Bluffton Packet

When ‘Downton Abbey’ and other Brits come to Bluffton

This image released by Focus Features shows Elizabeth McGovern, left, as Lady Grantham and Hugh Bonneville, as Lord Grantham, in “Downton Abbey.” The highly-anticipated film is a continuation of the “Masterpiece” series that wowed audiences for six seasons.
This image released by Focus Features shows Elizabeth McGovern, left, as Lady Grantham and Hugh Bonneville, as Lord Grantham, in “Downton Abbey.” The highly-anticipated film is a continuation of the “Masterpiece” series that wowed audiences for six seasons. Focus Features via AP

The movie “Downton Abbey” has been on our radar since the filming of it was announced. We pounced at the chance to see it one recent afternoon. The theater was full as had been expected, and of course we had to struggle through 20 minutes or so of ads and movie trailers. One good thing, though, were the seats we sat on converted by the click of a button to chaise lounges that eased the boredom a bit.

The movie was a real treat, and all of the usual suspects in the popular PBS series appeared on cue. Maggie Smith was, as usual, our favorite.

The only disappointment we found were the clothes. We wished they could have been a little bit more glamorous ... a bit more over-the-top.

The movie left some things hanging, so I think there will be more to come.

We got tickets in advance to make sure we had a seat but it might not be necessary if you go during the day.

We grew up with friends of my parents who were English. One of them was Neil Bruce who was a correspondent with the BBC during World War ll. He and his sister Mary were graduates of Oxford University and, of course, had wonderful accents that we loved. Neil traveled all over the world interviewing famous and not-so-famous people.

My mother moved to Bluffton, so that meant we had visits from both Neil and Mary. Neil came every winter for a month because the weather in England at that time of year is awful and he was smitten with Bluffton. Mary lived in Jacksonville so she came up quite often.

We all spent every day with Neil, enjoying his stories and his company.

Supper was a real treat for him because for dessert almost every night we had ice cream, and sometimes I made “dump cake” .... a concoction he got a real kick out of.

Years ago, Clare Heyward had given the ladies at the Church of the Cross the recipe. A very simple three ingredients are needed: One can of Comstock pie filling, one stick of melted butter, and one box of cake mix. Dump it all in a baking dish and, voila. Bake it at 350 for 30 minutes or so. I haven’t made it since Neil’s last visit.

One of my favorite stories Neil told us was about Harold Macmillan, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963. Anthony Trollope was one of the most respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Among his most loved works are the Chronicles of Barsetshire novels that tell the stories of 19th century life in England. A “trollop” is a vulgar or promiscuous woman.

Neil’s BBC broadcasts were heard on the radio in many places. Neil was interviewing Prime Minister Macmillan and just before he was finished he said the English people would like to know how Mr. Macmillan relaxed after a long day. The reply was ... ”Well after a really wretched day I like to hop into bed with one of my favorite Trollope’s.”

I still laugh just imagining what the radio audience thought.

You rang?

Have you ever wanted to have a real English butler? Or maybe you would like to know what they must learn to become one. There aren’t many grand estates in our country, but there are cruise ships, luxury resorts and the odd oil prince to be waited on hand and foot.

And there is a school in England that teaches one how to say “you rang?”

Rick Fink, now 84 years old and retired, was a butler for 60 years to Queen Elizabeth ll and other royals.

Mr. Fink has opened the Butler Valet School at Ditchley Park, in Oxfordshire, England. For about $6,300, you can take a two-week course to learn all there is about being a butler.

“Speak only when spoken to” is one of Mr. Fink’s golden rules.

Go to www.butler-valetschool.co.uk to learn more.

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