The Edwardian Country Home (2002 British TV Channel 4)

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Now streaming on Acorn TV is “The Edwardian Country Home,” (also known as The Manor House) a television series from 2002 that takes a group of individuals from 2001 and places them into another world.  As the synopsis says, “An Edwardian country house in Scotland is brought back to life in this real-life Upstairs, Downstairs. For three months, one family will live in the manor while another 12 individuals serve them, an immersive experience in the world of social inequality and class distinctions that defined the period between 1905 and 1914.”

This television program is a highly entertaining look into life much like the famously portrayed version in Downton Abbey years later. However, the difference is the heartwrenching reality of taking modern-day individuals and setting them into a world they find quite different.  The six episodes delve into the three-month period and how it challenges and changes those who play their roles upstairs and downstairs. Nothing is as peachy as it seems upstairs when life becomes boring, stifling, and rigid in its many mannerisms. Neither is anything peachy downstairs as servants give their lives to serve their masters.

What is unique about the program is that it spans the years as it would have been from 1905-1914, when at the onset of World War I that dramatically changes how the rich lived and the uprising of the classes striving for a better life. Some of the younger participants, such as the scullery maid, come and go when the harsh work overwhelms them and they are unable to deal with the authority of the butler.

They serve their masters in all of their needs to dressing them, dinner parties, hunting parties, shooting parties, and grand balls.  The housework and cooking is a never-ending circle of life and long hours. At times, they feel unappreciated, ignored, and live the stark reality of being lower class. Those upstairs cannot believe how they cannot do the simple task of even dressing without help but eventually get accustomed to the pampering.

The ending is quite emotional as they all prepare to leave the life they have grown to live over three months. Some of them are glad to put away their servant outfits, while those upstairs warily return to work, leaving behind their pampered lives.  The lady of the house believes she would be much more suited to living in the era she is now forced to leave. However, even if that were true, the era is disintegrating and passing away.  The wealth and opulence can no longer be maintained.

If you are a lover of period drama and historical romance, I highly recommend watching this entertaining series.  I enjoyed it far better than the recent one in the Victorian era on PBS.

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Escape to the Country (BBC)

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Have you ever had a dream that you knew in your heart would never come true?  Are you brave enough to watch a show about that dream and torture yourself by seeing others live it instead?  Well, click your heels three times and say with me, “escape to the country in England.”

Currently streaming on Netflix is this wonderful BBC insight into country living.  It’s a reality show where individuals or couples are seeking to leave the bustling cities and find a property in a quaint village in the English countryside.  The host shows them three properties that fit into their desires (i.e. budget, number of bedrooms, size of lot/land, location), with the last one termed as the “mystery home.”  After viewing each of the properties, the home seekers guess the price before being told the actual listing.

The show covers a variety of counties in England.  What is nice about each location visited, is that the host introduces interesting tidbits about the small country village’s history and what they may be famous for in the way of special goods, i.e. leather, lace, candy, etc., and then shows examples of how these are made. (The lace one blew me away! I never knew the intricacy and hours of work for one piece of handmade lace.)  It gives the guests and the audience the flavor of the locality, along with stunning views of national parks, rolling hills, dramatic coastlines, etc.

Frankly, I’ve only been through three episodes shot in York, Wiltshire, and Devon.  Future episodes are Dorset, Shropshire, Scottish Highlands, West Wales, East Midlands, North Dorset,  Gloucestershire, Northumberland, Cornwall, Somerset, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire.

Usually, my mouth doesn’t drop open while watching television, but I’ve had a hard time keeping it shut while entering some of these properties.  From the typical country thatch roof to converted barns to small estates to Georgian-style houses, I’m green with jealousy wishing I could live in one of these fabulous places, in a country village setting.  Alas, life will probably never grant me that dream.  (Perhaps, I should be glad based on the murder rates on so many fictional British crime shows.)

On the downside of this series, you are left with the knowledge of which house the guests like but not given the knowledge of what house they actually purchase!

If house hunting bores you, this is not the show for you.  However, if you’re curious about English properties in the country, their cost, etc., you’ll love the show even though it’s not a five-star British period drama with a handsome duke to sweep you off your feet.  Instead the properties will enthrall and cause your heart race to increase.

Oh, you lucky Brits!  I’m green with envy.