, Derry, New Hampshire


February 21, 2013

Column: Pondering the lives of the rich and British

In a parking lot, I try to keep some distance between my car and the one next to me. Not the standard foot or two to prevent another car door from dinging mine. No, I mean a Grand Canyon-esque gulf, as in, “Hey, how’s the weather over there in the mountain time zone?”

I guess I have personal-space issues, because if I lived in Downton Abbey, I’d live downstairs and hang with the help.

The highbrow British soap opera, “Downton Abbey,” is all the rage these days, and my wife, Betty, and I can’t get enough of it. “Grand-mama” this and “her ladyship” that. And how much tweed does one guy need? Closets and closets full, apparently.

But if I close my eyes and imagine myself the lord of a World War I era British mansion ... I’m dressing myself for bed, thanks very much.

Don’t get me wrong. The Crawley clan has it pretty good. Their little country cottage has more rooms than the Smithsonian. Sure, there’s always another looming scandal, like the daughter who eloped with the chauffeur — blimey! — but there’s always food on the table and another dignitary to entertain.

And servants galore, practically Velcro-ed to those they serve.

In one scene, his lordship leads a hunting party in hopes of bagging a few hundred pheasants. At first I thought the entire British Parliament had been invited to the outing, but as the camera moves in, it’s clear that most of the participants are servants, either rustling the tall grass with sticks — can’t just wait for those blasted birds to appear, dear boy — or loading various shotguns for the aristocrats.

One guest, from “new money,” is appalled that he has to load his own gun. But after cursing his wretched luck, a properly humbled servant arrives with just the right amount of ammunition.

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