Do you remember?

“The older you get the more new memories get wiped out, and you end up remembering more about your early life than what you did last week.” Ken Loach

I’ve just started listening to Richard Armitage’s new audiobook Geneva.  Here are some thoughts I wanted to capture.  Firstly above is a song from my teenage years about remembering the past, which has become an earworm whilst I write this, and my blog title. There will be some spoilers throughout this post so no offence taken if you want to scroll past and revisit this post after you’ve heard the audiobook.  I’m nearing the end of chapter 6 of this work.  The narration (should I say performances – Audible seem to swap between the two?) are by Richard Armitage and Nicola Walker in alternative chapters (so far).

I actually hate listening to trailers and finding out anything about a project before I see it, if I can avoid it.  I’ve seen a few posts on social media reviewing this work, and I’m having to quickly scroll past them as I really don’t want to find out anything more about the work before I’ve finished hearing it!  It’s rare that I get to watch a film without having seen any trailers or knowing anything about it.  So yes, I do realise my discussions here make me a terrible hypocrite!

Before listening to the story I already knew that Walker (edited – looked it up from the end credits – Jane Perry as Terri Landau) were joining Armitage in the narration.  From an earlier interview, I also knew that this was going to be a thriller along the lines of Before I Go To Sleep.  I had happened to have bought that DVD before lockdown and hadn’t watched it, so after hearing Armitage mention this film, I popped it into my DVD player.  The movie stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, with Anne-Marie Duff in a supporting / cameo role.  I think it’s interesting to note here that this was the debut novel of (Steve) S J Watson, and the film rights were acquired by Ridley Scott’s production company before the novel had even been published.  An NHS audiologist, Watson would write in his spare time.  He attended a course called ‘Writing a novel’ and was clearly very successful on the course because at the end of it he was introduced to the person who would become his literary agent. I mention this here as I hope Watson’s story is a good indication for Armitage and how his debut work might succeed?  Can we call Armitage’s work a novel yet if it has only come out in audio format so far?  He has certainly said he has written a novel, so I guess we can?  Let’s hope all the positive reviews and downloads of his debut leads to the work being accepted for print and e-publication soon too!

The plot of Before I Go To Sleep is a thriller that involves an amnesiac (Kidman) wondering who she can trust, with lots of twists and turns.  A ‘nail biting psychological chiller’ (and 4 stars) is what’s written on the back of the DVD.  The DVD includes behind the scenes (BTS) interviews with the actors, second-time director Rowan Joffe and a Q&A with Joffe (who also adapted the novel for the film).  Joffe had previously directed a remake of Brighton Rock starring Andy Serkis.  It was from watching the BTS that I found out about the original book being a debut.  Joffe also spoke about how generous and understanding Watson was when certain parts of the plot were adapted for the film.  Things that can be made suspenseful on paper just can’t work in a visual medium and Watson accepted that with good grace.

So we have some clues then to what Geneva will be like – a psychological thriller, with lots of twists and plot surprises?  (Prologue starts up on the mountain in the snow, so should we call it a chiller?) From the more recent trailers and interviews, we know it is about a woman scientist who is suffering some kind of early onset dementia, and so she isn’t sure what is real and what isn’t. One of the best interviews I’ve seen so far on Armitage’s Geneva was this one where Richard wrote his own questions (whilst apparently drunk!  Not drunk when answering though, I guess!)

The topic of early onset dementia is certainly one that interests me.  I was diagnosed with diabetes (type 2) in 2018 but had felt unwell for a couple of years before then, needing to go back at least 3 times to the GP before diagnosis.  My symptoms had included the classic ‘brain fog’ and dehydration manifesting as dry lips.  I didn’t even know what to call my brain symptom when I first went to my doctor.  I was used to keeping several things in my head at once. With the fog I have difficulty retaining even one thing in my short term memory. This is where ‘ctrl+c’ (copy) and ‘ctrl+v’ paste become my best work buddies! Initial blood tests were fine, so it was put down to stress or peri-menopause.  But as this and other symptoms got worse, the real cause of my fogginess was finally detectable in the screening blood tests they offered me.  I am very, very lucky that simple medication was able to assist me and I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about paying for such medicine out of my paycheck (I pay national insurance and income tax instead).  Earlier this year the diabetes specialist nurse insisted I was doing so well I could come off my medication.  I wasn’t happy and inevitably my brain fog and other symptoms came back.  I’ve been back on the meds now for a few weeks and am starting to feel less mucky murky in my thoughts.  Diabetes causes damage to red blood cells – they become glycated (glucose molecules stick to them so they become less efficient).  The glycation can’t be removed but we fortunately do renew our blood cells.  I’ll need to go through at least 2 red blood cell production cycles (4 – 6 months?) for my symptoms to improve.  So I must be patient and accept my dreadful memory for now.   

Brain fog has been a common symptom for those infected with Covid-19.  So it’s something that I see more younger people and more middle-aged men nod sagely at me about.  They get it – they’ve experienced it – they understand what it is, and are more sympathetic to those of us who suffer from it.  It’s a small positive take from this pandemic that took so many lives and has caused long-term suffering for many. 

Dementia is a complicated health issue.  My Mum has been diagnosed with it, may be 5 or more years ago?  We are blessed that it has progressed slowly with her for now.  My parents live together and potter along well.  They visit my sister and her son weekly and I am fortunate to be able to ‘work from home’ from their house once a fortnight or so, so we can keep an eye on them and help out a little.  My father encourages my mother to keep cooking, though her culinary skills have simplified over the last few years.  She’s able to venture out alone again to the shops too, something she used to do regularly before lockdown.  Both are frailer now, and she’s not used to walking far now though.  The impact is minimal on me so far – repeated questions about ‘how were the roads?’ are the only symptoms that are overt to me.  I try to answer each repetition with the same light wording on the 5th repeat as I do the first time around.  I do wonder if she might plummet one of these days?  My neighbour (a retired nurse in her mid to late 80s) has just had to put her dear husband in a nursing home due to dementia.  He had been a healthy, strong retiree, even running marathons in his early 70s.  Now in his mid to late 80s, he shuffles along refusing to learn to use the walking frame the home have offered him.  He is like a disgruntled toddler, she tells me, but worse because he is of course adult sized and with adult-sized obstinacy.  She visits as often as she can.  In his world now he thinks he is on leave from the army and will need to return to Germany soon (he did national service as a young man).  Most recently he asked her when they would be returning to their home in a certain street.  She didn’t recognise the road name and so did some digging with family members – it was a home he had lived in on return to his mother after living in a children’s home for a few years – he was seven years old when he moved into that street. 

Dementia has been a theme of a lot of movies recently; Father, starring Antony Hopkins; and Supernova starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci being another from last year.  There are other movies on this theme too.  I’ve seen none of them yet, but writing this post has reminded me I really ought to do a bit more ‘preparation’ and learning about dementia. I have reminded myself that I had attended a 2 hour Dementia Friends training course at work several years ago, but really it’s time for a refresher for me.  If you don’t know about this charity, I would ask you to take a look – here’s a 1 minute video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VD3epu4SB2Y

Dementia Friends is a charity offering free learning so people can help others in their community just by understanding more about this illness (actually several different types of illnesses).  All you need to do to become a Dementia Friend is to watch a 5 minute video (you’ll need to enter a name and an email address to watch it) to join 3.5 m other Dementia Friends.  There’s a 40 minute video option too, if you want to learn more too – all free.

I have a colleague who is a neurobiologist and just a day ago she posted on a workplace social media site about Nobel prize winner Prof Eric Kandel.  He had won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2000 for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons alongside Professors Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard.  A biopic of Kandel was made in 2009 – In Search of Memory.  I thought the serendipity was perfect for me as I was wondering when I’d start to listen to Geneva.  With the audiobook in mind, I had a quick search on youtube and found something from Kandel to watch that was easy-ish to understand and engaging (to me)Here’s that 35 min video. It gives me hope about current research and treatments for age related dementia, but he also starts with some early history into the science of memory research.

Armitage has spoken about his fictional work being inspired by Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert DBE, and that his protagonist, Sarah Collier, is named after her. Gilbert’s team at the Oxford Vaccine Group developed an effective vaccine against Covid-19 (the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine).  More than 2.5 bn doses of that vaccine have been released to over 170 countries.  She was interviewed by Prof Jim Al-Khalili on The Life Scientific, which can be heard here for those who can access it. She was honoured with a damehood in 2021 but does not have a Nobel Prize.  I read on Wikipedia that she gave birth to triplets in 1998, and ‘as of 2020, all of the triplets are studying biochemistry at university’.  She has written a book about the development of the vaccine with Catherine Green called ‘Vaxxers: a pioneering moment in Scientific History’, published in 2021.

In Armitage’s work he mentions the security guard at the Schiller Institute sitting behind a bullet proof screen.  This set me on thoughts of my pre-uni work gap year.  I was fortunate to have been able to work in pharmaceutical research as a biochemistry lab assistant before going to uni.  My work involved screening hundreds of drugs supplied by our chemical lab team for their effects on mammalian brain tissue, specifically the hippocampus.  As an organisation that did animal research, safety and security was drummed into us.  Several of the team had worked in another organisation previously where their boss had been murdered by animal rights terrorists some 5 to 10 years before – a bomb under his car.  We were barred from going to the nearest pub to the lab after work.  We were told that activists were staking out that pub and we weren’t to go there, certainly not on a regular basis.  So obviously ‘our local’ became the 2nd nearest.  No work logos or ID cards were to be shown outside of work, and strictly no work related talk in places where we could be overheard by the public.  Once in awhile we’d be notified that the activists (presumably bored by the lack of interesting people in the closest pub) were trying out the other local pubs to identify the lab workers.  So then we’d move to the 3rd closest pub, or in extremis the 4th pub, but this would only be for a week or two, then we’d hear we could return to our local.  We presumed there was at least one undercover officer within the local animal rights groups passing intel back to the police.  Occasionally word would get back to someone that they had been too loud in the pub about where they worked and that it had been overheard (by someone also keeping an eye on us). Yup, spooks are real!

One of the characters in Armitage’s work mentions an image of Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake.  Blake is an artist that has inspired Armitage previously – Lucas North has Blake pictures on his wall.  Armitage then portrayed Francis Dolahyde in the tv series Hannibal, who was also inspired haunted by some of Blake’s images.  So I am grateful that a member of the Armitage Army kindly posted the Nebuchadnezzar image on Twitter.  I see from Wikipedia (hyperlink above) that there are very slightly different print impressions held by different museum and art galleries of this work.

Back to audiobook Geneva – am only one-fifth of the way through so far.  If I hadn’t known it was a debut novel by Richard Armitage, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind that it wasn’t by a ‘professional’.  It gripped me from the start, and I guess all the main characters of the book have now been introduced, so now the main story will start?  It’s a 4 star beginning for me and am looking forward to hearing some more so want to finish this post quickly so I can start listening to it again!

But I have a couple of very minor niggles.  So if you don’t like to read anything negative, you can stop here.

The Schiller Institute of course doesn’t exist really in Geneva – Armitage had to create this entity.  Browsing I see there are Schiller Institutes around the world though in other places, so hopefully there won’t be any complaints to Armitage or Audible from them.  The Institute’s location – up a single track mountain path and built into a rock face is rather preposterous!  Certainly not a practical location!  Has Armitage been watching too many James Bond or Austen Power movies!  May be there’s a good reason the building is half buried inside a mountain – like some research laboratories that have to be deep underground?  We’ll see, but I do imagine the staff cursing on their daily commutes into work, they would all need sturdy 4×4 vehicles.  And the Institute would need a one-way timing system to get in and out along that single track road as it doesn’t sound like there are many passing places on that mountain?  Arrangements for overnight stays would be needed too in the event of poor weather!  Sorry if I’ve over-thunk this!

Secondly, Nicola Walker’s accent is distracting to me.  Her character, Sarah, comes from Barnsley, a market town in South Yorkshire, but Walker speaks with a southern received pronunciation (RP) accent in this narration.  I’m confused and if I’m honest a little bit disappointed.  May be the change of accent will be explained later – perhaps she was born there but then the family quickly moved away in her early childhood?  It’s a bit of a trope to think that clever scientists speak with posh accents.  It negates the possibility of social mobility and that people from up north can be clever, could be scientists.  As someone who studied and worked ‘up north’ for some years, I know that is very bad stereotyping.

Nicola Walker worked with Armitage in the BBC tv series Spooks (known as MI-5 in some countries), or rather he joined her in the series, arriving in Season 7, whilst she had been in it from Season 2.  I looked her up on Wikipedia, which claims her son, with husband actor Barnaby Kay was named Harry, after the character Harry Pearce played by Peter Firth in the series.  I have to take that story with a pinch of salt as Harry is a common (and princely) name.  The relationship between Harry and Ruth (Walker’s character) was an interesting part of the day to day lives of the show, in between the action where Lucas North and others save the world!   Another connection Walker and  Armitage have is that they have both performed in Big Finish audioplays of Doctor Who, though in different episodes.

Nicola is a BAFTA nominated (Last Tango in Halifax) and Olivier (Matilda) award winning actress.  In Last Tango in Halifax, she plays Derek Jacobi’s daughter.  It’s set unsurprisingly in Halifax, Yorkshire, and she uses an authentic (to me) accent.  The series were written by Sally Wainwright OBE, who wrote Sparkhouse (where Richard played John Standring), and most notably more recently wrote the series Gentleman Jack.  The reason I mention all this (apart from the connections to Armitage), is that Walker can obviously do a ‘Yorkshire’ accent, so why she didn’t in this case intrigues me.  It may all be revealed later and I will say ‘ah yes, that is why’, but currently I’m thinking mmmmm, and it is distRActing me from the narration. I will try to push that aside as I listen on. 

These are really very minor bug bears so I hope I don’t disappoint avid fans. And am happy and excited to carry on with listening to the story.

Thanks for reading this far!


Season’s Greetings – ho, ho, ho!

This year’s Richard Armitage Christmas fan auctions and fixed price sales for LOROS charity, are starting Saturday 27th November – yup less than 1 week away, and am getting buzzed just thinking about it!  If you want to play along, please go to Guylty’s website for more details

Richard Armitage on Good Morning Britain, with Christmas tree behind him (no copyright infringement intended)

You can also read along on Twitter, using the hashtag #HoHoHolidayFundRAiser (note the caps! :p )  Just like recent previous birthdays and the first Christmas auction last year, there will be a mix of auction lots and small fixed-price items for sale, mostly fan-made and reflecting the various productions and chaRActers Richard has played. 

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne wearing jacket donated to fans 50th Birthday auction (no copyright infringement intended)

The birthday fundRAiser this year was extraordinary.  Not only did Richard’s jacket make nearly £11k on its own (half from the winner, and half from a further generous donation by Richard himself), but the rest of the fundRAiser – let’s say the usual bit made up of the items made and donated by fans themselves raised £7k.  I’m chuffed that the fans bit topped the winning bid and Richard’s separate donation – because without all the fans hard work, it just wouldn’t have been as successful an event.  So since January, a further £22k has been raised for LOROS charity in the name of Richard’s mum, Margaret Armitage.  This and the following two charity donation sites are still live (that is accepting donations);  St Mungo’s and the Magic Breakfast Christmas Appeal 2020 set up by Richard last December.  Both these charities are still in much need of funds, hunger and poverty certainly haven’t lessened over the last year.

No worries if you can’t make a winning bid, donation or buy a fixed priced item this time, things are tough. I hope you will consider supporting the #HoHoHolidayFundRAiser ‘emotionally’ if you can’t participate financially, so for example by mentioning it at any fan related networks you’re a part of? The birthday fundRAiser had the most people participate this year, and I hope we can beat last year’s Christmas fundRAiser participation rate too.

Uncle Vanya, end bows (no copyright infringement intended)

On the radio today I heard that for the first time since the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, all the London West End theatres are now open. The Uncle Vanya cast (except for Roger Allam standing in for Ciaran Hinds) were able to reunite in August 2020 to record their production. The recording has been available on BBC iplayer but that availability will end sometime this December. The recording is also available on DVD, becomes available on (US?) streaming service Marquee TV soon too. Aimee Lou Wood (Sonya) posted on Instagram that one can get a 3 months for 1 month subscription to Marquee TV if you use code ‘LOU341’ on signing up. I hope those Armitage fans who haven’t been able to watch this production yet, may find this another useful option to see the production. Aimee additionally said the show would be coming to the UK, NZ and Australia in 2022. (I don’t know if that’s via Marquee TV or another streaming service?)

If you’re looking for some ‘action’ before Saturday, then you might want to submit your nominations to the 22nd ‘What’s On Stage’ awards covering the period when Uncle Vanya was performed.   Deadline to nominate is Friday 26th November and only one set of nominations will be accepted per email address.  Richard fans, please consider entering ‘Richard Armitage in Uncle Vanya’ (you must include the show’s name in the nomination entry box!) for ‘Best Performer in a Leading Role in a Play’ (there are two nominations for each category allowed, so you could nominate Toby Jones too?), and perhaps two of the other actors from the play for ‘Best Performer in a Supporting Role in a Play’, that is Ciarán Hinds, Dearbhla Molloy, Anna Calder-Marshall, Peter Wight, Rosalind Eleazar or Aimee Lou Wood.  There are two other categories you might also want to enter nominations for; ‘Best play revival’ and ‘Best West End  Show’.  The shortlist of successful nominees is then available for voting between Thursday 9 December 2021 and Friday 21 January 2022. Good luck, Richard!

I meant to write a blog post soon after the 50th birthday fundRAiser to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who participated – it was the biggest yet in terms of money raised and number of participants, including for the first (probably only) time Richard himself!  But, apologies,  life got in the way, perhaps I’ll explain another time about that?  You can’t imagine how delighted I was to later read the guest blog on Guylty’s website from the auction’s main prize winner, and Richard’s answers to her questions.  If you’ve not read the winner’s post, please check it out here, with Guylty’s collation of Richard’s tweet replies to the winner’s questions here.  Suffice to say, the prize was won by a fan, who had a beautiful tale about why both the jacket and the charity were close to her heart.  I couldn’t be happier that the jacket went to a well-deserved home. Congratulations, winner!

Best wishes all, and good luck to everyone participating in this year’s #HoHoHolidayFundRAiser events. Please don’t fret if you can’t join in this year money-wise – instead please try to spread the word with your fellow fans about the events, or consider doing a reverse advent calendar (for example donating items to a food bank), or volunteering your time with a charity in your local area? Whatever you do – be kind to yourself!

Finally, as an auction is involved, please remember to be gamble-aware – when the fun stops, stop! ❤ X O


Richard Armitage fans giving to charity – it’s not just the money, money, money

Hello and welcome to my blog and first post.  It starts in the middle, meaning I’m not using this first post to introduce myself.  I hope to do that another time … may be?  Positive and constructive comments are welcome.

I started this post to answer the question: how much money has been donated in the name of Richard Armitage by his fans and well-wishers (f&ww)? Who he, some of you say? He … is the actor, most famed for playing Thorin Oakenshield in the Peter Jackson The Hobbit movie franchise.  I should declare that I am in no way connected to him, or any of his financial affairs.  Nor am I qualified book-keeper.  I am just one of his many f&ww. 

But since forming that question, I’ve also thought about how celebrity endorsements can help raise more than money for worthy causes and charities. And as this is still Covid-19 season (alas!), I thought I’d mention the R0 (R-naught) value for kindness – yes, it really is contagious, more so than even Covid!

The question that begins this post came to me when I was pleased to read about the recent award of OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) accepted by Toby Jones for services to drama.  Jones played the eponymous hero in a recent London West End production of the Chekhov play Uncle Vanya, which also starred Richard Armitage as Dr Astrov (hence my attention was drawn to Jones’ achievement).  I wondered if anyone were to ever offer Armitage a gong, his might be for service beyond that of drama – that is services to drama and charity?  And so, it was with the charity side in mind, I write.   However, as Jesse J sings in her song price-tag, my thoughts on charity have gone beyond the money, money, money.

But first the money bit, feel free to skip if you don’t yearn to relive any childhood aspirations of running away to join a circus become a chartered accountant … I am not including any donations made by Richard Armitage directly because he has not disclosed any of those to me.  And secondly, as am only a fan and in no way connected to Richard Armitage, nor does he endorse any of the contents of this blog.  Further details of charities Richard has previously supported (by public shoutout) can be found at Servetus’ wonderful blog, specifically this link and includes;

Theatre Artists Fund, Fleabag for Charity, Captain Tom / NHS, Australian Red Cross, The Woodland Trust, Oxfam International, Action Aid (UK), The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC, specifically the Bangladesh Cycle Appeal), ALS Bucket Challenge (no specific hyperlink for that challenge so a couple of charities suggested here are ALS / motor neurone disease), Christchurch Earthquake Appeal and the Fundraiser for Sarah Dunn (kindly  note the last two are no longer seeking funds).  He has also publically supported The Cybersmile Foundation, and is still an Official Ambassador for this non-profit organisation fighting online abuse and all forms of bullying. 

The organisations I will be considering in this audit are those where Richard (or one of his people?) has set up an account for his f&ww to donate to – a sort of sponsorship of him though no specific action is required of him (bucket challenge excluded).  The charities included are;

Childline, Barnardo’s, Shelter (UK), Young Minds UK, Anthony Nolan Trust, Action for Children (Urban and the  Shed Crew), the Salvation Army (UK), LOROS (Leicestershire & Rutland) Hospice and most recently St Mungo’s and Magic Breakfast.  Do let me know if I’ve missed out any charities?

I have used a variety of sources to identify Richard Armitage’s ‘officially’ sanctioned charities, mostly his Just Giving and Tribute to his Mum’s pages.  He has (or ‘his people’[i] have) used a couple of different account profiles to set these pages up, and some appear to be frozen so no further donations can be made via those pages, yet they have not been formally ‘closed’ allowing the amounts already donated to still be visible.  I have noted the approximate date each page was created, where stated.  For the live pages, if you click on the hyperlink to go to that donation page, you may well find the total shown there to be different (higher) than that listed here.  Because of the live nature of donation pages, this work can only be a snapshot of the total donations. 

There are a number of similarly titled Just Giving pages that I have excluded from my tally.  This is because the first name (aka Christian name) ‘Richard’ is common in the English-speaking world, and the surname ‘Armitage’ is not particularly uncommon, particularly in Yorkshire, so other ‘Richard Armitage’s do legitimately exist.  These other pages on Just Giving or other charity fundraising sites are therefore mostly not by scammers but real people who of course have just as much right to use the name ‘Richard Armitage’ for their own purposes.  I’ve excluded the pages where a photo is shown of someone who clearly isn’t Richard Armitage the actor, or where the amount raised or number of reported supporters implies a lower level of fame, or finally where the page has been formally closed and no further information is available on the amount raised.  The pages notably excluded are in the format of https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richard-armitage but with the numbers 1, 5 to 12, or 15 at the end of the webpage.  I’ll be happy to add any of these back in to my calculations if I’m wrong and they are pages set up on behalf of Richard Armitage the actor.  

Many of Richard Armitage (the actor)’s Just Giving pages are set up with the default blurb for that charity, with no additional unique text.  Exceptions to this are the pages set up for Urban and the Shed Crew, and the two latest pages for St Mungo’s and Magic Breakfast.  Most of the earlier Just Giving pages are subtitled ‘Richard Armitage Fundraising’ though there is no photo to confirm the identity of the person being sponsored.  The last two charity pages considered in this work appear to be from a different account, same name ‘Richard Armitage’ but now subtitled ‘RC’s Christmas’ and this time with a photo of the actor, which does help with identification.  (In the first [of several] digressions that will happen here – the use of the initials ‘RC’ always amuses me– my puerile sense of humour immediately thinks ‘arsey’ and given the man’s self-confessed/self-deprecating claims of moodiness, this may be a more considered choice than fans may know?).

The Just Giving pages provide the number of ‘supporters’ who have donated to that particular cause.  However it’s not clear from those pages if the number of supporters is the total number of unique accounts used for donation, or the total number of separate donations made.  For example, if one person made two separate donations, at different times, perhaps on an annual basis, do the pages count those donations as separate ‘supporters’ or one?  And of course, it may be possible that a person may use a different account, email or payment details, so the website would not be able to correctly conflate that data to one person.  So the total number of supporters / donations is a little inaccurate.  Donations made after a fan event where several fans have participated and clubbed together, would also be documented on those pages only as one supporter.

To date, the total sum raised is over £141k, including UK tax rebate (known as Gift Aid), so making an exact amount of £ £132,282.02 excluding tax, from 3740 separate donations (making an average £37.74 per donation).  Some of the donations will have come from fan fundRAising events such as Richard Armitage birthday and Christmas auctions[ii].  Such collective donations will skew up the average £ per donation. 

Not unsurprisingly, the charity that has had the most donated by f&ww is the one dedicated to Richard Armitage’s mother, Margaret Armitage.  Donations go to support the LOROS hospice, which supported his Mum and her family during her final illness.  The charities in the above list that have had the least donated to them so far are the ones with pages most recently created this Christmas 2020 however both have exceeded the initially set targets within weeks of being established.  Well done, f&ww!

What’s the significance of this post, ie why did I bother, you may ask?  I guess the first reason is to answer the question I posed to myself, because I’m nosey like that.  Secondly, if ever Richard Armitage has a bad day – a momentary George Bailey moment – e.g. he poses an existential question to himself such as ‘what if I hadn’t been born?’ – this total might be one of a number of positive points he might remember on top of, or apart from, his artistic contributions to the world.  Richard’s presence in this world has directly contributed this amount so far to charity (in his and his Mum’s names).   As I’ve said earlier, I can’t comment on his personal donations to charity, as I don’t know about them, but those too will be a part of his charitable legacy.

Some of you may have spotted that I’ve only referred to money so far, and I did say I’d go beyond that.  What about donations of time / volunteering?  It’s true that in the developed world, a lot of people have found themselves money Rich, and time poor, and there are some reading this who are poor of both.  A financial donation might be a quick (thoughtless?) click of a button, but volunteering one’s time is a different type of donation, and very admirable.  Many of Richard’s fans are crafty people – in the sense that they are craft-makers – making fun unique Richard Armitage related items for sale /auction at charity events.  They often do the craftwork because they find it therapeutic, so is that personal gain from their own actions?  Should such personal gains be offset from the pleasure received by those receiving the products of their actions?   This would all lead to complex (subjective?) tallying.  So no, I haven’t assessed the donation of time element because I don’t have sufficient data, and because I can’t compare one person’s time with another’s.

Richard Armitage’s support of The Cybersmile Foundation is a great legacy, beyond his fan base, to the wider social media circus.  I wonder if more public support for anti-bullying organisations by a famous person, an influencer, might temper fan fervency and vitriol?  Richard Armitage has recently supported the NHS volunteers scheme, set up through the St John Ambulance and the Royal Voluntary Service, at the start of the pandemic in the UK (whilst Richard was out of the country), citing he had recently signed up after returning to the UK.  One of the aspects of public charity fundRAising is the RAising of awareness of organisations needing support. 

Richard Armitage, and other celebrity volunteers, have reminded me that I might be able to do something myself – he’s influenced me into looking into what more I could do.  I could cite work restrictions on volunteering during this national emergency, and I technically get an NHS payslip, and have an NHS work email address.  So I’ve been excusing myself – I’m doing enough by just turning up for work, right?  But on reflection, no, I don’t think so.  On seeing Armitage’s support for this scheme, I went back to look at the various roles the scheme was asking for volunteers for.  One, the Check In and Chat service, didn’t even need me to get up off my sofa.  Yes, I needed to get my DBS (safeguarding identify and criminal check) certificate updated, but that was all, as I already had similar training for this service from being a Mental Health First Aider via training from MHFA England.  I’m pleased to say I got my DBS renewal within 24 hours (I was warned it could take 6 weeks!), and have now started this volunteer role.  Not much of my time, I admit – I’m not doing shifts as a vaccination centre steward, or as a community responder or driver, as many are – but I’m contributing a little more than I had been – it’s another small addition, and they all mount up?

Part of my procrastinating about this post is that I’m very averse to appearing to show off – to bolster, or as Transactional Analysis puts it ‘to stroke’ my ego!  I’ve hesitated to write about the above volunteer role and to mention that I recently did a sponsored physical challenge for the charity Shelter (UK).  After going back and forth on whether to mention these or not many times, I’ve finally opted to do so.  It’s partly because I’ve now had a little experience of setting up a Just Giving page myself, and this has been a charity Richard Armitage has supported with his own Just Giving page (now closed) in the past.  For me, as Shelter were organising the challenge event, there was a lot of help available with pictures and potential blurb that we could use, to tie things in to the charity event which closes on 15th March 2021.  I thought I chose to close my Just Giving page a little earlier than that, but I don’t see a closing date on my page.  Nor do I know how easy it would be to re-open it afterwards, if there were any feedback requesting me to do so.  I’ll see how things go, but I want to thank everyone who has kindly supported me – it really was a win, win, win, event.  I got fitter, and I would have slouched off if I hadn’t had the charity event to keep me going.  Everytime I did my little set of reps, I thought about the charity.  I’ve had friends respond back to me with discussions about difficult landlords, or homeless situations they’ve been in, so I know I was RAising the topic in their minds.  My mention of this challenge event to friends, family and social media have lead to some very generous anonymous donations, so perhaps more support than if I hadn’t blabbed about it?  A friend has now mentioned she’s going to run 100 km in March for Breast Cancer UK.  I think she became more confident to announce this challenge and ask for sponsorship after hearing about my activity for February.  I’m very pleased for her, and yes I’ll be sponsoring her! 

The second reason that overcame my shyness with regards to announcing these charitable acts, is the science about Kindness.  Yup, psychologists have spent a lot of time looking at how Kindness spreads – how contagious it is.  We’re all (unfortunately) now familiar with so-called R numbers, or rather the R0 number for Covid-19.  It needs to be less than 1.0 for us having any chance in stopping the spread of Covid-19.  For Kindness, the R0 number is between 4 and 5, depending on the different researchers studying it.  What this means is that if you perform 1 kind act, as well as you feeling good, the person receiving that kind act feels good, and pays that good feeling forward to 4 or 5 others that day with their own kind acts, and they pay it forward themselves.  1 kind act ripples to 125 good acts in only 3 degrees of contact.  So though there are many good reasons to perform charitable acts privately, quietly, this science shows us it’s worth shouting out about our charity and activism too. 

Richard Armitage’s contribution to charity includes his own personal donations of time and money, his advocacy for organisations close to his heart such as Cybersmile, and enabling his fans and well wishers to donate in his name via several charity donation webpages. Richard Armitage fans, like their hero, are a pretty amazing bunch of people who’ve contributed a hefty sum to many great charities, big and small.  Through events such as fan auctions, they’ve donated their time by making items, donating memorabilia such as magazine articles or theatre flyers, as well as stumping up cash in frenzied friendly bidding wars.  Many fans have alternatively or additionally donated as separate individuals too. 

Jesse J says “It’s not about the money, money, money … money can’t buy us happiness, can we all slow down and enjoy right now … we’re paying with love tonight.” The donations and support by fans for the charities and organisations advocated by a famous person are an expression of their esteem for that person and/or the cited organisation.  It’s perhaps a declaration of their regard of their idol?  So perhaps it isn’t necessarily just about the money, money, money, and perhaps they are paying with love tonight?

Thanks for reading this opening blog.  I’m conscious I should have taken longer in prepping this – if only to edit, edit, edit and cut, cut, cut.  As stated earlier, positive and constructive comments most welcome. Regards

[i] Am using this phrase as I don’t know how much support he gets from his agents, family and staff in establishing and maintaining these and other sites. 

[ii] For the sake of full disclosure, I have contributed to a few of the later fan auctions. I’m sorry I can’t remember if I may have contributed to any of these charity pages directly too at some point – but I may have done.

HoHoHolidayFundRAiser auction is now open!

The Richard Armitage fan organised Christmas 2021 charity auction and fixed price sale on behalf of LOROS charity has begun.  This is the 2nd Christmas auction (I believe), the first happened last year.  Further details and small print etc, can be found on Guylty’s blog.

There are 40 lots in the auction this year, with bids closing around 8 pm on Tuesday 30th November 2021 (Universal Time (UT), ie Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), ie London/Dublin time).  The auction is followed by a fixed-price sale of smaller items, for the penny conscious fan. Everthing finishes this week, so that items can be sent out and received by winners before Christmas (subject to the vagaries of international customs and postal services). If you make a bid on an item, the precise auction end time for that lot will be shown, with each lot having a slightly different end time.  I’m emphasising the time element here because strategy-wise, if you want to win one of the items, then it’s those final bid minutes and seconds that count.  You snooze, you lose!

As I write this, I see Guylty has posted her first watershed update on the auction, namely that over €1000 has been bid so far!  That’s a great start, wow!  I was planning on a shout out for the 4 items which have not received a single bid yet, but I see Guylty is there first, so I won’t go in to detail on all the lovely items. I will write about one of the 0 bid items; a copy of the Ocean’s 8 DVD.  Here’s a short video of Richard being interviewed and telling us more about the movie, if you’ve not seen it and don’t know the plot.

Ocean’s Eight (as listed on imdb) was filmed and came out in 2018 in a post Me-too switch to female leads such as Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and perhaps more famous for her music, Rihanna.   Richard has joked in an interview (or few?) that his father would speak of him as the 9th female star of the film!  Damien Lewis was allegedly due to play Richard’s role, Claude Becker, but pulled out due to a scheduling conflict whilst filming tv show Billions, though he apparently made a cameo appearance.  Richard was a late switch in to the filming, I believe.  Here’s another great interview he did about how he enjoyed making that movie and that having so many female members of cast and crew was no big deal to him as he’d worked with many great female directors, cast and crew previously.  Many well known Armitage bloggers have posted about Ocean’s 8 around the time of filming and it’s release.  I’ll just reference ArmitageAgonistes’ section here

It’s a good fun movie, if you’ve not watched it before, and gives me an excuse to post this Claude Becker gif. 

Claude Becker being played

Filming was around the time that Richard Armitage’s mum became ill and sadly died just a few months after diagnosis and being cared for at the LOROS hospice.  Those of you who know about pancreatic cancer will know that there are often few symptoms leading up to diagnosis so that the cancer can often be at a late stage when treatment begins.  It has one of the lowest 5-year survival rates.  (As a family, we regard ourselves as fortunate that an aunt who developed this in Germany was able to survive 4 years, very unusual.  Sadly a UK in-law died month’s earlier than expected after beginning pancreatic cancer treatment, due to a hospital blunder during routine scanning, heartbreaking for us.) There are two pancreatic cancer charities in the UK, supporting research to improve treatment options and survival rates, and there are equivalents around the world.

I’ve read that the female members of this film were very understanding and supportive of Armitage at that difficult time for him.  Being (I think a) workaholic, he must have found focusing on work at that time of benefit to himself.  Sorry to bring anyone down reading this blog, but I wanted to say why Ocean’s 8 is a special film to me, and for many Armitage fans.  So please support and bid for this DVD, it’s for a great cause! 

Richard Armitage – Penny for the Guy?

My enormous thanks to the kind welcome I received from Richard Armitage fans regarding my first blog post in March. (How did time fly that quick!)  This year’s Richard Armitage birthday charity auctions, run for and by fans, are beginning tomorrow.  Guylty reports a total of over £11k donated to charity in the years she has been involved in it. I plan to look back and update the info in my first blog after Richard’s birthday (22nd August, for those that don’t know), and I hope it will be a record smashing year!  

This year is indeed a special year, being Richard’s 50th birthday, and has to be celebrated in style.  He has always thanked LOROS directly on Twitter for the fan auction donations.  This year he has decided to participate himself directly with his fan base.  I don’t know if 18 months of pandemic has made him crave more social contact, or if this is senility creeping up on him!  In March 2019 he tweeted about a couple of costume jackets he had found in a laundry bag – I guess he was doing a clear out of a cupboard (did that become Wardio the next year?).  He looked delighted by the find, and he has very generously and kindly donated one of those jackets (my favourite out of the two), to this year’s auctions.  He has also tweeted that he will match the winning bid for his own donation to LOROS. 

This month is Altruistic August in the Action for Happiness (AfH) monthly calendars. Richard’s donation is perfectly timed for this month.  If you haven’t seen this short video (<5 mins), from AfH, please watch – it’s perfect for encapsulating why you should participate in this year’s auctions, if you can? Kindness  – giving, receiving and just spotting it in others, helps others as well as yourself feel better in a sometimes difficult world.

I’ve committed to, but will say publicly here also, to the AfH suggested action notionally set for 21st August ‘Donate unused items, clothes or food to help a local charity’.  I’m a bit of a hoarder!  So giving up items unneeded by me is hard.  For health reasons, I’ve also been sizing down for the last three years.  I had been (a UK) size 16 for many years, but I crept up to a 18/20 at my largest before my health scare. Since Nov 2018 I’ve been alternating (approx 6 monthly) between a low carb/keto diet and a low calorie (Cambridge Weight Plan), which combined has improved my health condition enormously.  This has also resulted in me now being a size 8/10.  I can tell you that (with the styles I wear), going down one size doesn’t make much of a difference apart from clothes fitting better or looser.  Two sizes down, and a good belt is definitely required for skirts and trousers!  Three sizes down doesn’t work – clothes definitely fall off!  So I’ve had a couple of wardrobe clearouts so far, and it is time to do another.  My big clothes go to my local charity shops, and I’ve bought a lot of new smaller sized clothes from them too.  I’ve been able to try experiment with different styles that way as my body shape changes, and return any items no longer suiting me. Not a perfect circular economy, but helping with that, I hope?  It’s not just food agriculture that is adding to our carbon footprints – growing of cotton and the manufacture of plastics for clothing from fossil fuels are making a big impact too – on fresh water availability for the poor as well as on carbon usage.  So I do encourage everyone to check out and support your local vintage second-hand and ‘pre-loved’ stores, particularly if they are for charitable causes too.  Looking on the AfH Altruistic August calendar, as I write this blog I see that today’s action is ‘Take an action to be kind to nature and take care of our planet’ – another timely reminder to try to reduce and reuse clothing rather than buying new, if we can!

Guylty has spoiled us with wonderful blogs about Richard’s donation – many fans like me were just as blown away as she was when she opened the package – sealed in a MrPorter box – such a nice touch from Richard there!  She’s also provided further details, on how the jacket clasps work – not so obvious from first look.  The jacket is the opening and star lot of this years #RA50Auctions and goes live tomorrow afternoon (15th August 2021), Ireland time.  All details are on Guylty’s blog, so please go here to find out more. 

To ease the burden on Guylty with descriptions on the items, here are some details about the small item I donated for the auctions. It is an ‘adult coloring [sic]’ book featuring Richard Armitage. It is a UK Amazon publication (so why the bloody US spelling!), and I don’t know if any fan was involved in producing it. I bought two copies, and my photos below are from the one I kept – I didn’t want to bend the spine on the donated one? There are 34 photos of Richard in the book, from photoshoots in costume and ‘as himself’ ready to be coloured in. Sizewise, it is between A5 and A4. The ‘adult’ doesn’t refer to any risque imagery, rather I think they mean the subject matter isn’t the usual children’s images for colouring in. ‘I’m no artist’ said Dr Astrov in the Uncle Vanya play, me too! Which is why I haven’t tried filling in my one yet. I do hope the winner of that item is an artist and will post some of their artwork. – I’m so impressed by the free drawings I see!

I don’t think Richard realises how many kindnesses his donation has brought many in his fandom.  He’s donated a personal item – part of a costume that he wore during the making of tv series Robin Hood (2007-2009), and which he bought as a keepsake after the costumes were no longer required. This is his first kindness with this item.  Secondly he has offered to match the winning bid.  And lastly, his donation is an acknowledgement (an endorsement perhaps?) of the charity fundRAising by some of his fans, an appreciation of their hard work.  His previous communications have always been with LOROS only rather than acknowledging his fans, but here he has provided an item himself!  No wonder Guylty was speechless! I guess there were many broad smiles and similar shocks across his fan dom too. I know I too was pleasantly surprised. 

Richard’s donation is an ‘old leather jacket’ – his words, Guylty reports, from the custom’s declaration form.  I was very tempted by several pre-loved leather jackets in a charity shop a few months back.  I was tempted to buy a couple just for a #WearItLikeRichard post – but I resisted.  Where a lot of the clothes are priced between £5 – £10, the jackets were about £50.  Pricey for a one joke post for me, and given my attempts at minimising my burgeoning wardrobe, I had to walk away.  I have a couple of leather jackets I bought over 6 years ago that bring back great memories for me of a sightseeing tour around Turkey, with requisite visits to various retail outlets, including the leather one.  I couldn’t bear to lose those jackets after my shrinking – but fortunately my local alteration seamstress can alter leather items too.  She took my 3XL jacket down to a S.  She left the 3XL label inside, which is a reminder to me of how far I’ve come!

I’m not sure how much Richard’s second-hand jacket will fetch in the auctions.  I imagine a starting bid in the hundreds, and really wouldn’t be surprised if it went into the thousands.  Who will win the item then?  I would like it to go to a fan, but do worry slightly that a dealer in movie costume memorabilia will have more funds.  I keep hesitating about my worry though – so what if it goes to a dealer, I argue with myself?  I don’t want any fan to spend more than they can afford too!  That’s another worry.  No way would this jacket be in my budget, I think too?  Thoughts of a Dallas-style cartel spring to my mind – a collective (a fellowship?) of fans pooling resources for a joint effort, perhaps? But is that cheating? And how would they ‘split’ the winning?   As usual, I think I’m over-thinking this, and will just try to enjoy the fun – trying to be gamble-aware – when the fun stops, stop, right?

The packaging, and reported previous storage of, Guy’s jacket, has reminded me of a couple of times I had the priviledge to handle a couple of museum clothing items, and definitely got goosebumps doing that.  Our local museum was needing a renovation – well it’s hosted in the oldest building in town, and they were needing volunteers to help pack everything up for a few months’ storage.  They were also going to use the opportunity to digitise their asset record.  I volunteered and with a dozen or so others, we were trained in how the curators wanted things handled.  We had also been instructed to note down any damage or evidence of insect debris.  For the clothes, we had acid-free, tissue paper to wrap things up in.  We were also shown how to fold and puff up the paper to form bespoke air-filled pads for putting inside the clothes, especially suit jacket shoulders and sleeves, trying to avoid any harsh creases wherever possible.  My first tingle moment happened when we were packing away an officer’s uniform from the Great War (WW1).  There were some noticeable frayed holes near the top pocket of the jacket.  The jacket itself was very clean though, so we just noted down the damage and speculated about it.  The uniform had been donated by a local family and had been worn by one of our town’s Victoria Cross recipients (highest UK military honour).  We were padding out the shoulder and sleeves when we noticed a small russet brown stain on the inner sleeve cuff.  That was the tingle moment!  Had this been the uniform the soldier had been killed in?  Had the orderlies cleaned up the main stain where he’d been shot in the heart prior to returning his personal effects to his family, but missed that stain on the inner sleeve – presumably from blood running down his arm?  What had the family thought on receiving the clothes, and seeing the stain?  I don’t know if it was dried blood, I just remember my shock and goosebumps at the time.  My second tingle moment happened when we were packing up and recording details of items from the 1980s.  There was a US airbase near our town, and in the 1980s cruise missiles arrived.  So an anti-cruise missile peace camps formed outside the base, often women only, and these were items from that camp.  The police would regularly raid the camps and confiscate items, causing difficulties for the activists as they had to resource essential living items like tents etc again.  The issue divided the nation and the town, with some townsfolk complaining about the campers fouling their gardens, but other residents allowing the women to use shower facilities etc.  The items we were packing up came from a car that had been ceased by the police.  It was part of the evidence they were gathering at the time to try to identify the illegal camped women.  Cars and such items often got sold on and on between people, so in fact it was difficult to trace the final owner of the vehicle.  Eventually the prosecution service decided they couldn’t take action, so what to do with the evidence gathered?  The large items such as cars were sold off at auction, but the smaller personal items were donated by the police to the local museum.  The items hadn’t been properly detailed earlier in the museum’s paper records, but now they were going to be added to the digital records.  I recall a recipe book on brown rice dishes (definitely a hippie staple!) – which makes me smile still, as I’ve dabbled with a macrobiotic diet in the past.  I particularly recall having to pack up some women’s tights, Colgate toothpaste and a toothbrush.  The clothes weren’t soiled, didn’t smell, but handling them and the toiletries did make me have goosebumps – these were real people camping out for years protesting against nuclear weapons, and what happened to them? The airbase was vacated by the US in the 1990s, you could say the peace campaigners won, perhaps?  The base has now been returned to a nature reserve and the Control Tower is an art gallery.  I know the museum were interested in identifying campaigners to match them up with their belongings. If still alive, they are understandably wary of identifying themselves, fearing that would just be a pretext for a criminal prosecution, 35 years later.  So these items become valued museum artefacts, along with military uniforms from WW1, English civil war armoury, and the many neolithic stone axes we have (our area was re-occupied soon after the Ice Age), to become a part of the local town’s history.

All the museum assets were packed into ‘Really Useful’ boxes.  Where acid-free tissue paper wasn’t used, we used museum-grade bubble-wrap and polystyrene or spongey type packaging. (Most plastics are made in an air environment, containing 20% oxygen.  The air becomes locked into the plastic and the air slowly diffuses out.  Think of rust on iron – that’s oxygen attacking the metal.  Museum-grade packaging are made in an inert atmosphere – usually pure nitrogen rather than air, so that the gas trapped in the plastic is nitrogen gas rather than air.  This causes less damage to items placed on and within plastic wrapping.)  After packing up in the boxes, all the textile assets (and animal – a lot of stuffed birds – from Victorian times, pre Attenborough nature films) were going off to an industrial freezer for treatment against insects prior to relocation to a temporary storage area whilst the museum was being worked on.  Treatment simply involved being left in an industrial freezer for a couple of weeks. 

I don’t know if any of my experiences with museum textiles will be of use to the winner of Guy’s jacket – I don’t know if leather needs to be treated differently?  If you know better, do comment with your advice. Also the curators may have compromised and simplified the handling arrangements as they were working with volunteers with only minimal training.  I didn’t handle any of the 16th century English civil war items which may have had more leather in them, and which may have been more valuable than the 20th century items, I imagine?  I don’t know if the curators handled all the more expensive items themselves – it would make sense if that is what they did.  I know many of the volunteers were delighted with the training received as they were going to use that knowledge to amend their storage arrangements for wedding dresses and the such.  I’m sure husbands were confused to see wrapped up wedding dresses in the bottom of their domestic freezers – wife’s definitely gone loopy, I can imagine them thinking!

Right, I need to wrap this up!  For youngsters and non-English readers who’ve got this far, ‘Penny for the guy’ is an English bonfire night tradition that has gone out of fashion.  I remember participating in this ritual as a child, where we would either create an effigy of a Guy (Fawkes), or dress up as Guy ourselves to be wheeled around door to door in a wheelbarrow or younger child’s push-chair.  On opening of the front door, our Guy would pull a comedy death gurn, or look as pathetic as they could so as to elicit money from their neighbours – no it wasn’t begging, I would try to explain to my non-plussed mum! 

Best wishes all, and good luck to everyone participating in this year’s birthday auction.  Please don’t fret if you can’t join in this year monetarily.  Instead please try to spread the word with your fellow fans about the events, or consider volunteering your time with a charity in your local area?  Whatever you do – be kind to yourself!  Regards