Downton Abbeyvention

“An intervention?” I said to my denim-clad friends as they stood facing me in a semi-circle between my apartment door and me. “Whatever for? The strongest drink I touch is sherry and I never take more than one of an evening.  Oh do sit down, all of you; this standing about in the entry is too common. Sit, do sit: I give you my word I shan’t attempt another egress; it’s clear you will have your say. Well, why do you still stand there, is my word not enough for you now?

“We would sit,” replied my dear friend, Miss Plummer, “if all the chairs weren’t full of clothes, and who knows what else.”

“So,” I answered, “your intervention is about my spot of a mess, is it? This is easily cleared up then: Hubert is visiting his sick mother, Ingrid is away on her previously scheduled vacation, and Pimsby is on his annual pilgrimage to the baths at Széchenyi, which he mustn’t miss if any part of his skin is to undergo public view.”

“That clears things up,” said my friend, Mr. Wollicher, “but tell us before we go, who are Hubert, Ingrid, and P-what’s-it.”

“Certainly,” I replied: “Hubert––the h and t are silent, of course, as he is a Frenchman––is my valet; Ingrid is the housemaid (a sweet girl, but all thumbs, I had to take her else lose Mrs. Gulbrandsen who is the best non-French cook to be had for any money); and Pimsby is my butler. Wait, why are you moving those things and sitting?”

“We are not leaving until you face facts.”

“Dear friends, the state of my flat is a terrible embarrassment to me. The mere facts of you seeing it, and of my being a less than an ideal host, are all that is needed to assure I mend my ways. I see I must swear it: I do solemnly swear that I shall never again so over-accommodate the staff as to allow my domestic situation to sink to such a deplorable state.”

“It’s not only the apartment,” said Mrs. Wollicher. “Judy tells us you’ve been late to work, that you wear mismatched clothes and don’t answer your mobile.”

“If by ‘Judy’ you mean Miss Danforth, I can assure you that I explained––“

“And that’s another thing,” Mrs. Wollicher virtually shouted, “Judy is my boss, too, and I’ve always called her Judy. Hell, you called her Judy for three years and then suddenly this ‘Miss Danforth’ shit!”

“Alice, calm down,” said her husband, “we are supposed to be firm but understanding, and non-judgmental. Nemish, ask him about the pub bill.”

“Yes Mr. Sandrahar,” I enjoined, “ do ask me about a pub bill. I am certain to have answers to all your questions and then we can put an end to this farce.”

“You skipped out on the bill at Totem the other night.”

“Ah, you refer to my club.”

“Your ‘club’ seems not to know it’s yours––I came back from the bathroom to a manager about to call the police. I would have paid my part, but you insisted on buying, and that Champagne was––I had to use two cards.”

“I am deeply hurt that you would believe I could do such a thing, any of you. I told the waiter to put the entire thing on my tab. This has never been an issue at the club before, I assure you. I will pay a call at once and find out what happened. I don’t wish to get the man fired, but I––“

“You’re not going anywhere. No, stop talking and sit down. Look, Dahlia cleared a space for you––no, be quiet. There. Now, it’s our turn to talk. You don’t have a tab at Totem.”

“But I––“

Totem doesn’t do tabs. They never have. We checked. You do not––no one has a tab there. You left with an unpaid bill of nearly $600…don’t say anything, don’t worry about that yet, we’ll fix the money later, when my bills come.”

“And you don’t have a butler or a valet or a maid or any servants. We’re worried about you. You’re so thin, and at work they say that you stopped bringing lunch. They say you make excuses; that you say this Mrs. Gulbrandsen told you the fishmonger was out of cod, or that someone left the larder door open and the cat got the capons, or some…some…(begins crying).”

I must admit that the sight and sound of the usually staid Miss Rancek shedding tears on my behalf had struck me rather, but then Mr. Sandrahar said to Mr. Wollicher, “get the DVDs. And some of them don’t come on DVD so be sure to check for tapes.” I had to act. I surged forward, but my erstwhile friends blocked me and forced me back to my seat. I watched helplessly as my very soul was ripped from what until that moment I had been sure was a hiding place known only to me.

Mr. Wollicher removed several rows of books and a shelf; then he took a tool from his pocket and removed the false back from that part of the bookcase and reached inside. I ceased to struggle, much to my friends’ relief, as holding me had been putting three of them quite out of breath, stunned to silence as I listened fearfully to Mrs. Steinberg reading each title passed to her before dropping it into a large sack: Upstairs, Downstairs; The Forsyte Saga; Brideshead Revisited: Jeeves and Wooster; Poldark; Downton Abbey… “Stop!” I screamed, and then I screamed again, and again and again until––let’s just say that Miss Plummer is stronger than she looks.

After we’d all had some water (Mr. Dietrich kindly washed the glasses) and had sat quietly for enough minutes to re-gather our composure, though I was feeling rather queerly I felt the need for some clarification and was given leave to make inquiries.

“First of all,” I said, “I owe you all an apology. I am sorry to have worried you. I…I had been wondering about my weight loss. I did call the doctor but the woman on the telephone said that he would not come to the flat. She said that I must go to their medical office. That just did not seem right, so public, so I…I see, you all go to your doctors’ places of business. This explains why I’ve not been able to get my hair cut, then? Perhaps I’ve not found the right barber. I’ve tried so many but Mr. Dietrich, Mr. Woll––“

“Jon and Darren,” interjected the latter, “and yes, we go to the barber shop.”

“Nemish will take you,” said Miss…Patty, “he needs to go, I’ve been after him about it.”

“Very kind, thank you. This is all rather, well, disturbing. And confusing. I’m sorry if I seem a bit muddled. If we could have tea––Mr., I mean Darren, would you be so kind as to ring, the bell cord is just to your left?”

“There’s no point pulling…”

“Of course not, how silly of me. With all the staff away…”

“Fine, I’ll pull it. There, no ringing. It’s not connected to anything and even if it were no one would come because there are no servants.”

“Look at the room, hun; it’s not just people being away, it’s been weeks since you stopped bringing lunch to work and look at yourself, you’ve lost I don’t know how much but you didn’t have any to loose. Look in the mirror Dahlia’s holding, look at it. I can see your ribs through your shirt from here.”

“I have been so tired lately. Oh, put that mirror away, please! And that bill, your lines of credit overextended, Nemish. I am sorry, very sorry. I thought…but then all these other strange things…like every morning I rush about getting dressed because I was sure I had asked, I mean I had told, well I…so there is no manservant to lay out my clothes the night before?”

“No, buddy, that would be Jeeves in the television show.”

“I see. And the port and claret remain empty because there is no butler to fill them? Oh! but what about the key to the tantalus? I’ve been thinking Pimsby had it in his waistcoat pocket when he left for Széchenyi, but if there is no Pimsby then I have no idea––I’ve lost the only key to my grandfather’s tantalus!”

“I’m sure it’s here, don’t worry. We’ll all help you look.”

“Yes, and we’ll all help you straighten up. We’re sure to find it once we straighten up.”

“And the other day when I had arranged for a car to take me to the country house but no car came…I don’t suppose I have a driver, then, or a country house. But the party, next month, have I only imagined that I’m throwing the engagement party for Katrina and Tate?”

“Oh, you are. I mean Jon checked and you’ve rented the hall, I mean it all checks out, right, Jon?”

“Looks like a go, yea, deposits cleared at the hall and with the caterer. I don’t know what else is planned, like decorating and stuff.”

“Jon, thank you for that, for checking I mean. I’m so embarr…Blast!”

“What? What is it?”

“Well I ordered footmen, for the party, but I can’t recall through whom. I suppose one can’t ring up and order footmen so I must have…they were going to decorate, and serve. The bar! The caterer said they don’t do a bar so I asked Hubert, but there is no…This is too awful, I’ve ruined the entire thing, and you’re all here in this sty on a Saturday…I…it’s…(sobs).”

“I could use a brandy––I keep some on hand for emergencies. Would you all have one with me, please? And let’s get some air, we’ll step out on the patio. You’ve all helped me so much. Alice, would you brush the leaves off the patio table? Darren, Nemish, we’ll need three more chairs, please. The brandy is under that tea cozy, Jon, above my birding gun in the broom closet. Take these cushions out, will you, Carol? And the glasses––Patty, Dahlia, could you collect our water glasses? There, that’s perfect, now sit down, all of you––I’ll get the door so the leaves don’t blow in––not that one would notice if they did, haha––(click!)”

“Hey! What are you… come back here! Unlock this door (bangs on glass)! Put that bag down!”

“Don’t worry, dear friends, I’ll telegraph the doorman from the road to come up and release you. You have done me a great service, and I shan’t soon forget it. There must be others like me out there and I know now what I must do: I must seek out my Hubert, my Mrs. Gulbrandsen, my Brigita and my Pimsby, and some companions of my own station, too. And if they are not quite ready to know their true selves, well, I have the entire tutorial they could ever need right here in this sack. Goodbye Miss Plummer, Mr. and Mrs. Wollacher. Farewell for now Mr. Sandrahar, Miss Rancek, Mrs. Steinberg and Mr. Dietrich: my Masterpiece awaits!”

3 Responses to “Downton Abbeyvention”
  1. Clare Keller says:

    So comforting to know one is not alone in one’s own world.

    PS: Downton Abbey was a bit declasse the first time I viewed it, comparing it invidiously to Forsyte Saga, Upstairs Downstairs, The Pallisers, etc. However, watching it the second time I’m enjoying it more and becoming better prepared to watch the new season.

  2. Bobbie Brown says:

    But of course I’m hooked–and have been waiting w/ baited breath since Season I ended last year for Season 2. How else to spend a dreary Boston winter but to spend the week anticipating Sunday night at 9? I even forego The Good Wife for a glimpse at the highs and lows of the Downton activities.

  3. Rhonda Pickens says:

    Love it! The girls and I are tossing the rest of life aside for a Downton Abbey marathon and viewing on Sunday! Maybe we should work on finding a larger viewing space and having a mini-convention / Abbeyvention?

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