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4th OCTOBER 2010

I just got back again from the US of A - wonderful warm weather and the pleasure of being with my son Tom, daughter-in-law, Tami and granddaughter Brynn aged 9 and grandson Kaden, now all of 5. His birthday party was terrific and exhausting and he looked quite overwhelmed, until they all went outside for the entertainment, go -carts, boats etc. Who was a spoiled boy? But I think he appreciated it.

My dear friend Jenni had recorded the first episode of “Downton Abbey”, written and produced by our good friend Julian Fellowes, for me to watch before I see tonight’s episode. Jenni and I knew Julian from 80’s Hollywood days, when we were all living there and typical Julian arranged endless networking dinner parties, for the purpose of getting work and his career as an actor going. Strangely enough, it was on a film he was doing, “Baby” about a baby brontosaurus, that I last saw Patrick Mcgoohan - he was in the film and on the set when I visited Julian. He was living happily in LA and confided that he didn’t have to do too much work, as his wife was selling real estate in Beverley Hills and making a fortune! Anyway to get back to “Downton”- I love it and think it is terrific. It is so grown up and accurate. Some of the scenes brought back memories of my childhood.

I grew up poor, my father was a refugee with little money to spare as he was supporting his refugee parents before they emigrated to America, to be with his brother, who had gone years before. My mother was virtually supporting me alone, my parents did not live together and never got along. She also supported my uncle, he had terminal tuberculosis and the powers that be would not take him into hospital, as he was terminal and their mother, my grandmother.

We all lived together in a tiny four room flat with no toilet and no proper kitchen at the top of an old Victorian house in Upper Norwood in what would have been the servants quarters. (The only other person I met, who grew up in Upper Norwood was Roddy McDowall) The rooms were not built with wonderful things like bathrooms, kitchens and loos. We had a bath in one of the rooms, with a sink which served for washing ourselves and the dishes etc. Two flights down (through the flat of the people below) was the loo. This was actually quite grand and served all four of us and the two below! Going to the toilet in the middle of the night was a challenging and a dark scary experience for a small child. And in the winter it was freezing! But as a child one doesn’t really notice these circumstances too much - they just are and you live with them. I didn’t really have a frame of reference to compare them with. My mother and uncle did, they had grown up in a nice centrally heated mansion flat in Kennington. But the war had brought hard times, my lovely, witty uncle was very ill, but still made up wonderful stories, which he told me, my parent’s marriage was a disaster and my grandmother had nowhere else to live, after her husband had died.

But the fights between mother and my grandmother and my mother and father were pretty bad and the only real blight on my childhood until about the age of twelve, when Uncle had died, Mum had divorced, Grandmother had gone to live with ‘well off’ Auntie (back from living in Ireland) and Mum had met ‘someone else’ and I went off to boarding school.

This was really before the Welfare State came in with all its help. But we didn’t feel hard done by - we just got on with it. Or if was there to help, we didn’t know about it. My grandmother was pretty street wise having grown up in the City of London with about twelve bothers and sisters, so she knew all the angles, well most of them! So I dont doubt she had explored all the possibilities.

The servants in ‘Downton Abbey’ did not have a good life compared with their masters and their privations in terms of personal basic requirements for living were pretty grim. I dont think people realise how lucky there are now with the State there to bear their burden so much. I do believe frankly many are spoiled and not appreciative of all they get for very little contribution. I believe that the present Governments policies may be a wake up call for a few.

Maybe that’s no a bad thing, having to stand on your on two feet can give so much confidence and self esteem which seems to be lacking in many people nowadays. Hopefully it will make one or two realise that you can do very little worthwhile in life without a basic education and that education can open doors that one can't imagine.

I am getting rather preachy now - dont mean to, just want people in our country to appreciate what they have, materially that is.

Well that’s about all for this week. Do watch “Downton Abbey”, it’s very, very good.

Bye for now.Jane

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