Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I like this little guy. Quite dapper with the bow tie and hat, plus the broom to sweep away the last vestiges of 2017.

We spent New Year’s weekend watching the “Downton Abbey” marathon on our local PBS station. Few other options for amusement  existed. We had a small storm on Friday that dropped enough snow to make the roads challenging. As in what usually is a 30-minute round trip to pick Oakley up from day care morphing into two hours. On its heels came a brutally cold Saturday. Sunday wasn’t bad. We left the Crawleys and their staff to their own devices as we went for a New Year’s lunch and a new to us bookstore. Hubby found several books on woodworking and reproducing antique furniture. I found several history related books. A good time was had by both.

Monday sent the temperatures back into the deep freeze. If someone saw the two inch snow cover glittering beneath last night’s full moon, they might have thought that the midwest isn’t that bad in winter. Unfortunately, it can be. There are two options: a grey slushy day with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s, or a picture perfect day of blue skies and sparkling snow with air temps that will shatter your lungs when you inhale.

Despite the cold, the earth spins on. We move onward into 2018. I will refrain from making any statements about it not being worse that 2017 for fear that 2018 will ask it to hold its beverage before spinning out of control.

Will we ever get back on center, though? I am heartened by  the current wave of political activism. One of my personal resolutions was to get involved at least through making phone calls to express my support or displeasure to Senators Duckworth and Durbin. I also resolve to do what can to get the local Congressional rep, Randy Hultgren, out of office in November.  He has been unresponsive and his staffers have been even worse. I’ll put my energy into getting in one of the candidates running against him, thank you very much.

We all have our work cut out for us. Let us continue. Let us begin.



Musings on Manners

Did you see the special on PBS about manners in the Edwardian era? The historical consultant for “Downton Abbey” gave viewers the rundown on the ins and outs of manners for the posh set back in the day. Rationalized by the perceived need to maintain social order to prevent an uprising a la French Revolution, they developed strict codes governing every part of life from raising children to table manners to clothing and everything in between.

We don’t need to tighten our societal stays to that extent, but I frequently wonder what happened to good manners. In her book Talk to the Hand, Lynne Truss postulates a theory that they were thrown out in the ’60’s in an effort to divest society of anything remotely reminiscent of the upper strata in order to create a transparent world as well as a way to rebel against the strictures of the past.

While creating a world with a higher level of individual freedom was a good thing, the problem came in the form of a systemic lack of respect at some levels. Sharing too much personal information (guilty); not minding other’s personal space such as people who ride on public transportation with their arms and knees sprawled; asking highly personal questions without really knowing someone; the ever popular fights on Black Friday, it all cuts into the quality of life.

Over the course of my adult years, I’ve watched as sitcoms rely less on wit and absurdity and more on how many references to genitalia or sexual situations they can cram into a half-hour for laughs. I don’t even watch “Big Bang Theory” any more because of this trend.

Social media amplifies it. The anonymity gives people the false courage to make inflammatory comments for the joy of it and for the warped pleasure of creating chaos. I blocked several people on FaceBook because of this.  Even my own beloved NPR has had issues with trolling lately. I wish that they would, could screen commenters more thoroughly. It hasn’t been pretty the last few months. It’s likely to deteriorate as the election cycle progresses.

It would help if I didn’t read comment threads.  It is fine to disagree. It is fine to have a divergence of opinion. Personal attacks, vulgarity, rudeness for its own sake, or whacking people over the head with religious texts are not.

I miss the days when candidates referred to one another as “my learned/esteemed opponent” and gently stated their position rather than resorting to crude comments in a desperate attempt to make themselves look better.

Roseanne Cash once blogged about the need for structure and boundaries in the day and in interactions with others. Without respect to them there is no safe place for intimacy. It’s something that needs to develop over time. Deb Ollivier, author of Entre  Nous, lived a good part of her adult life in France. She observed that the French reputation for coldness isn’t so much about snobbery as it is the creation of boundaries out of authenticity and respect for one’s self and others.

Personally, I am blessed. I have friends who are wise enough to know that the twain of our politics and social vision or our spirituality will never meet, so we simply don’t bring them up. We focus on shared passions for animals, for food, for movies. We value each other and time shared in conversations to initiate discussions that will leave us both covered in scratch marks.

And in those moments, my hope for the world starts to breathe on its own.







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.