Downton Abbey

What Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl has started, but we aren’t watching. We do actually know the teams in the game and while we aren’t huge football fans, we usually watch the game. You know… For the commercials! This year, though, we’re just “meh” on it. It’s not a big deal to us.

I wouldn’t think anything of our not watching the Super Bowl if it weren’t for the fact that a similar pattern of ennui has infected our other TV watching. Downton Abbey is on. Season 4 of Downton-freaking-Abbey! The post-Matthew season! And we haven’t watched more than an hour of the new season. I don’t think we’re bored with it, but I wonder why a show that made me jump with anticipation the last two seasons garners no more than a “whatever…I’ll catch up on Amazon” reaction.

I think we are hibernating a bit. We spent January catching up on the last few seasons of The Office and the time spent in Scranton was just what we needed. We finished up the last episode last night & deemed it one of the best series finales ever. I remember when I refused to watch The Office because it was too real. Then, a few years ago, we binge watched the first 6 seasons and loved it.

So now we need to decide what we’ll watch next. Downton? House of Cards 2? Game of Thrones 3? We’ll see. I think we want an escape from reality: work is crazy for both of us & will continue to be for a while. I’m also stunned at how quickly time is flying. January, usually my least favorite month, passed quickly. Maybe this speed is our new reality.

So tonight we continue to bury our head in the sand. With the snow last week, it was a weird weekend. Today we made crepes for Candlemas Day and I was thrilled that though Daniel rejected the marmalade filling in his first one (at his request I might add), he loved the nutella filling(!!!!) in his second. We used a family recipe, and it was a sweet moment.

May your team win or whatever is your marker for the night. Maybe we’ll feel more in tune with the world soon.

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Treading Water Badly

There is this thing called a “Super Bowl” tonight.  Apparently, large numbers of huge men in tight pants and ginormous shoulder pads form two teams and run, touch and jump on each other, ostensibly seeking a brown oval ball. This behavior goes on for hours.  In the middle of the game, there will be a performance; it typically sucks. When there is a pause in the action, attention shifts to the commercials, which are supposed to be funny but usually end up being too try-hard.  And then we all gather around the water cooler at work the next day to recap it.  I wonder what the aliens will think of this lame behavior.  Fun fact: sports were invented to channel male energy in lieu of battles and wars. Socially-sanctioned fighting is cool!

Usually we watch the Super Bowl so we can feel culturally relevant.  I hate football.  What a slow, irritating game!  Give me hockey or basketball any day.  This year since we don’t have cable, we aren’t watching the game.  I couldn’t tell you who is playing although I do know that Beyonce, queen of the world, is performing at halftime.  And Twitter is keeping me informed.  As for us, we’ll be watching Downton Abbey and we might even finish the season because the season 3 DVD arrived last week.

Y’all, last week was rough.  Crazy busy at work.  Nights flying by as if they were minutes long.  Poor Daniel has a nasty abrasion on his neck due to a playground collision and then threw up 10 times on Friday.  Thankfully it looks like his tummy trouble was due to congestion and not the flu.  I woke up on Saturday with a nasty migraine – the second Saturday in a row.  I’m really sensitive to changes in barometric pressure; nice to know my head could be part of the NWS spotter program.  Jimmy has had headaches as well.  The tummy trouble upended any plans we had for the weekend, and we feel like we finally hit our stride today.  And now it’s time to go to bed and prepare for the soul-crushing reality that is Monday.  At least we all had much-needed hair cuts.  I swear I think I lost weight from having my mane chopped.

May this week give us a chance to breathe.

Because We All Could Use a Smile

Tonight I was supposed to post for you a video of me singing “Let It Snow” for Neilochka’s annual blogger online holiday concert and celebration.  Something told me I should have recorded it earlier in the week, but I failed to heed that little voice.  It’s impossible now because I caught a quick-moving bug that knocked me on my ass and left me with a stopped up right ear and a voice that optimistically sounds like throaty Kathleen Turner but more likely frightens anyone who hears me.

I thought about still trying to participate.  Perhaps I could sing the earthy “Santa Baby?”  Or maybe do a parody of Springsteen’s wailing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  But I’m too hoarse and rough for either.  I’ve been ordered to whisper because it hurts my throat to try to speak.

And honestly, in light of the news out of Newtown today, fretting over not being able to participate seems inappropriate.  Or maybe it wouldn’t have been since the celebration was about sharing, fellowship and embracing all the ways to celebrate this time of year.

It’s hard to process the tragic events that happened in Newtown, but it’s horrifically relatable since I have a child who is closer to being in Kindergarten than not being in Kindergarten.  Babies were shot down today.  Babies.  The Newtown tragedy seems way too close to home.  It’s not about me, though, and has nothing to do with me.   But I can picture it and I feel so horrified and sad and angry for those families.

Tonight after we got home, Daniel said, “I want to cuddle you, Mommy.”  I bent down instantly and wrapped him in my arms, squeezing him tighter than was comfortable likely.  For a moment he was engulfed in my arms, and I wished they were enough to protect him always or that there was some River Styx nearby for me to dip him in (although I like to think I’d learn from Achilles’ mom’s mistake and leave no part of him undipped).  They aren’t.  There isn’t.

Life is hard.  Nasty.  Brutish.  But some acts are beyond the pale, and it is those acts that we must decisively prevent.  We need to make some major changes in our approaches to gun laws in this country.   I don’t care how anti-government you believe  yourself to be, we shouldn’t fear for our babies in environments in which they should be the safest.  Like public school.   Shit like this happens in war zones in third-world countries and we condemn it as a war crime.  Here?  It’s part of the culture.  Bullshit.  Bullshit.  BULLSHIT.  I call shenanigans.  Something has got to change or what’s next?  A preschool?  A daycare?  A nursing home?   We need to do something NOW.  This type of event is unacceptable and preventable.

I didn’t mean to go there but damn.  Kindergarteners are so small and innocent.  It was only a few years earlier that they were learning how to walk and figuring out how to talk.  We shouldn’t have to fear whether some asshole with mental issues is going to shoot up their classroom.  STOP IT NOW.

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But we could use a laugh or at least a weak smile after today’s events.  I don’t know if you saw it, but the Colbert Report did a mash-up of Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey It. Is. Awesome.  My two favorite shows, together?  Genius.  Please enjoy and may it bring a wee bit of levity to you during a very grim day.

 

Book Review: To Marry An English Lord

To Marry an English Lord

I am in serious Downton Abbey withdrawal. The good news is that the third series is around 6 months away. The bad news is that third series is around six, long, agonizing, teeth-gnashing months away. In a rare effort to make lemons into lemonade, I started putting together a list of books to help stave off the inevitable shakes and dry heaves from Downton withdrawal. If you’re a fan, you know exactly how I feel!

I was getting ready to download The American Heiress or The Uninvited Guests when I found a quote from Julian Fellowes in which he revealed that one of his primary inspirations for Downton Abbey was To Marry An English Lord or, How Anglomania Really Got Started.

Sold.

To Marry An English Lord chronicles the real-life “Lady Coras” who journeyed overseas and conquered British society and the aristocracy, making glittering marriages. While many surnames my not be recognizable to modern readers, some like Vanderbilt and Whitney will be. Many of the heiresses who left New York City for the Old Country did so because their money and pedigree were too new and not good enough for the old money families (usually of Dutch heritage). Their exodus coincides with the creation of Mrs. Astor’s 400, a list of the social elite in the city that excluded fortunes made from the Industrial Revolution and sought to maintain traditions and protect the elite from the pernicious influence of newcomers. If you were not on that list, you were a nobody.

The nouveau riche heiresses were valuable to the British. While the British aristocracy considered the first wave of American heiresses to be wild and primitive, they had money. Money that could prop up bankrupt aristocrats and keep ancestral homes in the family, and so began the exchange of wealth for a title and position in society. While there were several waves of American heiresses marrying British aristocrats from the 1870s-1900s, the basic formula remained money for title. Winston Churchill was the product of one of the first of these marriages when his mother Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill of the Marlborough family.

How romantic, right? These American heiresses infiltrating the ancient aristocracy is thrilling and just like a fairy tale. And who among us has not wanted to have a title? “Lady KeAnne” has a nice ring to it, n’est-ce pas? I would love to have been the duchess of whatever (styled “Your Grace”) because besides sounding so fluid, it’s the highest-ranking title a non-royal person could hold. I also loved the titles ending in
“-ess,” especially princess and the old Russian and German titles “Grand Duchess.” Grand indeed!

After a build up like that, surely these couples lived happily ever after. They were the embodiment of bedtime fairy tales. Alas, just as fairy tales often hid a harrowing origin and fate for their couples, our Anglo-American couples did not go on to live happily ever after in most cases.

The worst outcomes included depravity, adultery, insanity and abuse. For the brides that fared better, their married lives were a rude shock. They often went from being popular and sought after at society balls to living in a decrepit, chilly country house that their money was expected to fix in the middle of nowhere with their husband and his extended family. Those exquisite Worth gowns had no place there. In addition, the American brides had been raised with a good deal of freedom and affection from their parents; in England, the household revolved around the husband and his needs, quite a culture shock. As well, the American bride had to get used to and even accept her husband’s casual, overt infidelity, a situation for which her upbringing had not prepared her.

The wave of Anglo-American marriages ended after King Edward VII died. His son, King George V, did not favor these marriages as his father had and in America, a burgeoning nationalism was beginning to wonder what was wrong with her native sons. The outbreak of World War 1 a few years later forever changed the dynamic and society of Europe.

Bottom Line

To Marry An English Lord was a quick, engrossing read and one I recommend for anyone who is a fan of Downton Abbey. I sometimes forgot I was reading about real women and their fates due to how well the authors told each bride’s story. Sadly, “Lady Cora” seems to have had a much better outcome in her marriage to Lord Grantham than most of the women profiled in the book.

If you are interested in more Downton recommendations, I’ve created a Pinterest board on Downton Abbey.

Did you ever wish to be a princess or member of the aristocracy?