Happy Birthday, Mr. Armitage!
The return home meant one thing for me this weekend: intense preparation for the semester ahead. (I also have got to go shopping for staple foods — given the temperatures here and the potential for insect infestations, I always toss all my food before I leave for the summer.) I’ve got one syllabus done and another drafted, so I’m hoping not to be up all night on Tuesday and also that the resulting potentially sane start to the semester will guarantee me an easier life. So even though I dreamed of posting my best, most inspiring prose in honor of Mr. Armitage’s birthday and jotted down a few ideas — as I sit down to draft this, it’s 10:58 p.m. here, so it’s just before 5 a.m. on August 22nd in London, if that’s where he is — it wasn’t going to happen today. (I’m a bit relieved, actually, that common sense took over. Maybe my CWS isn’t as bad as I feared.) On the other hand, I have 25 more hours before August 22nd is over. The drive down and all of that Uhtred of Bebbanburg got me feeling really emotional, so maybe I’ll get inspired tomorrow.
Other authors in the Armitage blogosphere have written some good stuff, though. I especially like Phylly3′s slide show of pictures of Mr. Armitage smiling. Maria Grazia devoted a very sweet installment of her weekly RA Friday feature to the theme. (Surfing around was a reminder that I have to get my blogroll widget working as I’m losing track of all the Armitage writing that’s going on and I don’t want to miss it!)
Haven’t sent a card, written a limerick, or posted a birthday message at Richard Armitage Net? Mr. Armitage has repeatedly mentioned that he’d be delighted if fans shared their Armitage love with others and donated to some of the charities near and dear to his heart, organizations that help those less fortunate than those of us who have free time and powerful internet connections to sit at computer screens and consume his work. We can do this via his pages at JustGiving. I’ve sponsored British colleagues who were running to fundraise for cancer research before via this page, and it’s easy to use if you have a credit card. Frankly, in these straitened times I’m hesitant to donate to British charities when I see so much need here under my own nose every day — but there’s an outpost of the Salvation Army here, and I’m sure there’s one in your neck of the woods, too. Is today the day for a donation in Mr. Armitage’s honor?
And this is going to sound corny — as I write this I worry that I am stealing Natalie’s thunder here with the practical life lessons — but many people I’ve met electronically since starting this blog have mentioned that Armitage’s personal qualities have inspired them emotionally to contemplate their behaviors on an ethical level. Watching his example of modest generosity has inspired us to try to be more modest and generous. (I can’t resist pointing out that this idea was the central notion of history instruction during the Renaissance and Reformation: students were to historical examples to learn to love virtuous behavior and shun vice. That Renaissance notion is at the base of our idea that we study history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.)
If that’s the case for you, too, maybe tomorrow could be a day for us all to do something modest, kind, and generous in the vein of an Armitage character.
You can start small, with a gift to someone who will appreciate it, even if he can’t express it clearly:
Paul Andrews (Richard Armitage) offers to buy his stepson Kieran some more beer for his planned party in Between the Sheets 4. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
Or to someone who won’t appreciate at first how hard you’re trying:
Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) gives Marian (Lucy Griffiths) a pretty dress to wear during Henry of Lewes’s visit to Nottingham in Robin Hood 2.6 (“For England”). Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
Mr. Armitage’s characters seem to run into this problem frequently. But showing generosity to someone who can benefit from your kindness even though they have harmed you is a particular sign of virtue, I think. (As long as it doesn’t turn into stalking, of course.)
Shot from the filming of North & South 3, in which Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) brings a gift of fruit to Margaret’s invalid mother. Source: Русскоязычный Cайт Pичардa Армитиджa
You can invite a crazy friend to dinner and say nice things about him in front of third parties:
A dinner party in Cezanne’s honor hosted by Claude Monet (Richard Armitage) in The Impressionists, episode 3. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
Dr. Alex Track (Richard Armitage) checks on the status of a comatose patient he’s treated as he goes off duty in The Golden Hour 1.1. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
You can do something for your friends that’s kind of a pain and use a skill or talent you have to help them out of a difficult situation:
Harry Kennedy (Richard Armitage) reports to Geraldine that he’s finished doing all of her friends’ tax returns except for those of Owen, who’s reported himself as dead to the tax office in Vicar of Dibley: “A Wholly Happy Ending.” Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
Or you can make an even bigger gift: of yourself.
John Standring (Richard Armitage) tells Carol he’ll marry her and sell the house he inherited from his grandfather and invest the money in her bankrupt farm in Sparkhouse 3. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
You can help out a troubled teenager, which can not only be really stressful, but can also lead to unpleasant life-changing consequences:
John Porter (Richard Armitage) defuses the suicide bomb attached to the teenager As’ad in Strike Back 1.1. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
Or give the biggest gift of all: Risk your life to save someone else’s. Since I’ve referred to Judaism, I’ll mention that Christianity also has articulated a strong position on the importance of self-sacrifice on behalf of others. (I’m writing about those two religions because I know them intimately — I’d be delighted if anyone wanted to comment on the significance of selflessness in other religious traditions of our fascinating, diverse world. In these divisive times we need to learn as much as we can about any potentially shared or universal human values.)
Lucas North (Richard Armitage) carries the Pakistani prime minister out of a hotel that’s about to explode in Spooks 8.8. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery
Really, as Armitage’s roles reveal, the possibilities are endless. And once you start, maybe others will follow. I know Judaism includes a belief in this version of “One Thing Leads to Another,” and it seems implicit in the Golden Rule as well. But even if you don’t want to make the ultimate sacrifice, you might just pass on a kindness to someone who needs one tomorrow in the spirit of our favorite modest guy: the man who insists, stubbornly, that our love for Thornton has nothing to do with him and who mentions every Christmas that he way more than enough to make him happy already and that others can use our help more.
Anyway: I have no idea if he is celebrating happily, avoiding thinking about the day, or doing something entirely different. I’ve found in my own life that celebrating my birthday can be a catch-as-catch can affair, particularly when I am not in Germany, where celebrating your birthday is a social obligation that you owe to your friends. Whatever he’s doing today, whoever he’s with, I hope he’s happy and healthy.
Happy birthday, Mr. Armitage. Many happy returns! (which we say frequently in the U.S., wikipedia notwithstanding). You should live to 120, no evil eye. Though as far as I know, no Richard has a saint’s day on August 22, I’ll still sing you Las Mañanitas.
Or I could sing you my favorite birthday song, the German canon: Viel Glück und viel Segen! I’d sing you the older version, which references material wealth, or the newer one, which wishes cheer, whichever you prefer. That’s actually a good place to stop, as this post is getting verzettelt.
Viel Glück und Viel Segen
Much happiness and many blessings
Auf all’ Deinen Wegen
On all your paths
Gesundheit und Wohlstand [Frohsinn]
May Health and prosperity [Cheerfulness]
Sei’ auch mit dabei.
Be there too.
DEAR MR. ARMITAGE: MAY ALL YOUR DREAMS, BIG AND SMALL, COME TRUE THIS YEAR.