20 years

We got married on July 26th 1999…

… and 20 years later on July 26th 2019 we still love being together!

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We’re old and fat now but happy. 🙂

Esther in Leicester

I kinda like the alliteration of that. 🙂

So, yesterday was Leicester(shire) day with the family and I can tell you Leicester really is all about Richard III. For me personally, it was all about Richard Armitage as well of course.

Leicester is a little over an hour away from our campsite. We were late getting away in the morning and then got lost on the way in Kettering, looking for a gas station and then for a place to use the bathroom (the gas station didn’t have that, they said), so by the time we finally got to Bosworth it was after 1 pm! Bosworth is the place where Richard III was killed on August 22nd, 1485 in battle against Henry Tudor. There’s a museum but we didn’t take time to visit that, we just traipsed over the battlefield site and monument…

By the way, even the bathrooms at the Bosworth site are Armitage Shanks. 🙂 I also very much liked a chain mail necklace I saw, but as I don’t wear militaria (and to what occasion would I even wear such a necklace?) I decided against buying it.

After Bosworth we drove to Leicester but before we got there, we made sure we passed through the village of Huncote first. It is well-known to Richard Armitage fans that he grew up there, so naturally, as we were near anyhow, I thought it might be fun to drive through it. We didn’t get out or anything, just drove through and got a very quick and fleeting impression of the village.

There’s a pub…

… and a church and a village green…

… and I saw a sign to the primary school but was too late to photograph it (we didn’t have the time to drive to it either). So, the impression was fleeting but it looked like a lovely village in the middle of a very green countryside. You can hardly imagine that it’s so near to a big city. Within five minutes, however, you find yourself driving into the outskirts of Leicester, which is a very busy city…

At the request of my son we drove by Leicester City football stadium…

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The parts of the city that we drove through didn’t look great until we got to the city center. After we parked, we walked into the center and this was the first part we saw…

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One of the buildings is the Radio BBC Leicester building, which immediately made me think of Richard Armitage again as he has been interviewed for Radio BBC Leicester before.

In fact, over on Richard Armitage Central there is a link to an interview where Richard speaks about Richard III on BBC Radio Leicester! Very fitting with our visit there yesterday!

We of course also visited the cathedral which is where Richard III is now buried. The black embroidered cover was used during his reburial procession and ceremony.

Some more impressions of the very nice looking center of Leicester…

We also went shopping there, it’s a very good place for shopping. There’s a huge mall right there in the center, good for year-round all-season shopping. It also had this store:

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In Colchester I had come across Mr. Darcy, here in Richard-Armitage-city I fittingly came across Mr. Thornton. 🙂 Is it a coincidence that both are sweets / chocolate shops?

For all its Richard-ness (the Third and Armitage), Leicester was also the city where Mr Esther and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary yesterday! For that alone, it will remain a bit of an extra special place. My son took a few pictures of us and the four of us had dinner in an old bank building that is now a grill restaurant with a very nice ambiance.

Yes, Esther very much enjoyed being in Leicester!

Hate, Loss and Love in two days

These are emotional times… what’s happening in the UK and the US politically is deeply affecting me. It’s hitting home because I love so many things about these countries and it’s painful seeing that fear and intolerance are taking over there. I also wonder what that means for my own country which is dealing with some of the same issues and could take it’s cue from the US and the UK. We have elections coming up soon and I am very afraid for the outcome. Today, January 27th,  is Holocaust Remembrance Day and everyone says “oh, we must never forget the lessons of the past!” and yet the Western world seems to have forgotten already! I was reading a piece in ‘The Independent’ newspaper about Holocaust Memorial Day and the rise of antisemitism and xenophobia now and this quote struck me especially:

“The Holocaust didn’t begin in the death camps. It began with words. It displayed the most destructive of human behaviour – indifference, ignorance and greed. The choices made by ordinary people contributed to the deaths of millions.”

I visited Auschwitz this past summer, it’s one of the most sobering and heartbreaking experiences and a very powerful reminder of where hatred against certain groups of people can lead. In the US it’s starting already with immigrants, refugees and Muslims being ostracized officially now by the Trump administration, with a ‘me first’ philosophy prevalent and an attitude of building walls over bridges. I am afraid that it can not be stopped, I am afraid of who else will follow suit and I am afraid where this islamophobia / xenophobia and ‘me first’ philosophy will end… Now is the time to speak up against this, now is the time to try to act against xenophobia, before it is again too late. German anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller once said this…

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I have been reading in certain places about people not understanding why opposition to Trump is so fierce right now, of being scared of that fierceness and wanting to give the man a chance first. I, on the other hand, can not understand why people of good will are hesitant to oppose him. After a first week of Trump presidency I am starting to almost be paralyzed with dread for the future by the words I hear coming from the Trump administration; I have not seen a single action I can even remotely support! I just now read the White House’s statement to commemorate this memorial day and part of it reads…

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

and I honestly wonder how this statement rhymes with all the executive orders we have just seen signed in the past week. I see no love or tolerance in any of them! All I see is prejudice, the bottom dollar and ‘me first’. I ask you – which alternative is worse: peaceful yet loud opposition to Trump and his policies or allowing people to be ostracized by Trump and allowing human rights and basic freedoms to be endangered? I can’t allow the latter so I have to choose oppostion… and this is coming from someone who hates conflict…

January 27th is not only Holocaust Memorial Day, it is also the birthday of my father. He would have been 83 years old today, it’s the second birthday without him after he passed away. He dedicated his life to combatting antisemitism and islamophobia and if not for myself I at least owe it to him to oppose this hate mongering in any small way that I can. I still keenly feel the loss of my father but I am so happy he does not have to witness these political times, he’d have been horrified…

Luckily the world is not only filled with hatred… it helps to remind myself that I am blessed with a lot of love in my life! Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of when my husband and I got together.

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The picture on the left was taken when we were a week into our relationship, the other picture was taken yesterday by our daughter. We’re definitely older and larger but we are still very happy together. With all the turmoil in the world, this love is something to hold on to even more closely as we try to stand up to all the harshness out there in the world.

10 year fan journey

Around this time of the year, 10 years ago, I became a Richard Armitage fan / well-wisher / follower of his work, whatever you want to call it…

My parents had given me a North & South DVD for Christmas 2005, a little over a year after it had aired on the BBC. They didn’t know this miniseries but because they knew I am a sucker for a period drama, especially a BBC one, they figured they couldn’t go wrong with that. I had missed this period drama on TV and thought that, had it been any good, I would surely have heard more about it. So, I parked it – after all, 4 hours is a huge chunk out of your day and with a husband, a job and two small kids I just could not muster up the courage to invest my time in something that could very well be a disappointment. Then I became ill, struck down by flu, and while rummaging through the DVD’s for something to watch on my laptop in bed, I came across the North & South DVD again. “Oh why not?” I thought. I was going to watch one episode and then take another nap but then this happened…

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Headache be damned, I could not stop watching and by the time “Look back at me” happened…

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… I knew for sure that I had reached a point of no return! I watched the whole 4 hours in bed before the kids came home from school/daycare… The next day I watched again… and then after that again… and again… suffice it to say, it’s the best time I ever had being sick!

Once I felt a little better I started searching online for any info on Richard Armitage. I joined the C19 message board (one of the boards set up after the BBC message boards had crashed over fan reception of N&S), I started watching fan videos (and later started making them myself for other shows), I tried to get my hands on other work Richard had done, I hunted for interviews, I started reading fan fiction and I watched anything new he was doing. Heck, I even wrote a fanfic continuing on where N&S had ended!

To my utter delight 8 or 9 months after I had discovered Richard he had a part on one of my favourite comedies The Vicar of Dibley…

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…and then of course I watched Robin Hood (didn’t like the show much, only watched for Richard) and Spooks and Strikeback and all that came inbetween and then The Hobbit happened …. and The Crucible…

 

…and here we are and it’s 10 years on!

I have always been more of a lurker in the fandom, preferring to not engage too much, because frankly, who has the time? I sure didn’t, with a job, a husband, two young children and pretending to have a bit of a social life as well. In addition, I was always a little iffy about belonging to large groups, I do not want to be part of some sort of Richard-religion, where I’d have to abide by certain rules and regulations. I just want to be my own kind of fan, on my own terms. I didn’t want to be involved in bust-ups or arguments that happened even then (I still don’t). So, I read and watched and looked and listened and surfed the net and very occasionally commented but mostly enjoyed being a Richard fan on my own. Well, not completely on my own… I have always shared my obsessions with my husband and he has always been very cheerfully supportive. Yes, lucky me. 🙂 So, I was fine with my personal fangirling ways for many years and honestly, I still would be fine with that… And then I started blogging because now, with the kids growing up, I have a little more time on my hands.

I didn’t start blogging because of Richard, I started blogging because I wanted to document certain things I am preoccupied with at any point in time. That means blogging about Richard, but also about any other number of things. Of course, I could have documented all that in private (which I used to do way back when, when I had diary) but something compelled me to do it publicly on the internet. I mean, if I enjoy something, maybe there’d be other like-minded people out there who enjoyed the same thing and they’d like reading my blog? If not, fine; if yes, fine as well! So, I finally took the plunge and this blog was born.

One of my first posts was about meeting Richard at The Old Vic’s stage door and when I posted a collection of positive reviews of Richard as Thorin Oakenshield things really started taking off on my blog (thanks to Servetus, who linked to that post!). Suddenly other Armitage fans were reading and commenting here and I started commenting on their blogs and now I find myself immersed into interactive Richard Armitage fandom more than I ever intended to be! This time it’s on my blog and therefore on my own terms and I comment on other blogs when I want to and I find I am enjoying myself.

The next immersive step I took was actually acquiring one of Guylty’s RA badges!

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And now, this weekend, for the first time ever, I even had the pleasure of actually meeting a fellow Richard Armitage fan in person! We had a marvelous time, going from cafe to shops to market to cafe to restaurant, chatting and chatting all day long. We talked about Richard, and life and husbands and children and other shared interests and it was great!

So, 10 years after first discovering Richard, and after 10 years of following his career, I find I am now part of my own niche fan-experience involving other fans as well. I’ve come a long way and I wonder where will I be at, or what kind of fan will I be or I will even still be a fan, in 10 years time? One thing I do know: time flies when you’re having fun – I can hardly believe I have loved Richard Armitage for 10 years already!

It’s been quite a ride so far, from this…

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… to this…

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I had no idea when I started fangirling over him that it would last this long and yet it has! There is an appeal to this man that is undeniable, that will not go away and as he develops in his acting the appeal becomes even stronger than ever! Like other long-term crushes of mine (Gregory Peck and Colin Firth) he has become a permanent fixture in my life and for now he is the biggest actor-crush I have. Even if it should all end tomorrow I will forever be grateful for having ‘found Richard’ 10 years ago and for all that that has brought me so far.

BBC’s Pride & Prejudice – 20 years!

I was celebrating Colin Firth’s birthday here two weeks ago and now it’s time to celebrate the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice!

20 years ago today, on September 24th 1995, I eagerly tuned in to BBC One to see what they had made of the latest adaptation of one of my favourite novels: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I had at that time only ever seen one screen adaptation of the novel, the Laurence Olivier one, and I didn’t much care for it. So, I sat down to watch on that Sunday evening and the first episode opened with Lizzie Bennet walking outside and watching two horsemen ride in the distance: Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy…

I immediately took to Lizzie and her sisters, Mrs. Bennet was a hoot and Mr. Bennet was her tormentor, oh what a joy to watch!

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And  then… Mr. Darcy appeared in all his brooding glory!

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Lizzie took an instant dislike to him and I was sold. We saw the introduction of Mr. Bingley…

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…and his acerbic sister Caroline who forever was seeking the attention of Mr. Darcy (like here when he is admiring Lizzie Bennet’s ‘fine eyes’ from afar)…

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And the episode ended with Lizzie staying over at Netherfield and her head-on verbal collision with Mr. Darcy. Better than any action movie out there! That first hour was over all too soon! I fevered towards the next episode, counting the days, hours and minutes.

The second episode brought the ridiculous Mr. Collins…

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… the charming but not so nice Mr. Wicked… er… Wickham…

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… and the ball at Netherfield where Lizzie was obliged to dance with Mr. Darcy despite having vowed never to do so! That dance scene…. ah!

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This scene is a word-duel between Lizzie and Darcy with advances and parries and jabs, all wrapped nicely into a dance. The timing is so perfect, the tension building higher and higher between them… I was breathless and in awe (still am to this day) of how good this is!

The third episode ended with Darcy proposing to Lizzie. “In vain I have struggled,” he said, “it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you!”…

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And the episode ended with her refusal to marry him. Understandably so, but heartbreaking nonethess…

And then something awful happened: I had to travel to Germany for two weeks! I had a temp job working in the library of the international organization my dad was the general secretary of and I had work to do there! I needed the money and it paid well, which was nice, but there was a huge downside: there was no BBC in Germany! I programmed the VCR at home (these were the times before DVD, let alone recordable DVD…) and kept my fingers crossed that it would tape properly (I had had mishaps before). The two weeks were loooong, I was so desperate to see what happened next. It was just awful to be left with a refused-proposal-cliffhanger! Finally, after two weeks, I came home again and I immediately binge-watched episodes four and five.

Episode four had Darcy explaining himself in a letter to Lizzie and yes, it also had that wet shirt scene with the nipples!

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At the end of this episode, Lizzie and Darcy were finally starting to find to each other…

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Then came episode five, with the beautiful long looks of love exchanged by Darcy and Lizzie as Georgiana Darcy played the piano…. sigh…

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But evil Mr Wickham just had to spoil it all…

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“I’m afraid you’ve long been desiring my absence,” Mr Darcy said as he took his leave from Lizzie, and my heart broke…

The last (sixth) episode I was again able to watch “live” and because I had binge watched episodes four and five only a day before; the wait for the last episode hadn’t been long… I was on tenterhooks and even though I know how the story ends, I still wondered, ‘how will this end?’

After all the trouble with Wickham and Lydia was solved and after Lizzie found out that Mr. Darcy was the rescuer, he and Bingley came to the visit the Bennets again…

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And Lizzie and Darcy couldn’t help themselves, they had to sneak looks at each other…

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But before the happy end could happen, first Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine DeBourgh came for a visit. Lady Catherine demanded from Lizzie a promise that she would never marry Darcy. Lizzie, however, refused to make such a promise…

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“Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” Lady Catherine asked in desperation. Classic! And well, yes they are! Lizzie’s refusal to promise anything finally gave Darcy the courage to propose to her again…

“You are too generous to trifle with me,” he said, “If your feelings are what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged… but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”

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“My feelings are so different,” she replied, “in fact, they are quite the opposite!”

And, to boot, after a heart to heart talk, he called her his “Dearest. loveliest Elizabeth…” with such a look of love that I melted… vlcsnap-2015-09-23-23h25m02s624

So, in the end, Jane and Lizzie married the men of their dreams…

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And after the wedding there was finally a Darcy and Lizzie kiss…

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Ahhh…. Ok, admittedly, that kiss lacked the passion this one had (9 years later)…

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… but I think nothing can beat the North & South kiss of Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe! In my humble opinion it’s the best on screen kiss ever. But I digress… Lizzie and Darcy kissed! And that is more than they ever did in the book.

I already loved the book but after seeing the adaptation I became obsessed with it and with the BBC series, and yes, like so very many women who had seen this, I fell head over heels in love with Colin Firth! He and Jennifer Ehle had perfectly portrayed Darcy and Lizzie (Jennifer Ehle won a BAFTA for it and I still haven’t forgiven BAFTA for not giving Colin Firth one for this role…)

Today, 20 years on, Colin Firth is still a great favorite of mine and I still adore this version of Pride & Prejudice; for me it remains the best version ever. The 2005 Pride & Prejudice fiilm with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen was alright but for me McFadyen could not hold a candle to Colin Firth’s Darcy. And the rest of the characters were fine but just not as good…

If you love Pride & Prejudice as well, you may enjoy a YouTube webseries called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” which places the story of Pride & Prejudice in this century, this decade even! Lizzie Bennet is a grad student and one day meets a Mr. Bing Lee and a Mr. William Darcy at a friend’s wedding…It’s 100 hundred episodes that average about 3 to 4 minutes each. For me, the second best Pride & Prejudice adaptation out there…

Yes, I love Pride & Prejudice and the 1995 adaptation was key to it all… Thank you BBC and Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and everyone who was involved in making it!