Downton Abbey – the film

We originally started watching Downton Abbey in box set form – and there are a lot of episodes. Great entertainment, but in the end, we stopped watching. Like any soap opera, the twists and turns in the plot seemed more to do with maintaining peak audiences rather than telling a story.

And then Downton Abbey the film appeared in our local cinema. Great. Watch the finale, and cut out the box sets. We had seen enough to know who the main characters were. We had followed the story of Lady Sybil and the romance with the chauffeur, Tom Branson and cried when she died. But we had stopped watching when the unending sage of Bates, and the rise and fall of his fortunes that stretched the bounds of credulity.

The film is a great feel good movie and ends with lots of happy ever afters and the promise of even more. The King and Queen are coming to Downton (Edward VII and Queen Mary) – just staying for the night. Apparently, you do not invite the monarch, the monarch invites themselves. And turns up with retinue, takes over the running of your house and the kitchens. But it is a great honour. And everyone bows and curtseys and melts into extreme sycophancy. Anyone for a republic?

The film is unlikely to be a candidate for the Oscars and possibly does nothing to promote the monarchy, but is quite entertaining, although the ending was just a little too drawn out in its syrupy sweetness.

What the Wind Knows by Amy Hamon

I must admit, I was giving up with finding a good read. There is an awful lot of dross out there. But this book is different. A love story, an historical account and a little bit of time travel. I must admit that at times I was reminded of “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger at times. Once time travel enters into the equation, questions about predestination arise, and the circularity of time, and as is so often in Dr Who plots, the question of if and how the timeline can be changed. This book is a glorious mix of romance, history, politics and science fiction at its best. Definitely a “Margaret’s recommendation”.

The setting is … when? Anne Gallagher, a successful author, based in New York finds herself in Ireland, in 1921 at a crucial time in the history of Ireland. And as I read, Britain is now at the same juncture in history, where identity, nationhood, economics and politics all collide in the Brexit question. In Ireland, in the early 1920s, these questions led to a civil war, and no-one benefits from a civil war. For us, in Britain, these questions are leading to an erosion of the United Kingdom, and as a result, the viability of Great Britain as a political unit also hangs in the balance. The history of all the peoples of the British Isles are inextricably linked, culturally, economically, politically. So inextricably linked that the actions of one country or state have the potential of destabilising the British Isles. Surely the lessons must be that we have a moral duty to all the people of the British Isles. And this is a lesson that has yet to be learnt by the English. Democracy says that whoever wins the vote, wins the day. Yet surely this is a recipe for tyranny, and many peoples of the British Isles will say English tyranny. For the English reader, What the Wind Knows is an uncomfortable read.