Showing posts with label Geek. Show all posts

I don't like the Crimes of Grindelwald

Photo of AJ twirling in a black dress with a Gryffindor scarf. Her hair is bright orange and she's standing in a cobbled mews in Central London with plants and coloured doors on either side.


There. I've said it. And I know I'm not alone.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is not what I had waited so eagerly for. And, do you know what, I don't think I'm excited about the next instalment either. After speaking to SO many people in person and furiously texting others, it's definitely a common theme, both within the Potter Community and those 'new' to the Wizarding World Franchise.

Now, don't think this post is just going to be me hating on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and insulting every part of it. There will be a little bit of it, because it's me, I just mostly want to explain why I'm beyond disappointed and how elements of the film are problematic. My background as a Film and Broadcast production graduate won't come into play either, because we do know the film itself is beautiful, but there really isn't much to go on through analysis except spectacle and unnecessary 'breakthroughs' of randomly thrown in 3D (which I refused to see and made a lot of scenes just look weird in 2D). Although, I do have an idea for a later post on gener and masculinity explored within the entire Harry Potter Universe...

I'm going to desperately try to keep this post as spoiler free as I possibly can, but as I write, that may completely change because #emotions. Who knows. I'm going in with good intentions at least. Anything that may be deemed a spoiler will be labelled with SPOILER so do keep an eye out just in case my intentions go astray.

A pile of brown leather suitcases. The top one is open and contains the House of Mina Lima Crimes of Grindelvald book. The book is brown and gold with a big blue diamond on the front and the text is gold


I'm clearly a massive Harry Potter fan, some would even say that it's bordering on obsessive, and I loved the first instalment of the new franchise. I thought that, even though lacking in all the beasts I imagined, it was a great intro to the wider Wizarding World. We finally got to see more magic from the adults, rather than our favourite 'Wizards in Training'. It was funny in all the right places, dark when it needed to be and showed us beyond the UK witches and wizards. It was new, it was exciting and it worked.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was an entirely different kettle of fish. We already knew that this would be darker than the first movie and the whole Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship is one that has always been something we, as fans, have been fascinated by as it was only ever alluded to throughout the series.

But it really wasn't what we wanted.

I ended up seeing the film twice to be absolutely sure. I would normally be at the midnight release of anything Harry Potter related, but on release day I was living it up in New Zealand. Didn't stop me seeing it on release day though when Gary and our friend kindly offered to spend a gloriously sunny day in a dark room just to make me happy. Bless them.

After I left that first cinema, I couldn't really talk about it much. There were obviously parts I really enjoyed, but as a whole it would need A LOT of thinking. I really didn't know how I felt about it. I need to digest it more, and that's pretty much what half of my 20 odd hour flight back to the UK consisted of.

My first (to be fair, ridiculous) comment about the movie is how The Crimes of Grindelwald weren't exactly explored. All we really see is his manipulation and sway over the magical community in America and Paris. I know this one is petty but it bothered me. If you're going to introduce the idea of Grindelwald's horrendous ways (which we all know exist), then surely you should explore at least some of the crimes themselves? We know this guy is evil, right? Like a magical version of Hitler in the wizarding community (conveniently running parallel to the the growth of Nazism in Germany post World War 2), but other than the opening scene, we see nothing. I completely understand that it's only the second movie in a series of five so they shouldn't go down The Prisoner of Azkaban route and make it too dark, too quickly, but give us something. It just felt that the title told us one thing and the film another. Maybe that one is just me.

A collection of the flyers and posters from Fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them. One features the slogan 'witches live among us' and another has the portrait of Shaw

The pace of the film was all off. As many other 'middle films' do, they tried to cram so many different story lines into one film but didn't round many of them up or focused too little on what I believe should be major plot points. Many of the newer characters were undeveloped when they should have been given the time to shine, so I felt like I couldn't resonate or care about any of them. When we lost one, I really wasn't bothered and I know that's mean.

I was too busy caring about other relationships that were left in the shadows, like seeing very little about Grindelwald and Dumbledore's relationship. We have always needed answers about this, even now I'm having discussions with the girls over whether Grindelwald was ever truly in love with Dumbledore but, again, we got squat. I'm not going to hate to Rowling for this like so many other people are doing though because I know it is coming... eventually.

The relationship between Newt and Theseus was touched on in the previous film and we all thought that since Theseus was making a key appearance this time, we'd have the opportunity to learn more about this sibling rivalry. In reality, there was only one thing and that story line was hit and miss with several key parts leaving us with more questions than we had before. It was nothing short of infuriating.

Where were the beasts, yo? Now, I know the whole concept of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has evolved beyond the 'text book' we all got for Comic Relief 2001, and has become more of a journey itself, but STILL, where were the beasts. In a book that's supposedly featuring Newt Scamander and his discovery and research into Magical Creatures, they probably took up about 10 minutes of screen time, and a lot of them weren't new. The revelation about Nagini was exciting when we saw it in the trailer but we weren't given much else. Any explanation behind the very concept of what a Maledictus really is was completely pushed to the side and, as a character, that was pretty much all we got. Very little dialogue or action making her feel like she was just slotted in for the hell of it.

It is not canon. This is, possibly, the thing that pissed me off the most. After 21 years, we are all so familiar with the Harry Potter universe, history and lore that big plot changes come as more than just a shock to the system. One thing that is already known so I don't deem it a SPOILER, apologies if it is, is that Professor McGonagall is already teaching at Hogwarts in 1927. Originally she wasn't even born until 1935... how she was already teaching when she was supposedly not even a foetus, I have no idea. Her birthday was changed on the likes of Pottermore to back up her appearance in the film but it's still wrong to me.

Without going into too much detail, the whole lineage of the Elder Wand appears to have been thrown out of the window. Technically this started with the disarming of Graves/ Grindelwald in the first movie but it's still continuing to plague me, especially since we see the Elder Wand in action in Crimes of Grindelwald. It's one of the things I can't stop thinking about and every time I do, I get all wound up into a ball of fury. I mean, this is the very thing that lead to the Downfall of Voldemort, the reason why it would never work for him because he only saw defeat by means of death and not disarming. I'm hoping it's something that will be answered in the future and not another one of those plot holes we see in movies that are graciously brushed aside. In the mean time, I'll still be constantly angry and shout at my TV.

I know this post has been, essentially, one long rant. But I have SUCH #opinions. I just haven't been so disappointed in something I was looking forward to so much in such a long time. I'm still angry 4 months later! We have been left with more questions than we had before, the movie betrayed new characters leaving them with very little emotive attachment from the audience and fractured elements of the Harry Potter Universe. I was going to say 'flat out broke' but am aware that's just me and my penchant for hyperbole.

I'm more than happy to debate so if you think I am completely wrong in any part of this, do let me know in the comments below or on Insatagram.

Tips for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the first time



Back in 2015, the Harry Potter Community had a mini explode when tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were announced.

On 28th October 2015, I went into work early to do that thing where you hit refresh constantly and jump between multiple different browsers, and even your phone. At one point, I'm pretty sure I was 10,000th in the queue but that may be an exaggeration.

I got tickets.

Turns out, I'm a god damn idiot and booked the tickets for the following June for when we were supposed to be at Glastonbury. So I gave them to my friends.

It was then announced that Coldplay were headlining Glastonbury so I didn't end up going. Typical, eh?

On 30th October (my birthday), the next run of tickets for the following September were released. Cue me on the sofa with Gary surrounded by wrapping paper, going through the rapid refresh process all over again. I got tickets for 22nd and 23rd September 2016.

But it turns I didn't have to wait that long. My best friend invited me to be her plus one so a showing with Lumos (who I am now an ambassador for) on 18th September 2016.

Thrilled doesn't cover it. I cried. A lot. #NoShame.

As I have seen it twice now, like the lucky madam I am, and even though it was a few years ago now, I thought it would be useful to share my tips / advice for those who may be planning on seeing it for the first time. Aren't I nice?


Sign up to the Friday Forty


I'm sure everyone knows what the Friday Forty is by now, but just in case...

Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sell out fast. At the moment, you'll be looking at waiting until 2020 (unless you get really lucky).

I completely understand that sometimes people don't want to wait that long. I don't know how I had the patience to wait as long as I did! This is why the Friday Forty is your friend.

Every Friday, 40 tickets for every performance the following week are available for £40. That;s £20 per part (#bargain). Not only does this mean that you might get to see the show sooner, but it can also be more affordable as some seats can cost serious dollar.

However, it is a lottery so not everyone gets them, and you can only enter between 12:01pm - 1pm. It's always worth a try!


See both parts in one day


This one may not be everyone's cup of tea but after seeing it twice, once in one day and once over two days, I 100% prefer the one day event.

Sure, it's likely you'll be tired afterwards but I felt like it was more of an experience when you see it in one. The anticipation for seeing part two dwindled and wore away a tad when I knew I'd have to wait longer.

But if that's not for you, I totally get it.

Book for the Dress Circle if you can


When I first booked tickets, I got them right in the heavens. You know, those vertigo inducing seats you get in every old theatre. I did this intentionally though because I have epilepsy and I know that strobe lights and other lighting effects are used so I wanted to be safe. Turns out they were absolutely fine (for me, maybe not for everyone with the same condition)

When I went with Lumos, we were in the Dress Circle and it was a much better experience.

Sure, I know that when you're in the theatre, it doesn't always matter where you sit bit I feel like it does for this particular show. Like how it's better to sit up the top for 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time'. 

In the Dress Circle, you were close enough where your neck didn't hurt from either looking up at the stage or constantly having to lean around the taller people in front of you (which happens to me everywhere I go) and also, you could see everything, rather than just little blurred shapes across the stage.

Most importantly, these seats made you feel as though magic is real. some of the stage tricks in this show are absolutely out of this world. I felt absorbed in in. When you're up in the heavens, the illusion was shattered because you could see how some things were done and you didn't have to look closely.

Buy your merch before the show starts


I'm sure my fellow experienced gig goers would tell you exactly the same thing.

The queues at merch stands can be insane, as with any other theatre / concert / festival.

During the interval, you don't want to be wasting your precious pee and bar time in yet another queue and at the end of the show, you sometimes leave via a separate door so you won't always pass a merch stand. Better to get it all beforehand and eagerly await your badges as you leave.



Start your day at House of MinaLima


This one is more of an added extra than anything else, but it's the perfect way to make the magic last even longer. It's probably about 2 minutes walk away from the Palace Theatre so it's not like you'd be going out of your way.

My main recommendation here though would be to get there as it opens then grab some lunch nearby before Part One of the show starts.

House of MinaLima can get absolutely rammed and I'm sure you'd want the opportunity to take everything in in peace.

That and get the perfect Instagram shot of the Marauders Map floor.



So there we go. A handful of advice. I hope at least some of it was useful and not all of the same stuff you have heard before. If you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up via DM on Instagram. After all, we still need to Keep the Secrets.

A Self-Guided Harry Potter walking tour of London

A picture of me framed by the arches of Leadenhall Market in London

One of the amazing things about London is that you can walk in the footsteps of your favourite movies practically on every street corner.

It may come as a surprise to you but I, of all people, haven't been on a Harry Potter walking tour of London yet. At least, I haven't paid for one. I have done pirates, ghosts and general history, but never one of my favourite things of all time.

One sunny day in the Summer, Gary and I decided to have one of our rare 'date days' around London. It mostly consisted of doing our own self-guided walking tours of Harry Potter areas, lord knows why Gary agrees to do all of these things with me but he is a bit of a hero.

There are obviously way more places around London that have been used for Harry Potter orientated things, but we did not leave in enough time... typical us. Here are just a few things every Harry Potter nerd should visit when they're in London.

The Harry Potter floor of Hamley's

Not exactly hidden away in the basement with a Diagon Alley inspired archway entrance is the the dedicated area to all things Harry Potter. As you enter you a greeted by Hogwarts 'students' in their robes showing off all the toys and merch, a giant Hagrid, which I really hope is to scale, and the soundtrack playing in areas.

Giant Lego Hagrid in Hamely's toy store


If you're after the collectibles rather than just toys and stationery, my advice is to pop back up to the top floor where the Noble Collection can be found. The Harry Potter section of Hamley's didn't have the fancy Ollivander wands, only the toy versions and it was so busy I got a bit stressed out! The Noble Collection is way quieter and I left happily with the Ollivander's version of the Elder Wand in hand. My collection is ever growing!

Leadenhall Market at the Leaky Cauldron

All Londoners know of Leadenhall Market and a weekend is the perfect time to go and see it, especially if it's mostly for the gram. On a weekend, that whole area of London is pretty much a ghost town. Even the New Look on the corner isn't open when the banks and businesses aren't. Obviously, it would have been lovely to see the market in action, but I was having one of those weird head moments where I'd much rather not have to deal with people! I also work 9-5 so I guess the only time I can bloody go to the market is when it's bloody closed!

Leadenhall market London


The eagle-eyed Harry Potter readers out there will recognise Leadenhall Market from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when Hagrid takes Harry shopping in Diagon Alley. Did you know, around the corner from here is the actual Leaky Cauldron?

The Location of the Leaky Cauldron in London. It's a blue opticians.

It's not nearly as creepy looking as in the movies and it's actually an opticians... but it's the Leaky Cauldron, guys! I promise!

Trying to find the Ministry of Magic in Westminster

This one was a little bit tricky because my GOD DAMN SCAFFOLDING CURSE STRUCK AGAIN. Also, I was an idiot and forgot the red phone box Mr. Weasley and Harry used to get to the Ministry was actually a prop. Out of my annoyance I didn't get a picture but you can find it 5 minutes walk from Westminster Tube Station, just past Downing Street.

Grimmauld Place - AKA Claremont Square near Angel

You know that Scaffolding Curse? Yeah, it struck again here too. Fan-fucking-tastic, right? Luckily for me, most of the houses on Claremont Square look exactly the same so I staged a photo in front of one of the scaffolding free houses anyway, much to the bemusement of one of the residents who was playing in the street with his little girl.

Location of Grimmauld Place in London


 Not as dark and dingy as the House of Black is in the movies and the majority of them are covered in beautiful flowers. Kind of dampens the aesthetic a touch but I have to remind myself that Harry Potter isn't real sometimes and that set design is a thing...


Platform 9 3/4 King's Cross

Everyone knows this one but it is most definitely my happy place. I go here often even if it's just to feel a bit happier after a bad day. It's one of the few places in London where I can deal with lots of people in one place and that's only because I know it's a magical pilgrimage all Harry Potter fans go on and that not everyone is as lucky as I am. I only live 20 odd minutes away so can go as often as I like!

Platform 9 3/4 shop King's Cross

We missed so much off, including the Millennium bridge! Bless Gary, he has already agreed we can do another one again soon and has promised that we'll wake up earlier to fit more in. Maybe even do it over two days!

Regardless of how much we missed, I well and truly had the best day nerding out with one of my favourite people and I cannot wait to do it again.

Have you ever done a Harry Potter walking tour of London?

Making potions at the Cauldron



It finally happened, guys. After missing out on tickets last time, I finally got to go to the Cauldron with Love Pop Ups London and I couldn't have been happier. Let's face it, who wouldn't want the opportunity to feel like an actual Witch making potions while drinking delicious cocktails at the same time? Not this girl, I was all for it.

If you don't know about the Cauldron (where have you been?), it's a molecular / immersive bar in Elephant and Castle where you make your own drinks Sure, making your own drinks isn't the most original idea BUT you use a magic wand... and make your drinks in an actual cauldron.


The Cauldron is very unassuming from the outide. In fact, if I wasn't so uncomfortable about being in unfamiliar surroundings at night alone, I would have walked right past it. Once you're inside though, it's as if you have just stumbled into the Wizarding World.

Display and gift shop at the Cauldron featuring Gargoyles and potions bottles

With books balanced precariously all around the room, crystal viles, even photography by Xavier Boldu everywhere. It was an absolute delight to see some of my favourite Harry Potter fans, like Weasley's Book, over the walls and it felt like I was in a combination of Flourish and Blotts and The Apothecary.

You could see that they had gone through every effort to include the tiniest of details. From Rhunes carved into compartments on the tables, to giving you robes as you walked through the door. I obviously wore my own because I'm a loser.


On to the important bit. The drinks and the magic.

Before the experience really begins, you get a little welcome drink of Poetic Mead. It's hidden away in one of the compartments on the tables which you open with the wand. that's right. You Alohomora that shit for booze. I cannot explain to you how happy this made me. I even did a little squeal.

The drink itself was nice, it was just very tiny. It added to the charm though especially since it was in the smallest jar ever.


After the welcome bev, you had the choice of two drinks to make yourself. Just so you're aware, they're served in pairs so you'll need to make sure whoever goes with you is happy with the choice too!

The Potions Master delivers all of the ingredients to your table as well as step-by-step instructions, which we were RUBBISH at following. But that all adds to the experience, right?

Our first 'potiion'  was the Blood Boiling Curse. It consisted of gin, a bouncing magic bean (which you used the magic wand to control), troll bogies and the sands of time. Because of course it did. Cue me saying 'bleurgh, troll bogies' very loudly. I am but basic.

It was a nice combination of sweet and bitter. I felt like it could have done with a bit more gin but that's mostly because... well, gin.


The Botony Brew was my favourite part of the experience, mostly because of the cauldron. A simmering and smoking concoction that would have made Professor Slughorn proud, but only because there's no pleasing Professor Snape when you're a Gryffindor.


I don't have a sweet tooth and it was a little too much for me. But that could have been because we added too much Montenegro (whatever that is). Watch your measures, peeps and don't stray from the instructions! Bonus was though, there was enough in our cauldron for three full glasses each, so they're not exactly stingey there!



In short, if you're a fellow nerd like me, the Cauldron is an experience you wouldn't want to miss. The whole experience lasts about 1hr 45mins so make sure you're not late for your pre-booked spot. Make sure you make the most of your time there and explore everty nook and cranny. You'd be amazed by the tiniest things you see and little nerdy references hidden around the place, and more than just Harry Potter too! I'd wholly recommend taking a peek in the wardrobe... if you're not too squeamish! Make sure you book tickets soon though, if this round is anything like last time, slots fill up pretty quickly.

Have you been to The Cauldron yet?



*Discalimer: I went to the Cauldron as a guest of Love Pop Ups London but honestly couldn't recommend it enough. All ramblings and appreciation are 100% my own. 

A day in Covent Garden

Sitting in a flower display in Covent Garden

When I say I live in London, I don't live in PROPER London. I live in quiet East Finchley, tucked away in Zone Three. It's far from the bustling crowds and fast paced life you generally see in the movies. It's got tree lined streets, the smell of open fires in autumn and winter and frequent community festivals. It's peaceful. It's quiet. Tourists don't know it.

When ever I do head into central London, it feels like an adventure. Visiting Covent Garden is something I generally reserve for when friends and family visit because, even though I know my way around after living in London for 11 years, it's nice to feel like a tourist sometimes. For our anniversary at the weekend, Gary and I were up at, what felt like, the crack of dawn to go and explore Covent Garden and celebrate each other. But on the cheap... it was the weekend before payday after all!


Where to Explore / Instagram

We got to Covent Garden for before 9am because if I know anything as a Londoner and an Instagram fiend, it's best to get to your destination before the shops open. This way, you'll have more space to capture those gorgeous pictures you're after, and also you can spot new things that you may not have noticed before. I for one, didn't know that Covent Garden was now surrounded my flower displays everywhere you look. It does make sense though, what with how it used to be a flower market.

It felt more private, like we had stumbled across something secret, being there so early. There was no one around and it felt more like the *that* scene from My Fair Lady. I'm not ashamed to admit that I ended up singing 'Wouldn't it be lovely' to Gary at one point. Ideally I wanted to take a photo sitting on the church steps a la Audrey Hepburn, but it was the set up point for all the street performers! Oh well.



Neals Yard is a destination for any Instagrammer but my scaffolding curse struck once again. I obviously wanted to to replicate THE photo of the gorgeous buildings that every other Londoner has on their feeds, but alas. I am cursed...


Also, bonus nerd spot. Did you know Monty Python used to live here? I didn't until I decided to #LookUp!



Where to Eat

For breakfast, we chose to leave the main Covent Garden centre and headed to Dishoom on Upper St Martin's Lane. Having been to Dishoom before, I was so excited because I know how good their food is. However, I have never had their breakfast before and their infamous Naan bread is something I've wanted to try for so long. As we were nice and early (are you spotting a theme here?), we didn't have to queue at all when normally you would have to as they don't take reservations. All I can say, it's definitely worth the early wake up call.



Where to shop

It wouldn't be me if there wasn't something nerdy in here, would it? My ONE destination while we were in central London was to visit the Noble Collection UK on Neal Street. The Noble Collection is the home for nerdy and movie replicas and collectibles. From the Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, 300 to Suicide Squad. Whether you're after a fluffy Niffler, or a board game, new wand (me) or a fantastic headdress so you can be Galadriel for the day, this is the place for you.


It honestly felt just like being in Olivander's and I did get a chuckle from Gary who was timing how long it took me to choose between two wands. Personally, I don't think 25 minutes is long enough. Quite fast if you ask me.



Where to drink

Now, to be fair we went for the easy choice here. The heavens opened on us and we were not dressed for the ocassion, what with being idiots and not checking the weather that morning... We opted for the Nags Head on St James Street, and this is mostly becuase I'm a sucker for a blue plaque. And I didn't want to get wet anymore...

What's nice about this pub is how it feels homey even though it's always busy. I go to this pub whenever I'm in Covent Garden because it does still feel like a local even though it's full of strangers. They do a banging Guinness too which was the best way to finish up our anniversary celebrations.

Obviously, there is so much more to do in Covent Garden than what we got up to. I'm still slightly kicking myself that we didn't go to the Transport Museum but I wasn't up for the queue in that rain... If you have been, do let me know what I missed out on! 

How would you spend a morning in Covent Garden? 





*Disclaimer: £75 of spending money was kindly gifted by Hotels.com but all views are my own. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Royal Albert Hall

Harry Potter Cosplay

Since Gary took me to see Beauty and the Beast at the Royal Albert Hall with a live Orchestra for my birthday last year, it's been my mission to see as many of those shows as possible. As a musician and a film buff, it's pretty much two of my favourite things combined.

Last year, I was absolutely gutted that I missed out on the showing/performance of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone due to the crazy demand, I watched instagram stories with such envy. This year, I refused to let that happen so I was online on release date desperately trying to get tickets but I once again failed.

Somehow, the gods (old and new) smiled down on me. A friend knew someone with spare tickets. At the very last minute and £60 lighter (worth it), I had my hands on a pair and poor Gary had to deal with my excitement and happy tears. Again.

Harry Potter at the Royal Albert Hall

It's obviously been forever and a day since I last saw a Harry Potter  movie on the big screen (no, I'm not including Fantastic Beasts this time), so it took me straight back to those earlier years. The anticipation of what was going to happen and seeing young kids and many adults dressed up in costumes for the occasion. I'm a weirdo who likes to dress up, dress up for the theatre so only took my scarf and wand this time. A little bit gutted about that after I saw someone wearing a Keeper costume... Why don't I have one?

For me, the orchestra added a new layer of magic to the whole experience. That could be because of the musician in me, but there were moments where I felt more involved and almost a part of it all. It was even more moving than just watching it at home. Every crescendo was even more intense and finally listening to Hedwig's Theme live definitely brought a tear to my eye. Also, the difference to with my little community orchestra is VERY clear.

One of the things (other than the obvious demand) that put me off tickets for other, non Harry Potter related,  Royal Albert Hall performances was what I thought the cost would be. It turns out, it's really not that much, you just need to know where to look! With our second hand tickets, I paid the full price including booking fee because that's fair (and I normally refuse to buy tickets from other sources). Seats where we were are only £30 each and as you can see, the view really wasn't bad! Much better than when Gary and I stood in the heavens for Beauty and the Beast.

With tickets for The Prisoner of Azkaban now available, I'll be going straight there to book tickets. It's conveniently playing just before my birthday which is pretty much a sign that I must go anyway. I just hope there are still tickets available on payday... turns out booking holidays is expensive other wise I would have booked already!

Nerding about in Oxford


How many people do you know who will take a day off work just to run around Oxford in Hogwarts robes? Just me? Oh, ok then. I'm cool with that.

As part if my 12 in 12, I'm trying to see more of the UK as well buggering off to far off countries. There's so much more than the usual beer gardens, streets and sights I see every day. Oxford is one of those places I have always swung through on my way to other events/places, never really spending an hour or two. It's home to so many literary inspirations that a Pilgrimage had been on the cards for a long time. All I needed was some fellow nerds, a couple of wands and robes.

The inspiration behind the door to Narnia

Many people already know that Oxford is essentially 'home to Hogwarts' in a way but it's also the inspiration behind the Shire, Lyra's home and the start of the journey to Narnia. Basically everything I love. As we're ridiculously unorganised people sometimes, we booked our travel on what felt like the ONLY day there wasn't a free literary walking tour happening so we mostly survived off Google Maps and finding our own way to things.



Out first stop of our nerdy adventure was to sit where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet, the Eagle and Child.

The Eagle and Child is a nerd's dream, even if the pub as a whole leaves much to be desired. You're not there for a 5 star meal and beautiful surroundings. You're there for the geeky decor and banter with the bar staff. You'll have a great time even if one of the toilets does overflow while you're there. It's all part of the charm, really! Just make sure you do what we didn't do and check the opening times, Otherwise you'll be those losers hanging outside an empty pub for half an hour...

Just being there made me beyond excited for my trip to New Zealand later in the year. Especially after I saw this sign.. something I quote far too much for my own good!



I guarantee you, I will say this at least once in Hobbiton, even though they don't serve pints in the Green Dragon.

LOL
With Oxford being as small as it is (in a way), we walked everywhere and managed to find everything we wanted to see as well as other little bits we weren't looking for, such as the inspiration behind the door to Narnia (above) and stunning architecture every where. The only REAL thing on our list was to pay a visit to Christchurch university. We wanted to go up those stairs, huddle in the cloisters (despite Umbridge's Educational Decree number 26) and hang about in the Great Hall. in robes. Looking awesome. I have no idea how many tourist pictures we're in now but they all LOVED us... and copied our poses.


There are a lot of things we didn't get to do because we were disorganised and ran out of time. If we had arrived a wee bit earlier, we would have been able to get to Christchurch earlier and therefore wouldn't have had to pick between the Colleges. Bodleian Library is still up there on my list now so I guess I'm just going to have to go back soon. Jordan College from His Dark Materials, (called Exteter College in real life) is still up there but getting lost in the streets of Jericho has finally been ticked off.

Oxford is a magical place and I'm going to stop just using it as a stop off point and try and see more of it, especially since it's practically around the corner. If you want to be a nerd like me and take your own visit to this literary heaven make sure you:

Book tickets in advance

The queue to get into Christchurch was HUGE and it was raining. If you book in advance you can skip ahead

Actually make a plan

We ran out of time. One day with no plan wasn't enough to see everything we wanted to

Do a tour but also make your own

We resorted to Google to find out some things but if you manage to get there on a day when the Literary tours are happening (i.e., not on a Bank Holiday) you'll be able to find out so much more than we did. At the same time, make sure you get yourself a little bit lost and enjoy the beauty if the city. Take a moment to look up and around you.

Get there early

Don't make our mistake, guys. Get there early or spend an extra day if you want to do everything.



Being a Harry Potter Fan as an adult

St Dunstan in the East London

I know, I know. Being a grown up Potterhead isn't exactly big news or something new. But hear me out a bit.

There have been a couple of times this month alone where I feel people have mocked my life choices. They have blatantly taken the piss out of  my sheer passion for this fictional world that sometimes feels more like home than anything else.

I've had someone flat out laugh at me when I told them I was a big fan, someone say 'the funniest part of that was you looking so serious' when I told them I wore Gryffindor robes in Christ Church College and someone say it's time to stop acting like a kid.

I'm sorry, but screw you.

St Dunstan in the East London

I feel like I have had constant debates with people over whether or not Harry Potter is for kids. As much as I believe it's not, that's down to the individual person at the end of the day. But whether or not you think it is for children, it doesn't make it OK for you to make me feel small.

I have a passion for something and I don't think that's something to be ashamed of. I'm sure if I also spoke to people about my love for Shakespeare, travelling or even computers games, I wouldn't be met with nearly as much mockery as I do when they find out about the Harry Potter world I am enveloped in.

Sure, I don't try to hide it from people, but why the hell should I? People wear football shirts and talk about the latest controversy on XFactor without feeling like they should hide what they're interested in so why should Harry Potter be any different?


The Harry Potter world is something that's grown far beyond that last page and the grounds of Hogwarts. And it's growing every day. We have a whole swathe of people from my generation who have named their children Harry and Hermione. We also have a bunch of much stronger young people as a result of being inspired by the heroes and heroines within those pages.

Even the March For Our Lives protests in America this year could be partly attributed to the strength gained from Harry Potter. The young people mobilised and marched onwards with placards quoting 'Expelliarmus!' and 'Dumbledore's Army Still Recruiting'. There are real life 'Death Eaters' in this world, and there's a whole generation of people ready to fight back. 


Yes, pretty much 30 and I like Harry Potter. I like to dress up, buy wands and cuddly toys. I read the books every year and have been to the Studio Tour more times than anyone I know. But it's all OK. I'm perfectly happy with the way I am. Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it's wrong or silly. I've had so many opportunities and life experiences gained from this world of magic and I will continue to show my love for it.

Maybe soon I'll stop feeling hurt when people laugh at me but until then, I'll just seek solace in the Prisoner of Azkaban, remember 'Expecto Patronum' and carry on.

A History of Magic at the British Library with Lumos

Lumos charity

Harry Potter is 20 years old. Can you believe it? Sometimes I can't.

To celebrate, there's an exhibition at the British Library: The History of Magic. The exhibition is all about Harry Potter, the inspiration and the actual history of magic. I was lucky enough to attend a closed event with Lumos after failing to buy tickets with the rest of my friends.

You've probably heard me mention Lumos by now, if not you should take a scroll through and all the other amazing things I have been able to experience as part of my ambassadorship with them! Lumos was founded by J.K. Rowling herself to help children across the world out of institutions and into loving homes.

We say 'institutions' and not 'orphanages' because, sadly, many of them are out for profit alone, treat the children badly and lead to many children out of the streets with very little life experience, education and support. There are millions of children world wide stuck in institutions and it's Lumos' mission to get them out. Every child deserves a home and every child deserves love.

At the History of Magic event, we were privileged enough to hear speeches from Jason Isaacs, the Curator of the Exhibition (oh yes, I do think I would have been VERY good at that job if you didn't need so much experience) and Neil Blair. We learned more about their plans for the future, how much Lumos has achieved so far and the amazing work they have been doing in the past year alone.

This also happened:





Please try your very best not to hate me...

With the exhibition itself, sadly there are no pictures allowed. As much as I desperately wanted to take pictures of everything, I managed to restrain myself somehow.

Without spoiling it too much for you, I can tell you that it consists of everything from Herbology to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Turns out Mandrakes are a real thing, dontcha know AND Nicholas Flamel was a real person.

I'm not sure how long you're supposed to be in there but Leanne and I were in there until 10pm. We kept running around and back to rooms we had been before just in case we had missed something. It's a hands on experience as well as a 'look at these amazing things' exhibition, with technology and games for we muggles to enjoy (Please don't tell Gary I admitted to being a muggle)...


Being one of the last to leave (other than Ezra Miller who was clearly living his best life despite a 5am call time the next morning), you definitely need more than an hour to experience the sheer splendour of the exhibition. Walking into it is just as magical as entering Hogwarts itself, there are scripts and deleted scenes from the book sand movies, J.K. Rowling's own illustrations and many 'real' magical items. As a massive Harry Potter fan, I'm sure you can imagine my joy seeing notes written in J.K. Rowling's own hand.

You should definitely attend the exhibition while it's still around. Tickets are £16 for adults and £8 for children (you can get them here). While you're at it, why note donate to Lumos. Every little helps and 100% of all proceeds go to the programmes themselves and NOT someone else's pocket.

If you fancy a quick chuckle, here's the moment J.K. Rowling retweeted me. Thank you Leanne for capturing such a moment. Yes, I am crying. I have no shame.






*Disclaimer: I was invited to the event for free as an Ambassador for Lumos. However, I constantly work to support Lumos and this has in no way encouraged this blog post. I was not asked to do it, I just did. So there.

Wizarding Wardrobes at Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Smashleighjayne


Yup. That's right. I went back to the Studio tour. Jealous much? JUST LOOK AT HOW HAPPY WE ALL ARE.

Smashleighjayne


If you follow the Warner Brothers Studio Tour on Instagram, you'll have already had a glimpse at what Wizarding Wardrobes is. It's a chance to go behind the scenes of the wardrobe department. Initial sketches and final designs of some of the best costumes are on display and you are able to learn more about each piece and the inspiration behind them.


Smashleighjayne

back in July (yup, I'm rubbish again), I went to the event launch because clearly I am now best buds with the Studio Tour. Some of the designers themselves were there, including the legend that is Philip Treacy (*fangirls*) who completely sassed Erica (you really need to check out her A Muggle Reacts post, it's amazing) and rather begrudgingly but did it anyway, let me put on a Beauxbatons hat!

Smashleighjayne


Yup. Admit it. You hate me a little bit right now.

Rita Skeeter is one of my favourite characters, I love to hate her SO MUCH. Plus, her outfits through out the movies are just spectacular. From the Acid Green power suit that matches her acid tongue and the Quick Quotes Quill to the dragon inspired costume from teh first task in the Triwizard Tornament. For Rita, a lot of the inspiration came from the style of Vivienne Westwood and you can really see it.

Smashleighjayne

Wizarding Wardrobes is more than just the clothes themselves. We also got to meet the Makeup department, saw someone transformed into Bellatrix Lestrange and even got our own Dark Marks, we really are the coolest.

Smashleighjayne


Yeah, I'm evil now.

Words can't really describe the sheer hilarity of us becoming Horace Slughorn's armchair or running around with a tennis ball.. Dobby... or making Dobby do the time warp in the special effects department. You really couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces for the whole evening.

Smashleighjayne
LEANNE IS A CHAIR
If you also want to experience Wizarding Wardrobes at the Studio Tour, you have until 27th September, so you better get your butts in gear!

Being taken behind the scenes of the look and style of our favourite films truly was magical, but what made it even more so was, as always, being with my favourite nerds. We gave Erica a glimpse into our world and Emma got to visit the tour for the first time. Our whole evening was full of giggles, prosecco and wonder. And I couldn't be happier.


Smashleighjayne


If you'd like to see more Wizarding Wardrobes glee, make sure you check out Emma Inks and here's  Little Miss Katy's vlog for you too. Cue giggles.




*Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the launch of Wizarding Wardrobes by the Studio Tour but I don't really need to tell you that the words are mine, right? I'm such a nerd, it's just a given now.