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 Post subject: Biddy
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2017, 15:19 
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There's been a lot about Biddy in the Excitements thread, I hope it's OK if I start a new one specifically about her.
My reason is that I've always taken Biddy in the way EBD wrote her, which I've come to realise is not how most readers on here see her. The runaway story of her origins wasn't an uncommon sort of story in books of the period - of course nowadays it couln't happen, but adoption wasn't regulated in anything like the same way then. I love the fact that the school looked after this little waif, loved her and cared for her, and continued doing so as she grew. We never see her as anything but grateful for her life, and I think it's entirely appropriate that she should give a big donation for the chapels.
Apart from her conversation with Miss Slater, I can't see any reason why she is viewed as she is - what do others think? Am I just an uncritical reader?
But I do wonder what she did in the missing year when the school was closed.....


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2017, 16:41 
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In the main I do like Biddy - especially when she helps out Lavender when she's in Coventry and tells the others they're on the verge of bullying. She does come across as a bit too sure of herself in Carola for a new young mistress, but otherwise I don't have a problem with her. As a mistress she stands out a bit from the likes of Miss Moore, Miss Derwent etc. who all seem a bit interchangeable personality-wise. And it's perfectly natural to me that she'd make a big donation towards the chapels, as a thank you for the school seeing her all right all those years.

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2017, 17:30 
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I like Biddy. She overcomes a tragic start in life to go to Oxford, go off and have adventures in Australia and then have a successful career (teaching history, which is my subject :D ) before marrying a doctor and having children. She's also the first CS mistress, except in wartime, to continue teaching after her marriage.

The idea of her being adopted by the Guides is, like the idea of there being a Ruritanian princess at the school, something that was never going to work for more than a few terms, but I like the fact that EBD kept the character. She could easily have said that a relative from Ireland had turned up and taken her to live with them, or that the step-aunt in Italy had had an improvement in fortunes and decided to take her after all.

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2017, 17:44 
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With the exception of a bit of stagey Oirish, Biddy was one of the few Irish characters in children's books of the time who wasn't deliberately characterised as "less than" in class, intelligence and behaviour. So I liked her. Representation matters...


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2017, 21:16 
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I like Biddy overall. She, Alixe von Elsen, Elizabeth A. and Betty W-D make a good crowd of Middles in the last years in the Tyrol, each with a strong and distinctive personality. And she plays a role as a continuing strong presence among the Middles in the second half of Exile and Goes To It - EBD needed characters we already knew to see the school through the transitional period.

I do find her a bit bumptious and over-confident when she returns to the school as a mistress, but in the early Swiss years she does come across as an attractive character, especially when we see her through Kathie's eyes when Kathie first meets her. And she's capable of squashing Mary Lou when necessary.

It's a pity that she, like Hilary Burn, becomes notable only for popping out babies. It would have been nice to see these energetic, capable women doing something more - running a Guide company, or something. Perhaps they would when their children were older.

I'm rather uncomfortable with the idea that Biddy should feel she owes the school. The school essentially adopted Biddy when she was too young to have any say in the matter, and thenceforward, having taken on the role of an adoptive parent, did what good parents do, in providing for her education in accordance with her abilities and the funds available. I don't think it's right that Biddy should be burdened with a sense of obligation, beyond what any child should feel for its parents, natural or adoptive.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2017, 22:56 
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I am not overkeen on Biddy.

I know she had a rough start and it is terrible for anyone to lose their parents but the school was very good to her and she was born with brains and also made the most of her opportunities.

She did nothing for me as a pupil or mistress though. As pupil I did not take too much heed of her as she was a bit too full of fey and whimsy to be taken seriously.

As a mistress she was very, very confident. I loathed the way she had a go at Miss Slater when Miss Slater was going to leave the school. Biddy had barely been on the staff a year and she seemed to have no understanding about Miss Slater's positon as regards languages just because she - Biddy - was good at them.

In the Swiss books we get quite a bit of her around Genius as the mistress in charge of the current excursion. After reading about four books of this Biddy's distintictive personality was too much although that was as much my fault.

I don't like the pressure put on the staff to contribute towards the chapels. I also don't like the way the girls were discouraged from spending money on excursions so they could spend it in the sale. None of the school's business.

I did like Biddy after she left the staff. She was kind to Grizel in Reunion and to one of the new girls.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 30 Oct 2017, 21:13 
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I've always loved Biddy, quite one of my favourite characters, along with Hilda, Nell and Mary-Lou. :twisted:

And I don't subscribe to the view that members of staff were coerced into coughing up for chapels or windows, etc. If you become paranoid every time someone offers to do something, feeling you should be doing the same, then you would constantly be riddled with feelings of guilt.

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 31 Oct 2017, 01:07 
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I agree with you on the other three, Mary. ML is my favourite character but Biddy...? Hope you are doing okay.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 03 Nov 2017, 13:34 
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As an Irish person, I find Biddy's accent and turn of phrase absolutely excruciating. So stagey. Also, given that she only lived in Ireland for a few years and grew up on the continent and in Wales in a British boarding school, how on earth would she have held on to any sort of an Irish accent into adulthood.

Otherwise, I like Biddy the school girl. She's feisty, outspoken, and dramatic in a humorous way. But as an adult she does come across as a bit annoying at times.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 04 Nov 2017, 10:25 
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Biddy's Irish accent. What surprises me is that she has more than a mild one. Her mother was a lady's maid, so her accent would likely be moderated. not least because she learns so much from the lady she serves. (as frequently mentioned.) Her stepfather is Italian, so most of her language and accent will be different to others.
Even if, as I suspect, Biddy's Irish-ness is a cultivated accent to 'fit in' with other children she grew up with, at home she (as mother would say) would 'speak properly'.
I think it is probably the 'fit in' accent that would be the one that she clung to when she lost everything else in her life.

Biddy also, to my mind, is the perfect Chalet school girl / Joey-alike.
She triumphs over a poor start.
She's cared for by a sister(hood)
Attends the 'sister's' school
Teaches history
meets a Dr, who rushes to help
Marries, said Dr
Lives near the school
Has daughters who the go to the school

Was EBD perhaps intending that Biddy would take over Joey's influence in the series,and move Jo to England, but Joey's character wasn't having that?


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 05 Nov 2017, 23:42 
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That may be so but she is certainly not my perfect CS girl. That is Mary Lou. :)

I wondered if early on in the England CS books EBD tries to make Hilary Burn a substitute Jo. Someone actually mentions in one of the books how like Jo Hilary is and in a couple of the books of that tine Hilary is strangely mentioned as being the first pupil of the CS. Presume EBD meant of the united CS although still strange.

Edited to add.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 18 Nov 2017, 01:17 
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Vintagejazz wrote:
As an Irish person, I find Biddy's accent and turn of phrase absolutely excruciating. So stagey. Also, given that she only lived in Ireland for a few years and grew up on the continent and in Wales in a British boarding school, how on earth would she have held on to any sort of an Irish accent into adulthood.

Otherwise, I like Biddy the school girl. She's feisty, outspoken, and dramatic in a humorous way. But as an adult she does come across as a bit annoying at times.


That's something I've always wondered about too. As a 9 year old with a marked Geordie accent, when we moved to London, I was forever being ribbed about it in my new school. I did my best to hold onto it (I was never one to run with the crowd), even so, by the time I moved back to the northeast in my late 20s, there was only the faintest trace of it left.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 18 Nov 2017, 08:56 
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My great-aunt (by marriage) moved to England to marry my great-uncle about 60 years ago, and still speaks broad Glaswegian :D .

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 18 Nov 2017, 12:17 
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I was always surprised and frankly sceptical at Biddy's 'stage Oirish' accent and its persistence, though, partly for the reasons scrabble mentions above - and in fact I seem to remember that there is no actual evidence that Biddy ever set foot in Ireland. Her father was a soldier in the British army, so she could have been born and grown up wherever he was serving.

Moreover, as a talented (probably natural) linguist she would normally be a good mimic of pronounced sounds. Surely no-one at the CS would have tolerated her speaking French or German with an Oirish accent, just as they corrected it in her English. Yes, many people who have a childhood accent and then learn received pronunciation retain fluency in both, and can switch between the two, but that's usually controllable.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 18 Nov 2017, 13:11 
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Alison H wrote:
My great-aunt (by marriage) moved to England to marry my great-uncle about 60 years ago, and still speaks broad Glaswegian :D .


Yep, my grandpa's the same. 40 years in Yorkshire, married to a Yorkshirewoman, and not even so much as a whiff of it in his accent, it's as Weegie as the day he left Greenock. I, on the other hand, start greeting everyone with 'Yawriiiiiight, luv?' before I've been there three days. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 18 Nov 2017, 13:14 
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My mother still had her Irish accent when I met SLOC, and by then she was over 50. I was so used to it that I was astonished when SLOC admitted he couldn't understand a word she said! It wasn't that she had Biddy's broad accent, but that being a Kerry woman she scarcely moved her lips when she spoke, so the words just sort of slid out sideways. Poor man, he struggled till the day she died, when she was well over ninety, so I know accents can remain.

Having said that, I absolutely love Biddy, but EBD really does overdo the Irish way of speaking, and I can see why it's off-putting for some readers. But it doesn't bother me or make me dislike her. Yes, she's opinionated. Aren't we all? But she's good-hearted and loving, a fascinating teacher, and very grateful for all the school gave her.

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 18 Nov 2017, 15:30 
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Oh yes, lots of people never lose their native accent at all, no matter where they live and no matter what they hear all round them on a daily basis.

But Biddy is supposed to have lost hers in everyday usage, and as she picks up languages so easily, I'd expect her to mostly mirror what she's hearing.
Aquabird wrote:
Alison H wrote:
My great-aunt (by marriage) moved to England to marry my great-uncle about 60 years ago, and still speaks broad Glaswegian :D .


Yep, my grandpa's the same. 40 years in Yorkshire, married to a Yorkshirewoman, and not even so much as a whiff of it in his accent, it's as Weegie as the day he left Greenock. I, on the other hand, start greeting everyone with 'Yawriiiiiight, luv?' before I've been there three days. :D
I can relate to that - and I find cadence is particularly infectious!


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 19 Nov 2017, 12:53 
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Noreen wrote:
I can relate to that - and I find cadence is particularly infectious!

Cadence!!! That's the word I have been searching for all these years. There is a useful German word "tonfall" - dictionaries give "inflection" or "intonation" but neither has felt right to me. It's the rhythm of how the language rises and falls - the cadence! Thank you Noreen :D

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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 19 Nov 2017, 13:22 
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Doesn't EBD mention 'cadence' in connection with Gertrud Beck? Isn't it how Jo can tell that German was her first language?

My dad had an Essex accent. He never lived in Essex. My grandmother was an Essex girl, and his older siblings were born there, but the family left Essex before he was born.

I think at the time EBD was writing, many girls wouldn't be familiar with accents beyond their own region. No tv, not everyone had wireless, and you didn't hear many regional accents on the BBC anyway. So it wasn't enough to say a character had a strong Irish/Scottish/Welsh accent, and expect all her readers to understand what it sounded like. And Biddy, Gwensi and the Highland Twins are more than just the token Irish/Welsh/Scottish characters; they do all have their own personalities.


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 Post subject: Re: Biddy
PostPosted: 20 Nov 2017, 18:31 
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JayB wrote:
My dad had an Essex accent. He never lived in Essex. My grandmother was an Essex girl, and his older siblings were born there, but the family left Essex before he was born.


This sounds very like me, to a lesser extent, with my Mancunian 'accent'. My mother was born in Manchester, left to come south when she was 6, lost most of her accent but retained enough of it to pass it on to me.

I don't hear it, of course, but so many people have asked me "Do you come from Manchester?" that I guess everybody else hears it! But when I go to Manchester, I am there for maybe an hour before I start to sound like I'm from Corrie :D And it apparently takes a long time to wear off once I'm back down South.


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