We missed out on windfall profits for the IPO on Solyndra, so I knew my fair ladys birthday celebration would of necessity be a lower key affair. Still, I wanted to do the best I could by my bride, who has abided with me for some decades now. And this birthday would be a special one for her. A lady never tells her age, but this one was, shall we say, decennial.

Trying to pull off a surprise on She Who Surveys All is no mean feat. So, I enlisted her many friends as co-conspirators. Their response was unanimous: What does she like? Well, she loves the PBS series about those British nobles from a hundred years ago, Downton Abbey.

She doesnt particularly like watching it with her historian husband, however. One time, for example, Lord Grantham and Her Ladyship were having a lovely garden party on a summers afternoon.

I paused the video and piped up: This wont end well. Its August, 1914.

My Lady didnt appreciate my noting that that young guy on the motorcycle with the telegram was going to upend the tea and crumpets. He brought news of the Great War just having been declared.

Well, I explained somewhat pedantically, they didnt actually know it was going to be the Great War, not just yet.

Enough! After that, Her Ladyship kept a firm grip on the remote. No wisecracks about how Snoopy and the Red Baron were more realistic than the battle scenes in this series were permitted.

Wait! Pause it, I yelled. Rewind, please!

If looks could kill, My Lady would have defeated the Huns all by herself. OK, she rewound.

There, I cried, Look at that tea service thatCarsontheButleris serving on.

What about it, she asked, unhappy at having been interrupted at a tender moment in the drama.

That tea service looks exactly like the one your dad gave to your mother sixty years ago, I piped up excitedly. I tactfully left unmentioned the fact that wed carted that same tea service around the country for thirty years and through five Navy moves.

And that gave me an idea:

Her Ladyship would have a real English Breakfast Tea to celebrate her big birthday.

But since the Stimulus was so stimulating, weve had to let the upstairs maid go, (not to mention the downstairs staff.)

Morrison theButlerwould have to suffice for Her Ladyships big day. Thursday morning dawned cool and foggy. Perfect.

Daffodils. The hundred and one blooms showed up on time. Ever since we got married, Id made it a tradition to supply My Lady with a 101 Bloom Salute on her birthday.

Where to serve tea? Her friends all said Puh-leeze, dont serve her in bed. Tea and scones are fine, but crumbs in the sheets are miserable.

So we put Her Ladyship in her mothers favorite Victorian chair in her boudoir. Morrison theButlerserved her English Breakfast Tea from that historic tea pot. Good enough for Earl Grey.

Downton Abby is another of those BBC imports. If they didnt carry on with such stiff collars and bustles and proper British accents, you might think youd stumbled onto the set of some soap opera, like As the World War Turns.

To stay in character, though, one more touch was required: Morrison the Butlerironed Her Ladyships copy of the Washington Post. Thats why we called it Downturn.