Knickers, Twisted

I fell off the Downton Abbey wagon. Hard.

I wanted to like the show. It featured things I usually like–Britishisms, Maggie Smith, an ensemble cast, a fitting theme jingle. I enjoyed Season One, I tolerated a few episodes of Two, but discovered it turned too soap opera-y for me. I faded away like Mrs. Patmore’s eyesight.

Which is what I want to chat about today, Mrs. Patmore’s eyesight. For those of you who never watched Downton, Mrs. Patmore is the cook of the house. She bustles about the kitchen, ordering people around while creating culinary courses, making some ridiculous number of meals, like eight, a day for those living Upstairs. It’s a huge operation in the era portrayed, pre-gadgetry and pre-fridges. I can only imagine how taxing that job would’ve been. And I fancy cookery.

Well, the tough old bird manages fine until late in Season One. She acts differently, things seem to get away from her and she uses Daisy the kitchenmaid, for a lot more responsibilities than she used to. When you can’t read recipes or distinguish salt from sugar anymore, there’s a problem. Long story short, her eyes are failing, sight degenerating from cataract formation.

So after a dramatic visit to a London doctor, the specialist, the big city man, she comes back “fixed,” I suppose. She wears glasses after recovery–patients were immobilized for weeks by sandbags to aid healing back then, kinda barbaric–from cataract surgery, all paid for by her boss, Lord Grantham.

She seems to make do with this arrangement. No more burns, she stops harassing her kitchenmaid and things fallback to order in the kitchen at Downton. Makes me want to take to my bed. Somethings a bit off. In real life, I don’t think Downstairs servants in 1914 would be going to London to see doctors, paid for by an employer. I think she would be retired–pushed out the door with some cash, quietly. Am I wrong?

I’ve been waiting to hear more about her vision, too. No post-op infection? Glasses won’t stop that. She soldiered on to more seasons, but where are the thick glasses? I don’t see mention of them, which doesn’t make sense as replacement, implantable plastic lenses–IOLs–weren’t in existence until 1949 with Harold Ridley’s post WW2 work, nor perfected until well into the 1960s.  It’s a miracle. Downton stops cataracts, avoids complications, whatever ails the cook. Meals must be made.

I move on. I hear BBC1 produced a show called The Blandings, an adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse novels. I will hold out my hope for that quirkiness–once it reaches the US–to take up my charms. Until then, do let me know if Mrs. Patmore’s miracle vision ends. I won’t be watching.

A note about cataract surgery in 1914:


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Modwyn says:

    This is an astute commentary.

    I had a problem with how Mrs. Patmore despaired of ever being successful as a blind cook. Even though people claim to eat with their eyes, they rarely do. I know she wouldn’t have received the kind of training we’ve all received, but her line still irritated me.

    Downton has an extensive cast of disabled characters: Mr. Bates with his limp, Mr. Lang with his shell-shock (Season 2), Sir Antony with his bad arm (end of Season 2), and, of course, Matthew’s short experience of the wheelchair and miraculous recovery. I think the show handles Mr. Bates rather well by debunking his need to be “cured” and showing the ral social struggles he experiences. But I’m still trying to figure out how Downton is handling disability in general.

    1. Bates was one of my favorites. Downton has a sneaky penchant for miraculous recoveries, but then again, if I compare it to Days of Our Lives, it stands much closer to reality! At least Downton doesn’t bring back characters from the dead or age kids ten years in six months…at least not yet.

  2. Trisha says:

    I just started watching Downton Abbey so I’m glad to know that I will need to put the desire for realism aside before progressing too far into the show. It is disappointing to see all these miraculous cures on TV.

    1. Yes, suspend realistic portrayal then enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s