Don’t tell anyone, but I love Downton Abbey and with the latest series ending last night, I am already experiencing the withdrawal symptoms of the true fanatic. Oh Lord! I’ll be buying the souvenir tea-towels next! I don’t know what snob-ridden substance Julian Fellowes has been inhaling, but the past few Sundays - Series 3 - has produced some cracking storylines, with the issue of Thomas’s homosexuality handled with great sensitivity, and superb acting. And an unlikely ending that wouldn’t have happened in real life, but who knows? It is hard to believe that it is only a few decades since gays were shunned by family and friends, lost jobs, were blackmailed or sent to prison for being “queer”. In some parts of the world bad things still happen.
While enjoying the whole “upstairs, downstairs” experience of Downton, I can’t help but be reminded how awful the situation must have been back then in the real world, with the "haves" eating cake while the "have-nots" struggled to put a loaf of bread on their family table. It reminded me of reading somewhere that it was never in the interest of the establishment to over-educate the working-classes because, my God, who would empty the bins and work in the factories?!
People still live in grand houses and are waited on hand and foot by the lower-classes, but I don’t know, should we be resentful of their privileged lives, or grateful for the jobs they provide?
Which brings me to the announcement today that over five million people earn less than the living wage in the UK, a sum set at £8.30 for London and £7.20 elsewhere in the UK. The minimum wage demanded by the government is £6.19. Workers in the hotel, bar and restaraunt trade struggle the most, so no wonder the service in some establishments is so bad!
Presumably, employers rely on staff tips to subsidise the low-wages and the argument is that many establishments would close if overheads were higher. The same applies to the USA where workers in the fast-food industry struggle to survive, as do the likes of farm-workers, often transient labour, with no choice but to take any job on offer.
A far cry from the world of Downton, although there are people who still live like that, proud of their heritage and with a strong belief that the country, its land and its tradition is for them to uphold, with low-paid help from the little people. Just look at our Royals.