Showing posts with label Geek. Show all posts

What Harry Potter means to me: 20 years later



I have never hidden my love for Harry Potter, not once over the past 20 years. It's all a part of my charm, really.

From the "Boy who Lived" to "Nineteen Years Later", the Harry Potter books have been with me through everything and have shaped the person I am today. I have been to midnight releases, seen the play twice, become an ambassador for Lumos and I am still waiting for my Hogwarts Letter. Everything I am started with a few notes written on a napkin all those years ago.

There are a lot of people who dismiss the Harry Potter books as children's books which will always irritate me, they are so much more than that. These books introducted me to the most wonderful love and the most harrowing grief. They helped me to understand the horrors of the world even if I couldn't stop them. The held me as close as I held them and they kept me safe. Certainly not just a children's book.



When I first picked up these books at the age of 9, I had no idea, as cliched as this sounds, the journey I would go on. I had no idea that a book series would bring me so much happiness and also so much heartache. I didn't know that they would become a security blanket for all of the hardest moments of my life and I had no idea that at the age of 28, I would be as excited as I was yesterday when I finally bought my first set of robes.

I can't really explain why these tales of a boy wizard mean so much to me but I can tell you a few times I have needed them and how they helped me.

When I was little, I was quite smart, I don't mean like a child genius, but I was clever and as a result I was bullied. It didn't stop when I got older either. The same thing happened all over again when I went to Secondary School. As a kid, I automatically assumed something was wrong with me. Hermione Granger taught me there wasn't. When I was going through the motions again as a teenager, she reminded me there was nothing wrong with me. I used her as my inspiration to always aim for the very best. Yes, Hermione didn't have the best time for a while and also did a 'I'm running to the toilet to cry', but she was the 'brightest witch of her age'. Being smart was her strength and i would also be mine.



When I moved to University, I was afraid. Not as in, scared to death, but nervous. I was moving out of my home town and moving to a strange city where I knew NO ONE. I was alone. But then I remembered Harry's first journey on the Hogwarts Express. He was alone in a whole new world let alone a big city. He did alright, didn't he?

Last year, my Nanna got sick and passed away. The first thing I did when I was packing to go up to Scotland to see her was pack the The Prisoner of Azkaban. I bloody needed it. I had my own Dementors to fight and will do for a while over the coming months. I used it as my talisman. I used it to feel safe and strong. The Dementors are still there but I have my own little Patronus whenever I need it.



These are just a handful of times where I have needed these books. Not all the times I need them are hard either. I use Harry potter and the Philosopher's Stone as my travelling book whenever I'm going on a long journey. Gary and I have spent all day watching all of the movies and doing Harry Potter puzzles just because we can. I read it in the bath, I read it on the tube when I've had a tough day at work and I am always carrying at least one thing that is Harry Potter related.

I feel extremely proud an honoured that I am a part of a family beyond imagination. I've made some of my closest friends through our mutual love for these books. Harry Potter has given me strength so many times and I'm sure it will be the same for my children, when I'm finally brave enough to part with the exact copies I have held dear for so long.



I will be there when they find the Stone. When they close the chamber. When they save Sirius. when they join the Order. When they mourn for Dumbledore. when they mourn for them all. It'll be as real for them as it is for me.

Happy birthday, Harry Potter. Thank you, Jo.

What I wore to the House of Lords

Lumos Charity


I love any excuse to dress up really. I'm one of those people who still puts on fancy clothes to go to the theatre. Why not, eh?

Really, you don't get a better excuse to dress up than an oh so very casual invite to the House of Lords. That's right, the dudes with the fancy wigs.

The reason I was at such a fancy place is that earlier on in the year I was made an ambassador of J.K. Rowling's charity Lumos. Through Lumos I have been able to see the Cursed Child, meet their higher profile ambassadors such as Evanna Lynch and Warwick Davis, plan how I am going to raise further money and awareness and, most importantly, learn more about the work Lumos are doing in Moldova, Haiti in beyond. You can find out so much more about Lumos in my charity Gala post  right here.

I didn't want to go too overboard with my outfit, but still wanted to feel dressed up. What with the rush to sort everything out before work started, I decided to go with the exact same thing I wore to my last Orchestra performance of the year at the weekend. A mixture of cheap as cheeps and slightly more expensive but paid for with a voucher...


A dress/skirt combo for extra layers and something a little smarter than your standard LBD, The sparkly top bit is actually a woollen jumper dress from Primark that cost me a grand total of £8, the skirt itself is an Oasis number that I traipsed across what felt like the whole of London to find. Srsly.

The two together give extra swish and the ability to hide my drunken Henna errors... (work Christmas party drinks were had and poor decisions were made)

I'm SO happy with the combo in general. I felt so fancy but also comfortable. No time for choosing between the two.



My hair is the longest it has been in over ten years so I'm trying to learn how to do things with it. I mostly just know how to twist and plait (currently rocking milk maid plaits like a BOSS. I feel like Heidi) but at least I'm trying. The hair didn't work out the way I wanted it but the Gryffindor makes it work... right?


Yes, I'm mixing gold and silver which isn't really a thing but meh.

This is my new Lumos charm bracelet Gary got me for my birthday. The proceeds for each one go directly to the charity so being at one of their event was the perfect opportunity to show it off with pride. I do enjoy how you can add your House charm to it. Can you tell I'm a Gryffindor????

I can smarten up quite well I think!

How do you wear all black?

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London (Part Two) - Hogwarts in the Snow

Warner Brother's Studio Tour London

It's not everyday you get to go to Hogwarts and casually sip prosecco in the Great Hall, is it? So when I was invited to go to Hogwarts in the Snow at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, I said 'yes' without even needing to think. I mean, it's Hogwarts.

Yes, I know I have already been there this year, but that's not the point. This time there was snow and it's every Potterhead's Christmas wish to be at Hogwarts for Christmas.

Donned in our scarves and other Harry Potter attire, it turned out that we had one from every house! I was there to represent Gryffindor while Charlie and Leanne were our Ravenclaws, Katy was Hufflepuff and Charlie's sister Becky was a Slytherin in disguise.

The Great Hall was as awe-inspiring as ever, made even better by the supply of food and booze and Christmassy spirit everywhere. I have decided that I desperately need Harry Potter themed crackers this year.

Warner Brother's Studio Tour London

Warner Brother's Studio Tour London

The famous Christmas feast was laid out for display, all handcrafted out of resin and ridiculpusly realistic looking. The best part was the Christmas puddings that were actually flaming!


JUST LOOK AT IT!

When we walked through to the art, props and sets I noticed some things had moved around that was a little disorientating but I was still absolutely amazed with everything. Especially the 'ice sculpture' from the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It just looks so cool!

Warner Brother's Studio Tour London


This time, we had the joys of doing something I have never done before. GET SILLY PICTURES TAKEN!



Just look at my 'I can't act' faces! It was so ridiculous but so much fun. I got to wear ACTUAL Gryffindor robes and Katy got to be a full blown Hufflepuff. We were beside ourselves with giggles on the Hogwarts Express and seeing Leanne's reaction to seeing the Hogwarts Express for the first time was just heart warming.

Skipping the butterbeer (I actually hate it, please don't kill me), we ran outside where we squaled like excited fangirls when snow started blowing out of the top of the Knightbus. I danced in the snow in Godrics Hollow. Could I have BEEN any happier? I also got the chance to piss of the Dursleys. Who wouldn't want that?


Who even is this youth loitering and DRINKING in Privet Drive? What is the world coming to?

You're probably getting sick and tired of photos of Hogwarts, especially if you follow me on Instagram! But... COME ON. Seeing it in the snow is incredible. It kind of looks like the most amazing gingerbread house. Kinda.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Don't you just wish it was real? And yes, I cried again but no, I am STILL not ashamed.

Laden with bags, a new Ravenclaw scarf for my cousin and filled with loads of new happy memories, we made our way home and reality had to be a thing again.

Hogwarts is my home and seeing it in the snow really was one off the bucket list. I can't wait to go back to the studio and relive it all over again.

Have you ever seen Hogwarts in the snow?






*Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this event for free but you all know I LOVE Harry Potter and I would have been a right idiot if I turned it down. 

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London (Part One) - A Harry Potter Fan's Dream



When I was 9 years old. I picked up a book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and I was hooked from the very beginning. Nearly 20 years later, I am still mourning how I never got my Hogwarts Letter and when things get bad my automatic reaction is to turn to that battered hardback with the faded cover which has been so loved over the years.

For my birthday last year, Gary surprised me with gift tickets to go back to the Warner Brother's Studio Tour and I couldn't be more excited. Even though I had already been there... so what?

If you haven't noticed from previous posts, I am a MASSIVE Potterhead, my September and October were probably the best months I have had all year because of this. I have been invited to be an ambassador for J.K Rowling's charity Lumos, I have seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (twice) and then the Studio Tour just topped it all off.

The Warner Brothers Studio Tour is any Potterhead's dream. It's a museum to the legacy that is Harry Potter. A film franchise that spanned well over a decade and is still in the hearts for millions across the globe. And always will be


The moment those grand doors open and you walk into the ACTUAL GREAT HALL, is beyond awe-inspiring and it continues throughout your tour. The Great Hall itself is still kept as a 'hot set' so it's lit in the perfect way so even if you take a picture on your phone (like I did), it'll look amazing. I could spend HOURS in the Great Hall, There isn't really as much to see here compared to the rest of the tour but as it's the set itself, you can just imagine being at Hogwarts.


The rest of the tour takes you on a journey to even the tiniest details of the making of the Harry Potter films, from taking selfies in the Mirror of Erised, seeing the hand written books and copies of the Daily Prophet, potions labels and goblin masks that are so detailed they frighten me a little bit.



Now, I have been to the Studio Tour before. Three years a go with my equally as Harry Potter obsessed cousin and there was ONE thing we desperately wanted to see.

It's FINALLY here.

I finally got to see it.

I cried.

Don't judge me.


It's only the GOD DAMN HOGWARTS EXPRESS. Complete with steam, choo choo-ing and individual compartments decked out like in each film. My favourite being the compartment from The Prisoner of Azkaban with Ron's hand print on the frozen window.

Out in the back lot we get to see some of the larger sets. My favourite being the Knight Bus with its sign saying 'no where under water'. Privet Drive is obviously a must see as it's where our story pretty much began. It's such a sham I missed it when it was open. One day.. One day.



Who doesn't wish you could spend an evening exploring Diagon Alley? I certainly wish I could. At the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, you get to have at least a little bit of that moment. Gazing upwards at the kind of towering Gringotts and having a good chuckle when you see Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, a bright and glowing orange in such a huge contrast to the rest of the street. What would have made it even more perfect were if at least one of the shops were open. Maybe this would be something new for the future. Either way, I was pretty darn happy to be there and to run around pointing things out to Gary. How he put up with me, I will never know.


It's all so wonky, I love it!

Now, there is obviously the one main thing that every Harry Potter nerd wants to see and was certainly crying point number two for me. The scale model of Hogwarts itself. It's a bitter sweet moment really because it's my favourite part of the tour but also the last part of the tour, I don't like endings.


JUST LOOK AT IT! Words cannot describe the feeling you get when you turn the corner and are faced with the splendour of Hogwars all lit up like it was real. ('What is this, Hogwarts for ants?')

If you have never experienced the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, even if you're not a Harry Potter Nut like me, I strongly recommend you do. It's amazing to see the world we all know and love as though you're behind the camera. In fact... it's that time of year for Hogwarts in the Snow... Watch this space for more Harry Potter fueled fan girling and even more pictures of Hogwarts!

Have you ever been to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour? Which was your favourite part? 

FriendsFest!




A video posted by Ashleigh-Jayne O'Connell (@smashleighjayne) on

So no one told you life was gonna be this way...

*clap, clap, clap, clap*

Yup, you're going to have that in your head for the rest of the day now and I'm not even sorry.

YES! I know I went to Friends Fest AAAAAGES ago but generally being and adult and stuff has meant I have HAD NO TIME.

For the majority of twenty-somethings out there, Friends was and always will be a major part of our lives. Quotes from the series have become key parts of our vocabulary and as we 'grow up', we find ourselves relating more and more to the characters and their story arcs.




When Friends Fest first came along, we tried desperately to get tickets and failed. This time, Charlie, Distracted being the best ticket person ever managed o nab some up and e were all pretty darn excited.

The journey to East London was a bit of a pain (North London, Baby!) but it was absolutely worth it.

We were booked to view MONICA'S APARTMENT at 6:45 but first there were obviously photo opportunities to be had (where I hit poor Katy in the face with an umbrella) and Boomerangs... that took three attempts.


Just look at Pablo, he's so Bangarang.

Monica's apartmrnt was amazing, they had gone to stupid levels of detail including sticking Rachel's 'Trifle' recipe to the fridge and putting copies of The Shining  and Little Women in the freezer.





The staff weren't that great though. We were pretty much rushed out the second we stepped over the threshold. #Rude.

Following on from Monica's apartment we went through to the Chick and Duck bar which included iconic items from Joey and Chandler's apartment including Rosita, the Canoe and the entertainment unit locked up with a hockey stick. Poor Joey.






The cocktails in the bar were expensive for the small amount of booze you got but had hilarious names, and you got bonus points if you asked for them with passion. I went for the Smelly Cat but was debating the PIVOT! We later worked out that is was better value for money to buy two bottles of Prosecco and split it. We're geniuses.

I have no idea what I am doing with my legs...

My favourite bit was possibly Central Perk and 'marrying' Charlie after 14 years of friendship. All in all, it was just a FABULOUS evening but the company made it 1000 x better.

#BangarangForLife

We Are Lumos: Charity Gala and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child London

In 1997 one woman captured the hearts of a generation and more to come. The story of a little orphan boy, his adventures and friends taught us that it's OK to be different and that there will always be a light, no matter how dark and bleak the world may seem. Now, 19 years later, J.K Rowling is putting that into practise.

Lumos is not only the spell that brings light, it's also J.K Rowling's charity working towards making the world a better place for over 8 million children (that we know of) in institutions.

Lumos Charity


I'm going to be honest here, I had heard of Lumos (obvs) but I had no idea what they really did nor the immense scale of their work. While at their charity gala as new ambassadors for Lumos, we had the opportunity to meet some of the celeb ambassadors and listen to talks from Georgette Mulheir and Bill Di Mechele who both chair the charity.

Normally when people think of orphanages (or institutions), many people will have the image of a loving environment and happy children running all over the joint. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Lumos charity


The harsh reality of the children in institutions is that 80% of them have at lease one living parent but have been placed into the system because of poverty, disability. discrimination and the need for health care that their parents may not be able to provide. Many children could then be subject to trafficking and abuse. Not only will they suffer physically and emotionally but also intellectually as their education could be considered as a sideline or they are lacking support to succeed.

Lumos Charity Gala


On the even darker side of things, shocking figures show that 1 in 7 children raised in institutions will resort to prostitution later in life and 1 in 10 will be driven to suicide, One. In. Ten. It's enough to send a chill down your spine and the look of sheer shock I saw on Jason Isaac's face (who is also new to the campaign), really said it all.

During the talks, Warwick Davis and Evanna Lynch told us more about the work they have been doing with Lumos, most recently in Moldova, what they have seen and how they are working with Lumos to get these children out of the institutions. It made me desperately want to help more.

While we were there, we had the opportunity to actually meet Evanna Lynch ( LUNA BLOODY LOVEGOOD) who is hands down one of the nicest people I have ever met. She came right over to our table and started chatting away and we all ended up huddled around her phone watching videos of Chris Martin singing a song about wanting to be in Gryffindor.

Gryffindor for the win.

Lumos Charity Gala
From left to right: 1. Mugglenet 2. Alex, 3. Katy 4. EVANNA LYNCH, 5. Katie, 6. ME 7. Charlie

Warwick Davis is in pretty much everything and sums up my childhood in movies so just being in the same room as him and working towards the same cause filled me with joy. Jason Isaacs... well, I have no words.

*cue silly giggles*

So very dashing, in a nutshell.



Following all the talks, photos and general nattering, we all filed over to the Palace Theatre for a special Gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There, the experience was opened by the one and only J,K Rowling giving is a speech about Lumos and their goal and their work.

J.K Rowling is just inspiring. Did you know she covers all costs of the charity out of her own pocket? I did not. Did you know that this then means that all proceeds go directly to the charity and their work to help those 8 million children (that we know of) one by one? I did not. The way she spoke so passionately about Lumos' goal to get those children out of institutions and into loving families really struck a chord. I've been privileged enough to grow up in a very loving family and this has made me want to do more. Already there have been discussions with the Bangarang Girls about what we can do. All. The. Ideas.

If you also want to help the work of Lumos, you can buy one of these AMAZING t shirts right here.

They're absolutely fabulous and I will continue to wear mine with pride. They're only available until October so you'll have to be quick and, remember, all proceeds go directly to Lumos and not into someone else's pocket.

Lumos Charity Gala
Don't we all look fabulous in these tops. You should buy one.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child London


When it comes to the play itself, I will obviously #KeepTheSecrets. I'm going to be seeing it again VERY SOON and will be sharing a completely spoiler free  review. In the meantime, for those of you who have read the script and had some sad #opinions, remember that it is not the finished project, There are so many elements that cannot be portrayed on paper. It's just the dialogue and stage directions so it's far from the full experience on stage. In short, it's an absolute delight. I laughed, I cried, I screamed. Charlie, Distracted, who has already seen it, thoroughly enjoyed watching my reactions!

Really, you just need to see it for it to completely make sense.



I am beyond thrilled that I have been given the opportunity to work with Lumos as an ambassador for their work. This was honestly one of the best days of my life and, despite how long this blog post has become, I really don't have enough words.

Earlier on, I described J.K Rowling as inspirational but, looking back on it, I don't think that word is big enough. She created a world that made mine, and so many other people's lives, better through a work of fiction and now she's using her influence as literary queen and icon to make this a reality for those who so desperately need it. Be the Light with Lumos and J.K Rowling and remember that children need families, not orphanages.







* Disclaimer: This post is on behalf of Lumos and to raise awareness of their latest campaign. I was not paid for this opportunity, just really bloody happy!