Points of Refuge and Respite

woman meditating on rock
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I watched too much TV yesterday and Saturday. Granted that a lot of it involved watching Rep. John Lewis make his final trip over the Pettis Bridge, but still too much of it. It wasn’t the worst thing that I could have done, but it may not have been the best.

In other times, I would have seen who was available for lunch or gone to physical yoga class. But not these days. We have the accursed COVID-19 still in play, messing with most restaurants and many retail establishments. The yoga studio went back to online classes only. And we have had a long stretch of days topping 90 (I wilt at 85 and curl into a blackened ball over 90, especially when humidity comes into play) that’s been interfering with our ability to walk.

But these are extraordinary times we live in. Not unprecedented, since we’ve had the Spanish flu about 100 years ago and the sweating sickness and before that the Black Plague. And countless other epidemics that didn’t get recorded. Oh, and the political upheaval on this scale is nothing new.  Just highly unusual.

How, then, does a person cope?

I’ve been reading. A lot, specifically rereading Jane Austen. The rogues, rakes, and scalawags in her books behave with a modicum of propriety and panache, unlike the miscreants grabbing the headlines of the moment.  Otherwise, it’s a steady diet of books and websites about England, France, and Italy. I’ve found inspiration and entertainment through reading menus from places such as Cafe de Flores, one of the great literary hangouts in Paris. Sigh.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to France, or finally to England or Italy, but I’ll be ready. Thanks to YouTube, I’m learning Italian. I feel confident that I can order coffee and something to go with it. Plus I’m picking up more of what they’re really saying when I watch an Italian mystery on MHz and not just what the subtitles say.

And there’s period dramas. Still on the hunt for something to replace “Downton Abbey.” Or at least fill in the gaps. (Yes, I tried “Poldark,” but when Ross came home  from fighting in the Revolutionary War to find that his father had died and his girlfriend was engaged to his cousin all in the first five minutes put me off.) (Oh, and “Victoria?” They killed off two of my favorite characters. One they had to for historical accuracy, but the other was a shoddy way to advance the story line.)

But there comes a time when one must turn off the tube, put down the book,  and get outside. The problem is finding the sweet spots of the day when it’s relatively cool and the forest preserve isn’t overrun with other walkers, especially the ones who don’t mask up or respect social distancing. Technically, the preserves don’t open until 8 AM, but as long as you don’t bring a marching band with you, the workers pay no mind if you sneak in at 7:30 give or take a few minutes. We go after 5 PM when the hoards thin out. If we walk on the back trails and horse paths, it’s not too hard to avoid other walkers.

If the nuances of weather and thinned crowds fall into place, we walk out to the observation platform on the east end of the preserve. I sit for a few minutes and watch the river tumble to the southwest while Oakley sniffs around the  the platform’s edges to see which critters have been there.

Refreshed, we walk up the trail to meet the common world, ready to take on whatever gets shown at us.



Leaving Downton


photo of train on railroad track
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Well, it finally happened.

After ten glorious years on PBS, the broadcast and streaming rights ended at midnight  between this past Tuesday and Wednesday (6/30-7/1). The individual episodes can still be purchased for download, and the DVDs and Blu-Rays of the series and movie are available on (where else) Amazon, and if you do a little digging at your favorite used book store, you might be able to find them there, too.

For the last hurrah on broadcast, WTTW ran a 10-day marathon on their Prime substation. I watched quite a bit of it. Not all of it, just hopping on and off as the series unfolded for the final four times. By last Tuesday even I was “Downton-ed” out, and went to bed wondering if I would find that my TV had turned into a pumpkin when I woke up the next morning.

It didn’t.

However, it felt very, very odd to realize that we would never again turn on the TV and have the pleasant surprise of “DA” on the air at some time when we needed it badly, such as a drizzly February weekend. At least not for the foreseeable future.

For the last few years, we have found respite and refuge from an increasingly cruel, crude world via our weekly visits with the Crawleys and company. Was the portrayal of life in an English village idealized? Yes. Was the relationship between Lord and Lady Grantham and the servants and tenants glossed over? Yes.

But it did the soul good to remember a time when there were manners, and wit, and a bit of ritual to embellish the days. Not like Hubby and I structure our days to that extent. We eat in front of the tube as much as any other couple in our age bracket. We do make a point of eating off of plates. Mostly.

We do have the DVDs of the series and the movie, and will start them from the beginning this fall when the days grow noticeably shorter and the nights grow cooler. We wait for the next sequel to go into production.

And who knows? Maybe PBS will renegotiate rights and be able to run it on broadcast again. It happened with “Star Trek” after some years on the SciFi channel’s exclusive claim to it.

In the meantime, we look for other period dramas to provide our fix.




Sunday Programme Thoughts

What is it about Sunday and TV from the UK? I watched the Fry and Laurie adaptation of “Jeeves and Wooster” on Sunday some years ago, and “Last of the Summer Wine” and most people’s gateway drug to British TV, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

I get urges to watch shows about Queen Elizabeth and her family on Sunday nights. Much of the time I’m watching my beloved “International Mystery” on MHz, but when possible or when the mystery in question is too gory for my taste, some tidbit for royal watchers provides the cherry on the weekend’s icing. Or a show about one of the great manor houses of nobility. This week’s fix will have to be delayed until Thursday when a new show about the rivalry between Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana will premier.

My darling Netflix is kind enough to provide options during dry seasons on PBS. I finally was able to watch “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” in its entirety earlier this year. It was produced in the late ’60’s when I was in first grade and, well, you know about that pesky bedtime issue.

“Downton Abbey” came late to me. Pleasant to see that it was worthy of the hype it’s generated. I watched on a Tuesday, stumbling into the kitchen with Daisy and Mrs. Patmore and company on a night when the mystery of evening on the other channel opened with a suspect using a chainsaw to carve up a victim. I changed the channel as fast as I could, and watched the genteel world unfold before me. (Note: I’m up to the point in season two where Matthew and Mary are trying to conceive, and Ethel is putting her life back together, and they’re all stumbling in the aftermath of Sybil’s–oh, if you’ve not watched it, I won’t spoil that for you.)

So with evening tea in hand, I shall take my place on the sofa, noble companion at my side, and step through the TV into a kinder, gentler world even if it’s just for a couple of hours.