Tag Archives: London

Harry Potter Studio Tour!

Hello Everyone!

Wow. January soon came and went. We are now into February which feels like quite a shock really. Anyway, I hope you’re all doing well.

Today’s post is rather exciting. After two years of waiting, this weekend I finally managed to get to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. There aren’t enough words for how amazing this was. I was completely awestruck. I grabbed myself a Harry Potter passport and I was off on a magical adventure.

Without ruining any of the surprises, I just want to share with you some of my favourite bits (which could be difficult because I love every second.)

Firstly, The Great Hall. That was amazing. The magical ceiling, the carved animals, the character costumes. It’s really a sight to behold.

Next, Dumbledore’s office. That was just as mysterious and eclectic as it seemed in the films. It’s really quite small which makes it even more fascinating.

The Weasley Burrow was also really amazing to see up close. I walked around quite silently really. It was so overwhelming to see the magic right before my own very eyes.

Platform 9 and 3/4 is very special. I remember being desperate as a little girl, wishing for my letter so I could go and experience everything my favourite characters were experiencing. Seeing it 20 years after the first book was published, it still filled me with absolute wonder. The little girl in me was screaming. Dreams can come true.

Seeing Privet Drive really surprised me. It’s so small! Now, in reality, it’s obvious that it should be. I was still quite taken aback though. I’ve no idea how the cast all fit with the cameras too.

Next was Diagon Alley. Wow. Just wow. The shops, the cobbles. I could feel all the energy oozing from the floor. It’s incredible. To stand where those amazing actors have stood is just something else. My favourite was the Weasley shop; full of life and colour.

Lastly, and most amazingly was the castle. The home of Hogwarts for so many years. It took 8 weeks for the team to make it and you could see how the characters were placed within. It’s another world, literally.

A dream come true. A childhoods desires explored. Magic coming alive and being real. There’s not enough words for how incredible this place is. Every turn is a surprise, every moment is a joy. I am so so glad I’ve seen it. It’s a must for any fan. It’s a way of keeping the magic alive. Once it’s in you, it stays forever. I never want to lose the feeling I have whenever I read the books or visit a place linked. It’s so special. Get your ticket. Unleash your inner wizard!

Big love xx

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Filed under Days Out, Harry Potter, London

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens 

Hey everyone!

Happy December! I can’t believe we are 16 days into this month already. I hope you’re working your way through your advent calendars! My life has consisted of work and mock marking as well as the Christmas party last weekend (dare I say more!) This is the first Saturday where I’ve woken up and nothing really needs doing. I can have a slow, restful day. This evening I am off to see A Christmas Carol at the theatre and I truly cannot wait.  A Christmas Carol is also a GCSE text I’ve been teaching for the past few weeks. This seemed like a big enough sign and opportunity to review this well loved classic.

 

What’s it all about?

The novel begins on a cold, bleak Christmas Eve in Victorian London. The protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, is a miserable, cold and hard character. He loathes Christmas and all those who celebrate it. His cheery, loveable nephew Fred invites him to Christmas dinner. He declines and ridicules Fred for enjoying the festive period. Two charity workers seek a donation to help the poor; Scrooge sends them away, epitomising the attitude of the upper classes of this period.

“If they would rather die, . . . they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

We also meet Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s clerk, huddled over a tiny fire. He’s very much overworked and underpaid. Scrooge begrudgingly allows him Christmas Day off work, with pay to conform to social custom.

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

Whilst at home that night, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost. The omniscient narrator informs us that he was as ‘dead as a doornail’, he died 7 years prior. Marley’s ghost wanders the earth, imprisoned by heavy chains a money boxes created by a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits. This is his one chance to avoid the same fate as Marley. However, his chains would be much longer and heavier.

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

The first sprint to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Past. This ghost has long white hair and a smooth face. The ghost is dressed in a white tunic with a branch of holly in his hand. On top of its head is a bright flame.

It is here that Scrooge is taken on a journey to his childhood and the events leading to this point in time. Scrooge’s youth showed him a time when he was completely innocent. However, his childhood was a sad one. He was a lonely boy without any friends. He was left at school over the Christmas period. We see a visit from his beloved sister, Fan.

Scrooge did have some happiness in his youth. We meet Fezziwig, Scrooge’s first employer, who treated him like his own son. Work finished on Christmas Eve and they celebrated the festivities together. This reminder jolted Scrooge. He seemed shocked to see his former self.

Perhaps the saddest part of this stave is when Scrooge sees his former love, Belle. She ends their relationship because he is a changed man; he won’t ever love her as much as he loves money. Scrooge is shown Belle in the future, happily married and with a family. It’s a reminder of what Scrooge could have had.

Scrooge is then visited by the second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present. This ghost is quite a presence! He’s large but ages as the stave develops. He has long, dark, curly hair and wears a green robe with white fur. Arguably, this spirit is the most impressive.

This has to be my absolute favourite stave in the novel. The description is luscious and in abundance. Here we see joyous people preparing for Christmas. The Ghost takes Scrooge to see Fred’s Christmas party where all are having fun and enjoying each other’s company.

Most importantly, we are shown Christmas at the Cratchit’s house. Here we meet Tiny Tim, a lovely boy who is a cripple and the apple of Bob’s eye. Despite this, he is a happy child and loves his family greatly.

“He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

The spirit informs Scrooge that unless the course of events change, then Tiny Tim will die. Christmas here is magical, the food is plenty for their family and they really enjoy their time together. They have little but to them it means the world.

These events really shock Scrooge. However, the spirit had not completed his journey. The spirit then shows Scrooge two hideous children: Ignorance and Want. Here Scrooge is given a stark warning, ‘beware them both.’ These children are a clear message from Dickens at the time. They reflect society and the lives of the poor during the Victorian period.

“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

The third spirit that visits Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. It is this ghost that Scrooge fears the most. This spirit doesn’t speak. It’s dressed in a black cloak with the only feature we can see being his hand.

This spirit shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. We are shown scenes of the death of a much disliked man. People seem to be quite happy. Local business men only wish to attend the funeral if a lunch is provided. We see a range of characters steal some of the dead mans possessions ready to sell them on. Scrooge enquirers if anyone was saddened by the death of this mean. The only happiness came from a very poor couple who were in debt to the man. His death meant that this couple would have more time to repay their debt and get their finances in order.

The ghost then moves to show the Cratchit’s house. Here the family are mourning the loss of Tiny Tim, echoing the warning from the earlier ghosts. This part of the novel utterly breaks my heart.

The final thing the spirit shows Scrooge is a neglected grave. Scrooge realises that this is his own. Sobbing and emotionally drained, Scrooge promises to change his ways to avoid this future.

In the final stage, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas Day. He is a reformed and changed man. He decides to see Fred and celebrate the day with him. Naturally Fred accepts him with open arms. He anonymously sends the largest prize turkey to the Cratchit house, giving the boy a crown for doing so.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

The following day Bob arrives late for work. Scrooge plays a trick on him which makes it seem like he is going to give Bob the sack. What he really does is give Bob a pay rise. He also becomes a second father to Tiny Tim.

It is from this point that Scrooge treats everyone kindly, compassionately. He’s clearly learnt from the warnings given throughout the novel. The novel ends with the words of Tiny Tim.

“God bless us, every one!”

 

Overview

This novel is pure magic. Everyone has the opportunity to change, just like Scrooge. Despite being over a hundred years old, this novel still carries the same message today. Dickens wanted society to learn from their mistakes, to see what they were doing to the poor. We have a lot to thank him for. You’ll see that each chapter is written in staves, continuing the musical element from the title. Dickens wanted this to be read aloud. I love teaching it because I feel like I’m doing exactly what Dickens wanted: spreading his message far and wide and embracing Christmas with my whole heart.

So, my message is clear: keep on jingling and spreading that Christmas cheer.

Big love

Xx

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Filed under Book review, Christmas, Victorian Lit

London & Matilda the Musical

Hi guys!

Happy July! I can’t believe it. July is my favourite month so I’m quite pleased it’s here. 


I started this month with a trip to London. More tourist time! Originally this trip was for my Mum as we got her Adele tickets for Christmas. However, you may have seen in the news that she cancelled the last two shows. This caused a slight problem for us, but, I managed to book us tickets to Matilda the Musical. 


This musical started in Stratford but my mum gave her tickets away, meaning we never got to see it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to finally see the show AND on the West End.


I do not have enough words to explain or describe how amazing this show is. From start to finish I was completely hooked. The kids are awesome, loveable and incredibly talented. It stuck to the original novel, with some tweaks and added catchy songs that I’ve had in my head ever since. 


The set was really clever. It was full of books (I LOVE) and lights and things popping up and across. It was always moving and constantly changing, keeping the audience captivated. The lights were a really clever way of showing the chalk writing and the chokey. 


My favourite (well joint favourite) characters were Matilda, played by Eva-Marie Saffrey and Miss Trunchbull, played by Craige Els. Honestly, Matilda made my heart melt. Miss Trunchbull brought the humour and entertainment to the show. It was a nice surprise to see this part played by a male actor too! Now I’ve seen it, I can’t see how it could be done any other way. 


I realise in every post I say things like ‘you have to read/see this’, ‘I don’t have enough words to say…’ but for this, it’s completely true. It’s just magical. I knew the ending of the story and I still had a tear. I felt on cloud nine when I left. It was truly amazing. 


Well, you know me. I love an opportunity to go exploring and be a tourist. I certainly did that this weekend and it was fabulous. Making memories with my lovely family, spending time together and living for the moment. It was lovely. 

I especially love these signs at the tube stations around London. This one resonates with me because it is absolutely true. If you’re around London, keep an eye out for them. 


Until my next tourist adventure! 

Big love to you all xx

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Filed under Exploring, London, Photography, Places, UK

London

Hey everyone!

Just as I was going to bed last night, I heard about the terrible events in London. Thankfully, my friends in London are all safe. But there were some that did not make it home last night. Yet again, I am dumbfounded and a tiny bit broken. 

I’m struggling to find words again to comprehend or explain. None of us want to live in a world of fear, where ever we are situated. So again, I want to spread love and peace to you all. 


I was talking about this with a friend this morning. He helped me to see that there are more acts of kindness than acts of hate, we just don’t hear about them. 

So my focus today is this. Hold onto those little acts of kindness, make someone smile. Hold someone tightly and let them know how much they mean to you. Help a stranger. Do something for someone else. Together, we are stronger. 

Big love x

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84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

  
I stumbled across this book, hidden at the bottom of the pile, in a box of books at a second hand book shop. What attracted me to it was the cover – the letter design. I love looking at old letters, stamps and postcards. I find them really incredibly interesting, so I bought this book. I’m also the first to admit I’ve no idea who Helene Hanff is. I do now, and I absolutely loved this book. 

Note: My copy of the book also contains The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, so I will also be reviewing this. 


Firstly, 84 Charing Cross Road. 

It is an epistolary novel, written in the form of letters to and from Helene Hanff and Frank Doel of Marks & Company. The correspondence spans from October 1949 to October 1969, New York to London, in less than 100 pages. 

The first letter from Helene is a response to an advertisement for a book seller specialising in out of print books. At this stage, she knows nothing about Marks & Co in London, but she encloses a list of her “most pressing problems” – books she can’t find locally. They must be clean, and cost less than $5. When the books arrive safely at her New York apartment, she enlists the help of a neighbour to change the cost from dollars to British pounds. 

“The phrase ‘antiquarian book-sellers’ scares me somewhat, as I equate ‘antique’ with expensive.” 

Some of the most touching letters are sent and received during the war years, where the rations in London meant that food was limited. In America, things were different. Helene sends over a 6 pound ham for all the staff at 84 Charing Cross Road for Christmas. She also sends gifts for Easter. 

“Now then. Brian told me you are all rationed to 2 ounces of meat per family per week and one egg per person per month and I am simply appalled.” 

As more letters, food parcels and books travel to and from London/New York, Helene gets to know more people from the book shop: Cecily, Megan, Bill and Nora, Frank’s wife and others. As well as books, the narrative also becomes a plea to get Helene to visit London. 

“My dear, I do hope you get your wish to come to England. Why not save your pennies and come next summer?” 

The relationship between Helene and Frank is based on mutual respect and fondness. Therefore, when Helene has a complaint, and she has a few within this little book, she writes honestly to Frank to express her feelings. From a structural point of view, it is interesting and rather realistic that Helene’s writing style changes at points this like. She writes in full capitals, or with no capitals at all. One example of this is when she requests a complete copy of Pepy’s Diary, but gets sent an incomplete or collected version. What is sweet, is the letter ends with the question of fresh or powdered eggs for Christmas. Harmony is restored. 

“WHAT KIND OF PEPYS’ DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS? 

this is not pepys’ diary, this is some busybody editor’s miserable collection of EXCERPTS from pepys’ diary may he rot. 

i could just spit.”

However, there comes a time when great sadness is explored within this book. There is a gap in time from Helene’s last letter dated 30th September and correspondence in January, this time from a different character. On the 8th January, Helene receives a letter from Joan Todd, a secretary from Marks & Co, bringing news of Frank’s death. 

“It is with great regret that I have to tell you that he passed away on Sunday 22nd of December, he funeral took place last week on Wednesday 1st January. “

Helene, exclaims herself, how much 84 Charing Cross Road means to her, wishing her friend to “kiss it for me! I owe it so much.” 

I loved this so much, it was utterly charming. It makes me think about the power of blogs and social media now, connecting people from all over the world. How much the world has changed! For me, the letter is still something special, and this is shown within this book. I wish I could have experienced something like this within my own life. 

Secondly, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

Again, this novel is an epistolary novel, this time written in the form of a diary. It takes place much later, in 1971, when Helene finally gets to visit London for the English publication of 84 Charing Cross Road. 

It is in this book that she meets Nora, the wife of Frank of whom she has been corresponding with for over twenty years. Helene also fulfills her dream to visit a number of literary landmarks in London. These included Trinity College where John Donne often walked in the yard as well as Claridges. This book is a tour of England seen through the excited eyes of Helene, who had dreamed of this trip all her life. 

“Theoretically, it was one of the happiness days of my life. The date was Thursday, June 17th, 1971; the BOAC lifted from Kennedy airport promptly at 10 A.M.; the sky was blue and sunny, and after a lifetime of waiting I was finally on my way to London.” 

Helene leaves New York just days after leaving the hospital, full of excitement and expectations to finally see the country she has always wanted to visit. Naturally, Helene worries that no one will meet her, and makes a plan just in case. She reassures herself with the many letters she received from both her fans and her publisher. As planned, a gentleman was waiting for her arrival. This gentleman, The Colonel, was a fan of Helene’s book and happened to work at the airport. 

“And there he was, a big, towering Colonel Blimp with a beaming smile on his face and both arms outstretched, waiting to get my dainty feet onto British soil.” 

She finds her friends, Nora and Shelia and from there checks in to a hotel, hardly believing that she was in London. She decides, after advice, to keep a diary for her trip. The next day, Helene visits Mark & Co, which had sadly since closed down. As part of her books promotion, a photographer accompanied her to be interviewed and photographed with Nora about the correspondence between Helene and Frank. 

“How about this, Frankie? I finally made it.”

The narration rapidly progresses from an array of interviews and book signings. However, soon enough, Helene had time to explore London at her own pace. She experiences a pub where Shakespeare once drank and drove past the Tower of London to witness the locking of the gates. She also meets up with her old friends from Texas who were also visits the city, and lunched at Claridges. Helene, was also able to meet Joyce Grenfall, an actress she had always admired, and also took a trip to Oxford with the Colonel. As well as this, Helene also met Leo Marks, the son of Marks who owned Marks & Co, and his wife Ena. As a portrait painter, Ena would eventually persuade Helene to sit for a portrait, as long as she sat outside. A rather touching moment was when Helene went to St. Paul’s Covent Garden where Ellen Terry’s ashes are. 

“Just inside the door as I was leaving I came upon the most recent plaque: VIVIEN LEIGH D.1967 and I was suddenly moved to tears.”

Helene stayed in London for nearly a month, visiting every place she had ever read about. Helene embraced and enjoyed the sights and sounds of London. When it was time to head back to New York, a number of parties were thrown to say goodbye. On the plane to go home, Helene says goodbye to London, England, and focuses on life back in New York City. 

“I sit here on the plane trying to see faces, trying to hold onto London, but the mind intrudes with thoughts of home: the mail piled up waiting for me, the people waiting, the work waiting.” 

I loved this short book as well. The excitement of visiting a place you’ve always wanted to visit I can easily relate to. I loved reading about the sights and sounds of London, a city I adore. This book, as a collective, was absolutely charming. It’s very short, so can be read in a couple of hours. I would recommend this book to anyone, but you do need both 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street in order to not be disappointed. 

BL x

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Filed under American Literature, Book review

West End News – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

It’s been 18 years (wow!) since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the UK. A lot has happened in this time: 7 novels, 8 films, Platform 9 3/4s opened in London with the trolley in the wall and the Studio Tour just to name a few. 

Therefore, I could not be more excited when I stumbled across this Harry Potter news this morning. I felt like I had ants in my pants. I just couldn’t keep still. Awkward when you’re at work! Cue some funny looks…

What’s caused all reaction? I kind of gave it away in the title… So, it has been announced that Harry Potter will be hitting the Palace Theatre in London’s West End in 2016. J.K. Rowling has teamed up with playwrite Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany to give devoted fans another slice of the Harry Potter action. 

It’s still very much hush hush about the details, but we know it contains untold stories of Harry’s history. Rumours of a prequel have been floating around for months. However, I don’t think anyone expected a play. I certainly didn’t. Rowling always has this air of mystery around her. Are the rumours correct? A prequel implies stories about Hary’s parents. Or, could the rumours be wrong and include parts about Harry’s life after the final novel left it? I doubt that, it seemed a pretty neat, tied up ending to me. There is something about imagining an old man Harry Potter though. 

Tickets go on sale this autumn (seriously why such a long wait?), with more updates on their website coming soon. I’ve already saved it to my favourites with the plan to check daily. http://www.harrypottertheplaylondon.com 

I feel lucky to have grown up with Harry. I was one of those kids who queued at midnight for the latest book, went home and read it so that when I got to school no one could ruin it for me. This is am proud of. What a revolution. I can’t wait to find out more about this play. Moreover, I can’t wait to go and see it! 

  
BL xx

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