Goodbye Downton. Hello, Elton!


Creator Julian Fellowes says the upcoming season of Downton Abbey will be the last.

Pass me a handkerchief; I need to have a little cry. 

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey Family and Staff

The grand, fabulous Highclere Castle serves as the fictional Downton Abbey, home of the Crawley family. It’s a mansion, yes, but for many wealthy English aristocrats of the time, such places were home.

Blog Photo - Downton-Abbey

My life is far removed from the world of Downton.  I don’t think they’d have allowed me to even be a servant at Downton back then.

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey ladies at tea

And definitely not a cook …. though with good reason.

Maybe an exotic  musician, the only black character so far on the show … though I can’t sing, so maybe not.

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey Maggie Smith

But I digress.

Blog Photo - Downton abbey at christmas

I love the series for the socially conscious storylines about how people deal with difference.

The moments of shock when people step out of line, and the frank prejudice that assumes everyone around has those prejudices too. And,  countering all that, the great decency at the heart of the show. It acknowledges that class and prejudice were the era’s built-ins, but that humans can sometimes rise above them and be simply decent and sensible.

I love the series for showing people trying to ‘better” themselves, whether through better decisions, or better jobs. 

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey Family and Servants in Green room

And let’s not forget the home itself: the grand rooms, the big kitchen, the fabulous clothes. And the characters. Maggie Smith has almost as many acerbic one-liners as Dorothy Parker.

Blog Photo - Downton abbey interior


But where Downton captures a slice of the past, Elton McDonald captures the future.

Blog Photo - Elton McD - MacLeans Magazine

Elton McDonald is the young Toronto man whose private retreat set international news agencies abuzz. Police and media feared it was meant to be a terror tunnel, built to do damage to the PanAm Games in Toronto this year.

But no! It was created by an ambitious young builder from a very poor Toronto neighborhood. Many of us dream of a retreat,  a home away from home, but Elton needed it more than most.

Blog Photo - Elton McD Home from MacLeans Mag

A dreamer who has a genius for building, this young man devotedly built his tunnel as an escape from the tougher realities of life. This tunnel below was Elton’s home away from home, decorated only with a Remembrance Day poppy and a rosary.

Blog Photo - Elton Tunnel from Toronto Police

When you read his story, you will see why this guy is destined for great things. And perhaps you’ll see why, of the two stories mentioned in this post, this is the one that stole my heart.

Elton, we hope that one day you’ll be able to build a castle of your own – even if it’s underground.

Blog Photo - Elton McD with shovel - Photo  from MacLean's Magazine

More about Elton’s story and his plans:

Will be sad to see you go, Downton.

But hooray for Elton! I’m wishing you a great and happy life.

Credit: Thanks to Della Rollins and Maclean’s Magazine for the photos of Elton McDonald, and to ITV and PBS for Downton photos.  And thanks to Lauren Reyes-Grange for sending me the links to these stories.


Filed under A Good Home


Every spring for years now, my dear friend Les and I have fiercely competed in The Bloomin’ Bulbs competition.

We two are the only participants.

Whoever has the first blooming spring bulbs is the winner.

But in the weeks ahead, we’ll both be on high alert, because we’ve proven ourselves …uhm… untrustworthy.

One year I brought a blow-dryer outside, trying to warm up the air around my not-quite-blooming daffodils.

And as for Les …. well….

Please follow the trail from here:

From: Cynthia Reyes
Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 4:58 PM
To: ‘Leslie Lawrence’
Subject: I have SEVERAL crocuses bloomin’! 

I have SEVERAL crocuses bloomin’ now!

Two yesterday, several today.

And I just remembered: it’s the Bloomin’ Bulbs competition, so Hellebores don’t count, Les!

Have you any real bulbs yet??

Blog Photo - Crocus in Spring


From: Leslie
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 9:05 AM
To: Cynthia Reyes
Subject: Re: I have SEVERAL crocuses bloomin’ now!

Well, you are probably well ahead.

It’s hard to be in competition with the Reyes Estate.

A Few Things have poked their heads up vigorously through the leaf mulch.

However, we don’t have much of a display.

Lawrence el Veraz

Les and his Daffodils


On Apr 14, 2014, at 9:19 AM, Cynthia Reyes  wrote:

Les – that is beautiful!

I have no daffodils blooming.

When I read your email, I braced myself for another fake photo – but this is great!

It looks like you won the contest this year, because those daffodils have been up for a while – right?

Darn, drats and heck!  I hate losing. But if I had to lose to someone….. I’m glad it’s you!


From: Leslie
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 9:46 AM
To: Cynthia Reyes
Subject: Re: I have SEVERAL crocuses bloomin’ now!

Hi Cynthia,

Well, I’m glad you liked the photo.

As for fake photos, though we have this keen competition, I assure you I would never spend a lot of time scheming to send you a photograph taken last spring in order to accomplish the nearly impossible task of fooling you one last time.

Not me.

Lawrence el Veraz.


On Apr 14, 2014, at 9:50 AM, Cynthia Reyes  wrote:

Oh my God! 

You did it again, didn’t you?

I don’t know why I get hoodwinked every time.

And this time – completely.

Duz a leppard change his spots?

Duz a photo-faker change his ways?

Obviously not.

Ay, caramba!


All this to say: keep your friends close, but keep your gardener-friends even closer! 


Dedicated to my dear friend Lawrence el Veraz.


Filed under A Good Home, Canadian Gardens, Canadian life, Flowers, Friendship, Garden Humour, Gardens, Spring Bulbs, Spring garden