On Downton Abbey, 1940


It might look as if things are going pretty well for the Crawleys. but we, of course, know better. And for those who feel that the series ended on way-too-happy a note, here’s my assessment on what the future holds for them:

Downton Abbey, 1940 (not such a good year for Britain)

Lady Mary is now queen of the manor, her father, Robert succumbing to a heart attack from a few too many scotches. He is buried beside his trusted and loved Isis. Cora, soon after, died from an overdose of sweetness. Violet could have told her that a douse of vinegar once in a while would help her personality from its saccharine encumbrance.

Mary, long since bored with husband Henry, has formed a close relationship with Thomas Barrow. They venture to London every few weeks for some nightclubbing. Anna has given them matching hairdos (all that beautiful black hair not gone to waste), and Mary adores wearing men’s clothes. Thomas just smiles. Mary apparently has forgotten that she has two children, which turns out to be fine with them. George has joined the RAF, hoping that it will make a man of him. The second child wandered off somewhere in the late 1920s, but it wasn’t until 1932 that anyone noticed.  And Mr. Bates. There was a murder somewhere in England, and it was thought best by the police to arrest him, just in case.

Meanwhile, Henry has tired of the used car business and simply roams around the grounds looking for a purpose, much like his late father-in-law, but without the uniform.

Branson, finding Thirsk a tad more to his taste than the hinterlands of Downton, has set up a bachelor apartment above the car works. He has realized that the smell of motor oil excites him more than perfume. Sibbie has gone to London, where she has found a job in an art gallery. Her main job is to look like a Lady. She is semi-successful at this, until the blitz comes a bit too close.

Daisy and Andy are happy on the pig farm. Mrs. Patmore has allied with Mr. Mason, although no wedding bells have pealed. They built a bed and breakfast on the farm, but soon learned that such a venture was best placed upwind of the stable. When the depression came, they were glad for the pigs.

After Isobel saved Lord Merton from his evil son and daughter-in-law and he miraculously recovered from his pernicious anemia, they embarked on a round-the-world cruise. They have not been heard from since 1926, and are living anonymously in Bali or Fiji or one of those places in the Pacific. There was talk to bringing charges against the Mertons, younger, for poisoning said father, but it was decided that it was too much trouble. The couple stayed in Yorkshire, but aren’t invited to any parties.

Now for Lady Edith. You really didn’t think that she was destined for happiness. No indeed. In fact, on her honeymoon, who should show up at the dinner table (she really needs to watch that) but Michael Gregson. Yes!  She immediately left, before even ordering her entrée, and she and Marigold returned to Germany with him. She was so in love with her beloved Michael that she became a German citizen post haste. Well, what can I say?

You may be wondering about Carson and Mrs. Hughes. They are still living on the estate. Mrs. Hughes has learned to cook, and Carson has learned not to criticize it. Dear Molesley is now principal of the school in Thirsk, and misses teaching.

And the Dowager is still here, although slowed down a bit, still ably served by Spratt who in his spare time writes for Tattler. Denker is still trying to get him fired, also into bed.

1940 was not the best year for Britain, but through grit and fortitude they persevered. So, we can be sure, will the denizens of Downton Abbey.

Another Sunday,  www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Existential Angst


(graphic credit:  Corey Mohler)

On Existential Angst

Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber. ―Kurt Vonnegut

This week I was visited by an old acquaintance. Fortunately, we don’t spend too much time together, but when he arrives, it seems that all else stops until his departure. I’m speaking of, of course, Existential Angst.

It is his custom to arrive unbidden, and to depart thus. So when he appeared in my bed early in the morning, I took some time to try to figure out just what, or who, had invited this unsolicited guest. Could it have been that penultimate (I do love that word) episode of Downton Abbey where Mary committed a reprehensible wickedness, yet went on to find happiness, at least in the short-term, right in that same episode, and just happened to have a wedding dress in her closet to boot? Perhaps her foul behavior triggered some of my own familial issues, issues that I thought, hoped, were long-resolved.

So, where to turn? Always, to books. This time to Alexander McCall Smith and Isabel Dalhousie, whose philosophical musings customarily help, or at least did before she too found happiness all too easily. And then Ann Lamott is a solace, but I did like her better when she was less sure of God, struggling with both her life and beliefs. I need questioners, doubters to lean on, to go to, for who better to understand a questioner, a doubter?

At any rate, said Existential Angst seems to have departed for more fecund territory. And I wish him both well and good-riddance. I don’t know why he decided to exit after such an abbreviated visit, though I am grateful (having hung on to gratitude as my lifeline throughout). So I have gone back to the Y, to the hyper-chlorinated pool, back to my keyboard and novel-in-progress, back to a sort of life-rhythm (a lot of hyphens here, I see). And for the time being, I have pushed nihilism to the rear, and I can see a patch of blue. At least for now. Although I did just spy  him in the driveway, waiting.

Another Sunday,  www.cynthiastrauff.com


On Loving My Friends on the BBC


On Loving My Friends on the BBC…

Last night I watched Episode One of the BBC’s production of War and Peace. I’ve started to read the book three separate times, and have never made it past page fifty. So, I decided, this was a good a chance as any, and most likely would be more authentic to the page than the 1956 Hollywood version with Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer.

Imagine my delight when the first person I recognized was Chief Superintendent Innocent, Robby Lewis’s boss (Inspector Lewis), She was quickly followed by Cousin Rose (Downton Abbey), and then I’m almost sure by Edith (Downton, again). My head was spinning. Here they were, playing different parts, but I knew them. Yes, here were my old friends.

Then, all before the first commercial, mind you, who appeared but my dear sweet Sydney Chambers (Grantchester) who somehow managed to look fetching, tortured and incredibly handsome in a bicorn hat that covered his ears. Then I discovered Agnes (Mr. Selfridge), although, I must admit, it took me a while to place her.

Seeing these people whom I knew gave me a warm feeling, for, indeed, I do feel that I do know them. We watched an old, old episode of Midsomer Murders a few evenings ago, and there was Carson (Downton, again) only this time with dark hair and a decidedly sexy manner. We saw Hathaway (Inspector Lewis, again) in an early episode of Foyle’s War, and then, what a treat, to see younger brother Tristan (All Creatures Great and Small) as the lead Detective “Dangerous”  Davies (The Last Detective), and then again as the chief constable enamored of Adela Bradley (Mrs. Bradley Mysteries).

My husband is sure this reappearance of familiar faces is because they just don’t have that many actors in England. (He considers all BBC productions to be repertory.) I don’t subscribe to that. Rather, I like to think that they are aware of the special place they have in my heart and know that their visits bring me joy.

To be fair, the series has quite a few heavy hitters besides those whom I recognize from new and old BBC series. Paul Dano as Pierre, who to me looks like an aging Harry Potter who’s enjoyed quite a few cheeseburgers, and Jim Broadbent who is, as always, superb in his understated craftsmanship.

It is hard work to see my pals as the characters they’re now playing – Natasha, Pierre, Sonya, Bolkonsky…. but I do know who they are, really.

Now, I must return to Episode Two. I can hardly wait to see which of my BBC mates will surprise me with an appearance.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com