Downton Abbey Redux

And two hours of escapist pleasure! A new movie featuring old friends, following a familiar story (that now looks like it could go on and on)!

The film begins two years after the series ended and contains everything we loved (or didn’t love if you are an outlier): the clothes(!), the exchanges between Violet and Isobel ever more quick and acerbic (as much fun as you remember), love in all forms, new romance, family enlargements and entanglements, intrigue, a little melodrama, some jolly good times, and a surprising lot of laughing for viewers. And the house – the big screen allows spectacular shots of its setting and its grandeur! Julian Fellowes’ continuing story brims with of a sense of life ending and life going on.

This wonderful piece in the Washington Post “The Downtown Abbey cast wants to take you back to a more innocent time – 2012” captures it exactly. And I remember oh so well the series beginning! The opening music takes me right back to that snow-muffled winter at Downtown Abbey when I learned to be a granny – such a happy time!

Downton Abbey & Downtown Abbey

No more Downton Abbey.

When Downton began in 2011, I hadn’t figured how to write about my family – or if to write. But then, during Lady Baby’s first January, the Crawleys and their staff gave me ideas.

Looking back at that first Downtown Abbey post, I remember the old days of Barrow and the evil housemaid – how things have changed! But Lord Grantham’s words about living “our lives around our children” still ring true.

I also see the comments on that first post, and I’m grateful to readers who have followed Downtown Abbey stories all these years – the exploits of Lady Baby, the Sweet Friend becoming the Sweet Bride, and the birth of Sweet Baby! Through the years the Lords Cromwell and Wolsey thrived. Sadly, Lady Megan died, but Lady Winifred, a lovable, scruffy character from bush Alaska joined the family. It seemed appropriate when Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes married on the show, because our Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes had always been.

Old Downton scenes come to mind – the Turkish diplomat’s body being carried out, Sybil’s saddest of deaths, and Matthew’s – a shock ending for that season. Days being planned at civilized breakfasts. The interventions of Aunt Rosamund and the thought of “going down to London.” Scenes replete with always-polite formality – a respite from so much on offer.

Downton chronicled eventful years – small changes like toasters and record players – and momentous ones like war, and voting and careers for women. Occasionally the plot threads irritated – Bates and Anna and the police with so many frowny faces, but most satisfied even if improbably (Matthew’s condition being just a bruise!).

No one was ever more pompous than Carson – except sometimes Lord Grantham. Oh, but remember when he kissed the maid! (I have a photo of our Mrs. Hughes taken at the moment when that happened – tiny Lady Baby in her arms, disbelief on her face.)

And I will miss Lady Grantham’s zingers, and her prickly friendship with Mrs. Crawley. I used to love the encounters of her maid Danker and the butler Spratt – those faces! How clever to make Spratt an advice columnist at Edith’s magazine.

And the clothes, flapper dresses and wedding gowns – and the house itself – luscious red sofas in the library, livery, china, and linens. In all six seasons I never wanted to speed through the opening credits.

Once I read an interview where the creator Julian Fellowes said that some people just have bad luck – like Edith. So how perfect he changed his mind – or did he always know? Fellows gave us so much material to laugh about and discuss together.

Thank you Julian Fellowes, cast and crew for years and years of pleasure, you’ll be so missed!

Love object:snowy house-1


Downtown Abbey

On Sunday evening during my second visit with the new baby and her parents, we got organized enough to watch “Downton Abbey” live. I went to bed thinking we were living in Downtown (Anchorage) Abbey! Downton might have dozens more rooms and a grand aspect, but it shelters its occupants no better than the little red house so covered with snow.

Downtown Abbey is the home of furred nobles Lord Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey (feline), and the Ladies Cora and Megan (canine), and the new baby – Lady Baby. Also home to the staff of course – the new father plays butler, valet, chauffeur, and Daisy all in one. The new mother has head housekeeper duties, we all revolve around her. I was often Mrs. Patmore, the cook, but also attended with pleasure the Lady Baby as her lady’s maid (the good one).

We tidy, we take the lords and ladies to their appointments, do the laundry, and provide food. Except for Lady Baby, the butler mostly does the feeding – administering pills to Lady Megan, and carrying Cardinal Wolsey to his dish, for fear Lord Cromwell will reach it first. We at Downtown are as attuned to our employers as the staff at Downton, but we’re a stripped down version – no bad characters. Nobody has time to stand outside the house looking sneaky and hatching plots!

Days at Downtown were full. Once this visit the staff sat down together for a meal (usually the Lady Baby requires an attendant). Occasionally we even set the table (but do not use a ruler to measure the proper alignment of the silver).

In the evening Cromwell and Wolsey compromise their dignity by running skirmishes in circles around the house. Ladies Cora and Megan doze on the couch, but stay ever alert to the opening of the treat drawer or the chopping of a carrot. Lady Baby sleeps through it all, rocking in one pair of arms or another. Sometimes she’s wrapped on the front of Mr. Carson in a Moby carrier while he works on a document in his lap.

A few of the dealings between employers and staff are a little irregular for Masterpiece: one night Lord Cromwell and Lady Cora both slept with me – the three of us in a row. And in an unlikely activity for Downton’s staff, part of the Downtown staff had brief ski outings on the weekend, while I stayed with the Lady Baby. A thrill for all!

A favorite relationship in “Downton Abbey” is between the real Lady Cora and her mother-in-law, the Dowager Countess. The two women are allies in the story and in the family. And I loved it the other night when Lord Grantham said: “All our lives are lived around our children.”