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.


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!


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…’

Gardening again…

This year is the year we make the most of the garden I always complained we didn’t have.

We have the huge BBQ fit for thirty. We have the cattery fit for three cats and we only have Jethro. We have ripped out all the old crap and top-soiled the single, small-garden-long bed ready for planting. We have raked the shingle covering most of the floor out there and de-weeded the awful (and I mean AWFUL) hexagonal patio stones in pink and yellow (who chooses PINK and YELLOW?) that cover anything else flat out there.

I would love to (and here I mean I dream about the day when I can…) rake up, bag and bin the shingle, cover it with the most awesome and realistic artificial turf around and smack wooden deck over the horrid patio stones (cause, even though they’re shocking they’re damn solid and perfectly flat!)

But, until I save enough pennies to do this I’ll have to make do. Today, we went and bought three, tall, charcoal, square, tapering planters and mozied onto the next place where we were much more enamoured with the range of greenery for sale. We bought ourselves an olive tree (only two foot tall), a beautiful bright-red leafed Acer (Japanese Maple) and a kind of lovely flat leafed grassy thing which was slightly pink and had the word ‘Flamingo’ in it’s name. Excellent. So, about one hundred pounds lighter, we returned home with our spoils.

Yesterday, we did pretty much the same thing, minus the planters and olive tree but still spending about forty quid on plants! This included a lovely Hosta (a favourite of mine alongside the Japanese Maple we know own) and some beautiful, low growing, heart-shaped leafed, silvery thing I shall add a picture of…

Oh and before this we also purchased a couple of another fave of mine, Ranunculus and some more bedding type flowers for colour to go alongside more favourites; a gorgeous pink Hydrangea, some Lavender, Thyme and a Rosemary plant. All pictures will be included.

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Bucket list…

This is kind of an American concept I think, at least the name is; the ‘Do Before I Die’ list has been around for a long, long time. I’m just getting to the stage in my life when I want to do amazing things that I had either dismissed or never even considered before now.

Here are a few…lantern valentine car  body paradise thai butterbeer chanel dance canyon vegas 1 class sistine yacht kissing lotto1 taxi book2 NY times square tiffany liberty cuddles hotel tattoo tower ikea cali polish shirt owl Hogwarts2 pisa balloons fmae book paper spa limo heels hair pink soldier Roadtrip 1 Platform Hogwarts Puppy Photo US states Glitter NY live NY Kiss NY Xmashappily ever after

You know, just a few things… There are many more.

Technology ruins lives.

Ha ha, dramatic no? Well, in some respects I’m being completely honest but only in regards to interpersonal relationships. This has been discussed over and over and over in the past few Facebook years but today, its even easier and cheaper to ruin relationships with the buffer of technology.

Dating online… Great idea and who’d have thought the online dating industry would become so huge and make so much money? Meeting like-minded folks used to be a bit hit-and-miss at a bar or in the library or at university. Now, all you need to do is type who you are into a small box (no more than 300 characters please) and voilà! You’re married three months later! Great stuff. I met OH through friends who I trusted to know what My Type is. I mean, who now trusts their friends to do that? Not the 3 million married-through-meeting-on-a-dating-webiste that’s for sure. We went on dates to get to know each other. We talked. Sometimes is was awkward, sometimes it was Hellish Fun, but the mistakes and the honesty of making them is what drew us together. Being a profile online isn’t honest. It’s calculated. It’s edited. It’s not the full picture. It’s not doing you justice and you might find someone wonderful but the finding them part won’t be half as fun. Surely. No one ENJOYS being single now; dancing the night away with your girlfriends and just happening to notice the cute guy in the corner noticing you having fun. Call me old fashioned but what happened to a good round of flirting across the bar and a dash of passion and chemistry? The slow dance of seduction…? Hmm… maybe it’s just not trendy right now. Maybe people are too busy for that. They WANT IT ALL and they WANT IT NOW. Am I right?

Here’s another. Friends connecting from all around the world; friends you went to school with and haven’t spoken to for years! They’re in Italy now, married to a millionaire with a yacht in the Med and and apartment in Central Rome. Or they’re touring the world ‘finding themselves’ and posting photos every inch of the way. They’re in Malawi building schools and doing good in the world. They’re having babies and getting married and doing all these incredible things and you can watch it all the way! The fact you only see what they want you to see, that you only see the good (I mean, come on, who posts boring rubbish or sad stuff?) doesn’t even enter your mind. You see this picture perfect (thanks Instagram) life that you compare with your own. You don’t realise that apartment isn’t actually theirs, they rent, the yacht isn’t the husbands, it’s his Dad’s, they had the biggest argument last week about god-knows-what-crap and haven’t spoken properly since, Malawi has mosquitos, ‘finding yourself’ is what your scared friend does when their life has changed so dramatically so quickly that they don’t know how to process it… You know why you didn’t keep in touch with these folks in the first place right? Because you didn’t need them. You didn’t need this drama. You are content and happy just living your life with random Facebook statuses about falling over the cat and the boyfriend asking you if you want a fire extinguisher for Valentines Day (true story). You are happy. Forget the drama. Want Drama? Watch Greys Anatomy.

Texting. This one has caused trouble for everyone and that funny sarcastic comment in your head doesn’t sound sarcastic in text form, it just sounds mean. People don’t ever read the text with your voice in their head, they always read it wrong. They don’t ever understand the inflection because there is none. It’s text for goodness sake, it’s flat. It’s voiceless. It’s not you. What ever happened to a phone call? Or a letter? I don’t know anyone who could successfully compose a love letter. Hmm. Shame.

Pinterest. It’s funny how it’s only just hitting the UK mainstream (I am your average Miss Jane Bloggs) and how every women (cause come on, it really is just women who hoard things like knitting patterns when they don’t even know how to knit and recipes that they’ll “use next Tuesday” and forget they have) is addicted to the site. I am. It’s killing my relationship slowly. Like a shiny, very well groomed, mouthwatering, never before seen, why didn’t I think of that Python compressing conversation, squeezing it and smothering it until we both just sit, clicking away and not even looking at each other.


I have worked too damn hard at this and got too far to leave OH for Pinterest. That’s it. Decision made. The thing that got me to this point is my bloody Kindle Fire. I love that little beastie. Books. Apps. Web. Everything I have ever wanted on seven inches of beautiful LCD screen that you can’t use out in the sun cause you can’t see. I am putting it down more. I pick it up when OH is working or on Facebook himself, then when he’s finished he turns around and sees me on the Kindle and decides I’m busy so he surfs the web. Constant circle, I see he’s busy and I keep Pinning… Vicious vicious circle. I will prevail.

Tablet computers for £80 at Lidl, Argos, Morrisons, Everywhere; make it easier and easier to escape reality and more and more damaging to the connections of friendship, spouses, kids. Relationships you need to BE PRESENT FOR.

I really must take my own advice. No Tech after 7? Right. Lets try.


Relearning Talent.

Some people instinctively know how to cook. Some can sing like no other. Some people can ride a horse perfectly after never having met one before.

Not me.

Okay, I’m a pretty fab home cook and I can ride but I had to watch and study and learn. I had to imitate others to be able to do these things myself. Therefore I am not naturally talented. I have to keep learning, trying, experimenting and refining to be good at something. Hey, don’t we all? I think it was my Dad that said,

“You might be the world’ s best violinist or archer but if you never pick up a violin or a bow how will you know?”

I’m not sure where he heard that but he’s right.

Everyone in the world has a talent but if you never get the chance to try that one thing, you’ll never know if you could have been the best. Lack of patience can hold you back. Lack of imagination can hold you back. Parents, family, peers, colleagues, friends, fear of the unknown, money, culture and indifference can hold you back.

I love painting. I feel I’m not naturally talented but I can imitate very successfully. With patience, practise and perseverance I think you can be good at anything. So I’m a pretty good painter. Just because I really really want to be. If you look at my Dad’ s saying the other way round, there’s no point being the best painter in the world if you don’t actually paint.

The thing is, like I said before, if I don’t keep doing what  I love doing (painting) then I lose the muscle memory, the colour palettes, the shaping, all the little tricks that made that one single painting good all those weeks ago. I have to practise and build it all back up again. I cannot simply create masterpieces. I am not a fluke; a rare talent that just is.

I’m not alone. Most of the world is like me. We all have to practise and keep going. For most real people it’s discipline that makes us great, not always talent.

I will keep going with the painting. Eventually I will get something fabulous on paper that makes other people say “Wow, aren’t you talented.” and I will say “Yes, why yes I am.”

My new addiction…

I have a few little obsessions. Generally they change with the times. Although I don’t think I’ll be rid of this one any time soon.

I adore mood boards and sketchbooks. If I could, I would hang a cork board and pin things on my wall until it’s inches deep with cut outs and clippings. Unfortunately this would be expensive; books and magazines don’t come cheap.

So what have I found?


Yup. If you’ve known about Pinterest for years then I apologise, this post will bore you to tears. If not, YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT PINTEREST IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME.

So, I collect and collate. I horde and I keep. Pinterest is basically an online mood board or pin board for anything and everything you like, want to share, want to read, rate or follow; recipes, animal photography, pet pictures, craft projects, diy tips, interior design ideas, posters, sayings, tattoo ideas, wedding inspiration, kid stuff, education, health and well being, beauty, products, jewellery and fashion. Everything. On one board alone I probably have over 400 items or ‘pins’. These pins are links back to their original source which is fab news if you find some good stories while browsing that you want to keep or read later.

The thing is, for me, it’s like reading a magazine that changes to suit what you want to look at. It’s the magazine chameleon. I get home. I pick up Kindle. I browse Pinterest. So much so now OH has noticed. We watch tv and I browse Pinterest. “How can you even be watching this and messing with that?” He has now noticed I laugh at my Kindle screen more than I laugh at him. For him, this is the intruder in our relationship.

I even feel a bit guilty if he looks over and catches me on it.

So, this obviously means I am addicted. I have to stop. Go cold turkey. Pull the plug.

But I’ve just seen the most amazing print your own scarf tutorial…