Monday, January 28, 2013

Downton Deliberations – Season 3 Episode 5

Heading down the backstretch of this very exciting third season, the pace picks up. This most emotional episode is filled with emotion. From the perspective of the men, tempers flair, egos hijack any sense of reason, but the white water subsides thanks to the ladies’ interventions.  

Robert’s concern for Dr. Clarkson’s reliability causes him to bring in another doctor, a Sir Phillip Tapsell, from London – an expert in childbirth.

Robert forgets that Tom is the father and should be making the final decision. He is losing his grip of control. He cannot bear that Tom – an Irish Catholic chauffeur – is taking the reins.

One can see egos being tested. Professional territorial boundaries are also evident. And they stupidly want to squeeze Clarkson out. However, he arrives and sees things aren’t quite right. They argue and Sir Phillip bullies him into submission. 

He returns to suggest that Sybil is having eclampsia as he expected. Egos are at a fever pitch. A normal birth brings a healthy daughter. But then suddenly the seizures set in and Sybil dies a tragic death. The egos were laid to rest for a moment. Robert admits his share of responsibility.

Robert was callously insensitive to Edith’s new writing opportunities. One might think he could be more sympathetic to an unwed third daughter.

Thomas paws James and one can see his wheels turning. Miss O’Brien puts James in his place, assuring this unsavory dynamic will continue. Thomas is distraught by Sybil’s death. She was the only one of the lot who would have been sympathetic to his being gay without judgment and above the law.

Bates –to Anna in response to her candid thoughts on the late Mrs., Bates. “Don’t go down that road (of hatred and revenge), once you do, there’s no going back.”  How he maintains his level head is miraculous.

Robert supported Anna in her efforts to free Bates and went to the authorities to try to clear him. Fortunately the family attorney, in stark contrast to the emotionally charged men in the family, has a totally open mind and an open ear to Anna.

Matthew has new (to Downton) ‘middle class virtues’ and one of them is husbandry. He interestingly has a conversation with Sir Phillip about conceiving a child himself. He is challenged by his wife’s accusation about her father’s losing grip of the estate and blames him. Double-edged sword she is.

What was your take on this episode? Leave your comments below.

Etiquette Guy

This episode left me reeling.  ITV did such a good job of keeping this secret, I didn’t see it coming until it was too late.  In light of Sybil’s death it doesn’t seem like the other stories are that important but just like in real life, everyone is important.

Anna has managed to add up the clues from Mrs Bartlett and is now certain her husband will be found not-guilty and released from prison.  It really speaks to their love that she would never give up on him and do so much to prove his innocence.  We should all be so fortunate.

One must wonder about the incompetence of the police who investigated Vera’s murder.  How did they miss the poison in the pie?

Matthew continues to work his way into the dealings of Downton while putting pressure on Mary to conceive.  Really, Matthew?  A chat in the hall with the doctor about your *ahem* plumbing? 
Edith is still defeatist and dreadfully middle class as she storms away from the breakfast table when Robert chastises her for wanting to write a newspaper column.  I often wonder what she might be like if anyone just encouraged her to follow a dream – oh wait…she is the reason Bates is in prison…never mind.

Kudos to Mrs Crawley for giving Ethel a job and letting her learn a trade.  Remember when we liked Mrs Bird, for a moment, when she was almost kind to Daisy?  She did start the soup kitchen for the local soldiers so her refusal to work in the same house as Ethel surprised me.  Surely she has some compassion for the girl?

As I said, I didn’t see Sybil’s death coming.  I think this made it even harder to watch her go from beautiful new mother to dying in her husband’s arms.  After all the nonsense between the doctors I am sure Cora will blame Robert for this for a long time.  I can only wonder what will come of Tom now that his connection to Downton is gone.  He can’t go back to Ireland and doesn’t belong upstairs or downstairs.  I do hope the baby will prompt Robert and Cora to keep him there and shelter him while he recovers from the loss of his beloved wife. 

I used to love this show so much, but it just keeps breaking my heart.  I understand an actor wanting to move on but surely the script could’ve been written to keep her alive and leading suffrage marches somewhere?  Let’s hope the rest of the season is a bit cheerier shall we?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Christmas is Almost Over

The holidays are safely behind us now, and a few questions from readers still need to be addressed. Here is one showing some great foresight and organization concerning Christmas card lists.

“With postage increasing regularly and Christmas cards getting pricier each year, I am wondering how to sort out this seasonal mailing. Sending a card to distant friends and family is fine, but mailing a card to someone just blocks away has me questioning the wisdom of continuing the practice. I do not want to be rude and feel compelled once cards start arriving to return a greeting to each one I receive. How does one reduce the Christmas list without being inappropriate? I'd rather put the postage and card money in a red kettle or toward another charitable effort. Thank you for your advice.”

I agree with you in principle and have decided to build the following year’s list based on who I received cards from the previous year. I mailed out about 50 cards this year including overseas, U.S., and Canada. I have been using this guideline for years and am amazed at how the annual changes are minimal. Flexibility is very important though – new people come into our lives, and then of course there are intermittent card senders, whom I tend to keep on the list. If people fail to send me a card after two or three years, I take them off the list.

Another area of concern is thank you letters. The time is fast approaching when thank you notes should be completed and sent out. If you haven’t done so yet, get on it. Without a thank you letter, which comprises as few as three sentences, you risk being removed from the gift list, not to mention how boorish it is not to show appreciation. Writing thank you notes the day after Christmas is the best path to follow. In case you forgot to write on the gift tag which gift Aunt Susie gave you, you will quickly come to realize just how helpful this practice is for keeping you in good graces with a gift giver. Perhaps next year you’ll remember.

Even though our Christmas trees have likely been pitched to the curb, lights and other decorations may still be hanging about. Putting away decorations should be done carefully and thoughtfully. Repacking Christmas ornaments and decorations is time-consuming. Many hands make light work. Turning this into a family activity accomplishes a couple of things. One is getting the job done; another is teaching your children how to do this and that it is all part and parcel of enjoying the holiday. If there are faulty strings of lights, throw them out. If there are burned out bulbs, consider replacing them now. This makes getting set up next year much easier. Taking care to pack delicate ornaments, papier-mâché crèche figures and other heirlooms helps ensure they will be enjoyed by future generations for years to come.

There are inevitably presents we receive that we really don’t want or have any use for. These nonetheless deserve a thank you letter and message of appreciation. They can then make their way to the all-important re-gifting drawer, or closet as the case may be. Be as careful as possible to save any packaging without damaging it. This makes re-gifting a snap. Be sure not to give the gift back to the person who gave it to you. This can be guaranteed if you put a note with each item. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll be able to remember who gave you the item or even when. Our memories can desert us when we least expect it.

No matter how we celebrate the holidays, we do need to remember that cleaning up is part of the deal. This is just like having a dinner party or any other celebration. Having a system in place to make the clean up as efficient as possible not only makes the process quicker, but also helps ensure less damage to old favorites that have been many of us for a lifetime.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Downton Deliberations - Season 3 Episode 4

Downton Deliberations – Season 3 Episode 4

In this episode, completing the first half of this very exciting third season, emotions amongst the men are running at a fever pitch. For all the romantics, we get a glimpse into Bates’ inner sensitivities to feelings of abandonment brought on by a corrupt prison system withholding letters to and from Anna. Oddly enough, a perfect stranger, who, in his contempt for Bates’ cellmate, helps Bates keep hope alive. Beautifully crafted by Mr. Fellowes, we see Anna’s heart breaking simultaneously, and then once the letters are delivered, we can’t help but be happy for television’s favorite couple.

The beginnings of inadequacy, both as a fertile spouse and as a competent heir, enter Matthew’s mind, whilst stifling his resistance to the old ways of Carson and Robert. Robert skillfully puts off any discussion on changing the way Downton is managed. Matthew brings his concerns to Violet, who supports him but cannot solve the noses out of joint inevitability. Robert also airs his biased views on the Irish Catholics, which neatly aligns with Tom’s newest revelation. Tom sees a slight crack in his own revolutionary eye, but is met with tremendous anger by Robert and is ashamed. Carson chimes in his two bits also, indicating he has never accepted the move of Tom from chauffeur to squire. The rebellious Sybil thankfully safely returns and defends Tom, but she is shocked to find out just how deeply rooted his allegiance to Ireland is. Is old blood thicker than new family? Ireland is coming of age and so is Tom. He is showing a reasoned approach, and makes a stand stating to his father in law, “We all live in a harsh world, but at least I know I do.”

Thomas continues carrying his misery on his shoulders, but has taken a new interest with Jimmy (quickly renamed James by Carson). I imagine there will be more ahead for these two.

The gruff, insensitive Mr. Bryant is enamored with his grandson Charlie, who Ethel decides to hand over to he and his wife to give him a chance for a better life than she could provide. The irony is how such a boorish man really is compassionate.

Etiquette Guy

Happy Monday!  This week’s episode covered a lot of topics and storylines.  It’s amazing it can all fit into one hour!
Mr. Bates’ cellmate seems to have interfered with letters from Anna and we are witness to some fine acting from Brendan Coyle (known as The Face) when he says more with one sad look than could have been written in a hundred pages of script.   Anna feels Bates has cut off contact with her in an attempt to, once again, be gallant and set her free.  Proving the enemy is a very good teacher, Bates manages to turn the tables on his cellmate and contact with his beloved is resumed.  Why, after everything these two have gone through, does either think the other will give up? 
Carson is busy trying to plan for a dinner party but doesn’t know who is in charge now.  I predict Matthew’s money will cause some complications in his relationship with Robert and Mary.  Matthew assures Carson Lord Grantham is in charge but his fresh, young ideas will no doubt cause friction.  True to the old ways, Robert and Mary aren’t always the easiest to bring around to new ideas.
Edith finds herself with little to do after being left at the altar and writes to a newspaper about women’s rights and the vote.  With a little encouragement she could fill her life with something meaningful.  Robert is less than impressed but might soon realize he has lost all control of the women in his life.

Out of the blue, in the middle of the dinner party, Tom shows up at the door sans Sybil.  A phone call from Sybil and we are assured she is alright, but no one, including Tom, knows where she is.  It turns out there was some trouble in Ireland involving Tom’s attendance at the razing of a castle, putting a family out in the cold.  Knowing he would be arrested he has fled Ireland with Sybil meant to follow him back to Downton.  Robert is livid that Tom would ‘abandon’ Sybil in a country that isn’t her own which makes me wonder if he has ever met the girl.  Sybil is more independent and capable than the rest of them and no doubt she thought nothing of their plan to escape Ireland and saw it as a bit of an adventure.  Tom has strong ideas about his future child but the Crawleys lay down the law and insist they stay at Downton until the baby is born. 
Ethel, Isobel, and Mrs Hughes arrange a meeting with the Bryants to discuss Charlie’s future.  Ethel needs to make some very hard decisions for her little boy, ones no mother ever wants to have to make.  My heart broke for her as she waved goodbye to her son and walked down the street with nowhere to go, nothing to do.  It’s a shame things aren’t better for her and the Bryants were so harsh at the beginning.  They all want what’s best for Charlie so let’s hope this means Ethel finds her way back to him.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

To Rush or Not to Rush - That is the Etiquette

Time-starved world indeed! I call foul ball on this convenient argument, bandied around today as an excuse for behaving badly. Why are we in such a rush to do everything? Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to miss out on anything; maybe we worry about losing control of situations surrounding us; or maybe it’s because we have perfected the art of procrastination to the point where we haven’t any other choice? No doubt there are plenty of other reasons, but whatever one you may choose, there are unpleasant consequences. Remember, too, that time management is a matter of choice. Someone else does not decide how we allot our efforts around the clock. Some may rebuff this concept, but upon close examination, we do ultimately have to take responsibility for all of the choices we make, this being but one of them.

Rudeness is the first consequence that comes to mind. Not listening to what another is saying because we are distracted visually, or perhaps because we allow our minds to drift to a ‘more interesting’ topic is hugely disrespectful. How often do we find ourselves in a conversation, only to notice the person with whom we are speaking looking over our shoulder at another person? How often do we realize that the person with whom we are conversing is more interested in responding than they are to listening? Offenders will often finish sentences for us, interrupt us, or even worse, tune us out and totally lose track of the topic we’re discussing?

Image is another consequence of rushing about from one task to another. Not only does it convey the impression of being disorganized, it often translates into what we choose to wear. How many times do we wonder, “Who dressed that person today”? Or “How could his wife have let him out of the house looking like that”? Or “What was she thinking when she threw that outfit together”? How others perceive us has consequences both professionally and in our personal lives. If we don’t appear to have the time to look presentable, people begin to question our ability to get the job done! And just imagine the terrible habits we are teaching our children, by not taking the time to look our best. In the words of Andre Agassis, “Image is everything”!

Safety can be a serious consequence we pay if getting places on time is a challenge. Most places we need to be or need to deliver our children to do not come to us as a surprise. Granted, some do, but most don’t. We have had days if not weeks or months to arrange our schedules accordingly. Suddenly, we’re running out of time. As convenient as it may be to blame outside circumstances on our predicament, the sooner we learn to take responsibility for being late, the more likely we are to eliminate this dynamic from our lives. Not everyone runs late. It is not a sign of a well-organized professional. Driving our cars recklessly can endanger others if we feel we must speed to get somewhere on time. We might decide to cut in line or to exclude others from merging properly if we are in a rush. If speeding tickets or fender benders result from time mismanagement you definitely need to balance your schedule more appropriately. Be courteous when driving at all times and remember to drive defensively. If you have forgotten what that even means, it means sharing the roadways with others civilly.

Forgetting to do things is another consequence of choosing to live one’s life ‘on the fly’ all the time. Not only is this incredibly disrespectful to the person with whom you had an appointment, it also winds up creating further erosion into valuable time as rescheduling is now required, not to mention perhaps paying a monetary penalty for such a blunder. People have been known to forget or leave their children at school or the hockey rink, thinking the other parent will collect them, or more correctly, failing to think at all.

Slow down for heaven’s sake! Take the time to check your calendar every day and plan your week out so you don’t mess up. Your life will be less stressful and you will be surprised at how much more fulfilling it can be to smell the roses for a change, before they have lost their bloom.