Oh, to be a toff at Downton

Mr Bates, you are the finest of fellows. You ignore that which is good for you, and think only of that which is good for others.

You are decent, hard-working, honest and just a little bit handsome in an older man sort of way.

And Lady Mary Josephine Crawley.

You would stoop to marry Sir Richard Carlisle?The man is nothing but a clown.

Take away the money he has made in the devil's trade of journalism, and you find a tiresome, angry, common bore of a man who cannot even act politely at social gatherings.

And Lady Sybil Crawley.

You would run off with an Irishman, and, of all things, an Irishman with political views?Ah, Downton Abbey - the stately home where all middle-class people see themselves if the world were put to rights.

Even liberal folk with left-leaning political views.

We all really want to be the Earl and Countess of Grantham, swanning about at soirees and talking in upper-class English accents.

It just looks like so much fun.

Fortunately for dreamers, the Yorkshire country house of the Earl and Countess has again been thrown open to us with the Downton Abbey Christmas special.

Part one is on Wednesday, February 1, at 8.30pm on Prime, with part two a week later.

As all good folk of good taste know, Downton Abbey follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the reign of King George V.

The first series spanned the two years before the Great War, the second series covered the years 1916 to 1919, and the Christmas special takes in December 1919 to January 1920.

On the yuletide, the house is abuzz with festive cheer.

Upstairs the family plays charades, much to the disgust of Sir Richard, who with every passing scene shows himself more and more to be a first-class dweeb, or goober.

Downstairs the servants hold a seance.

But all through the house, hearts hang heavy with the knowledge that Mr Bates is knocked up in the slammer, accused of killing his wife, a woman who deserved much worse than death, truth be told.

If all this isn't engaging enough, Nigel Havers turns up!

Straight from being Lewis Archer, the dashing but raffish gigolo from Coronation Street, the handsome-in-an-older-man-sort-of-way Nigel takes a turn as the dashing but raffish Lord Hepworth, a saucy old devil who is keen on the Earl's sister Rosamund, though not just for her older-womanly charms.

But never relax, Downton fans, shocks are in store, and hearts will flutter and tremble before the end of episode two.

What will become of Bates?

Oh, the humanity.


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