Friday, October 22, 2010

The Write Adventure

NaNoWriMo's a coming, and I feel like a Really Bad Writer because I've no intention of participating. I mean, c'mon. I'm the sort of writer who never know where s/he is going, what the characters are going to do next, or even if any of the cast is going to be alive at the end of it. Sometimes this writer wonders if she's  going to be alive at the end of it. But... I actually enjoy it!


Because not knowing where my story is going to take off next is exciting. Throat-twistingly scary, but enormously fun. It's like bungee-jumping into an everlasting valley without knowing if you're all buckled up. Actually, it's like bungee jumping with nothing but your clothes on your body. Sometimes I wish that I'd everything all planned out nicely and neatly arranged, colour-coded and carefully alphabetized, but that would be oh so very boring.

Instead, this style of writing lets me rely on God more. I ask God to help me out when characters have sent me to Coventry, when my plots scream insanity, and when the dialogues are more stilted than Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy at the beginning of P & P.

God is the Great Artist and Master Storyteller- who better to turn to? ;)

If you're a writer and you are reading this post, I'm interested in what your writing style is . Unbelievably unpredictable? Happy-go-lucky? Precisely penned? Beautifully measured?

In the end... let's not forget that all creativity comes from God. When I delight in my stories, in my characters, I am delighting in the marvelous adventure that is God's brilliance.

Whatever you do, do it for the Lord!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Downton Abbey Episode 1 : Recap and Review

I'm addicted. Within twenty minutes I was reeled in so fast that my life flashed before my eyes, and my hands are still shaking. Downton Abbey. It's beautiful, it's period drama gold, and I'm already squealing so hard internally that I feel I'm going to bust my intestines.

So I decided to do a recap of Episode 1 just for fun. And because I'm addicted. :)

The venerable Julian Fellowes has done it again; Downton Abbey promises to be a richly textured, multi-faceted story, not only with the deliciously alternate yet complementary views of life up and below stairs, but a depiction of English society at a time when modernity was charging in with electricity and trains and suffragettes.
Robert, Earl of Grantham ( AARGGH- It's Hugh Bonneville!!!!!!). Must pause while wiping tears of joy away from face. What's wrong with me? Oh all right, I am partial to Hugh Bonneville. WHY hasn't he been knighted yet???
Anyway, back to Robert, Earl of Grantham. Robert seems to be a gentle, deeply sympathetic man, quite removed from the dark, lordly types ( I'm looking at you, earls of Georgette Heyer novels), and he is married to the beautiful and elegant Cora, an American heiress whose money went to the then impoverished estate. Cora didn't mind this stipulation by Robert's father at the time because when she'd married, she thought she'd bear Robert a male heir to carry on the line. Too bad she had three girls. And now her millions are not going to be going to her blood children.

When Robert takes up his morning newspaper ( freshly ironed by Thomas the head footman so that the ink won't stain his lordly fingers), he is shocked and saddened by the news of the Titanic's sinking. He is even more shocked and saddened when a telegram ( the dreaded telegram!) is handed to him, and he learns that his cousin and heir John, and John's son Patrick perished in that fateful voyage. His beautiful eldest daughter Mary was engaged to Patrick, and she is none too happy that her chance at keeping the family money in the family has disappeared into the watery grave. Oh, well. At least she doesn't have to wear mourning. Her sister Edith is furious at her lack of feeling, having harboured secret passions for the luckless Patrick herself. Meanwhile Sybil, the sister I find the most interesting at the moment, has very little to say. She is genuinely not interested. So what if she and her sisters don't get their full inheritance?

So what?! Say what?! Violet, Robert's mother and Dowager Countess of Grantham is at once furious and conniving. She didn't mind the grand estate and title going to Patrick, as her granddaughter Mary was set to marry him. She pays a visited to her barely tolerated American daughter-in-law, and the two decide to unite as "allies", because allies, according to Violet, are more useful than friends. Their aim? Get Cora's money back and smash that entail!
Now for life below stairs. We have Carson, the rightly prim and proper butler, Mrs. Hughes, the efficient dragon of a housekeeper ( echoes of Helen Mirren's housekeeper character in Gosford Park?), and Mrs. Patmore the head cook. Then comes sympathetic head housemaid Anna, bumbling second footman William, and a rather pathetic kitchen maid called Daisy. Last and certainly least is O'Brien, Cora's personal maid, and the sneering Thomas, first footman. You will see why I abhor these two in a minute. The servants are in their usual state of hustle and bustle as the dreadful news of the deaths descends upon the house. While Robert and his family react to it in a variety of different ways, the servants are too busy to reflect on it much except at dinner. No histrionics downstairs all right. But the pax romana is upset at the appearance of his lordship's new valet, John Bates. AIIEEEE! John Bates is played by Brendan Coyle! I heart Brendan Coyle! He's such a fantastic actor; another who should be knighted alongside Hugh Bonneville. Expect your hearts to be twisted folks. Brendan's at the helm.
The servants are dismayed that Bates is a cripple (
yeah, my heart twisted already), and O'Brien and Thomas are coldly furious. The reason for their fury is that Thomas was a sort of interim valet for Lord Grantham, and had been hoping to take the job on as a full-time position. They are outrightly cruel to Bates, the other servants are hopelessly sympathetic, and only Anna treats him with the respect he deserves.
At the servants' dinner table however, sharp footsteps are heard, and the door bursts open to reveal Lord Grantham. Starting out of their seats in amazement, the servants watch as Lord Grantham grasps Bates by the hand and welcomes him far too warmly for a mere stranger. Turns out, though, that Bates isn't a mere stranger. He was Robert's batman during the Boer war, and fought alongside Robert. Now that he's unemployed, Robert invited him to be his valet.
Everyone except for Anna is embarrassed, while O'Brien and Thomas decide to rethink their strategies. O' Brien murmurs in Cora's ear about Bates' inefficacy as a valet, what with his infirmity and all, while Thomas does all he can to make Bates feel like dirt. And Thomas complains to Carson, who is also harbouring doubts as to Bates' talent for valeting. Meanwhile spite is being shelled out upstairs as well: Edith throws barbs at Mary for not weeping over Patrick. Sybil tells Mary she knows more than she lets on, but Mary informs her that she's not feeling sad because of Patrick; she feels sad that she can't feel sad. Wow, lady. Go and buy a heart from somewhere.
But a great excitement appears in the form of the Duke of Crowborough, who's invited himself to stay at Downton for a few days. This is Mary's chance! If she can snag a rich duke, her future will be made! She pretties herself up for the duke, who is, shall we say, a young man and rather strange? When the servants line up to greet the duke, O'Brien kicks Bates ( gasp), and he falls, sprawling in front of the aristocrats. Red-faced, he is helped up by Anna, but now everyone assumes he fell because of his infirmity. Way to go O'Brien. I despise you so much now.

The duke barely looks at the servants, but he pauses in front of Thomas, claiming he remembers him from a previous stay. Thomas' face looks rather green, and O'Brien throws him a suspicious look.
Mary tries to engage the duke's interest, but it doesn't work, and when he and Robert have a tete-a-tete after dinner, the duke informs him that he cannot marry Mary. Robert is rightly furious: the duke had given every indication that he came to declare himself to Mary. However the duke counters that he had merely come to sympathise with the family over their bereavement. It's a lame excuse and they both know it.

A hopeful Mary is lurking outside the room, but when the duke comes out, he tells Mary shortly that he will be leaving on the morrow. Then he asks her to send Thomas up to his room. Crushed, Mary sinks back, practically into Edith's spiteful smile.
And I skipped the next scene.  Why? Because the duke is gay, and interested in Thomas. Thankfully my friend warned me of the scene, so I was ready to hit the fast forward button.
Anyway, Robert, under pressure from Cora and Carson, tells Bates finally that it isn't working out. Bates is devasted, and tries to beg Robert to reconsider, but Robert isn't used to reconsidering with servants, and tells him no. The disappointment on Bates' face, coupled with his desire not to cry, makes my hand clutch my heart in sympathy.  I sincerely dislike you Robert.
Anna is the only servant who feels Bates' pain, and at dinner she volunteers to take his meal up to him, as he hasn't shown up at the table. As she comes up, she hears the sounds of sniffing, and peeking in at the door, sees tears rolling down Bates' eyes. Who will employ him? It is 1912, and crippled ex-soldiers don't exactly have people flooding them with job offers. Seriously, where is Robert's heart? Surely he has one?

Anna's own face crumples, but she musters her courage and calls out in a falsely cheerful voice that she has his supper. Bates quickly wipes his tears away and she stammers that she's brought up his dinner. He thanks her for her kindness and she blurts out that she's ever so sorry he's going. " I'll be all right then," he says quietly. " Yes, of course you will," she agrees hastily. " There's always a place for a man like you."
" Ah yes," he says with forced hopefulness. " Something will turn up." He's bluffing, and they both know it. Shaking inwardly with sympathy, Anna asks him to write to them ( i.e. her) and tell them/her when he gets a new job.
Morning dawns too soon for Bates. He surveys the grand pillars of Downtown Abbey, a majestic, merciless mansion, a place in which he can never be at home. He's to ride in the Duke's car, as Robert says the duke can lump it. Haha.
And Bates takes off. Noooooo! Don't let such a great actor slip your fingers Julian Fellowes! What kind of a writer are you? I want Bates back or I refuse to watch anymore! I-
" Wait!"
Huh? What the-
" Wait!" Robert runs after the conveniently slow-moving car. No Mercs in those days? The car stops, while Carson takes a few surprised steps forward.
" Get out Bates," Robert says, taking out Bates' luggage ( oh my!), " We'll say no more of this."
Thank you Lord! And Robert, I like you again.
Meanwhile at some ( as yet) unspecified part of England, a pleasant-looking young man ( Matthew Crawley) and his mother ( Mrs. Isobel Crawley) are having breakfast. The post comes, and Matthew slits open his letter. " It's from Lord Grantham," he tells his mother. Mrs. Crawley inquires as to what he wants. Matthew lifts his eyes from the letter, stunned.
" He wants to change our lives."


I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed a good, long-running period drama series. Now I barely have to watch period dramas, and have a backlog of films/ series I have yet to watch. Oh, would that I had more time! But I want to stick with Downton Abbey. Not that I have much choice ( addicts rarely do ;), but because I know I'm in for a deeply thoughtful, ironic, provocative and emotional story, with each character's long-concealed thoughts and feelings being revealed with each passing episode, and with machinations and intrigues galore. Coincidentally, I'd watched Gosford Park the week before, and while I am not a fan of the numerous racy scenes, I enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs scheme very much, and enjoyed the characters who were played with as much truth and feeling as one would imagine.
Anyway, I'm saving the rest of my comments for later. This has been a really long post, and hopefully the other recaps won't be as long, since the first episode was actually the longest in the series. I can't wait to watch the rest and find out what the characters get up to!

For more information on Downton Abbey, including character and plot summaries, please visit Enchanted Serenity of Period Films.

If you have any questions concerning the series, please email me at

I'm looking forward to recapping more of the episodes!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

God: My Everything

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping
God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting
God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything

I love this song because it conveys exactly what I want for my life in a far more eloquent and understandable format than I could ever try. I'm starting to realise ( I know I'm slow) that as Christians, our relationship with God is the most important thing. First we must be "rightly related to God," as Oswald Chambers says, then other things like serving and witnessing should come after. In fact, serving and witnessing will be natural results of our walk with God. You cannot have a deeply fulfilling relationship with God and not do these things.

It is when you have a relationship with God that people start to sit up and take notice. Going to church, volunteering in the inner city, all these things might not necessarily attract much attention. Perhaps people will call you "good,", but they will only be attracted to the hand of God they sense working in your life. I attend a state university, and many of my classmates, if not most, are atheistic. This is especially true in the English department, and last semester I had a professor who would declare, " There is no God." This was a class on Communism btw.

You can bleed trying to be good, but if your efforts are done without the hand and help of God, then they are done in vain. Now I've stopped trying to witness to my friends and classmates. Before you gasp in shock, let me proceed quickly. I am concentrating instead on my walk with God. And I've realised that the more time I spend with God, the more I want to talk about Him, the more I see the world through His eyes. Now it's not about the effort so much as something that's becoming natural to me. When he was on earth, Jesus always spent as much time as he could with His father. And therefore it was entirely natural for him to talk of his Father. The joy and peace that is found in the time spent at the Father's feet is unbelievable, beautiful, and impossible to achieve elsewhere. It is this joy and peace that will flow out of you, compelling you to love and witness and serve.

I still have a lot to learn of course, but I've decided to put my relationship with God First and Foremost in my life. And I'm expecting a lot of adventures on the way!