Happy 2021!

A mixed start to 2021 here. Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I woke up with an awful headache and felt bad (and slept) for most of the day. Not a good start to the new year.

Today was a different story. I was feeling fine again, did a few small chores. The kids were doing their own thing, so Mr. Esther and I went for a nice lengthy walk on our own in our town. We’re back at home now, with some Glühwein (warm mulled wine), a fire on in the fireplace and classical radio playing in the background. I’m curled up in our big armchair, underneath a cosy red blanket, my cat is lying on me and I’m reading (shortly interrupted by writing this post).

The beginning of this new year is not so bad after all… Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a good year! Happy new year, everyone. 😊

Uncle Vanya at the cinema

This afternoon Mr Esther and I drove for an hour to the university town of Wageningen to see the filmed version of the Uncle Vanya stage play that I had seen live at the Harold Pinter theatre in London back in February. It was a bit of a weird experience. We parked, walked to the arthouse cinema that was showing the film, went straight in wearing our masks, took them off while we sat, saw the film and then immediately afterwards it was off home again.

No exploring around town where almost everything was closed, no drinks in a café beforehand, no sitting down at a restaurant for dinner afterwards, no socializing and maybe finding other Richard Armitage fangirls before or after the screening; we just drove in, saw the film and drove home again, like checking off a matter of business on a to do list. None of the joys surrounding such an event for a day out were to be had due to the semi lockdown Corona measures in The Netherlands. Yes, that felt weird but it was maybe also very fitting for the mood the play had left us in.

The cinema version of Uncle Vanya incorporated the empty Harold Pinter theatre at the beginning and the end of the play, which felt sad and almost a little eery. Due to the camera being right in there on stage and the very many close ups (be still my beating heart every time the camera was all zoomed in on Richard Armitage!) this felt even more initmate than it had felt back in February on stage in that relatively small theatre. The soliloquys directed in part straight to camera also gave it an initmate feel, it was as if the viewer was right there on the stage as well.

As I had seen the play before, I was curious to see what Mr Esther’s reaction would be to the play. He was struck by the desperation of the characters and how little change was possible for them but also by the references to climate change and how modern that seemed, along with how topical the references to a pandemic were. When the play was in the third act and it was mentioned that they were in September now and everything just seemed the same, day in and day out, Mr Esther turned to me and whispered, “This sounds just like 2020!”

As we discussed the characters afterwards, I realized that this time around I felt more empathy for Richard’s Dr. Astrov than I had back in February. His mention of coming through a pandemic, and how experiencing the death of a boy patient had finally broken him, just hit home more now than ever, now that we are also in a pandemic and we hear the harrowing stories of health care workers in hospitals. He also seemed less negatively pushy with Yelena (Rosalind Eleazar) than I had remembered and the scene when he talks with her and flirts with her over the maps is just so good, with all the underlying tensions and emotions on display.

With Sonya (Aimee Lou Wood), where in February his leading her on elicited gasps of frustration in the audience, this time around the reaction was not quite as strong, you just realized he could not give that kind of love to that young woman. Mr Esther admitted to even being glad those two didn’t end up together.

Also, his scenes with Vanya (Toby Jones), drunk or otherwise, were mesmerizing to watch.

Toby Jones as Vanya was just as heartbreaking and disappointed as I had remembered him and just as funny too. However, to me in this filmed version, his connection with Yelena was less close than it had seemed on stage in February. His desperation for her was still there but she seemed to reciprocate less than I remembered.

With all the actors, and most notably for me with Nana (Anna Calder-Marshall) and Yelena, the emotions were far more there and well visible in the close ups. Especially Yelena was stronger here than I had remembered her on stage, more emotional and desperate than I remembered, yet just as much a fish out of water as she had been then. Mr Esther mentioned how he found it hardest to connect with her because we somehow get to know too little of her back story. Yet, her feeling trapped came across stronger than ever to me.

As for Sonya, I found her in general less patronizing than I had found her to sometimes be when I saw her live on stage and her monologue at the end was just as touching as I had found it live. The Professor (Roger Allam) was just as narcissistic and too self-obsessed to really care about the people’s lives around him, which somehow reminded me of certain world leaders. I could so identify with Uncle Vanya’s frustration with the Professor.

Mr Esther was most impressed by Toby Jones (he loves how expressive Jones is) and Richard Armitage in this. No, he did not say that just to please me. So, as a fangirl, it’s extra nice to hear such praise from a non-fangirl (or -boy) for my main actor squeeze. In the end, after all the desperation and midlife crisis elements in the story, he found that the most realistic and hopeful one of them all was also the youngest of them all, Sonya. We left the movie theatre feeling a little otherworldly and yet some of it had also felt so familiar.

We had some time to discuss all this on our hour long drive home and Mr Esther and I were very glad we had shared this experience with each other. We ordered sushi from the car which was delivered ten minutes after we arrived home…

We now move on back to real life, stuck at home again during this pandemic. Just as the Uncle Vanya characters, we are also not able to change much in our lives right now with the restrictions around us that are there to protect us all. To quote Sonya at the end of the play:

What can we do? We must live out our lives. Yes, we shall live, Uncle Vanya. We shall live all through the endless procession of days ahead of us, and through the long evenings. We shall bear patiently the burdens that fate imposes on us. We shall work without rest for others, both now and when we are old.

And in the end we shall hope for the best.

Moments of zen

It’s been quite a week with the US elections completely fraying my nerves. I wonder how Joe Biden can unite such an entrenched and divided America, where half the population live in an alternate conspiracy theory universe, making wild accusations and calling the president-elect and his wife unspeakable things, and where the other half doesn’t understand why the people take solace in that universe. Fear seems at the bottom of it all but how can the fear be taken away? How can that divide be bridged, I wonder? But I decided not to wonder too much about all that today; today was about getting some zen back into my life.

It was a beautiful day out, so Mr. Esther and I decided to go for a walk in the woods, about 40 minutes away from where we live. The kids wanted to stay home and chill, so it was just the two of us. The weather was dry and pleasant, perfect for an autumn walk in the woods, with lots of mushrooms to admire along the way.

It was lovely to take the time to really talk with each other without other distractions around. We sat on chopped logs for a while, taking in the quiet autumn atmosphere and when we walked, it was lovely to walk through the rustling autumn leaves. I wish we lived closer to those woods, it’s so good for relaxing your nerves and finding a few moments of zen.

Cuddle cats

Every working day my black cat tries to get on my lap while I work at the dining table. The space between lap and table is not high enough that she can fit underneath the table while my chair is pulled up. This means that if she does make it onto my lap, I have to sit back and then I can’t type properly. So, nowadays I pull up the chair next to me and place it against mine and she finally settles down curled up against me.

Occasionally she will seize a moment, when I have moved or walked away and sat back down again, and she will claim my lap after all…

The cuddling cat struggle is real! It’s always great when my daughter comes home from school, she can then take over cat-sitting duties for a while (and loves it).

All cats we’ve had have always liked being on us or near us but I don’t think we’ve ever had a cat who insists this much on lying on us, any of us, all day long.

Our other cat, in his old age (he’s 15), also likes getting in the way to best position himself for cuddles, especially with my son whom he sleeps with most nights. Mr Esther jr was trying to get new sheets onto his bed yesterday, he walked out of the room for just a few seconds and returned to this…

As our red cat is old and sometimes takes a while to settle down, we tend to not want to move him when he finally does find a spot. Tough luck for him this time around when Mr Esther jr wanted to finish making up the bed, cuddles would have to wait for a later time.

Speaking of cuddle cats… I recently came across this absolutely adorable picture of Tom Ellis with one of his cats…

He never wanted cats until his wife wore him down, the love is real now…

Richard Armitage in his latest interview (thanks Servetus for the screenshots) says he may want to attempt starting a family by getting a dog first. I know he’s more of a dog than cat person…

…. but he sure looks nice with a cat and may I suggest that a cat might also do very nicely in his New York apartment?

Mr Esther, like Tom Ellis originally and Richard Armitage, never wanted cats either until I was able to convince him otherwise. He has now become a cat person too, despite them getting in the way of reading the newspaper, and they can be useful as iPad stands too.

I can attest that, with all that is going on in this world, the best battles you can have are cuddle battles with your cats!

Home office

The sun is shining today and both Mr Esther and I have no work calls pending this morning, so we have decided to work outside for now. It’s a tad chilly (even though Mr. Esther is wearing a t-shirt, I’m in a sweater) but we want to make the most of being able to sit outside before the autumn really starts here and we’ll be stuck inside more than ever due to quarantine measures that are still in place.

It all looks very sweet and romantic to be working side by side like this with my husband but actually Mr. Esther is very chatty this morning and I needed to concentrate on something (just done now) and I had to tell him to please stop talking. Of course, five minutes later I needed his help formulating something and now he needs me to shut up. It’s a good thing we aren’t colleagues at the same organization, we’d get annoyed with each other.

My fingers are a little cold and my work laptop battery is starting to run low, so I may need to relocate soon. Anyway, back to work now. Have a good week, everyone!