Around the Bluhmin’ Town
Anyone care for tea? Okay, I will put the kettle on and perhaps we can meet and have a good old cry together. Yes, that is because the last episode of the Final Season of Downton Abbey has been aired. It is all done! Over! Finished! No more acid remarks from Violet Crawley Dowager Countess of Grantham! Or cruel fights between Lady Mary and Lady Edith! We will not witness the splendor of another time, grand country estates and great ballrooms, exquisite parties, English countryside and the Roaring Twenties so seductively portrayed in vivid detail. We will no longer look into the hearts and souls of the English servants and the privileged class whom they so obediently served.
While watching Downton Abbey we were transported to another era, a time when manners and decorum ruled the day, and details of that bygone era were played out with painstaking authenticity in each and every episode. Oh, to dress for dinner in gowns and dinner jackets! To sit at an elegant table and discuss the day’s events while being served on silver trays and wine poured in crystal fluted glasses…perfect for making toasts! Long live the Queen!
(Spoiler alert – if you haven’t yet watched Season 3 of Downton Abbey, stop reading now!)
Our collective hearts broke when Lady Sybil died in childbirth and Matthew Crawley tragically veered off the road in a car crash the day his son was born. We saw the injustices of false imprisonment, the ravages felt by World War I, the advances in modern day living and the faltering of the upper class’s wealth span before us in technicolor. We laughed when the first toaster (smoking like it would burn the house down) was used and when the first ice box was boldly placed in the cook’s pantry, with a solemn audience of servants looking on as though Sputnik had landed. New “contraptions” and “modern ways” were transforming the world at an alarming pace, with the advent of cars and fashion and centuries old customs were beginning to crumble.
Ah, the glory of a cup of tea cannot be denied! The real star of Downton Abbey was that one tradition that cemented the entire British Empire together...tea time! We drink it late in the afternoon with treats, to make sense of the day and prepare for dinner at eight. Fine china required that for the aristocrats, the milk (never cream) was poured into the cup first, then filling it carefully with the golden brown blend of tea that screamed out “we are civilized,” or “all is well” or, “we can carry on.” Nothing solves problems like a cup of tea, soothing all ruffled nerves, and putting a hectic day into complete perspective.
When we are captivated by a show as gripping as Downton Abbey, it might be because we were able to time travel and thrill to a period of history that we only dreamed about. I was reminded of my grandmother who left England on a ship with her wedding china in tow, starting a new life in America. That was 1920 and I have that china sitting in my cabinet, still used for special occasions. If only teapots could talk! The stories they would tell and secrets they might reveal!
It might have only been a television show, but Downton Abbey was the “masterpiece” of Masterpiece Theater. We were mesmerized by the intricate story lines and sub-plots, left breathless by the display of love and passion, saddened by the deaths and heartaches. We saw what the tightly woven tapestry of class structure meant and the limits placed on individuals in a world where birthright, birth order, gender, and rigid cultural norms ruled the day. We were able to observe great wealth and stark poverty, wicked humor and a long-gone era and feel all the emotions that the Crawley family and their servants experienced. What a journey! So yes, the story has ended. But the grandeur and memories live on!
Downton Abbey has ended. But we will keep calm and carry on…one cup of tea at a time.