Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt, I am obsessed with Downton Abbey.
Sunday evenings had lost their appeal, and returned to the night before starting the working when the 2nd series ended, until now…. here we are on Christmas eve, and while I am looking forward to the Christmas day festivities, I imagine that most of Britain will plan to watch what will happen in this Christmas special.
I hear that the footmen and housemaids from Buckingham Palace will all gather together to watch, in a modern day echo of the camaraderie of the Downton servants hall. The lovely difference some of their upstairs counterparts, like the Duchess of Cambridge, will be equally keen to see how events unfold.
For the avoidance of all doubt, the romantic in me has a very clear aspiration – if Lady Mary Crawley & Matthew are unmarried by the end of Christmas Day, I will be devastated. I think love is in the small things. It was not the unfortunate Lavinia who was up with the servants at the crack of dawn to say goodbye to Matthew – but Lady Mary. In the most touching scene of the entire series, Lady Mary gives him her good luck charm, with no agenda other than wishing him to be kept safe. What is more heart breaking than seeing someone you love leave on the 6.00am train, not knowing if you would ever see them again.
What is interesting about Downton is that all their lives are intertwined
It is not to her sisters that Lady Mary turns in her darkest moments – but Anna, the head house maid. Likewise, Anna seeks Lady Mary’s advise at key moments in her life. I adore Lady Mary – she is opinionated, passionate and knows her own flaws. She makes mistakes, but she is brave enough to live – and to live is what it is all about.
And oh how Lady Mary lives. Who can fail to love her for organising the decoration of a beautifully room for Anna’s first night after her secret wedding to Bates. While we may have wished Lady Sybil to achieve her romantic elopement with the chauffeur Brandon, Lady Mary rescues her sister in times when the etiquette for a women of her class was limiting and quite frankly stifling.
At this point, you can be forgiven for thinking where does tea fit into this?
Tea is at the heart of everything, both servants and gentry alike – a shared activity that connects below and above stairs. It is a cup of tea that Thomas offers Captain Crawley in the trenches, a tea cup that drops and smashes from Lady Mary’s hand in a subconscious act when Matthew and William are injured on the front. Daisy, in her black armband, carries the enormous tea pot to serve tea in the servants hall, while the Dower Duchess serves tea from her beautiful silver kettle and bone china crockery, and at moments of crisis, it is hot, sweet tea that is the rescue.
What is so appealing about the story that Julian Fellowes continues describe to us?
At its heart is the vulnerability and impact of huge historic events on everyone’s lives, mixed with the small, everyday events, he makes us care, even whether Mrs Patmore will be able to scrape together the ingredients for a wedding cake. And whether I would wish to be the one serving the tea or being served it, what is the more critical is the time that everyone took together for tea, and that teatime is still a precious time.