits.
Mar. 12th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
I love the part where Elizabeth says which university she'll be staying at, and her interlocutor tells her what the halls will be like.

Also the part where she arrives way too early (before they discover there's no place for her), and the housing office don't bat an eyelid, and say that of course they'll find a place for her!

I have to find the next ones in the series. If I do I will pass them on.
Mar. 12th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
I will try and find them too, and will pass them on likewise! Seriously, this was almost more unrealistic than the werewolf one.
Mar. 12th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC)
How has ELIZABETH heard of the internet? How long has it been since they were in high school??

And I have not forgotten my promise to send you The Wakefields of Sweet Valley. The post office is HARD sometimes.

Mar. 13th, 2007 09:15 am (UTC)
Hee! I await it with baited breath. Although seriously, of course, there's no hurry. It will always be welcome! And a recap will, of course, follow...
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Mar. 13th, 2007 09:19 am (UTC)
Heh, everyone needs a bit more Sweet Valley in her life. Although worryingly enough, they're harder to find these days than they used to be. You used to be able to rely on finding a few in every charity shop, but those days are gone. The new mega-Chapters still has quite a few, though.

And I think the pact was a very sensible idea - otherwise they'd have been saying "there's you" pretty much constantly. Busta said it really made her consider what animal would be most (a) accurate and (b) amusingly insulting...

The pre-lurgy still seems to be pre, although God knows how I'll feel once I'm in work. Our office is currently very stuffy which would make me feel sick even if I weren't teetering on the edge of lurgy-ness...
Mar. 13th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC)
Hahahaha!! Your SVU recap was brilliant. I remember reading the Sweet Valley High series in middle school. I loved the one where Jessica dates that way too old!guy with a mustache and he gets too frisky with her in the beach house. "Those muscles she had admired on the beach looked knotted and menacing to her now." Tell me that's not outstanding prose.

And just think, after three years with Todd she was still getting freaked out when he unbuttoned the top button on her simple yet elegant aqua cotton blouse.

Yeah...Todd always struck me as gay.
Mar. 13th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
lol! I've never read any Sweet Valley books, but you've really made me want to!
Mar. 13th, 2007 05:36 am (UTC)
Were these fan fic?
Mar. 13th, 2007 09:20 am (UTC)
Ha! No, awesomely enough, they are indeed the real thing.

You know, I genuinely regret the fact that now that the series is over, I will never have the chance to be a Sweet Valley writer. It seriously would be my dream job...
Mar. 13th, 2007 09:40 am (UTC)
I think I'm a little upset that I didn't nab that from the BookSwap first now!

As I look out of my Hampstead office window I am now contemplating going to search for this stately home and meeting Elizabeth in person. It shouldn't be too hard; one often sees scullery maids bedecked in caps and aprons swapping stories in Maison Blanc and Paul, I'm sure one of them will have heard of her. I am also sad to realise that after 10 years at the University of London I never once attended a lecture in a castle, let alone an ivy-covered gothic tower. Methinks I missed out.

And I love that you and Patsington are soulmates. So cute.
Mar. 13th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
Hee, but soulmates who compare each other to freakish baby orangutans. That's not good!

I'm glad to hear you'll be on the lookout for Elizabeth. Although I fear you're being a bit optimisti, for as Hampstead is of course full of country houses surrounded by huge woodland grounds, each staffed with dozens of scullerymaids, you may not be able to find her in the mob-capped throng.

And you were obviously attending the wrong part of the University of London! Or perhaps you merely missed out on the "fall semester"?
Mar. 13th, 2007 10:26 am (UTC)
Mar. 13th, 2007 10:36 am (UTC)
*graciously, as befits someone who has recently visited regal olde England* You may borrow it. Are you coming to be fed by our mother on Mothering Sunday (somehow I think that should be the other way round - maybe we can take her to Jade again?)?
Mar. 13th, 2007 10:58 am (UTC)

Tragically, I shall be en route to Switzerland for a conference on Saturday (muttermuttereatingupmySt.Patrick'sweekendmuttermutter). My employers are obsessed with sending me up Alps.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 13th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
That TV episode (which I've never seen, alas) was based on one of the greatest/funniest of the books!
Mar. 13th, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
Oh my god. I spent the whole time reading University, Interrupted in fits of giggles and you have just brought it all rushing back. I am now mildly hysterical. If you ever do find the second half please PLEASE let me borrow it.

Feel better soon!
Mar. 13th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I actually feel better already!

And thanks again for sharing the joy of these mighty tomes. I just discovered that there are FIVE more books about Elizabeth in London! And I bet I won't be able to find them all! Oh noes!
Mar. 13th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
Sweet Valley UNIVERSITY?!? I didn't know such a thing existed! Ye gods! Sweet Valley High was old when I was reading it, and that was when I was in middle school, in the late 80's! How old are the Wakefield twins now, anyway? 35? 40?

To be fair, I live in Chicago, and I only know of two hostels in the whole city, and neither of them are billed as a "youth hostel". (One is a "family hostel" and the other is an "international hostel".) The only hostel I've ever stayed in within the U.S. was in Milwaukee, and I'm pretty sure it was the only one in that city. They're just not part of American culture the way they are in Europe and elsewhere. Here, you find the cheapest motel room possible, and share it with three friends. So, an American college student honestly might not know what a hostel is. I used to think it was something really exotic and exciting until I found out it was just another another word for "crappy motel you share with lots of strangers".

Mar. 13th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I just need to check: is "That's you" said in a History Today voice, or does it pre-date History Today?

Also, can I possibly borrow lotsanlots of Sweet Valley Highs the day I hand in my thesis? That was how I celebrated the end of my MA, and it seems like a tradition worth keeping up.
Mar. 13th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
Of course you may! Sweet Valley books for all!

And it predated History Today, although of course we were delighted when History Today appeared, because it seemed to validate our cruel yet funny sister-taunting.
Mar. 14th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
In my head, the C**** sisters are straight out of a Marian Keyes book. Some of the names even match!
Mar. 22nd, 2007 03:01 am (UTC)
Hello there! I am commenting to let you know that I friended you. I love these recaps too much to risk missing more.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


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