Thursday, March 31, 2016

Louis Armstrong - Savoy Blues (1927) Background To A Downton Abbey Scandal 3/31/16

 

It was one of those 'white' days. The sky was white and featureless. The grass was drab and colorless. Winter can be that way. Some days are moist and clear and blue, while others are like this. Lady Mary kept to herself. Henry and Tom went to see an automotive machinist operation across the Thames. They really do plan to press on with this motor car thing. Her father was ostensibly at 'the club,' but that was just a ruse. Lord Grantham was off with Lucas at some solicitor's office. Even Bates was in for the day. That's how important it was. If they could sincerely befriend Lucas... if they could forge some kind of a real link with that young man from South Africa, perhaps all 'the trouble' can be avoided?

How they got him away from his handlers was a master stroke in itself. God bless John Bates. God bless Anna too... home with the new baby and all. If this works, a few thousand outright will be transferred to a discrete little bank in York and a certain highly esteemed domestic couple will be very well fixed, indeed. Look, as far as Bates is concerned the 'domestic' aspect has been a ploy since day one. Even Cora suspected. Thank God she didn't know the rest of it.

So Mary sat there on a chaise lounge artfully placed in a little second story landing tableau, listening to a jazz recording and gazing through an old pair of mother-of-pearl opera glasses at what was going on across the square..... Notorious, tabloid, newspaper publisher, Sir Richard Carlisle oversaw the arrival of his 'things.'.... Probably bought them all in mass from some distressed noble, or gentry family... No, there's no 'probably.' That's how he did it. That's how he is.... And that man was trying to destroy them. Oh, there'd be 'fronts.' He knows everybody in that amoral, sensationalist cabal. None could pin it all on him, but his greasy fingerprints were all over it.

Mary loathed him... To think they'd almost married. God bless Carson. His disapproval was the thing. A butler... especially one as rarified as he, 'knows.'... Mary loved him.... What would he make of all this?

If the morning went well it might all be over... at least the scandal part. Lucas would be set up for life... not in South Africa. He'd never go back there. They'd place him somewhere in Canada, or America, or Australia, or the British Caribbean... There'd be no public acknowledgement, but rather a private arrangement beneficial to all. Would Cora find out?.... How would she take it? Infidelity is infidelity and sometimes she can be so 'American' about things.

Nothing is easy.... To think, a fortnight ago Edith went off with Bertie, Anna had her baby and all was right with the world.

Well, the world turns.....

So she sat there, watching through her grandmother's opera glasses, as a vindictive enemy climbed ever higher, beneath a bone-white sky...

<more next time>

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Friday, March 25, 2016

the scandals of the 1920's & CRAWLEY INVOLVMENT.. 3/23/16




Cora didn't know. Robert was sure of it. He'd almost forgotten about the whole thing itself. Odd to think of a son as an almost forgotten thing. But that's how it was. One paid people to 'cover up' and life went on. Look at Edith... 'poor old Edith'... even she did that and now she's the wife of a marquis. But the truth doesn't go away. It's always there... waiting to spill out, like wine in a carafe on a table full of drunks.

The War Office knew, or certain men within it knew. John Bates knew. He was one of the first.. Bates knew everything there was to know about almost every member of the Downton household. Look, do you want to know what he was? He was 'the fixer.' All the big men had one.... that person charged with 'hiding things.' Even Bates was hidden. Being valet to Lord Robert, the earl, was only his cover. And now he had 'Lucas' to worry about....

Lady Mary was sure her new found half brother was being manipulated by unseen forces. Her father felt so too. What else could they think? Perhaps it was shared blood? Save for the light brown skin tone he looked so much like one of them. For God's sake, he WAS one of them.  Official acknowledgement was remote. 'Racial' prejudice wasn't even considered a prejudice. It was just how things were. Few questioned it. Fewer even cared.

The thing is, they were re-opening Tea Pot Dome investigations in Washington. Mary heard it on the wireless. It was in all the papers. Her Uncle Harold in New York had a close call. They almost prosecuted him in the first g0-round, but Robert, supposedly a blameless, British peer of the first rank, vouched for him. Character witnesses were big back then. But what if it came out that the earl's character was... shall we say, less than sterling? What then? Everything is connected. Life is like a big Tinker Toy just waiting to fall down.

So that's how it was... a season, or at least part of a season, in London... waiting for the next shoe to fall.  There were dinners and 'assemblies' (formal dances) ... trips to the theater. Mary and her new husband, Henry, saw the acclaimed, West End production of SHOWBOAT at The Haymarket Theater. She cried during most of the performance. Some parts of the plot came too close to home.


Then there was the gossip. People said a house across the square had been sold. The old owner, a Miss Hammersmith, from an ancient, august gentry family had died. Relations in Canada wanted the cash and a certain notorious newspaperman wanted the house....

Sir Richard Carlisle was coming to St. James Square.... The Merlin behind the magic, revealed...

Oh, he'd never claim credit. He couldn't ... But that doesn't mean he wouldn't stir the pot.

Old enemies never really disappear. They just plot and wait.

<more Downton next time>

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Friday, March 18, 2016

"SONNY BOY" AL JOLSON in "THE SINGING FOOL" 1928 vitaphone .. Playing on wireless late one night in GRANTHAM HOUSE .. 3/18/16




The house, more an urban, petit palace, was quiet. Almost everyone was upstairs sleeping after an evening of dining with friends and attending the cinema ( Abel Ganz' NAPOLEON). All was dark, or almost dark. Small sconces scattered here and there provided a bit of illumination for the occasional night owl. London was not without its private 'after hours' clubs. Many were elegant affairs frequented by bright young things, the smart set, dashing scions and noted beauties. Lady Mary Crawley Talbot certainly made the cut. True, she was in her early thirties, but a noted beauty none the less... and a handsome, daring auto racing husband only added to her allure. When the film ended, she and Henry joined a group at The PEACH TREE CLUB, a posh spot full of cream colored walls accented by classic columns and banquets all upholstered in pale, muted oranges and tans. The kitchen served racks of tiny, grilled lamb chops accompanied by smooth, almost custardy dollops of buttered grits and small cubes of the best toasted corn bread this side of The Old Dominion. But people just nibbled. Most went for the minty, supposedly American Southern cocktails and (if they still had enough energy) took a few turns on the dance floor ( the 'Charleston' and all that )

But Mary seemed distracted. Henry could tell. Indeed, everyone could tell. She feigned a headache. He got their coats. They left. He asked her what was wrong and she wanted to explain, but the family was still so new to him and old scandals can be so tedious.

So they rode in silence. She caught the eye of the driver in the rear view mirror. Even he sensed something... But London cabbies were oh so discrete. Henry didn't want to press her and pretended to be taken with the lights of Piccadilly...

Upon arriving home, Lester, the night watchmen, let them in. That's how late it was. Even the butler couldn't be expected to wait up at that hour.

She kissed Henry and told him she wanted some cold lemonade in the kitchen for her headache. He offered to join her, but she insisted he get his sleep. He didn't press it.

And Mary really did want a cold drink, but on her way to the kitchen she saw a bit of light coming from the small 'parlor' off the 'family' dining room. She peeked through the crack. Her father was in there, nursing some scotch and staring into space.... The wireless was turned down low, but you could still hear Al Jolson singing 'Sonny Boy.'

She went in and silently took a seat across from him. He knew she was there but didn't say a word.... 'Sonny boy,' how fitting. Then she whispered - I met someone on the street today.... Oh, really? Who? - mumbled her father..... In a 'calm' voice she said - Lucas, your son.....

He didn't say a word, but he tensed and his eyes teared up.... Mary said - Do you know who that is?.....

He nodded....

She quietly asked - What do we do now?.... That's when he broke down... Mary got up and locked the door....

For earlier that evening, her father had seen him too....

<more next time>

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TALES OF CRUSHING FEAR AND HEART POUNDING INTRIGUE .. 3/16/16

This is not a regular post. VERY HARD to post while dog sitting. I am prisoner of SOVIET PUPPIES... Want to continue DOWNTON ABBEY series and put up a bit about latest intrigue with Philadelphia vampires and nosy neighbors, Constance and Lars. But tonight is different.

Was watching TV FX show #TheAmericans.. Love that show (about Russian spies embedded in pre Soviet collapse America). Big writer/producer JOEL FIELDS ... (clickable to his Twitter account) is on line and all should follow.)

Show gave me ideas for other themes....

Here's one----

BREATHING ROOM

In near future governments have tiny sensors planted all over cities. Sensors constantly sample air for various DNA signatures. Every time we exhale tiny bits of our DNA float out into the vapor. In this way govs can track almost everyone. They even recruit population at large to help. EXAMPLE - speakers might say --- Attention populace, the 'arch criminal' Joe Blow is living in vicinity of First Street and Second Avenue blah blah blah...very bad individualist (FLASH PICTURE). Bring him to justice and receive many fabulous luxury gifts from grateful OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OPPRESSOR...(or whatever)

We follow a few people running for their lives... sort of like THE FUGITIVE..

Imagine even being afraid to draw a breath...

after all... Everybody has to breathe<~~~ tag line.

Second show is somewhat similar too.

SUBMARINES -----

Germany in the 1930's and 1940's....

Forty Thousand Jews hide in plain sight in Berlin with false papers proving they and their families are Christian and have always been so for generations.

Some are inducted into the armed forces

Some work for Nazi hierarchy.

What was that like?

Imagine... nothing to fear...

except every single move they ever make...

This is based on real events. About forty thousand people are known to have survived this way.

They did call each other 'Submarines.' Some had small children with them... Think about the crushing fear...

I think these two examples would make good stories, on say FX or Syfy...

OK, that's it... Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to post out regular ongoing tale..

Thank you ALL!

Billy

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Perfect Love (1920's jazz ballad) LADY MARY MEETS A POSSIBLE SIBLING .. 3/14/16



Lady Mary stepped out alone. Even new brides need time for themselves and she decided to walk. The day was bright. She liked the way she looked in her new chic, fox collared coat. Shop windows made perfect mirrors. It was that kind of day. Everyone was left to their own devices. Her parents took the children to a matinee of Peter Pan. 'The boys' made the rounds of all the top drawer automobile showrooms... a perfect opportunity for a little innocent self indulgence. Perhaps a jaunt down to Selfriges for a tiny bit of 'war paint,' as her father called it. Maybe she'd visit the salon and have her 'doo' sharpened up? London in the 20's... what could be better?

The young man fell in behind her. He'd been watching the townhouse for days. At first he considered approaching the countess. He'd heard see was American. Maybe an American would be more accepting? Everyone supposed that's how they were. Who could tell. Britain was changing too. Every tabloid and magazine shrieked about the Lady Vera Cathcart scandal. My God, the American's even denied her entrance... questionable morals and all that. But he had to share what he knew. So he zig-zagged through the throng (almost skipping at times) and caught up.

She was looking at a display of smart, stylish handbags when he came up behind her. She saw his reflection in the window, right behind a snappy, little Coach number .

He spoke. He said - Excuse me, but are you Lady Mary Crawley? Forgive me, but I've seen pictures.... She said - No, I am not.... for since her marriage, the 'title' was more or less only a social courtesy... And some people did stroll the district in hopes of meeting 'posh' types... Some even asked for autographs. He seemed well behaved and polite. Probably a visitor from the colonies.

He spied the lie, but had to press on and said - Please, I have something to show you, a photograph..... Another blackmailer? - she thought. That business with the hotel maid was supposed to be over and she told him so... He said - No, I'm not (he looked hurt), but, if you would, kindly look at these.... He took two photographs from his pocket and held them out so she could see....  One was of himself. The other amazingly enough was of her father, taken when he was about the same age. They almost matched. Save for the skin tone, everything else was nearly identical.... even the smile.

She said - Who are you? What is this?.... Struck by the immediacy of it all, he responded in a still, small voice and said - I believe we may be related.

They spoke for a bit. He left... Lady Mary just walked. She teared up, but she walked... Composure it everything... at least on the outside....

That's how she met Lucas...

<more Downton Abbey next time>

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

War Footage from 1899 (The Boer War) .. How Robert's Bastard, Lucas, Was Born.. 3/12/16




There's a reason for everything. Lord Grantham was obviously of a proper age to see service during The World War, especially as part of the officer corps, but the War Office never contacted him. True, not all were called. Some were simply excess baggage and no longer needed. Others had injuries. Some simply no longer had the inclination... Whatever... No one asked, for his service during the recent South African campaign was know to all.  What wasn't known is what happened off the battlefield.

Now liaisons between British personnel and native populations were common and to a certain measure responsible for the 'creole' element found in most British colonies and protectorates. The majority involved enlisted men and lower elements of the resident society. Officers, many stemming from old, established noble and gentry families, held to a higher standard. Any fraternization that did occur was kept secret, for according to the national fiction, Britain's aristocracy never faltered.

Except when they did....

The Zulus were a cultivated people, with a proud national history and military traditions worthy of Europe's best. For the most part, they steered clear of British and Dutch altercations, but sometimes segments of the kingdom found themselves in the thick of it. Many fell in with the Boers, the predominantly Dutch element long native to the land, viewing them as a weaker, more malleable alternative to the Brits. The Zulu ruling classes , you see, had plans of their own.

But one girl, well born, though not closely connected to the ruling house, feared for her life.  Through no fault of her own, she over heard things... intrigue between The Kingdom and various lesser states to the west. The 'She Elephant,' the Queen Mother knew. She was there. She saw and not one to make a scene was quite willing to bide her time... a bit of poison here... a berserk royal elephant there... an accidental impalement on a famed Zulu asengi (long, tapered, bayonet-like, fine steel blade). These things, in their own time, can be accomplished. The girl knew it and she ran.

When the British intercepted her she claimed kinship with Clan Buthalaisy, the Royal House. Well, she was close, but close doesn't count. Dynastic relations are all or nothing. Lesser cousins, barring unforeseen circumstances, remain lesser cousins. The English knew that, but they didn't know  the ins and outs of Zulu descent, so she passed.

There was an officer, an Earl, a major, some said soon to be colonel, a spruce young man from the North.... decorated for an encounter toward The Drakkensbergs, they sent the girl to him... One hot dusty day she was there, dressed like a Boer farm wife... a young, pretty Boer farm wife with a loose cap of dark brown curls and large, vivid eyes. She had some knowledge of English, not as much as Africans, but the Boers lived in close contact with the Zulus so that was understandable.

The major, Lord Robert Crawley, knew a bit of Zulu. He called for Bates, his batman. The field servant said - Headquarters sent her. She seems to know something of enemy positions, Zulu plans too. The colonel couldn't understand her and thought maybe you could, my lord.....

So they sat and talked. He sent for refreshments, beverages too.

That's how it started. He found her a job and she became part of the camp, even followed them to Pretoria.... Grantham's 'pet' they called her...

But she was much more than that. She had to be. Better life, such as it was, with this Brit, than death with her own.... And from that arrangement, Lucas was born...

They kept it quiet. Few people knew....

But the army did... and that's why a certain Earl from Yorkshire, with a sweet American wife and three young daughters never served in the trenches.

<more Downton Abbey next time>

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Friday, March 11, 2016

City Of York (1930-1939) & Our Fifth Downton Abbey Episode.. 3/11/16




Lady Violet called for a car. She kept no chauffeur of her own, but relied on the big house. Since few were in residence right now her request posed no problem. She asked for a smaller 'machine,' something inconspicuous, so they sent the Crosley, a somewhat compact, dark grey sedan. Denker asked if she needed any help, after all, trips into York were almost as good as trips into London. The dowager said - Not today. And please play nice with your little brother while I'm out... The lady's maid pretended not to notice. Sprat was cloistered in his room typing out his column anyway. She wouldn't knock. Wouldn't give him the satisfaction. So she perfunctorily straightened up the dowager's dressing table and holed up in her own room with a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover.

York is a special place, a classic English city, if you will. There's the Minster (the cathedral), the university, not to mention a warren of streets going back to the middle ages and newer thoroughfares to rival anything in Liverpool, or London. In a sense, it's the second capital of England. London serves the south and York serves the north. That's how it is. At one time, centuries ago, Northerners remembered legends of a 'Raven King,' an all powerful wizard, who surreptitiously ruled from there. But Lady Violet searched for memories of a different sort.

She had the driver take her to a narrow hidden street deep within the university district lined by tiny row houses. He helped her exit the car and climb the three, white marble steps...


The dowager said - Wait here please. If you must, there's a nice little café around the corner, with a 'necessary' and quite serviceable coffee, but either way, I shall be finished within thirty minutes.... Then she took out a key, opened the door and went in.

The small front room was shrouded in gloom. A few pieces of furniture hid under white sheets and the aged wood floor creaked softly. The old woman looked around, took the measure of the place and sighed. She touched the small mantelpiece and for a few moments stood lost in thought. Then she went into the kitchen, a basic affair with an old iron stove, a small primitive sink and not much else. There was a narrow closet on one wall, a pantry of sorts. The door stuck, but she managed to get it open. The shelves were empty and dry. The green paint largely gone, or absorbed into the wood. But the back wall wasn't solid. There was a small square etched into the surface. Maybe at one time, when the paint was fresh, it was less visible, but those days were long gone. The dowager opened a squeaky tableware drawer, took out a corroded butter knife and pried it open revealing a wood-lined hidey-hole containing a small metal box. She took it out, held it to her lips for a few moments and put it in her pocketbook.

Then she carefully put everything in its place, as best she could, went back into the front room, took the sheet off a slat-backed rocking chair and sat down, staring at the dust motes in a thin sunbeam sneaking in between the almost closed draperies.

A bit later there was a knock on the door. She got up, sighed and opened it..... The chauffeur said - I just wanted your ladyship to know I was out here.

Her ladyship whispered - Thank you. I'm ready.....

He helped her into the car and drove off, just as the cathedral bells began to chime.

<more Downton Abbey next time>

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

London St James Square .. Site of Grantham House, The Crawley Residence ..3/9/16



Grantham House was built in 1849, on a prime parcel across from St. James Square, the ranking aristocratic district of London. It dates from The Restoration and since Regency times till now ( 1926 ) has been a bastion of inherited wealth and social position, either nobility, or gentry. No parvenus here. Don't even think it. Well, maybe a fabulously successful financier might sneak in if he played the game correctly and supported all the right institutions and causes.

Everything about the place was spruce and scrubbed. Everything glowed with posh urbanity. And the young man standing across from the glossy front door saw that. He tried to be discrete. He tried to fit in. Most passersby didn't stare. Some did. You know how it is. People want to know. Is he Hindu? Is he Sudanese, or perhaps from somewhere in Latin America? The top coat was obviously bespoke and the shoes from Jermayne Street. But the complexion was all wrong... a little too swarthy... a little too 'foreign.' Then he found a seat on a bench and sat, studying the house and thinking..... Who were the people inside? What were they like? What would they say?

A woman came out with three English children. A younger person, seemingly a nanny, or someone filling in for a nanny went with them. They walked to the curb and waited, fresh and sharp in their fine melton coats and coordinating caps... the two little girls wore tam-0-shanters... the little boy sported a black, velvet, child's version of a formal riding helmet. How well behaved they were. A gleaming Bentley rounded the corner and stopped. The chauffer jumped out, smart as any cavalry officer, snapped open the door and helped his betters enter. Then they sailed off into the crisp, January sunshine.... the Countess of Grantham, off for a day of shopping, with her three grandchildren... her three junior aristocrats. Of course there'd be a break for tea at a fitting venue. Why wouldn't there be?

Lucas saw it all (that was the young man's name) from his front row seat. Then he got up and walked off, passed the impregnable facades of innumerable gentlemen's clubs, till after a bit he found himself among the crowds and sights of Piccadilly. He stopped to watch a Pearly King and Pearly Queen do a dance, even tossed a few pence into the cap. Then he entered a pub (after waiting to see if any other 'exotic' types went in first) for bangers and mash, washed down by a pint.....

'England'.... He had family there... in a manner of speaking... In a way... Who knows? We'll see...

Later that day he went back to his spot on the bench. The sun was setting. The earlier, winter warmth gave way to chill. Lights went on around the square. He focused on an upstairs window, possibly a bedroom, in Grantham House. A pinkish glow illuminated the interior, perhaps from a boudoir lamp with a rose silk shade. Then a man looked out, stepped back and closed the drapes.... Lucas thought he might be Lord Grantham, but he was only a footman. The room wasn't even a bedroom... just a small, rarely used study.

Would there be a meeting?... Of course... but that would come later...

< more Downton next time >

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

London in 1927 & 2013 ..Downton goes on ... 3/9/16




They shared a Spartan meal, sliced ham, bread and cheese. At first neither man spoke. They didn't even look at each other. They chewed and swallowed. Daisy silently entered with a pitcher of lemonade and two glasses... cool lemonade, not icy cold as you have it in 'The States.' British people are far too disciplined for that. At least they appear so. But then Daisy left and shut the door behind her. If any other member of the household suddenly needed comestibles, they'd have to make do with whatever they could find in the pantry.

Soft, winter light washed in through the large windows. Bates poured. He offered a glass to the tall, gentleman with the eye patch. The man nodded and drank. Bates just watched him for a bit, then spoke. He said - How long has it been? Since Stellenboch, or Capetown?... The man said - Perhaps one of the lagers? ..... Bates didn't respond... They ate a little more... The man with with the military bearing said - How did you know I was coming?.... Bates didn't say a word. Few knew he paid one of the errand boys to constantly watch the driveway from an upstairs window. The Earl knew. No one else did.... The man didn't press him. He knew better.

The kitchen clock ticked on. Bates winced. The man said - I see you still have 'the leg?'... No response, but then Bates asked - Why are you here? There were inquiries. It's all been settled. It can't be because of the war?.... 'The war' - said the visitor. Do you think those events had anything to do with the war, or do you think the war simply provided a convenient way to hide them?..... Bates just glared.... The man said - Actually, I'm not here on my behalf..... Who's then? - went Bates..... A certain 'connection' of Lord Grantham's. Is it truly safe to talk in here?... Bates went - If I say it's safe, it's safe..... The visitor exhaled and went - Then I'll tell you.... Please do - said the 'fixer.'.... The visitor nodded - While stationed at a post north of Durban, Lord Grantham had a certain dalliance with a girl..... Is that supposed to shock me? - asked Bates.... Whether it shocks you, or not, is immaterial to me. I'm just here to relay the facts - said the man..... Bates listened..... The man went on - This wasn't just any girl. She was a Bantu girl, a Zulu, rather high born too, 'House Buthalaisy' and all that. Oh, those people are not without a certain level of political power, even in South Africa..... And? - said Bates.... There was a child. She had a son, a bright handsome lad too. Here, let me show you.... And he passed a photograph from his breast pocket to the 'fixer.'... Bates studied it. The bone structure was very much the same. There was no denying that. Even the hair had a certain similarity. What he saw was a younger, light brown (although skin color is hard to tell from a photograph), slightly tweaked edition of Lord Robert. How earnest he looked..... Then he slid it back and said - Tell me more..... The visitor smiled - He's here. The young man is in London..... More power to him - said Bates. But he has no claim on the estate, being illegitimate and 'all that.' We can't help you there..... Can't you? - said the visitor. You've probably pegged me for a solicitor by now. Certain people hate this house and they have reasons. Should the truth come out and by the way, the truth about Lady Edith's brat too, it won't be pretty.... If you don't mind, how do you know about that? - whispered Bates.... Oh, come on - said the man. You have your ways. I have mine...... They sat in silence..... Then the visitor said - Not in residence, I suppose? The family, I mean.... Bates shook his head..... Well, where could they be? This is January. I know English practice. They're in London for 'the season.' Am I right? How fortuitous - said the visitor. Gives you time to think. My God, how many scandals can this place take? And that includes you too. Well? The balls in your court now.... Bates sighed... The visitor, the man with the slight Afrikaner accent softly laughed. Then he took another slice of ham... and laughed again...

CUT TO - The dowager's house.

Lady Violet and Denker sit across the French writing desk. The dowager talks. Denker writes.

Ah, yes. We must include the Pembrokes. Publishers, you know. Quite respected in the City, Edinburgh too. The old man's retired, but the son's very active in the trade. One of the first peers to openly and eagerly engage in 'business.' Not bad to have him in our pocket. The social climbing little snot will probably go berserk with glee. Put him down. Put him down. Put him down. I'll find the address. He's part of it too.

Denker scribbled....

Oh, goody goody! I can see it now.. the dinners, the working lunches. All we have to do is talk? The stenographers will take it all down? Is that what they're called? Is that how it works?.... Yes, my lady. So I'm told - went Denker. The literary whirl is quite new to me....And I as well - said the dowager. That's why it's so much fun! Do you suppose Roger and Adele might interview me on the wireless?.... Oh, undoubtedly - went her henchwoman.... Well, I too can play 'the Churchill' - chuckled the old woman...

And that was that...  'Lady Violet's Literary Salon and Luncheon Society' born....

While in London, other things began to happen...

<more from Downton Abbey next time>

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LETTERS FROM DOWNTON ABBEY part II . .the London Season .. 3/8/16

It was quiet. Downton felt empty. A cold, gray chill settled over the place. Tom came back, but only for a few says to get the children packed up. Then he bundled them off to London. He, Mary and Tony decided to stay in town for part of 'the season.' They opened the  Crawley Townhouse, a Regency mansion in Bellgravia, but didn't send for any of the country servants, preferring to rough it and make do with the skeleton crew on hand.

Cora missed the children. Robert did too. 'Donk' was all alone and he pined for the wee ones. Isobel, who often came by for luncheon said - Why don't you join them? This is the perfect time of year to take the little ones to the Royal Zoo and I'm sure George would love the armoury display at The Tower. What little boy wouldn't? And, Cora, imagine the high teas you could have with Sybil and Marigold at The Connaught. They'd remember it all their lives.

Cora smiled and said - You make it sound so wonderful..... It is wonderful - said the soon to be baroness. And what keeps you here? Bates and Anna can play 'mother and father' to the place. A perfect quiet time for the new baby. Take Baxter and one of the footman, if you must, but I'm sure the town staff can manage. Rosamund could always lend you someone. Go! What are you staying here for?...... My work. The hospital - went Cora..... Don't even think about that. Write up some instructions. Give them to me. We'll be fine..... Cora looked at Robert. Robert looked at her. He said - What about Mama? You know how she detests sudden surprises?.... Cora sighed and nodded..... Cousin Isobel smiled and said - That won't be a problem..... Why - he asked. Are you planning to drug her?... Nothing so drastic - she said. Your mother has her own plans..... What, pray tell? - asked Cora..... She intends to start a salon, a place where people of her generation can come together to record memoirs and recollections of days gone by. There's to be a luncheon, a reception of sorts. You should see how it's animated her. Frankly, I think she's needed this for a long time. Sir Robert, from Pennington's already signed on and, of course she has me. Who knows? We may have a nice, little anthology before summer.

Mama, 'literary' - said Robert. Will wonders never cease? What brought this on?.... Everything - said Isobel. All the marriages. All the changes. The hospital. My own happy situation. She feels alone and unneeded. She'd never say it. You know how she is, but she does. Let her have this. It's not a bad thing. I'm sure of it. And bring me back something nice from Selfrige's. And something for your mother too. Now go. Pack. Go.....

So they did.

But two days after they left, a certain tall man with an unmistakable military bearing and a patch over his left eye walked up the drive toward the house, crunching the new fallen snow.

Bates met him half way. They stopped, nodded and went on, going passed the front entrance to the kitchen door toward the back.

Mrs. Patmore put out tea and left them to it. Apparently there was much they had to say...

< more LETTERS FROM DOWNTON ABBEY next time>

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Monday, March 7, 2016

LETTERS FROM DOWNTON ABBEY... Part 1 .. 3/6/16

The Dowager stayed for breakfast. It was a warm morning, relatively speaking, January in England can be like that. They assembled in the 'little' dining room, Robert, Cora, Isobel and Violet. Just them. Just the 'old guard.' The 'young set' --- odd to think of them that way when they hold so much power over the place--- had their own social schedule and were already on their way into 'The City.' They  hold the reigns... and no one feels that more than Lady Violet. 

She smiles. She nods. She nibbles at her plate. Most of all, she looks at Isobel... and she thinks about the future. So many weddings and one yet to come, the union of Isobel and Lord Merton... two people from her own generation, more or less, yet still so much a part of things.

Nineteen Twenty six, how unbelievable. The Americans are celebrating their Sesquicentennial. Mrs. Levinsohn sends telegrams. She'll be staying with friends at Greyfaire, on the Mainline for the opening. Some of the family will be there with her. But not Violet. Too much of an ordeal for a seventy eight year old. Too taxing for one who was quite extent during The Sepoy Rebellion. Would that is were not.

She was born into a tumultuous year... eighteen forty eight. Europe was in revolution. Britain sailed ever deeper into The Victorian Age, as the second daughter of an unassuming English baronet first burst upon the scene. They had a house, quite dignified, though by no means palatial and a well kept estate in the home counties. Gentlefolk through and through and stalwart members of the gentry, if not the nobility. But, as Dr. Wayne Dwyer says - Self actualizing people must be what they can be... and the little girl who played 'marauders of the Punjab' with her cousins in the rose garden adhered to that philosophy, even if she'd never heard the actual words.

Violet remembered everything. Weddings bring that out. She stared at the table cloth. Robert said - Are you all right, Mama?.... She smiled and nodded..... Then the new puppy romped in, begging for treats and stealing the show. While all eyes were on the dog, the dowager dabbed hers.

Robert and Cora were having a few notable, local couples in for an almost casual New Year's Day dinner, but the dowager went home well in advance. Isobel left too, but she had her 'intended.' Violet had nothing like that.

With the darkness came the cold. Denker lowered the shades and closed the draperies. Sprat set the table for one. The dowager dined alone. She sat there listening to the wireless. Many people dining 'alone' did that. Sprat would ask - Does my lady have any preference?... The dowager would say - No, Sprat. You pick..... But he knew she liked a show called 'Cocktails With Roger And Adele,' where a well spoken West End theater couple pretended to casually circulate among guests at a London night club, stopping to chat with glossy entertainers during breaks in the music. When it was over, she went into the parlor and sat gazing at the fire. And she thought about the future. Would it truly be a future, or merely extra time? Would it be her dotage, or maybe something else?

Then she got up and went toward the staff room. Sprat held down one end of the long, rustic, polished table. Denker guarded the other. The soon-to-be-celebrated-advice-columnist-butler worked on his magazine piece. Denker drew facial hair on actresses in a movie magazine. Greta Garbo looked quite dashing.

When she entered, her usually bickering henchmen 'snapped too.'.... Anything wrong? - asked Denker.... Sprat just stood there..... Lady Violet said - No, it's quiet in here. Such a lovely change. But I just wanted to say we're three people of somewhat advanced years, that fate has seen fit to put together and how we spend this time is up to us. Sprat, I think you know how much I approve of your new career. There's nothing wrong with the spotlight. I see that now. Enjoy it.... Yes, my lady - went the butler-advice columnist.... And you, Miss Denker, the sun goes down soon enough. Let it be on a clear sky. No more storms, please.... Of course, my lady - said the lady's maid...... Well, that's all - said the dowager.... But before exiting, she thought for a moment and said - Sprat, I'd like to host a luncheon in a week or two. See if you and cook can come up with some menus?... He nodded.... And you, Denker - went the dowager - brush up on your calligraphy, because I want this to be a very special occasion..... Then she left, humming a dance tune all the way.....

That's how it is.....

Just when you think it's over, it's not...

Life, as it always does, goes on.

<more Letters From Downton Abbey next time>

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Will The Circle Be Unbroken ~ June Carter Cash, A REVIVAL MEETING & A VAMPIRE LYNCHING .. 3/3/15




This is not our regular message from the vampire world. Just a short epistle to let you know where things stand. Jonathon wants to go 'a wanderin'.' He tought about this before, but them other night-folk always pull him back. He says wanderin' is his destiny. It's what The Lord wants him to do . That's what he says. Sarah says she'll go with him, but he wants her to stay put. Sometimes he says he's gonna make a big speech... proclaim his vampireness to the world. Tell like it is. Doctor Franklin does not know if that is such a good idea. Says there was once a night-folk person in South Carolina called Jefferson of Roanoke who announced his vampireness to folks at a nighttime revival meeting. You know, one a them big, tan circus tents with loud talkin' speechifying, preach-for-money men in 'em 'stead a mangy old big cats and gassy elephants? Got little electric lights strung all over... wooden folding chairs... lady-wimmen fannin' they overheated necks and chest places with cardboard fans what look like cheap, fake ping pong paddles.

Vampire fella come up to 'share his burden.' That's what they call it, 'burden sharin' time.' One lady say she give her mother in law crappy cheese what got mold on it. A moonshiner say dog once pee in the bathtub an' he sell that batch anyway.... Folks pray and sing. Preacher-man say - The Lord relieve you! The Lord relieve you!... Then they all holler 'AMEN!' But one maiden lady sniffin' her hanky, and standin' right next to him in line wanna say somethin'. She wanna say it real bad, only she don't, 'cause her Olive Oyl quotient too high. Vampire see and whisper - Miss, what ails you?..... She go - I-I-I the one who brings Moon Pies to The UnWed Lady Circus Freak Home, the nice one, not that trashy place, but I trade 'em for party hats and store bought undies, 'cause I do like nice things and now I gotta tell everybody.

Then she does it. It's her turn and she moves up to the rostrum. Preacher-Man goes - Welcome sister! Welcome! Cleanse your soul and lay down the burden!.....Say the words, sister. Say it... And she looks at the hot sticky faces and wilted shirts and dresses of the assembled believers, or desperate for entertainment bored folks and goes - I stole Moon Pies from The UnWed Lady Circus Freaks and swapped 'em for party hats and bloomers, just like in the Bible.  And I am not proud of it. God forgive me. God forgive me. God forgive me. 

For a few heartbeats there was silence. Everybody looked into the souls of the people seated around them. A few were able to smell a bit of those souls too. Then a little tyke, his mouth full a peanuts, stands up and goes - I forgive her. I forgive her! One by one, they all joined in till she broke down and cried....Then a woman dressed as a back in the day nurse (white dress, white shoes, white stockings, and tiny little white nun's hat) comes out to lead her to some unseen sanctuary where they give out sweet tea and coconut white cake. Some folks just testifies for the white cake.

Vampire fella, Jefferson of Roanoke, knows he's next. Feels real good about it too.... Know who he look like?... He look like a young Michael Bolton, from when he had all that hair. He go up under the light and woman up front yell -  Why he look just like a angel!...

Then he stand there, head down, hands clasped, face decorated in artistic shadows courtesy of the big, almost heavenly, light above his head, collecting his thoughts and begins.....

He goes - My name is Jefferson and I am a vampire.....
Lady goes - Liar! Liar! You, sir, are obviously an American and vampires have foreign names, like Dracula and Bela and all that!.....

The crowd rumbles......

He goes - Madam, night-folk hail from every nation and all points of the compass. We are not born. We are made, infected, so to speak and I suffer from that malady.

The Preacher-Man says - Do you mean to tell us, sir, that you feast on human blood!?.....

The vampire simply nods.... The multitude groans. Some recite prayers. Children cry...... The Preacher-Man goes - You, sir, are a brazen liar!..... The vampire smiles the way vampires do and says - Do you want to see my fangs?..... But obviously, from the way he smiled, they were already exposed.

And then what happened? - asked Jonathon.

Doctor Franklin went on - They killed him. They destroyed him. People rushed from the seats to tear him apart. The Preacher-Man screamed verses from The Bible. The choir sang. Roustabouts, who put up and took down the tents ran in with shovels, rusty shovels, rat killing shovels and hacked him to bits. Some vampires panic, you know... forget their abilities. Jefferson wasn't too old. Made sometime during Reconstruction. And other than places like New Orleans or Charleston, maybe Savannah, you now how conservative the South can be? Once his head came off he was gone.... The Preacher-Man stood over the chunky, viscous remains and screamed - Get thee behind me, Satan! To hell! To hell! To hell!...

But by the time the crowd joined in, what was left of Jefferson slowly erupted into small blue flames, which quickly coalesced forming a larger conflagration till all that remained was a stain upon the saw dust. Nothing else was touched, or effected.... That was it.

Why did you tell me this? - said Jonathon.

Because it's true, a cautionary tale - said The Doctor. You can't tell people more than they're ready to hear. You can't expose people to things their brains won't comprehend. To every thing there is a season, yadda, yadda, yadda.... Then he made one of those all knowing Benjamin Franklin faces and poured them both another chilled vodka. The old reprobate preferred rum, or brandy. He was, in spite of all the scientific preservation still legally mortal and possessed of a jaundiced practicality spiritual night-folk seldom have....

Jonathon, his long time vampire friend, merely stared at the embers and sipped his drink......

<more next time>

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A VAMPIRE RIDES HOME ON THE SUBWAY ... 3/1/16

Jonathon talks -------

After leaving Franklin's residence, I rode around on the subways all night, or for how many hours there were left. I like the subways. especially after midnight. You meet quite an eclectic assortment. Some of them quack like ducks. A few free spirits lower their drawers and go poop in the aisle. One guy, who I see every so often feeds sushi to the rats. Not that the subways are over run with them, but we do have a few regulars. Sushi Guy is very fastidious. Does it with chopsticks. Pinches a morsel from his little, take-out tray and holds it out where they can reach it. One comes over, sits up, begs with its paws a bit and takes it. Then the second one comes up. After that a third. There's only three. Toothless Mary says they're brothers. I asked her how she knew. She said - Well, don't they look alike?... Then made a 'boy are you a dope' face..... I shrugged. She wagged her finger at me. Sushi-Guy eats the rest of it himself, but with another set of chopsticks. The rats disappear fast. Some nights Hot-Dog-Guy is on and he always sits up front in the first car.

I see people having sex all the time. They usually sit in the corners. Must be Risky Business fans. I don't know. Sometimes I go up and down the aisle giving out twenty dollar bills. Street types just grab it, especially if they know me from before. Middleclass couples (they show up once in a while) go - That's alright. Are you sure?..... I nod. They take it and go 'thank you.'.....

But this night I just sit there looking at people and thinking about the video Doctor Franklin showed me. Is something happening? What does it mean? Speaking in tongues.... They're all speaking in tongues. Look, they all claim to be spiritual in ISIS and all the other groups like it. Does 'spiritual' always mean good? Does 'religion' always mean right? It can. It should. But what does that mean?.....

An old cleaning woman, going home after a long hard shift , asks me if I'm alright. I nod. She says - Don't worry. It'll get better...... I say - I know... We're about to have a conversation when a SEPTA cop gets on. Everybody shuts up when they get on. He gives us looks like we're dealing crack, or killing somebody. I sigh and read my free copy of the Metro Paper. The old cleaning woman hums a song. SEPTA (Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority) cop goes down the aisle and crosses to the next car..... The old lady and I smile at each other...... Two guys, look lie waiters, or bartenders, or something get on. Probably going home from an after hours place. But they look OK. Old lady should be alright with them,  so I get up and wait for the next stop, where I get out.

Before I do, she starts humming again... Not just humming, but sort of singing too.

I catch some of the words..... Just like in that video. She throws me a kiss, as the doors open and I step out onto the platform..

On the way home, I give my watch to a nurse's aide waiting for a bus. She doesn't want it at first, but I make 'vampire eyes' at her and she takes it.

Twenty two hundred dollar 'Tag' I think.

Seemed like the right thing to do...

<more next time>

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