Warner Brothers Harry Potter Leavesden Studios Tour.

As you will frequently hear me say- OH-MY-EVER-LOVING-EAGLE-OWLS!!!!!!

So you are aware of my oddities and my real addiction (which is extremely well hidden in the presence of other Muggles) to all things magic and especially all things Harry.

Last Sunday I packed up my little black Corsa and set out on my pilgrimage to Watford, the home of Harry in movie form. The drive was fairly unspectacular as myself and several thousand other Muggles decided Sunday night was the best night to hop on the M3 North. Lovely.

Despite this crawling journey I made it to our overnight stop at the fabulously simple, occasionally decrepid and trashy Premier Inn. I think ever since Lenny Henry put his face to the brand they’ve spruced their hotels up a tad. This one was small, clean and comfortable. But first, I met my Dad, who’d driven from Yorkshire and had still managed to arrive before me and who was also sitting at the bar in the nearest TGI’s. Luckily this was less than 20 meters from where I’d accidentally parked. Beer drunk, burgers eaten, we retired for the night. I will recommend the Premier Inn in Garston for anyone getting to Watford the night before their tour, it’s easily found (sort of) and next to an eatery (try the blue cheese burger) 1.7 miles from Leavesden Studios and the SatNav didn’t have any problems getting from A to B.

I was so excited about the tour, I didn’t sleep a wink.

WARNING!! IF I’VE DONE MY JOB CORRECTLY THERE WILL BE SPOILERS (of some kind) WITHIN THE NEXT FEW PARAGRAPHS. AS WELL AS PHOTOS. OMG.

The area is empty looking but a very new and expensive industrial park. The roads and signage are all still brand new and sparkling (or it could be the Impervius charms they put on all of it…) the free buses they put on from Watford train station pull into the compound frequently and the car park is run in an extremely American fashion. Men in Hi-vis direct you from the front gate to the next empty spot, moving down the rows so people don’t go crazy and start parking in all manner of ridiculous ways. Wonderful.
I bet you’re practically yelling at me right now to ‘just get on with it!’ Well, I will…

The building is a low hangar with new frontage and giant chess pieces in front (HPCoS). Here you go, have a look.

I bet you’re all screeching for more. Shall we go in?

The atrium is typically American in set up (after all, this is all Warner Brothers dosh) with large format images of the highest ranking cast members from the various films around the top of the room. The cafe is to your left, the gift shop to your right. You guessed it, at two hours early for our tour we made a B-line (broom line) for the overpriced, ridiculous array of Harry Potter merchandise.

And we LOVED it.

Chocolate frogs, Every Flavour Beans, Gryffindor scarves, quidditch robes, brooms, horcruxes, diaries, owls (stuffed toys only) key chains, mugs,  t-shirts, sweatshirts, jumpers, hoodies, socks, ties, hats, caps, posters, fridge magnets, badges, earrings, Dumbledore replica costumes (pricey… Pricey.) the list went on and on and on and on. Warner Brothers have not missed a thing.

After that (and after spending a small Gringotts fortune) we made our way over to the cafe for a Starbucks coffee and a nice rest.

At 11:35am we decided to get up and collect our audio guides (more on these later) and our guide books from the booth under the flying Ford Anglia.

A little pause here to reveal that the audio guides were, for us, a complete waste of time. They were over complicated and took too much fiddling with to get not much information from in the end. We decided to hang them round our necks and take them for a good long walk and not use them for fear we’d miss something actually interesting while trying to figure the damn things out. For the kids around us, they seem pleased with them but for me and my Dad, like I say… Pretty much a waste of time.

So, after dropping bags in the cloak room we gathered ourselves up and got straight to queueing. We Brits don’t half queue well, although the same could not be said for our European friends (well, a lot of them there anyway…)

We tootled past another icon of the magical series…

We were then taken into a small room as a group of about 40 or 50, chatted to by a lovely guy while the theatre beyond the doors in front of us emptied out and then we carried on into this and took our seats.

The cinema we sat in was as wide as the huge screen in front of us. We settled into huge seats and watched an intro to the tour, filmed by the stars of the series; Harry (Dan), Hermione (Emma) and Ron (Rupert).

After that and the almost cried, tears of joy I nearly shed, came the fun part. The female guide asked if there were any birthdays being celebrated and I yelled a bit and pointed at my Dad, celebrating for the next day. He was asked to come forward and open the doors to the Great Hall (along with some help from a couple of others).

I was jealous, I can tell you but I know I take better photos so I was glad I was the one watching!

And now, for the really good bits!

Note the beautifully hand painted and ancient looking symbolic murals on the back wall which were hardly ever seen on screen…

A technique called ‘Forced Perspective’ was used on this 6ft long model to recreate the appearance of a fifty foot long corridor when the cameras rolled…

There are many many hundreds more to come but my poor post can’t cope with the volume and still publish properly so I will get round to adding the rest…

Happy looking!

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To teach or not to teach…

I haven’t posted in a while. I’l blame this partially on the Kindle Fire and the fact I just don’t post as habit anyway. So, for the past year I’ve been getting my shit together and fighting like hell to get somewhere in life. This is now the beginning of those plans coming to fruition.

I am going to be a teacher.

I’ve ticked all the boxes, done all the interviews, passed all the tests (don’t even talk to me about numeracy…) and have won my way to the top. I have been given a place at university. Again. Yes I know, I should have done it the first time round but I think, to do what I want to do, to be the best at what I want to do and to do the best by the kids I want to teach, having this time to fight to train to be a teacher was the best and most rewarding (and yes, slightly difficult) thing I’ve yet done. I KNOW I want to do this. At 18, leaving college, everyone went to university and I just got carried along. I got spoon fed the process. I rehersed the lines. I passed the interview and looking back now, JESUS WAS THAT EASY OR WHAT!?

At almost twenty six I know this is what I want to do. I don’t regret life and the choices I made to get here as I’m pretty darn lucky and I’ve got a flipping awesome existance. I know now I had to do the things I’ve already done to push me in the direction I’m now going. At nearly twenty six I am mature enough to understand the absolute responsibility of the profession I’m heading towards; I know what it is to work, to fight and to fail. At 18, I probably would muck around all over again. At nearly twenty six, I know mucking around is just denial. Denial of growing up. I quite like being grown up, thank you very much.

The process of applying to become a teacher is clouded with many acronyms and long, intimidating, institutional phrases. If you want to do this, DO YOUR HOMEWORK and don’t be intimidated. Find out what the gloriously intricate acronyms mean and CUT THE CRAP. Figuratively speaking of course. There are many many lines of very very big words wrapped in jargon and policies… break the whole process into small words until you know exactly what you are saying. And don’t let anyone else make you feel like an idiot for doing so. They have either been doing this for years or they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about anyway. Be honest. Be prepared. Be yourself.

Does that make sense?

I’m getting all my books and papers and computer stuff sorted. There really is so much paperwork involved; folders and sticky labels are a must! And I’m in the process of organising my compulsory two week placement to commence September. Bit of a bugger really as I got my place offer though Clearing in July (when a candidate applies for a course in October for start date next September and after that doesn’t get the grades to get in the offer gets withdrawn and anyone who does have the grades gets the chance to take the spot) so the schools are out and this means there’s no one in for me to organise placement with until they get my letters/emails and get back… Hmm. Well, there’s only so much I can do on that front so I’m reading up on the materials on the uni’s suggested reading list. With a few well selected books of my own added to the mix.

I think you have to be ready for all of this. Mentally. Emotionally. You have to really want it. I have a friend who asked me how to get into teaching the other day who has, so far in our relationship, never expressed a desire to teach. EVER. She has just finished her degree and she hasn’t got her dream job. The one she thought would be there waiting for her when she finished uni. She’s now panicking as her career isn’t jet setting like she always thought it would.

My Dad always had the euphamism “If you can’t Do, Teach.” He said that about many of my highschool teachers who had been in other careers before teaching. They couldn’t make it in their first choice career so they turn to what they thought was the ‘easy’ option. Teaching in NEVER the easy option and you could see these particular teachers didn’t actually have a passion to teach.

I mention this now as I think there are many people like my friend as mentioned above. She panicks. She needs a stable career. She thinks ‘Oh, Kirsty’s doing teaching. That sounds stable.’ and voila! Decision made. People like the teachers at highschool with no passion are the ones that go home and curse the little blighters that made their lesson so difficult today. Teachers that have made the decision to teach because they enjoy children/young people’s minds and eductation and learning are the one’s who go home smiling when one kid finally understand the principal they had been struggling with for two weeks.

I’m not saying swapping careers is a ‘Can’t Do, Teach’ principle but I am saying there are passionate people who have a desire and a natural skill and there are others who don’t. It’s like cooking I guess, there are types- 1. enthusiasm and no skill whatsoever, 2. skill and absolutely no enthusiasm and rarely and happily 3. the ones who have the natural skill and the enthusiasm to pursue it. Here’s hoping I’m a number 3.

As one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore once said-

‘Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young…’