For many of us - especially perhaps Liam Fox this week - escapism is everything. From boredom. From endless Loose Women. From feelings of being as vastly unfulfilled as a Little Chef chef. Anything that escorts us from real-life into a world of excellent hats, special Socialist soup tureens for ink and cow pats and looking astonished when a woman declares she'd rather drive a tractor than be the ugliest daughter of three is heartily welcomed.
Downton Abbey is one such retreat. It looks nice, it sounds nice and I bet it would smell nice too. Except maybe now all those rotting soldiers are cluttering up the drawing room and demanding a 'tuck'. It also teaches us things that are very important.
(1) Whatever is happening in your life, there is a servant somewhere going through a similar hell
Which is naturally a relief. They obviously don't have someone to put their necklaces on for them when they are too immobilised by grief to do so. And of course, they still have to make eighty nine beds up by 6am when they want to die of misery. But this, people, is a comment on how some things are experienced by everyone in the world, rich or poor, upstairs or downstairs. Things like love, jealousy or gentle revulsion at O'Brien's unsettling fringe. This rule is not applicable to putting on the wrong diamonds, turning down a proposal by a Duke or getting a hole in your hunting tweeds. But this just goes to prove another rule. Which is: we get that humanity is a universal experience, but shit is way shitter if you get dumped and promptly have to scrub fish soup out of an evening gown.
(2) Unrequited love is brilliant
It'll give you something to do for ages. And you always end up together anyway. So stop fretting, Mary, Matthew will eventually realise that Lavinia Swire is only really twelve years old next birthday (and a ginger to boot) so he'll be back in your arms before you can say 'here, you can have my virginity, the Turkish fellow didn't really count because he died halfway through.' It takes literally months out of your year. And gives you a good reason to cry all the time. Tempting indeed.
(3) War is fine. You get to come back loads
Which is a great relief. There we were thinking that if you got sent to the trenches that was that. No return for you sonny, until you get shot in your smoking hand (Thomas) or suffer shell shock and promptly cannot handle cutlery without shouting (Mr. Lang). Not so! It appears you may still get to skive off loads like Matthew Crawley who appears to be shipped back from France for dinner at least once a week. Who said soldering was hard? Shut up, Lang.
(4) Orchestral swells mean something very good or very bad is happening
If only they were around in real-life to help out. No more confusing of indigestion with realising you really ought to marry someone you thought was an unrefined prig, or to alert you to a person or persons attempting to bring about your demise via a bar of soap. Not when you have fifteen violent stringed instruments sawing away to indicate 'SIGNIFICANT'.
(5) If there is dinner to be served, it must be served by a footman
Or you are no better than an accountant.