Tag: Downton Abbey

I wish I could drop Shakespeare into everyday conversation

Last night I was watching Downton Abbey, as one does on a Sunday night. I am very fond of Downton Abbey. It is my Sunday night luxury, along with a bowl of pasta and a BGORW (Big Glass of Red Wine). Sunday is complete only with these three elements.

This lady knows how to quote with her ice-cold tongue

This lady knows how to quote with her ice-cold tongue

There are a few niggles I have about Downton Abbey and I’ve blogged about these before. However, there is one attribute of the characters in the programme I envy greatly. Namely, their ability to throw literary quotes into everyday conversation. Last night, the Dowager said ‘Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war’. She was referring to the suggestion of inviting the Minister for Health (Neville Chamberlain) over for dinner. If we were to invite Jeremy Hunt for dinner this weekend, I’d like to be able to respond similarly. But sadly, I wouldn’t be able to due to my ignorance.

There is an article on wikipedia about the meaning of the Dowager’s phrase. I’m not so interested in the meaning of this particular phrase here, I’m interested in her talent to drop a Shakespearean quote in general chit chat and for it to have a strong resonance to everyone present (and of course the viewers). I want to be able to do that. It doesn’t have to be exclusive to Shakespeare’s great works, I want to be able to do that with any book. I’m quite a well-read member of the human race. I’ve read 78 of the 100 BBC ‘top reads’. Most people, the page states, have only read around 6 of them. Yet I can’t quote from any of them.  I’ve even read 93 of the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list of 339 books referenced in the Gilmore Girls. However, can I quote from Charles Dickens? No.

I bet she's read a lot

I bet she’s read a lot

I’m not sure whether this is a skill I can cultivate. Could I practice on my children and husband perhaps? Then move on to friends? And eventually use some choice, witty quotes in school governor meetings and work conference calls?

I could use this one from Jayne Eyre during a phone meeting about things going wrong: ‘It is a pity that doing one’s best does not always the answer.’

To my children as they leave their mess in the kitchen, I’d like to use this quote by Balzac: ‘Such is life. It is no cleaner than a kitchen; it reeks like a kitchen; and if you mean to cook your dinner, you must expect to soil your hands; the real art is in getting them clean again, and therein lies the whole morality of our epoch.’

And another one for the children, when they moan about their homework: ‘I dare you to work harder than your dream demands.’

Some advice from Oscar Wilde for all those people on Facebook who talk about betrayal and enemies: ‘Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.’

And finally, this one, another Oscar Wildeism, for anyone suffering from paranoia: ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.’

I think I need to keep a literary quote journal so I can pull on these out as and when needed. So again I ask: are there really people, beyond the fictional world of Downton Abbey, who can drop quotes with ease? I’d like to meet them and eventually, be one of them. Perhaps it’ll only come to me when I’m as old as Maggie Smith.

A very eloquent man

A very eloquent man

The things about Downton Abbey that annoy me

This isn’t so much a weird thought, but a thought that comes to mind every Sunday (or every Sunday that I find myself watching Downton Abbey).

I love Downton Abbey. For me, it defines Sundays in autumn. I have to watch Downton Abbey with a BGRW (Big Glass of Red Wine). As I type, Downton Abbey is on and I’m very excited.

My Downton Abbey wine

My Downton Abbey wine

However, there are aspects of Downton Abbey that annoy me.

 

They never get fat.

They eat huge meals every night. They eat meals of at least three courses. Yet, they never get fat. They move very slowly. They never exercise. They don’t run, go to Zumba, or play any sports. Yet, they never get fat. There is no justice in that.

We cook, they eat, a lot

We cook, they eat, a lot

 

They never seem drunk.

They drink wine every night. They drink lots of wine. They drink different wines with each course and they probably have brandy after dinner. Yet they always seem completely sober. They don’t dance like nobody is watching, fall over or snog inappropriate people.

 

More wine you ask, yars please!

More wine you ask, yars please!

 

They don’t age.

Series One began in 1912. We are now in the 1920s, they have hardly aged since 1912, even the older characters. What skin cream do they use?

How old do you think I am?

How old do you think I am?

 

They don’t raise their voices.

They disagree with one another occasionally yet they never shout, get cross or call each other bad things. Is that because they are posh? Do not posh people in the current century shout at each other? Rather than shouting, they tend to show their discontent in scathing sarcasm. It’s entertaining but is it realistic?

I'm good at sharp wit, rubbish at saying the f-word when I'm really cross

I’m good at sharp wit, rubbish at saying the f-word when I’m really cross

 

They don’t go to the toilet.

See my blog entry about people in films. The same applies to Downton Abbey.

Lady Mary never needs the throne

Lady Mary never needs the throne

 

It is never summer.

They always seem to be out and about in winter coats in the streets of Oxfordshire, oops I mean Yorkshire. Don’t believe me? Watch it.

Brrr, can someone turn the sun on please?

Brrr, can someone turn the sun on please?

 

They pop over to London as if it were next door.

London is not close to Yorkshire. This bothers me. If I were to go to London, from Shrewsbury, in the year 2014, it is a big deal. It takes planning and perhaps an overnight stay. On Downton Abbey they seem to ‘pop’ down to London and this is the age before diesel train travel.

The fast train to London

The fast train to London

 

They wear lots of clothes but they never go shopping.

Or at least they don’t seem to to me. I guess they must do, perhaps they go on Monday to Saturday when we’re not watching.

 

Besides all that I think that it is an excellent drama and I love every bit of it. On that note, I’m now going to finish my wine and watch the rest of tonight’s episode.

 

People in science fiction don’t care about history

This isn’t a thought from the bathroom but it is a thought that is bothering me so I will share it. I’m sat here watching Serenity and a few things occur to me, reminding me of issues I have with science fiction in general, and science fiction on TV and in films in particular. The first issue is the subject of this blog, and that is: people in science fiction don’t care about history. This statement of observation doesn’t sit well with me. People in the real world care about history. We have always look back as much as we look sideways and forwards. People in science fiction look mostly sideways and forwards. Consider how many hours we may spend our Sundays wondering around National Trust properties, watching The Antiques Roadshow, or browsing through old photographs or fingering fossils, crystals or old pots handed down from our father’s father’s father.

Lovely old pots

Lovely old pots

Why don’t people in science fiction films set in the future have the same urges? How come they don’t adorn their mantlepieces with bits of old pottery? Most people fill their homes with relics of their personal history and objects of previous histories. Why do you not see people in science fiction films wearing vintage clothing? Why is it that they don’t like watching Downton Abbey between fighting space battles and having wars with the Kardashians?

Who are these people from times gone by and why do we care about them?

Who are these people from times gone by and why do we care about them?

I don’t think that this is realistic. People have always looked back to the past, fondly or with fear, and collected objects of history or historical significance. We like to have these old things around us. They comfort us. But in space, there is no sign of the past and this makes me feel uneasy. Where are all the antiques?

Kim's new look

Kim’s new look

Apparently there are two exceptions to my observation. Firstly, Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek Deep Space Nine I’m told kept a collection of old things he occasionally liked to admire. Secondly, the film Planet of the Apes (both versions of which I have seen) was all about harking back to the past even though it was set on a different planet. I do concede on point one, but not point two. If you look at the strict definition of ‘science fiction’ it means ‘fiction that uses science to create a story’. Despite what most people may think, it doesn’t have to be set on a spaceship (and doesn’t have to be set in the future either for that matter).

Two archaeologists kissing

Two archaeologists kissing

My issue is with proper spacy science fiction and it is yet to be resolved.