I seemed to be well among the landed gentry this weekend. I’m lovin’ it!
Wait for Me! by Deborah Mitford, the Duchess of Devonshire, is a coveted Christmas gift that I started reading even as the colorful wrapping was coming off of the present. I didn’t really get a chance to bite into it and chew until this weekend, especially Sunday, with the warm sun streaming in from the cold outdoors and boxes around me, as I was also taking down Christmas.
Most have removed their decorations and trees by now, but, we have always left our holiday trimmings up until the three wiseguys come. The magi, Epiphany, and then, well, it often takes a few more days. Everything has to be boxed “just so”, so all can be found next year. It usually works out pretty well, but, there is often that one or two pieces that don’t get back in the right box and after Christmas sale of something I just have to have, and, well . . .
. . . off to the red leather couch and expanse of windows facing the trees I went. Book in hand, English tea sending swirls of steam out of a China cup, and boxes, which I carefully ignored.
My all-things-Anglo friend, June, put me on to the Duchess of Devonshire a few years ago, encouraging me to read Counting My Chickens and Other Home Thoughts. We share an appreciation for our English brethren, and, I did just that, finding the book in the library. Like millions of others, I fell for the Duchess’ style and wit and was hooked. When I heard her memoirs of childhood and lifetime were being published, it was etched into my wish list for Christmas, where Tom found it and then found the book for me. Not as easy to locate here in the ‘burbs of Chicago, and, from all accounts, he must have purchased the only book around.
So, there I sat, through a good part of yesterday, immersed in the lives of the famous and infamous Mitford sisters; their and their brother Tom’s unique childhood in the England of the past century, their education, nannies, cooks and associations with the likes of Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, the Kennedy’s and Hitler.
The Dowager Duchess is now a mere ninety years old. She is still full of what my mom would call “spit and vinegar”, which I mean in a most complimentary way. The youngest of the brood, and a girl, not a boy, she begins this book by saying that her mother wrote nothing in her diary entry for the day Deborah was born. Debo, as she is called, writes candidly about her family, the war years in England and the tragedies that befell not only the common folk, but, the landed gentry as well, and the passage of time and mores and ways of conducting oneself.
I read and read until my eyes felt too dry and then . . .
. . . Downton Abbey!
I’ve been waiting for this to find its way to PBS. Last night it did, and there I was, finishing my day in 1912, with the daily newspaper, which has arrived rather late, being ironed by the downstairs staff, as word of the sinking of the Titanic steams up from its pages and, with it, all things as known until then begin to change at Downton Abbey.
So, I will be busy from 8 ’til 9:30 the next three Sunday nights. I’ve a date with Masterpiece Theater at Downton Abbey.
Now, I really need to put those boxes away.