The Commute

Now that I have a job, I commute to work. I work in the city just a few towns over from my own and the time it takes me to travel to work is roughly thirty minutes.
I would say I am rather lucky, as my commute is rather pretty. Not only do I travel through lush green fields but also I travel over a viaduct with a specular view of the town and river. You can hear other travellers gasp with awe when the see the view from the viaduct.
During my commute, I am trying to work out what to do with my time. Ideally, I would read and watch the view but with a theory test coming up soon I best get revising!

Do you commute to work, what is it like? Do you enjoy it?

You’re a wizard, Harry.

On the 29th of January 2015, after three long years I finally went to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. A big thanks to my students union, who organised the trip for free otherwise it would have cost an arm and a leg for me to go to the studio.  Now before I jump into talking about the tour of the studio itself I must provide some background information about my love for Harry Potter.

Harry Potter Studio Tour
I was very young when my dad began reading the first Harry Potter book to me and my brother; he also read us the second book . I remember reading the third book but due to my parents divorcing and moving several houses, I lost the book and subsequently forgot about Harry Potter and the world of magic. I picked up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince some years later but I was completely lost. I saw most of the films but missed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so when I saw the Half-Blood Prince in the cinema I was once again lost. At this point, other books had entered my life and I fell in love with reading again. For my seventeenth birthday, I asked for all the Harry Potter books, I received them all as hard backs (thanks Nanna, you are the best!) and I treasure them to this day.  Just under a month I managed to reread all seven books (many of my friends and family doubted I would do it); this helped due to travelling to London for a school trip (I saw people queuing for the Harry Potter premier while in London) and reading during my lunch breaks at work. I finished the Deathly Hallows on the morning of the day that I was going to see the final film. After that night my love for the books and the films reignited and it has been an emotional ride ever since.

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When I arrived at the studio, I was ecstatic to say the least and as soon as we could, I joined the queue for the tour.  The tour quickly to underway and it must say that you only have a guide for a small part of the tour, the rest you do yourself. You start in the Great Hall, which was Christmas themed, as when I went on the tour it was still ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’. The Great Hall appeared to be much smaller than what I thought it would look like but the guide explained that the Great Hall had been moved and scaled from one of the two soundstage to its current area. After the Great Hall you are free to walk about the next two areas on your own, however, it is a one way system so once you have gone through somewhere you cannot go back.

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I am not going to go into every detail of the tour because;
1) I do not want to spoil it for anyone who may go
2) There is so much to see, like a lot.
The tour takes an average of three and half hours but some of the group I went with flew through it. The tour is set over two soundstages, J & K and J appears to be the bigger one of the two. In J, you will find some of the sets, lots of props and costumes. It is also where you can get your Quidditch experience photo taken (I did), the queuing time while vary depending on how many booths are open. There are many videos and signs to read about the various sets and props and I could have spent a lot more time in there. Some of my favourite sections included Dumbledore’s office, the Dark Arts sections and the Gryffindor common room. The attention to detail to the props really blows you away, major kudos to the departments involved, it has truly made me appreciate the films so much more.

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After Hall J you enter the Backlot where you get to see some of the buildings and objects used in the films, most notable Privet Drive. You can also try Butterbeer! Which I must warn is somewhat sickly after the first few sips. When I reached the Backlot it was snowing and freezing, so we rushed through this section. I got a picture at Privet Drive and even used the knocker on the door! I would have stayed in the area much longer but I was incredibly cold at this point, I had to retreat indoors.

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Soundstage K is smaller but none the less still fascinating, a large section is dedicated to the creature effects and prosthetics which there are loads of.  You get to see scale models of the actors in certain films and see key creatures such as Aragog, Buckbeak and Fawkes. By far one of my favourite models was the Thestrals, despite their appearance I feel a strong connection to them. Buckbeak was visually stunning but I expected nothing less from a Hippogriff.

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After this section Diagon Alley is next and it is truly magical, once again the attention to detail leaves you amazed. The street is cobbled and the shops are designs are truly magical (no pun intended). In Flourish and Blotts in the window there is a ton of Gilderoy Lockhart books, which you only just seen in the films for a few minutes (if that) but they all look ready to read.

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After some amazing concept art, which given the chance I would buy without a second thought you finally get to see the model of the castle. I was already emotional by this point, so when I turned the corner and heard the soundtrack from the Goblet of Fire (Harry in Winter), I nearly cried. The model is much bigger than expected and it just astounds you. It was great to see the whole school and all its little nooks and crannies.  With the snow dusted over the castle it made the whole experience feel even more magical than before.  I am so glad the castle is last because it reminds of what J.K Rowling said at the final premier.

“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

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I would truly recommend the tour, even if you are a small fan of the films because you will come out with a whole new appreciation for the films. I would go again? For sure, but maybe after the extension in March because who doesn’t want to go on the Hogwarts Express?!

A Day Trip To Birmingham

I have been to Birmingham countless timeless but almost all of those times were because I was simply changing stations, so it’s safe to say I had not seen that much of Birmingham. The only time I have spent any considerable length in Birmingham was earlier this year when I was visiting my best friend, Lilly for her birthday. Therefore, it would be no surprise that my day trip that I took earlier this week, was to visit said best friend.

The Gingerbread Bull at the Bullring shopping center.

The Gingerbread Bull at the Bullring shopping center.

Birmingham is a considerable train journey away from my university town but it is rather cheap with a railcard. The day started earlier for me as I wanted to spend a decent amount of time in the city with Lilly. I arrived in Birmingham just before midday and Lilly quickly directed me to the Bullring, which I must say is one of my favourite shopping centres in the UK. With Christmas shopping still to buy the Bullring was great for the last gifts I needed. Soon after we finished shopping, we found ourselves at Ed’s Easy Diner. Great food at good prices all with that classic American dinner touch, also the service was brilliant.

Frankfurt Christmas Market.

Frankfurt Christmas Market.

After eating until we were full, we decided to venture outside of the Bullring and eventually to the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Birmingham has the title of the largest Christmas Market in the UK and this is something I can agree on. Lilly also happened to point out the large Waterstones Birmingham has to offer, nearly over five floors and to a bookworm like myself that is a dream come true.  After reaching the third floor of the store and already having a handful of books and little money we thought it was best to quit while we were ahead in the store. I must mention however the amazing graphic novel section. Yes, it is nothing compared your average comic book store but for a place like Waterstones it’s something great.

A small snippet of Birmingham Waterstones Graphic Novel section.

A small snippet of Birmingham Waterstones Graphic Novel section.

Apart from being the largest Christmas Market it is also incredibly pretty, walking through the market did make me feel very festive and lifted our moods considerable. After attending Leeds Christmas Market and trying some food there, I wanted to see what Birmingham had to offer. The first thing I opted for was the Frankfurt sausage in a bread bun with a bit of ketchup and crispy bacon. I enjoyed it; I would have another if I visited again. In addition, the other food I tried at the market was a crepe with white chocolate. I once again enjoy this but my goodness it got very sickly towards the end, Lilly in this case opted for a savoury one of ham and cheese.

Frankfurt sausage.

Frankfurt sausage.

The trip to Birmingham was nice despite the cold and the wind that picked up towards the end of the day. The Christmas Market was enjoyable experience and one I would like to repeat next year. Birmingham can be a pretty city when it wants to be and I think Birmingham is at its prettiest when the Christmas Market is in town.  If you do end up going to the Birmingham Christmas Market, do have a go on carousel near the City Council Building, it makes you feel like a kid again.

The carousel at the Christmas Market.

The carousel at the Christmas Market.

Reading Festival 2014

Long time, no blog. Due to family reasons and general busyness, I could not find time to blog but back to normal now.

So as you can tell by the title I attended Reading Festival this year and yes I was there volunteering, which seems to be the case for the festivals I attend. This blog will contain brief details about my experience working at Reading however, the majority of the blog will be focused on the live music.

023All the photos in this post are mine. Sleeping With Sirens – Main Stage.

My volunteering experience this time round involved working with the campsite security; therefore, I will not be able to go into too much detail about what I did. I was in one of the campsites at Reading every night (yes, night shifts people!) and I was the logger for the security so if any incident occurred it would be down to me to input the incident in the relevant log. Let’s just say the campsites have a lot going on in them. For all five days, the shifts were gruelling. Mind you I learnt a lot of on hand experience. 

I wasn’t on my own in the logger journey. There were four others students from my university doing the same job as I was. The whole experience has rather scared me off the idea of public camping at festival. If I do go to a festival for fun, I will be volunteering again.

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Now onto the music!

Because I was working night shifts, I only got to see bands up until around 6pm but this meant I got to see a handful of bands. I am not going to go through every single set I saw but will mention two of my favourites. A few things before I begin though. I found the arena at Reading (where all the stages are) quite small, I thought it would be much bigger. Yes it did take around ten to fifteen minutes to get to the other side of the arena but the way people talked about the arena I thought it would be bigger. Another thing is that Reading and Leeds is becoming heavily popular for GCSE students and middle class children, this was just on observation but everyone seemed rather young to me.

ADTR Reading 2014A Day To Remember – Main Stage.

I had planned to see only half of A Day To Remember‘s set as I had intended on going to The 1975 signing. However, that was to be a waste of time – around 250 people were in the line half an hour before the signing started. The 1975 were only scheduled for a mere half an hour, so there was little reason to wait in line to be disappointed.  This meant I got to see the full A Day To Remember set and it put me in a great mood. In hindsight, I am glad that I missed the signing because the full ADTR performance reigniting my love for their music. Not only was it a great sing along but it reminded me of just how great they are live.

ADTR2 Reading Festival 2014A Day To Remember – Main Stage.

I think one of the best parts of their whole set was when Jeremy climbed into the giant opaque ball and went around the crowd. The last time I checked their full set was on BBC iPlayer, so go check it out for yourself if you can. In addition, because of watching all of ADTR, I finally got around to listening to their latest album, Common Courtesy, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat on Spotify. When I get some cash together I will be going to my nearest HMV (yes to buy CD’s) and pick the album up. If you get the chance to see A Day To Remember just go see them.

The Hives Reading 2014The Hives – Main Stage.

I was curious about seeing The Hives as my dad would always have them playing in the car when I was younger. I decided to phone said dad before I watched The Hives and he was a little jealous. He had every right to be. For me, The Hives were the best act by far at Reading (apparently, the headliners, Queens of The Stone Age, Artic Monkeys and Blink 182,  were good but I did not see them).  Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, the lead vocalist of The Hives is a showman and when you watch The Hives he takes you on this incredible ride where you have to join in. Pelle pushes the crowd to enjoy themselves and he does not want a half-hearted attempt! Pelle was in the crowd every other song and that is something I admire in a lead singer. It shows they are not pretentious enough to stay soley on stage, play the show, and then leave without a second glance (exception given to leads who have to play instruments).

Pelle The Hives.Pelle among the crowd. The Hives – Main Stage.

I’m not enough of fan of The Hives to know all of their songs, but I did know a couple and the other songs I heard I would be willing to listen to again. The band as a whole have this gang like feel, a gang you want to be part of and they let you in. The chemistry the band share is great and is reflected onto the audience. They were at the top of their game. I advise anyone to them live because if you don’t, you are missing out on something quite special.

Jimmy Eat World Reading 2014Jimmy Eat World – Main Stage.

So that’s it and festival season is wrapping up in the UK for another year. The two festivals I have attended this year make me want to attend even more festivals next year. Reading was hard work but enjoyable and I’d go back and volunteer again but maybe next year I might try Leeds because, after all, I am a Yorkshire Lass.

A Trip to Norway (On Top of The World).

Roughly, two weeks ago I returned to the UK from a nine-day trip to Norway, the trip itself was probably one of the best experiences of my life. However, at the time I would have not said.

The trip to Norway was not a spur of the moment thing and I was not travelling to the Scandinavian country for a jolly holiday. I was going to work at one of their largest festivals (possible the largest), Hove festival based on a small island called Tromøy, right beside the town of Arendal  (I thought Frozen as well). Hove festival has been going since 2007 and was acquired by the well-known Festival Republic (Leeds and Reading festival) in 2008.
I would be interning for the accreditation team at the festival.  One of my university lecturers set up this link and the students (who were going to Norway) had to correspond with emails (to their respective person) to sort out details about the placement. But that is enough about details about going to Norway, let’s just move to talking about being in Norway.

Amfi Stage - Hove.
All pictures taken by yours truly.

When I arrived at Oslo Torp airport, I noted several things about Norway; there were a lot trees, a lot of the colour green (and red) and a lot of water. It was beautiful and visible pleasing for the eyes. The journey to the site, the beauty of the country wore off a little, it took roughly three hours to get the festival site from the airport. Also nearly, every house in Norway is red and made out of wood, something that I found oddly refreshing since most of the houses in the UK are made of brick.

Now it is important to note that while I was in Norway for nine days, I camped for at least eight of them. I know feel that I have camped long enough and will be fine at any UK festival where I have to camp for several days.  As I was camping my access to the internet was very limited, this was extremely refreshing. There was no need to check Facebook out of boredom because I was more than often busy or really tired (but I did come back to the UK and binge the internet). Another thing about camping is that I got to wake up to stunning views everyday (yes, there was a lot of tents) where the tent was positioned I managed to see the sea every time I left the tent.

I feel like I must stress the beauty of Norway (there will be a minor spam of pictures). The sunsets Norway provides are breath-taking, if you ever have the chance to go to Norway in summer please watch one of the sunsets. We were truly blessed with the weather we received over our nine days; nearly every day (bar three days) it was sunshine. At night it never really got that dark, compared to the UK, I assumed this was where Norway is placed in the world. As much as Norway is beautiful, I do have one grumble in the form of seagulls. Every morning I was awoken not by my alarm but by the sound of seagulls circling the campsite in search of food and these seagulls were like foghorns.

Norway Sunset.
Norwegian sunset

My internship was great; I had reasonable hours and learnt a lot about the area was in. I also managed to make a new friend.  The group that came from university, I believe grew closers as friends over the days we were there. We would meet up for lunch and dinner (tea) and grumbling like true Britons but we would also trade stories about what happened in our day. For some of us, we got the nights off which at first left us to explore the site and its beauty but when the music started it allowed us to enjoy live music which is one of my favourite things in the world.

Friends.
Most of the group, Bastille were playing in the background.

I had most of my nights off (I had to work one but it meant I had to work a disable platform, so I got to watch bands for a few hours). A couple of my friends and myself went around the three stages to catch the bands (we watched most of the British bands/musicians) but this gave me a chance to see people I liked/thought were okay live. These resulted in the band The 1975 quickly become a favourite band of mine (I listened to their album on repeat on Spotify until I bought the album this week from HMV), Bastille were amazing as were Foster The People, Imagine Dragons (there song On Top Of The World was very fitting) and surprisingly Example. Sunshine, live music and friends that was when the festival really began to pick for me.

The 1975
The 1975 – Hove Stage (Monday 30th June 2014)

So what else is there to add? Five major things I’ve learnt? If offered rooms, take them. Do not forget to bring a bottle open, forget one can cause problems. You can get sunburnt on your ears, so lotion those bad boys up.  Do not be fooled by sparkling water. Norway is expensive so save up if you are visiting.

There is so much more I could add about Norway but I think this post would be extremely long if I continued to sit here and write about it. I guess my final word about this post is that if you have a chance go visit Norway, go. You won’t regret it.

Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons – Hove Stage (Thursday 3rd July 2014)