Victories, tennis discoveries, and holidays

Last week’s victories

One: On Sunday I got my second Covid vaccination and it feels like such a relief!

Two: My sister in law (well, not officially, but she is my younger sister’s awesome partner) has an autoimmune disease and it was uncertain whether she could even develop Covid-19 antibodies. She’s had two vaccinations and was tested earlier this week and it turns out the vaccination has indeed worked for her and she does have the antibodies now. Yay!

Three: after broad consideration and lengthy discussions my son has decided on a gap year once he receives his diploma in September and we fully support it. He is proactive about it too, has made an initial plan, and we are proud of his ability to follow his gut and do what’s right for him. It was a really hard sell for my mother and aunt, who had all sorts of opinions on it, and then it also became a whole big thing with my mother on other fronts not to do with my son. This has cost me an inordinate amount of energy last week, on top of being ill with the flu, but after a lot of reassurance and explaining, all is right with the world again and I am feeling better (flu-wise and mother-wise). Most importantly, though, my son’s choices have been accepted, which I hope will counteract any possible negative family gossip.


Tennis discoveries

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been following what I could of Wimbledon these past few weeks and there is some really exciting new young tennis talent coming up! I was especially struck by the 18 year old English player Emma Raducanu, who made an impressive Wimbledon debut but had to pull out.

I also loved the 17 year old American quarter finalist Coco Gauff, who had aleady impressed at age 15 two years ago (so, technically not a new discovery for me) and who is only two days younger than my niece in London…

The 25 year old Australian Ashleigh Barty, who won the women’s singles title this year, has also wormed herself into my heart. I probably should know her as she’s the number 1 female tennis player, but I’ve been out of it with the tennis for a long time and didn’t know her before Wimbledon. Now I do and I hope she’ll win more as well.

With the men, the new ones (to me) were the 25 year old Italian Wimbledon runner up Matteo Berrettini who was impressive…

… as was 20 year old Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime (who lost to Berrettini in the quarter final).

And 24 year old Polish player Hubert Hurkacz impressed by beating Roger Federer in the quarter final in three sets, winning the last set 6-0!

I think it’s time to dip back into following tennis more again (a long time ago I used to do so avidly). Now that these awesome young players are coming in, I feel a sense of excitement coming back into the sport for me and it will hopefully not only be the same ones winning all the matches anymore (although, don’t get me wrong, I love Roger Federer and I always root for him). They could all theoretically be my children, especially the younger players (Raducanu, Gauff and Auger Aliassime) who are the age of my own kids. Yikes, I’m really old.


Holidays

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, we have plans to go to France for our summer holidays in a month. We were doing really well here with our Covid numbers and then our government let go of many restrictions, and WHAM! Covid infections are on a steep rise again!

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65% of the Dutch population has received one dose of vaccination and about 39% is fully vaccinated but by far not enough people are protected yet. So, the infection numbers are sky-rocketing, especially amongst younger people who have been going out en-masse to discos and nightclubs where most of the infections have been happening. Last Friday during an emergency press conference some restrictions have been put back into place. This sky-rocketing of cases means that our country may become ‘red’ in Europe, which in turn means that travel restrictions for the Dutch may be tightened and this whole France holiday we have planned may have to be canceled. I really hope not, I really hope infections will drastically fall again, and I really hope we can still go on our socially distanced holiday as planned… I love my house, am comfortable in it, but I so need that break abroad. Fingers crossed.

Seven years of The Crucible

Yesterday Richard Armitage tweeted this…

… and I can relate to the feeling old statement. It doesn’t feel like seven years ago that this play was staged at The Old Vic in London and that I went to see it during ‘the summer of love’, a term coined by some Armitage fans at the time due to the outpouring of love for this production and for Richard during that summer run. The Crucible gave me a lot personally as well.

By the time I traveled with my husband to London in July of 2014 to see The Crucible, I had been an Armitage fan for 8 years. I was a solitary fangirl at the time, eagerly slurping up Richard Armitage news and discussions on message boards and on certain blogs, lurking but never jumping in myself. During that summer, Servetus on her blog very helpfully kept a running commentary on all stage door encounters that were shared online, hence making it really feel like a summer of love for me. Check out the archives on her blog for June – September of 2014 if you are curious to see pictures of fans with Richard and read fan reports.

In tandem with this trip I had also been wanting to jump in to blogging on my own blog for a long time. I had started this blog with a single post in 2013 but didn’t know where to go from there as I didn’t want to write a single issue blog, so I stopped again. I was feeling especially inspired by some other Armitage blogs I also read (like Guylty’s blog or Herba’s blog and some other really great blogs that have alas gone silent over time, but popped up again partially during last year’s online blog reunion, see this Twitter hashtag).

Anyway, during this summer of Crucible love I started to feel the pull to also share my Crucible play and stage door experience. I was just a bit iffy about the public attention, i.e. worried that if I did get active, I too would eventually be caught in fandom spats as I had seen happening from the beginning of my fangirling days. I wanted to share but I didn’t want the drama, real life was busy enough. Then in September of 2014 I finally decided to stop over-thinking and over-analyzing, I just jumped in and wrote about my Crucible experience. With that post, really, this blog was born. Richard Armitage in The Crucible and the fans’ enthusiasm had pulled me over the edge and finally got me blogging. I didn’t announce anything about that post anywhere and it wasn’t until a few months later that this blog even started getting any traction but the slow start suited me well.

Not only did The Crucible get me blogging, it also, very importantly, led to my first personal encounter with Richard Armitage whom I had admired from afar for all those years. I can still remember the excitement while meeting him and handing him a little gift and exhanging a few quick words with him. Alas my camera failed that evening (also it was dark outside that stage door) and the pictures are all grainy but I don’t mind so much as the memories are all still there and really do not feel like 7 years ago! I am forever grateful to Mr Esther who helped me get my Crucible booklet and ticket signed and my little North and South poster as well that I had brought from home.

He also took this picture of me with Richard (I look a little manic!), which is now still the lock screen of my phone before I unlock it to reveal Mr Esther and our cats.

What The Crucible also gave me was a renewed admiration for Richard’s acting talents. I’d not been a huge fan of Robin Hood and Spooks and while I did love him in The Hobbit, I longed to see him do a great role without prosthetics. And boy, did I get that with Richard as John Proctor…

Mr E and I were both quite blown away by the production, by the cast and especially by Richard in it. We were mesmerized throughout and feeling quite shaken and drained by the end of it. My husband, who has always been supportive of my fangirling hobbies but always benignly from a distance, was just as much in awe as I was. Richard Armitage on stage is a wonderful thing to behold, he has a big presence there, he feels large and powerful, and when we met him at the stage door after the play he suddenly felt slight and almost shy. He must have felt competely drained.

That Crucible experience stayed with me for a long time (still very much alive in my mind and heart when I finally posted about it a month and a half after I’d seen it) and I was pleased when it was announced that the play would be filmed. When it came to the cinema in early 2015, I took my mother to see it and she too was very impressed. So much so, in fact, that for my birthday two months later she even gave me a watercolour painting she had made of a Crucible scene. It is now hanging above my signed Crucible ticket and poster in our dining area. That painting became my blog header and I also had a phone cover made of it that Richard Armitage even signed a few years later at the Newcastle International Film Festival.

I am glad The Crucible made me able to share some fangirling with my husband and even with my mother and I credit Richard as John Proctor for giving me the push to set me off on this blogging journey that I have really been enjoying these past almost 7 years. The play has been an important catalyst for me and I have loved revisiting it again and again over the years. I still think it is one of the absolute best things Richard has done in his career, he would have really deserved that Olivier Award he was nominated for at the time.

Long story short: happy 7th anniversary to The Old Vic’s The Crucible production, I’m glad you were made.

Picture of the day

Today I accompanied my 85 year old mother as she got her second Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine…

It’s good to know that she will now be protected from the virus.

The Richard mask

We are going to the most southern point of The Netherlands next week to a rented self-contained cottage for our holiday and we plan on going for outings into Belgium and Germany as well, maybe even drive to Luxemburg for a day. We know the mask rules are stricter in those countries than they are here, so Mr Esther wanted to order a few extra face masks to take with us on holiday. He is a heraldry geek and ordered masks with the coat of arms he had once designed for himself and had registered as his own…

(Yeah, his ‘Corona beard’ is getting long!) He ordered them in three designs but as they came in a set of four, he had a special mask made for me as well. Ever supportive of me and my fangirling, he ordered a mask with the painting my mother had once made for me of The Crucible

Here is the mask in more detail..

Pretty cool, right?

Masks here in The Netherlands so far are only mandatory in public transport, not in other public spaces. Restrictions here aren’t as tight anymore and this week the news came that Covid 19 cases are on the rise again. It won’t surprise me if masks become mandatory here in public indoor spaces like shops and restaurants as well, which means I may be using this mask far more than just our holiday. So, Richard Armitage on my mouth and nose – not a bad way to walk around this summer.

Golden years

My younger brother found old slides in my mother’s apartment, I took them to be digitalized a few weeks ago in a store near me and today picked up the end result on a USB stick. What a little treasure it turned out to be! Memories of the golden years of my childhood came rushing back to me when I looked at the pictures, most of which were new to me.

The pictures of my childhood home brought out such warm feelings. This following picture was taken from the side of our house. We lived downstairs and there were two small, separate apartments upstairs that were rented to other people. The laundry you see drying must have been from our upstairs neighbour. I remember little of her (she moved away halfway through my childhood), I just remember she was an old lady called Frau Barur who liked to eat flowers and she scared me a bit. I remember she showed us pictures of herself as a dancer before the war, I think she was of Hungarian origin but not sure about that. She was also an Auschwitz survivor, I remember the number tattoo on her arm.

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The back of our house looked like this (you can see where the stairs are leading up to the upstairs apartment). We used to play on that little wall under the window. That used to be my bedroom that I shared with my older sister, I later moved to another bedroom. This picture was taken before I was born, though.

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In this next picture my older siblings are seated to the left of that back door to the garden and underneath the window that in later years would be the room I shared with my younger brother and sister. This looks like it was taken in the summer of 1968.

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We looked out over the valley from that side of the house and I used to adore looking at that view, at the houses below us and the rocks and trees and tiny buildings across the valley. I love that there’s a picture of that view in these slides. It’s also the view I remember seeing from my second bedroom at that side of the house. Between the trees, at the other side of the valley, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is located. I remember looking toward those trees, trying to make out the museum and really wanting to visit it. My parents never let me, though, as they thought I was too young for that (we lived there until I was 10). I finally did visit Yad Vashem years later.

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Another picture taken at the end of the 1970s (I think, going by how big my younger brother and sister are here) shows how our back garden matured. We used to love to play there.

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The pictures also include a few with my oldest brother before he died at age 7 from an accident in March of 1969 (a year before I was born). This is him at the back of the house…

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… and planting trees (I think) with my father, my grandfather and other people I don’t know. That blue Renault was ours. I think I have a flash of a memory of it, but not sure whether it’s a real memory or just a memory connected to seeing pictures of it. In my mind it was a darker blue, though. I think these pictures were also taken during the summer of 1968.

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Speaking of my grandfather, there are also pictures of him and my grandmother. I barely remember my grandfather, he died when I was 4, but I do remember feeling a great warmth for him. This picture of him, taken somewhere in the Old City of Jerusalem, may be one of my fave pictures that I know of him! I have no idea who those kids are.

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I also very much like this one of my grandmother relaxing. I think it was taken in the gardens of the nearby convent which had a guesthouse. My grandparents stayed there when they visited. Our house also belonged to that convent, we hired our house from the kind and fun nuns who lived there.

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I think I even know the exact spot where this following picture of my grandfather was taken, right outside the convent’s guesthouse.

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The official entrance to the convent looked like this. The man in the picture is my grandfather, I don’t know who the lady is.

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There are also a few pictures from inside the house. We used to have an old olive press right in the middle of our living room. This picture was taken after my brother died and before my mother’s pregnancy with me showed, I think it must be fall of 1969 going by the sweaters everyone is wearing. The curtains behind the olive press lead to the door to our back garden.

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The next few pictures were taken during Christmas of (I think) 1976 when I was 6 years young. I’m the little blonde girl. We had a load of guests that year and were singing all kinds of Christmas carols. The first picture is of me and my brother performing a song, probably “Little Donkey” which is the only thing I ever remember performing with him.

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There were also some lovely pictures of my dad. In the second picture of all the clergy coming out of the church, my dad is the man in the middle (dressed in black). The third picture is typical of how my dad used to gesticulate when he spoke, I love that picture.

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Last, but not least, when my parents were engaged in 1959-1960 they went to Israel for a year (before moving there again in 1967). My dad was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a year and my mother worked as a librarian in Tiberias at the ‘Scots Hospice’. They used to visit each other during weekends. This picture was of them during that time…

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The final picture I want to share here is of my mother and some sheep. Somehow this picture has a “the hills are alive with the sound of music” vibe to me. Going by the fact that my mother is wearing the same outfit as in the picture above, I think this may be outside Tiberias.

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There are of course more pictures (79 in total!) but these really were my favourites. It’s been so much fun discovering them.