Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Merry Christmas

Unlike The Guardian, which seems to have put its house in order these days, I notice that the typo count on my posts is just going up and up.  Sorry.

Sat Navs and I have been good bedfellows for some time now - I find them really useful when I'm heading somewhere that I'm not familiar with, and certainly easier than a paper map, especially when you're driving.  Not always, but mostly.  I have one friend who lives in Herefordshire, and my first visit to his place was hindered by the SatNav deciding that the only way from Essex to Hay was via Birmingham, and when I neared his place it declared it was 'beyond the mapped area'. As Wales is meant to be further west, I guess it must have fallen off the edge of the world.  This weekend we had SatNav problems.  On Saturday I was so focused on following it, that I failed to notice that our destination was on the left as I went sailing straight on - our destination was the size of an aircraft hangar, so I felt a bit like one of those people that drives their car into a river/off a cliff just because the SatNav says they should.

On Sunday, "It wasn't my fault".  The SatNav declared we must turn off the M11 at Junction 9a, so again I drove straight passed Junction 9, only to discover that the next Junction was Junction 10.  I wonder if there ever was a 9a...it's probably a bit like the mythical Platform 9 3/4 in Harry Potter.

In consequence we were twenty minutes late meeting up with my my brother for Sunday lunch at the weekend.  It was his birthday and he deserved a treat.  So I booked a gastro pub/restaurant in Saffron Walden called the Eight Bells.  I knew it was a good place, because last year I took the Cat's Mother there for a surprise evening out.  The odd thing is, the place was completely different to the place we went to last year...not just a mild re-decoration, it was utterly different...and given that the dining room was a structure that had been put up some 600 years ago, we were completely confused.  It's a good job the food was absolutely scrummy.  My brother remains as different from me as could be.  He looked well, very well indeed which is a relief after all the health challenges of the last two years...but some of that no doubt comes from the 87 gardens he now tends.  All I can manage in ours is re-filling the bird feeder once a fortnight.

If , like me, you have children who are now reaching adulthood, you would have grown up with Harry Potter.  Every book was bought and read avidly, every talking book was played in the car until it wore out, every film was watched to see which bits had been left out.  Yes we even queued up at midnight on the days the books were published to make sure we got our copy.  For whatever reason Rowling's books fired up the imagination and encouraged people who hadn't read for years to pick up a copy.  They may not be literary masterpieces, but they're highly enjoyable.

On Saturday our search had been for The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour.  It was us and The Muffins, less The Boy who had rugby commitments.  When you do come upon it, from the outside it is as dreary as a modern warehouse can be, but then I guess studios were never about what's on the outside.  The Cat's Mother went and presented the tickets at the ticket desk, at which point the cashier summoned The Cat over as there was a message.   We all crowded round.  I had bought the tickets as a Christmas treat for her, and when I bought them, I'd left a Christmas message which the cashier was evidently required to repeat...poor woman, she didn't know whether she was ten months late or two months early when she had to say "Merry Christmas to The Cat, hope you have a wonderful time".

What followed was indeed four hours of wizarding joy.  Unlike The American Harry Potter Theme Park, this is much, much more of a museum of all the props and some of the staging.  It is fascinating...whether you're mini-Muffin size or ancient like The Cats Mother and I.  There's a ton of things to see, loads to read and find out about, and who ever designed the layout should be applauded for making a long day pass so quickly.  There was even a green screen area on which you could jump on a broomstick and fly through London along the rail tracks and all the way to Hogwarts.  Only four went on it...The Muffins, The Cat, and shamefully me...The Cat's Mother was crying by the time I got off. We all got to fly in the magical Ford Anglia and take away a souvenir photo. We saw the Dining Hall, Diagon Alley, Hagrid's Cottage, Dumbledore's Office and so much more.  A truly magical experience, and one that I would recommend if you have an interest in the making of films, if you like Harry Potter or just fancy a good day out.  Only one word or warning.  The entry tickets are quite reasonable, everything else is close to extortionate...so take plenty of cash.