It was with bittersweet pleasure that we saw 'Downton Abbey' back on our screens for its sixth series this weekend. Yes, it's no doubt time for it to draw to a close, but that doesn't mean we won't miss this bunch of class-bound clowns in all their foolish finery.
The debut episode found Lady Mary under a blackmailer's thumb, both Bates, as ever, under the shadow of the law, and Mrs Hughes dreading her wedding night. It was a thoroughly pleasant 90-minute opener, with these lines in particular bringing a chuckle and a tear... and with only eight more episodes to go, we must savour such gems while we can.
Mrs Padmore has one of her more awkward conversations with Mr Carson
"Do you really like riding like that, when a side saddle is so much more graceful?"
- Lord Grantham might have dealt with daughter Lady Mary's daring haircut two series ago, but this really is going too far
"The button came off my cuff. I thought I'd mend it before things got busy."
- It's all about time management for Mrs Hughes now the kitchen staff numbers have been skinned to the bone
"I hadn't fully considered all the… aspects of marriage."
- Mrs Hughes coughs into her cocoa at the thought of Mr Carson's marital expectations. Mrs Patmore's screwed-up face revealed what we were all thinking. In a word, Awkward.
"I've had some commissions in my time."
- Poor Mrs Patmore thought her troubles were over when Daisy put her books away and started cleaning the pans again, but now she's been deployed to talk through the sexy times with Mr Carson. If ever there was a time to wipe hands on pinny, this is surely it.
The Bates' troubles are finally, seemingly, over
"I'm not taking any sort of tone."
- Bravo, Lady Edith, managing to make the word 'tone' last roughly three syllables, while holding the telephone ear piece a good half-foot from her head, and still hearing every sort of impertinence from those towny folk.
"Trouble at mill?"
- Cora shows she's down with the workers, via Monty Python.
"Can you prepare tea for… I'm not sure, can you count them?"
- Err... then again, maybe not.
"I'm a veritable tomb where other people's secrets are concerned, my lady."
- That'll be one of those Egyptian tombs that got regularly opened, then, Miss Denke.
"You could have rung for her yourself, my lady."
- Thus did Pratt, with one swift move and singlehandedly, start the revolution.
"Could you spare me a minute? Come along to my pantry."
- Now this is exactly what we will miss.
Just look at how she's riding that horse!
"My darling papa converted into Machiavelli at a touch."
- Lady Mary's somewhat dimmed gratitude, considering her father had just swallowed his shame, and paid off the woman blackmailing his daughter over an illicit liaison.
"I'd rather be alone than with the wrong man."
- I think this is where we came in with Lady Mary, all those six series ago, but it obviously bears repeating...
"Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?"
- The Countess Dowager dishes out another classic in the direction of her friendliest foe Isobel Crawley.
"Don't worry, Miss Denke, I've got a copy of The Lady upstairs."
- Pratt discovers that revenge is a dish best served... by the butler, still in employment.
And finally, let's maintain all good order, and leave the last word, as ever, to the Countess Dowager...
"Sometimes it's good to rule by fear."
Here are eight more things we NEED to see happen before the end of this very final series...