He’s left audiences spellbound with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” He’s displayed a surprisingly impressive set of stunt skills in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: the Secret Service.” He carved a permanent place for himself in the hearts of women the world over with his tenderly authentic portrayal of Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” But there’s a bit more to Colin Firth than a dive into a lake and the fact that thanks to him no one else can ever win an ugly sweater contest ever again. Ever.
In honor of his birthday today, here’s a look at 5 times the world fell in love with Colin Firth.
1. His 2011 Golden Globes acceptance speech
When he scooped up his Best Actor award at the Golden Globes in 2011 for “The King’s Speech,” the first of many accolades, it was easy to forget for 50 seconds that Firth was drawing on the talent for which he was being awarded. Nonetheless, post-gameshow press recaps praised him for essentially showing showbiz how it’s done.
Go home, Hollywood. Colin’s got this one covered.
2. His moment of gallantry at the 2012 BAFTA Awards
Colin Firth doesn’t break the Internet very often, but we all remember flailing when Meryl Streep, in an adorable if inadvertent Cinderella impression, lost a shoe while mounting the stage to accept an award, and Firth, in true Prince Charming mode, retrieved it for her while his wife Livia looked on with an expression that clearly said, “Sorry, ladies. This one’s mine.”
On a side note, reenacting this scene in the rain while running to teach a class doesn’t conjure Colin from the shadows to save you, as I discovered, to my acute embarrassment. But that’s another story.
3. His jab at Ricky Gervais at the 2012 Golden Globes
Colin Firth is the king of deadpan, and that is all. When Ricky Gervais, albeit jokingly, called him a racist kitten-puncher at the 2012 Golden Globes, this was Firth’s response.
Colin Firth 1, Ricky Gervais 0.
4. His moment of appreciation for Jane Austen
In a 2006 interview, when asked to name the women in his life, Firth replied, “my wife, my mother, and Jane Austen.” While some of us have since speculated that this was largely a tongue-in-cheek jab at the fact that his role in the BBC’s wildly popular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice forever entrenched him in Darcy mania, I have to confess that despite my healthy skepticism, I allowed a tiny piece of my heart to drop into his hand at that moment. You’ve said it, Mr. Firth, and you can’t take it back.
5. His flawless improvisation as Mark Darcy
We’ve all seen “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” We all remember that fateful snowy kiss that was likely the primary catalyst for my decision to drag my last boyfriend with me to a wedding in Wisconsin in the dead of winter in the hope that he might be similarly inspired. (He wasn’t. Because you were wondering. And he’s not my boyfriend any more, for entirely unrelated reasons. Let’s be clear on that). But many people don’t know that Firth ad-libbed Mark Darcys forever classic line at the conclusion of that snowy kiss scene.
So, for something a little bit different for this blog, you get two bloggers for the price of one! We happened to be thinking about the same sort of thing at the same time, and agreed to collaborate! Since we are posting this entry simultaneously on each of our blogs, I figure an introduction is an order:
Blindbeader (real name relatively unknown): working her first guide dog, Jenny. Somewhat of a perfectionist, loves the challenges of life but would sometimes like the world to slow down a bit. Eats too much chocolate, drinks far too much coffee, and yet somehow manages to stay employed, athletic, and reasonably sane. Follow her on Twitter
Francesca (Twitter handle @poetprodigy7): Working with her second guide dog, Zeus, AKA espresso on four legs. Writer, teacher, self-deprecatingly funny, sometimes refers to herself as the blind Bridget Jones. Addicted to coffee, chocolate, Colin Firth, and the Big Bang theory (not necessarily in that order).
Guide Dogs- Living in the Real World
Francesca: Several weeks ago, on a cold, gray, misty Monday, I dutifully donned my raincoat and ventured into the downpour to take my guide dog for his evening constitutional.
Under normal circumstances, he would, Labrador that he is, have raised no objections to getting wet; this day, however, he was recovering from a mysterious episode of stomach upset, and I might have foregone the walk until the rain subsided, but for the fact that I was endeavoring to avoid an unmitigated disaster of the nature that would require a professional carpet cleaner.
Given that both of us were wet, tired, and anxious, it should come as no surprise that Zeus’s distraction resulted in us becoming slightly (or completely) disoriented. How was it that the dog who keeps me from falling down stairs and has been known to plant his paws between me and oncoming vehicles couldn’t even locate our front door? Too wet to ponder the incongruity of it all, when we finally found our way back home, I promptly sat down on the couch and cried for about fifteen minutes.
Anyone who has ever been the two-legged part of a guide dog team knows this story all-too well, and yet as many of us will attest, even on the worst days—when your dog has barked in harness, or nicked a bite of your co-worker’s peanut butter sandwich—we’d far rather walk on the wild side of life with our crazy companions than take that journey alone. Between two dogs, I have a combined total of nearly eleven years of experience as a guide dog handler, and I use the term experience euphemistically here to mean: “I’m still alive, and not in a full body cast, so I must be doing something right.” When I experience moments of self-doubt, I sometimes force myself to step back and think about just how much my dogs have taught me about friendship, bravery, and blind faith. At the risk of sounding like the amazing guide dog whisperer, then, being a guide dog handler has taught me several lessons about life.
Blindbeader: 18 months ago, when I started training with my first guide dog, Jenny, I felt incredibly overwhelmed by the entire process. I had practical questions that had been asked and answered, but I wanted to know more about that emotional – almost mystical – bond between guide dog and handler. The problem was, I didn’t even know what questions to ask, much less the answers I needed to hear.
Lately, I have come across many people who have just started training or just come home with new guides, as well as those that are in the application process or waiting for class dates. Here are many pointers that I wish someone had told me before I first opened my door – and my heart – to the most stubborn dog in the world.
Francesca: A bad day is just that: one day out of the hopefully innumerable ones I will live. When I have a bad day at work, I drown my sorrows in tears and vodka.
When Zeus has a bad day at work, he wags his tail, licks my hand, and shrugs it off. Whether this is because he believes in a better tomorrow or because Labradors have notoriously short-term memories, his approach seems far more emotionally balanced.
Blindbeader: Your dog will test you, period! It varies in scope, intensity, duration, and activity, but almost all new dogs WILL push the boundaries. This does NOT mean that there is anything inherently wrong with handler or dog.
I’ve been there, though, at a time when all of my guide dog handler friends told me that their dog NEVER did activity X or didn’t have bad habit Y. Thankfully, we worked through it with a lot of hard work, some frustration, and huge parties on street corners when Jenny took me to the light pole without grabbing the garbage at the bottom of it.
If the dog is being unsafe, however, or there hasn’t been improvement (And I mean, even a LITTLE), guide dog schools generally have followup services either on request or on a regular basis; use them! Or ask questions of other guide dog handlers, who have been in the trenches and can offer a variety of suggestions. I just have to remember that many first-time long-time handlers can have selective amnesia. If I ever get that way, knock me upside the head!
Francesca: Sometimes, work can wait. Even when my dog isn’t in harness, rarely is he off-duty. Even when we’re taking a leisurely stroll to nowhere in particular, he is always multitasking, concentrating half on the business of fertilizing the neighborhood grass and half on the business of ensuring that I don’t sprain my ankle falling over a tree root. Whenever he tosses his favorite toy into my lap or wedges his nose between my hand and the laptop keyboard, he reminds me to check the proverbial warning light on my brain’s battery and occasionally power down and recharge.
Blindbeader: I so second this one! If a guide dog has time to be a DOG, to bond with his/her handler, it does make him or her a better guide in the long run. It took me about six months to realize when Jenny was exhibiting more frequent distracted behaviors, then it was time for a good long run, or a seriously wicked game of tug. That done, she would be able to focus on her work, and everyone was happier.
Francesca: Learn to let it go. One day, my dog stopped me from falling off a drop in the sidewalk because I was far too intent on a conversation with my friend to notice the change in elevation. The moment we got home, he immediately rewarded himself by, for reasons which remain clear only to him, stealing a pair of my underwear from the laundry basket. While I naturally corrected him for this, I didn’t dwell on the mishap with my usual scab-picking intensity, because I was still grateful for the fact that I wasn’t doing the bunny hop on a broken leg. Case in point: things could always be worse. Appreciate it when they’re not.
Be prepared for your dog to occasionally make you look really really really dumb. I was in a familiar area while training with Jenny one day, and I told her to move forward. She stopped, I corrected her, and told her to move forward. She eventually did… and led me straight into a gravel pit. Oops! The first thing they drill into your head at guide dog school is “Trust your Dog!” and this has served me well more often than not. Sometimes I get to know why my dog did what she did; other times I just shake my head and just wonder why she chose to quite determinedly run me through that parking lot, but the dog has two working eyeballs, and I certainly do not! Then again, there are times Jenny IS doing something she shouldn’t, making me look silly; in two minutes the dog will forget about it, and you should too!
Francesca: It takes more strength to hold a grudge than to let go of one. Have you ever tried to stay angry at a Labrador? It works about as well as defying the laws of gravity. No matter how frustrated I sometimes find myself with my dog, he always manages to win me over with his puppy dog penitence, and this reminder to forgive and forget has served me well in the relationships I cultivate with others. Perhaps Woodrow Wilson said it best: “if a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
Blindbeader: Pick your battles! There are some things guide dogs should NOT do:
scavenge, chase after other dogs, get up and wander around on their own. That being said, all dogs have quirks; some can be trained out of them, others are just interesting little fringe benefits. Jenny does not like guiding me through puddles (or getting her feet wet at all); however, she will do it if she has to. I can decide that, well, she is the dog and I am the human, so by God, she will guide me through that puddle! Or I can just be thankful that my shoes stay dry and I don’t have to worry so much about the ice hiding underneath all that water. Guess what I picked (Hint: my shoes tend to stay dry…)
Francesca: You can, contrary to popular belief, perform essential functions without the benefit of caffeine. At least once a week, I am heard to declare that the fact that I feed and walk my dog every morning before I’ve had my first cup of coffee testifies to my undying appreciation for the sacrifices he makes daily to keep me safe. (Including making sure that I don’t mortally wound myself when I attempt to move without first fueling myself with caffeine). There’s a reason I refer to my overly frisky, furry eyeballs as espresso on four legs. One shot of him propels me pretty efficiently through the first fifteen minutes of my day.
(On a totally different note) Guide dog school has good suggestions, maybe even great ones, but much of what you learn is done after formal training is over.
This is OK, and, in fact, necessary. You will laugh when your dog shows you – in that cute way he has – that your safety is in his paws, and by the way you should trust him because he has two fully functioning eyeballs *you do not) and is walking you calmly around that open car door…
You will cry with frustration on a day when it all just goes to hell and there’s no rhyme or reason why. You will sing for joy on the first day you just “click.” And you have good days and bad days, sometimes feeling like you have the most intelligent creature on the planet and other times wondering why this little demon from hell is taking up space in your apartment.
I don’t mean to sound like having a guide dog is this painful drudgery; trust me, it isn’t! But I have seen so many guide dog handlers get discouraged that things aren’t going well and it isn’t working like it shows on TV or did in class. I LOVE having a guide dog. I love putting in the work to shape her behavior that will make her a better guide and us a better team.
When a concept we’ve been working on for months clicks in her head, I almost don’t have to praise her because her head is up and her tail is wagging happily; I praise her to the skies anyway. The day during training when she pulled me out of the path of a bus, I had no idea how many other close calls we would dodge over the next 18 months. If I get to stay safe, trusting my life to her two working eyeballs and four stinky paws, I’d gladly take the occasional cracker away from her…
Yesterday, a friend of mine pointed me toward some late-afternoon amusement, sponsored, not surprisingly, by Twitter, that allowed me to coast my way through the final hour of the work day. It consisted of a series of tweets from the account of King Henry VIII, in which he humorously inscribed his own witticisms on candy hearts. Take a look:
Naturally, this got me thinking about what other famous figures might inscribe on candy hearts. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and because I’m a hopeless romantic and literary nerd with a soft spot for brooding Byronic heroes, immortal, forbidden love, and men with adorably dodgy taste in sweaters, my Twitter proudly presents to you, from the hearts of a few of my favorite heroes of literature: Literary Hero Candy Hearts. You’re welcome.
So, apparently I’ve gone on a 2-month hiatus from WordPress; who knew. I’ve been so busy doing absolutely nothing of importance that I never realized how much you all had been anxiously awaiting my return.
Why have I inexplicably disappeared? Truthfully (insert uncomfortable squirming here) in the time that I haven’t been wisely spending teaching, prepping lessons, grading papers, revising my dissertation, drafting articles, or sipping coffee and looking important while I pretend to do any or all of the above, I’ve been extremely busy and important, catching up on innumerable episodes of Season one of CBS’s “Elementary”. (Don’t judge me. Watching Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch have a fierce arm-wrestling match in my mind over which of them will take me to dinner is an endless source of free entertainment). But when being battled over by two British hotties in my brain gets too dull, I’ve been amusing myself with the notion that, thanks to my iPhone and a nifty little app called Tap Tap See, I can abandon my lofty dream of a career in academia and pursue my newfound passion for photography. Basically, the principle of the app is this: a blind person can take a photo of what’s in front of him or her, and voiceover (the iPhone’s onboard screenreader) describes the image. I’m told by the creators of the app that they rely on a combination of computer vision and crowd-sourcing to process and describe the images, but I still suspect that aliens are somehow involved. So, when I feel like I’ve spent too much time flopping on my sofa snuggling with Jonny Lee Miller and fancy a bit of exercise, I promptly grab my phone and proceed to chase my dog around the apartment, endeavoring to capture him on camera.
Aside from the realization that candid shots of moving targets are particularly difficult to obtain, I’ve made a number of enlightening discoveries about my surroundings:
1: The wood-engraving of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy hanging on my bedroom wall is apparently crooked. I can only assume that Colin has been sneaking sips of my sangria when my back is turned; this would certainly account for his lopsided appearance combined with the mysteriously empty wine bottles appearing in my kitchen. My inability to see straight, or the idea that home-decorating projects go well with alcohol are not to blame.
2: My parents have apparently been lying to me about my gender for nearly 30 years; after sharing my discovery of the tap Tap see app with my mother, she requested several pictures, and to satisfy her, I attempted to photograph myself and the dog. This should have been relatively uncomplicated given that I knew the relative positions of the intended subjects of the picture. So, imagine my dismay when, upon checking that I’d taken a decent photo, I heard the description, “picture is of man holding yellow dog.” Man? Did you say ‘man’? The resulting gender identity crisis has been rather trying. I might need therapy.
3: In addition to navigating me safely across busy streets and helping me to avoid crashing into trees, my dog has the hitherto unnoticed ability to change color. He is alternately tan, white, or yellow. Whether this is a trick of the light or dependent on the phases of the moon, or only occurs on days that end in ‘y’, I’m still uncertain; more extensive observation is required.
In any case, textual descriptions notwithstanding, the pictures I’ve taken might not be worth a thousand words, but they’re definitely worth a few good laughs.
Note: all kidding aside, I’ve actually found the accuracy of the Tap Tap See app to be highly impressive, and it does take decent pictures. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, sharing pictures I’ve taken with my family and friends, and I’ve even found practical uses for it sorting canned goods in my kitchen. It’s especially useful for identifying colors and distinguishing between items in one’s refrigerator, closet, or pantry without sighted assistance. Visit the TapTapSee app page to check it out!
“Attention all hard-core Catholics: note the juxtaposition of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day and reconsider giving up chocolate for Lent.” such ran one of my pre-Lenten Facebook observations after realizing just how many Christians—most of them female—would be bemoaning the beginning of the sacrificial season of Lent the day before the biggest Hallmark/Hershey holiday of the year.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” is the hot question on the playground of piety at the moment—and one that, I confess, I’ve looked forward to with increasing trepidation each year. I have very few recollections of the many treks across the desert of denial I’ve taken in my nearly 30 years as a Catholic; the ones I do recall involved some, shall we say, wayward wandering. First, there was the lent that I decided to give up peanut butter, which started out fairly well—well in the sense that I was completely miserable and probably half way to protein-deficient since I’d basically cut my major source of it out of my diet. Then I discovered Nutella. Hmm: maybe this whole giving up business wasn’t such a drag after all, though with every sinfully sweet spoonful, my conscience nagged: Wait just a moment. Nowhere in the catechism is there written anything to the effect that it’s acceptable during Lent to substitute the sacrificed item of choice with one of equal or greater value. It remains open to question whether or not the five pounds I gained between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday can be attributed to the weight of guilt.
Then there was the time I decided to give up alcohol…during my first year of graduate school. There are about ten different reasons why this was a bad idea, all of which can be compounded in the fact that, well, it was my first year of graduate school. I know what you’re thinking: Wimp. Please. Wimp, shmimp, potato, vodka…call it whatever you like. The only Lenten sacrifice I’ve made in recent memory that was even remotely successful was the year I decided to cut off my hair for Locks of Love. For once in my life, I can honestly say I traded vanity for valor…at least until I stepped outside and a male friend of mine charmingly observed: “Your head. It looks so…small.” Goodbye gesture of self-sacrifice: Hello Louisa May Alcott, Little Women parallel universe.
I recognize the significance of “giving up” during lent—a reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for us, but if Lent is about sacrifice and repentance, it’s also about reminding ourselves that, for Christians, every step we take on this journey of life should bring us closer to Him. With the possible exception of trading my tresses for 6 months of freaky frizz—because I truly did offer that from the heart—I can’t honestly say that any of my Lenten sacrifices have had the intended spiritual effect. So what, I ask myself as each Ash Wednesday approaches, can I possibly sacrifice that will strengthen my relationship with Jesus? Coffee? Only if I’m guaranteed a fast-pass into the glorious kingdom that cuts through the line in Purgatory, because I’ll probably die somewhere into week one. Chocolate? Well, as my brother likes to put it, “Jesus suffered so we wouldn’t have to.” Amen, bro. Sex? Well, I could, but technically according to the catechism, I’m not even supposed to be engaging in that particular pastime at the moment given my current marital status. Working on the theory that we can’t sacrifice what we don’t have (and we’ll just assume, for the sake of my soul, that I don’t in fact “have” the thing under discussion), I think we can cross this one off the list.
During this past advent season, I decided to start praying the Rosary daily—not just for the four weeks leading up to Christmas, but in the hope of strengthening my prayerful communication with Jesus. During those four weeks, and in the months since, I’ve experienced prayer in the way I think it was meant—not as my way of “talking to God,” but rather as a quiet conversation with Him in my heart. Of late, however, I realized that I haven’t been the best at keeping up my end of the bargain; I’m saying the prayers every day, but something is missing. Then, the other day, while praying about something that was troubling me, I recalled what Jesus tells us in scripture: to pray as if we’ve already received what we’re asking for—not with the assumption that we will “get what we want”; Jesus isn’t Santaclause. Rather, to pray as if we’ve already received what we’ve asked is to pray with the understanding that we will be given an answer. I am slowly coming to find, as I take the time to meditate on this idea, that I have actually received answers; not booming voice, clap-of-thunder, sky-splitting-open answers, but my heart has become a space for a quiet conversation with God—a place I can retreat to at any point in the day when I feel the need, because that door is always open. It always has been, actually, but I don’t think I ever bothered to pass through it until now. I’ve stuck my head in, sure; said Hi at the end of the day, but I don’t think I’ve ever really lingered long enough to have a decent chat. Now that I’ve actually taken that step and walked all the way in, I might find the time to stay.
Question: Where is your Lenten journey taking you this year?