Belfast Telegraph

How Nesbitt can star in his own costume drama

By Lindy McDowell

Downton Abbey/Titanic writer Julian Fellowes was in Belfast last week supposedly to have a look over our new Titanic centre.

I say "supposedly" because I'm now wondering if there wasn't more to the visit coinciding as it did with Mike Nesbitt's election as UUP leader and subsequent announcement that he wanted to be adopted for a day by a poor family to see how they live.

Could it be that Jules was actually here to start work on a series that would make a hat-trick of his class-related dramas?

What I'm thinking of is a story based on a big house on the hill where one of the posh boys recently elevated to a new title suddenly announces that he wants to live like common people, he wants to do what common people do.

Needless to say this causes immediate consternation below stairs...

Cook: "He wants to what, Mr Bates? He wants to get himself adopted into a poor family? Lawks! I've never heard such nonsense in all my days. And him that's never had to worry in his life about tax on a sausage roll hotter than ambient room temperature."

Bates: "It's what he's decided, Cook and it's our job to go along with his wishes and not ask questions."

Cook: "But why would he choose to do such a foolish thing, Mr Bates? What can he hope to gain from it?"

Daisy the scullery maid: "It's on account of that there UUP innit? They say it be sinking faster than the Titanic." Cook: "I still don't see how living with the poor..."

Bates: "Living in an area of multiple deprivation ... "

Cook: " ... living in an area of multiple deprivation is going to make a difference. Especially since it's only for 24 hours. Twenty-four hours is nothing, is it Mr Bates?"

Bates: "I don't know, Cook. I spent almost 24 hours with Mrs B in A-amp;E last week after she'd broken her wrist and thought it long enough I can tell you. Still.

"That's not something that troubles them very much in the Big House. And as I say, ours not to reason why."

Cook (grumbling): "What I don't understand Mr Bates is why he has to come below stairs and cause more work for the likes of us. Isn't there some of the rest of them up in the Big House could tell him what it's like to be poor?"

Bates: "Fraid not. It's all expenses, chauffeur driven cars and perks these days. Think, Cook. When were you ever asked for a pastie by any of them? It's all subsidised grilled Tilapia and truffles.

"Talk is they're getting another 11% pay rise too. Even that Dr McDonnell that was pleading poverty not so long ago is now saying they don't need it."

Daisy, the scullery maid: "And they say they could all be getting iPads too ... "

Cook: "Lawks! iPads! Whatever next? And I suppose I'll be expected to know how to cook these iPads when they arrive?"

Bates: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, Cook. For now we need to concentrate on getting the place ready for Mr Mike's visit. I was thinking he could have Thomas's room."

Thomas, the footman: "Sorry Mr B but I've had to sublet to me brother-in-law. After he was laid off, the mortgage company repossessed his house and the pay-day loan sharks took him for everything he had. Doubt if Mr Mike wants to sit around all day listening to his woes."

Bates: "Good point Thomas. But what about your old grandfather? He might welcome a visitor."

Thomas, the footman: "Works all the hours, Mr B. Almost 80 he is now but they say it'll still be a year or two yet before he qualifies for a pension. He wouldn't have the energy for meeting Mr Mike."

Cook: "Maybe he could bunk in with you Mr Bates?"

Bates: "Fraid not. I've still got the wife, three sons, their partners and all the grandkids. Can't afford to rent elsewhere any of them."

Cook: "That settles it then. You'll just have to tell this Mr Mike his one day adoption plan isn't on."

Bates: "But Cook, unless he converses with us below stairs how is the poor man ever going to find out what it's like to come from an area of social deprivation in this era of recession and cutback?"

Cook: "Couldn't he just ask his butler?"


From Belfast Telegraph