Brianna Albert and Bethany Butler of Middleboro were appropriately dressed.
The crew from Quahog Republic restaurant in Falmouth and Onset celebrate first place in the Professional category.

The crew from Quahog Republic restaurant in Falmouth and Onset celebrate first place in the Professional category. — Photo by David Welch

Approximately 2,000 people made their way to the 28th annual Big Chili Contest at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs last Saturday, Jan. 25, and tasted chili from 16 vendors. The event’s beneficiary, The Red Stocking Fund, netted approximately $34,000, according to Greg Orcutt, general manager of mvyradio, the event’s sponsor.

Many Island restaurants, as well as amateur chili aficionados, made their special recipes for the contest. The competition categories include “Is It Really Chili?,” “Farthest Traveled” (last year’s came from Florida), “Best Presentation,” “Steve Jordan Memorial Hottest Chili” (Mr. Jordan retired from the contest to judge after winning the category 18 straight years), “Best Pro” and “Best Amateur” chili.

And the winners are:

Best Professional chili, third place: Wicked Chili  from the Wicked Restaurant and Wine Bar in Mashpee and Dedham.

Best professional chili, second place: The Black Dog.

Best professional chili, first place: Quahog Republic of Falmouth.

Farthest traveled chili: Dr. Jack’s Love Chili from Glastonbury, Connecticut. Dr. Jack has won before but not last year.

No Teenie Peenie of Hopkinton won for Best Vegetarian Chili.

No Teenie Peenie of Hopkinton won for Best Vegetarian Chili. — Photo by David Welch

Best veggie chili: No Teenie Peenie from Hopkinton.

Best Presentation: Edgartown Firemen’s Association.

Is that really chili?:  MVOL won for their chili chocolate bites.

Hottest chili: Wicked Chili won the fire extinguisher prize.

For the Amateur third place, Dr. Jack’s Better Love Chili by Jack Lavalette and Mike Spellman of Glastonbury, Ct.

Amateur second prize went to Jim Pringle.

Amateur first prize went to Bob Costello for his official Carver Cranberry Chili. (Times Calendar editor Eleni Roriz reported: “It was SO GOOD!!!”)

Times photo editor Ralph Stewart was on the scene and reports:

“I tasted all of the chili but two.  There also was MV Ole mole chili chocolate bites. Didn’t try that. So, I tasted 10 chilis from nine vendors. No Teenie Peenie Chili of Hopkinton had two versions—Venison and bacon; and a veggie (I had both). The Newes had a chicken, white bean chili with a creme fraiche and nine different peppers that was actually pretty tasty, though more like a soup.

Ramon Ruiz of Mariachi Mexico Lindo.

Ramon Ruiz of Mariachi Mexico Lindo. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

“The tent in front of the PA Club (and the club itself) was still filling up when I left. The Mariachi Mexico Lindo band was in full swing. My favorite chili was Official Carver Chili (amateurs from Carver, Mass.) Rob Costello and Bob Poulin were serving; a sweet and spicy chili that had cranberries in it. Next, gotta say, The Black Dog. A little hotter (spicier) this year but terrific. Third, I liked another amateur chili called Que Tease Barbecue from Plymouth. Christine and Mike Conrod served it up. The chili had a variety of peppers and smoked meats. They said that they were on the Pitmasters TV Show. But I wish I had tasted that Quahog chili.”

Mr. Orcutt said the threat of bad weather and high winds caused the contest to lose some off-Island regular contestants and one new contestant.

Pathways held its first Arts & Scripts evening last Saturday, Jan. 18.

Last Saturday night, Pathways Projects Institutes, a local arts organization, presented a good sampling of the variety of creative endeavors being pursued by Islanders.

In a cabaret style evening — the first of a series of multi-arts installations at the Chilmark Tavern — a capacity crowd was treated to samples of dance, music, and poetry as well as a preview of a new research-based book and a presentation of work by an engineer/furniture designer. The event, titled Arts & Scripts, also included a showcase of work by visual artists.

All in all it was an entertaining, informative evening and a good indication of what the Pathways team has in store for the remainder of the winter. For the past three years, Pathways has hosted an extensive seasonal program of arts-based events at its temporary home, the Chilmark Tavern. Islanders involved in music, dance, theater, poetry, writing, and the visual arts, along with innovators —especially those with a concentration on sustainability and the environment — have been among the individuals who have participated in public presentations.

Ted Perry performed at Pathways this past Saturday evening.

Ted Perry performed at Pathways this past Saturday evening. — Photo by Susan Safford

The Pathways space also features an art gallery, a library of art and poetry books, DVDs and CDs for public perusal and purchase, and something called ArTbar and Writing Room which, according to promotional material is, “for writing, drawing, camaraderie and conversation” and is open from 6 pm on every evening that there is a performance.

The aim of the organization is to foster the arts in their myriad forms and encourage collaboration among those working in various fields. All events and resources are free.

Pathways, founded by Marianne Goldberg of Chilmark, launched its 2014 season with a small New Year’s Eve party featuring music and poetry by some of the organization’s past presenters. Last Tuesday a handful of poets read from their work in the first of a series of weekday evening jams dedicated variously to poetry, music, and videography.

Last Saturday’s event was the first of a lineup of multi-discipline evenings of entertainment for the seven-year-old organization. The event was called Arts and Scripts and was the first of two such events to be included in the four-month-long program. The second will take place Thursday, Jan. 23.

“I am exhilarated plus fulfilled with this first installation of the 2014 season,” said Ms. Goldberg. “This is our second year of Arts & Scripts focusing on what Pathways is all about — a gathering to celebrate creative action in process at any given moment all across the Island.”

The evening started off with a presentation of a new dance by Ms. Goldberg performed by Jesse Keller of The Yard. Accompanied by William Waterway on a variety of Native American flutes, Ms. Keller performed a lovely interpretive number incorporating both serene moments and some impressively acrobatic moves.

Furniture maker and designer Nick Fournier explained how he made this spiral staircase.

Furniture maker and designer Nick Fournier explained how he made this spiral staircase. — Photo by Susan Safford

This was followed by two very interesting — and very different — presentations. Furniture maker and designer Nick Fournier gave a slideshow talk focusing on some of his innovative work. A highlight was a unique bending spiral staircase modeled in part after spinal anatomy. Mr. Fournier, who just recently moved to the Vineyard, explained how he uses digital technology in rendering his designs and has at times had to invent his own equipment to execute his work.

William Waterway spoke about the book he is writing about the history of the Gay Head Lighthouse, from 1799 to the present. For the past 30 years, Mr. Waterway has been instrumental in saving Island lighthouses, and has been particularly involved with the preservation of the Gay Head Light. His book, published by The History Press, will be released in late June or early July of this year.

Interspersed throughout the evening were readings by Island poets, and one writer. Barbara Peckham shared nature-themed poems. Richard Skidmore read a politically charged poem, and Scott Crawford read from his series of vignettes set in the New York City subway.

Claudia Taylor, 17, wowed the crowd with an impressively mature poem chronicling the birth cycle with the theme of “order from chaos.” Ms. Taylor has been involved in Pathways readings for the past two years and has proven herself to be an emerging talent to keep an eye on.

William Waterway spoke about the Gay Head Light, the subject of a book he is writing.

William Waterway spoke about the Gay Head Light, the subject of a book he is writing. — Photo by Susan Safford

Rounding out the performance arts roster, the evening ended with acoustic sets by musicians Ted Perry and Rick Padilla, who have both been involved with Pathways for the past two years.

Visual artists represented at the event were painters Kara Taylor, Ed Schulman, and Chris Radant; sculptors James Masek and Cody Jephcote, and jeweler Joan LeLacheur. Photographer Christopher Wright presented a slideshow and elaborated on his process involving printing on metal.

A crowd of about 70 was treated to refreshments and what proved to be a very full evening with lots of variety and impressive demonstration of the unlimited creative energy of the Island.

“Last night was a wonderful gathering of creative spirit, learning about projects in process of creation now,” said Ms. Goldberg, herself an accomplished dancer, choreographer, visual artist, dance critic, and writer with a doctorate in performance studies from New York University.

In addition to this Thursday’s Arts & Scripts, upcoming events include poetry jams on the next two Tuesdays and music jams on the next two Fridays. The program continues through the end of April, with two to four events per week including scheduled performers, open jams for music, writing and digital projects, and two installations in April named Oceans Wilderness and Space Wilderness, focusing on art and the environment.

Arts & Scripts, Thursday, Jan. 23, 7–9 pm, Pathways (Chilmark Tavern), Chilmark. Music by Alex Karalekas, Ted Perry, Meghan La Roque, and Garrett James, a reading from a new novel “Child Bride” by author Jennifer Turner-Smith, and digital media arts by Danielle Mulcahay. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 508-645-9098.

From left: Minnesingers Darby Patterson, Zana Van Rooyen, and Shannon O' Connor.

The Minnesinger Parent Group will warm up the Island by hosting a Mid-Winter Ball and Gala at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown this Saturday evening, January 25.

Music for the evening will be provided by the Vineyard’s own Sultans of Swing, and the event features dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. Silent and live auctions will fill out the evening, and proceeds from the event will support international travel and scholarships for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Minnesingers, an elite choral ensemble from the high school that is well-loved for their annual shows at Christmas and springtime. The Minnesingers travel to Europe every two years to make a concert tour and promote cultural awareness.

The Minnesingers performing during Christmas in Edgartown. Jerry Bennett of the Sultans of Swing will record their version of "Africa" Saturday at the gala.

The Minnesingers performing during Christmas in Edgartown. Jerry Bennett of the Sultans of Swing will record their version of “Africa” Saturday at the gala. —

The annual auction has been held at Farm Neck Golf Club for the last two years, and has been met with unbridled enthusiasm, according to a press release. The highlight of the event has been a mini-performance by the student singers, and they have even offered private performances as an auction item. Hundreds of local artisans and businesses have supported the Minnesingers by donating goods and services for the auction, and it has grown into the largest fundraiser of the year for the group.

“We have been bursting through the space at Farm Neck,” said parent group vice-president Michele Ortlip. “This year we decided it would be amazing to expand our capacity and hold a magical dance event that would be an exciting night out for the Island community in the winter.” The event has received generous support from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Charitable Fund, which is a donor advised fund of the Permanent Endowment.

The Sultans of Swing, a much-loved band that plays fundraising events on the Island such as The Taste of the Vineyard in June for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, will provide musical entertainment for the evening. Jerry Bennett, founder and leader of the Sultans, has a special reason for supporting the auction — his daughter Caley is a member of the Minnesingers.

Attendees of the event are in for a special treat — Mr. Bennett is planning to record the Minnesingers live singing “Africa” by Toto, which has been a regular part of their repertoire over the last year. He explained, “When I was working on the Yes Union album one of the founders of Toto, Steve Porcaro, was a keyboard player in L.A. working on the same record at the same time. He has won countless Grammys. This was in the 80s, so 30 years later to play that great song with my daughter is inspiring… Proves that great music endures.”

The Minnesingers have been going strong since 1967, and they head off on an international concert tour every other year. During April 2013, the group spent 10 days traveling through Croatia, singing in churches and schools and concert halls. Much of the expenses for the travel are underwritten by the Minnesinger Parent Group, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. The parents work throughout the year in support of the demanding schedule of the singers. The Minnesingers hold sold-out performances each year at the Old Whaling Church during Christmas in Edgartown, and they put on a dance show in May at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center. They also provide numerous performances throughout the community, including at the local senior centers and Windemere.

Benefit Mid-Winter Ball and Gala, 7 pm, Saturday, Jan. 25, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. $40; $35 in advance at

Dance to music by Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish Sunday night at the Chilmark Community Center.

Join The Yard as they dance this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in support of YardWorks year-round programming. Public Dancing Allowed featuring Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish is this Sunday, Jan. 19, at 7:30 pm at the Chilmark Community Center.

The evening’s ticket sales, $10/person, will help The Yard continue to bring artists to Martha’s Vineyard this winter and spring, according to a press release. These artists will work with the Island’s schools, the YMCA, and Teen Center.

Last spring, The Yard had the opportunity to bring nationally accredited tap and rhythm based artists out of New York City. These included Dorrance Dance David Parker’s The Bang Group along with Boston’s own Hip-Hop duo, The WonderTwins. These artists visited five Island schools and the YMCA to educate Vineyard students on the history of tap dance and hip-hop, its evolution to their generation. Students even learned a couple moves they could take home to their parents.

The Yard has entered its third year of partnership with the YMCA, and this past December collaborated with Alex’s Place to bring Providence based hip-hop troupe Case Closed to the Teen Center. The five young artists held a free hip-hop workshop for teens and participated in the Teen Center’s Open Stage that evening. This collaboration allowed the dancers to teach students and perform for the community. In the spring of 2014, The Yard will back the troupe for a more in-depth exploration of rhythm dance over a two-week period.

Public Dancing Allowed, 7:30 pm, Sunday, Jan. 19, Chilmark Community Center. Bring your own beverages. $10; free for children under 12. For more information, call 508-645-9662 or visit

Susan Huck skates with her daughter, Haven.

The Martha’s Vineyard Arena was a happening place this past weekend, with the Ryan Mone Memorial hockey tournament and a free public skate on Saturday night, sponsored by Mone Insurance. As a special treat to arena attendees, the ArtCliff truck served food all weekend.


The first of the 2014 Winter Dinner and Lectures hosted by and a benefit for Sail Martha’s Vineyard, is this coming Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 6 pm, at the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven. Enjoy dinner and a talk by Matthew Stackpole of West Tisbury and the Mystic Seaport. The talk is entitled “And She Alone Remains. The Past, Present, and Future of the Charles W. Morgan,” the last wooden whaleship in the world, built and launched in 1841, and now the oldest commercial ship still afloat. In June, she will embark on her 38th voyage making stops at historic seaports in New England, including Vineyard Haven.

The event is $25. For reservations, call 508-696-7644.

The Friends of the Vineyard Haven Public Library present an exhibit featuring haiku and other poetry from the Martha’s Vineyard Poets’ Collective, accompanied by the images that inspired each of the poems. The exhibit, part of Art in the Stacks, will be on display during regular library hours through the month of January.

At 7 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 14, members of the Collective will read their image-inspired writing in a public program at the library. A reception will follow the readings.

The M.V. Poets’ Collective (MVPC) is a diverse and creative group of individuals with experience in the expressive arts, writing, teaching, business, local government, and publishing. The MVPC has been meeting for three years and is fortunate to have Jill Jupen as their workshop leader. Ms. Jupen has an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College, and Vermont poet Hayden Carruth was her mentor. Well-known journalist, novelist, and essayist Ted Hoagland, also joins the sessions.

The exhibit features work from Ellie Bates, Tom Durawa, Liz Fauteux, Madeline Fisher, Jill Jupen, Don McLagan, Andrea Quigley, Annette Sandrock, and honorary member Ted Hoagland. Annette, Don, Ellie, and Liz took their own photographs to accompany their haikus. Madeline used her original Chinese brushstroke painting. Andrea’s haiku is inspired by Jenik Munafo’s painting, used with her gracious permission.

The poems have recently been published in a chapbook funded through a grant from the M.V. Center for the Visual Arts (MVCVA). Copies of the chapbook are available to borrow from local libraries.

Art in the Stacks is an initiative of the Friends of the Library to provide artists an opportunity to show their work, and for library patrons to enjoy art throughout the year.

M.V. Poets’ Collective Presentation, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 7 pm, Vineyard Haven Library. For more information, call 508-696-4211 or visit


This Saturday, Jan. 11, the Mansion House Health Club invites all to try their various fitness classes for free. “Because each and every fitness class offered on the Island has its own distinctive style, we decided to open our doors and invite the exercising public to try out free classes,” wrote Brenda Wallis, club fitness director, in a press release.

More than 14 classes are offered that day, such as yoga, cycling, Pilates, and pool exercises, with various instructors. For more information, call 508-693-2200, ext. 104, or visit

"Downton" era selections at Bananas range from over-sized carpet bags to a plaid jacket.

Drop waists, flowing silhouettes, lace, velvet and lots of glamorous accessories such as long strands of beads, feathers, and, of course, hats of all kinds. These are the looks that defined female fashion in the late teens and early 1920s, otherwise known at the Downton Era thanks to the popular television show, “Downton Abbey.” As the series turns the corner into the Jazz Age, Downton fans can anticipate some great new looks on the sophisticated soap opera’s stars, and, as with many fashion trends, contemporary versions of these looks are bound to follow suit given the popularity of the retro soap opera.

The styles popularized in the post-World War I and flapper eras are already found cropping up in popular fashion. And, luckily for Islanders, these looks have the comfort and slightly bohemian edge that fit in easily with Vineyard style. Find plenty of jazzy looks and fun accessories at local stores, so, if your obsession with the PBS series goes beyond a once-a-week commitment, here are some great finds to help you transform yourself into your favorite “Downton” characters.

Many of the loose-fitting styles from the period benefited from flowing lines and unique shapes. Pieces from the Bryn Walker collection feature a retro look print and that drapey casual feel befitting the lady of leisure lifestyle (even if you’re hardly a lady of leisure). Try pairing the look with an asymmetrical necklace.

No Crawley lady look would be complete without a fabulous hat. A charming floral cloche hat would look great with fake fur or can add chic to your otherwise overstuffed outerwear wardrobe. For the less severe winter days, the floppy brimmed number (pictured with the floral hat) shows off the black-and-white trend so popular in the silent movie era. And, of course, velvet is de rigeur for Edwardian or roaring 20s looks. The luscious scarf also pictured comes in a multitude of colors to suit those numerous costume changes necessary for any lady of society.

And speaking of accessories, as the name implies, Timeless in Vineyard Haven has loads of era-defining glam pieces to give that extra decadent oomph to period looks. Fur collars and scarves would be perfect for bundling up for a Scottish highlands hike (or a walk on a windy beach). The store carries retro sparklers galore and lots of period-look elegant shoes (a dress-up alternative to high heels that won’t cripple you after an evening out). And the adorable faux leopard bag or polka dot adorned cloche will just make you happy whenever you wear it — even if you’re on the verge of losing the family fortune.

Midnight Farm in Vineyard Haven has an arsenal of great 20s and 30s style shoes that combine femininity with sturdiness. You can stroll stylishly through your estate’s rose garden — or the streets of Edgartown — without facing the peril of getting sunk by treacherously spiked heels.

The Green Room, also in Vineyard Haven, has a line up of looks for every occasion. Pictured are: a sheer embroidered blouse top (in a variety of colors) would be perfect for lounging in the mansion library (or lunching at a local restaurant); a sparkly gold deco dress might just inspire you to open up the ballroom (or roll up the dining room rugs) for a jazz age party. The chubby faux fur would look great over a Chanel beaded silk gown — or, if you haven’t got one in your closet — a great pair of skinny jeans. This feminine twist on the dinner jacket is a nod to the menswear-inspired trend of the 20s and is very similar to the top worn by Elizabeth McGovern’s Cora in the official 2014 cast photo.

Eye-catching statement coats were a signature of the style-conscious 1920s. This timeless hand-embroidered jacket by Stina Sayre featuring silk, velvet, and copper exemplifies the art-as-fashion aesthetic of the 1920s.

Decorative prints and combinations of various textures and patterns is a 20s trend that is also relevant today. The retro bohemian look can be found in abundance at, not surprisingly, the home of funky fashion, b tru on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Stroll the store for a tailored brocade jacket, gypsy inspired blouse or — to really shock the family —a pair of flowing trousers. Pair the latter with a sequined swingy tank for a luxe look perfect for a swing and gin-soaked night on the town. B tru also has two versions of a classic cloche — one that is more traditionally sturdy, and a floppy pleated cloche that you can fold into your suitcase for a grand tour of Europe (or the Cape).

Laughing Bear in Oak Bluffs is party frock headquarters (and a great place to play dress up!). Pictured: Try on this embroidered pink and black flapper dress with a fun feather headband or this fanciful flounced Edwardian gown with an era-appropriate floppy hat. This deco inspired dress is sheer elegance while this ornately embroidered long jacket has all the romantic appeal of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Pair any of these with a London bobby style cloche seen above the outfits, a long string of crystal beads, or feathered hair accessories and live out your expat-in-Paris fantasy.

Okay, we’ve got those Grantham ladies covered, but what about their equally chic and appealing counterparts, the castle staff? Bananas — home of comfortable, wearable high style — has some great waif looks that are as timeless as they are absolutely charming. Pictured: The store’s linen pieces have just enough subtle frills and flounce to make them feminine but not enough to overwhelm. Slouchy silhouettes with some softness to give them drape and movement that exemplify the trend from corseted to comfortable at the turn of the century. A darling plaid jacket makes a great car coat or the perfect look for travelling by rail (or ferry). The oversized “carpet bag” purse has lots of room for carrying all your supplies — and documents — for a visit to your imprisoned fiancé or a quick trip to a mainland mall. A dash of color is all these neutrals need to brighten up your winter look. Try one of these soft felt toppers bursting with a hint of the spring blooms of an English garden.

Mara Coleman, left, and Susan Desmarais attended the M.V. Film Center's "Downton Abbey" premiere.

Want to bet that, around the world, every Monday morning review of last Sunday’s PBS premiere of the fourth season of “Downton Abbey” begins with the caution “spoiler alert”?

Pay attention, those of you who’ve missed the first three installments of the wildly popular English drama: For you, “spoiler alert” operates on two levels: First it warns you away from the review itself, for fear you’ll fall in love with the series, as so many of us have done before you, and then when you proceed to catch up, with boxed sets of the three earlier seasons, you’ll miss out on the supreme joy of having your teeth rattled to the back of your tonsils by the twists and turns in the hyper-kinetic plot.

The second part of the spoiler alert suggests you avoid the debut episode of the fourth season altogether. That’s because you may not, in fact, fall in love with “Downton Abbey” should you chose this new episode as your entry point to the series. It’s, well, bleak.

For instance, while the original three seasons began with a shot of a Labrador retriever’s white rump as it wig-wags up a hill to the uplifting sounds of Purcell (or Bach or somebody), the new season opens with spooky music and a gothic shot of a castle, dark and forbidding save for a single lamp glowing in a top-floor room.

And then there’s poor young slim widow Lady Mary in a black silk Chanel (or Lanvin or somebody’s) gown. She intones her few lines in a voice so lifeless that, should the Grim Reaper ever show up at your door, he’ll arrive first, in advance of Lady Mary, to give you a moment to prepare before she scares you to death. (Hint: she has what the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders calls “complicated grief.”)

The legion of servants will look like a Hieronymus Bosch canvas. Why are they here, you’ll wonder: they should be working for Disney World. Upstairs in impossibly grand rooms, aristocrats sit with titanium spines, hands clenched in laps, posh-accented conversations so banal, you’ll wonder why they resist bolting for the nearest pub, as does one of the under-maids later on, to get a little “tiddly.”

This past Sunday, an SRO crowd (the event was sold out within the first 24 hours of ticket sales) of Island Downton fans, under the aegis of PBS and our local NPR station, WCAI, with Mindy Todd, Steve Junker, et al on hand, enjoyed tea and crumpets (er, sugar and ginger cookies; who knows what crumpets really are?), and then were treated to a screener of the premiere, hours before the rest of the hoi polloi in our country viewed it on their tallies (sorry, you can’t stop using Brit expressions after a Downton episode; not that they had tallies in that bygone age).

Some of our Islanders ransacked their closets for proper costuming: The fourth season places the action in 1922; the first season exploded to life in the run-up to World War I. A quick chat with local fans told me we’d all had ample time — nearly a year — to recover from the devastating effects — spoiler! spoiler! turn back here! — of the young hero Matthew Crawley’s death under the wheels of an oncoming motorcar, all in the last nine seconds of the third season finale.

Shelley Christensen, on the Oak Bluffs desk of WCAI, voiced the opinion that Matthew, as sole male heir (oh, those stupid stupid old laws), now removed from play, clears the path for the women of Downton to get strong. And Ms. Christensen was right! Although sitting through a two-hour overture to what is normally fed to us in hour-long tasty morsels, was tedious at times, the final blaze of a woman coming to the fore is a tonic to the senses.

Another intriguing notion was advanced by Lynn Christoffers, author and artist of the recently released book, “Cats of Martha’s Vineyard.” She wondered why no cats are ever glimpsed in the series; they seem a natural to Abbey life. Together we came up with two Persians — a brother and a sister — for the imperious Dowager Countess played by Maggie Smith. We thought a Siamese would roam between Lady Mary and Lady Edith’s chambers. Downstairs a calico, tabby, or marmalade cat would slink around the kitchen on the hunt for scraps.

Last Sunday’s event proved the value of watching this sumptuous drama on the big screen: Man oh man, those tapestries look rich and grand! And suddenly you can’t help but notice the enormous Turner (or Watteau or whomever) that graces the breakfast room as large as most VFW halls, where Lord Grantham, Tom-the-chauffeur married to the late Lady Sybil, and Lady Edith all plan their day, each schedule (pronounced “shhedual”) chock-full of hidden agendas.

For those of us who’ve followed Downton all along, after this sometimes dispiriting kickoff for the fourth season, I believe we’re ready to move forward. Now that all the crepe-hanging is out of the way, we can get on to more pressing matters such as: Will Lady Edith ever find a sillier gown than the taxidermied peacock she wore to meet her lover at the swanky London restaurant? Will that same lover really become a German citizen just to divorce his lunatic wife? (The Germans permitted frustrated spouses to do that; well, that’s one saving grace in an other otherwise runaway berserk culture.)

Finally, will the writers please give Maggie Smith’s character more juicy lines, as they’ve done in the past? And thank God the actress who plays Lady Mary finally snaps out of that unbearable gloom: I have it from trusted sources that her agent called her earlier to say she was up for the role of Hamlet’s father’s ghost.