Downton Abbey Dish #12

Deborah Gilbert | March 25, 2013

Dispatch from the Downton Abbey Diaspora is written for Inside THIRTEEN by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper. Check back for updates.

London Calling: Anyone who knows me knows I am terrified of flying. I haven’t been on a plane in over 20 years. But as you are reading this, if all went according to plan, I am, right at this very minute, in London, baybee! I am actually writing this on Friday, the day before I fly out. I am rather petrified of the flight, and came very close to bursting into tears as I said goodbye to my coworkers this afternoon, but I’m trying to concentrate on all the fun I’ll be having on the other end when I touch down at Heathrow (I just hope I don’t end up being one of those people you read about, who freak out on a flight!). People always say I’m crazy to be afraid of flying, but I say it’s the people who aren’t afraid of flying who are the crazy ones. Call me kooky, but I’ve never had much desire to be sealed in a tin can and hurled through the air. I don’t know, maybe it’s me.
Anyway, I have decided that it is high time I got over this fear — not to mention that it’s about time I had a holiday! In my entire adult life I have never had a vacation. For twenty years, I spent all my vacation time helping run a summer camp for kids with Muscular Dystrophy and in recent years I’ve been a freelance photographer, so a holiday was pretty much out of the question. And there’s always the fear of flying lurking there, so it didn’t matter. But in the last year I have returned to the world of the working stiffs (i.e.; a regular day job with benefits) and so I have the resources to go. So… here I go!

I know that a lot of you Downtonians feel the same way I do about Britain. J’adore! I have wanted to visit London since I was a little kid and watched the Mod 60’s unfold from afar in the pages of magazines. And the desire to visit the UK has only gotten stronger in recent years, the more I have gotten into British telly (thanks to PBS). People are often shocked to hear I’ve never been there. I’ve always said, if only I could drive to London, I’d have been there years ago!

I have a list of places I want to see. I already have my Oyster Card (that’s their Metro Card) loaded and ready to swipe. And hey New Yorkers, you think a subway ride is pricey here; there, it’s £4.50 a ride (that’s about $6!) Of course, I’m picturing Carson as the conductor. I’ve also got my London map at the ready. I’d never actually studied a map of London before, so it’s been interesting to see all these places I’ve always heard so much about and actually see where they are in relation to one another. I’m staying at a place along the Piccadilly line. I’m telling you that for no reason other than I just love saying ‘along the Piccadilly line’! And being a Celiac, I’ve had to investigate gluten-free food options beforehand (so I don’t starve!) and found the UK to be more advanced than we are here in that respect. While here in the US, Celiac mostly goes undiagnosed (estimates are that 97% of the people who have it don’t know it), in the UK, because they have the NHS, every child gets tested before they enter kindergarten. With more people knowing they have it, it means many more gluten free options available than on this side of the pond. I’ve even found a gluten free chippy already so I’m ready (I’ve said ‘ready’ a lot in this paragraph, haven’t I?) There’s just one more restaurant option I need: I’m still looking for an East End Cafe I can walk into and order a Full English.
Of course, having watched British telly for years, I feel like I already know the place. Our favorite TV shows give us Yanks important travel tips for a visit to London: From Dr. Who I learned to not use the blue porta-potties (or I could end up in another dimension), from EastEnders I learned to not step off the curb without looking in every possible direction (and even then…), and from Downton Abbey I learned that if I’m planning a holiday fling with the son of a diplomat, I should start by asking to review a recent EKG (it’s only proper!)

In my next post (or two), I’ll share all the details about my trip, as well as some pictures. In the meantime, follow THIRTEEN on Instagram where they’ll be Instagramming my adventures. You can follow them on Instagram at: thirteen_Wnet
The only thing upsetting about going on this trip (aside from the flying part) is that I’ll miss the March 31 kickoff of two great shows; the return of the wonderful Call the Midwife, and a new one, Masterpiece Classic’s Mr. Selfridge.

At 8PM on March 31, our friends from Nonantus House return for a second season of midwifery, compassion and fun. No one got killed-off last season so all of our favorites are back! There will be eight episodes this season. They still have plenty of stories to tell because Jenny Lee wrote three volumes of her memoirs (on which the show is based)! I don’t know how much of the old East End depicted in the show is still there, but I will be going on a walking tour of what’s still there now. Watch a preview online.

And at 9PM on March 31, Mr. Selfridge debuts as part of the Masterpiece franchise. I’ve seen a preview of the first episode and it is interesting. Even though it starts out decades earlier (in 1912), in style and feel and production values, I would liken it to the recent Upstairs Downstairs series. It stars Jeremy Piven (remember the super-agent Ari from HBO’s Entourage?)  as Mr. Selfridge, and is about the trials and tribulations involved in the founding the department store that bears his name and which, in its’ day, was a rather groundbreaking enterprise. Mr. Selfridge was the P.T. Barnum of retailing and changed the way we shop. And by the way, even though I’ll have to miss Mr. Selfridge’s debut on Masterpiece, I’ll be communing with you all by visiting Selfridge’s Department store while I’m in London, so I’ll nose around to see what is left of him in his store. Watch a preview online.

That’s it for now Downtonians. I’ll be reporting in soon! Cheers!