I’m lying, drowsily, beneath a satin, quilted eiderdown. The room is dimly lit, there’s a log fire crackling in the fireplace, “Lady Mary, your breakfast” … ah yes, that little rope I pulled on… “thank you Anna, no I can butter my toast myself today”….
Sigh. And sigh again.
Seriously – what’s not to LOVE about the BBC series Downton Abbey?! I know what draws me to it, because I’ve thought about it, oftentimes. It’s the sheer beauty of it all. And the power of my over-active imagination. Along with the mega-dose of wonderful escapism each indulgent little episode gives us.
The location, the setting. The calm. The ease. The gossip. The silver tea service. The china. The stylish cars. The kitchen (“have you finished that orange sauce for the duck, Daisy? Then come help me get that kedgeree prepared for tomorrow’s breakfast”). Delight, delight, delight.
The thing is… the minute I hear those soft, musical introductory notes, graciously welcoming me to step back into another era, away I float. Into the Downton Abbey world of grace, wealth, dinner gowns and long satin evening gloves.
For sixty minutes I am there with all the actors. Gliding around my room in a beaded gown, readying myself for the evening meal in full assurance that Carson (the butler) will watch our every move like an eagle searching for prey and the Dowager Countess will fill the spaces between courses with amusing witticisms, “I’m a woman. I’m supposed to be contrary”.
Having readied myself for the dinner gong (with Anna pinning back my curling tresses), I’ve frowned slightly at a spot of dust on the banister and made a mental note to mention it to Mrs. Hughes next morning. Smiling sweetly at the footman I’ve helped myself to Mrs. Patmore’s delicious platters – careful not to take too much but just enough – and chatted quietly with those seated to my left and right, making sure I give them equal attention. For to do otherwise would just be bad manners.
It’s a happy hour. An hour spent mimicking Lady Mary’s astonishing accent and wonderful use of language. Reminding myself to remember certain phrases she casually trots out “I’m not entirely sure that we should bother ourselves with matters of this kind” or “had you asked for my support my darling, then of course I would have gladly given it”. Words that make me want to be far more eloquent than normal life demands but which I can never quite recall the next day.
I’ve even wandered around my own back garden carrying a wooden lantern, half imagining I’m walking that estate. My husband laughs because he knows it’s part of who I am. A dreamer, a story-teller in my own way, a lover of ease, comfort and beauty, both inside and out.
So thank you Julian Fellowes, for the gift that is Downton. For letting us enjoy and revisit a world in which there still is space and freedom for the very privileged to do little more than breathe in and out as they come to terms with the changing world around them. A world that remembers World War I heroes, forever etched in my grateful heart for the huge sacrifices they made.
And of course, there’s still the simple beauty of it all.