Worth pondering, anyway

John Standring (Richard Armitage) screws up his courage to ask Carol Bolton (Sarah Smart) if she would consider going out with him sometime, in Sparkhouse, episode 1. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

One of the search terms that brought someone to this blog last week was “why can’t I meet a guy like Richard Armitage?”

I don’t know if that phrase was entered in humor or desperation. Maybe both?

I may not understand the question correctly, insofar as I don’t know how exactly the guys the searcher meets don’t fit the Armitage standard. Like him as in attractive? Polite, modest, talented, frugal? English? Disarmingly charming? Big feet, pointy ears, 6’2″? BMW driver? Regularly featured in the BBC prime-time TV schedule? Some combination of the above?

Given that I have to admit that I don’t know the answer to the question. Actually, the question is also pretty difficult to answer even if we develop a more exact version of it, since we don’t know all that much about what Mr. Armitage is like in real life; most of our information is based on interviews. So maybe the question should be, “why can’t I meet a guy like Mr. Armitage seems to be?”

I found myself thinking of Carol’s inability to “see” John as juxtaposed to his apparent inability to “see” anyone except her. I don’t know how much I believe this — a lot of people who are socially isolated in the way that John is are that way because of behaviors they can’t or won’t change — but it occurred to me that there may be all kinds of people in our immediate proximity whom we never look at more closely, and because of that we miss important opportunities. Not just for romance or love, but for all kinds of things. Even just a friendly word. And then there are those attractions that prevent us from seeing the other things that are right around us.

Servetus experiences her own kinds of struggles with this very issue. If you typed this search term in in desperation, please don’t give up hope. I’m not. Keep looking. I still am.

~ by Servetus on November 12, 2010.

82 Responses to “Worth pondering, anyway”

  1. Sometimes, in terms of romance, the very thing you are looking for is right under your nose. It was the tall, gangly, brainy boy with the quick wit who sat behind me in home room in high school for me.
    (Ah,if only Carol could have seen past John’s crippling shyness to see what a gem he was underneath, far more worthy of love than weedy Andrew . . .)

    Actually, as I grow older, I find myself noticing things around me a lot more. People and places and moments.

    Stopping when I get out of the car on a clear night and just gazing up at the stars in wonderment. Noticing how really handsome my dog Beauregard is–those huge caramel brown eyes, the shape of his head, those marvelous jowls I love to jiggle. Just a part bloodhound mutt, but he’s gorgeous. And he loves me.

    And how old people can be really beautiful. The Bataan Death March survivor today, with his snow white hair and dapper mustache, the sparkle in his faded dark eyes, the sweetness of his smile. They say at a certain age we have the face we’ve earned. Col. Frazier earned a really grand face.

    The faces of the school children. They will look up at me with curious wide eyes. I smile. What amazing smiles I get back, and shy little waves.

    I read something recently where concerns are being raised about young people today being so techno-oriented–texting, emailing, blogging–they miss out on real-life, flesh-and-blood encounters.
    As much as I love and appreciate all of you out here in cyberspace, I know I need my not-so-gangly fellow, and my pets, and those wide-eyed school kids, and my funny and talented co-workers and wise and beautiful old people in my life, too. Some sort of balance . . .

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    • I actually don’t think tech obsession is the biggest problem the youth of today are facing, and this is a pretty tech obsessed campus where students have all the latest gadgets. It’s something slightly different — it’s more like thinking that the world they perceive via the (tech) media is real because it seems so real. Growing up, we knew to be suspicious of what the media told us; I see this generation as much less oriented in that direction. It has all kinds of consequences.

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      • I work with people who are so attached to their iPhones and Droids they are totally bereft without them–and yes, they are decades younger than me.

        Fortunately, they seem to have their heads on straight re RL versus what’s out there in cyberspace and are savvy enough not to believe all they read or see, but I see what you mean, Servetus– possibly buying into all that is served up to them that way can have consequences they never envisioned.

        We’ve also got an anti-sexting campaign underway here. I scratch my head at the idea of sending a sexually explicit message or dodgy photo to someone and not realizing the possible repercussions, and yet people (and not just teens) do it all the time. It is, in fact, illegal (classified as sending pornography) and boy, could it bring you a lot of grief in the long term. Modern technology is a marvel, but is also something of a Pandora’s box.

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        • I don’t get sexting either, but as one of my colleagues said to me recently after a long conversation with a student who’d gotten herself in a lot of trouble, penetration is much less of an issue for our students than “going steady” (though there’s very little of that these days). I don’t wish for a return to what I understand about the 1950s in the U.S., but the current situation sometimes seems to have liberated young adults from all of the positive aspects of commitment along with the negative ones.

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          • Now that really makes me feel sad. Such a cavalier attitude towards sex but fearful of making any real commitment. F**k buddies, I suppose?

            I don’t think we want the repression of the 1950s to return, either, but . . . well, “putting it about” all over the place over the long term just seems–empty and not very fulfilling in the long run. And that goes for men ABD women, I have no double standard. Not to mention the health issues if you aren’t careful.

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            • It makes the kind of discussions my cohort had in college about sex (admittedly toward the end of the Reagan years) seem positively Paleozoic. One of the very brightest students I’ve ever had currently writes the sex column for the campus paper. The knowledge that this cohort has is amazing. Unfortunately there is no way to speed up the development of discernment.

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              • Like the difference between knowledge and wisdom, I suppose. I realize now how much I thought I knew when I was young–and I had a lot of facts crammed into my head–but I sure lacked wisdom.

                Sometimes I suppose it takes the School of Hard Knocks to make us recognize those important differences, if we ever do.

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  2. @angie, really lovely writing.
    @servetus, interesting post foundation.

    after a very lengthy marriage ended I spent 5 years alone. I prayed alot that I would find someone to love me as I was for who I was. As I reached the 5th year post divorce I finally decided (for a whole host of reasons) to just say to the Divine, “ok, I’ve been trying to control this myself and I’m not doing to well so I turn my life over to You. Take care of me and know that I will accept Your will.” And then I got out of my own way and let Him take over.

    Within weeks I was headed out West to a new job, a new life, leaving what family and friends I had behind. A very kind woman and her husband befriended me when I got out there and invited me and several people out on the Colorado River on their pontoon boat. The husband was piloting the boat and asked me to stand up to look for the sandbar so we didn’t hit it. I no sooner stood up then we slammed into it. I fell, hard, right onto this very quiet,shy man that was hitting in the front of the boat. That was over 10 years ago. We met and married within months. He is everything I prayed for.

    My point in writing this is that sometimes we have to be brave and take a chance. If what you’ve always done doesn’t work for you then do something different and see if the results change (thank you scientific method of inquiry, perhaps the whole first half of my life spent in science was not in vain). And, finally, pray. It can’t hurt and I’m living proof that Someone does listen.

    For those that may feel this is corny, well, it is what it is, and what it is is the truth.

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    • Not corny to me, but lovely and heartfelt, Ann Marie. What a great story! When God closes a door, he opens a window. A well-used saying, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

      And you’re right, sometimes we just have to take a step into the unknown and out of our comfort zones. it can be scary, but also liberating. What’s that about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again even though it isn’t working?

      Try something new. Go home by a different route. Strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Carpe Diem, y’all.

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    • @ AnneMarie

      That’s one of those great stories of miracles. It doesn’t happen to us all, but I am very glad it happened to you! Just wonderful and so lovely to read.

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      • Dear Pi,

        I don’t know about you but I have gotten my share of Divine slaps up side of the head through the years. I never looked at it as a miracle. I’ve always that God knows how oblivious both my Husband and I can be at times and made sure that we would notice each other by, literally, dropping me on him!

        Re John Standring. Love him. Sweet, awkward, shy, likes to eat. Cleans up really good. Our Mr. A. has to stop picking roles where the woman he loves, loves someone else. I would like a happy romance/comedy for a change.

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        • We should start a lobby for a sequel to the end of Vicar of Dibley.

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          • Oh, yes, please!! I’ve been pondering how much fun that would be. Gerri has been the only love interest who fully embraced the Handsome Stranger from the get-go. I’d like to see something where he could smile and laugh and be loved and adored by a good woman again.

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          • I am so there for that! Where do I sign the petition?

            My bff and fb friends were just discussing VoD as they felt the need to reset after 9.8. My favorite part (and there are many to choose from)is the very end when Harry explains the joke to her friend, who never ever gets the joke, using an intellectual framework and she gets it! I just about roll on the floor laughing so hard everytime. It is so good to laugh!

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          • Count me in too. And Richard Curtis is supposed to be at the 24 Hour Plays next weekend. I’ll start the lobbying then! 🙂

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    • I was thinking that John Standring is also “a guy like Richard Armitage” in that they inhabited the same body. We just have to learn to look at him differently.

      Ann Marie, love your story!

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      • I would say you could do a lot worse than John Standring. He’s hard-working, honest, kind-hearted, faithful–and quite a hunk underneath those coveralls. And, I am, sure, eager to please a woman who shows him some tenderness and affection.

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  3. Lovely story Ann Marie! It’s not at all corny!
    I think the answer is to be open to life’s possibilities. Not to be constantly on the lookout for “the perfect man”, but just be who you are and enjoy life, and somehow that positive “vibe” will be what attracts the right man to you. Nothing is so unattractive to an man as a desperate female! If he thinks you don’t care — he will want to make you care!
    Not that God or kharma or good luck doesn’t enter into it, but that has been my life experience anyway, for what it’s worth. 🙂

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  4. I haven’t read the comments yet.

    I imagine this person meant that they wanted someone who had the Armitage’s looks. If you think about it, would someone with a deeper agenda place such a google query ?

    In that vein, my site has gotten, more than once, “Richard Armitage naked”. LOL

    As for Standring v Carol, I think we are not into 360 vision, given we are human. We see what we want or need, and are attracted on unspoken levels. Often you don’t see the one who’s in front of you or are not seen. Such is the way of the world and to me, a wonderful if personally frustrating mystery.

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    • @Pi RA naked? Really? Wow he has bared quite a bit, at this point what else IS there to see?

      @ Amm Marie your story and your message touched me. thank you for sharing.

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      • I am assuming they want the Full Monty, @Rob, or What The Tight Jeans Imply But Don’t Actually Show . . . *wink* the cheeky monkeys.

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        • LOL! Really? I know that there is the “armitage affect” which turns nice unassuming women into…but ladies come on! let him at least keep that under wraps!

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          • If you use the correct google search terms you can see his head glued onto a body with that view visible. In fact, more than one body.

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            • I haven’t attempted such a search, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit you’d find such Photoshop specials. They did something similar with Daniel Radcliffe a couple of years ago (right before Equus, I think).

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              • it’s a little like visual fanfic. One thing I find interesting in reading explicit fics is comparing the ways in which authors describe his member. Everyone, one assumes, describes her own particular variation and puts it on his body. This is only a little different — the photoshopper picks his or her favorite body and pastes his head on.

                Why anyone would want to see Daniel Radcliffe in the altogether is beyond me 🙂

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                • Indeed, why would anyone want to write (or read) a slash fic with the Hamster, Captain Slow and Jeremy? But it’s been done, apparently.

                  As for me, I don’t care to see Daniel’s little harry potter. At all.

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            • i meant effect, see he renders me unable to use the language correctly!

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          • i meant “effect” see he renders me unable to use the language properly!

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            • He has that effect on a lot of us, @Rob. Impairs language skills, causes a strange fluttering of the heart, increased pulse rate, profuse sweating, tendency to drool uncontrollably . . . and we keep coming back for more.

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    • Armitage naked: yeah, I get a lot of that too. This query seemed broader. I may be in paper grading mode too much lately but I’ve been trying not to assume what people are saying in situations where it’s not clear and instead tried to think about what they could be saying. That said, I agree with you that that is one very likely reading of the query. At the same time, I have myself typed “what is the point of all this?” into google. More than once.

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  5. Well, at least she didn’t ask ‘why can’t I meet a guy like Lucas North’ 😉

    Is Sparkhouse worth checking out? This John Standring sounds like a curious character.

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    • Skully,

      After I first discovered Richard through Robin Hood, I ordered three DVDs: Sparkhouse, North & South and the Vicar of Dibley.
      If I had ever had any doubts as to what a good actor he is, watching those three productions dispelled them all.
      Sparkhouse is loosely based on Wuthering Heights. John Standring is the big, burly, painfully shy farm hand with a serious crush on Carol, the wild child who is in love with her childhood friend, Andrew.

      RA gives a fantastic performance as the “second best” with a heart of gold in this drama, which I admit I find painful to watch due to how abusive Carol’s wanker of a dad is (brilliantly played by Alun Armstrong, Joe’s dad).

      But Sweetie John undergoes a “makeover” during the production as he prepares for a big event, cropping off his unruly riot of curls and getting some new duds, and–voila1 He looks like an angelic brown-haired RA, imagine that. *grin*

      John S. was so totally different from Guy–and then romantic hero John T.–and the delightful accountant Harry K.–I decided the man could play anything he wants. Wasn’t expecting the hairy dwarf, however . . .

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      • Thanks Angie, I’m sold! Will add it to the Xmas list 😉

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      • You’ve converted me. I found it late last night online and started watching. Oh joy, for me at least, new RA material. And you’re right Angie. John S is so different from his other roles, it’s hard to recognize him. What a chameleon our RA. I haven’t finished the series. I’ll do so tomorrow. Thanks for recommendation.

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        • Calexora,

          I remember sitting back after watching Sparkhouse and thinking, “Sweet Shy Farmer John. This is the same guy who brought us Smouldering Gisborne?” How many actors, really, could perform such dramatically different characters and make each totally believable? Very few.

          For me, this, not our lovely romantic hero John Thornton, was RA’s true breakthrough role after those long years of toil trying to establish himself in his profession.
          Even though it is a supporting, rather than starring role, his talent absolutely shines through and makes the viewer realize what an amazing performer he really is.

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          • It really does! He has chosen (or been offered or combination thereof) such diverse roles. I’m glad PJ has recognized how versatile an actor he is. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with the Thorin Oakenshield role.

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      • Not all dwarves are hairy – Dopey in Snow White is beardless…

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        • True, kaprekar, it’s just that all the illustrations I have ever seen of Thorin depict him as bearded and with long locks, thus my “hairy” comment. However, who knows what PJ may have in mind for his look in the movie? Apparently each dwarf is supposed to his own distinct look, from what I’ve read online (and with such a large number of them, I rather hope so, otherwise I won’t know my Fili from my Kili or Oin from Gloin . . .)

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        • Thorin is described as heavily bearded in the book of TH. Agree, who knows how it will work out in the film.

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    • Oh Skully — I absolutely LOVE John Standring! So sweet! And Angie is right that “makeover” is fantastic! One of the best screen makeovers of all time I would have to say. Beats Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina! 🙂

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      • I’ve been weary of makeovers since seeing Calamity Jane as a kid, I liked her cowgirl outfit better! I’ll take your word for it re JS though 😉

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      • And part of what makes that makeover great is seeing those sweet, excited smiles on John S’s face. We don’t get to see RA smile a lot in his roles (and Sparkhouse can certainly be grim in parts) but the ones you get in that scene are just–heart-meltingly beautiful. So, yeah, Skully, we are saying you should watch it. Two solid thumbs up from Phylly and Angie!

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      • Oooh…for me, it was the first aid scene, after the house burned. So capable in that scene and he loses his shyness for a moment. 🙂

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        • Love him as JohnS also. One of my favorite parts is when he’s trying on suits, before the makeover and there’s no dialog, but his expressions are marvelous. I think those LOTR and Hobbit fans that have doubts he could play Thorin should see Sparkhouse, since he’s not a hunk here for sure.

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          • I wonder if PJ saw him as John in Sparkhouse? I wouldn’t be surprised if he checked out in work in older projects, too. The suits part is absolutely adorable. Another favorite part is later when he’s talking to Carol and he says, “Never think there are things you can’t tell me . . .” with such sweetness and sincerity. I just wanted to give him a big hug . . .

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            • My favorite scene from Sparkhouse is in his spotlight showreel — the aftermath of him trying to give Carol that Christmas gift. That scene is so painful it just blows my mind. So indeed PJ might have seen it.

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              • He breaks your heart in that scene, doesn’t he?

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              • I found hard to watch him suffer in Sparkhouse. Poor guy. I just wanted to hug him and give him the love he so deserved. The weird thing too is that I kept forgetting it was RA. He was so different in this role. That’s really the sign of a great actor…when you forget who’s playing the role and just get immersed in it.

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                • I know, John was so sweet and selfless and truly good in Sparkhouse, you dearly wanted things to go right for him, didn’t you? And yes, once again, our RA proved himself to be quite the chameleon.

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      • Heh. I remember on Nat’s blog that I said that his makeover was akin to the mousy secretary whipping off her glasses, releasing her long hair and growing bosoms. I don’t know why people didn’t like it. 🙂

        I do know that when I saw Standring’s changed self my first reaction was , “Wow”. It wasn’t even that drastic a makeover, but somehow, the wow factor appeared.

        I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another actor male or female who can change their grooming and totally become someone different. It can’t just be the facade, can it?

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        • It’s not just the facade. Even with characters like Lucas (yeah, he’s STILL Lucas and not that sniveling John Bateman, want to make something of it?? *grin*) and John Porter where there are only small differences in their appearance, he still comes across as two different characters on screen. Not just in the voice, but in subtle but recognizable ways in how he carries himself, his mannerisms and expressions. He’s good, that one. Really good.

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        • It’s interesting because we don’t see the illusory makeover effect, like he just gets his hair cut and then suddenly becomes a superhero. Part of it is that he’s still wearing his farm clothes afterwards, etc., but there’s still just subtle changes in his posture, etc.

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          • I felt like this was similar to real life makeovers, which often give the recipient a renewed or newly found confidence. John S. seemed to have a bit more of that quality after his transformation, and you saw it in the posture, smile, and so forth.

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          • I have always thought that the transformation that John Standring undergoes is because he is in love and chooses to believe that Carol is too. He embraces the transformation that is the result of love. He actually appears to radiate a kind of joy and glow. From love, from the end of his aloneness…I don’t know but its there.

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            • nice reading.

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            • He was just simply, angelically beautiful in moments during Sparkhouse, even though it’s not considered one of his “glamour” roles. I only wish that Carol, poor damaged creature that she was, could have more fully realized what she had in John. Such much more of a man than the dream man she had built in her mind named Andrew.

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              • I choose to believe she did realize how wonderful John is after the movie ends and they ‘go home’.

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                • me too — but this seems to be a minority view among fic writers.

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                  • It’s what I want to think, too–that Carol finally saw the light and really grew to love and appreciate John as he so richly deserved. But from the way the original script was written, I always had this fear she’d never be able to get over weedy Andrew. there was a lot of self-loathing there in Carol . . . would she ever fully accept being deserving of John’s love?

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    • Indeed, Skully. 🙂

      Sparkhouse is really outstanding. It’s not your typical book adaptation (the relationship to WH is rather attenuated). And you’d honestly never know this was the same guy who played Gisborne or North. The other performances are strong, and the script is compelling (as opposed to say, Frozen, the charms of which are mostly visual). I can only underline what the other commentators have said; it’s worth seeing. You can watch on YT.

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      • Thanks, will do! I’ve not read WH so any references would be lost on me 🙂

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        • I had to read it in high school. Never liked it. Re-read it with my best friend here last spring when I was watching Sparkhouse for the first time. Impression not substantially affected by distance of 20+ years.

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          • I confess I’ve always been more of a Jane Eyre girl myself. Read it when I was ten (borrowed my older sister’s copy) for the first time. Cracking stuff, that, with the wicked aunt and revolting cousins, the enigmatic hero, the plain but plucky heroine with a stubborn streak I related to and, of course, the madwoman in the attic.

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  6. A small segue to Sparkhouse: today’s paper has article on the next big historical series (to replace The Tudors?), with Jeremy Irons. And Holly/Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia, very young in Sparkhouse. And, of course Meg in RH3.

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  7. Just wondering what Lucy G is doing these days… sigh, will have to google. Have to google, to get up tp date…

    Thought HG luminous as Meg. Very young, good, and had Mr. A, after all, as a sort of mentor. But Lucy hit the ground running, as Marian. Only my perception…

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  8. Lucy was recently in a series called “The Little House” which I have heard good things about–comes out on DVD at AmazonUK later this month, and she was in “Collision” which is now on DVD. She was very good in that–oh, and she is now blonde and carrying it off quite well. Loved Lucy as Marian and how she seemed to truly appreciate the opportunity to work opposite RA.

    I think they had splendid on-screen chemistry together.

    She seems a really lovely gal in RL, too.

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    • I caught “The Little House” on the ITVplayer as it ran against Spooks 9.7 & 9.8. She was very good in the role of a young mother who may (or may not) be suffering from a psychological disorder. The series was rather crammed into two episodes and certainly the ending was very rushed but LG continues to develop as an actress (are you allowed to use that sexist term these days?!)

      I’d love to see her work with RA again. I think he does his best work with women he really gets on with and they seem to have had a real laugh on RH.

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      • Pleased to hear you liked her performance, @Pam. I am hoping they will air it here (we do get some ITV stuff on BBC America) but I may end up getting the DVD.

        I agree; RA seems to really shine in romantic relationships onscreen when there is that rapport between him and the actress (and lord knows we got little of that in Spooks). I loved how Lucy talked about him in the commentaries on the RH DVDs. “Whoo-hoo1 It’s Richard Armitage!” I always got the impression dear ol’ Jonas was a bit peeved at her obvious affection for RA.
        JA: “He’s a murderer.” LG: “But he’s a nice-looking murderer.” LOL

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  9. I’ve been happily married for a long time and am well taken care of physically and emotionally, but there’s something about this actor that triggers the pleasure centres of my brain and has me coming back for more! When I see or hear him, there’s an instant connection with my “bliss point” (located in the brain, but leading to physiological reactions) and I can’t wait for my next fix!

    This doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate what a talented and unique actor he is. I’m impressed at how fully he can vanish into a role and how he seems to become a new character each time he appears on screen.

    I love his portrayal of John Standring, his gentleness, his understated strength and steadfastness. Richard’s unselfishness as an actor is also evident in this role, but also his magnestism, where as a viewer, you wait impatiently for his next appearance on screen!

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  10. @Millyme, perfectly stated. I couldn’t explain my ? for the lovely Mr. Armitage any more eloquently than you just did. Thank you.

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  11. PLEASE bring back the Vicar! Their first married Christmas? Harry should have no trouble putting away a dinner at Alice’s, a dinner at Frank’s, a dinner at Jim’s, a dinner at….pity Mrs. Cropley couldn’t be around to do some catering.

    An Easter special? Wouldn’t Harry look fine in a pink lop-eared bunny suit, with a cravat and an N&S basket?

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    • I also long to see the Vicar and her Handsome Stranger again. I dream of them adopting a pair of cute tots–dark-haired twins, a boy and a girl–with Harry strolling around Dibley with them in a double push chair, and reading them stories at bedtime (we know how good a certain TDHBEW is at such things) . . .

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  12. On reflection, just give him the usual stand-up rabbit ears. The rabbit version of a top hat.

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  13. […] been convinced by Servetus and the readers over at Me+Richard to checkout Sparkhouse. I’m curious to see Richard Armitage’s portrayal of what I […]

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