Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lady Rosemary and the Real Downton Abbey

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I'll admit it. I gave a little yelp of delight as our car continued up the long driveway and I caught my first in the flesh look at Highclere Castle, the stately home that is used in the PBS series Downton Abbey. I swear I heard the theme song and expected to see the white dog (Isis) wiggling her way to Lord Grantham's side.

Let me explain. Unexpectedly, my husband needed to go to London for the London Book Fair. I've been to London many times and had no legitimate reason to go - in fact I should have stayed home to cathc up on the tons of work which I still haven't caught up on. And that includes everything from writing to getting the window in my bathroom (which hasn't closed properly for 15 years) fixed. And then there was the sheer joy - sorry honey - of having some time alone. With no one to talk to but the dog. These days that's a real treat for me.

But Downton Abbey's second season had just ended. And on a flight to Dubai in February I watched the entire season again. How would I last until next January when season three is to start? I ordered three books from Amazon including Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey which I enjoyed immensely. There were pictures of Highclere. There really was a Bates (although not a valet.) The lady of the manor really did turn her home into a hospital during WW1. I googled the home. Yes! They did give tours and they were less than 2 hours outside of London. I could take a day trip.

But they were sold out for the day we arrived. And I couldn't leave earlier because mof a work commitment. And that was the last day until June when the house would be open to the public. I emailed four times. No ticket brokers. No packages. No hotel packages. No waiting lists. I was as plucky and as optimistic as one could be in an email. I dropped "the London Book Fair" as if to suggest I was the more famous Rosemary Harris. To no avail. I reported each failure to my husband


And then he surprised me. "I got the tickets. Do you want the house, the gardens and the Egyptian exhibit?"
I was flabbergasted. It wasn't clout or a close personal relationship with Prince William.

He emailed the director with the subject line "A Husband's Plea." He told them it was our anniversary - actually it was the 29th - and all I wanted was to see the place where Downton Abbey was shot. And they said yes! And the director sent us a lovely email saying that they hoped it would make beautiful memories for our celebration!







Is he a keeper or what? Anyway, here are some pix. There was a team of blue-haired docents who kept us from taking pictures inside the house (but I snuck a few.) I also dragged the poor man back a few days later and prowled around in the hopes that I would see them shooting. I didn't.

If you love the show, you will love a visit - I can't wait to go back.

In keeping with the post-WWI time period, today we are giving away a copy of A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd.

26 comments:

Jack Getze said...

He's a keeper, for sure. I only write letters like that for myself.

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

Whooo Hoooo!! What a guy!!

Gram said...

I now have to find time to watch that program. How beautiful. I am also going to look up the book you spoke of.
Oh yes the hub - what can I say - "you've all done very well" - will have to do. Dee

Unknown said...

You lucky dog! For both getting inside and for having a determined husband.

Ramona said...

What fun! And what a lovely thing for the director to do, in response to the lovely thing your husband did. I hope the team of white-haired docents don't track you down for being naughty and taking photos inside!

I miss Downton. I need to read the Lady Almina book to get a fix, and to find out about the real Bates.

Karen in Ohio said...

What a doll your husband is!

Wait? There's a more famous Rosemary Harris? Surely not. :-)

Lucy Burdette said...

What fun Ro--love the pix! We got a late start on watching, so we are two episodes from the end of season two. They sure know how to tell a story!

Amy said...

What a fabulous surprise for you! And the pictures are lovely, thanks for sharing.

Mannersmith said...

So jealous! What a fabulous treat! I have seen many "Free Mr. Bates" bumper stickers around town and know I am not the only one waiting for next season. Off to put up some water for a strong pot of tea...

Jungle Red Writers said...

Free Mr. Bates?? i want one1 I have seen a Carson t-shirt offered online. Did you know the actor who plays Carson is married to the actress Imelda Stanton? And he was terrific in the movie Brassed Off.

Deb said...

I'm SOOOOO jealous!!!!!!!

Laura DiSilverio said...

What a lovely, thoughtful thing for your hubby to do. I've never seen Downton Abbey, but I may have to since reading your post.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, that Bruce! He's amazing. (And yes, Karen in Ohio, surely not...)

What I always wondered--if the house was that big, why'd they have to put the wounded soldiers in the living room and library? Surely there was room elsewhere that wouldn't have been so disruptive.

Linda Rodriguez said...

What a great husband, Ro! You know how to pick them. And how kind of them to respond to his plea in such a generous way.

I'm jealous, jealous, jealous!

Jan Brogan said...

I'm with Deb -

Jealous on just so many levels.

Rosemary Harris said...

Hank, the house is enormous, I can only imagine that the narrow staricases and distance from the kitchen made it more logical to try to keep them on the first floor. Standing in the library gave me the chills - but I couldn't take a pic because there was an intrepid volunteer there and I didn't want to get kicked out!

Lucy Burdette said...

Hank, it's TV!!

Laura, you must watch--I am a late convert and totally hooked.

Rhys Bowen said...

Hank, exactly what I wondered. With 100 bedrooms couldn't they have given the poor chaps some privacy?

I'm planning a visit myself this summer, also a visit to Harry Potter's movie set. how touristy can you get?

And tomorrow I'm posting on Rhys's Pieces about the impossibility of Matthew's sudden walking again, now that I know what it's like.

lil Gluckstern said...

Great husband, and breathtaking pictures. It's really there,Isn't it! Beautiful!

Reine said...

Ro! What a wonder of a man your husband is... um could I borrow him for a second? You know... just to write a teensy email?

Rhys, I studied theology at Christ Church just to live at "Hogwarts." Students at Harvard have started a FB group called "Harvard = Hogwarts; or, I Came to Harvard Because Annenberg Looks Like Harry Potter's Great Hall." Of course I joined.

Mar (aka mar annabelle jacob) said...

WOW Rosemary, what a treat, and yes, he's a keeper !!! So is the person who granted your hubby's plea.

I have not seen Downton Abbey as our PBS doesn't run it. I will have to get the DVD's one day and watch as you all make it sound wonderful.

So happy for you that your wish was granted !!

hugs
Mar

Lora said...

To repeat what Jan said, "Jealous on so many levels!"

I'm a late convert too, in fact, I did NOT watch the last episode (have it on amazon) because I didn't want it to end...and this way, I know there is one still out there for me. How twisted is that???

Lora said...
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Deb Romano said...

Gee, Rosemary, he'll probably never be able to top this year's anniversary present!

I don't currently have TV, so I have not been watching Downton Abbey. However, when I stayed at a sister's house for Easter, she and my niece insisted that I should watch the DVDs - they have both seasons on DVD. After about five minutes,I knew that I "needed" to put the DVDs on my shopping list. This past weekend I was browsing at Barnes and Noble and saw the Downton DVDs. I decided (in about two seconds) to buy Season One. What a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be on sale! Last night I watched Part One and all the Special Features. I got to bed way too late, because I started watching later in the evening. I felt like a zombie at work today. If I were not so exhausted right now, I would continue watching tonight. I'm going to save it for when I am fully conscious; meanwhile, I miss the characters already! You KNOW I will buy Season Two as soon as I can!

Jan J. said...

I am so jealous! I love Downton Abbey. What an amazing home.

Dru said...

What a great surprise! He is definitely a keeper.

pps...I love the line that you're more famous.