Don’t Let Us Down!

10 Little Suggestions about Downton’s Series 5

Downton gets rolling again on September 21! I’m unusually excited, since Series 5 is promoted to be much more dramatic and packed with storylines than Series 4, which was – to tell the truth – rather disappointing. There’s nothing like promising promotion, eh? I’m writing about what I assembled from every little SPOILER I could get my hands on, so beware! Here we go, let’s see which of my predictions will prove to be true.

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#1 Daring Dames

As it seems, there’s love in store for both the Dowager and Isobel! Violet’s heart could be stirred by the return of a love which she had already declared cold and forgotten. Of course she won’t throw herself into the arms of the handsome fellow arriving, but her feelings must tell her something about herself. That she’s still capable of something beyond ‘business as usual’. It will frighten her, inevitably. Oh, and she’ll grow fierce as she’s sensing her own fragility.
Isobel finds herself in something like a romance with Lord Merton. He’s rather keen, and I don’t think Dr Clarkson will play a great part – maybe shortly before it’s too late (could that wedding in the Christmas Episode or whenever not be Mary’s at all?!). But I’m smelling trouble here, as Lady Shackleton reappears. She might want to claim Lord Merton and try to crush Isobel by making her feel she’s not his equal. Of course nothing will break Isobel. What if she doesn’t love Merton after all? Ah, I’m so excited!

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#2 Not Yet

Mrs Hughes and Carson might have had their lovely paddle, but I’m quite sure things between them won’t have changed too much – yet. Maybe we’ll see a couple of evening scenes with that occasional glass of sherry, perhaps even pointing to feelings growing stronger. Mrs Hughes would be the driving force, though Carson’s feelings shouldn’t differ too much from hers. But first there’s the struggle about the War memorial, in which the two will take opposite sides. This might benefit their relationship in the long term, so let’s see. But I’m convinced Julian Fellowes won’t let anything saucy happen in Series 5. Anyway, there’s always a Christmas Special, and since the last one this proves to be promising!

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#3 Naughty Boy

Lady Anstruther seems to be quite taken with former employee Jimmy. What will Lord Grantham do, catching the two of them in bed? Sack Jimmy? Make her leave the house? Or quite the opposite, since she’s in fact just as blue-blooded as himself? Maybe it will even remind him of his own stroll beside the path, back then with Jane. I’m quite interested in how his reaction will turn out. If the trailer didn’t lie and maybe he won’t be the one discovering the couple’s secret rendezvous. Let’s see if Jimmy’s time at Downton comes to an end – or whether his smug smile will only grow wider.

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#4 Beautiful

‘Everything about Downton is beautiful’, says the art historian. Exchanging smiles with the lady of the house while he’s on a job? Maybe that’s Julian Fellowes’ revenge for Robert’s snogging Jane, however especially the historian seems keen to get something going. Let’s just hope Cora hasn’t too bad a conscience. But, regarding that she hadn’t had a storyline for ages, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Keep up the flirting! It would certainly challenge Robert to find out . We might see what stuff he’s made of – despising his wife for something he has done as well wouldn’t exactly benefit his reputation. By the way, I’m quite sure Cora won’t even allow a kiss that’s out of order. So there you go, I bet that’s just one big prank instead of a scandalous affair.

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#5 Simply Edith

How grown-up she sounds! Edith looks very beautiful, yet stern. And she’ll be saved from a fire, by Thomas – as if that wasn’t enough already. Maybe that’s the point where she decides that every moment is precious. But if it happens in Episode 1, it won’t result in her telling the family of a little daughter staying nearby. What was it Robert said,’Our grandchild is about to be stolen from us forever’? Are they – at some point – taking little Marigold back, revealing it all? Or was Robert talking about Sybbie, who might be taken away when Tom decides to go all middle-class with Miss Bunting (see #6)?
Will Michael return? I’m not really able to see that happy family reunion, but Series 5 will definitely reveal her secret to the family. How might Mary react to the fact that she has a little niece? And how will they deal with Edith having lied to them all the time? Reflecting about their own actions would be nice for a change. But it will all start with Edith visiting her little Marigold at the Drews’, pining for the child to be with her and know her as a mother, yet unable to tell anyone, and waiting for a sign of the father who quarreled with a pack of nazis. She’ll be distressed, but not throughout the whole series. If Michael might be found to be dead, she’ll be devastated. If he returns – there’s a marriage awaiting, and nobody can be sure it will by Mary’s!

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#6 Indigo Bunting

No applause for the heading? Shame on you. We did see that coming, didn’t we? Quirky teacher Sarah is invited to Downton – by Rose, of course. And Cora was the one allowing it, Robert doesn’t know a thing. Ah, I’m quite looking forward to the things the Dowager will say to Sarah, them sitting at the same dinner-table. I’m not terribly fond of that new character, but she might surprise me by showing the Crawleys that she can be a loving partner to Tom: caring for himself and his child, yet staying strong and somewhat independent. But I’m already annoyed by the speeches she’ll make in front of the family, telling them things they are thinking about all the time. They know best times are changing, and they’re afraid – so please, Sarah, don’t pretend you are that ignorant.

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#7  Onwards

‘I can’t just stand here following orders for the rest of my life!’. Daisy is going to make Mrs Patmore proud. But first, she’ll drive her mad, reading books and neglecting her job. So maybe the Crawleys must do without their pudding once in a while, for Daisy’s getting herself educated! And since she starts being quite insecure, the newly acquired knowledge might make her a little big-headed. This (as well as the fear of losing Daisy as an assistant cook and, moreover, a surrogate daughter) will finally make Mrs Patmore furious. This relationship must be sorted out, and I’m convinced it will prove to be strong enough. However, I don’t believe Daisy will leave just now. Anyway, what does she plan? Making a fresh start and running the farm together with Mr Mason, ready to take over when he’ll be joining his son? Finding a job in a kitchen (or elsewhere) in some bigger city, leaving service for good? Or might she decide that Downton is the place where she is happiest, after a long struggle with herself? Mrs Patmore will be an inevitable party in this struggle, as she also fights her own battle about putting her nephew’s name on a War memorial. The poor boy was shot for cowardice. But isn’t that something the War stands for as well – forcing people to act inhumanly? Lest we forget.

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#8 Teasing Thomas

From what I’ve heard, Baxter’s secret is one of the many to be revealed in Series 5 – but Molesley won’t let Thomas give his new sweetheart a bad time. Actually, he’s prepared to get quite nasty and I’m prepared to see Thomas react. I just hope they won’t drag it through too many episodes until they reveal what Baxter did wrong. Also, Molesley must be sticking with her although he comes to know it. If he doesn’t – well, I won’t admire him anymore. But he’ll provide comic relief with his newly dyed hair (what on earth did they think?!). I have to admit it, I completely love Baxter. So whatever she did, I’ll stand by her. I promise, no crossed fingers here. She is such a tranquil, lovely person, though she must suffer greatly. So what could it possibly be? It might sound totally awkward, but there was this talk Anna and Bates had at the table, about children, while Baxter was listening. Maybe the next shot would have shown her sad face? Did she have an illegitimate child, perhaps from a former employer, and abandoned it? Might it be Thomas? Alright, he could be too old. But it’s possible, isn’t it? I mean, what else could there be that’s so very horrible? Robbery, betrayal, murder? I just hope that, might Baxter be cast out, Molesley will be at her side. I’m not expecting too much, am I?
Ah, and Thomas gets another enemy, fierce new lady’s maid to the Dowager, Gladys Denker. I hope she totally finishes Spratt, that awful snob of a butler. The Dowager would have something to giggle about – in secret, that goes without saying.

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#9 Whodunnit

Bates’ smile makes me feel like I’m watching Miss Marple’s main suspect. Did he, or didn’t he? Actor Brendan Coyle said he was shocked when reading the script and finding out about the circumstances of Green’s death. But he wants us to watch the show, right? Maybe Bates did it, but maybe he staged the ‘accident’ in some cruel way, being the criminal mastermind that he his (I mean, he forges letters in no time?!). However, the whole incident will put a further strain on his relationship with Anna, who will never fully recover. If he goes to jail, she might break, and who could blame her, after all that suffering? Or will they find out Bates was involved in Green’s death, but conceal the truth? Anna and Bates would have to live with it either way. So it looks pretty gloomy for the two of them. I hope their love is strong enough to make them go on.

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#10 Whatever

Frankly, Mary, I don’t care whom of the lookalike admirers you will chose. It looks very much like Gillingham is the lucky chap, but be aware! Charles Blake might not have appeared in the spoiler material for a good reason. Or can there be a third party involved? I’m not too convinced, but I just don’t like Tony at all. Blake isn’t much better, but at least I can stand the sight of him, as he’s clever and charmingly ironic. Qualities Gillingham absolutely lacks. Additionally, none of the boys had had any chance to appeal to the audience as a complex character, someone you would worship as a person because of his actions and a kind-hearted behaviour. These guys are awfully flat, but maybe this was done on purpose and we’ll quickly find a man to favour. Just, please, make it happen really soon!

My Dear Hugo!

Hugo Fabry

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Lucky charm: Hugo wore a tie-pin like this one, shaped as a horseshoe, in the handsome potrait showing him before he fell ill. Source: ebay.de

After telling you a lot about my four-times-great-grandmother, Fanny, I’d like to talk about her husband, Hugo, who was born in 1830. He remarried after his wife passed away, I don’t know the exact date, but he was probably in his early 50s. His second wife was called Christine, and with her he had another child, Fritz, 13 years after Fanny had given birth to the youngest of their six children. Though I wasn’t that fascinated with Hugo and Christine as I had been with Fanny, this has changed greatly since I poked around in an archive and got my hands on Hugo’s medical file. He was a patient in a psychiatric hospital for the last two years of his life until he passed away in 1896. Next to the clinical reports, I found items of persona correspondence, a letter from Christine to her husband and one he intended to send to her as well as letters the family wrote to the director of the hospital and Hugo’s doctor. To read about Hugo’s state of health was touching enough, but the personal writings revealed much about how my ancestors actually lived. Especially Christine tells a lot about her living conditions. I’ve grown to respect her greatly for all of the achievement she proved to be capable of. She was the person discovering, five years before she accompanied him to the hospital, that her husband’s character was changing. At times, Hugo cried or was agitated and became more and more unable to fullfil his work in a tax commissionership sufficiently – so he was retired. The file contained a great deal of information about Hugo’s state of health and his decline, but I especially remember one short, summarising passage, which I would like to share with you:

As far as known, no mental illness inherited. Developed normally, also was a good student. Married twice, happy marriage, economised. Approximately five years ago, the wife noticed the change of her husband’s character. He became snappish about trifles, upset, cried; headaches, insomnia occurred. He became more and more incapable of performing his tasks as an assistant in a tax commissionership leading to him having to retire in 1891. His condition worsened steadily. Currently, he is apathetic, occasionally aroused and then becomes violent; has in this condition repeatedly attempted suicide. Doesn’t get along with his toilette that well anymore. Coordination disorder, increased patellar reflex, slow reaction of the pupil, paralytic language disorder, facial nerve paralysis, twitching of facial musculature.

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The psychiatric hospital Hugo stayed in. This pictured shows the facilities in 1854, but they must have looked similar when he stayed there. Source: lwv-hessen.de

I’m not an expert on these sort of things, but to me it looks as if Hugo might have had a strokelet which went by unnoticed, but had sincere consequences. It affected his speaking abilities and restricted him physically, probably leading to the development of an depression as well. He couldn’t do his job the way he used to and maybe felt useless and disabled. Also, his wife and a child had died previously, which might have occured more often these days but must have been an utterly hurtful experience nevertheless. Physical and mental instability may have mutally influenced each other and therefore both increased towards Hugo’s final years. He sometimes had phases when he became aggressive, such a situation occured on January 18 in 1896. The supervisor wrote about his patient:

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Hugo’s uncle (shown here in his younger years) supported him financially.

Was in a bad mood today and explained, crying, he’d hit his wife in the face when she would visit him, she had taken him here to get rid of him, he asks for a holiday of 3 days to visit his uncle in D., the latter should give her [the wife] a tongue-lashing.

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Next to an empty piece of paper, Hugo intended to send a little note to his wife. On the envelope he wrote: “Asking for two of my new handkerchiefs”.

Hugo himself had attempted to write a letter to his wife Christine on 2 January but it wasn’t sent to her. I don’t know if Hugo’s mood changed very quickly (which might have been likely) or if his behaviour was the reaction to the fact that the letter never reached his wife and she therefore couldn’t send him an answer. He wrote as follows:

[unreadable] … there is no news of you and I ask you for it! Uncle in D. doesn’t answer me as usual, so I’m left alone. […] Therefore be so kind and let me know something. I lack pen, ink, paper and everything one needs for writing. I don’t want to write too much. Yours, Hugo who wishes you all the best.

To me, these are lines written by an affectionate husband and father, but a broken man. He was ill and exhausted; often preferred it to stay in his room instead of taking the air. The uncle from D. is mentioned several times both by Christine and Hugo and the medical file also contained a letter he wrote. I didn’t fully understand the situation, but he probably supported the family financially and acted as a sort of warden for his older sister’s son, though it’s surely not the proper term. I did a bit of research and it turned out he was a director of forests, a wealthy man who wrote books and dressed very primly. In a letter Christine wrote to Hugo in 1895, she told a lot about her situation in life and the daily challenges she had to deal with. Reading this, I started to hold her in great esteem. There was love in this letter, love and distress.

My dear Hugo! Because I am unable to see you in person, I have to write to you. Fritz and me intended to visit you for Christmas, but God decided otherwise. Dear Hugo, you must not think we forgot you.

Then she described how their son, Fritz, a boy of about 13, hurt his eye when setting up a mouse trap. Because of the open wound the eye developed a cataract and he had to undergo surgery. What a terrible shock it must have been. She wrote: “Who counts the tears, who knows the pain of a mother!”. Christine hoped the doctor was right when telling her that the boy wouldn’t see that well in the beginning, but was very likely to regain proper sight. She went on as follows:

Brief Christine Fabry 19.01.1895, Teil 1

With husband and child both in hospital, Christine was extremely challenged. She told Hugo about it in a letter, but still found the most encouraging words.

Just think what a Christmas the poor child has! Dear Hugo, be contented, all of us don’t have a proper Christmas, maybe better days will come […] I hope to be able to press Fritz close to my heart again in a fortnight, 3 weeks. You will get better as well and return to us, just be patient, put yourself in my place, I’m only writing to all the world and still have to sustain myself for my duties. We’ll visit you as soon as possible, write to me but let me write to you. Margarethe and Emil [one of his daughters from his first marriage] will come soon if they haven’t visited you yet. Uncle B. would have liked to come, but he’s too anxious to travel [he was 83 years of age]. The director and Doctor M. will expect him and I unfortunate woman am at my wit’s end about the bills. Please tell Doctur M. to approach Uncle B. and the authority. […] You only have one pair of trousers over there and here are a jacket and another pair, I don’t know what to do. Hopefully, you will be able to go out once in a while, just like you did here, and have a glass of beer. I end hoping that everything will end well. Fritz and me greet and kiss you warmly. Christine

I thought about the way Christine imagined her husband’s life to be like. She obviously was convinced that he could leave the institution to go to the pub and have a drink. From what I read, Hugo was only able to take the air in the yard and later he refused to do even that, because he got weaker and weaker. There were some violent outbreaks from time to time; once he kicked a fellow ward in the shin until he was seriously wounded. Hugo often cried, for example when he thought he had lost his glasses. He was confused and often asked the doctor to examine him, for example his tongue. There are many remarkable quotes, one of which I’d like to share. It’s an entry from 21 December 1895:

Said today, the doctor should examine him, he was ill. As the doctor, while he was telling him this, listened to another ward, he reluctantly walked away and said: “If you don’t want to attend to me, I can just kick the bucket anyway”. When the doctor examined him and didn’t find anything – he had complained about his tongue – he said: “Mr H. had told me that I was ill and when Mr H. sees it, you as a doctor have to see it, too!”.

Hugo didn’t give up on his tongue complaint and repeatedly asked the doctor about it. I’m not sure if there might have been a sort of neuralgia. Maybe, the paresis also affected his tongue. Otherwise, I was wondering if that Mr H. told Hugo about his mental illness and he simply tried to cope with it and somehow, probably even unconciously, wanted to reduce it to some physical defect. He could also have had phantom pain – sometimes patients of depression complain about causeless backache as well. When walking in the yard, he moved in circles, pulling his left leg behind. He had a severe coordination disorder and fell down at times. His paresis got worse and confined him to his bed. Being unable to eat, he was fed. On 28 September 1896, he passed away. Though I was shocked by the plain record in his file, I want to share it with you. These were different times. I just hope that dear Hugo wasn’t treated so very badly. After all, his wife enabled him to stay with his family as long as possible.

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Suffering from paresis and probably post-stroke depression, Hugo was ravaged by disease.

Died this morning at 6:45, after he had already not taken in anything yesterday, had stared constantly and his arms and legs had been completely cold.

My Best Compliments!

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There is such a lot of online hate going on, people bullying and insulting each other anonymously – as long as one doesn’t have to confront another person, it seems terribly easy to let it all out. Maybe that’s why real-life-complimenting, on the other hand, seems to be considered as somewhat outdated. And I don’t only talk about men flattering women they seek to impress (and win over). It’s the same with your average ‘Oh, mum, that was a lovely dish today!’. Maybe especially young people are just shy because they’re used to writing comments like ‘What a lovely dress, you look fab. xxx’ only in that safe and sound online community where they won’t ever get an irritated gaze. But true, sincere complimenting makes us happy – the ones who pay compliments as well as the ones receiving them. That’s why I intend to write an article for a local newspaper commenting on compliments, especially amongst younger people and between young and older ones. It’s a paper covering just a small area, but it matters to me nevertheless.

And here’s what I need your help for: I want to publish a collection of compliments.

I’m therefore asking you to submit a compliment you recently received or paid by commenting on this post.
Feel free to submit more than one.

I declare to protect your anonymity. You can give your first name and home country, but if you don’t, I won’t spy on your ‘About’. It’s just about the variety of compliments and spreading a little bit of love, names don’t matter. Your first name won’t appear in the local newspaper if you don’t specifically submit it.

 Thank all of you for taking part in something that means a lot to me.

Angel Adoree’s Filo Baskets

Filo pastry baskets filled with Stilton, walnuts and pears.

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I tried the recipe from Angel Adoree’s ‘Vintage Tea Party Book’, you can puchase it e.g. from Amazon. Also have a look at her and her team’s beautiful website. They’re called ‘Vintage Patisserie’ and organise lovely vintage tea parties.

Recipe for 12 baskets.

Ingredients

  • ready-rolled filo pastry (20cm x 40cm), 6 sheets
  • 70g butter, melted
  • 2 ripe pears
  • 100g Stilton cheese (or any other firm blue cheese), crumbled
  • 12 walnut halves (you don’t really have to count them), roughly chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.
  • Cut each of the unrolled filo pastry sheets into eight squares á 10×10. You will get 48 squares.
  • Use a pastry brush to cover one side of each square in a thin layer of melted butter.

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  • Onto the pastry baskets: lay one square on top of another at a 45°-angle, so the points are offset. Add a third and fourth square, arranging the points to fall where those of the first two squares fell (3 like 1, 4 like 2). You’ll end up with a four-layered star shape. In the end you will get 12 of those stars aka filo baskets.
  • Take a tall 12-hole mini-muffin pan (a regular sized muffin pan will do as well, I used one myself) and push each layered star into one of the holes. Brush the edges with leftover melted butter.
  • Bake the pastry baskets for 7 minutes until they are golden. Then let them cool in the muffin pan.

pastry baskets

  • Quarter the pears to remove their cores. Angel tells you to slice each quarter into three lenghtways, but I just chopped them into little cubes. Worked as well, just do it the way you prefer them. Put the pear slices/cubes into the pastry baskets and divide the Stilton evenly between the baskets, then do the same with the chopped walnuts. I gently mixed the three of them (pears, cheese, nuts) together in a bowl before I put them in, so it might look less aesthetic. Tasty nevertheless!

filo baskets arrangement

These ones are great for a buffet or as a starter, savoury yet lighter than they look. I’d say they’re a dish for every season, because the Stilton and nuts provide taste, the pears add some freshness and the filo pastry makes it all nice and crunchy. I made them for my birthday party and served them accompanied by peanuts and crips as a snack inbetween meals. Worked wonderfully.

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You Can Leave Your Dress On

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Picture source: jenbutneverjenn.com

Does pushing prams, icing cupcakes and wearing make-up mean a woman sticks to an outfashioned female ideal? Does she lack self-esteem, want to please her husband and submit to a patriachal society? A short comment on females and femininity.

It cannot be denied that certain characteristics which are commonly considered ‘female’ or ‘male’ have developed from biologic differences between the sexes and are still justified on that basis. There are differences of course – e.g., bearing a child leads to a release of hormones developing the special relationship between a mother and her child. And men just don’t have babies. Until this changes, mothers and fathers simply aren’t the same. We are equals, but not identical.
And though I’m against justifying a modern society dominated by males on the basis of this fact, it serves as an explanation for the course of history: because a man couldn’t bear children (haha, pun time), he had to chase bears to be of any use for his community (next to fathering the kids).

This principle applied to many societies for many centuries, but in many modern countries, it doesn’t work anymore. We’ve got the possibility to chose what we want to do: care for the babies and/or struggle with those metaphorical bears out there. And that’s exactly why we must be allowed to take whatever path pleases us, in both directions, without losing the status of an emancipated woman. Because that’s what is typical for her: that she’s above all of these outfashioned categories; there aren’t things ‘female’ or ‘male’ anymore, there’s just a big pool of possibilites. And if an emancipated woman choses to care for her child and make pies for her husband, it’s her rightful decision – we must only make sure to teach our children that this is not the only or, even worse, the ‘intended’ way things should be like. 

Don’t let these old-fasioned categorizing thoughts dominate your decisions and leave your dress on – if you like to. And boys: you can also stay with chopping firewood as long as you don’t prefer knitting. But if you do, make something nice for the baby.

We’re The Same

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There is definitely something about them:
19th century ‘tattooed lady’ Nora Hildebrandt, source: theartofpain.wordpress.com
20th/21st century actress Katherine Kelly als Lady Mae (character from period drama ‘Mr Selfridge’), source: static.whatsontv.co.uk

Why do we assume that, as time goes by, people change like industries developing? Surely, there is gaining knowledge and losing it, there were several revolutions as well, wars, death, terror. We’ve got computers now but people are fighting all the same. We’ve got penicillin and we know what the moon is made of and now we’re watching period dramas about the Titanic sinking and children struggling after the war has ended. It’s our past and present and it will be our future, but it doesn’t change us. It might change the way we think or the amount of things we know, but it will not determine how we feel.

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Seems I just can’t let go of Vincent, and I particularly adored this portrayal:
19th century artist Vincent van Gogh, source: wikimedia.org
20th/21st century actor Tony Curran in the role of Vincent, source: wikimedia.org

Giving birth feels like it did in the Middle Ages. Being ignored feels like in the Regency era. Love feels the same like it did in the Second World War. Knowledge, problems, circumstances of course are regarded as part of a person’s character, but they are really just triggering emotions which finally define that character. I’m not talking about the things we feel about, because those are not fixed, but the way it feels like.

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The Dahl/Doyle trifle – about a necktie:
20th century writer Roald Dahl (wrote ‘The BFG’, ‘The Big Friendly Giant’), source: wikimedia.org
20th/21st century actor Kevin Doyle (know as ‘Downton Abbey”s Mr Molesley), source: media-imdb.com

And that is the human mystery – we can’t give up having the strongest sentiments about things which simply won’t stay the same. So it’s hard to understand our ancestors’ ways exactly because they were so much like us – only in different situations that we’re ignorant about. We can gather every single snippet describing these conditions, we can study historical reports but still won’t understand. Although we already know how it feels! We just don’t get the connection.

Let’s face the truth. We didn’t change after all.