It is early Sunday evening as I type this, and we are still a few hours away from tonight’s Downton Abbey episode. After a challenging evening for my wife last night, I shelled out a whopping $10 earlier today at a beach boutique for a mini tiara to cheer her. I am going to ask that she wear it while we watch the show the show later. I’d have stolen one for her from Lady Grantham’s bedroom, but I’d hate to put poor Baxter under any further suspicion.
I was a Johnny-come-lately to Downton. I didn’t actually start watching it till just before Season Three started, when I found a way to catch-up by borrowing DVD’s of the previous two seasons from the library. I got hooked pretty quick.
I remember watching “Upstairs, Downstairs” back in the seventies, I enjoyed both the novel and the film for “The Remains of the Day,” and I thought “Gosford Park” was hilarious, as is Julian Fellowes’ novel “Snobs.” For me, there is something appealing about all of that stuffy British aristocracy — for an hour or two anyway. I’m sure in a previous life, if I had attempted to make a career in service to the titled classes, I’d have been fired from a stately home for either speaking in an untoward manner to the lord, or most likely sampling from his wine cellar.
Speaking of wine, I love how with each meal at Downton both white and red are served. Now that’s a habit I should adopt each evening in my own life. In spite of Anglo cuisine having a spotty culinary reputation, some of those creations of Mrs. Patmore look pretty good to me. Hold all that sauce, though, please.
On my first trip to England, I made a point of eating all of the famous English meals when we were in pubs, particularly when I visited the West Country. Kidney pie, Shepherd’s pie, pork pie (are you catching a theme here?), Welsh rarebit, and strawberries with clotted cream all eventually made their appearance on my plate. Some of it I even liked. Curiously, I never had fish and chips because I thought it too obvious for a tourist to order. I regret that now.
There is something rather nice and cozy about their tradition of afternoon tea breaks. I came back home from those trips determined to continue with my newly-found habit. But somehow my love and addiction for coffee ended that little romantic notion before it even had a chance to start. Still, I like watching all of the tea-sipping going on at Downton, even though I’m nearly always sipping a Cabernet, ‘er, Claret, while watching the show.
My mother and I used to watch the annual address of the Queen on New Year’s Day from the Canadian television station whose broadcast area included the Detroit suburbs. As a kid, I used to marvel at how painstakingly formal her elocution was. I do enjoy that rhetorical trick of the English upper classes involving “What?” versus “Pardon Me?,” when they attempt to identify if someone is a mere commoner. I can’t wait to try that myself someday on a future trip, though with my luck I’ll probably screw up and nervously use it on a Heathrow airport attendant.
Unlike the late, great Christopher Hitchens, who had actual reasons of heritage to dislike the royal family and its place in English life and government, I am a huge fan of it. I love the pomp and circumstance of their weddings, functions, celebrations, the individual members of each family, their castles, and especially those wonderful scandals. How can you not love Camilla and the story of her picking up the phone and answering “Rottweiler here!,” in response to the delicious rumor of that being Diana’s pet name for her. She’s one spunky broad, that Camilla.
So I’ll try to get Gorgeous to wear her tiara tonight, and I’ll sip my Claret as we watch Downton. I am curious if Lady Edith can pull off this whole caper involving her baby, and I’m even more intrigued at the continuing saga of the murder of Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green. You think it’s Mr. Bates again, I bet, right? Our money is on Mrs. Hughes as the culprit. You gotta think outside the box.
Pip pip, and all that.