Downton Abbey

The Regent Centre in Dorset’s Christchurch is a restored 1930s art deco cinema, now also featuring theatre, opera, concerts and dance.

This is where, with Becky and Ian yesterday evening, we viewed the international hit film “Downton Abbey”.

Wikipedia tells us that ‘Downton Abbey is a British historical period drama television series set in the early 20th century, created and co-written by Julian Fellowes. The series first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom on 26 September 2010, and in the United States on PBS, which supported production of the series as part of its Masterpiece Classic anthology, on 9 January 2011.

The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1926, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era—with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy. Events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the Titanic in the first series; the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Marconi scandal in the second series; the Irish War of Independence leading to the formation of the Irish Free State in the third series; the Teapot Dome scandal in the fourth series; and the British general election of 1923, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and the Beer Hall Putsch in the fifth series. The sixth and final series introduces the rise of the working class during the interwar period and hints at the eventual decline of the British aristocracy.

Downton Abbey has received acclaim from television critics and won numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie. It was recognised by Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed English-language television series of 2011. It earned the most nominations of any international television series in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards, with twenty-seven in total (after the first two series).[1] It was the most watched television series on both ITV and PBS, and subsequently became the most successful British costume drama series since the 1981 television serial of Brideshead Revisited.[2]

On 26 March 2015, Carnival Films and ITV announced that the sixth series would be the last. It aired on ITV between 20 September 2015 and 8 November 2015. The final episode, serving as the annual Christmas special, was broadcast on 25 December 2015. A film adaptation, serving as a continuation of the series, was confirmed on 13 July 2018 and released in the United Kingdom on 13 September 2019. The Downton Abbey film was released in the United States on September 20, 2019.’

Having watched the entire TV series with Becky in 2015 it was natural that we should see the film together. I will not reveal the story, save to say that it was set in 1927 when it was becoming more and more difficult for such aristocratic families as the Crawleys to maintain their style of living. Sumptuously filmed with the flawless acting of the original cast and a few additions representing characters I shall leave nameless, the presentation more than lived up to our hopes. It is an excellent portrayal of an era the ending of which was abruptly hastened by the Second World War. There is historical accuracy, drama, tension, intrigue, and humour in spades.

The cinema was justifiably packed – not such a regular occurrence as it had been in the 1930s heyday of this form of entertainment before television took over.

Julian Fellowes, a local man, and a Conservative peer of the House of Lords, is a patron of

Enlargement of this flier can be obtained by accessing the gallery with a click.

Each showing in this run of the film is made in support of the Association. The film is preceded by an appeal by Baron Fellowes and a collection is made in the foyer.

After we left the cinema, Becky drove us all to The Wheel Inn where we enjoyed our dinner. In the car we recounted snippets of the film which I will not reveal. Back at home, both in the evening and again in the morning, we revelled in Maggie Smith’s straight-faced sardonic jousting lines as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

It was pizza night at The Wheel, Jackie and I both chose the meat feast version. These were excellent, and so large as to overlap the plates on which they were served. They were freshly made by the chef. Ian chose the equally good house burger. Becky’s choice was a salmon and, I think, spinach risotto. We had begun with starters – Jackie and I selected the tempura prawns while our daughter and son-in-law shared a paté. Becky drank Diet Coke, I drank Ringwood’s Best, and Jackie and Ian chose different lagers.

Becky and Ian returned home after lunch this afternoon.

Assisted by Nugget, Jackie planted rows of cyclamen.

Her little hindrance looked askance at the robin food she placed on a stone in the hope that he would be diverted from

his preferred choice of live prey the Head Gardener disturbed for his delectation.

“Where’s Nugget?” (30)

This evening we dined on fish cakes; one with chillis, the other cheese and parsley centred; juicy ratatouille; and crunchy carrots and cauliflower with which Jackie drank more of the Albarino and I drank more of the Saint-Chinian.

Here is some additional information about the Regent Cinema from Barrie on my Facebook page: Barrie Haynes Julian Fellows was my Lord of the Manor when I lived in Tattershall (Lincs). I was willing to be the last man standing, protecting the ancient village green and butter cross for him against Tesco! In the end Tesco retreated and I lived to fight another day. He is a very nice bloke and his wife, Emma, is charming. I suppose that you could say that the Regent is sort of ‘Art Deco’ but you have no idea how rough it was in the ’60s/’70s, everyone in Christchurch called it The Bug Hutch! It is a very lucky survivor and has also had major structural problems. It was the second cinema built in the town, the first is now the former Royal British Legion building in Bargates. I probably still hold the record for being chucked out of the Regent on a Saturday night during a miss spent youth. I hope the above is of interest.

The End Of An Era.

Grow-ArcsFlatpack Greenhouse recycledOur fierce winds of late have ripped open the rather flimsy cover of Jackie’s self assembly greenhouse. This morning we went on a search for something more robust, and eventually found Grow-Arcs at Stewarts in Christchurch. Apart from the display model, there was only one in stock, but because they were slightly smaller than the original, we needed two. The staff dismantled the display one. We brought them home, and The Head Gardener assembled them. The now obsolete frame has, of course, been recycled against the front fence.

This afternoon I began reading Ian McEwan’s novel ‘Sweet Tooth’.

This evening we dined on egg, bacon, mushrooms, and baked beans, followed by Jackie’s apple crumble and evap. We both drank sparkling water.

Two nights ago we watched the penultimate episode of Downton Abbey. Having chronicled the saga of an English country house from the outbreak of the First World War to the years before the Second, this really had to come to an end, for the era of such grand households was in its death throes. The producers received much angry criticism for leaving a number of loose ends, in what was advertised as the final episode; clearly to encourage viewings for the Christmas special which we are now told is to come.

The era of my title is, however, not this one. It describes the tenure of the admirable Kevin Whateley first as Sergeant “Robbie” Lewis, in the Inspector Morse series, then as Detective Inspector in the spin off bearing his character’s name.

Inspector_Morse_Kevin_Whately_John_ThawThawKavanaghQCWikipedia tells us that ‘Inspector Endeavour Morse is a fictional character in the eponymous series of detective novels by British author Colin Dexter. On television, he appears in the 33-episode 1987–2000 drama series Inspector Morse, in which John Thaw played the character; as well as the 2012 series Endeavour, portrayed by Shaun Evans. Morse originally is described as a senior CID (Criminal Investigation Department) officer with the Thames Valley Police force in Oxford, England. With a Jaguar car (a Lancia in the early novels), a thirst for English real ale and a penchant for music (especially opera and Wagner), poetry, art, classics, classic cars, and cryptic crossword puzzles, Morse presents a likeable persona, despite his sullen temperament.

(John Thaw’s photograph, left, is wrongly captioned as Kavanagh QC, another role he played. It is undoubtedly of Morse, although he didn’t get to smile much.)

‘The same source offers this further information:  ‘Lewis is a British television detective drama produced for ITV. A spin-off from Inspector Morse, like that series Kevin_Whately_as_Inspector_Lewis,_Oxford,_August_2015it is set in Oxford.Kevin Whately reprises his character Robert “Robbie” Lewis, who was Morse’s sergeant in the original series. Lewis has now been promoted to detective inspector urland is assisted by DS James Hathaway, portrayed by Laurence Fox, who became promoted to Inspector in the eighth series airing in 2014. The series also stars Clare Holman as forensic pathologist Dr Laura Hobson, and Angela Griffin as DS Lizzie Maddox.’ 4This précis, corrected further on the Wikipedia page omits  ‘Rebecca Front as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (2006–2014) — She is the senior officer supervising Lewis and Hathaway. When Lewis returned from his overseas secondment Innocent was not convinced that Lewis would be of value, but he proved himself to her on his first case. Innocent is frequently at odds with Lewis over his investigation style. In Series 9, it is revealed that she has gone to work for Suffolk Constabulary.’

An interesting dynamic was created by dragging Lewis out of retirement to assist his former junior.

On 2 November 2015, ITV announced that the show would end after its ninth series, following the decision made by Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox to retire from “their roles” in the series. In a statement made by Whately, he announced that the show had gone on long enough, with his character having done many stories between Morse and Lewis after he took on the role 30 years ago.’

We watched the final episode this evening. I have been an avid follower from the beginning, and have probably seen every story. Apart from the deceased John Thaw, all the excellent actors named above, none having become typecast, should soon be gracing other roles.

‘We’ve Seen This One’

Rhododendron over footpathMuddy fieldSunlight on poolLandscape 1Landscape 2Footbridge over streamTreesAfter a domestic morning I attempted the woodland walk. Having negotiated the pools at the kissing gate entrance, I crossed the muddy field, where the lowering winter sun cast dazzling reflections from others between the brassica rows. The path through the woods was reasonably negotiable until the footbridge over the fast flowing stream, when it became increasingly muddy. Despite the nakedness of the trees, small birds, creating a cricket-like crescendo remained largely invisible, although zooming the seventh picture will reveal a few. On an uphill stretch a rhododendron shrub had fallen across a gravelled section. Briefly considering this prospect, I called it a day and returned home to finish our ‘Downton Abbey’ marathon by watching this year’s Christmas special.                                                                                  In ‘Downton Abbey’, Julian Fellowes has created a television masterpiece which deserves to run and run. So much has been written about this award winning series that I will not add to it, but I would like to write about our experience of it. Apparently you had to be living under a rock in order not to know about it in the last few years. Over Christmas, we found out why.

The programme has loosely, in the press and everyday conversation, been termed, simply, ‘Downton’. This gave our witty daughter, Becky, the opportunity to post on Facebook, when series five began, that she had just watched the first episode and her parents weren’t in it. ‘What’s going on?’ she exclaimed. Becky and Ian bought Jackie the complete boxed set for Christmas and she and Flo began watching it with us. Such was its appeal that we almost reached the end before the Emsworth family returned home a few days ago. Sometimes taking in three or four episodes a day, Jackie and I continued in their absence. This activity developed its own rituals. One concerned Isis’s bum. Isis was the beloved pet of the Earl of Grantham, played brilliantly by Hugh Bonneville. Every single one of the 42 normal episodes and the four Christmas specials began with the dog’s tail waving across the screen. This prompted a race to be the first, with a variety of jocularly exasperated or frustrated exclamations, to complain: ‘We’ve seen this one’. Jackie and I continued this practice even after Becky had returned home and changed her Facebook cover photo to:10915303_10152757813758999_1058604075828254588_n

For dinner this evening, roast potatoes and parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, and cabbage were added to Jackie’s beef and sausage casserole. Dessert was apple strudel and custard, and we each drank the same as yesterday.

A Slap In The Face With A Wet Fish

I don’t watch enough television to make it worth while viewing anything that is serialised, because I am bound to miss some episodes. I find it preferable to await the appearance of boxed DVD sets. Thus, those two superb HBO series, ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’, kept me entertained whist I was recovering from my hip replacement operation at the end of 2010. I have so far missed ‘Homeland’, which is well recommended and until now, ‘Downton Abbey’. This began to be rectified yesterday evening because Becky and Ian bought Jackie the boxed set of all five series for Christmas. We watched the first episode.
Serious frost, its outlines emphasising the patterns of nature, descended upon Downton overnight.Frost on primulasFrost on heucherasFrost on bramblesFrost on leafFrost on oak leafFrost on shrubFrost on gorseFrost on gateposts Seeking to savour the spectacle I took an early walk to Hordle Cliff top and back. Downton Lane was very slippery. Ice on the pools made its own patterns. The owner of a boxer dog tottered gingerly down a slope, whilst his pet, legs splayed, the claws of its paws scratching the surface, slithered on ahead. Footprints of walkers and dogs, and deeply rutted cart tracks stood proud in frozen mud.IceFrozen footprints
I crunched my way along the more crackly than usual shingle for a while, noticing that frost clung to organic matter, like driftwood and cuttlefish, rather longer than to the colder stones. As I walked down the steps I was momentarily alarmed by a cry of ‘Scooby’. I turned around and saw a Jack Russell/Pomeranian cross, bearing the same name as Flo’s Jack Russell/Beagle. This mixture had produced an animal not weighed down by an oversized head.
Frost on shingleFrost on driftwoodFrost on cuttlefishFrost on stepsFrost on bench
Where shadows had fallen across the steps down to the beach, or the sun had not yet risen above the back of a bench on the path leading to Shorefield, the white precipitation persisted.
Shadow of building on conifer hedge
A house on Pless Road cast its sharp black shadow on the bright evergreen hedge opposite.
Flo, Becky, and wet fish
All her life Flo has fondly imagined giving someone a slap in the face with a wet fish. Imagine her delight when, Jackie having bought some smoked haddock for this evening’s dinner, Becky volunteered to precede her shower by being the recipient.
We watched three more episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ before Jackie and Becky prepared the classic symphony in white fish dish. We are now as hooked as were the contents of the meal, the accompaniment to which was Wairu Cove sauvignon blanc 2014.