Awaiting the fate of dear Mr. Bates: A Downton Abbey survival guide for those on the other side of the pond

“The only ruin that I recognize is to be without you!”

~ Anna (Mrs. Bates #2), Head Housemaid, Downton Abbey

Dear Mr. Bates has been sitting rotting in prison for a year, found guilty of killing Mrs. Bates #1. Did he do the deed? What will be his fate? And will he ever be free to enjoy domestic bliss with sweet Anna (Mrs. Bates #2)?

Those lucky enough to live in Britain will soon find out. Tonight, they will turn on their telly’s (the Queen included, I’m sure) and watch the greatly anticipated Season 3 of ITV’s Downton Abbey.

That’s cold comfort for fans in the rest of the world (the show is seen in 100 countries) who must wait for months to follow what is surely the greatest fictional love story since Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. In Canada and the US, the show will air January 6, 2013 on PBS.

Last time I checked, that’s 112 days, 19 hours, 8 minutes (according to the PBS count down to Downtown Abbey Season 3 clock). But who’s counting?

Dan Stevens, aka the adorable Matthew Crawley, taunted on us on Twitter:

Cor Blimey.

If you can’t afford to fly to the UK to see the show, here are my top twenty tips to help you survive the agonizing wait for Season 3:

1. Watch the Season 3 trailer a few thousand times (turn up the volume to hear the dramatic music and send shivers up your spine):

2. Make your own Downton Abbey paper dolls (print off all the dolls here):

3. Explore Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey:

4. Read about the real Lady of the manor: Downton’s Lady Cora is modelled after Lady Almina, the Countess of Highclere, who converted the family home into a hospital during WW1. Her intriguing life is documented in Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon. For a more scandalous read, check out The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon by William Cross.

5. Cook like Mrs. Patmore: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook includes recipes for classic British dishes, such as chicken pot pie, christmas pudding and High Tea. Better yet, get your hands on the real thing–a copy of  Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (published in 1861). You can read it on-line for free here. If you prefer a hard copy, you can get it cheaply at on-line second-hand bookstores. Also check out Downton Abbey Cooks–a beautiful cooking blog by a Canadian chef, with recipes, menus, book reviews and more.

Title Page of "Beeton's Book of Household...
Title Page of “Beeton’s Book of Household Management” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Clean your house in style: Think of your home as a well-appointed English Estate (hint: they didn’t have plastic in the Edwardian era…). Stock your kitchen, pantry and cleaning cupboard with pretty things:

Source: Design Sponge

This feather duster might just make housework more fun palatable:

Source: Style at Home

7. Brush up on your manners: Debrett’s is the self-described “modern authority on all matters of etiquette, manners, social occasions and people of distinction – the who’s who and what’s what”. They offer practical advice on their website. You can also follow them on Twitter @Debrett’s. If Monty Pythonesque humour is more your style, you  might enjoy the “Awfully Thorough Guide to Being British” videos put together by an English pub for the 2012 summer Olympics:

8. Get to know the Edwardians: The blog Edwardian Promenade is a fascinating resource on all things Edwardian (by author Evangeline Holland).

9. Listen: Put on the Downton Abbey soundtrack and be whisked away to your favourite country manor (available on CD and ITunes).

Source: Downton Abbey Facebook page

10. Tweed chaps, jaunty hats and candelabras anyone?: Thanks to Downton Abbey mania, English country is now a huge trend in fashion (most notably, Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2012 collection) and interior design (Apartment TherapyDesign Sponge, Style at Home).

From Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2012 collection
Source: Design Sponge

11. Go vintage: Vintage clothing sellers are crediting Downton Abbey with a spike in their sales. Vintage or nearly-new shops are also a great place to find low-priced English-inspired decor, such as silver trays, candlesticks and pretty china plates and tea cups.

12. Plan a Downton Abbey party: Host a traditional English tea or formal dinner. Or simply serve some Pimm’s with crisps and small sandwiches. A pot of tea with biscuits will do fine too! Anything, even a piece of burnt toast, looks better served on china, with silverware, a table cloth and candles. Invite guests to dress-up as their favourite character or in period dress (I’ll be Lady Sybil). And don’t forget #5 (food), #6 (cleaning), #9 (music), #10 (fashion/decor).

13. Take a riding lesson: You needn’t make a huge financial or time commitment to go riding. Many equestrian schools offer short riding lessons for beginners. Don’t forget your riding boots!

14. Go for a walk in the woods: Be like the British gentry, and take long, brisk strolls through the countryside. They say it’s good for the constitution, and it gives you a chance to wear your new wardrobe (see #10). My favourite and most comfortable wellies are Hunter (sadly, this is not a paid endorsement).

A walk in the country is good for the constitution. Hunting gear and hounds not required.

15. Get in touch with your inner snob: Take the PBS Manor House snob-o-meter test and find out if you would be more suitable to live upstairs or downstairs at Downton Abbey.

16. Curl up with a British country magazine or classic novel like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights: The Brits put out lavish home decor magazines, like Country Living (don’t miss the real estate ads: A small country manor in Yorkshire, anyone?). Light a fire, make a cup of tea, and sift through the pages. Guaranteed to cure all that ails you.

Illustration by N.C. Jaques

17. Write a letter. The old fashioned kind. Hand written. On paper. With a pen. In an envelope. With a stamp.

Letter from Charlotte Brontë to her publisher (1848). Source

18. Visit your favourite British-inspired shop, pub or eatery: In and around my town, Ottawa, we have some lovely stores, tea rooms and pubs that sell or serve British fare (fish and chips anyone?). You can also check out your local hotel for afternoon tea:

Afternoon Tea at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.
Cooke’s Fine Foods and Coffee in Brockville,  Kingston & Picton, ON

19. Take a mini-vacation to a country inn: You don’t have to cross the pond to get the Downton Abbey feeling. Look for a small country hotel or B&B, preferably one with walking paths and a quaint village nearby for dining and shopping. Here’s one of my new favourites in Almonte, Ontario:

20. Watch Downton Abbey Season 1 and 2 available on DVD and ITunes. Check your public library too!

And when it comes to Bates, I’m going to heed the words of the man himself:

“Anna, you must prepare for the worst. I’m not saying it will happen, but you must prepare for it.” ~Mr. Bates

What do you hope/think will happen to Bates in season 3?

What are you looking forward to this season, as post-war Downton enters the Roaring Twenties?


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