I love all things British, including Monty Python, The Duchess of Duke Street, The Vicar of Dibley, Absolutely Fabulous, The Goodies, Vicious, Are You Being Served, As Time Goes By, The Two Ronnies, and so much, much more. I have gotten up insanely early to watch royal weddings, and last year I couldn’t wait to see the newest royal baby, Prince George.
I love all the British customs and slang, and bore the pants off everyone around me when I declare that something is “brilliant!” or elbow the person next to me, saying, “wink, wink, nudge, nudge–say no more, eh, eh?” or yell “bugger!” when I drop something. Sure, my ancestry is part English, but it certainly doesn’t make me British. (Or, as my favorite uncle likes to say, ‘if my cat had kittens in the oven, I wouldn’t call ’em biscuits!’)
It all began for me with the British Invasion in the ’60s. Oh, how all of us girls loved the Beatles! We loved their music, their look, their stage presence, and most of all, how we loved their accents! We all became honorary Liverpudlians overnight. Our outfits were as close to Carnaby Street as possible, and we played “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” and “Twist and Shout” until our parents wanted send us all to a remote desert island.
As the years rolled on, I never lost my desire to visit England, and to soak up all that wonderful Britishness. If and when I do visit, I will want to do all those nauseatingly touristy things like watch the changing of the guard, walk along the Thames, visit the Tower of London, and feast my eyes on the Crown Jewels.
When Downton Abbey first aired, I somehow missed watching it from the very beginning. When I finally did, I had missed two seasons and had to catch up. These days I never miss an episode, and should anyone call during while it’s on, I am downright rude, saying “sorry–Downton’s on!”
Downton Abbey takes me to a time that is impossible to match these days; those grand and glorious and totally self-involved days are long gone. If you were a member of the titled aristocracy, life was wonderful. There were servants to dress you, bathe you, do your hair, keep your clothes clean and ironed, your jewelry polished, and all your incidentals taken care of for you. Young girls were raised to be beautiful, charming, play the piano, sing and present themselves well. The object was to marry well, bear lovely children (cared for of course by a trusted nanny) and be a gracious socialite.
But if you were female, poor, uneducated and came from a lower class, life was pretty circumscribed. You could be a cook or domestic, a lady’s maid, a seamstress, a servant, a poor man’s wife, or, if nothing else, a prostitute.
It is a fantasy to us now; times have changed so much, and all the grace and manners of that time have gone the way of all things. I’m not suggesting that those times should exist now; they really couldn’t at this time in our world. I realize that Downton Abbey represents an important time in history, much like the Old South was prior to the Civil War. I understand that things weren’t wonderful for everyone; unlike America, freedoms were limited. It’s just that the show makes me think of all that once was good, gracious, lovely and serene; a bygone time that could no more flourish these days as a fish can live without water.
But, oh–how lovely it all looked on the outside!