Harry Potter Studio Tour!

When we visited London in December, E got tickets for us to go to the Warner Brothers Studio – The Making of Harry Potter tour! The Harry Potter books and films were very important to our family, so we were thrilled to be able to go. We went on a weekday when our son-in-law had to be at work, so we were a party of five – my spouse B, our daughters E and T, our granddaughter ABC, and me. E was the only one who had been there before.

The Studios are outside London, so we needed to use trains and buses to get there. The last segment is on special studio buses. One of the first things you see after entering is a very large dragon in flight. We weren’t sure how ABC, at two and a half, would react to such things, but she loves dinosaurs and accepted dragons as a dinosaur-variant. (T is holding ABC in the foreground.)
HP flying dragon

Because so many people visit, the start times of the tour are staggered throughout the day. There are some introductory remarks from tour guides and a short film before your group is ushered into the Great Hall. Because we were there in December, everything was decorated for Christmas, including, of course, Christmas crackers at each place at the table.
Great Hall

You can see little details of the set, like the tree-toppers with flying witches…
HP XMas tree-topper

and the wreath around the crest on the fireplace.
Great Hall fireplace

After the Great Hall, the rest of the tour is self-guided, laid out in a uni-directional way. There are lots of sets, like Harry’s Gryffindor bedroom,
Harry's bedroom

costumes, like these from the Yule Ball,
HP costumes Yule Ball

and props, like this display of wands.
HP wands

There were certain displays that ABC did not like, such as these disembodied hairpieces.
HP wigs

Sometimes, context mattered. For example, we rushed ABC out of the dark Forbidden Forest Set with its spiders because she was not a fan, but, later, when we saw the huge model of Aragog, Hagrid’s former pet giant spider, which was several meters wide, mounted on a wall, ABC decided to sing “The Eensy, Weensy Spider” to it.

As a big fan of trains, ABC enjoyed the Hogwarts Express.
Hogwart's Express

Even better, we got to walk through the train cars!
Ada on the Hogwart's Express

For some reason, I had to rush ABC through the grand Gringotts Bank set, because she did not approve.

The destroyed Gringotts was much more to her liking! She insisted on watching the scene multiple times. It must have been the attraction of the dragon…

The last part of the display before the obligatory exit-through-the giftshop was the model of Hogwarts used for the external shots. ABC was a big fan!
J and Ada at Hogwarts model

It was a beautiful model. Because it was winter, we got to see it with snow which made it look even more magical!
Hogwarts model

We all had a lovely time. I hope we will be able to visit again in the coming years. It will be fun to see how ABC reacts over time. Warner Brothers also continues to add new displays, as well as having various limited time features, so there will be new things to see each time.

Eventually, ABC – and any future siblings – will be able to read the Harry Potter books and see the films. Perhaps, E and L will embark on our family tradition of reading each book aloud as a family.

Maybe, B and I will be able to join in via videochat…

JC Confessions #6

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I am mostly oblivious to pop culture. If I read the Grammy nominations, chances are I don’t know any of the songs and haven’t heard of the majority of the artists. I haven’t ever seen Titanic or Avatar or Jurassic movies or the vast majority of superhero movies. I don’t stream and binge watch series from Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. and I don’t have premium television packages, which means that I also haven’t seen many of the shows nominated for Emmys, although I think it is good that I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale because I would probably have nightmares. I don’t watch collegiate or professional sports, except an occasional baseball game. I don’t vacation at theme parks.

I am involved with a few popular things, the most notable being the Harry Potter books and movies. For the most part, though, if you want to discuss a pop culture topic with me, you’ll likely have to explain it to me first.

Some people might say that I am elitist and they are entitled to that opinion. I would like to say in my defense that I grew up in a tiny town in New England, have never lived in a large city, and have never had a high-powered career. Even though I am now a poet, I am a community-educated one and most people find my poetry accessible rather than esoteric. But, the fact remains that I am a poet, so maybe I am guilty as charged…

Two-year-old ABC

Having our granddaughter ABC living in our home has been a privilege.

Now 26 months old, she is energetic and tall enough to climb onto furniture that used to be out of reach. She is still petite for her age, but she is similar to her mom in that regard.

Her bangs are almost long enough to tuck behind her ears.

She loves imaginative play. Lately, she has been running a pretend ice cream shop. She also has been loving eating ice cream, sometimes with sprinkles on top!

She is adding more and more words to her vocabulary and making longer sentences. She will also now address each person in the room when she is saying hello or good-bye.

It’s still a wonderful feeling when she snuggles near you, although if she suspects you are trying to get her to settle down to sleep, she is more likely to squirm to get down and starting running and jumping around in order to stay awake. Her mother used to do the same thing!

She has a new appreciation for books and will sit long enough for you to read each page, instead of just zooming through looking at pictures.

She loves to sing. She takes after her parents, who are both accomplished musicians. She sometimes devises her own codas to songs that she knows or comes up with her own little tunes. It is incredibly cute!

Among her new obsessions this summer, besides the aforementioned ice cream, are sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and riding the carousels. Our county has several historic – and free – carousels in our parks. Sometimes she will ask for dog – pig – cow, because one of her favorite carousels has a dog and a boar among the horses. The “cow” is actually a black and white paint horse that does resemble the dairy cows around here. Another park has all horses, but still has its original organ rather than using recorded music all the time as the other carousels do. This park also has a more accessible playground, which is easier for a small 2-year-old to navigate. Her favorite horse there is a palomino she has dubbed “yellow horse.”  When she asks for dog-pig-cow-yellow-horse, we take it to mean that any carousel will do!

And this will all end soon, and not just because summer will come to an end.

Some time in the coming weeks, E’s spousal visa will finally come through and she and ABC will move permanently to London to join their spouse and father L.

We know they will be happy to finally live together full-time, instead of just transoceanic visits.

But it will be so hard to have them so far away after having them so close for so long.

JC’s Confessions #5

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I own a lot of books that I haven’t read. What’s worse, I own a lot of books by people that I know, either poet-friends who I know in person or blogger-friends who I know only online, that I haven’t read. While I feel guilty that I haven’t read these books yet, I am comforted by owning them. I’m not sure when I will have the time and brainpower to read them, but, someday, I hope…

SoCS: RiverRead

Last night at Open Mic at RiverRead Books, my poet-friend Merrill Oliver Douglas read a new poem that she had written after visiting the Corning Museum of Glass.

I read “Thanks to the Department of Public Art” which also mentions glass. “Broken shards of glass and lives…”

I had especially wanted to read this poem at RiverRead because it is located amidst the public art in Binghamton to which the poem refers.

The very sad thing is that this was the last Open Mic at RiverRead. It will close at the end of the month, going the way of many independent bookstores.

So, we celebrated books and poetry and the bookstore together one last time.

We know we will continue to celebrate books and poetry. Just not in this place. And not in a bookstore, as there isn’t another independent bookstore available in our community.


Note:  If you visit the link above, you can see RiverRead in the background on the left side of the photograph.
It’s another double dip, Stream of Consciousness Saturday and Just Jot It January! Linda’s prompt this week is “glass”. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/20/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-and-jusjojan-jan-2117/


Why I will always love Harry Potter

Happy 34th Birthday, Harry Potter! Yes, I do know that July 31st is Harry’s birthday. (It’s also Joanne Rowling’s birthday, although she is a bit older than Harry.) Harry’s birthday is even marked on my calendar because he – or, rather, the books that J.K. Rowling created about him – has been very important to my family.

I bought the first two Harry Potter books on the recommendation of a friend who worked in the children’s department of the bookstore when the books were just starting to be known in my region of the US in 1999. They were an end of school year gift for my younger daughter, who was then in elementary school. She was having trouble getting into the first book, the beginning of which was too reminiscent of Raold Dahl, who was not a favorite of hers – or mine, so my husband began reading the first book aloud to her and soon the whole family was hooked.

Thus began our family tradition of reading Harry Potter books aloud. We read all of the subsequent books as a family, the four of us taking turns reading subsequent chapters. We would receive first day deliveries or go to midnight launch parties as the new books were released. Because release dates of the later books in the series were summer Saturdays, we would embark on marathon weekend reading days, getting through the bulk of the long books over Saturday and Sunday, with the exciting conclusions reserved for after my husband’s return from work on Monday. (We hid the book on a high shelf in our bedroom so no one would read ahead!)

The book launches became important events for us and the later books coincided with times when our family needed the strength of our mutual support. Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) appeared when our older daughter had just been diagnosed with an intractable migraine, after missing most of a semester of high school because she was ill and no one could figure out what was happening. Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) appeared during the three-week span between the death of my father-in-law and his memorial service. The declining health and death of Dumbledore acted as counterpoint to our own family story, as Grandpa had been a long-serving and much-loved school principal with striking white hair. When Deathly Hallows (Book 7) was released, our older daughter had just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, giving a name to the puzzling assortment of ailments that she had endured for years, including the aforementioned intractable migraine. She was about to start her senior year in college with a semester away in Vienna. The family time we spent reading together was a precious time before she set off into the unknown.

This was especially fitting because the Harry Potter fandom had gifted her with some of her best friends who had sustained her through some of her worst times. As a precocious literary-minded secondary school student, she had joined some of the adult fandom online. She had taught herself some web design to start her own Harry Potter themed website, including an advice column in which she and Snape answered questions about both muggle and wizarding concerns. She wrote some fan fiction and engaged in literary analysis in online groups. When she became ill with what turned out to be the 8-month migraine and couldn’t leave the house, her online friends became her main social outlet outside of our family. It helped that several of her best online HP friends were in different time zones, as she often could not sleep at night and there would nearly always be someone online with whom she could chat, whatever the hour.

These women are still some of her closest friends. She has now met several of them in person. Two came to her senior voice recital in her last semester of college. She met more at a Harry Potter convention and has even spent time travelling and visiting with them in Japan.

In a way, they are even responsible for her current master’s thesis project. Some of her Harry Potter friends were also fans of J-pop (Japanese popular music), in which our daughter also became interested. Her decision to pursue a master’s in ethnomusicology and to study at University of Hawai’i – Manoa were related to this interest. U of HI is known as a center of excellence for Asian studies.

The life of our family was made richer by Harry Potter and Joanne Rowling. Happy Birthday to them both and eternal thanks for everything you have given to our family!

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