Fiction fulfills a very important function in my life by lifting me from the daily doldrums of hum-drum routines. When I envision myself as characters in fiction, I am swept away from dishes in the sink, trips to the vet and slacks that won't fit. Fiction is the flight of fancy that widens my horizons and invites my imagination to play.
Most recently, the TV series "Downton Abbey" has fulfilled this role. Pretending to live at Downton transports me from the samo-samo of my mundane life to the exclusive, privileged world of the British aristocracy. It is a world I have yearned to enter and most assuredly would have been a member of except for the egregious misfortune of being born to the manor -- too late and to middle class parents.
Not to be confined by my present bourgeois circumstances, however, I have soldiered on to mold the routines of Vespers House, Blufftonshire, S.C., to those of Downton Abbey, West Berkshire, England. For example, while I don't have Carson to announce our visitors, I do have Wolfie. He does an admirable job of alerting me to virtually all movement in the village and bringing me post haste to the front door for important visitors. (Usually the UPS man, but nevermind that.)
I've also copied the daily habit of Lady Mary and the other ladies of the house by changing clothes four times a day. I don't appear fully attired for breakfast, slip into lovely day dresses for luncheon and tea or dress elegantly for dinner. I do, though, have my snuggly bathrobe to comfort me in the morning, leotards and sweats for exercise, jeans from the outlets for most of the day's activities, and my jammies for retiring.
Unfortunately, since Vespers House doesn't have a downstairs, my staff can't compare to that of "Downton Abbey," although I have done my best. I have cleaning help, but, in fairness, I can't stretch to call them maids. We have a lawn service, but, in honesty, "gardener," doesn't apply. We have cars so fully automatic they virtually drive themselves, but to say we have a chauffer would be hyperbole. Once, at a party, I had serving help. But alas, a footman to serve at dinner, I've never had.
Not only has "Downton Abbey" shaped my lifestyle, but it has also taught me valuable information. I've learned that footmen are not associated with the cars of the family, as one would presume from carriage days, but wait on table instead and are paid by their height. I know now that when house maids are promoted to proper ladies' maids they are no longer referred to by their given names, but are bidden by their surnames with "miss" or "Mrs." preceding it. Most importantly, I have learned that to keep our entertaining reputation impeccable, it is mandatory that Bob wear a white tie with a tux when guests outside the family dine with us.
As may be obvious, I've been swept off my feet by "Downton Abbey," but Bob, not so much. Thank goodness my friends are addicted like me, so it is to them I turn for meaningful gossip, er, I mean, conversation about "Downton" affairs.
"Can you believe that Lady Edith sent the letter about King Farouk to London? Just to smear her sister's reputation. Some sister!"
"She's just jealous of Mary."%09
"And Sybil marrying the chauffer. It's unthinkable. How humiliating for Lord Gratham."
"Was Sybil in love or was she afraid to hurt his feelings?"
"Naturally, the Crawleys would have relatives on the Titanic. No elite family wouldn't, but ... "
"As the Titanic goes, so goes Edith's beau."
"I can't stand the way O'Brian always plays one person against another. What's up with her?"
"Anna is so sweet and I say, Free John Bates!"
"Matthew, oh, Matthew. How could they kill darling Matthew?"
"When he got home from the war and recovered, I never dreamed of this."
"It hardly seems fair."
"I'm mesmerized by his eyes, his beautiful eyes."
"Maggie Smith is the dowager countess personified. Her quips crack me up."
"Who could forget her pinched expression when she asked, 'What's a weekend?' "
We could go on forever. Ah, well ....
Multiple cups of tea have helped assuage the cold turkey of the season's end. I've tried to keep calm and carry on. I tell myself I'll find other flights of fantasy -- in novels, trips, family and friends -- but, in truth, I can't wait for the return of "Downton."
Until January, Sunday evenings won't be the same.