Downton Abbey: Up close and personal

Highclere Castle van de Carnarvon-familie, gel...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out the fascination of Downton Abbey. Certainly the clothes. How marvelous! And the interweaving of the upper class with those who care for them. But one of the biggest draws for me was watching the vehicles change.

They lived in the Age of Transportation, going from horse carriage to rail to automobile to airplane.  How exciting to see all of these for the very first time. Can you imagine, having been limited to the speed a brace of horses would go, to all of a sudden be catapulted into the 20th century with a ride in a brand new automobile!
I’ve been reading a memoir of an extraordinary person, whose life parallels the folks at the Abbey. In many ways her life was as exciting as theirs. The author? Agatha Christie. I was first introduced to Dame Christie by watching reruns of M.A.S.H. There is a wonderful episode where Hawkeye and B.J. are reading her newest mystery, only to find the last page missing. The story follows their efforts to find out exactly what happened.

Agatha had always been a story-teller. As a young only child, she invented a group of Kittens, and told elaborate stories of their adventures. Later on, of course, she became famous for her wonderful series of mysteries involving both Hercule Perot (who bears an amazing resemblance to her second husband) and Miss Marple.

In a way she was like Conan Doyle in that both characters were old when she invented them, with little chance to grow and change. She tried several times to shift into other venues, but her publishers kept pulling her back. They knew what the readers wanted!

She traveled with her first husband around the world. Followed her second husband to archeological digs all over the middle east. Lived through both world wars. An amazing lady!

I’m turning into my mother-in-law

2012-09-08 - Apple Cobbler Insides - 0015

Some women have a worry of turning into their mother, especially during stressful times. I have found through a quirk of fate that I think I’m turning into my mother-in-law instead!

She was a simple, though intelligent woman who died many years ago, a traditional homemaker who raised a large family in the 40s and 50s and never worked outside the home.

But as I review my current, semi-retired lifestyle, I find it remarkably similar to hers. For example: She rarely went out, except to the grocery store, the hairdresser and the bank. (Hand raised. Just got back from all three.) She had one good friend. (Hand raised).

She loved to cook Southern style, what we’d call today, whole foods, slow cooked: Home-made biscuits, fried chicken, apple cobbler, all made from scratch. Because I am mostly vegetarian and gluten sensitive, my style is different, but the same.

Right now I am cooking applesauce with apples from the frig, and I make my own almond milk, because many of the store-bought brands list sugar as the first ingredient! But I experiment–cooking beans in a slow cooker is the only way to go, and I have a chayote squash waiting for tomorrow’s supper. I notice I have shared her joy of discovery of a new recipe, the pleasure in the process and the pride in the final product. A nice feeling!

She was intensely interested in both her neighborhood and nature around her. She usually had a small vegetable garden and grew roses, even in the shortened growing season in Flagstaff. For me it’s the new covey of baby quail living under the Russian sage, and the pecans I harvested and shelled from our tree out back.

The fire that blackened Mt. Elden north of town was right at the top of her street. She felt the horror at that destruction much as I am living through the aftermath of the Slide Fire.

She loved afternoon TV and could quote you chapter and verse of the Phil Donohue show. For me it is books–I’ve currently embarked on an round-the-world cruise. Right now I am “in” Canada, and loving it!

But most of all, when I went to visit her, I loved the predictability. When I was in my thirties and forties, a full-time working woman, I’d rush to her house and let out a sigh of relief at her rhythm of life. The pineapple crocheted doily was always on the kitchen table, the same picture always hung over the couch, and the coffee (always Folgers) was brewing in the old Pyrex percolator that she’d had for decades.

I used to wonder, back then, what on earth she did with her day.

Now I know.

 

 

 

 

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What am I reading right now?

Bookshelves

Bookshelves (Photo credit: gadl)

I’m a reader, always have been. I used to feel guilty ‘stealing’ minutes away from the necessary and vital things on my To Do list to read. I don’t, anymore. A friend has called me a scanner–that I read quickly, skimming for meaning. Perhaps I am that.

But a favorite quote of mine perhaps sums it up best:

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott

So what’s in the stack of books by my reading chair today?

The Short Guide of a Long life by David B. Agus. I checked it out to check him out. He doesn’t say anything I haven’t heard before: exercise, eat right, be social–but it is always nice to be reminded.

Fooling with words by Bill Moyers. I like poetry; I like the intelligence of Bill Moyers.

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. She was featured on the cover of Time magazine not too long ago. I wanted to find out why. I wasn’t disappointed. A marvelous writer that makes sense of the spiritual quest.

The Healthy Headonist Holidays by Myra Kornfeld. She’s a flexitarian cook–fruit and vegetables always, fish once in a while. Her combinations are unusual and colorful. Fun to experiment!

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin. I recently discovered this Scottish mystery writer and have been working through some of his work. He understands people and how they interact with each other. I like that.

Bauble-Fest Fractal

The fractal geometry of nature by Benoit Mandelbrot. This is the French scientist who discovered fractals; those beautiful patterns that repeat inside themselves and expand infinitely. Wonderful illustrations and clear explanations by a writer so diverse in his interests he reminds me of da Vinci.

And on my Kindle I have:

Authors in a digital age by Kristen Lamb, which is The Best book I’ve ever read on social media and building platforms. This gal knows her stuff!

As David Thoreau once said, “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

I have a lot of ‘popcorn’ reading in my stack, too. We need both kinds. But when only the very best will do, I reach for a good book!