Winter is coming.
... Actually, it's already here; the abbey grounds were enveloped in a thick layer of snow almost overnight. The scenic ponds and rivers may have frozen over, but the heat is on at Sim Downton. Although things seemed to be going relatively well a series of unfortunate events have put the Crawleys in crisis just in time for the holidays, and even I'm not sure they'll be able to escape it unscathed.
The snow came quite suddenly, piling up on every exposed surface and fogging up the windows. Winter is quite beautiful in the countryside, though it's even more beautiful in town where all the cottages and houses are strung up with festive lights and decorations. Lights may not be suitable decor for a grand old estate like Sim Downton, but the abbey isn't without decorations of its own.
It's still a tad too early in the season to go all-out; a few tasteful evergreen garlands and wreaths are scattered around the common rooms and halls, and some of the more tropical plants have been put away for the season. As Snowflake Day approaches trees will need to be set up, stockings will need to be hung, and of course a grand party will need to be planned.
The changing season comes with new wishes and activities as well. Though most members of the household are more interested in visiting the winter festival or skating (or staying warm indoors) Sybil spends much of her first day romping around in the snow, more or less on her own.
Sybil eventually coerces eldest sister Mary into helping her build a snowman at the front of the estate.
Unfortunately before they can finish (or before Mary can change her mind and politely excuse herself back to the fireside) shouting from inside the house catches their attention. They abandon the half-formed snowman and rush inside.
The house is on fire, for like the 5th time.
The same stove has been the cause of almost all of those fires -- but don't worry, Edith is on it, even though she apparently hasn't bothered to change out of her nightgown yet, well into the afternoon. Come on Edith, it's like you've completely given up or something.
The entire household panicking behind her, human shield Edith handles the fire and replaces the stove in one fell swoop. A few hundred simoleans, no big deal right?
Crisis averted, I spin my camera around and notice that thankfully there was no real risk of the kitchen burning to ash...
... Because one of the kitchen sinks has been broken all day (or longer) so the room is thoroughly waterlogged and presumably fireproof. Everyone leaves, entirely unconcerned with this less urgent problem. I am slightly more concerned (I suppose I have access to more information about black mold than they do) so I get Anna to call a plumber.
Once again, no big deal to a family like the Crawleys, surely.
I'm inspecting the half-finished snowman, trying to see if I can get Sybil or Mary to complete it, when the first bright red pop up catches my attention.
Squeaker has escaped. Apparently Violet had been hauling Anna's beloved companion, Squeaker the long-nosed shrew, around in her purse or something and the animal made a break for it. I can't imagine Violet would knowingly keep a rodent on her person for any reason, so I can only assume Squeaker was stowing away on the brim of her hat, looking for an opportunity. It's a shame, and no doubt Anna will be terribly upset, but there's little time to grieve before the second pop-up takes priority.
Sim Downton is a large house, with a large family living there. They use a lot of resources, and their bills are understandably large. Normally Robert pays the bills without any hesitation or concern, but this time things are different. This time, the Crawleys just don't have the funds. They're $400 shy, to be precise, and payment is due tomorrow. If they fail to pay, repo men will come and who knows what they'll take first. The car? The statues? Maybe even Mary's beloved horse Diamond?
My first instinct is to sift through every family member's inventory and sell off any unnecessary items. Sybil's four dried-out bouquets from her date with overzealous florist James Hoppcraft net a little over $100, but we're still a long way off from the amount needed.
As one of the few members of the household with a marketable skill, it's Lady Mary who picks up the slack.
Or tries to.
There seems to be a small bug with one of the performance venues in my game. It's filled with several dozen sims, all dressed in black and white, all labelled as "proprietors" of the park. Normally you could audition for a park's proprietor to book a performance there, but none of these proprietors seem willing to take Mary's audition.
She performs for tips, instead, but they're all frozen in place, all mindlessly reading the exact same book.
The only person paying proper attention to Lady Mary is a paparazzo, and Mary knows that sometimes you just have to perform for the audience you have, not the audience you want.
Paparazzi aren't great tippers, though. After a few hours without a penny earned, there are a few Sing-a-Gram jobs waiting for Mary. They're not ideal for someone as proud as she is, but they're easy money.
Mary makes her way through several clients that evening including Vera Bates, who requests multiple Sing-a-Grams presumably just to revel in the sight of Mary down on one knee in her ridiculous little costume.
But then, a particularly interesting job comes in; a Sing-a-Gram for Miriam Hoppcraft. Hoppcraft... Hoppcraft... Like Sybil's new beau.
Sure enough, James Hoppcraft is there too.
The job is for a romantic Sing-a-Gram, meant to improve the mood on a date. So... That rules out a brother-and-sister relationship.
Um, hopefully it does.
Mary seems as surprised as I am, and she completely botches her performance. Though I suppose I'm not exactly surprised... I had been warned by a couple concerned readers about James' wife, but I had decided to let things play out. i just didn't quite expect the two family's paths to cross in such an awkward and highly visible way.
Although Miriam is quite pissed at Mary's botched performance, she seems like a reasonably nice lady -- only slightly evil based on her hideos cackling and finger-steepling -- so I'm not sure I like the idea of Sybil stepping between her and her husband. It's not like Sybil is desperate for suitors either.
As if on cue Sybil is back home at that very moment having a friendly chat with another local bachelor, Chauncey Grimm.
Isis could stand to give them a little privacy though.
Or I guess they could stand to give her a little privacy.
Botched jobs and broken hearts aside, Mary makes just enough money to pay the bills before it's time to head home. However there isn't much left over in the family coffers afterwards.
In fact just one or two of Anna's exceptional meals could bankrupt the family entirely. It might be a very lean Snowflake Day at the Crawley house, this year.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.