me + richard armitage status report #RABlogReunion

Suggested by Nat (her blog, here, was a major gathering point for the blogging fandom back when I started blogging). The first fanstravaganza was populated by Nat, Mulubinba, Traxy, Avalon (blog has been deleted), Reviewerama / Starheart, and Skully (blog has been deleted). They were sort of gen 1.5 as (I’ve been told) there had been a lot of people on LJ before that, although by 2010 it was hard to find them. At the point of F1, I had just started blogging about a month earlier, and Nat had invited me. It’s weird to be the survivor that updates fairly regularly and still about Richard Armitage. Even at the blog’s low point in October 2019, I was still blogging approximately twice a week.

So I don’t fit the prompt to talk about what I’ve been doing especially well, as I’ve been blogging this whole time. As of right now: I was able to see Uncle Vanya in January. I taught five classes this spring. One was finished the last week of January, and the other four went virtual / remote after Wisconsin went on “lockdown” in March. After what was easily the most brutal semester of my life, I finally submitted grades on Tuesday (and I am still numb about that). The U.S. news this week (as so often since January 2017, but especially in the last two months) has just been one slap in the face after another. So there would be plenty to write about, and the prospect of looming unemployment (as expected for summer, but due to the circumstances in the fall) means that I probably will.

So what affects blogging now?

Factors external to fandom:

Work: In the last two months, I put four history courses that had always been face to face into an online format for the second half of the semester. It’s not just a matter of somehow putting the material you had planned online, one to one — much of the material had to be developed again to fit the medium. According to my new computer, I have been spending twelve to fourteen hours a day on screen since I bought it. It consumed almost every waking moment; but of course, the longer I worked, the more inefficient I became, too.

Reality: Keeping track of current events has been a full time job on its own: I’ve always been personally and professionally interested in news but there’s been a lot of history unfolding in front of our eyes this year.

Dad: The biggest logistical thing is my father’s stroke and the consequences (June 2018). If you’re a regular reader here you know some of that story. Living with a person who’s living with dementia is harder than I would ever have guessed. He came very close to having to move into assisted living last fall — and avoided it because he was finally able to accept the home health aids in the end — but now, of course, given the startling statistics (40 percent of COVD-19 victims in this state were residents of long term care facilities) it seems unlikely that he would do that, or that we would want him to. One takeaway from all of this: no problem is ever “solved” — as his condition changes, so do the “solutions” we find to deal with it. It really is an additional full time job on its own.

Factors internal to fandom:

Richard Armitage: I’m in a weird place — spent a ton of money to go to London to see Uncle Vanya, and yet when I made a list recently of all of the recent Armitage work I haven’t consumed (Castlevania 2 & 3; My Zoe; The Stranger; all the audiobooks; the second half of the second Wolverine podcast) I realized that I actually haven’t even looked at the majority of his recent work. Uncle Vanya really recharged my fandom and my fantasy life, and ensured the continuation of this blog (I had thought about closing it down on my tenth anniversary last February) as I realized there was still stuff to say. At the same time, at a time when I had so many things clamoring for my attention, I just couldn’t make time for things that I either suspected or learned were schlock [a lot of the audiobooks: Joy Ellis and CJ Tudor, I am looking at you] or simply not of especial interest, no matter how well done [Castlevania]). I may catch up on some of that this summer. In Fall 2016, after a year negatively impacted by the Cybersmile crap and things Armitage said about his fans during Hannibal, after seeing Love, Love, Love, and getting fully drawn in again, I decided that I needed to stop letting Richard Armitage interfere with my crush. In the wake of other stuff that has happened since then, and especially seeing Uncle Vanya, I’ve concluded that my crush on Armitage is probably going to persist despite potential, ongoing and recently intensifying negative influences on my feelings about being a fan (see next two points). In the end, although my views of him have changed over the years, I don’t think that my fundamental judgements about him in January 2010, or the reasons for the crush, were either mistaken or have changed. I’m still fascinated. That may be good or bad, I don’t know.

Twitter: What we’ve gained since Armitage sucked the fandom onto Twitter is nothing in comparison to what we’ve lost. This has happened both on the front of the general information about Armitage himself (Armitage’s Twitter presence is a catastrophe and in fact it’s mostly turned into exactly what he said he didn’t want it to be: largely a publicity stream for his own projects) and in terms of the conversations we have as fans. A significant piece of this is due to the lousy Audible marketing campaigns, which exemplify exactly the meretricious qualities of the platform: Twitter makes you think you’re talking to someone or have access when you’re actually not (and when you realize the implications of this fully, it becomes infuriating). Maybe there’s something to be gotten from the programmed replies to their non-statements or frankly offensive remarks to fans or to Armitage himself, but the best I can say about this whole experience is that it’s more insipid by the day, when it’s not concretely disgusting. Yes, I have found a handful of friends via Twitter, but that’s more or less been drowned out by the constant flood of marketing, supersatured goo, platitudes, and downright offensive statements. As I knew a thoughtful, mostly incredibly kind, intellectually interesting and reflective Armitage fandom before Twitter took over, I’ll reduce my analysis down to a Mcluhanesque “the medium is the message.” It’s really impossible to fit the kind of messages we had before Twitter into that format, but on Twitter, format is all. Earlier this spring I decided to put my own Twitter presence more or less on ice and that’s been a great decision. I am no longer the first person to know what’s happening with Armitage but I’m also no longer slowly suffocating in the toxic cloud, either, and I have felt my spirits recovering, which has made it totally worth it.

The Armitage fandom, behaviors: My basic position on fandom was from the beginning two-fold: (a) what fans do is legitimate, i.e., don’t condescend to fans; and (b) as long as it’s not illegal or in a strict sense immoral, there’s no justification for criticizing what fans do. This position meant that there were always pieces of fandom I was either not interested in or even didn’t agree with, but could mostly ignore — and that attitude even survived my own experience of harassment at the hands of fellow fans in the spring of 2014 and the amount of blocking I had to do later that summer in order to protect myself from exposure to fan-on-fan policing. Looking back, I experienced a turn of sentiment during 2016 during the Love, Love, Love run due to behaviors I experienced at the hands of fellow fans, ones I witnessed, and ones I observed afar in the post-play / stage door atmosphere. A lot of that was my own fault for thinking I could control things that obviously were beyond my control, but it has made me very leery of any kind of meetup with a fan I don’t already know F2F “from before.” In 2019, there were suddenly junior high school age behaviors erupting of a kind I frankly hadn’t seen before (fans behind the scenes urging their friends to shun other fans). None of it was illegal or immoral, but all of it made me not want to associate with other fans or open up to new ones. And now that we have fellow fans who propagate lies, conspiracy theories, and dangerously erroneous medical information as part of their fan presences or former fan presences, I am even less interested in belonging to this particular club. This is not a matter of politics but of fundamental ethics, and our discourse opens up to what we are willing to tolerate. I can agree to disagree about things like the marginal tax rate, transportation projects, the desirable level of SNAP entitlements, what parts of American history should be emphasized in schools, etc., but I can’t agree to disagree about openly racist statements, obvious lies about our governmental leadership or its political opposition, or facts about how viruses are transmitted. If I allow myself to be contaminated by those attitudes and behaviors, I am endangering my moral and intellectual health, and even more concretely, the political and public health of my country. So I’ve gone from a very broad view of fandom to a much more narrow one over the years.

The Armitage fandom, discourse: What I had to say about both my experiences and Armitage was controversial almost from the beginning and on some level I’m surprised I remained at the center of the blogging fandom as long as I did. The fact that the behavioral level of the fandom has changed makes me unregretful about my increasing marginalization in a situation where I so often lack time or energy to blog. But even more than that, I find that the content of the fandom has changed. This probably also has something to do with the medium aspect of the experience, i.e., as the platforms for expression have changed, the types of expression have changed as well. Some of this was been productive (tumblr and images, an increasing variety of fanfic) but much of it has not been. There was a much broader toleration of differences of opinion and different ways of being an Armitage fan five years than there is now, and the consensus of what should be of primary interest to fans, or what it is that fans want to spend most of their time commenting on, has ended up in a place that I find by turns equally unobjectionable and uninteresting. Some of that has to do with my version of recreational time — people will say “I don’t want fangirling to be stressful in any way” and I respect that position, but the thing is that this blog was never a casual activity for me. It was a safety valve and an escape but not because it was fundamentally unserious or frivolous (occasionally satirical posts aside). A lot of that has to do with my longevity as a fan, as well: there are conversations I am either bored by or actively opposed to continuing, and my persistence in a fandom where the mean time of excitement among new people seems to run between eighteen months and three years means that I just can’t force myself to participate in yet another conversation among new fans about facial hair or potential roles and am probably labeled a grump for that reason. But some of it has to do with my fundamental personality: I’ve always pursued my own goals independently of what people thought, I’ve never been interested in going along to get along, I’ve never subscribed to “if you can’t say something nice, be quiet,” and I’ve never had a problem with separating myself from groups whose behavior I find fundamentally boring.

Me as writer: When I started the blog, it was about letting go of a whole flood of feelings, not just around Richard Armitage but around the things that were causing the crush, and then later it was a vent for other things (my mother’s death, my father’s illness). At some point I realized the best posts were those that I was really writing for myself. There was always the issue of fans of the first hour (“legacy fans,” we used to call them) who felt they owned the sole right to speak about Armitage. I usually went out of their way; they were always bothered by me. But then I had an experience, with one of the more emotionally open posts I wrote in the last few years, when I written much less of that stuff, with reading what a group of fans elsewhere were saying about it. I won’t get into it, but it was viciously cruel. Their right, of course, to think and to say what they wanted, and my stupidity for looking at it once I realized what it was. But there were two lessons I drew from that. One was that on some level, maybe the time for what I had been initially writing (brutally emotionally honest posts) was over, as many readers could no longer process it with any good will toward me at all. The other was that when I began to write, I didn’t care what other people thought about it. I was writing for me in the sense that I just needed to get stuff out there. That was the hardest kind of writing, it was part of why the crush on Armitage was so productive (because it made that possible again after years of dormancy), and it was the kind of writing most likely to make me experience flow, which was the point for me. That’s really where I would like to get back to — and maybe the lack of attention to this blog in recent years in the broader fandom will make that sort of thing possible again. Well, that and unemployment. I would really like it to be possible again. We’ll see.

~ by Servetus on May 29, 2020.

43 Responses to “me + richard armitage status report #RABlogReunion”

  1. Serv, I’m glad that you’ve kept up blogging all these years! I know I can always visit your site to see what’s up and it feels like visiting a hometown friend. I’m sorry for the online bullies over the years. I love that you’ve always beat your own drum within the RA fandom.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad you suggested doing this, Nat. It was neat to hear from a lot of people who’d fallen off my radar.

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  2. I think you win the prize for the most prolific blogger of the fandom. You have been a constant for years. It’s fascinating in itself to try to note the various phases of being in a fandom. The heady early years shine brightly in memory. The community of followers was smaller and it felt more like a big family — with a shared secret. Once the secret was out, things changed. Like I think we knew it would.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I remember a “confession” back when there was / I followed a “Richard Armitage Confessions” tumblr where someone was mourning that he was going to stop being a boutique pleasure after The Hobbit.

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  3. I’m glad you’re still around, despite all the pushback and drama you’ve had to deal with. You really are the most prolific blogger in RA fandom, I think. The news you share is great but I like your emotionally honest posts best. Maybe not to everyone’s liking but it’s you and I like that. So yeah, I hope you stick around for a long while yet!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve tried hard to get away from breaking news lately (or the expectation that I will do it) just because I can’t really honestly be neutral (or only positive, which among many of us counts as neutral) about it anymore. I want to continue. Hopefully it will be easier for at least the next six months or so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s is exhausting watching the news, especially all the terrible stuff happening these days in the US. It’s very very difficult to stay positive. I oo have been switching off the news, just so I can stay sane. I so very much hope the elections will bring about change for you. Until then, I hope the US doesn’t erupt into a civil war or something. ((Hugs))

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        • I should have clarified — I have tried to get away from being the source of breaking Armitage news. I’m still very au courant on the “actual” news, local, national, international. I had to ration my access to the weather forecast, though. Yesterday’s news was really hard on my sanity on a bunch of levels. I don’t blame people who tune some of it out. I confess, though, that I don’t get tuning all of it out.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so right about Twitter ‘sucking the fandom’ in to its reductive black hole. Thanks for all the years Servetus and your ever fascinating, informative entertaining and honest blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Servetus, you are my rock in the stormy waves of fandom. I don’t think I would have found my way in, if it were not for you and your insightful posts. I don’t think I would have felt ready to commit or even recognise myself as a fan of RA. So, for me, you are not only my rock and safe island in fandom, but also my guiding light, that shines into depth I would not find anywhere else. You see more, go deeper than I might be ready to commit to. But your insights draw me each and every time I come over to read your posts.
    Thank you !!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Those are very kind words. I’ve always kept the work we did together on King Richard Armitage in pleasant memory (although you did most of it)!

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  6. I am so glad you’ve kept blogging too! I haven’t been as faithful for checking your blog as i used to be, but it’s great to know it’s still there for whenever I need a fix!

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  7. sometimes I wish I could just stop where I am and not concern myself with an actor’s future projects, just stick with what I already know and love. we basically mold the real person into who we want/need them to be anyway, why not just detach from what is real (or what we perceive to be as real) and keep them safe within the construct of our own making? I’m sure some fans are able to do this but I am not one of them. it would make things so much easier if I were though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’m deciding that I’m focusing mostly on his work, and within that, the projects that I think are worthy of attention / well executed. I was thinking a few weeks ago that had I known who he was in (say) 2004 b/c I saw N&S at that time, I wouldn’t have “blamed” him for Casualty, Doctors, Cold Feet, etc. There are plenty of projects before I was his fan that I have seen once (or not at all — still haven’t watched the end of Ultimate Force, for instance) and never think or talk about. It’s only projects that he’s done since I’ve been a fan that I hold in deep disgust, and in a way that’s not fair. In any case, I’m not averse to further development — I’d bust *ss to see him on stage again, although the current situation has really put a wrench in that. And of course, if he we were dead, I probably wouldn’t be bothered by any substandard work (not that I am wishing that on him).

      The question of how I see him as a person is more complex. But he’s survived my growing awareness of the thing that I was most afraid of years ago: his intellect. In 2016 it was a real problem that twice after I’d invested a huge amount of effort, time and money to see him on stage and recharge my batteries, he made statements on significant matters that were so far beyond ridiculous that they bordered on offensive.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad it’s so far so good with your dad. I was worried after Flower’s granddaughter went straight there. ((Hugs!))

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  9. I’ve not really kept up with the actual fandom in years, and by the sounds of it, that’s clearly the way forward! Twitter, especially, can be a real cesspool at times in general, so not surprising that also involves the fandom, although it’s sad that it does. You’d think “we’re better than this” and then … guess not. 😦

    Sorry to hear about your dad’s illness, and condoleances for your mum. You’re right, the best place for him right now is where he is. We’ve not really heard much about the care home situation in the US, but what’s happening to care homes here in the UK (and Sweden) with Covid-19 is horrifying. Hoping you all stay safe.

    It’s really interesting how fandoms change with the times. Partly because of new fans coming along, but also, like you say, new mediums. I had a fansite for a singer ~20 years ago. Back then, we didn’t have YouTube. We’d have to meet up and copy each other’s video tapes and rely on secret file sharing to get hold of old music. Now you can buy those songs on a compilation CD, everyone and their uncle can make fanvids (and have them taken down on copyright grounds), and the artist himself is posting stuff on Instagram! Those are things we could never have imagined 20 years ago, and now they’re mainstream. The internet has changed so much in that time, and yeah, not all for the better.

    I like seeing RA on social media, and I’m not bothered about him plugging his projects, because there isn’t a celeb on social media who isn’t plugging their latest project in some way, shape or form. Gotta get the punters in, as it were. Glad you’ve got to see some of his plays live, and that you’re still around blogging. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Twitter: It’s not him promoting his projects that bothers me. As you say, everyone does it. It’s that his Twitter stream is nothing but that for weeks at a time. It’s that he said he wanted to promote the work of others but rarely bothers. It’s that he tweets things that he then deletes (although he does less of that than he did a few years ago), creating the impression that they don’t matter to him, sometimes on crucial topics. And probably in the end, the problem is that he has never succeeded in creating any kind of coherent persona in this medium (something that basically every non-bot who uses the medium manages to do, from the best example to the worst). He went from being a person with an in many ways charmed and charming ambiguity to someone clumsy and unattractive without even the advantage of seeming like much more than a bot. And fans happily exchanged the pleasing aspects of his occasional messages for the illusion of access that we don’t have because his behavior on Twitter is so bizarrely inconsistent.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Deleting tweets might simply be that he does what I’ve been sorely tempted to do as well at times. Posting something reasonably innocuous that you then get bombarded with hate/scorn for having expressed and you get to the point where you simply delete the tweet to get away from it, because there’s no way you can respond to it without getting even further into the argument. Trying to calm the waters won’t stop it and neither will standing your ground. It gets exhausting pretty quickly, and sends anxiety skyrocketing, and he’s a public figure with a lot of followers. I don’t know. Maybe he has since learned to use the mute thread and block person functions instead of tweet-deleting?

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        • We’ve had this discussion in the more active part of the fandom many times (reference note above: conversations I’m not interested in any more) and some people agree with you. In my opinion, it’s immature. Moral adulthood involves dealing with the consequences of what you say.

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    • oh: and turned the fans who hang off his words into sheeple that just intensify the general dynamic of sycophancy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that might just be fans interacting with their object of affection in general. 😉 Look at any celebritie’s social media and see how many post love declarations and hearts and roses and hugs on literally ANYTHING they post. “Today I had a hot dog for lunch.” “I LOVE YOUUUUUU!!!!!!!11!!” Makes sense that RA has some of those fans as well.

        … And the hot dog statement, if made on Twitter, might be exactly one of those innocuous posts that a person puts out and gets flack for, because don’t you know there are starving kids/an environmental disaster looming so why are you having meat/suffering animals/hot dogs aren’t real food/random health trolling about the nutritional value of hot dogs/etc. Ughhhh.

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        • Do you ever read his replies? Sycophancy pure and simple. Not everyone, but most. Again, people disagree with me. For me: not something I ever want to be a part of. (Again: reference discussions I’ve already had dozens of times).

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          • Hence my reasons for not getting involved in the fandom any more. shrug Anyway, you’ve had the discussions dozens of time already, and there’s no need for me to bore you with it again, so I bid you adieu on this topic. 🙂

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        • Also perhaps worth noting: my general disgust for Twitter moves well beyond fandom. I’ve gotten three fan friends out of it, one of whom is now a close friend, but that’s the extent of it. Twitter has almost killed my Armitage love, it killed my enjoyment of being a fan for a long time, and it’s slowly destroying the US political sphere. All things I have also said many times here.

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  10. Thanks for reminding me to update my blog roll. I had to think hard on what you meant by F1 my RA fan lingo is getting rusty. Gosh and to mention LJ. I used to spend time there for the Fanfic, I also found a great Sean Bean community there. This was before tumblr and Wattpad. LJ started a new platform and I never followed but I actually still get occasional emails letting me know that it’s a friends birthday! I forgot Avalon had deleted her blog. I’m sure she must have told me ages ago. I wonder if you have heard anything from Bccmee, I know she stepped out of the fandom and we used to text. I did send her a text when Nat made the announcement but I haven’t heard back. But she could be traveling too. Anyway I’m so glad you’re still here. Take care.

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    • The main person I knew on LJ was Fedoralady (who probably would have participated in this, but she got locked out of her WP account in a way that precluded her from ever getting it unlocked). And that was some of the first fanfic I read. I have not heard from bccmee but the person to ask about that is probably ItsJSforMe or Snickers’ Mom — they were both good friends of hers. She got bullied out — she’s the reason for the “cyberbullying — don’t do it” graphic on my blog margin.

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  11. Im glad you are still here Servetus. Honestly I think RA is of secondary concern when I open up a post – I want to hear how you are doing, your work and how your dad is.

    My experience of the fandom has always been small and naive – a few blogs and a handful of personal contacts. No Twitter ( I’m on Twitter but RA on Twitter makes me cringe). I’m fully aware that I miss 98% of what goes on but rely on my small community to let me know if anything really good happens. I knew nothing of the bullying until after the event and wished I had, although I understood your reasons for not sharing it here. I just wished we could have supported you better. Anyway – waffling – but just to say I am grateful you are here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think to some extent I’m weird in that I don’t like not knowing things, i.e., if something can be known, I tend to want to know it (even if it doesn’t please me in the end). So maybe my enjoyment is limited by the fact that I willingly encounter things that I am aware won’t please me (as) much. As far as back then goes — I still think the way we dealt with it was okay. There were three or four people who had to spend a lot of time listening to me talk about it — but if I had exposed it more fully, it would have led out to an all-out war that wouldn’t have been good for me or the fandom. It was destructive enough as it was. In other words: no worries.

      To some extent there’s a penalty for doing business, i.e., if you’re exposed in public someone is not going to like what you write. At the same time I have been surprised over the years how much pressure there’s been to be the kind of fan that other fans wanted me to be. That’s died down in the quieter atmosphere of the last few years — so when it re-emerged last year it was a bit surprising. (That, and the kind of stuff I honestly had not encountered since the sixth grade lunch table: people who couldn’t accept that when their “friendship” with me ended, that their friends’ friendships with me didn’t end either).

      Liked by 2 people

  12. […] (An interesting description and remarks on fandom back then is included in Servetus’ Blog Reunion post. Check it out.) I think there was a certain feeling of “safety in numbers”, of not […]

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  13. Still here, Serv. Quiet, but all is ok. Glad you are carrying on, I always love to read what you write. So much has happened over the years!

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    • I’ll be unemployed now. So as soon as I do the taxes I should be able to be more present. I apologize — I’d never envisioned my life the way it’s been lately.

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  14. I just got a chance to read your post and all the comments. Have not seen some names in a long time. I think your writing takes a new level when your writing about yourself. I hope that it is therapeutic for you. Sorry that your unemployed, but you must be relived to be done with the semester.

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    • Yeah — it’s been enjoyable to interact with some people I haven’t heard from in a long time. I AM really relieved to be finished, and I would have had the summer months without a paycheck anyway. The fall is more worrying. I hope you find something soon, too.

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  15. I hope that you continue blogging for as long as you want/need to. You and Calorexa were the first two blogs I lurked on before finding the courage to comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • She had a major epiphany after seeing some fans ridiculed on Graham Norton and suddenly deleted everything on her blog. But I’ve heard she’s still around.

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  16. I as many others am gad you’re still around as a blogger and fellow fan. Thanks for making me aware of the reunion day. I haven’t read all the posts yet but feel really nostalgic seeing all that names from my hightime of RA fangirling

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It was a lot of fun. Although also sad in a way. A lot of people popped up again but several weren’t able to / didn’t. If I listed all the blogs I was aware of there would have been around 50.

      Liked by 1 person

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