HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM DOWNTON ABBEY
I spent most of my Christmas at Downton Abbey! That is to say Jane bought me the complete box set and I sat hour after hour, episode after episode transported to the world of the Crawleys and Granthams. The Bates and the Bransons. High tea and trenches. Prison and parlour games. Love and loss. Triumph and tragedy. All beneath the roof of a Yorkshire Estate in the early years of the Twentieth Century.
I wept as Lady Sybil died in childbirth, when the footman William succumbed to injuries sustained in the First World War and when Matthew Crawley died well I was inconsolable.
Mixed in with that was the wonderful wit of Maggie Smith – wouldn't we all like permission to be as rude as her. (yet beneath it lies a deep caring for her offspring- oh yes there does!!) The dramas in the kitchen with Mrs Patmore and Daisy, the deplorable Thomas, the love story between the brooding Mr Bates and the beautiful Anna. The reliability and the developing friendship of Carson and Mrs Hughes, oh I could go on and on. I do know by the way that's it's just a programme but while watching it - it becomes real and can move, delight and enrich It might not be real life as we know it. But the emotions, the longings and the pain of the characters are real enough and ones we can in some way relate to. I have to say I think I'm probably most like Lady Edith- a bit of a disappointment and not quite fitting in. But even she has her moments – not many admittedly but one or two! And she does give and receive love, do her bit in the war and even learn to drive, much to Maggie Smith's disdain as she wonderfully says when she hears about it: “Edith dear you're supposed to be a lady. Not toad of toad hall!”
It might just be a programme, but watching the real characters emerge – seeing them fail and triumph. Seeing them overcome great sadnesses,great disappointments. To watch them grow in mutual respect is inspiring and encouraging and challenges me at the beginning of this New Year to ask some serious questions about my life. Their hopes, the things they put their faith in, the love they strive to be true to all batter at the door of my being and demand that I take seriously the business of life without trampling over the things that are precious by self importance, or lack of self worth. The best and worst of humanity lives under the Downton roof. Often beating in the same heart. And that gives me the courage to look into my own heart and not fear what I see. Because I am not alone in my struggles and in my contradictions.
If my life were dramatised – what would the TV viewers see in me? What would come across to them? Who would play me? Would my life be an object of ridicule? Or sympathy? Or would it be so boringly ordinary that I would be invisible as Lady Sybil is always saying she is in her family. Would I be seen to be petty, jealous, unloving? Or would people cheer me on as I picked myself up and tried again. And laugh fondly at my silly habits and irritating self righteousness.
What would I like others to see?What do I really value? What so matters to me that I want the passion to burst out across the screen and touch others. I have to say the clergy figures in Downton were disappointing stereotyped. Fat, boring and bigoted. But that's an aside. What makes me me? And what does that look like to others? What does it look like to God?
And what matters to you? What is most on your heart at the beginning of 2014? Who in Downton Abbey would you like to be and why? Are there any characters in Downton who can inspire you to be truly the person you know yourself to be but are afraid to be proud of, or to grow into.
Silly ponderings perhaps? Or profound questions as we step out into a new year. The world is changing as the Downton characters knew. The world is always changing and yet some things must and do remain. St Paul's letter to the Corinthinas may have been penned 2000 years ago but for the characters in Downton and for us we can rejoice that three things do still remain. Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.
A Final Downton Scene....... (with apologies to Julian Fellowes)
Lord Grantham: Where does the time go ?
Bates: I can't rightly say Mi'Lord.
Lord Grantham: No, no man can, can they.
Bates: No but every man can respect it's going and enrich it's passing.
Lord Grantham I'll drink to that. Thank you Bates that will be all for tonight.
Bates:Happy New Year Mi'lord
Lord Grantham Happy New Year Bates. And Happy New Year to you Mother
Dowager: Don't be silly dear. How can a new year possibly be happy for someone as old as me. There will be just more disappointments, more falling standards and God help us more liberal politicians. No Robert I don't anticipate that this year will bring anything other than tiresome troubles and indigestion.
Lord Grantham: Well I hope you're wrong.
Dowager: I'm never wrong dear. I thought I was once in June 1897. Only thought mind you and of course I wasn't. No being wrong is bad for one's health and I don't intend to start seeing a doctor at this late stage of my life. I've got better things to do.
Lord Grantham: What sort of things might they be and what's your new years resolution?
Dowager: Well. I'm glad you've asked . I've decided this year to be more forthright and to speak my mind.
Lord Grantham:God help us.
Dowager: Yes Robert God help us all.
May God help you in 2014 to be the person he has called you to be and may their be laughter as well as tears. Triumphs as well as failures and always, always family and friends to share them with.