Back to Vanya and Harry too?

I just now finished watching a press conference on Dutch TV about new Covid 19 measures. Two weeks ago we went into a stricter lockdown and today, because the trends are carefully improving, a few things are opening again. We remain in a partial lockdown which, for instance, means that hotels and restaurants will remain closed, but cinemas are allowed to open again for now, with distancing measures in place. I was lucky enough to see Uncle Vanya twice on stage in London at the beginning of this year (here and here) but I’ve also been really curious to see the filmed version, which has been getting rave reviews. And so I immediately checked the only place I know in The Netherlands that had planned to show the filmed version of Uncle Vanya. Sure enough, tickets are available now, even though there aren’t too many. I immediately booked two tickets for Mr Esther and myself on November 29th…

It’s something to really look forward to! I hope the flattening of the Corona curve continues and the cinema will still be open in 12 days time.

In other Richard Armitage related news, Dawn French will be doing a little more of The Vicar of Dibley for Christmas. I doesn’t look like Richard will be there as Geraldine’s husband Harry…

… but I live in hope.

Existential crisis

It’s been 11 days since my last confession… erm… post, which for this year (as I’ve been posting regularly) is quite a lot. Even all of Richard Armitage’s regional BBC interviews haven’t drawn me out (I’ve not listened to them all yet). I did post my regret on Twitter the other day for not being able to see Uncle Vanya in the cinema…

… and I do read the fun stuff here and there (alas, a lot is also politics which is depressing!) but overall I’m feeling not so great and have been withdrawing into my shell. Every once in a while an existential crisis creeps up on me and I wonder if I’m at where I want to be at in my life and the answer is partially no. That partially no is what is getting to me right now. The great things: I have a great husband, lovely children, a nice family, I like my house and I have a steady job and income in these insecure Corona times. And there’s the crux – I’m not liking the job so much, it’s boring to me but most importantly I just don’t care for it; I don’t care for the product I’m pedaling (Office 365 and especially Microsoft Teams) and I don’t much care anymore for the field I’m in. Teams is important for working together virtually but this whole IT thing – I kinda rolled into it over the years and I’m pretty much done with it.

The social work gene in me keeps acting up and getting louder and louder but I’m not qualified to do social work and I’m not ready to go to school again for 4 years to become qualified. Plus, once I am qualified, who would want to hire a mid fifties newbie to the field? Writing also appeals to me but I don’t want to write on command and just writing this blog or any other fluff I do write on occasion is a hobby and doesn’t earn me any money and really won’t pay for anything in the future either. Also, sometimes I feel like I’m just done working with and for others in an office, I want to do my own thing and be my own boss. But what kind of own company could I start and in these uncertain times? It makes no sense to just go off and sorta try something… So, I feel stuck and Mr. Esther is also not sure what I could do about all of this. And I hate saying that when I have this much privilege in my life, but nonetheless it is how I feel. I want work that fulfills me and what I do now really doesn’t do that for me.

So, I’m not sure how to go on from here. I try to do things I like in my spare time but that is also not enough to fulfill me. I’m feeling pretty blah about it all and even Richard’s latest project, announced last night, can’t fill my heart with complete joy…

I liked The Stranger well enough (nowhere near as good as Uncle Vanya but other than that the best thing since The Crucible), yet too many red herrings in the story put me off a bit, so another Harlan Coben collaboration doesn’t completely excite me. It is crowd pleasing stuff, though, and it can enhance Richard’s profile. He seemed to genuinely love working on The Stranger and with Coben, so I really am thrilled for him (but a little less so for me). I do wonder whether that priest project is still on, I was more excited for that one.

Anyway, I’m in my little Esther-cave right now and after many meetings this morning, I am now quickly letting all these thoughts flow from my fingers onto the keyboard. I’m doing alright generally but trying, yet again, to figure out what I want out of life… That seems to be changing constantly… Confusing times…

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!

Soundtrack of my life – the Esther edition

With this post I’m following in the footsteps of Michele (who did this back in June) and Sue (who did this recently and I’m looking forward to her part two). They answered the same questions that Richard Armitage answered in his NME interview in June about music accompanying life and I’m going to do that here as well. So, here goes…

The song I wish I’d written

Richard says: The Beatles – ‘Yesterday’. Pretty song, always reminds me of my older sister who sometimes used to sing the word “Yesterday” to me when calling me (my name Esther is hidden in that word). My own answer to this question is David Bowie’s Rock ‘n Roll Suicide.

I love the slow build up of the song and the weird ass lyrics. The song meant a lot to me at a certain time in my life (more about that below).

The first song I remember hearing

Richard says: Grease – ‘Summer Nights. Yeah, no. I mean the song is fine but I never loved it, it was never really a part of my life either and I was never very fond of Grease when it later did reach my consciousness. For this one I think I’ll say Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens (as he was called at the time). I remember my mom loving that song and that it was sung at the christening of my baby brother when I was around 4 (one of my earliest memories).

The first album I owned

Richard says: The Magic Roundabout – ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’. This show wasn’t part of my youth at all, so I can’t really say anything about that. My first album that I adored was an album of English language nursery rhymes that I loved to listen to and I remembered it drove my family crazy when I wanted it to be played over and over again (we only had the one record player in the house). I just did a quick image search on google with the words: “nursery rhymes album panda” (I remembered a panda on the cover) and sure enough I found pictures!

I can distinctly remember the man on the record saying “Hello boys and girls” and then talking and singing those nursery rhymes. I think I may even still have the LP if I look through the records we still have tucked away in the attic.

The first album I think I ever purchased for myself was the album Felicita by the Italian duo Al Bano & Romina Power (on cassette!) when I was about 12 or 13. Even then it was not cool for youngsters to like them but I just loved Romina (who is the daughter of Hollywood actor Tryone Power) and I loved them in secret for quite a while. My taste developed into quite a different direction after that.

The first gig I went to

Richard says: Tina Turner in Vienna, 2009. Really? 2009? When he was 38 and based in London? I’m sure he must have been to other gigs as well before that. Now, I may be a late starter myself going to big concerts like that but never as late as that. I never had the funds as a teen to go to bigger concerts, so it wasn’t until I was 19 or 20 that I started going to a few concerts. I know I saw The Clash and Bruce Springsteen (my sister was a fan) around that time but the first one that really stuck with me was seeing David Bowie in the summer of 1990 in Nijmegen during his Sound and Vision tour. We weren’t too far from the stage and I was in heaven.

The song that reminds me of home

Richard says: ABBA – ‘Happy New Year’. Ah, ABBA – I think they were my first favourite band when I was around 10 years old (I used to tape their songs from the radio on my cassette recorder), so those songs can also take me back. What really reminds me of home, however, is every time I hear some well known Israeli song, like Hava Nagila or Hevenu Shalom Aleichem or Siman Tov! Mazel Tov! For my answer to this question I’ll pick the 1979 Israeli Eurovision winning song Hallelujah by Milk and Honey (lyrics and what they mean can be found here).

The song was huge in Israel and I remember singing an English version in school several times. This song can always bring me back to my childhood home and watching Eurovision together with my family.

The song I can no longer listen to

Richard says: Lonnie Donegan – ‘Nobody’s Child’. I didn’t know that song, so it’s new to me and I don’t really have an opinion on that one. For me the first song that comes to mind is I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. I adored that song when it came out in 2010, listened to it all the time, danced around the house to it (with the kids, who were about 9 and 6 at the time, and without the kids). I also loved the Oprah flash mob to that song and then at some point I just over-listened and suddenly completely had enough of it. Here’s the Oprah flash mob video that I just this evening watched again for the first time in eons. I still like the flash mob part but I think I’m still overdosed on the song…

The song that changed my life

Richard says: The Eurythmics – ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’. I always liked that song but it didn’t have that great of an impact on me. For me, I’ll pick the same song I answered to the first question here, David Bowie’s Rock ‘n Roll Suicide. It really pulled me through some dark times when I had no clue what to do with my life when I was around 20 and Bowie yelling “Oh no love, you’re not alone!” really gave me hope and helped me reach out to others to find a way. When I saw a handwritten transcript of the lyrics of that song in the “David Bowie Is” exhibition back in 2016 (just 11 days before Bowie died!), I took a quick clandestine picture of it and actually wiped away a tear. This song just means a lot to me.

The song I want played at my funeral

Richard says: Kool & the Gang – ‘Celebration’. That feels like a bit of a cop-out answer to me somehow. I am all for celebrating life but I also think it’s important to allow contemplation and some pain in when you lose someone. (Modified to add that on re-reading this the term ‘cop-out’ may have been too strong a word and reaction to this song choice of Richard’s. It’s just that somehow this choice doesn’t seem as genuine to me as the other choices mentioned, but then that’s probably all in my head and has nothing to do with Richard.) For my own funeral, I really wouldn’t know which song I’d like! I was going to pick a poem instead by W.H. Auden, as so brilliantly performed in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but that’s a cop-out too. And then I remembered one of the very, very few Dutch songs that I like. This one was played quite a lot around the time my father was deteriorating and I have this image of me driving away from my dad’s nursing home in his final days while it played on the radio. It’s a very sweet song and I think I wouldn’t mind having that played at my funeral. It’s called Mag Ik Dan Bij Jou (literally translates to “Can I then with you”) by a Dutch singer and comedian called Claudia de Breij. It’s about finding shelter with a loved one and the song completely captures my heart…

The song I listen to before performing

Richard says: Imogen Heap – ‘Hide and Seek’. Yeah, not really my music. I’m not a performer, so not sure what would be a good one for me. But if it’s about getting keyed up, then maybe a Muse song? These lines from Knights of Cydonia (at around 4 minutes into the video below) feel very apt for the time we live in now.

Come ride with me, Through the veins of history,
I’ll show you a God, Falls asleep on the job
.
And how can we win, When fools can be kings?
Don’t waste your time, Or time will waste you
.”

The song I do at karaoke

Richard says: Queen – ‘Radio Gaga. Sounds fun enough. As for me, I don’t do karaoke. Ever. If I really had to, I could maybe do an ABBA song or something else really easy. The lower range of Chris de Burgh’s voice suits mine quite well, so I could maybe do Patricia The Stripper but then maybe some stripping action would be required with that as well, so better not. Somehow You Are My Sunshine springs to mind. Not that I particularly love it but it’s easy and nice enough. Here it is in the Johnny Cash version, his voice makes the song more interesting.

The song I discovered during lockdown

Richard says: Daði Freyr – ‘Think About Things’. That really is a fun one, especially that video! I haven’t really had any big music discoveries while in lockdown (I don’t think) until recently. The Lucifer tv show has some really great music that is completely new to me. I was looking for something different to listen to the other week, decided to search for some of those songs and I found a whole Lucifer themed playlist on Spotify. Some of these songs are a real revelation and I love that I am discovering a whole lot of great new music this way. Let me share a few of my discoveries…

I could go on but these are already five songs instead of one. So, here is the Spotify playlist I used, should anyone else be interested as well. I’ve only been listening to these for the past week or two, so I am still traveling on my road to discovery.

That’s it, my answers to the NME questions. Thanks for the inspiration NME, Richard, Michele and Sue. Anyone else interested in playing along?

The end of an era

I read in a blog post on More Than Thornton that the C19 message board is closing! I logged in to C19 and sure enough, there was the announcement from a month ago. Oh man, that truly is the end of an era.

When North & South first aired in the fall of 2004, the BBC message boards famously crashed because of an overwhelming desire of fans to talk about that adaptation and, more specifically, about who the hell that man was who had played John Thornton!

When I first watched North & South myself in the spring of 2006, I too quickly developed a thirst for knowledge about all things Richard Armitage. In my online search I soon came across C19, requested and was granted membership, and my quenching of that thirst could begin, with all the wealth of information right there. I just checked, I registered at C19 back in April of 2006 (under a pseudonym)…

I was mostly a lurker at first, then did comment some, but always stayed in the background in the Richard Armitage sections. I did become more active in other sections for a little while, apparently I have 519 comments/posts to my name, but in time it all just ebbed away and I stopped going there, finding other places and sources of information and, more importantly, I started my own little bubble with this blog.

Over the years, I would on occasion go back to lurk and read up on news and see how people reacted to certain projects. In recent years I have maybe logged in 2-3 times a year and while I hardly ever popped in anymore, it was always nice knowing that C19 was there. Of all the message boards I frequented (there were a few) this one has always been my go-to one. And now it is closing down on November 2nd…

Even though I am sorry for the small community that still goes there, I do understand the decision and I am grateful to those who have put in the hard work of keeping it going all these years. May everyone stay safe, well and happy and continue the fangirling in other places. Thank you for the good times, C19!