*ooof*: Boom

A day late. And ok, you’re not gonna like this. I know this already. I am going back in time. Really far back. Because I am hankering for something new different. Actually, “new” is right. I am hankering for some new imagery. And I feel ungrateful doing so. Because we had been spoilt in the last trimester of last year. All those shoots coming out – Dunn, Hassler, Mezibov, the spoils of all the red carpets – amateur and professional, other events – Waterstone’s, BAFTA tea party, Pinter/PROUST… Hm, a lot of photographic material. But nothing is as old as yesterday’s photo paper, and I am so overfamiliar with the Mezibov, Hassler and Dunn shots, that another photographer’s fresh eye would be very welcome. And so, in my despair, I turn to some really old stuff – just because I have something photographic to say about it and because it inspired me for an *ooof*let. I apologize and simply trust that you agree with me that *any* picture will do – as long as it’s got Armitage in it. For a change, while Mr A sits on his tight little butt in a studio somewhere, recording “Hamlet” in his velvet tones (I know, recording has already finished, but well, I wanted a reference to the RAB in here…), let’s have a look at action man Armitage.

series8-44

Girls, I’m falling, not waving!
Richard Armitage in a production still from Spooks, 8×8
2009

Poor Richard. The things that actors have to go through just for a role. Here we have Mr Armitage in his much loved incarnation as Lucas North in Spooks. To set the scene: Lucas has just evacuated a politician from a building that is under a bomb threat while Ros is still inside. As time ticks by, Lucas decides to run back in and help Ros. But… *boom* The good spy has been thrown on the ground by the blast, shielding himself from the rubble that has been dislodged by the explosion. Dust and/or smoke is drifting over the scenario – a cobbled path, a bit of shrubbery behind, and a bit of railing visible in the background where the path meets a riverfront. Shot from an angle well below head height (maybe about thigh-height?), the image conveys a sense of drama that is close to the action. The viewer is almost inside the action with debris flying almost in front of the lens = our eyes. The focus feels almost more on the action than on the subject.

This is a production still from season 8, episode 8. The particular angle of the action does not appear in the episode as it aired – in the show, we only observed Lucas from behind as he was thrown through the air by the blast. I assume that this was another angle that was filmed on the same occasion but never made it into the final cut. The still, however, was used for publicity and is quite effective at conveying the devastating blow of the explosion. Since this was shot for film (TV), we have slightly different compositorial aesthetics going on here. The subject is more or less in the middle of the frame – a composition that is mostly avoided by photographers as it is deemed slightly too boring and expectable. In moving images, however, the action tends to happen centre-frame – which is a good thing because the images keep changing so quickly in front of our eyes that we need all the help we can get with understanding and interpreting what we are being shown. In photographic terms, the centric composition doesn’t upset our aesthetic sensibilities too much in this case. That is both because we understand this image to be a scene from a film, as well as the amount of information contained in the frame that we need to process and put into context – the man on the ground, his contortions, the smoke, the cobbled ground, the shrubs in the background, the railings, the debris…

The scene has been shot with a mid-range to small aperture: The main focus is on Lucas on the ground, his face and torso are in focus, but we still get enough detail on the scenery in the background to make out details. The fact that Armitage is rather sharp in this image (I am talking about the focus, ladies, not his abs) leads me to believe that this scene was not filmed with Armitage jumping and literally falling on his back, but that this is acted posed lying on the ground and flailing with arms and legs like a little bug that has been turned on its back *awww*: Both his bum and his back are connecting to the ground, he has lifted his right leg and arm up, balancing on his left buttock, elbow and shoulder. There is a bit of movement blur on his right hand, and more on his left foot.

So, Guylty is saying that this could possibly be filmed from a near-static pose – then how is the sense of dynamic created that pervades the scene here? The illusion of movement (by which I do not mean the protectively flailing limbs but a larger movement of being propelled backwards onto the ground by the force of an explosion) is mainly created by the flying pieces of debris. Observe how theΒ  pieces of brown rubble that are flying through the air look blurry. This is an effect that you may be familiar with from your own images – where blur is created by camera-shake, i.e. moving the camera while making an exposure, which makes the objects look fuzzy and out of focus. The focus here is not the problem – most constituent parts of the image foreground are in sharp focus. The blur, however, is caused by the movement of the flying debris, and is most likely intended (whereas it usually is unintended in your own photographs, I assume). Let’s go on a little excursion into action photography.

Action photography attempts to picture an object or subject while in motion. Sports photography is the classic genre of action photography, picturing athletes in movement. Photography is faced with two problems when shooting action scenes: 1. It needs to freeze the fast movement into the frame – that demands a fast shutter speed that can catch the movement clearly enough. 2. At the same time it has to convey the sense of movement – which is more or less contradictory to the notion of photography. It follows there are two options to tackle action photography: The photographer can opt to shoot at a slow shutter speed. This means the shutter is left open long(er) and captures the movement with blur. Or the photographer can use a fast shutter speed, the result of which is a suspended action, a completely frozen, unblurry image of movement. Most of the time, however, action photographers tend to shoot with a shutter speed that is slightly too long for the fast movement they are capturing. The result is a tiny bit of blur that avoids a static feel of the suspended action and adds dynamics to the image. In any event, it is advisable to shoot pre-focussed i.e. the photographer has set the focus prior to the action and locked it, preempting where the action is going to take place and focussing on that point. Multi-exposures are the way to go here – just keeping the shutter release clicking and hoping for the best.

The approach that the photographer opted for in this action shot, is a slow-ish shutter speed . Observe how some of the pieces of rubble in this shot are slightly fuzzy. With the shutter being open that little bit longer, the trajectory of the objects is recorded on the sensor. The result is an image that is in focus in the parts where we want to see detail – i.e. Lucas’ face/body – while the falling pieces of debris are blurred by their movement. Again, for me an indication to assume that Armitage was posing/acting this scene almost statically: He was lying on the ground, only moving very slightly, while a whole bag of rubble pieces was flung at him. Oh what he has to endure for the sake of his craft!!!

Mind you, when you look closely at the rubble pieces, it quickly becomes clear that you needn’t worry. No body parts were harmed in the making of this still. The debris look like styrofoam pieces, painted brown to make them look like soil. Pieces of “soil” have been carefully arranged around the protagonist in a circle. It’s almost a little bit too perfect… He has even been placed in the centre of a concentric ring of cobbles, if you look closely – everything was under control, evidently. Observe also how there are no pieces of wood flying or hitting him. They have all been carefully placed around him. Were they too dangerous, too heavy? Only the brown bits of styrofoam are seen in transit – and they would’ve only bounced off and not hit our preciousssssssssssss. I must admit I find the notion quite funny. Not the notion of Mr A getting hit by debris – but the idea that there must have been a crew member tasked with “flinging the mud” at RA. Can you imagine him, standing off-camera with a bucket load of styrofoam crap, ready to hurl at Mr A? Dream job? Bad job? I’d rather be at the ready with a soft flannel, actually, carefully wiping down the sweaty, dirty actor after the scene’s in the box.

As for RA’s acting in the scene – yeah, pretty convincing. There’s a good bit of tension in the body, the way he has to gyrate on the ground, hard cobblestones in his backside. And considering the big lumps of debris sailing directly for his soft bits, I am not surprised his face is already contorted in preemptive pain *ouch*. Hope his bum didn’t get wet!

Finally. The day had come. He had found out where they gathered for their annual Army gathering. After much searching and discrete background digging his people had found out where the legendary Armitage Army headquarters were situated. It had taken quite some effort – and a number of well-placed and well-planned hints and teases in interviews to make his “lady well-wishers” get careless and inadvertently disclose where they were based. They had had no chance, incidentally. References to making them drunk – “all of them” – and visiting the Armitage Army headquarters under an invisibility cloak had done the trick. Even the hardiest of his “soldiers” had succumbed to his cunning charms, and it had only been a matter of time before his research team had identified the secret location of the HQ. Once he had found out, he had let it be known that he wanted to inspect the troops – and they had rallied and organised to meet up with their “commander”.

Right now they were in their office. About 25 of them had been delegated to meet with their master… oops, commander. It had been a fierce competition which eventually had to be settled by a raffle, and delegates had been sent from all over the world, representing the territorial Armies from Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Poland, North America, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland – hell, even Monaco had sent a delegate. The British Home Army had thankfully taken on the catering, and a massive brownie cake with plenty of chocolate filling had been organised and was now placed in commanding position by the window of the HQ. The Army delegates were gathered around it, ruffled by last minute preparations for the appearance of their esteemed leader. “Is he really going to come?”, the Italian delegate asked for the umpteenth time, “are you sure?” “Yes,” the British Army major assured the speaker, “he’ll be here for tea. His people said so! Keep calm.” One of the American delegates snorted. “Need I remind you? Armitage Army cannot keep calm!” The gathered delegates giggled nervously – and loudly.

A surprisingly upmarket area of London, actually, he pondered as he was on his way to the event. He had dressed carefully – not too casually, in a dark blue suit that brought out his blue eyes, and a tight black shirt. No tie, though – he didn’t want to appear too formal, either. His hair freshly darkened and the shoes polished into blinding lustre, he felt devastatingly handsome. Nearly there, he was crossing through a little park that separated the river front from a block of flats across the street. Faint voices attracted his attention as he was walking along the footpath. On a quiet Sunday afternoon this otherwise busy central London street was quiet and empty. But dulcet tones of happy, sweet laughter flittered from somewhere above him. He raised his head and his gaze immediately found a focus… A group of women. By an open window. He swallowed nervously and felt with his hand under the stiff collar of his black shirt. That must be *them* … He had spotted them.

And so did they spot *him*. “Girls – he’s here!” “Shhh, shhh, Ladies, I think he’s coming. I can see a tall, dark, handsome man across the street…” All heads turned towards the window. “What, where? What do you see?” “He’s making his way through the park…” Among the ooohing and aaahing there was a soft *pop*.

He could see the group at the window suddenly moving their heads in unison. Excited giggles floated from the first floor window. Still, after all those red carpets and fan events it made him smile to see such a reaction to himself. He blushed, realising that he felt moved, and raised his head to look up. But what were those strange popping sounds? As he was coming closer, the faint *pop pop pop POP* had become louder, a noticeable, irregular rhythm, not unlike the sound from an old VW Beetle engine.

“OMG OMG OMG.” *pop* “He’s really here!” *pop* “He’s all alone.” *pop pop* “My God, his legs are so long!” *pop POP* “Thighs of thunder!!!” *POP pop* “Look at his shirt, so tight!” *pop pop POP*Β  “OMG, I can see his nape curls!!!” *POP POP POP*Β 

He raised his head, but the frown reflecting his confusion over the strange popping sound was immediately replaced by a brilliant smile directed at the ladies at the window who were following his progress across the path with unabashed curiosity and dreamy looks. Ahhh, they were evidently happy to see him. His heart contracted with a sudden flash of delighted happiness, and his smile widened into a bright grin. He raised his hand in a little wave, not unlike the cheeky Guy-of-Gisborne-wave at the Sheriff, and he winked conspiratorily.

*pop pop POP poppoppoppoppoppoppopop* *BOOOOOOOOOOOOM*

A bright flash of light blinded him as he was suddenly thrown through the air. Split-second, elliptic thoughts raced through his mind, instead of his life flashing before him: An assassination attempt? Why? Where? Who? What about his Army? Were they alright? He barely registered the sound of breaking glass and concrete as the force of an explosion flung him backwards. Instinctively bracing himself for the impact of his body on the cobbled path, he caught a fleeting look at the Army Headquarters where the sound of the explosion had originated. Thank goodness, they were safe and standing, unhurt, horrified looks on their faces. How come they were still standing??? As his body connected with the hard ground, his arms and legs flailing, he noticed the ladies simultaneously clutching their abdomens. Suddenly it dawned on him as he braced himself for the fall-out of debris from the explosion with the remains of a chocolate brownie cake scattering himself in a cloud of brown, soft pieces. Spontaneous ovary combustion. He’d assassinated himself.

~ by Guylty on February 26, 2014.

64 Responses to “*ooof*: Boom”

  1. *Helpless giggles* Oh Guylty, you’ve really done it this time πŸ˜€

    *collapses completely*

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    • *ggg* It was the artificial pieces of debris that did it. When I examined the still, I could not help but think they looked like chocolate brownie pieces. I sort of like the idea of throwing chocolate brownies at RA, I must say πŸ˜‰ Everything else followed from there…

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  2. LOL Brilliant, Guylty, just brilliant! I’m with Helen,; we really ought to lick them off…

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  3. Let’s just say that now Richard has been warned as to what might happen when we gather in mass. No way that list is getting down to 25 either, even with a lottery. Too many not making the cut will show up just to watch from a distance. Also factor in that spontaneous mass ovary explosion failed to cause damage at 92Y, Hobbit Fan Event NYC or Waterstones. Has to be over 600 fan girls for this to have occured. (Watch out Comic Con 2014) P.S. Don’t forget the chocolate ice cream – It’s Rich’s favorite.

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    • LOL – true, Sara, a few plotholes there in my story. The number 25 was taken out of thin air… couldn’t fit more than that in a room. The Army may need to rent an aircraft hangar in the real event.
      As for the lack of fall-out from the ovary explosions in NYC – can be explained by the lack of chocolate brownies?
      Chocolate icecream – now that could be seriously dangerous when in the presence of spontaneously combusting fangirl ovaries. I can see tidal waves of chocolate icecream goo flooding the globe…

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  4. I just saved this still myself recently. I like how the flagstones are in a circular pattern with Richard in the middle πŸ˜€

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    • Yeah – it totally gives it away that this is sooo staged *ggg*. Fair enough – wouldn’t want the precious actor bruising any of his bits.
      Glad you don’t object to me returning to material from pre-history πŸ˜€

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      • you should do more promotional stills. some of them are very appealing (to me, at least) in their symmetry. like this one, they tend to have that balance of appearing “in the moment” while obviously being staged for the camera.

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        • That’s a great suggestion, Kel – I am finding myself more and more dried up when it comes to choosing an image these days but there is some scope for promo images. If you have a favourite in mind, let me know πŸ˜€ (Otherwise Guy-girl Guylty is going to seek refuge in Sir Guy’s arms… eh… imagery.)

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  5. Ow, that had to hurt falling on those stones. Even though actors are taught how to fall safely, it still looks like it hurts. I wince at the look on his face. Brilliant acting.

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    • I actually doubt he was really falling. To me this looks as if the scene was played lying on the ground. But it’s cleverly done – and we *assume* that this is actually the end of a falling move…
      But agreed – brilliantly acted in any case. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. You’re wrong about me not liking it, at least. Lucas is always a winner with me. πŸ˜‰

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    • Some die-hard fans will never be disappointed :-D. (That’s why I have chosen to write my photo wank about RA – there’s always bound to be *someone* who likes the image I decide to analyse…)

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  7. Oh. My. Gosh. This is hysterical, Guylty!!!!!!

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  8. Brownie chunks and Lucas, what a delicious combination. Great ficlet, Guylty. You crack me up. This still is a diabolical choice, putting brownies and RA in the same ficlet thereby inducing spontaneous combustion of ovaries and chocolate craving at the same time. Have you no mercy, girl?

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  9. I certainly had a lot of fun reading this. Is the annual Army gathering always in the U.K.? Your blog is all new to me, my big “crush” on RA is all new. Having lots of fun with it all..Just finishing season 9 of MI-5. Not sure I like how it is ending.

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    • Well, welcome to the new world of Richarding then, Elizabeth. Glad you have found us πŸ™‚
      oooh, season 9 of Spooks. Can I give you my condolences? Most of us are just completely traumatized by that storyline. You’ll see what I mean when you have finished. And if you need to talk – you know where to find us. You can also then – but only *then*, AFTER you have finished season 9 – read this amazing blog post by one of the most faithful Lucas North fans from within the ranks of the Army, our very own Alyssa. Here’s the link: And remember – only read AFTER you have watched all of season 9, not before. http://alyssabethancourt.wordpress.com/i-believe-in-lucas-north/

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      • I finished season 9 and the blog “I Believe In Lucas North” and all of it leaves me thinking about the character and the actor. The blog was a doozy of an in depth examination and exploration of Lucas and his effect on the writer. I actually started watching MI-5 from the beginning before I knew RA was in it because I love those kinds of programs. However, when I learned he was in it I did skip ahead just to look at this extremely gorgeous specimen of masculinity. Then I really got caught up in the story and the character. I found, though, that as the character developed, the acting RA brought to the scene was so well done that I came to dislike Lucas very much and suddenly I realized that even physically he wasn’t so handsome anymore. I do get wrapped up in a story and a character, but there is always this part of me of the periphery analyzing and congratulating the actor for his/her craft. That is another reason I’m enjoying Armitage and all of his creations.

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        • if you’re interested in a discussion of the acting, episode by episode, you could look at the stuff I was blogging as the series appeared. I also found his acting in that series unbelievable — the number of things he had to keep track of emotionally was sort of astounding.

          Start here and then look each week after that for eight weeks:

          https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/well-spooks-9-spoilers-pwspooks9/

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        • Wow – so you survived?? I am glad you followed my recommendation and liked it. Lucas North was an incredibly complex character – even before the storyline (and the character) was killed by questionable plot. RA certainly more than stretched his acting legs with that role. I’d say RA would probably take it as a compliment that you felt physically repelled by Lucas North. (Not something that I could say about myself. But then again, I am deeply deeply shallow *muhahahaha*)
          Thanks for getting back to us with your experience. It’s great to hear a fresh view on it! x

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    • Elizabeth – if you dislike the ending of Spooks s9, I have written an alternate one:
      http://www.wattpad.com/story/5098818-taking-the-piste

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    • Yes, welcome, Elizabeth. Lots of delights await you (maybe not Spooks 9). πŸ™‚

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  10. Loved the picture, the *ooof* and the awesome ficlet. I was smiling all the way through. Thank you!

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  11. This is brilliant, Guylty. In fact, this HAS to be one of the best *ooof*s ever! And the ficlet – too good πŸ˜› *tries to control the giggling but fails miserably*

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    • Well, the *ooof* is not my favourite – but any *ooof*let that lets me throw RA and his Army together is kind of heart-warming in my own mind… Thanks, S! x

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  12. Wow, I did not get that this was staged — but your explanation is air tight. I learn so much from you. And I love the ending!

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    • Well, caveat: I am only interpreting the signs that I see, combined with knowing how photography works. I *could* be wrong… Pity that we won’t find out…
      Glad you liked the silliness of my *ooof*let!

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      • No, you really totally convinced me. Interesting because it’s another facet of acting that i don’t think about much but that Armitage must spend a lot of time on (and that we see occasionally in some of the AUJ: EE parts) that is, the brief shot that doesn’t involve words or actions really but just conveying a mood — and that has to be done again and again. There’s a way in which this feels like a middle place between playing a scene and modeling … I falsely think of acting as “real work” and modeling as “fake / creating an impression” and this is somewhere in between, which points out that these are not opposites but simply points on a continuum.

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        • I think it is very important not to underestimate the hard work that is in modelling or “posing” if you want. It essentially means you are holding a scene in a static pose – still conveying a mood, emotion, message just with your body, no words. It’s different from acting where much emphasis is on the actual words, the delivery of them, and the simultaneous body movements that altogether make up the scene. I am not surprised that a lot of actors do not like modelling – it takes away at least half of their accustomed tools. It’s as if I was told to take pictures but was only allowed to set the shutter speed and not the aperture.
          I have only ever been on the fringes of film sets, but yes, there was a lot of filler stuff done there. Scenes without dialogue, repetitive action shots from ten different angles. The patience and concentration needed for this job are huge…

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          • it was this part of acting that I was very surprised to learn about! the close-ups: how sometimes the actor is going on w/dialogue and whatnot to the camera instead of the character we believe they are acting against, or how often they have to convey just a *feeling* from several diff’t angles, etc. we tend to be in awe of the Green Screen but really the actors play off of nothing quite frequently; concentration & patience indeed 😎

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            • Indeed. I have to praise PJ here, too – his vlogs were really great for gaining that insight. I never spared much of a thought for green-screen acting, but hearing RA talk about it and observing the bts footage was a real eye-opener. You need to be more than a repeating parrot to be able to play in such films convincingly. Praise to the actors in the films!

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  13. Another fantastic and hilarious *ooof* Guylty!! I giggled and laughed my way through the whole ficlet. πŸ™‚ As usual your “technical” sections were so informative and enjoyable as ever. I now realize just how complicated action shots are!

    I was relieved that the large pieces of “debris” were only styrofoam and nothing heavier considering the “landing area” of some of those big pieces. 😦

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    • *giggles* yes, that occurred to me too. The biggest chunks of “brownie” were heading for *that* part. No wonder insurance premiums for actors are astronomically high. The dangers they are placed in…
      Thanks for your nice comment! x

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  14. wonderful Guylty ,made me laugh out loud, your very clever .And your technical section is as allways very informative , youll turn us all into photographers yet !
    I love this post
    THANKYOU

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    • A pleasure, Janie. And yes, I am relentlessly pushing the love for photography onto all of you. If anything, I’d hope that you find some tools to appreciating photography more – or for improving your own photography. That combined with RA – win-win πŸ˜€
      But I am equally glad that you humour me with my naughty little *ooof*lets πŸ˜‰

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  15. definitely choc brownie cake scattered around him…..im still laughing over this .its really good that we can laugh at ourselves…
    pop . pop . he looks good even when under attack from cake !

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    • Oh, this whole fandom thing is *so much more* about ourselves than about him!! (Sorry, RA!) I mean, I luuurve looking at pictures of him, even when under attack of a killer brownie. But what I like more is feeling my reactions – and experiencing together with my fellow sisters-in-RA! πŸ™‚

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      • I don’t know any of you , yet , thanks to RA I feel that I belong to this wonderful group of RA admirers and I think of you all as sisters in RA ,.This is so something special , im going gooey inside !!!!!!!
        And if it had not been for Richard this would not have happened ,wah .love you all !

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        • (((Janie))) – well, there you go. First step taken. The more you comment, the more we get to know you. Come on, we don’t bite! But word of warning: We hug fiercely. And there are known intercontinental friendships recorded where people have ac-tu-al-ly met in REAL LIFE!!! πŸ˜€
          Yeah, some credit to RA, too. He’s brought us together. But I am in obstinate mood today and will say that the loveliness of the fans is down to themselves. In your face, RA!!!! πŸ˜‰

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  16. I so did not see that ending coming Guylty! I whooped!

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  17. Guylty, this is really special! This pic always looked a bit weird to me, but I’ve never observed it closer either, therefore it didn’t come to my mind to take the word “production still” de facto literally in that case. Astounding news! Da biste platt!
    Love your story and I’m fully aware that this would mean an unutterable commotion of biblical scale. It’s like I already can hear that *boom*, hopefully not only released by overmuch chocolate tidbits… Oh, poor Rich!! You need a helping hand? Today I’m all yours….. πŸ˜‰

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    • Hehe, I am completely destroying the manufactured illusions made in the dream factory that is TV and film. Sorry! However, the upshot is that is all done so realistically that it really stands up (or falls on the ground, in this case…)
      Yeah, I think the ovary busting scale in my *ooof*let was wildly underestimated. I reckon it could cause a tidal wave in the Thames that would devastate the river banks all the way down to the estuary.
      Thanks πŸ™‚ xx

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  18. Okay gurl, you’ve lost your mind now. πŸ˜‰

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  19. Thank you, Guylty ! πŸ˜€

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