Your Downton Needs You. November 2011.

Dear Rowley,

A peregrination to the countryside – more specifically Beeley in Derbyshire – to round up the birthday celebrations with family. I took a turn around the 14th century churchyard where grandmother lies in state. St Anne’s is truly enchanting. Not a bad place to berth, don’t you think? I find photographs are always more romantic when you shoot into the sun. Of course I haven’t shot into the sun in Derbyshire since visiting the gardens at Chatsworth with an old beau. But that’s another story.

Well, what news on the Rialto? Turns out the Savile Row feature on This Morning was a great success largely thanks to my director Rhian’s superb edit of the film we shot at Huntsman. I do love a television studio green room. Where else will you encounter Arlene Phillips, Mel C, Esther Rantzen and a big black stud who does favours for ladies of a certain age? I thought Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby were absolutely charming. After the feature about the stud, Mr Schofield’s mother texted and said ‘does he have a cut off age?’ Can’t make it up can you?

I always have mixed feelings of elation and relief after a live TV appearance. There is such a vast margin for error. Thus it was rather a pleasant distraction to take five of the Sherwood Massive to Rules for cocktails then on to the theatre for a performance of the Gershwin musical Crazy for You. I am a sucker for a good Broadway show and adore – ADORE – Gershwin. Someone to Watch Over Me is a song another¬†old beau sang to me from the stage in the Newcastle Playhouse Theatre. Christ! What with all these old beaux, they don’t call me Sister Honkey Tonk for nothing, Rowley.

I have to explain the company before I embark on a review of Crazy for You. None of the party were what one could call ‘tap your troubles away’ fans. I knew they would tolerate the performance if I was having fun. Well, the action started on golden age Broadway and things were indeed looking up. Before you knew it, the plot had twisted and we were in the Wild West. This prompted corny cow poke numbers, hoe-downs, Calamity Jane style heroines who bore an uncanny resemblance to Princess Beatrice and links to numbers so lame that I’m surprised rotten fruit wasn’t hurled from the pit.

As my friend Susan Farmer and I concurred at St John over a barrel of Valpoliparrot, if you love musicals you take them seriously. The song and dance has to be comparable to watching Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. Anything lower than the gold standard is a disappointment. Crazy for You is a period piece but it doesn’t deserve to be pastiche. Somewhat ironically, the entire party enjoyed the pure nonsense of it all. It was only the Grinch here who failed to see the funny side.

I think there is a lyric ‘everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you’. This might be true of my 40th birthday celebrations. The fact that I feel distinctly average about the whole milestone has perhaps coloured my enjoyment of the celebrations. Gifts such as my brother’s antique writing slope with its genius secret drawer inevitably raise a smile and make me want to hide something terribly precious in there that only his daughter Georgina will find when I finally shuffle off to celestial Buffalo.

Ambling through the graveyard of St Anne’s did make one ‘review the situation’ as Fagin would have it. One has to accept the old adage ‘it’s later than you think’. Comes a time to think who one admires. I know my friend Tessa and my darling Mrs T rather like the idea of becoming the Lady Bracknell de nos jours. I think the dame I would most like to emulate is Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham aka Maggie Smith. It is the last episode of Downton Abbey tonight. What will any of us do Sunday night hence? It will revert to a choice between The Antiques Roadshow and self abuse.

Actually strike that. I would rather paint my bottom blue than watch Fiona Bruce pantomime ‘in an arch fashion’ as she slinks her way through another television programme that means no more to her than self-promotion and another notch on the TV bedpost. Still, there’s always Strictly Come Dancing to see us through to Christmas.¬†Sorry to see Brendan being inadvertently voted off Strictly due to the anchor round his feet known as Lulu. I think he’s been rather a saint, don’t you?

The ad breaks on Downton are rather a bore, no? Particularly when you see M&S has sold it soul to the devil – aka Simon Cowell – and employed the talentless dupes prat falling their way through this year’s X-Factor for the Christmas ad campaign. Wouldn’t it have been magic if M&S had orchestrated a Downton Christmas? I love the thought of Dame Maggie responding to an M&S cardi with the caveat ‘don’t be defeatist dear, it’s terribly middle class’.