Sunday, 14 April 2013

An embarassing situation-my Downton Abbey encounter.

I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey, who isn't, and watching the new series I was reminded of the time that my hubby and I got the chance to go to Highclere Castle which, (for the 1% of the population who don't know), is the setting for Downton.. On this particular day the castle was hosting a fundraiser for the Help For Heroes charity and to my delight I discovered that there were some of the cast members on site and for a donation it was possible to get their autographs. Naturally, I joined the queue. They'd just gone off for some lunch so I had quite a while to wait. There was a lovely buzz in the queue as everyone seemed to be as excited as I was to meet the cast. All I could think of was that I hoped that I wouldn't say or do anything to embarrass myself.

Hugh Bonneville alias Lord Grantham.
Finally, they returned from lunch and as the line progressed nearer to the marquee, so my excitement increased. I'd purchased a glossy brochure which contained a picture of the entire cast of Downton and I thought that I would get them to autograph the photo. But, when I entered the marquee, I found out that each of them had a stack of postcard size pictures of themselves in costume. When it was my turn, they asked me my name and gave me a personalised signed postcard. Nevertheless, being greedy, I asked them to sign the brochure as well.

All was going well!  I successfully managed to get 7 of the 9 cast members autograph without embarrassing myself. These included David Robb, (Doctor Carson), Penelope Wilton, (Matthew Crawley's mother,) Hugh Bonneville, (Lord Grantham), Allan Leech, (Tom Branson), Lesley Nicol, (Mrs Patmore, the cook) and Sophie McShera, (Daisy, the kitchen maid)Then I came across Kevin McNally, who I recognised from Pirates of the Caribbean, but not from Downton! He was sitting between Jim Carter, (Mr Carson, the head butler) and Phyllis Logan, (Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper). Unlike the others, Kevin McNally didn't have a postcard sized picture of himself. Instead he produced a rather large photo of himself as Joshamee Gibbs, (Captain Jack Sparrow's first mate), in the Pirates series of films. 

Now for the embarrassing bit! The conversation between Kevin and me went like this.

Me:-"Oh, you've got a big one"!
Him:- "Thank you very much". (with an enormous grin on his face)!
Then turning to Phyllis Logan he said:- "She's right you know".

Already wishing that the floor would open up and swallow me I was further embarrassed when turning his attention to my chest area he then said:-

 "You're not too bad yourself"! 

By now all the actors and actresses at the table, not to mention the other members of the public within earshot, were laughing at my predicament. Still with a big grin on his face, he handed me my signed photograph. With as much dignity as I could muster I waited as Jim Carter signed his postcard and my brochure, then clutching them in my by now 'sweaty with embarrassment' hands, I made a hasty retreat from the marquee. I later found out that he had joined the cast as Mr Bryant, the father of the soldier who fathered a child by one of the housemaids which was aired a few weeks after this incident. 

'The big one' 
A few weeks later I was invited to take part in an on line forum about Downton Abbey. During the course of the forum I shared this story and the photographs that I'd taken that day of the cast members present on that day. When the forum ended there were prizes given to those who had contributed the most to the forum. I was by no means one of them, but I was given a special prize as quote:- "Although I hadn't contributed a lot, what I had contributed was very interesting", unquote. I wonder what they meant?
Despite this little 'faux pas' on my part, it was a very memorable day. Later on the cast members took part in a celebrity auction with items such as a signed script going for about £I,000 and the chance to appear as an extra in the next series going for at least double that. Unfortunately I somehow managed to lose the signed post cards of the cast. They must have slipped from between the pages of the brochure as I was walking around, but I managed to keep the 'big one'. I've also got the signed brochure so all was not lost. Funny how growing older is no guarantee of growing wiser. One of these days I'll learn to 'engage brain before opening mouth'. But on the other hand where would be the fun in that. :) 

Update 2015.

I was recently talking to Sophie McShera, who plays Daisy the kitchen maid. I asked if she remembered the story of the 'big one. She didn't so I told it to her. Only I omitted to mention that the 'big one' was a photograph. Will I never learn. 

Photographs, Isabel's own. (The full cast one being part of the brochure).

Isabel Johnstone 2015 ©

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