If you do not know who the ‘Carson’ in question is, well, I guess you are not familiar with one of my obsessions in the last year—the BBC drama Downton Abbey. Carson is the butler, the man who runs the show, or about whom as the Earl of Grantham explains in the first episode to a visiting Duke, “without Carson, we’d all be lost.”
So Downton Abbey is on my mind—of course it is. Tonight—in the United States at least—the first episode of Season 3 airs. But I am not in the United States, so I will not be watching the episode to see what happens to Matthew and Mary and to watch the sparks fly between Maggie Smith, the redoubtable Dowager Countess, and Cora’s mother, the new-to-the-show Shirley MacLaine.
I am in Bangkok. The first significant job fairs of the recruiting season always are in Bangkok and for the second year in a row, I left chilly New York for balmy Bangkok. Not that I am out in the balmy air much—this is a work-in-the-hotel-all-day affair. I am not complaining, just reporting.
But I had a rather Downton Abbey feel on my flight here. On New Year’s Day I flew from New York to Amman, unloaded all the Christmas gifts and food shopping from my USA sojourn in my apartment, re-packed with the suits and ties and propaganda for the candidates at the job fairs and headed back to the airport. Actually, that whole bit made me feel like one of the servants, all the schlepping and oh, yes, the heat was not on in the dorms yet so the shower was freezing cold. I felt like one of the hands in the fields, like that man that Mrs. Crawley saved in the first season. But the real Downton Abbey feel came when I checked in at the airport counter, discovered that the propaganda for the candidates weighed 60-some pounds which put me over the weight limit for checked bags. I asked how much the extra weight would cost—knowing that the school would (have to) fit the bill. The counter agent suggested that I purchase an upgrade to business class—that was cheaper than paying of the extra weight and staying in steerage, er, I mean in economy. I agreed that that was a dandy idea and accepted my upgrade and access to the Crown Lounge.
The next 10 hours then were my little Downton Abbey moments. I didn’t have to sit with the “little people,” the working stiffs in the waiting area. I could board when I wanted. And it was as if Carson and Mrs. Hughes oversaw the flight…anything I wanted or started to do, a flight attendant came and helped me. When I boarded they wanted to do it all, from taking care of the bags, to taking off my coat, to removing my shoes, to fluffing the pillows. If I liked the almonds in the little glass bowl for my pleasure, they got me more. If I commented about the roast beef amuse-bouche instantly another found its way on my plate. I liked travelling in the style of the Earl of Grantham! When the meals came (there were two) there was a stiff linen table cloth with nice china and glassware and silverware. I started to do something, and there was the Royal Jordanian version of Anna or William there to make sure I was satisfied and untroubled. The croissants were warm and tasted like Mrs. Patmore had just made them with Daisy in the kitchen!
I hope I made their evening as they served me.
I suppose Downton Abbey has been in my head the entire break! It was on every night on PBS while I was in the USA, then I got a sample on my kindle of a book, The Real Downton Abbey, Christy gave me a memoir of someone who had been in service in the Britain of the 1920s, and in a bookstore I paged through a cookbook based on the series. It is easy to live in this little Downton Abbey bubble! This morning as I walked through our hotel, the Shangri-la (ooo-la-la!!) this one section reminded me of a version of the gorgeous country house on the show…
Anyway, as the USA begins another season I am finishing up a day of interviews. Yesterday we gave 13 interviews after the 2-hour sign-up period, and today we had six interviews and 7 rejections for interviews…in between reading resumes (Why isn’t there a Carson to do that job??!!). I am longing for a week-end…if you know the show, you know where I am going with that one! The Dowager Countess heard that word in Season One and did not know what a week-END was…oh, how lovely for her to always live in her bubble!
Today I got an email from colleague Charlie of animals dressed up and named after the Downton Abbey characters, and since I cannot watch the season opener tonight, I may just content myself with finding the parody of it on YouTube! I will also share my friend Tracy's confession to me on the phone on New Year's Day--she watched both seasons back-to-back...she is also obsessed!
I wonder if poor Mr. Pamuk’s name will come up at all tonight…and yes, I still miss William, our gallant lad who passed away after his wounds in the trenches of World War I France.
I know he wasn’t really real, but it is a fun bubble to find oneself in!