#StayAtHome entertainment

All these weeks of staying at home and you’d think it would be boring, but it’s not really, not for me. Yes, I do miss the freedom of coming and going anywhere I please, seeing my family and friends for real, going out to cinemas and restaurants, travelling and experiencing new things. However, for all that I miss, I also have things I am grateful for: I’m with my wonderful husband and kids (seriously, I could never get sick of having them around), I still have work that pays me a regular salary, a roof over my head, a garden I can sit in when the sun shines, I have online and phone contacts with people outside and, as a bit of an introvert, I am also very well able to entertain myself.

I take walks with my husband but sometimes also by myself, with music playing in my headphones as I enjoy the scenery. The other day I took a lovely walk in a little green area about a 7 minute walk away from my house. I was listening to the Yentl soundtrack that I hadn’t listened to in a while. Papa is always an emotional song for me, connected in so many meaningful ways to my own papa…

Anyway, listening to beautiful, relaxing music like that while walking can really lift your spirits, especially when the views are so pretty with nature blooming now in the spring…

Not that many people walk there at the end of the afternoon/beginning of the evening when I tend to take my walks, so it’s a good keeping-your-distance route. I love to see the trees starting to bloom and flowers popping up.

And there is more to entertain me! There are re-reruns on Dutch TV of my absolute favourite show of the end 1980’s / beginning 1990’s, the Australian TV series The Flying Doctors. We’re in the doctor Geoff and nurse Kate heydays right now, so even though I have seen all the episodes and I own them, I also do tune in now and again to see how they’re getting on and where they are in the story. We’re getting close to the big Geoff and Kate rift in season 4 when Geoff’s brother comes to town; that was one of the most exciting times of the whole series, I love seeing those episodes.

There were 9 seasons of that show, the last two seasons or so weren’t as fun, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a special on how they’re doing now, 30 years on.

On Friday evening I enjoyed a broadcast of  a 2011 The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary performance on YouTube. By the time I post this, it will almost be going offline, but oh my goodness it was good (and worth a donation)! I didn’t mean to watch the whole thing but I got stuck anyway. Ramin Karimloo plays the Phantom with such feeling and intensity, I became a fan instantly. And Sierra Boggess as Christine is just amazing. I had never heard of them before and they have great chemistry together. Here a clip of them perfoming at the Brit Awards in 2012…

I also loved the celebration bit after the musical ended and, with just small gestures, again Ramin Karimloo made a great impression on me.

And then last night there was another #stayathome highlight for me. For the first time ever I did a three person video chat with two very good friends of mine in the US. We always chat a lot in writing, have done so for 18 years, but until this corona crisis when seemingly everyone has taken to video chatting, we had never thought to do a video chat amongst ourselves before. We’re usually busy and rarely online at the same time but with all of us staying at home now, we figured we should be able to arrange something. So, last night at 9 pm my time and 3 pm their time we finally got together for a video chat and ‘hung out’ for close to two hours, also seeing husbands and a few kids. It was wonderful! The internet and social media really can be so amazing.

Besides all this I have also been going down a Jean Simmons rabbit hole in recent weeks. I had been going through my Richard Chamberlain collection a little while back and saw bits and pieces of The Thorn Birds again where Jean Simmons plays Meggie’s mother, Fee. She is so good in that role!

It made me think of The Big Country with Gregory Peck again, in which she co-stars, and I re-watched that (yup, it’s good movie!). I have always loved her in the role of school teacher Julie Maragon, I always wished for her role to have been bigger.

Looking at her filmography I know I have seen her in a lot of things already over the years, most of the them ages ago, and I have always liked her. Besides the roles I just mentioned I remember her best in Great Expectations from 1946, Black Narcissus from 1947 (excellent movie!), even though those were small roles…

… and of course in Spartacus from 1960. I remember enjoying the film and story but I mostly remember loving Simmons as Varinia. I remember the tension in the Laurence Olivier scenes and the love in the Kirk Douglas scenes.

I have also seen The Robe (1953) with Richard Burton, Young Bess (1953) with her then-husband Stewart Granger and Désiree (1954) with Marlon Brando, all historical costume dramas. I confess to remembering little about them, although Young Bess and Désiree stick in my mind as movies I did like at the time.

I came across a movie called Until They Sail and, when I saw the trailer, remembered I had seen that too. I watched that one again and boy, I really liked it! It’s about four sisters in New Zealand during the Second World War and the relationships they have with Americans stationed there. I loved the understated, almost philosophical scenes between Jean Simmons and Paul Newman…

… and the conclusion between them is just everything. It’s not only about them, though, it’s about four sisters who are very different at handling the same situation. I really liked it, it’s going onto my fave Jean Simmons movies list.

Last night, after that two hour video chat (I’m a night owl), I watched Guys and Dolls from 1955 that Simmons also did with Marlon Brando. I’d never seen that before, apart from bits and pieces. Both are only OK singers but oh my, they have such great chemistry! I loved them together in this movie, like in this clip.

The movie was alright (it apparently also has Frank Sinatra) but really shone and came to life when those two appeared together on screen. It was fun!

Yeah, this Jean Simmons rabbit hole is going deep. I want to re-watch Désiree now to see if the chemistry with Brando was also there in that, and I want to see Young Bess and Spartcaus again. I also need to see Angel Face, a film noir movie with Robert Mitchum in which I think she plays a psychopath; it is said to be one of her absolute best roles.

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Oh, and she did one with Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr called The Grass is Greener which I also saw many years ago, need to look into that one again as well.

I’m sure there will be more as I dig on.  I’m loving my journey of Jean Simmons re-discovery.

I feel it is so important to be social and stay at home and yes, I do feel restricted during this corona crisis but I am also lucky that I have enough ways to entertain myself. Thank goodness for the world at our feet on the internet and for a world that is beautiful outside.

At the Victoria & Albert Museum

Before I go into a whole “Armitage fan experience in London” post, I’m first posting about something else I was able to do there. I had arrived in London last Sunday morning and spent a lovely day just hanging out and chatting with my brother and some with my niece.

Then on Monday I had the day to myself and I decided to finally visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington. I had never been there and had always meant to go there one day. It was a good day to pick that, as it was a cold, dreary and very wet day. Picture taken from the bus I was on; the window was wet, it almost looks like an impressionist painting.

20200224_124333I got to the museum and somehow it seemed much larger than I had thought. I mean, I knew it housed a very diverse collection but this was much bigger than I had expected.

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I wandered around on the ground floor a bit, particularly liking the statues gallery…

… and then went in search of the café for something to eat. The old café was beautiful, but alas there was no space for me to sit there…

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So, I sat in the more modern section and really enjoyed my scone and cup of tea.

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Even going to a bathroom at the café was a museum experience with old tiles and fawcets bearing Georg Vth initials, which indicates they were somewhere from the beginning of the 20th century.

Speaking of royalty, on my way to the medieval section I passed the car Harry and Meghan had used at the end of their wedding day

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It was basically an ad for the vintage cars exhibition that was also on at the V&A but that I didn’t end up visiting.

In the medieval section I was struck by this early 16th century tapestry from Brussels depicting Queen Esther (she after whom I have been named):

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I also love looking at old books, like this early printed book from 1521, not long after the printing press had been invented.

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Some more nice vistas as you walk through the museum:

I have seen lots of medieval art and statues and the like in many museums over the years, so for me the high point of the museum was something I have not seen that much of: an exhibition on early photography. Even just looking at all those cameras before you enter the room was fascinating.

I was in awe seeing an early heliograph image of Christ carrying the cross from 1827. You can barely see the image but it’s there (click to enlarge)…

… and an 1840’s daguerreotype image of a collage of famous faces.

I liked this 1850s image. Imagine keeping that little dog still enough for long enough to create this image!

An early camera was on display…

And there were more fascinating 19th century images, with one image also of Alice Liddell, who was the ‘real’ Alice in Wonderland.

Absolutely fascinating, including some early 3D imagery you could see through this viewer but that I couldn’t take pictures of.

The other section I was fascinated with was the theatre collection (with a little movie glam thrown in).  The horse for the War Horse production was there…

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And other theatre costumes…

There was the Henry V costume as worn by Richard Burton…

And a costume designed by Dior for Vivien Leigh in a movie…

Vivien Leigh seems to have bequeathed some of her memorabilia to the V&A. The Oscar she had won for A Streetcar Named Desire in the 1950s was on display…

… as was a telegram addressed to Laurence Olivier (Vivien Leigh’s husband at the time) from Lillian and Dorothy Gish, movie stars of mainly the silent movie era, congratulating Leigh on her brilliant acting performance in Streetcar.

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There were more awards on display from other actors for other performances:

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And some music related memorabilia of David Bowie…

and Madness…

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This is just a tiny impression of all there is to see at the V&A and I saw way more than I took pictures of. It’s a great museum, very diverse and I by far haven’t seen everything. I may have to return there again sometime.

By the time I finally emerged from the musem at the end of the afternoon, it had stopped raining. I again took a bus, this time to Piccadilly Circus, and the view was somewhat less impressionist:

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I was off to go and meet Hariclea for evening theatre shenanigans at the Harold Pinter Theatre. More on that in my next post. 🙂

Music to my ears… partially…

So, there’s lots of audiowork from Richard right now…

First off, he narrated a very iffy romance called Wanderlust by Lauren Blakely. When Richard speaks about this project, it does sound interesting in theory…

… but in practice I remain sceptical. Also, it’s an audiobook, which I’m generally not into anyhow. Perry was kind enough to listen to it so that I don’t have to and share her thoughts. Thank you for that! And yeah, I’m convinced more than ever that this is not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good romance but this doesn’t sound good to me at all… Sounds like more sex than plot & character, and while I don’t mind a graphic scene or two, I hate when there’s too much of it. It’s basically why I skipped through 80% of Fifty Shades of Grey and never bothered with the two sequels. I’m not sure I want to listen to some guy or girl masturbating on tape and, really, I mostly only like to hear dirty talk from my husband anyhow… So, yeah, I’m skipping this one, this project is not music to my ears.

The other project, the Wolverine one, IS music to my ears, as I already posted about here! It’s the first audio project of Richard’s that I am actually looking forward to! He’ll be on a panel at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas on March 11th, talking about Wolverine. Here’s also a press release about that. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what he says there, hope some fans can go and report back!

A third audio project that Richard narrated was released yesterday and is The Martian Invasion of Earth which I understand is a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. This could possibly be music to my ears, even though it is an audiobook! I don’t think I ever read the actual book and the movie with Tom Cruise was alright but not great. The adaptation I have always really loved of this book, however, is the rock musical Jeff Wayne made in 1978, narrated by none other than the late and great Richard Burton (that man had a great voice)!

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It’s the only audiobook of sorts that I’ve ever really enjoyed. What I love is the combination of Burton’s voice, the manner of narration and the great music that gives this an extra dramatic character.

So, I’m curious about the adaptation Richard A. has done and whether it can live up to the Jeff Wayne / Richard B. version. Richard A. is following into some big footsteps!

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The bits I have heard do sound promising, so I am going to try this despite it being an audiobook. Here’s hoping this will become music to my ears.

Yesterday news also came that Richard is filming again, this time a horror picture. “Noooo!”, was my first thought. Guess he changed his mind about not wanting to do horror. This is definitely no music to my ears. If there’s one genre I really can’t do, it’s horror. He’s filming something called The Lodge now.

Yeah, I can’t follow him there, I don’t think. I was only just about able to bear Hannibal, and admittedly, I think he did a great job there! However, it’s not something I can revisit and watching more horror is not something I can do… probably…

This horror movie and the sex book job sound like odd choices to me and it has me wondering whether he actually wanted to do these, or whether he was just obligated to do them, or whether he still feels like he can’t refuse stuff during down times even if they are iffy, or whether he finds them to be new challenges that somehow give him something, or whether he’s just a workaholic. I hope the answer is about new challenges and I hope he enjoys them…

Anyway, quickly shaking off this ice cold horror vibe that just ran down my spine from the horror movie choice, let me move on to another piece of audio. This time no Richard, but Hugh Jackman (yes, I know, him again). I was driving to work yesterday morning, listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack yet again and having such a blast with it, I decided to film the experience on my way home from work. This is what came of it… It’s my current fave song from that soundtrack, called ‘From Now On’.

And while I have Richard and Hugh in one post yet again, here are two more pictures of these two dashing gentlemen. I saw this picture of Hugh…

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…. which somehow made me think of this picture of Richard, one of my faves ever of him…

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These are not music to my ears but a feast for my eyes to end this post on instead. 🙂