The cat is out of the bag

Now that Jane has made this little film public, I can now share it here as well!

This little film has been sitting on my phone for the last 10 days and I have watched it over and over again countless times! Christine was so sweet asking Richard to do this for her friend Jane and Richard was so sweet to do it. As I set up the video, Christine made a move to step aside but Richard wouldn’t let her. He says at the very beginning of this clip “you be in it” to her and gently invites her in and puts his arm around her shoulder so she too would be in this video. I love the look of joy on Christine’s face and that very tender look on Richard’s, this is such a little gem! It’s made me smile a lot over the past 10 days.

Speaking of cats, I got home late from work today (after watching the Christine-Richard-for-Jane video again on my phone on my way home), sat down on the couch and within seconds was welcomed by this little man who joined me there (he never lies on our laps, just nestles up against us)…

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It’s so nice having cats out of the bag (and such beautifully joyous reactions to go with that!) and cats lying against me. 🙂

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RA & I – the sequel: NIFF part 1

Three and a half years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Richard Armitage in person at The Old Vic’s stage door in London after a performance of The Crucible. Two days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him again, this time at the Newcastle International Film Festival (NIFF)! I’ve been excited about going there and meeting him for a week or so leading up to this after I decided, on an impulse, to go! I should listen to my impulses more often… 🙂

I flew in to Newcastle on an early morning flight from Amsterdam on Saturday morning, landing at 8.45 am. The weather in Amsterdam had been lovely but the weather in Newcastle was less so – it was grey and wet! I got into the city and walked around a bit, first around Monument where I had gotten off the metro, then into the charming Grainger Market which is roofed and was dry but still quiet because it was still early, and I took a peek at the Central Arcade.

It was so wet, I then decided to escape the rain for a cup of chai tea latte at Costas. Perfect place to warm up and get my bearings…

I stayed there for quite a while, just watching the world pass me by, which was lovely, and then decided to brave the weather again. I walked down to the bridges, doing my best to juggle a small back pack, my handbag, a fold-up umbrella and my camera. Suffice it to say, pics didn’t quite come out as planned, also because I had to keep on drying my camera lens. Anyway, despite the rain and the not so great pics, I had a lovely time walking around!

At 12.30 I walked to a city center hotel where I met up with Hariclea, whom I have met before and who was staying there. A little while later a fellow-fan, Linda Sechzig, joined us.  She and Hari already knew each other and we both met Judit. Then Ella from the Nellindreams blog joined us as well soon after. Such lovely ladies! Judit went to her hotel for a bit and the rest of us set off for a nearby restaurant for lunch. We had real English food, steak and guinness pies and fish and chips, and got to know each other a little better which was fun! The 3 ladies I had lunch with were staying in the same hotel. I was in another hotel a little to the north of the center, so we separated and went to our respective hotels to check in and freshen up.

At 5.30 pm we all met up at the Mining Institute, where the Actors on Actors session with Caroline Goodall interviewing Richard Armitage would be taking place. While waiting in line I also briefly met Christine Loy who is a native Geordie, all of this was happening in her home town! At 6 pm we were ushered into this small, old-fashioned, charming lecture hall, which was wood panelled all around. I was so excited, I didn’t think to take any pictures of the room, but I found a nice one online, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

First impression was that this was quite tiny and it was quite warm in there too. I think there were less than 100 people there, maybe 75-80?  They told us to not sit in the first row, so Hariclea, Linda and I sat in the second row on the left, with Ella and Judit right behind us. Our view on the empty chairs was this one, and I wondered if Richard would be sitting on the throne, befitting a king under the mountain…

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No one came to sit in front of us, so in effect we were sitting in the front row! Eek! This also meant that I did not feel comfortable taking out my large camera. My camera clicks every time I take a picture and the lens is a zoom one, so larger than a regular lens, and I immediately knew it would feel intrusive if I sat there clicking away. So, for this session, I decided to just use my phone. We were asked to not take any pictures during the interview as the whole thing was being taped (wonder when and where we will get to see the whole thing online!); if we wanted to take pictures we could do so at the beginning while they settled in. So, I did just that. I positioned my phone on my lap and just pressed the button for a picture every now and again. I didn’t use a flash (again, intrusive) so many pictures turned out somewhat blurry, but I’ll share them (the ones that aren’t too blurry in any case) here.

They also asked us to not keep Richard up for too long after the session as he had to be somewhere else right after. Just like most of us, we joked, which got some laughs and the announcer laughed as well. She said there’d be an opportunity to meet and greet Richard after the Urban premiere. That sounded good!

Shortly after, Richard and Caroline made their way down. They walked right past me, virtually brushing me as they walked by. There was a little looking around, figuring what chairs to sit in. Richard joked about wanting to sit on the throne then said it would be awkward and decided for the smaller chair beside it instead (click on images to enlarge, goes for all the images I post here that are grouped together)…

So, he sat down and they settled in while I just tapped away on my phone, taking pictures…

And some more pictures…

Caroline briefly introduced Richard, saying what a nice man he was, how she so very much enjoyed working with him even if they had only shared one scene in Berlin Station and how he has become a friend. She is one of the organizers of NIFF and said that Richard had been eager to come and support the festival and the Urban film. He had told the organizers to not bother with the logistics of getting him there, he would make his way there on his own. She really sang his praises and Richard just let it wash over him. Then the interview began and Richard started talking with his hands (and I put my phone away)…

Speaking of Richard’s hands, and general appearance. He is tall but also sleek and I think because of that he almost looks slight! He is well-groomed and his hands are indeed mesmerizing, they are not only expressive but they look soft as well. I saw a lot of him in profile and it reiterated yet again just how much I love his profile and that prominent, sleek nose! I also loved his outfit, he looked so very dashing with that leather jacket and Hari totally fell in love with his shirt.

The interview will I hope soon come online somewhere and Dorothea over on her ‘Just wanna say’ blog has already given a nice short summary of some of the things that were discussed. So, I’ll just mention the stuff that stuck with me most from that interview.

The first half of the interview was pretty much all stuff we had heard before and, yes, even the circus was mentioned and how Richard realized that if he wasn’t smiling more doing musical theater it meant he wasn’t enjoying it as he should. He also mentioned the death scene in The Hobbit, after Caroline had told him how much that scene moved her to tears. He mentioned how he insisted on lying there undisturbed for 3 hours while the scene was being filmed and how later the crew had started putting down little crosses and flowers to commemorate the spot of Thorin’s death. The thing I didn’t know (I don’t think) is that the back injury he had while auditioning for Thorin was an injury that still bothers him!

I didn’t mind the repetition of familiar stories in the first half of this session so much, as it meant I could focus on observing. It did get more interesting in the second half, though.

There was a very interesting discussion about Richard living in New York. ‘Life’ had taken him there and he still feels it is a good place to be for his career, nicely in the middle between LA and London. He spoke of the fact that as he grows older, he is more aware of how rooted he is in England. He spoke of the difference between American and English film and TV. He felt that in the US it was all more focussed on psychology where in England it is all more focussed on storytelling. He said that attitudes are different as well, in the US it really is a film industry and you have to act more businesslike to get what you want whereas in England you basically just take anything because you’re glad to be working as an actor at all. He mentioned how his American accent was getting better and then laughingly asked Caroline whether she remembered he had tried his US accent out on her and she had thought it was his Irish accent! It was funny but had been a slightly sobering moment as well for him.

There was talk of salaries and he insisted that he never ever picked a project just for the money. He said he had done some things to help open doors but that basically it is always the project itself that attracts him and not the money. Sometimes he is surprised he gets paid for something he enjoys doing so much. There was talk of what genres he likes and he mentioned how surprised he is to have done many violent roles when he himself is not a violent man at all. He mentioned that he had done just about enough spy roles. I guess that means that those who may be rooting for James Bond for Richard may have to let that dream go… He also mentioned how he never wanted to do horror and especially horror involving children and yet he has just finished making a horror movie called The Lodge which also involves children! He understands the irony but says the movie is more psychological thriller than horror and he was excited to be working with the people making the movie.

His future plans were interesting to hear. My Zoe with Julie Delpy is still happening! He was in awe of how Julie Delpy can produce, direct and act all in one. He mentioned how he’d love to be able to multitask like that. He says Sandra Bullock also has the multitasking talent, how incredible she was on the Oceans 8 movie that is coming up. He says he always intends to pay attention and tries to get involved with all aspects of a movie (directing and producing) but in the end finds that all his attention gets sucked up into the acting and he can’t do anything else besides that.

He mentioned still wanting to do Bridget Cleary, although it wasn’t clear how far any of that is production-wise. He mentioned collaborating with Yael Farber again and possibly getting their version of The Crucible filmed; it had been a while since the Daniel Day-Lewis version and they still need permission from the Arthur Miller estate. They also want to do Oedipus together, but on film and not stage, as Faber is trying her hand at film directing now. When asked if he wanted to do anything period, he mentioned how he suddenly of late has this very strong feeling he should do something with Charles II, that he strongly feels the relevance it has in the world today, that it also has something to say to the current political climate in the west. I don’t know anything about Charles II off-hand, will have to look into that.

When asked if he wanted to do any plays of current new exciting English writers, he said absolutely, but it didn’t seem like something he was actively pursuing right now. He was also asked who his acting heroes were, he immediately answered Gary Oldman and how deserved it was that he had won ‘that prize’. He loves how Gary Oldman can disappear into a role.

I’m thinking there may have been more, but I can’t quite remember now, off the top of my head. The whole interview lasted about 45 minutes and it was just absolutely wonderful hearing the man talk and seeing him up close and personal like that. He is very relaxed and pleasant, but I get a sense of shyness from him as well. He looks at the person asking a question and pays attention to them while answering but while talking he also lowers his eyes a lot or looks around but rarely fixing his eyes on the general audience he is talking to. I found that endearing in a way. He’s not an outgoing performer personality, like say Tom Hiddleston is, he is more reserved. Of course, I knew that already, but more than ever I got that sensitive artist vibe from him.

The talk over, everyone got up and I snapped a few more blurry pictures with my phone (and Caroline threw on a sweater)…

Hariclea, Linda and I were just about the last ones to file out after Richard left. Caroline Goodall was also one of the last to leave, and as we were so near to her, I thanked her for the interview and said we’d really enjoyed it. She seemed pleased.

Out in the hall we saw that Richard had been stopped for some pictures after all…

… but he was soon whisked away in the hustle and bustle of it all, on to the next location. Hariclea had arranged for a taxi to get us to the next location as well and when we came out, the taxi was awaiting us. The five of us climbed in to be driven to the Biscuit Factory where the Urban premiere would be. More about that in my next post, as this one has gotten so long already! So, don’t worry, NIFF report is continued here… 🙂

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…

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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!

Mirthfully Firthfully

While searching for something in a drawer this morning, I unexpectedly came across something else that I had printed out from the internet on August 22nd, 1996 (!!) when I was well into my first year of Colin Firth fangirling. These were the early days of internet and fan sites and in my craze to know anything and everything about Colin Firth (he had just come to fame less than a year before, with Pride and Prejudice) I frequented a website called “Friends of Firth”. The website is long gone (I can’t remember when or the circumstances surrounding the end of it), but apparently I had printed the terminology that was invented there. It was called ‘A Firthian Lexicon’ and reading it again, 20 years on, has given me great amusement! So, I thought I’d just share some of the highlights from the lexicon here; it was clearly compiled at the height of Colin-Firth-as-Mr-Darcy-mania. 🙂

In the lexicon Friends of Firth is described as: “A group of focused, erudite, conversant individuals dedicated to the discussion and appreciation of the performances of Colin Firth.” I can subscribe to that! 🙂 Without further ado, terms from that list:

Firthland – The official Firthdom with boundaries that extend world-wide.

Colinist – An inhabitant of said province entitled to all privileges thereof.

Colinaneous – A state of being when a colinist can only see “a pair of fine eyes”

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Mr Darcy admiring Elizabeth Bennet’s ‘fine eyes’ to the surprise of Miss Bingley.

Colinatopia – a place where colinists are transported to when viewing the object of their affection.

Firthaholics Anonymous – A 12-step program that is never completed because the participant eagerly jumps off the wagon on the 11th step.

Firth-a-surf-aholic – One who surfs the net in search of pleasure (Colin) instead of business.

Firth Control – The ability to wait patiently for articles, videos, books and list-mail concerning CF.

Firthfully – Loyalty to the Firthdom and the object of our affections.

Firthis Colinitis – High fever caused by not watching Colin for more than a day. Curable by repeated showings of Pride and Prejudice (uncut version).

P&P dvd cover

Firthless (in Seattle) – Not having had a Firth-fix in approximately 1-3 days.

Firthmount – Any steed or mount that has the privilege to be ridden by CF.

Firthology – The comprehensive study of Colin Firth, i.e. films, videos, moles, dimples, thighs, etc…   Not sure about the moles but here are dimples:

And I always loved Colin’s long legs in this P&P scene:

Darcy & Elizabeth Pemberley stroll

Firthopath – A colinist infected by CF, causing occasional mental instability.

Firthophile – A colinist, firthian or firthlander completely obsessed in thought, word and deed.

Firthstration – The mood when not able to access information, pictures or videos.

Firth-weary – Any spouse subjected to multiple screenings of Pride and Prejudice or the complete list of CF films.

Mirthfully Firthfully – Any laughter that bubbles over while reading fantasies submitted by the Firthland School of Creative Writing

Schizofirthic – Someone who can’t decide if they like Darcy or Colin Firth.

Ah, fandom can be so much fun! 🙂

The Brussels adventure

This past January my husband and I had the 25th anniversary of our first kiss and to celebrate a quarter of a century together (that sounds sooooo long!) he and I went away, just the two of us, to Brussels for 3 days (2 nights).  We decided to do it the unstressed way: go by train! The journey is only 2.5 hours from where we live and we only had to change trains once. The kids were looked after by friends, so there were no worries there, and we were off last Thursday morning. This is what it looked like just after we boarded the train to Brussels. Coffee for Mr Esther, tea for me, cakes and reading material… Yes, good start to our mini-break!

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We arrived in Brussels and walked to the street our hotel was in (right bang in the historical center!), had a late lunch, checked in to our hotel and then started walking… and walking… and walking… We walked by ‘Manneken Pis’ (yeah, world famous small fountain statue of a little boy peeing)…

… walked some more…

… and popped into a church where I lit a candle for my dad and which also turned out to be Heraldry-heaven for Mr Esther (the man loves medieval history and is a heraldry specialist, a fangirl of sorts, if you will)…

… we walked on and on till we got to the royal palace, which is the Belgian king’s work place…

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… walked from there back into the old town, with a lovely view as we came down…

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… we stopped for drinks then walked on to finally visit a high point: the market square with old city hall and beautiful old buildings surrounding it (click on images to enlarge)…

It’s a gorgeous square, it’s probably the best cared for part of Brussels. Our hotel was situated about a minute minute away from this location. This was our breakfast room view, by the way…

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Our feet were already getting very tried at the end of that first day. We went to the hotel room, freshened up and then went off to dinner and a movie after (Silence – slow moving Martin Scorsese movie about Portugese Jesuit monks in 17th century Japan – 3 people walked out during it, but Mr Esther and I found it totally engrossing).

Friday, the second day, we walked even more… We visited the cathedral (again, click to enlarge)…

… and, as we are Europeans at heart, we walked on to where the European Union administration is situated. The European Commission building is freakishly huge (these pictures don’t even begin to show that)…

… outside that building there is also a piece of the Berlin Wall with a text on the history of that eyesore and how since that was torn down European unity has grown…

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… we walked by the European Parliament buildings…

Outside the parliament building there was a tree decorated in a crocheted work of art. I have no idea what that is about but we found it amusing…

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We walked through more streets closer to the old center where our hotel also was…

… and in less touristy parts of Brussels, we also came across an occasional house painted with interesting illustrations (again, click to enlarge)…

Speaking of cartoon characters, we also came across this sign in a park, asking Pokemon character searchers to keep off the grass as the grass had just been re-planted. Apparently massive amounts of Pokemom game players had trampled the grass before…

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Of course, by the end of the day our feet were just about dead and we sat for quite a while sipping wine (me) and special beer (Mr Esther) in the old market square…

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We moved from there to a restaurant and later back to the square again for more beer. The square was beautifully lit after dark…

Saturday, our last day in Brussels, we spent at the museum, seeing an exhibition on famous Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Alas, his most famous works weren’t there, but he sure made some really wonderful less famous paintings too!

In the same museum we also strolled through the beautiful medieval paintings section…

Alas, we were too tired to go on to the 19th / early 20th century paintings that I had also wanted to see; we skipped that in favour of a café (and more beer and wine) before taking our train and heading back home again.

For me, hardly a trip is complete without fangirling of some sort! And I got to do some on this trip as well! There was no Richard, Colin or latest crush Lucas fangirling but there was the 1920s Magritte painting, that made me think of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries because of the black bob hairstyle (sorry for the fuzzy picture)…

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… and we came across Simon Baker of The Mentalist fame in a Longines watches ad in a jewelry store window ( I stared and smiled at that for a while before moving on, the man and his smile are beautiful)…

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Brussels also likes its comic / scifi / fantasy stores… In a store window, for instance, we saw all sorts of wands from Harry Potter characters for sale…

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… and then in another store, which was filled with so much stuff you could hardly move, I decided to search once again for a Pop Thorin figure. I always regretted not getting Pop Thorin at the time The Hobbit movies came out and now they are sold out everywhere and they’re very expensive online. Well, I didn’t find Thorin but then my husband called me over and I saw these two…

20170305_155620… Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy! Granted, not Colin Firth as Darcy but hey, he can pass for it, right? And a kick ass Elizabeth Bennet, who I did enjoy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So yeah, I didn’t want to regret not getting Elizabeth Bennet! I bought her first, then the next day decided I’d get Mr. Darcy as well. I want no more Pop-regrets…

And the last bit of fangirling had everything to do with Charlotte Bronte! Jane Eyre is still one of my absolute fave books ever, this coming summer we will be travelling to Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire where she lived, and yesterday I walked in her footsteps in Brussels! Charlotte Bronte stayed in Brussels for about a year in her mid twenties, learning French at a ‘pensionnat’, a school for girls, and also teaching English there. She also fell in love with the husband of the pensionnat owner, Monsieur Heger, even though nothing ever came of that. She based two books on her Brussels experiences (‘The Professor’ and ‘Vilette’) and Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester is said to have been modelled after Monsieur Heger. The part of Brussels (between the royal palace and the older city) where she lived isn’t there anymore. Now big buildings stand on the street where the pensionnat used to be, the street itself is also gone. On one building (you really have to figure out where to find it, luckily Mr Esther is good at that stuff) there is a plaque commemorating Charlotte and her sister Emily living there…

… and there are steps there that were also there in Charlotte’s time and that she most certainly must have walked on…

When we were at the museum an hour or so later, we saw this painting…

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It’s  the painting of a school children’s parade in Brussels, all these girls are schoolgirls! It was painted quite a few years after Charlotte and Emily left Brussels but I like to imagine that these girls could have been their pupils… or maybe the teacher walking next to these girls was!

We took the train out of Brussels again yesterday at the end of the afternoon and got off at Antwerp to have dinner there before heading home. While in Antwerp station (beautiful building inside!) we sat drinking coffee and chai tea latte while waiting for our next train. This was our view…

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… and yes, it immediately reminded me of one of my favourite flash mob videos ever, which was also the first one I ever saw, I think. A flash mob The Sound of Music ad was filmed in Antwerp station some years ago and still is awesome to watch…

Yep, we had a really wonderful time! It was over all too soon…