APTCH – yes and nooooo!

So the “YES!” part is that A Place To Call Home has been renewed for a season 6! I am stoked for this as I have been enjoying season 5 so much. Filming starts in a few months and at the end of next year there will be even more APTCH to watch. Yay!

But now comes the “NOOOO” part, and let me warn you about spoilers ahead for season 5, after this following picture of George (Brett Climo) and Sarah (Marta Dusseldorp)! So, read on at your own peril!

APTCH season 5 Marta Brett

I just watched the 10th episode of season 5 last night. I was very glad Sir Richard got an arse-whooping but not before that prick completely humiliated our lovely doctor, Jack Duncan (Craig Hall), much to the worry of his wife Carolyn (Sara Wiseman), and us viewers, who saw Jack go off the deep end… Will Jack recover from this?

APTCH Jack CarolynBesides that, what was at least as unsettling was the final shot of Regina in that episode (which is not this picture)!

APTCH Regina

Up until the end of season 4 she was one of the best villains I have ever known. The actress Jenni Baird portrays mad and evil Regina so very brilliantly! Regina was finally stopped and sent to an asylum at the end of season 4 and then this season she came back different… reformed… And believe it or not, for such an anti-semitic murderer, I came to feel sympathy for her! Of course, throughout season 5 I was doubting whether she really had reformed, whether she still was evil-plotting. You never can be quite sure with Regina, and Sarah shows us this doubt, but the doubts left with the last disconcerting conversation between these two women in this past episode:

Regina:  Do you know why I so hate Richard? He’s a mirror. I see in him what I was to you. I see what can’t be forgiven, why I can’t hope for a future with the family.
Sarah: Which you can’t.
Regina: Without it, what do I have?
Sarah: You must have some idea of what’s ahead.
Regina: A void.
Sarah: Then you need to fill it.
Regina: With? I spent 3 years regaining my sanity, a year establishing it, months earning your trust – all to make reparation and once that’s done…. there’s nothing but guilt for my crimes… Millie Davis… Brian Taylor, yes, I did shoot him… I’m sure you never doubted…. That’s what will fill the void: guilt for their death.
Sarah: Which means?
Regina: Punishment. Whichever one I deem fit.

And now, at the end of that epsiode, the final shot is of Regina… lying dead (drowned?) on a beach! Noooo! What will A Place To Call Home be without the evil, scheming and possibly/probably reformed Regina? I was truly shocked and wasn’t ready to let her go but apparently it was time. I will miss Regina on this show and believe me, that surprises me too! More spoilers: here’s an interview with actress Jenni Baird about it.

Now we need to find out how she died! Suicide seemed suggested in that conversation she had with Sarah but in the end, I think it was Sir Richard who did this to her…  So much drama! And two more episodes to go…

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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…

Scallywags_ed

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!

APTCH season 5 – halfway mark

A Place to Call Home has started season 5 now, with (I think) 12 episodes in total. Last weekend episode 7 aired, so we’re at the halfway mark for this series. I have only gotten around to (binge-) watching them these past few evenings after emerging from my Suits cocoon. And boy, it is good again! Beware: spoilers ahead, so read at your own peril!

The show starts 5 years after season 4 ended. George (Brett Climo) and Sarah (Marta Dusseldorp) are a couple but a secret one, albeit an open secret. Sarah lives with their son David in a separate house on George’s property (Ash Park). They can’t be together because legally George is still married to Regina, whom he still hopes to be able to divorce. They need to keep up appearances because George is in politics but he comes over to Sarah’s often, although he takes care to never actually spend the night…

Regina (Jenni Baird), in the meantime, is in the insane asylum and after 5 years seems like a very changed woman. She is able to convince her carers that she has changed enough to eventually be released.

The big question throughout these 7 episodes is whether she really is different and good now. She certainly seems to be sincere and apologetic, trying to make amends, but after all the truly terrible things she has done over the 4 seasons before this, it really is hard to believe. George confronts her…

APTCH Regina George

… as does Sarah (I find it magical watching those two women playing off each other on-screen!)…

… but Regina remains humble and in one of the latter episodes tries to take responsibility for her actions and explains some of her actions to Sarah…

Yet, she is still in contact with the absolutely evil Sir Richard (Mark Lee), who, while pretending to be a friend and advisor to George, really wants to take him down!

Sir Richard has been ‘grooming’ her to help him exact his revenge on George, but the question remains: is Regina really in his pocket or is she really repentant? Her actions suggest she really is repentant, as she warns the Bligh family about Sir Richard several times. Yet, she also reports some information to Sir Richard via phone, so it all remains a little dubious…

APTCH Regina (2)

And there are more characters to follow, like George’s sister Carolyn (Sara Wiseman) and her husband Jack (Craig Hall). They are going through a rough patch in their marriage. Carolyn still misses her progressive life in Sydney and tries to find her place (and something to do) as the wife of a town doctor, while Jack is far more conservative and set in his ways. It breaks my heart seeing them so tense together, because they were such an adorable couple (they are married in real life too, btw!).

They are trying to work through it, which becomes clear in a tender moment, but the question really remains whether they can make it through this.

The only truly happy couple are Elizabeth (Noni Hazlehurst) and Douglas (Robert Coleby), who have now been married for 5 years.

Yet A Place To Call Home wouldn’t be A Place To Call Home if some drama didn’t hit and it hits hard when Douglas become terminally ill!

Douglas raises the question of euthanasia, but the world they live in isn’t ready for that. In the last episode so far (number 7), Douglas dies and the actual circumstances of his death are examined. It is heartbreaking stuff and some of it reminded me of my dad passing, which made it extra hard to watch.

It was so beautifully acted by the two but especially by Noni Hazlehurst as Elizabeth. Her grief is palpable, difficult to watch and hits close to home… This last episode shows the grieving Elizabeth leaving Ash Park and makes me fear the worst for her…

APTCH Elizabeth says goodbye (1)

We also have Anna (Abby Earl), who is long divorced from Gino and trying to follow-up the success of her first novel with a second one but suffers from writer’s block. She is in a relationship with her editor, called Ed (Matt Day) but holds back with him, due to the hurt she still feels over her divorce.

The secret boyfriend of Anna’s brother James, Dr. Henry Fox (Tim Draxl), has started working at the Inverness hospital. He butts heads with Dr. Jack, who is less progressive than Henry, and is desperately waiting for James and his wife Olivia to return from Europe (the expectation is that they will have created grounds for divorce during their European trip).

Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood) eventually does return from Europe, with her little son Georgie, but James has stayed behind in Europe!

George, upset, calls his son James (David Berry, who now has a part in Outlander, which I guess explains why he isn’t in APTCH so much). James explains that he has decided to stay in the Riviera and build his life there, where he feels he can be more himself than at home in Australia. He has also reunited with his old secret love, which of course breaks Henry Fox’s heart…

I love that A Place To Call Home addresses all these social issues. Being gay is an issue, euthanasia was addressed this time around, psychiatric treatment is again referenced (it was a bigger issue in past seasons when they tried to cure James being gay through psychiatric and shock treatment), rape is an issue (never do a business meeting alone with a man in an apartment or hotel room – feels very topical with all the #metoo news nowadays!), there is a storyline this season of an Aboriginal man named Frank (Aaron Pedersen) and how much every day racism impacts his life…

We also have Sarah struggling with religion. She is Jewish and observant…

APTCH Sarah George Shabbat

… but, other than Shabbat celebration with friends (of whom the daughter is struggling with her Jewish identity), Sarah hasn’t done much to raise her son David in the Jewish faith. It becomes a huge discussion point between her and George when she decides she really does want to raise David Jewish after all.

Sarah is also confronted with her past in the concentration camp of Ravensbrück during World War II when, during a social event, she runs into a former camp guard! It totally throws her off course…

… and she later goes to confront this lady called Gerda/Frieda (Helen Thompson) in her hotel room. This is a tour de force by actress Marta Dusseldorp who battles with initial fear but overcomes it, becomes angry, threatening and makes it clear to Gerda that in the end her past will catch up with her.

She later tells George stories of what Gerda did in Ravensbrück, which too is heart wrenching…

I am still really loving this series and I especially love the very strong female roles. Sarah, Regina and Elizabeth are the three most fascinating characters and I swear they all 3 deserve awards for their performances! I also really like Carolyn (she could use an award as well!) and I like Anna too. The men are not exactly supporting characters but I think the stories really are mostly women-driven. You don’t see a lot of that on TV, I feel. Of the men, George and Jack are great to watch as well and I am so sorry we had to lose Douglas… I am loathing Sir Richard, which means the actor is playing his role well, and I am also sorry we’ll be having less James (I like him more than Henry).

There is still enough to explore for the rest of this series and if I were religious, I’d be praying that they won’t let Elizabeth die! I’m also hoping Sir Richard, that schemer and rapist, comes to some horrible end.  And will Caro and Jack make it? Will George and Sarah finally be able to marry? Is Regina really done with her evil, scheming ways? Many questions and more to be answered in the second half of this season and I am looking forward to it! I hope there will be a sixth season after this…

A Place to Call Home!

My latest obsession – an Australian tv series set in 1953/1954 called A Place to Call Home!

APTCH (2)

By accident I caught most of the first episode of the series here on TV and was instantly intrigued. Got my hands on the rest of the series and I am hooked now! I’ve been bingewatching all the episodes, I just can’t get enough…  Apparently the series was unexpectedly canceled after 2 seasons but by popular demand of many fans was resurrected on another channel. I find it absolutely wonderful that a series can be revived because of fans! Series 3 finished airing at the end of 2015 and series 4 will be made this year.

The story centres around the nurse Sarah Adams who in 1953 returns to Australia after having lived in Europe for 20 years.

 

APTCH (8)On board ship she meets George Bligh, a widower with a 20 year old daughter and a just married son. They are returning to Australia after the son’s wedding to a young English woman.

APTCH 1x01 (43)

Sarah works as a nurse during the 3 week ship crossing and has to care for George Bligh’s mother who takes an instant dislike to her, which is heightened when Sarah saves George’s son from a suicide attempt.

Once in Australia Sarah visits her own mother who wants nothing to do with her, as Sarah converted to Judaism before the war and her mother can not forgive her for that. So Sarah writes to George, who had told her of a job opening in the hospital of the town he lives in, and she goes there – to try and find a home and settle down, something she hasn’t been able to do since the war in Europe.

Sarah is full of mystery and only over several episodes is her tragic and difficult past revealed in bits and pieces as she tries to fit in to life in the town of Inverness. She has to deal with a venomous Mrs. Bligh who desperately does everything in her power to make Sarah leave but she also makes friends: with the hospital doctor, and an older man she had to care for who offers her a place to stay, and of course, George Bligh. The characters in this series – I love them!

Sarah (Marta Dusseldorp – Dutch surname, the actess’s dad is apparently Dutch!) is the woman who has risen from a very dire past and wants to make a living for herself. She also finds herself falling in love, something she had never expected to ever do again.

vlcsnap-2016-01-30-23h02m57s917

George (Brett Climo) is the warm and gentlemanlike friend who falls in love with Sarah. He is also the reason why I got stuck watching that first episode! I remembered the actor from my absolute favourite TV series at the end 1980s/early 1990s (also Australian) called The Flying Doctors. He played Dr. David Ratcliffe in it who eventually came to a tragic and sudden end and that absolutely shocked me at the time (and I still haven’t forgiven the writers for that!). Anyway, ‘David’ is now kind George Bligh!

APTCH 1x01 (96)

George’s son James (David Berry) is newly wed to Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood) but suicidal, hiding the secret that he is gay… That storyline is heartwrenching, absolutely worth the watch in seeing how he tries to deal with the ‘abomination’ of being gay and how his wife, who eventually finds out, tries to deal with that as well.

placetocall-olivia-james

George’s daughter Anna (Abby Earl) is a happy, seemingly carefree twenty year old, in love with neighbouring young Italian farmer Gino (Aldo Mignone), which has to remain secret as he is not upper class and wealthy enough to be an official suitor for her.

Anna Gino

George’s mother, Elizabeth Bligh (Noni Hazlehurst), is a formidable woman. No scandal is allowed to touch her family. She is a lioness fighting for her cubs, wanting ‘what’s best’ at all cost, trying to control them and fit into convention and yet, deep inside, there is a heart there… somewhere.

Mrs Bligh

Then there’s Dr. Jack Carson (Craig Hall), who feels an instant connection to Sarah but has his own war time demons to deal with. A warm character who has a very close connection to Mrs. Bligh and only as the story goes on do we understand why. He also turns out to have a connection to George’s sister Carolyn (Sara Wiseman) who, as the ‘black sheep’ of the family, lives a bohemian life in Sydney.

APTCH (7)

And there’s tough farmer Roy Briggs (Frankie J. Holden) with a heart of gold who instantly connects with nurse Sarah. They develop a warm friendship, a father-daughter kind of relationship, and he offers her a home. There’s also town gossip Doris (Deborah Kennedy), who needs to be carefully navigated. She means well, but can’t help poking her nose into everything.

Roy Doris

Last but by no means least, later on in the first series we are also introduced to Regina (Jenni Baird), the sister of George’s deceased wife. She is chillingly, menacingly evil and will do absolutely anything to ensnare George for herself.

Regina

Ah yes, I’m so hooked! A story about a lost woman, damaged by the war, trying to find herself and a life. There’s romance, secrets, heartwrenching drama, intrigue and love in all sorts of forms.

APTCH 1x06 (8)APTCH 2x02 (21)

I love that this series centers around a middle-aged woman and man. I love that it’s mostly about people who have actually experienced life and still have new challenges to meet. However, it is also about young people starting to deal with what life has to throw at them. I love the 1950s setting, the effect of the war still very much being felt and still influencing the lives of the people. I love that it raises issues such as learning to live with past trauma, homosexuality, antisemitism, interfaith relationships, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, trying to deal with social conventions. It all looks gorgeous too, sets are beautiful and then there are the cars and the fashion – all in all, a delight to watch! Here’s a trailer:

 

I hear of comparisons of this series to Downton Abbey but while I have never been that big on Downtown Abbey, I am very big on A Place to Call Home! The series is slowly starting to gather an international following as some countries are picking it up for broadcast. Should this have awakened your interest: the DVD’s are available from Amazon. There will be a series 4 and already I can hardly wait for it! I will have to, though, as I think they haven’t started filming it yet…