My latest brush with fame!

I’ve had a few brushes of contact with famous people in my life. Not many, but some!

My first brush with fame was when I was a 4 year old girl living in Jerusalem and the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Max van der Stoel, came to visit. They wanted a small Dutch kid to present him with flowers and my parents were approached for this, I think through the mayor’s office. My dad and the mayor knew each other through the work my dad did. I actually remember this occasion! I was very excited beforehand, I remember wearing a light blue dress, but when the time came, I got too shy and my dad had to help me hand over the flowers. That’s Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek grinning in the far left of the picture, Van der Stoel with the flowers and dark-rimmed glasses, shy me with hands in my mouth and on the right my dad, grinning wildly after he helped me hand over the flowers.

Max van der Stoel

When I was 15, I briefly met German president Richard von Weizsäcker once when he visited my dad’s office in Germany in support of the work my dad did in Jewish-Christian dialogue (you can see the back of my dad on the left in this picture)…

1985 Von Weizsäcker in Buber House

Another famous man my dad worked with a lot and whom we saw on occasion was the former Archbishop of Canterbury from 1974-1980, Lord Donald Coggan. Donald Cogggan was a very special and warm man, modest, smart and funny. He used to call my younger brother and sister and me his ‘scallywags’ and there is one picture of us that I treasure…

Scallywags_ed

Another brief moment of contact with a famous person is with Gregory Peck, although I never met him personally. I had once written him a fan letter (the one and only one I have ever written) and requested an autograph from him. I never heard back, gave up on it, until two or so years later I finally received a response! I got an autographed picture, along with a note of apology. Apparently a bag of fan mail had been misplaced, which is why it had taken so long for me to get a response! That autographed picture has gotten lost in this house somewhere and I am still determined to find it, along with the note and the envelope it came in. The picture that was signed looked like this one (found this image on Ebay):Gregory Peck autographWhen I was 22, I went to a book signing in a bookstore here in The Netherlands and briefly met Peter Ustinov! He signed his book for me, which I was getting for my birthday on that day. Esje is my family’s nickname for me and I can’t remeber why I would have told Mr Ustinov that. I do remember him being very personable, maybe he asked if I had a nickname? It’s too long ago, I can’t remember…

I have of course met Richard Armitage briefly at the stage door in London in 2014 and have autographed items and a picture to help me remember that…

I have caught a glimpse of Pierce Brosnan up close and personal and he signed a picture my friend, a huge Brosnan fan, had…

I have spent an evening in the company of Michael Palin, listening to him talk about Ernest Hemingway and, a few months later, received a personally autographed book from him that my husband had gotten for me for my birthday!

And this past summer, I even briefly met and chatted with Lord Charles Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother. He also signed a book for us (but it’s also made out to my husband, so I won’t post a picture of that here, Mr Esther’s real name is not for this blog).

My greatest brush with someone famous on the internet was when actress Sara Wiseman, who plays Carolyn on A Place To Call Home, liked my retweet of her tweet on Valentine’s Day 2016 and I was stoked about that…

Sara Wiseman tweet like 14-02-2016

And now today, two and a half hours ago, I discovered my latest brush with fame: Marta Dusseldorp, lead actress playing Sarah on A Place to Call Home, actually RETWEETED my tweet of yesterday in which I gush about APTCH season 5! Holy crap, I swear my heart stopped for a moment when I saw that! I never aim to have likes, replies or god forbid, retweets of any kind, but this one certainly has me stoked! Here, a screenshot from my phone when I discovered it!

Marta Dusseldorp retweet

So, thank you Marta Dusseldorp for making my day! And may we enjoy your talents for a long, long time to come!

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APTCH season 5 – halfway mark

A Place to Call Home has started season 5 now, with (I think) 12 episodes in total. Last weekend episode 7 aired, so we’re at the halfway mark for this series. I have only gotten around to (binge-) watching them these past few evenings after emerging from my Suits cocoon. And boy, it is good again! Beware: spoilers ahead, so read at your own peril!

The show starts 5 years after season 4 ended. George (Brett Climo) and Sarah (Marta Dusseldorp) are a couple but a secret one, albeit an open secret. Sarah lives with their son David in a separate house on George’s property (Ash Park). They can’t be together because legally George is still married to Regina, whom he still hopes to be able to divorce. They need to keep up appearances because George is in politics but he comes over to Sarah’s often, although he takes care to never actually spend the night…

Regina (Jenni Baird), in the meantime, is in the insane asylum and after 5 years seems like a very changed woman. She is able to convince her carers that she has changed enough to eventually be released.

The big question throughout these 7 episodes is whether she really is different and good now. She certainly seems to be sincere and apologetic, trying to make amends, but after all the truly terrible things she has done over the 4 seasons before this, it really is hard to believe. George confronts her…

APTCH Regina George

… as does Sarah (I find it magical watching those two women playing off each other on-screen!)…

… but Regina remains humble and in one of the latter episodes tries to take responsibility for her actions and explains some of her actions to Sarah…

Yet, she is still in contact with the absolutely evil Sir Richard (Mark Lee), who, while pretending to be a friend and advisor to George, really wants to take him down!

Sir Richard has been ‘grooming’ her to help him exact his revenge on George, but the question remains: is Regina really in his pocket or is she really repentant? Her actions suggest she really is repentant, as she warns the Bligh family about Sir Richard several times. Yet, she also reports some information to Sir Richard via phone, so it all remains a little dubious…

APTCH Regina (2)

And there are more characters to follow, like George’s sister Carolyn (Sara Wiseman) and her husband Jack (Craig Hall). They are going through a rough patch in their marriage. Carolyn still misses her progressive life in Sydney and tries to find her place (and something to do) as the wife of a town doctor, while Jack is far more conservative and set in his ways. It breaks my heart seeing them so tense together, because they were such an adorable couple (they are married in real life too, btw!).

They are trying to work through it, which becomes clear in a tender moment, but the question really remains whether they can make it through this.

The only truly happy couple are Elizabeth (Noni Hazlehurst) and Douglas (Robert Coleby), who have now been married for 5 years.

Yet A Place To Call Home wouldn’t be A Place To Call Home if some drama didn’t hit and it hits hard when Douglas become terminally ill!

Douglas raises the question of euthanasia, but the world they live in isn’t ready for that. In the last episode so far (number 7), Douglas dies and the actual circumstances of his death are examined. It is heartbreaking stuff and some of it reminded me of my dad passing, which made it extra hard to watch.

It was so beautifully acted by the two but especially by Noni Hazlehurst as Elizabeth. Her grief is palpable, difficult to watch and hits close to home… This last episode shows the grieving Elizabeth leaving Ash Park and makes me fear the worst for her…

APTCH Elizabeth says goodbye (1)

We also have Anna (Abby Earl), who is long divorced from Gino and trying to follow-up the success of her first novel with a second one but suffers from writer’s block. She is in a relationship with her editor, called Ed (Matt Day) but holds back with him, due to the hurt she still feels over her divorce.

The secret boyfriend of Anna’s brother James, Dr. Henry Fox (Tim Draxl), has started working at the Inverness hospital. He butts heads with Dr. Jack, who is less progressive than Henry, and is desperately waiting for James and his wife Olivia to return from Europe (the expectation is that they will have created grounds for divorce during their European trip).

Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood) eventually does return from Europe, with her little son Georgie, but James has stayed behind in Europe!

George, upset, calls his son James (David Berry, who now has a part in Outlander, which I guess explains why he isn’t in APTCH so much). James explains that he has decided to stay in the Riviera and build his life there, where he feels he can be more himself than at home in Australia. He has also reunited with his old secret love, which of course breaks Henry Fox’s heart…

I love that A Place To Call Home addresses all these social issues. Being gay is an issue, euthanasia was addressed this time around, psychiatric treatment is again referenced (it was a bigger issue in past seasons when they tried to cure James being gay through psychiatric and shock treatment), rape is an issue (never do a business meeting alone with a man in an apartment or hotel room – feels very topical with all the #metoo news nowadays!), there is a storyline this season of an Aboriginal man named Frank (Aaron Pedersen) and how much every day racism impacts his life…

We also have Sarah struggling with religion. She is Jewish and observant…

APTCH Sarah George Shabbat

… but, other than Shabbat celebration with friends (of whom the daughter is struggling with her Jewish identity), Sarah hasn’t done much to raise her son David in the Jewish faith. It becomes a huge discussion point between her and George when she decides she really does want to raise David Jewish after all.

Sarah is also confronted with her past in the concentration camp of Ravensbrück during World War II when, during a social event, she runs into a former camp guard! It totally throws her off course…

… and she later goes to confront this lady called Gerda/Frieda (Helen Thompson) in her hotel room. This is a tour de force by actress Marta Dusseldorp who battles with initial fear but overcomes it, becomes angry, threatening and makes it clear to Gerda that in the end her past will catch up with her.

She later tells George stories of what Gerda did in Ravensbrück, which too is heart wrenching…

I am still really loving this series and I especially love the very strong female roles. Sarah, Regina and Elizabeth are the three most fascinating characters and I swear they all 3 deserve awards for their performances! I also really like Carolyn (she could use an award as well!) and I like Anna too. The men are not exactly supporting characters but I think the stories really are mostly women-driven. You don’t see a lot of that on TV, I feel. Of the men, George and Jack are great to watch as well and I am so sorry we had to lose Douglas… I am loathing Sir Richard, which means the actor is playing his role well, and I am also sorry we’ll be having less James (I like him more than Henry).

There is still enough to explore for the rest of this series and if I were religious, I’d be praying that they won’t let Elizabeth die! I’m also hoping Sir Richard, that schemer and rapist, comes to some horrible end.  And will Caro and Jack make it? Will George and Sarah finally be able to marry? Is Regina really done with her evil, scheming ways? Many questions and more to be answered in the second half of this season and I am looking forward to it! I hope there will be a sixth season after this…

The Conspiracy of Silence #MeToo

This whole Harvey Weinstein scandal makes me sick, just like the Bill Cosby one has made me sick and Donald Trump’s way with women makes me sick. Why do Cosby’s and Weinstein’s careers go down the drain over this but is Trump still president? Anyway, I don’t want to write about them specifically but I do want to do my part in addressing this so that it can be stopped.

I saw the interview Emma Thompson gave, addressing how normal sexual harassment really is for all women from a young age onwards (she mentions this at around 3:10 into the video) and she calls this Weinstein scandal a ‘conspiracy of silence’ for not being exposed sooner (around 5:20)…

I found that an interesting phrase, ‘the conspiracy of silence’, and find myself trying to come to terms with the fact why we don’t speak up about this more when we encounter it. I find it’s not a malicious conspiracy, it’s more a conspiracy of shame and fear, but the fact is that it’s not normal to speak up about this. I, too, am not one to call out others when for example a comment with sexual innuendo is made that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I will speak up against gross misconduct but there are so many comments that are just borderline where I wonder ‘should I say something or am I just being overly sensitive?’ and then I shut up. I was in such a borderline situation not too long ago when I thought ‘ah, but it’s just a joke, I’ll let it go and change the subject quickly.’ I struggle with that and it’s something that this scandal has brought more to the foreground for me.

Yesterday the hashtag #MeToo started trending and I added my name to that…

me too tweet

… and today, on my way to work, I read Guylty’s blog post about the issue and that really struck me too. I am not pretty or an actor either and yet I too have experienced instances of sexual harassment. What I have experienced is by far not as bad as many other women’s experiences but it’s symptomatic nonetheless! I wasn’t planning on going into detail about what has happened to me, but Guylty’s post and that “conspiracy of silence” phrase made me think that maybe I should just come out and speak of my experiences.

The funny thing is that when I thought about this, one incident that really shook me came to mind and I thought, ‘well, it’s not been bad for me, I only experienced that one thing’. But then, once that memory was unlocked, other memories started coming in and I realized that apparently I had pushed them away before. I also realized that, from an early age on, I had always been warned by my mother that most men basically only want one thing so that I always had to be careful with how I act and what I wear so as not to attract any unwanted attention. I hate that. I hate that women are told to be careful and that for men it’s a “ah, boys will be boys” attitude.

The incident that really shook me most of all  happened when I was 19. My dad was general secretary of an international organization and organized a big 4 day conference every summer, with people coming in from countries all over the world. To make a little money, we brothers and sisters often helped with organizing. That summer the conference was in Southampton and one evening I went out with a group of other conference participants to a local pub. Incidentally, it’s also the first time I ever tried Guinness beer (and hated it). Anyway, I was with a group of 9 or 10 people and at one point I said I’d pick up some drinks at the bar. There was a man sitting on a bar stool next to where I stood to order my drinks. While I was waiting for my turn to order he tried to chat me up. I was 19 and really not so used to flirting, so I tried to stay friendly and smile, but said no to whatever he suggested (he wanted me to come sit with him, he wanted to buy me a drink and he said some other things I can’t recall). Then, out of the blue, he grabbed me, pulled me towards him and what I remember most were his very wet lips, smelling of beer, planted on my lips, kissing me! I struggled to get away, luckily the bartender caught this happening as well. He cried out “oy!” and a hullabaloo started where others came to my rescue, literally prying the man off me because he really was holding on fast and didn’t want to let go!  People from my group came as well to help me. Local people from the pub grabbed the man, I think one guy punched him, and literally threw him out of the pub onto the street. I was very shaken up, everyone was very concerned for me, we were offered free drinks. The bartender said the man was a known drunk and wouldn’t be allowed in the pub anymore. I quickly went back to my accommodation after that, accompanied by my older brother who had been part of the group I had been with.

Remembering that, and my brother being there, reminded me of an incident a year later when my whole family and I were in Cairo, visiting the Pyramids. Esther 20We were allowed into one of the pyramids. There was a narrow hallway leading upwards with a rope you could use to hold on to. You couldn’t stand up straight in some sections and there were these guides along the way to help anyone with trouble getting on. One of these guides actually followed behind me for a while and literally felt me up, touching my hips and my bottom to ‘help me along’. I shrugged him off, said I didn’t need help. My brother saw and took the man’s place behind me so he would leave me alone. The rest of that holiday (we were there for 3 or 4 days), I felt unsafe and tended to keep close to one of my older brothers, just so I wouldn’t get into a situation like that again.

I then for some reason also remembered an incident from when I was 15 or 16. I was already in love with old movies at that time and at some point I had gotten this hand-me-dpencil dressown 1960s turquoise pencil dress, which looked something like this picture on the right. It was a little looser than this dress but it really fit me very well. I was not one to wear dresses at all at that time but when I put that dress on, I thought I looked really good in it. I felt like Doris Day! I was wearing it one hot day and was asked to do a small errand in town for my mother, which I went to do on my bike. I figured it looked nice enough and for the first time I dared wear it out in public. And boy, did I regret that! I felt uncomfortable with the attention I got walking down the street and when at one point some workers started calling out to me, asking me to come over to them, laughing at me when I said no, and continuing their whistling after that, I felt so very unsafe! I went home and never wore that dress again.

In my early twenties I also once encountered a flasher in a trench coat while I was walking through a park close by our house. He walked by, called out to me and when I looked over at him, he opened his coat and was stark naked underneath. He didn’t linger, though, and walked on, I think he even ran away. For some reason, I never felt threatened by that, though.

So, that’s it, my #MeToo experiences. When I look back I feel that I have always been conscious of never wanting to be ‘too sexy’, due to warnings to be careful because I’m a girl and I think especially after that blue dress incident, which I had really buried away deep somewhere. It’s sad that just because ‘boys will be boys’ many women feel unsafe or feel like they have to suppress themselves. Women speaking up about how threatened they feel is just the beginning, we also need to look at this ‘boys will be boys’ culture and teach our sons to treat women with respect! I feel my brothers are respectful of women, just like my husband is and I hope my son is too (he does seem like it from what I can see). I have luckily never felt threatened by men I work with or by male aquaintances/friends I have. So, I do realize that many men are respectful! But there are also many who aren’t and it’s not only up to the women to raise boys who are respectful; men are important role models and need to take responsibility too, maybe even more so than women!

Gabriel Macht – I am my beloved’s…

In my previous post I wrote about finally watching Suits and falling in love with it! I haven’t been able to get enough, re-watching bits and pieces, but mostly catching up on the actors in it and I have especially zoomed in on Gabriel Macht who plays the role of Harvey Specter. I really like the development his character has been going through during the 7 seasons of Suits so far and I admit to finding him quite sexy!

So, as I knew nothing about him, I’ve been delving into him and I find that he is happily married with 2 children. When I saw a picture of his wife, I thought she looked extremely familiar. Turns out she’s an actress as well, called Jacinda Barrett, and she was in the second Bridget Jones movie as the colleague of Mark Darcy who Bridget is jealous of!

She also had a small role as a brief love interest for Harvey on Suits, where I bet he got a great kick out of being able to flirt with her and kiss her (I only found out that she’s his wife after I had binge-watched the whole show).

Delving into him I find that Gabriel is besotted with his wife Jacinda and she with him. It makes me think of this line, which was also the theme my father had used for my wonderful wedding to Mr Esther 18 years ago…

They’ve been married since 2004 and, as I have commented before here and here as well about Colin Firth and Simon Baker, I just love love love seeing a man happy in love with his wife like that! He is in love with his kids too. Gabriel’s instagram account is filled with pictures such as these:

In an interview I saw with him on YouTube he answers a question about the relationship between Harvey and Donna on the show. In real life Gabriel Macht is very good friends with Sarah Rafferty who plays Donna, they have been close friends for 20 years or so.  The interviewer references this friendship (at 23 minutes in to the video) and says “the Donna from the show who’s his best friend in real life.” Gabriel corrects her and says “My best friend in real life is my wife.” This is greeted by awwws in the audience and I admit to feeling that ‘aw’ as well! That, and other things I’ve been hearing him say and reading about him, make me really like Gabriel Macht!

Now, maybe more than ever, I hope things can work out for Harvey and Donna on the show. Someone made an awesome fan video about Donna and Harvey and the cliffhanger we are left will till the beginning of 2018…

… and it would be cool that when Suits ends at some point, Donna and Harvey can have what Gabriel and Jacinda seem to have (and what Mr Esther and I have 🙂 ). Should that be where the story arc ends for Harvey, his character will have made a huge development from the beginning of the show. I for one would love this.

Miss Fisher movie crowdfunding!

It’s no secret that I have fallen in love with the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries; I have made a handful of fan videos for the show, after all. Season 4 ended something like this for Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) and Jack Robinson (Nathan Page)…

… which was really a very open-ended ending. The good thing about open ends is that it sparks a lot of fan fiction, the bad thing is that you really want to see what happens next and you can’t!

For a while now there has been talk of a sequel in the form of a movie but financing has been a problem. Last spring there was a report of the script being discussed with the actors, but there has been no go ahead as yet for the project. So, the team have come up with crowdfunding as a solution! Here’s a video of Nathan Page (on the Miss Fisher Facebook page) getting the idea to crowdfund:

And here’s the link to the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, explaining in more detail what they want to do: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468758721/miss-fisher-the-movie.

Also, two images I’d like to share that I have borrowed off that Kickstarter page; one explaining what makes Miss Fisher special and the other because the image is just lovely…

Miss Fisher director's statementMiss Fisher plane

Yeah, I think I need to back this one. Feel free to do so as well, if you care to. 🙂