Sundays are the day of the week where many of us have our rituals. For me, the rituals have changed a little over the years but not too much. In my younger days, it was an early mass, a stop at the bakery and reading the comics. As I got older, my Dad would pick up the rolls and paper and then I’d help him in the kitchen with the pot of sauce. After that, we’d watch the Giants play and then have pasta for dinner.
Reading the Sunday paper and cooking up some food are still part of my ritual, and when my team is on, like today, so is football. But I’ve added something new to my Sundays since it is the night I watch Masterpiece Theater.
I’m a big fan of the shows on Masterpiece but one of my favorites is Downton Abbey. Based on what Brian Williams reported on the Nightly News earlier this week, apparently I’m not alone in enjoying it.
What’s not to love? It’s this decade’s version of Upstairs, Downstairs!
The show is set in a beautiful castle with lots of fun characters, both those we love and those we love to hate. The first season started in a time of prewar elegance but we are now encountering the wartime adjustments that were partly responsible for the how the class system changed in England.
There’s plenty of intrigue too. Will Mister Bates and Anna get together? What about Lady Mary and Mathew? And just what is the deal with Sir Richard Carlisle? I, along with the other 4.5 million Americans watching, wait with bated breath for what will happen next.
The current season, set during WWI, brought to mind a book series I’ve been reading by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs, the first book, is set in 1929 London when Maisie first opens her detective agency. Much of this book goes back to an earlier period in her life, before and during WWI, where you discover how she came to be the person she is now. She started as a young housemaid in a large manor but it was her thirst for knowledge that brought her to the attention of her employer, Lady Compton, and a well known friend of that employer, Maurice Blanche. Through them, Maisie is able to get an education and expand her horizons. Some horizons, like her time as a nurse during the war, are more painful than others. Injured herself, she has felt the horrors of being near the front line and she has seen what it did to the soldiers, both during and after the war. It is these experiences, along with her helper Billy Beale, another war veteran, which help her understand and solve the complicated cases she encounters.
Though this series is essentially about Maisie and the mysteries she solves in the late 20s/early 30s, the real anchor is World War I and how the aftermath of the Great War affected England’s people, both upstairs and down. In some ways, these books could represent the people of Downton Abbey, just a few years later; for it was the rituals of everyday life that were changed and how people dealt with them.
Rituals make our lives familiar and comforting. Certainly change is good for us all but for now, I'll take my Sunday ritual. There's still a little more paper to read before I watch Masterpiece Theater tonight.
And ritual or not, incredibly, my team seems to be winning…