Book Review: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray Part 3

For the last part of this book review, I decided to try something sweet and this time make something from the Downstairs section. Food downstairs tend to be plainer and simpler than those served upstairs – loads of meat based stews as they’re cheap, filling and a little usually tends to go a long way. Reading memoirs of those in service such as the likes of Mollie Moran, she recalls that it wasn’t until she entered service that she ate meat on a regular basis as their meals were usually supplemented by leftovers from their employer’s table. This was one of the main reasons why country house servants were valued as volunteers during the First World War as due to their diet they were seen as fitter and healthier than their city counterparts.DA cookbook

Simplicity also was true of the puddings and sweets served downstairs. Not for them fancy ones such as Charlotte Russe or Queen of Puddings but hearty ones such as Rice Pudding or Jam Tarts. The same was true of cakes and this is where the last of my cooking test comes in.

As I’m not much of a baker (I was supposed to ask my husband to do this but decided to challenge myself), I settled on making Gingerbread Cake (p. 245) as it seemed fairly easy and straightforward. In her introductory notes, Gray explained the popularity of this cake downstairs as again it was cheap to make as spices and sugar were affordable. The ingredients for this cake are ones that are easy to obtain even from a mini-supermarket and some are already in my cupboard at home.

Like I mentioned before, Gray writes her recipes in a clear way much like Delia Smith or Nigella Lawson and this one is no exception, it is easy to follow even for a baking moron like myself. The cake came out dark and moist and goes well with either coffee or tea.

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The original recipe for this cake was based from the notebook of Avis Crocombe who worked as head cook at Audley End House in the late 19th century and is now held in the archives of English Heritage. If you fancy having a go, here’s the video demonstrating how it’s done:

Living in interesting times

As I’ve said in a previous post, history can repeat itself in astonishing patterns and the current COVID 19 crisis has brought into fore the Spanish Flu pandemic that happened a hundred years ago.

Since both of us have been on enforced working from home we are hoping to keep this blog updated when we can despite the limited resources at our disposal.

In the meantime, please take care and observe the necessary protocols when it comes to hygiene and distancing.

Film Review – 1917: When Less is More

I haven’t gone to the cinema much for years now and it’s not just the high prices that put me off but also very few films really appeal to me. I would rather watch a documentary or a play or sit through a classical music concert rather than a film for the sake of it.

So when I read that the director Sam Mendes was going to make a film inspired by his grandfather who served during the First World War, I was rather curious and after seeing the trailer pop up on my Facebook news feed, I decided to go and see it as it looked promising.

The plot of the film revolves around two lance corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) who are sent on a mission to inform fellow soldiers who are about to launch an assault against the Germans that they are walking into a fatal trap. For almost two hours the viewer, through the seemingly one long continuous shot employed by Mendes and his team follows Blake and Schofield as they make their way through enemy lines in order to deliver that crucial message.

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Although one of the premises behind Blake and Schofield’s mission was a bit contrived, the film succeeds in portraying the conditions in the trenches – the acres of barbed wire, piles of decaying corpses both the human and animal kind and life in the trenches. There is also the contrast between how the British and the Germans built their trenches and the camera angles do emphasise that.

I came across one review that described 1917 as like watching or playing a computer game and some of the scenes do remind me of my childhood playing Super Mario Brothers where the two intrepid characters dodge bullets, enemy soldiers, and mud as well as trip wires. Given the urgency of the mission, the script sticks strictly to the main plot and avoids going into introspections and backstories (which are instead woven into the conversation between the two men). Better yet is the absence of subplots that would have detracted from the narrative.

Too often several movies and TV programmes fail because they are poorly written, suffer from the lack of narrative coherence as well as attempt to ram down an agenda down its viewers’ throats. I see 1917 as a breath of fresh air – not only is it good old fashioned story telling but is also proof that sometimes, less is indeed more.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, I highly recommend it. Below is the trailer that gives you an idea of what it is about:

Exhibition Review: Fashion House (Pickford’s House, Derby)

Going to places outside London sometimes can throw up the most unexpected surprises and hidden gems. During a holiday to Derby in June, we went to the Pickford House Museum which was located in Friar Gate and one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Derby. It was built by the architect Joseph Pickford as his family home in 1770 and it remained with the Pickford family until the 1850s where it changed owners until the 1980s, when Derby City Council purchased it and turned it into a museum showcasing how an upper middle class family might have lived. Think of Jane Austen and that’s what you see when coming to Pickford House.

The exterior and interiors of the house show the influence of Robert Adam and the neoclassical style and how it worked in an urban location. The rooms are well presented and the interpretation is informative without being overwhelming – the visitor is taken along the rooms used for dining, entertaining as well as the bedrooms upstairs for both the master of the house and the servants. Downstairs were the kitchen, presented as it would have been in the 1830s and the laundry area which I believe is rare since they don’t tend to survive to the present in many historic houses that I have visited.

Parts of the house are also used by the Derby Museums Trust for temporary exhibitions and this was the surprise that I encountered during my visit. Upstairs was an exhibition entitled “Fashion House” which featured clothes from the wardrobe of Grace Elvina Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston which she bequeathed to Derby City Council on her death in 1958.  She was born Grace Hinds in 1885, the daughter of Joseph Monroe Hinds a businessman and diplomat and in 1902, she married Alfredo Duggan an Argentinian businessman of Irish descent. On his death in 1915, Grace inherited his wealth and two years later she married George Curzon, the former Viceroy of India who was then serving as Foreign Secretary. Their marriage was blighted by their desperate and unsuccessful attempts at producing a son who would inherit Curzon’s marquessate.

Grace Curzon

The exhibition featured mostly evening gowns from the Curzon collection and they could be seen both as a manifestation of Grace’s affluence as well as her status as a society figure and politician’s wife, where she was expected to be seen and to entertain as an adjunct to her husband’s political career.  There is the plethora of the big names in fashion, mostly French which reflects the dominance of Paris as the world’s leading fashion capital – Chanel, Vionnet and Callot Soeurs. Apart from French couture, the displays also depicted that like most women, Grace shopped around – a gown by a then unknown designer Norman Hartnell as well as those without any labels which could be most likely from a local seamstress or dress maker. This goes to show that Grace was not concerned about what labels she was wearing or where she bought her clothes so long as she liked them and it made her look and feel good.

Rounding off the small exhibition were hats, shoes and evening bags worn which gave us a picture of fashion in the 1920s and 1930s. The interpretation boards were well written and informative but not overwhelming but rather they gave us an excellent picture of fashion and society during the interwar period.

In a year where we were treated to two blockbuster fashion exhibitions by the V&A featuring designs by Christian Dior and Mary Quant, this offering by Derby City Council and the Derby Museums Trust demonstrates that there are treasures to be had outside of London and fascinating ones at that.

 

 

The blogger/s visited Pickford House and this exhibition on 2 July and 11 December 2019. Photos of the house and exhibition were taken by blogger.

Fashion House runs until 22 February 2020. Admission is free and for visitor information please go to: https://www.derbymuseums.org/locations/pickfords-house

 

 

The recent General Election and Historic Parallels

For the sake of my mental health, I refuse to talk about politics in public and maintain a Trappist monk like silence on any social media accounts that I have. I have heard of enough horror stories about people falling victim to the mob rule of Twitter or being unfriended and blocked on Facebook for having the temerity to voice their own personal views on social media. The irony is that these people who would join the mob or unfriend those who are in opposition to them are the first to preach about “kindness” and sprout meaningless platitudes about said virtue.

My silence is also part of my strong view of the sacredness of the secret ballot. I am of the view that others must never know if a) I have voted and b) who I voted for. Over a hundred years ago, several men fought for the right for the individual to be able to cast their votes in secret without any fear of intimidation and other threats to their person and property. The right to vote is important but so is to be able to exercise it without any fear and threats because of their choice.

But I digress. This recent General Elections have been quite interesting for me not only because of the historic nature of the result but also the lead up to the 12th of December  and its aftermath has revealed a few parallels with the past. As they always say history repeats itself and it’s fascinating to see how they have repeated itself in astonishing patterns.

The first is the now former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson assuming the Curzonian mantle of being tone deaf to the needs, wants and aspirations of voters. In 1885, George Nathaniel Curzon stood as the Conservative candidate for South Derbyshire but was soundly defeated by the Liberal candidate Henry Wardle who held the seat until his death in 1892. Many of his biographers and historians have observed that qualities that made Curzon a successful administrator were a liability when it came to politics. Harold Nicolson for example wrote that Curzon was uninterested in domestic issues and this certainly played a part in his defeat in 1885. Leonard Mosley summed it up well below:

“Curzon had not yet learned the lesson – and, in fact, he never did learn it – that the way to a voter’s heart at election-time is through his stomach or his pocket, and that in South Derby they did not care a fig what was happening in India or the Middle East but were desperately concerned at the fact that income tax had recently gone up from sixpence to eightpence.” (p. 35)

I see the same parallels with Swinson. Not only was she intransigent with the wish to overturn the result of the 2016 EU membership referendum but also she tried to appeal to the “woke” crowd with her proposals regarding the issue of transgenderism. There was virtually nothing about what her party would do for ordinary people and their bread and butter concerns. To paraphrase Mosley, the voters did not care a fig about gender issues and using the right pronouns and Swinson seemingly did not bother to appeal to the voters’ stomach or pocket. More damaging in the eyes of many voters was her unwillingness to respect the majority vote in 2016; something wags pointed out was ironic considering that her party is called “Liberal Democrats.”

Even when she lost Swinson simply said that she was proud that her party “stood up for openness, generosity and hope” but nothing about why they slumped into their worst performance in years and why voters were not attracted to what the Liberal Democrats had to offer. It seemed to me that like Curzon, she viewed that the voters were “unworthy” of her.

The second is the historic win of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party which was significant in a sense that many of the seats that the Conservative Party won have either not have any Conservative MP for many decades even a century or ever had Conservative MP since the constituency was created.  This meant that the so-called “Red Wall” that stretched from the north of England to Wales which was one of Labour’s strongholds had turned blue.

Part of Johnson’s success was due to his slogan of “Get Brexit Done” as the majority of those in the so-called “Red Wall” had voted to leave the European Union back in 2016. He also appealed to those outside the big cities by focusing on domestic issues such as jobs, infrastructure, investment and crime as well as understanding that these communities were at heart patriotic, yearned for social cohesion and wanted greater control over their own destiny.

Johnson’s campaign strategies as well as his historic victory made me think of his similarities with an earlier Conservative Prime Minister – Benjamin Disraeli – and it seems like I’m not the only one who has made this link, as a few journalists and political pundits have done the same. The phrase “One Nation Conservatism” has regularly been bandied about since the Johnson’s win. Like Johnson, Disraeli was a writer who rose partly to fame off the back of his “Young England” trilogy (Coningsby, Sybil and Tancred) where he outlined his political philosophy whereby the “two nations” despite their differences were united by shared values and institutions. Through Disraeli’s efforts, the Conservative Party became a national and popular force, by marrying the enactment of social policy, aspiration and patriotism as a way for social cohesion.

It has been pointed out time and again the social legislation (such as the Public Health Act of 1875, the Education Act of 1876 and a new Factory Act to protect workers among others) passed under Disraeli’s ministry as hallmarks of his One Nation philosophy. However in recent years some historians and biographers have questioned if Disraeli was really sincere or was it political opportunism. As his recent biographers Douglas Hurd and Edward Young have asserted, Disraeli was not a believer of achieving a more classless society and his moves to get the Second Reform Bill passed were more of a way to outflank the rival Liberal Party. However as both Hurd and Young have acknowledged, Disraeli recognised the need for change both for the party and for the country:

“[B]ut rather than ran this change down their throats as [Robert] Peel have done, he chose to persuade and cajole his colleagues into moving to more sensible positions……to Disraeli’s great credit, the Conservative party has maintained a general flexibility, which has served it well through to this day. Crises are there to be countered; opportunities to be taken with whatever tools come to hand. The key, then as now, is to maintain a Conservative approach which is open to reform and progress; the idea had been Peel’s, but it took Disraeli’s wit to carry it out.” (p. 262)

Boris Johnson himself has seemingly internalised this lesson with regards to carrying the rest of the Conservative party with him and winning over many working class votes. Whether he succeeds in holding on these working class votes is open to speculation but the recent Queen’s speech where the government has announced policies that included greater investment in areas outside the big cities and increased budget for research and development outside the troika of London, Oxford and Cambridge seems to demonstrate Johnson’s commitment to Britain as a whole and the revival of Disraeli’s vision of the Conservative Party as a national party.

 

Further Reading:

Leonard Mosley. Curzon: The End of an Epoch (London, 1960)

Harold Nicolson. Curzon: The Last Phase 1919-1925 (London, 1934)

David Gilmour. Curzon: Imperial Statesman (London, 1994; republished 2019)

Nayana Goradia. Lord Curzon: The Last of the British Moghuls (New Delhi, 1993)

Jonathan Parry. Disraeli (Oxford, 2007)

Robert Blake. Disraeli (London, 1966)

Christopher Hibbert. Disraeli: A Personal History (London, 2004)

Douglas Hurd & Edward Young. Disraeli or the Two Lives (London, 2013)

 

 

Happy New Year

As we bid goodbye to 2019 and usher in a new decade, wishing you all the best for the coming new year!!!

Unlike the previous years, we’ve updated this blog far less in 2019 due to real life getting in the way but here’s hoping that 2020 will be the road back to getting our writing hats back on.

 

Book Review: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray Part 2

For part two of this review, I decided to try some recipes to see if they worked. As mentioned earlier, the book is divided into two parts – recipes for upstairs and for downstairs. Both parts are further subdivided into breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Browsing through the cookbook, there were recipes I immediately thought would be good to try while others were quickly dismissed for reasons I will outline in my conclusion.

As someone who works full time, my main qualifications for a recipe is it should require minimal preparation and it should be quick to cook. Sure I’ll do something more complicated but that’s usually restricted during the days when I’m off and when I have more time.

But I digress. From the recipes I thought would be a good idea to try, I decided on two that I would review for this blog and both of them are versions of dishes that we (me and my husband) cook and eat on a regular basis.

KEDGEREE (P. 34)

Kedgeree is a dish that is Indian in origin; the original is called khichri which is a mix of rice and dhal. This later evolved into a dish that contained smoked fish and became a staple in upper class Victorian and Edwardian breakfast buffets. At present kedgeree makes a good brunch or dinner dish, there’s something comforting about curry flavoured rice with flakes of smoked fish served piping hot.

I’ve been cooking this for years and my go-to recipe is that from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course. What attracted me to try this version is to see if I can make it the same way the Victorians did. My first impression was this was more like fried rice since it called for cooked rice rather than raw. There was also white fish instead of smoked and I was dubious about the cream. Instead of curry powder, the recipe called for cayenne pepper.

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Gray mentioned in her blog that the original source of the recipe was from a long forgotten cookbook entitled The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie (1909). Having examined a copy in the British Library, Lady Clark had three versions of kedgeree and I can safely assume that what’s in the Downton Abbey cookbook is a combination of all three.

When I made this dish, I reduced all the quantities by half and much like Delia’s version, it was easy to prepare and cook. The cream I later learned stopped the rice from going dry and helped keep the grains separate while mixing everything together. In addition this is a good recipe with which to use leftover cooked rice. However my husband thought this version was bland and while the method certainly worked, I will definitely use smoked fish and curry powder next time.

 

PRAWN CURRY (P. 135)

The first curries were introduced into the UK during the 18th century but it was via post-World War 2 immigration from the Indian subcontinent that familiarised Britons to a wide variety of curry dishes such as Jalfrezi, Rogan Josh and Korma. Curries have become such an integral part of the contemporary British culinary landscape that “having a curry” from a local takeaway has become a regular treat for many households.

Like the Kedgeree above, this Prawn Curry recipe is easy to prepare and it makes use of ingredients that could be found in my cupboard or easy to obtain from the local supermarket – curry powder, coconut milk, spinach, onion, prawns, etc. This recipe is also versatile, as Gray writes in the introduction; other seafood such as fish could be used and I would recommend this good way to get children to eat vegetables as well as introduce them (or anyone who isn’t familiar with the dish) to food that has more complex flavours.

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This brings me to my problem with this recipe as like with the kedgeree, it was bland. Perhaps this is not the recipe’s fault as we’ve been accustomed to eating more authentic curry and this one seemed to be more of a poor copy of the real McCoy. However, my husband suggested adding salmon to the recipe and adjusting the quantities of the spices to see if it makes a difference.

 

CONCLUSION

Both these recipes are from the upstairs section of the cookbook and I have to say that this tome is not really one that can be used for everyday meals, perhaps more for special occasions or during the weekend when one has more time to shop and prepare for meals in advance. As the Kedgeree and Prawn Curry have shown, many of the dishes have not aged well as either they have fallen out of fashion or in the case of the curries; they have been supplanted by more authentic ones that can be recreated at home due to access to the ingredients that can easily be found in supermarkets.

Other recipes are simply too complicated and labour intensive especially with today’s more time poor lifestyle (and no servants) and the reality that many of us live in flats where the kitchen would barely cover half in a country house. In addition many of the ingredients such as quail are simply expensive or inaccessible if one doesn’t live near a local butcher (or even if they stock it).

On the positive side however, the recipes gives the reader a glimpse into what people ate during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and while French cuisine and influence reigned supreme, there was also the influence of the British Empire. The recipes crucially also work, as Gray writes in a clear and concise style which reminds me of Delia Smith hence making them easy to follow.

 

Book Review: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray (Part 1)

When I heard that there was going to be an “official” cookbook based on the ITV drama and subsequent film Downton Abbey, my first reaction was that this was going to be a merchandising gimmick, until it was announced that it would be written by Annie Gray, a food historian who has appeared on several documentaries and TV programmes such as the Great British Bake Off and Victorian Bakers, as well as being a consultant for English Heritage’s popular Victorian Way series on You Tube. She is also a researcher and author whose book The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria has been published to good reviews.

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The cookbook is described by the publishers as “showcase[ing] the cookery of the Crawley household – from upstairs dinner party centrepieces to downstairs puddings and pies – and bring an authentic slice of Downton Abbey to modern kitchens and Downton fans……[w]hether adapted from original recipes of the period, replicated as seen or alluded to on screen, or typical of the time, all the recipes reflect the influences found on the Downton Abbey tables. Food historian Annie Gray gives a warm and fascinating insight into the background of the dishes that were popular between 1912 and 1926, when Downton Abbey is set – a period of tremendous change and conflict, as well as culinary development.”

Encompassing dishes served upstairs and downstairs and interposed with historical background about food and how and what people ate during the time frame Downton Abbey is set, Gray writes in an accessible way. Her enthusiasm and love for food shines through and the cookbook is peppered with tips and interesting historical information about each recipe.

It’s a shame for me that the introduction is fairly brief and this brings me to my main issue with this book. Much like the TV series and film, the cookbook skims over historical context such as the reality of food shortages during the First World War that led to rationing and stringent penalties on waste, hoarding and profiteering. Other major changes especially after 1918 came when greenhouses and kitchen gardens became very expensive to maintain, not to mention that the problem of hiring, let alone retaining servants became even more acute. This is the reason why after WW1 growing one’s own food and making one’s own condiments were slowly becoming a thing of the past. It was cheaper to buy produce and groceries from shops and supermarkets and many of the shops used by Britons today, such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, the Co-Op and Asda, slowly became nationwide chains during the interwar period.

While there is an acknowledgement that the reduction of courses served in the 1920s had something to do with the view that having 10-12 courses was seen as “silly and wasteful” as well as the emerging trend of dieting and wanting to be slim, the reality is that the vast majority of households high and low could no longer afford the army of cooks and kitchen maids needed to create the elaborate feasts that were a hallmark of Victorian and Edwardian cooking.

The other problem I have is the enumeration of change when apart from cosmetic changes and mention of new gadgets, when we see nothing of the sort in the TV series or the film. The mention of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany was baffling but it wasn’t until 1929 when they really came to national prominence. During the time Downton Abbey was set they were nothing more than a minor political party on the fringes of German political life. Gray also indicates how the Crawleys have tried to embrace the change around them but a cursory look of the TV series and the film shows the family still living in denial and only making adjustments to their lifestyle half-heartedly even if it’s obvious that they needed to take drastic measures if they were serious about putting their financial house in order.

Now – I understand that this is meant to be a cookbook and not a tome on the history of British food during the early 20th century, but I believe that a giving a much more rounded picture of the era is possible than this book has managed. In the end however, while it is a laudable attempt to correct the misconceptions perpetuated by the likes of “unofficial” cookbooks and blogs, this effort is nothing more than pandering to the aspirations of Downton fans who like to fantasise themselves as Lady Mary or Cora wafting around in expensive gowns, living in a big house (that is an expensive white elephant in reality) and attended to by a platoon of servants who would cater to their every whim. There are other books out there that give you a better insight into food and recipes from 1912 to 1927 such as Clarissa Dickson Wright’s A History of English Food or Lizzie Collingham’s The Hungry Empire and if you want to read something more substantial from Gray herself, I would highly recommend The Greedy Queen, not only is it a biography of Queen Victoria told through the prism of food but also shows in a more in-depth way how the food culture of Britain changed during her long reign.

 

For Part 2, I will be putting two main dishes to the test and for part 3, my husband will be attempting to bake a cake from the cookbook.

Initial thoughts on the Downton Abbey film

The film version of the popular ITV drama Downton Abbey had its world premiere on 9 September and the reviews which soon followed were unsurprisingly lukewarm. The Guardian called it a “most intensely glucose and sometimes baffling Christmas special” while The Daily Telegraph observed that the transition from small to big screen has not been successful; adding that “[w]atching [the film] is like settling into a reupholstered armchair which still creaks in the same old places.”

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The BBC on the other hand found the film’s plot “obvious almost to the point of stupidity” observing the wearying predictability of the whole shebang and unsurprisingly some of the characters who “are handed unnecessary subplots to give everyone some screen time,” while the Daily Mail pointed out what the film’s major issue was, lamenting that it was “nothing more than an entire series in miniature, full of compacted plots and sub-plots, some compelling, some preposterous, some purring with early promise then fizzling out, just like on the telly.”

The most damning verdict however came from Variety where the critic was not one to mince his words about what the film’s problem was:

“But a big, multistage party in honor (sic) of the royals gives Downton Abbey something at its center (sic) with high enough stakes and the requisite amount of retro luxury. It also provides an opportunity for writer Julian Fellowes to stage the conversation he seemed, throughout the series’ run, to prefer having, an emphasis on the value of tradition that comes on so strong as to arrive at a stifling sort of social conservatism. Downton Abbey has always been, above all, about the value of preserving tradition; stripping away its muscularly written soap plotlines in favor (sic) of a thin picaresque tale of a royal visit reveals just how much of the show’s appeal is ideological.”

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the reviews bar a few fawning ones have been quick to point out the film’s flaws which are pretty much those that have plagued the TV series’ run, magnified 100 times on a multiplex screen – too many characters, plots that go nowhere, lack of dramatic weight and rhythm, poor transitioning, clunky dialogue and hammy not to mention bad acting. When the film was announced back in July 2018, we predicted that the film would be no different to the TV series and the Christmas specials, a period and unfunny version of Seinfeld which is all about nothing. The drip, drip of the trailer, clips, pictures and information over the next few months have done little the change our initial verdict and the whole preposterousness of the plot underlines how much Julian Fellowes has ignored history and misrepresented it to present a sanitised and false picture for the entertainment of the masses.

Even before the UK premiere hints were being dropped that a sequel is planned. While the series were being aired Fellowes said that stopping in the 1920s was the correct time to end as:

“I feel the ’30s have been very much explored dramatically,” he said, “and I didn’t really want to get into the whole business of the Nazis, which I think has been explored exhaustively. And I don’t know that there is anything else to be said about the Nazis.”

Let’s not even comment on the arrogance of that last paragraph; although a number of distinguished historians of the era would probably disagree. What he means, of course, is that not even his portrayal of Downton Abbey, with its sublime disregard for the world outside, could ignore the steadily darkening political and social environment of the 1930s and instead give us a film that pretends the Crawleys are immune to the forces affecting everyone else in a Wodehousian world of sunshine and “all is well with our class” (but without Wodehouse’s laughs, wonderful writing and brilliant plotting). Although the man who dismissed the General Strike with a cringeworthy one-liner would probably have a damned good try.