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Downton Mountain Or Just Another English Oregon


The English Roses

Fans of one of the most watched shows in the world revel in the drama of English manners.

Either that or they enjoy seeing landed aristocrats marrying American money to save their house.

The English lords don’t call it, ‘taking one for the team,’ but the results are the same.

If Monty Python is your sort of England, Downton Abbey might not reach you. The same goes for Doc Martin.

Boomerpdx tries to enjoy it, but can’t for the reasons listed below.

If you’re a married Portland baby boomer, imagine your spouse had been raised in America by English immigrants. They are the only one born in America from both sides of their family.

This is where special things happen.

The differences aren’t apparent at first, but like a good Cottage Pie aroma wafting through the house, you start to notice.

English television acts as both interpreter and crystal ball. Something in an English show reminds you of the way your spouse acts in similar circumstances.

Your first reaction is, “Oh my God, I’m married to an English person,” like you didn’t know.

But you really didn’t, not in the American melting pot.

Your spouse showed you pictures of their childhood and it seemed normal enough. You’ve seen pictures of them graduating from high school and college and nothing raised a red flag.

But now they’re away from their social structure and friends and start reverting to the habits and traditions they grew up with.

Do you find it charming, or haunting?

Circumstances change and you find yourself living with your spouse’s English mom. She’s been in America fifty years. From the evidence you can take the girl out of England, but you’ll never take England out of the girl.

What evidence, you ask?

  • Home Cooking

Have you ever cooked a leg of lamb? Where would you find a leg of lamb if you wanted to cook one?

You’d know if your mother in law had a domestic science degree and taught high school home-ec. She’d know where to buy one, how to slaughter a lamb, or both.

Once the lamb leg goes into the oven and starts splattering, the smoke alarm goes off. Lamb grease trips it pretty fast. You can’t stop cooking so you spend the next hours fanning a broom under the smoke detector while the house fills with the smells England has enjoyed for centuries.

No one else seems to mind.

  • Fast Food

Do you ever eat in your car? By the number of drive-ups the save bet is yes.

Not in England. Take an English relative visiting America to the closest take-out on the way to a football game and see what happens.

They’ll want to eat inside at a proper table. Talk them out of that and they’ll want to stop somewhere with a picnic table.

You explain that eating in the car is socially acceptable when you’re running late for the kickoff. They’re reluctant, but do manage to swallow before you reach the stadium.

Once inside they keep asking when the football players arrive. You see the teams warming up in uniform.

They see the same thing and keep asking.

  • Table Manners 

If you grew up in a larger family, you know how to eat. Fast, then hit the skillet for seconds.

You might have a knife and fork, but the fork is the major player. It stabs, it cuts, it shovels, and it never changes hands.

The English way is different.

To eat like the English you navigate your plate with a knife in one hand, an upside down fork in the other. Your food is in separate groupings and you cut and stack a morsel of each for every mouthful.

It’s a small mouthful so meals take on a marathon feeling because you won’t be the first one finished. Again.

Running two utensils at once is challenging, but if we’d all been born with three arms instead of two, England would have been the first to use a knife, fork, and spoon all at once.

These three examples, from home cooking, to fast good, to table manners, gives watching Downton Abbey a strong case of deja vu. You’re not in England, it just feels like it.

To find more England in Portland, look to bbcamerica’s 10 British Things About Portland, OR, the Highland Games, and best of all, the Daughters of the British Empire.

Then tune into Downton Abbey when you finish your homework.

Ta ta, luv.







About David Gillaspie
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