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 Post subject: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 00:02 
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This week’s discussion thread is on Excitements at the Chalet School, first published in 1957 and covering the Easter term following New Mistress. This is another book I lack in HB/GGB, so I’ll be doing this summary from the Armada edition, which according to the NCC website has minor frequent cuts. If I’ve missed anything important, please raise it in the comments. This term, Inter V remain the focus form, while Jo makes the realisation that the school will be celebrating its twenty first birthday next term, and the school sets to work to plan the celebrations. Notable events:

A week into the Easter term, Blossom Willoughby holds forth to the other prefects about Inter V, whom she has had for a games lesson. Margot and Emerence had substituted the beans in the bean bags for emery powder to get back at Va, not knowing that they would be using the bags themselves due to the weather keeping them indoors. The prefects discuss how the form is an oddity and is not united, with the wildly varying ages and differences in maturity.
Various members of Inter V, led by Francie Wilford, hold an illicit meeting in the Splashery to discuss Virginia Adams, the member of Va that had inspired the prank with the bean bags. Virginia had come into their form room to tell them off for making too much noise, and Heather had cheeked her. Nan Herbert had then arrived and settled the scene, but the dissatisfied Virginia had reported the matter to Miss Ferrars anyway, although it got her nowhere. Inter V discuss the matter, indignant that someone who isn’t even a sub prefect should pull them up, but before they can decide on action, Len Maynard arrives to warn them that Matron is coming to do a locker raid, and they are forced to scatter.
The next day the snow stops and hardens enough for skiing and tobogganing. Mary-Lou spots Emerence getting ready for skiing instead of tobogganing which she had always loved, and demands to know why. Emerence says she knows why, and Mary-Lou orders her not to be so silly and to go and get her sled. Emerence continues to refuse until Miss Ferrars, who has heard all about the accident, comes up and tells her she has heard what a wonderful sled she has and wants a go on it. Emerence reluctantly swaps her skis for her sled, and once she is on the first run down the hill, loses her reluctance and enjoys it after all.
Meanwhile, Francie, on her own sled, spots Virginia also on a sled and wonders if she can bump her on the way down. Mary-Lou, however, spots Francie’s expression, sees Virginia nearby, and guesses what’s going on. She asks if she can come with Francie instead, much to her annoyance. As it happens, Virginia ends up being tossed out of her sled anyway purely by accident when she bumps into a school sled full of Juniors. Francie, satisfied that Virginia will sing small from now on after having made a fool of herself, decides to let things go after that.
Jo invites the school’s ‘old stagers’ Miss Annersley, Miss Wilson, Mlle de Lachenais and Frau Mieders over for English tea one Sunday. When Miss Annersley queries why she didn’t ask Matey as well, Jo says that she did but Matey declined, wanting a quiet day to herself. Miss Annersley then admits she wishes Matey hadn’t cried off, as bad news came on the Friday to the effect that her sister is undergoing a kill or cure operation the next day, and if she dies Matey will have no family left except her sister’s husband and children.
Jo informs the staff that the next term will mark the school’s twenty first birthday, and that they will have to do something big to celebrate it. It has already been decided that the Sale should be moved to the summer term, and Jo demands that the Margot Venables prize be awarded as well, with Mary-Lou for one as someone who deserves it.
The Heads gather the school together and inform them of the approaching Coming of Age, and invite the school at large to submit suggestions to add to the arrangements already in place for next term, which include the Sale, the Margot Venables prize and an Old Girls’ reunion.
At Hobbies that evening, Inter V discuss ideas for the Coming of Age. Heather Clayton wants them to do something that will make them stand out as a form, especially as they have come in for some snootiness from the higher Senior forms, especially Va. Rosamund suggests that, as they are to get a new piece of garden, they go all out for that, and the form agrees it is a good idea.
Yseult then suggests they give two or three one-act plays, perhaps with one written by themselves, at which Betty Landon suggests Con. Yseult pours scorn on the idea of doing anything written by Con, getting herself into an argument with Francie in the process. Len then announces that she has the beginnings of an idea, though she refuses to elaborate. Miss Ferrars comes in to help them clear away, and they tell her about the play idea. She agrees it is a good idea and that Con should try and write it, and is incredulous at Yseult’s own ambitious suggestion of Yeats’ The Land of Heart’s Desire.
Matron’s sister has her operation, but never recovers consciousness and dies several days later. Miss Annersley rings up Jo and asks for Jack, saying that she wants Matey to go to Freudesheim for a complete rest to recover from the worry of the operation and then the final shock. Jack goes over to the school and, after some argument from Matey, brings her over. She stays for a week, and Jack tells Jo that they should all start calling her Gwynneth, as one of the last things she said to him before giving up arguing was that there was almost no one left to call her by her name now.
The evening that Matey returns to school, the Staff gather together to review the Coming of Age suggestions that have been submitted. They approve of several, such as a cake big enough for everyone to have a piece, photographs, and albums with photos and career details of Old Girls. Then they come to a suggestion that they begin collecting subscriptions to have their own chapels, which was Len’s idea, and is met with wholehearted approval. The mistresses all vow to give money towards it, and Matron intends to give a window in memory of her sister, while Miss Annersley intends to give one in memory of those girls called to Higher Service.
The next morning Miss Dene types up the list of accepted suggestions and pins it up in Hall, where Nina Rutherford, coming in to practise on the piano there, spots it and spreads it around the school before the mistresses realise. Virginia, who had suggested a naturalist club, and Yseult, who had suggested changing the uniform, are disappointed that their own suggestions were not accepted.
After skiing and tobogganing that afternoon, Charmian Spence, feeling revved up from all the excitement that day, decides to play a prank during plain sewing with Mlle. She makes her hands dirty and is sent to the Splashery, and while there she sneaks over to the mains switch and turns all the power off, causing chaos all over the school, especially in Inter V. Miss Ferrars, who comes along with a torch, spots Charmian’s saintly expression when the lights come back on and immediately guesses that she is the culprit. She tells Mlle, who orders Charmian to pick up everyone’s work and put it away, then after Kaffee she marches her off to Miss Annersley to explain what she did, and to ask to apologise to the whole school and kitchen staff at Prayers that evening.
The Föhn arrives and sets everyone on edge for several days, from the girls right up to Miss Annersley. Kathie Ferrars wakes up at five o’clock on the Friday and discovers that it has finally gone, and decides to make some tea as it has gone very cold. Biddy O’Ryan joins her, and offers to fetch some milk from the kitchen as Kathie has everything else at hand. When she reaches the kitchen, however, she opens the cupboard for the milk and a tin of polish which Karen had put there falls on top of her, coating her in it. Karen herself, hearing someone moving about, comes down and pounces on her, failing to recognise her through all the powder. The din rouses half the school, and Kathie, Miss Annersley and some of the maids arrive in the kitchen. The Head demands an explanation, and sends Biddy off to Matron to be cleaned up when she learns that it is polish she has been coated in. Matron resorts to using a vacuum cleaner to get the powder out of Biddy’s hair.
The day of St Mildred’s pantomime arrives (Aladdin), and Mr Denny falls ill with pneumonia, forcing Nina to step in as conductor. After a disastrous dress rehearsal, she runs into Mary-Lou, who bucks her up and then goes on to meet Vi Lucy, who is leader of the orchestra and just as gloomy. Mary-Lou consoles her too, and also adds that Amy Dunne is leaving at the end of term as her sister is getting married in June, which will leave a prefect opening. Vi, who lost out to Hilary for a sub-prefect spot that year on age alone, is buoyed at the prospect of being promoted.
The school heads over to St Luke’s Hall for the pantomime, and Vi’s newfound cheerfulness rubs off on the orchestra and Nina, and they swing into the overture with no problems. Halfway through the pantomime, however, a small fire breaks out underneath the stage, causing a panic in the audience. Nina orders the orchestra to keep playing to try and restore some calm, and succeeds, although once everyone is calm again she faints.
The girls are all deeply impressed by Nina’s actions, and Nan Herbert is moved to suggest that they establish a medal specifically for bravery, and which could be awarded retrospectively as well, so that people like Jo Scott and Prunella Davidson qualify. The prefects all agree with the idea. Then Sybil Russell comes in with the news that, on her way over to Freudesheim with a note, she spotted none other than Miss Bubb, much to the astonishment of those prefects who remember her last tenure at the school.
Jo comes over to the staffroom that evening, having also spotted Miss Bubb, only to be beaten at spreading the news by Miss Wilson, who has also seen her. Jo also confirms that Madge has approved the chapels idea and that the Russells and Bettanys will be sending cheques to that effect. Jo herself intends to donate her latest publishing cheque, and Jack will double it.
Miss Annersley sends for Len and tells her that the chapels idea has been approved. She also tells Len to stop using the word ‘marvellous’ so much. Len rejoins her friends and informs them of both edicts, and Con volunteers to look up unusual words in the dictionary to use in place of ‘marvellous’. They also decide to make a huge effort to avoid fines, and put the money they would usually have spend on them into the chapels fund instead.
At Prayers the next day, Miss Annersley announces the chapels idea to the school at large, and ordains that boxes for collections will be placed in each form, and every week a list will be pinned up showing which form has collected the most. She also announces that the medals idea has been approved, and that Jo, Prunella, Mary-Lou and Hilary are all to be awarded one.
Due to all the celebrations next term, there is no half-term weekend, only day trips. Inter V go to Solothurn with Miss Ferrars and Miss Wilmot, and get a shock when they reach the armoury and spot a peculiar suit of armour which, when the visor is lifted, squirts people with water. Len, Yseult and Caroline Sanders are all caught out, although Yseult sulks while Len and Caroline simply laugh. The girls also begin to use the new adjectives they have swotted up on all week in place of ‘marvellous’, much to the astonishment of the two mistresses.
Miss Bubb comes to see Miss Annersley, and asks if she could do some part time teaching at the school. She explains that the partnership she had gone into after leaving the CS was dissolved, and she has come out to Switzerland following a serious illness the previous autumn, but is now very hard up and needs work in order to stay on in the mountain air which is helping her. Miss Annersley tells her that she will have to talk it over with Miss Wilson.
That evening, Miss Annersley summons Miss Wilson, Jo, Matron, the two Mlles, Miss Denny, Frau Mieders and Miss Dene, and puts Miss Bubb’s request to them. With great reluctance, they agree that she can help out with the Latin and Greek, on the condition that she doesn’t live at the school.
Miss Annersley announces to the school that at the end of term they will be starting a new tradition: Spot Supper, an idea brought by Miss Ferrars from her old school. The supper is paid for by fines for spilling on the tablecloths during the term, and new girls and mistresses make a speech.
Inter V go on a ramble to St Lorenz, and pass a chalet with a goat and two kids outside. Yseult goes to pick up one of the kids, and the goat flies into a rage and pulls the stake she is tethered to out of the ground as she chases Yseult, who ends up in a thorn bush. She sees the funny side and laughs over it, breaking the ice with the rest of her form at last.
The school winds up the term with its first Spot Supper, finishing up with some singing and reflections from the prefects on the term. Mary-Lou tells the others that her mother has been given a clean bill of health at last and they are all returning to Carn Beg for the holidays.

So, thoughts on Excitements? What do you think of the various ideas for the Coming of Age celebrations? What about the Matey storyline? The St Mildred’s pantomime and the fire? Miss Bubb’s reappearance? The trip to Solothurn?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 01:09 
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To my mind this is the most misnamed of the books. It's not at all exciting (certainly no more exciting than other CS books) and feels very much as though EBD was working up to an anniversary book but had to "get this year's book in" even although she wasn't really interested in it.

I tend not to take as much exception to the Chapels subplot as some people because Len & Co were the right age to be going through a very religious stage and so may genuinely have found the idea exciting. But, it's a very simple proposal - why did it need to be "worked out to its present form" by 8 people? Why wasn't it just submitted by the Triplets? The whole thing does go on rather.

I read this first in Armada and the cuts do change the Miss Bubb storyline. I think it comes over better in the uncut versions but it still feels like a piece of padding rather than anything else

Overall, the book seems like a lot of odds-and-ends - perhaps using up ideas - but it doesn't work as well as Exploits which is also episodic. Since it's set up as a connected to the next story (Coming of Age) it's a pity that there was a failure to carry-through the story lines set out (ie Joey going to the Tyrol with the Triplets)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 01:57 
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I find this one a pleasant slice of life book, but not particularly remarkable.

Things I like:

The Matey subplot is well done. It gives a bit of personality to what had been a one note character, and I like the way that Joey and Jack help her out. The list of suggestions is amusing. Nina's character growth is well done - she actually gets distracted from her practice for long enough to gossip about the coming of age celebrations, and she does a good job of stepping in to conduct, and keeping her head during the fire. Yseult and the goat is entertaining.

Things I don't like:

Poor Miss Bubb. I know she was a pretty terrible temporary Head, but she loses her job, her money, her friends, is forced to beg the Chalet School for work so she doesn't starve, and later manages to die of a combination of starvation, heart disease *and* T.B.. Lesson learned - don't cross the Chalet School. The Chapels subplot seems way overdone. Why not just say "How about collecting subscriptions for a school chapel?" instead of a long convoluted affair that highlights that this was a Maynard idea? And I do feel sorry for Yseult. She makes a suggestion for a play, and while they like the idea, Yseult is immediately excluded from it, and the writing handed over to one of the youngest girls in the form, and Miss Ferrars is openly scornful of Yseult's ideas.

Things that don't make sense:

Why wasn't Vi made a Prefect with the others? (She does seem to be a prefect in New Mistress, though). The number of prefects varies from year to year, so you if you have four girls who are equally qualified, just make all four prefects, rather than excluding one of the group and doing it by age.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 03:36 
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Quote:
The Chapels subplot seems way overdone. Why not just say "How about collecting subscriptions for a school chapel?" instead of a long convoluted affair that highlights that this was a Maynard idea?


yeah, I was always amused by the fact it took so many of them to formulate one sentence.

And Miss Annersley's window dedicated to girls called to "higher service." For years I thought she meant girls who had entered the church to serve God because that is "higher service."

I utterly detest the euphemisms EBD uses - just say "died". They DIED!! She is talking to a roomful of adults and thinks they can't handle the word died.

Quote:
And I do feel sorry for Yseult. She makes a suggestion for a play, and while they like the idea, Yseult is immediately excluded from it, and the writing handed over to one of the youngest girls in the form, and Miss Ferrars is openly scornful of Yseult's ideas.


That is very realistic though - the popular girls always take over no matter where the original idea comes from.

I actually like this book because of the various 'episodes' that occur in it are interesting and I like the way it covers a spectrum of forms and people.

But I agree it's not very exciting! But "Hum drum at the Chalet School" does not have the same ring to it :D

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 07:46 
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The blurb on the back cover says something about "Inter V come up with the most exciting idea of all" - and it's raising money for school chapels. What a let-down :lol:. I appreciate that religion was a big thing at the Chalet School, but would all the girls really have been so thrilled about donating their pocket money to build chapels? I dislike the way it's done, as well - they put up lists to show which form's donated the most, which seems like a way of guilt-tripping people into giving more. Fair enough if they were raising money by bob-a-job type things, but not when it's their own money. And they get a lecture on how they're expected to spend money at the Sale as well, but they aren't allowed to ask for extra pocket money, even for the trips to Tyrol. Giving to charity is obviously important, but I think the chapel fundraising goes overboard: it all seems rather forced. I could cheer when Miss Moore says that, actually, she can't afford to donate 10% of her salary to a school buildings project.

Whilst I'm having a moan :lol:, I think Miss Annersley was very rude to Karen. She had a go at her in front of all the junior maids. Biddy should have been more careful when she was prancing about in the kitchen in the dark. And why was Hilda telling Karen what sort of oven blacking to use? How many ovens had Hilda ever cleaned?! And why did Amy Dunne have to be dragged out of school because her sister was getting married and their selfish mum couldn't cope without a daughter at home? Poor Phyllis Dunne, being made to feel that her wedding was traumatising her mum so much that she had to be rushed off on a cruise to recover from the upset!

OK, moan over. I think the storyline about Matey is the best part of this book. It's a reminder that the staff do have lives outside the school, but also a reminder of how people can be very lonely without anyone else realising. It's very touching when she says that there's no-one to call her Gwynneth any more. I like seeing Nina get to be a heroine, as well.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 10:35 
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I could see the girls getting excited about building their *own* chapels - there's not a lot of excitement on the Platz, after all.

When it comes down to it, though, donating to the chapels isn't actually charity, because it's something that the school is going to use themselves, and charity is something you do for other people. So pushing the current staff and students to cough up for it is questionable, particularly as they're not really in a position to say no without, at a minimum, looking bad. (Shaking down *former* students, though, is a time-honoured tradition).

I did a quick check, and they come up with the idea in this book, and dedicate the chapels in Ruey, which is four terms later. So just over a year to conduct a fundraising campaign (by mail), get contractors, complete building and equip everything, for two chapels each of which fit 250 people. I've been involved in projects for a simple church extension or renovation, funded by donations, and they took *years* before construction even started.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 15:58 
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jennifer wrote:
Poor Miss Bubb. I know she was a pretty terrible temporary Head, but she loses her job, her money, her friends, is forced to beg the Chalet School for work so she doesn't starve, and later manages to die of a combination of starvation, heart disease *and* T.B.


I know she collapses during a Sale and the outlook is grim, but does she die during the series?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 16:55 
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ISTR that it's expressed as 'Miss Bubb's life was slipping away' in one of the later books.

But then she'd already been 'dismissed the series' once, as it were, by her author: "They never heard any more of her." I wonder what made EMBD bring her back?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 22:23 
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The Coming of Age riles me a bit because it was not celebrated at the time of the school's 21st birthday but at the time of its 22nd.

Joey was 12 when the school started. She had her 13th birthday six or seven months later.

The triplets had celebrated their 13th birthdays in New Mistress. Joey was 21 the month they were born. Therefore at the time of the Coming of Age term Joey was actually 34 - 22 years older than she had been when the school started.

I suppose though it was much more convenient for EBD to celebrate when she did. The year before Joey had just given birth to Cecil and it was also the term of Problem nor was M-L a prefect. Presume Sybil had been a prefect the year before?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 22:34 
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Noreen wrote:
ISTR that it's expressed as 'Miss Bubb's life was slipping away' in one of the later books.


It's in Reunion when Grizel is recuperating in the San.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 23:34 
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Thank you, tartan-belle - duly noted!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Oct 2017, 07:35 
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As far as the timing goes, Sybil was in the VIth form at this time, so she must have been 18 at the time of the Coming of Age, making David 20. So, unless EBD was trying to suggest that Madge and Jem had been up to no good before they were married :shock: :lol:, the school must have been going for at least 23 years by then!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Oct 2017, 07:48 
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Alison H wrote:
I could cheer when Miss Moore says that, actually, she can't afford to donate 10% of her salary to a school buildings project


It does read a bit like peer pressure - would you really have the nerve to say "Shouldn't the CS Trust pay for something like that?" . I wonder if anyone sat there twiddling their thumbs and looking the other way.

Quote:
And why was Hilda telling Karen what sort of oven blacking to use? How many ovens had Hilda ever cleaned?!


I really wanted Karen to turn round and say that exact thing to her! Or to threaten to run the school while Miss Annersley cleans the oven.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Excitements at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Oct 2017, 14:26 
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I've tried adding up the years passed in the series, to get the age of the school (as the ages of the people tend to be wildly EBD'd).

The main uncertainties are the gap between New CS and Exile, and the gap between Rosalie and Three Go. The first gap is either one term or four; it's most likely four based on Joey and Robin going to India in the gap. The second one is less certain, but is probably two or three years, based on the average change in people's ages. If we take the lower two values, the school would be twenty-one in Excitements. If we take the more likely two values, the school would be twenty-two or twenty-three.

By ages, if we take the babies that were born before those uncertain gaps, if the school is 21, Natalie Mensch should be 17, David Russell 18, Sybil 16, Maeve 15, and Peggy and Rix 19. But their ages are about 21, 20, 18, 16 and 21, respectively. :shock:

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