Saturday, March 29, 2014

Harry Potter Studio Tour

If someone was to ask me 'what makes you the most excited?' it would be anything pertaining to the behind the scenes activity of a film or TV set. 

When I was 17 I sat in the freezing cold for hours as it got dark just watching people set up for a production and when I got pulled away by my friend I knew it was what I needed to do!

Because it's almost a year and a half since I've been on a set (when I went to the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA) I was getting impatient and needed my fix!

The weekend before my birthday I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, London. The tour is in studios J and K (wink wink) and you're welcomed by giant portraits, hand prints of the famous three and a hanging Ford Anglia. They start with a quick talk about how the franchise started, grew and spread across the world and then you watch a mini film presented by the three 'kids' before been taken into the Great Hall. The whole place is an incredible experience and the amount of work, effort and detail that has gone into making the films makes it no surprise that they did so well. You could say they earnt it.

I guess instead of ruining the experience for you by describing everything, I'll just let you enjoy some of my pictures :) 


Butter Beer

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Club: The Casual Vacancy

This book has been staring at me from my bedside table since September 2012! I'd been literally drumming my fingers in impatient anticipation of its publication with it being J.K Rowling's first adult book, well just any book, since the Harry Potter series.

As much as I wanted to love it I did keep finding it hard to get into, which is why it took me so long to read. You know how books work, with cliffhangers ending chapters to make you say 'oh one more then' and before you know it you've read the whole thing. With The Casual Vacancy, the book is set in a village called Pagford that suddenly becomes unsettled after the sudden and unexpected death of local councillor Barry Fairbrother. As the book goes along the reader is introduced to various members of the village.....and thus begins my struggle. There are so many people in this book I find it quite hard to remember who they all are and how they know each other (especially after periods away from the book). Each chapter is somewhat of an insight into what a specific character or family are doing and it is this popping in and out of peoples lives per chapter that kept throwing me.

You have to appreciate just how much research J.K will have done for this; I recall reading that she spent ages reading government documents etc on how it all works with local councils (rather her than me). Her mix of unconventional, controversial and yet so believable characters has taken this book almost parallel to Harry Potter; my innocent expectations going into this book has left me still recovering from the parts about porn stars dripping in, *ahem*, stuff, and the amount of F Bombs and C U next Tuesday's littered throughout from the potty mouthed characters.

I take off my metaphorical hat to Jo because she hasn't been afraid to show her diversity as a writer and has, quite literally, taken on a village to do so.

*WARNING*- The ending is quite sad...long gone are the days where Harry would beat Voldemort and there would be a nice, happy resolution at Hogsmeade Station. 


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Life as an Intern

For the last two weeks I've been living the hotel life in Leicester as an intern for a Public Relations agency (which explains my absence from the blogging world).

This wasn't your regular internship either; no coffee, no photocopying, no being the general office b*tch. From day one I was writing articles, press releases, representing clients on the phone, coming up with campaign ideas and plenty more. I have learnt a lot in my short time there so here are my tips for being a successful intern:

1. Ask the stupid questions- it might seem embarrassing to ask things that will be simple to them, but everyone has to learn them at some point.

2. Be a sponge- every little experience counts and looking back now at the things I did I have realised they can all relate slightly into other jobs.

3. Ask to be involved- whether it's a meeting or a project you think is interesting, be cheeky and ask if you could sit in and observe.

4. Multi-task your arse off- I had received about 200 emails in my time there, most of which were little jobs that needed doing alongside something bigger and so prioritising time to get them all done was something I picked up quickly. Make a to-do list and realise the satisfaction of crossing them off one by one.

5. If something seems scary, just do it- I had some new experiences I wasn't comfortable with and I hated speaking on the phone to start with. Instead of putting it off and dreading doing it I found it easier to face it head on and get it over with. After you'll realise how simple it is and wonder why you were dreading it. The sooner the better too, as it will help get things done quicker.

I feel so much more confident after my internship and it really prepared me for working in the 'real world'. Any work experience is an advantage so hopefully these will help you nail an internship too.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Club: The Pink Hotel

It's safe to say that I'm not a fan of 'chick flick' books (obviously because I'm not a chick), I have only ever come close to reading one when I read the Twilight saga to see what the fuss was about. Occasionally on a Saturday morning I like to read the best seller lists of books and recommendations, which is what led me to stumble across The Pink Hotel, written by Anna Stothard, on a list of hot summer reads for this year. The title and the cover variation I saw (I'm shamefully a bit of a cover judger) hinted at a chick flick so I was a bit put off.....that was until I read the synopsis. I read the words 'London based' and 'tour' and 'Los Angeles' and 'Venice Beach hotel', then one thing led to another and I ended up horizontal on the garden swing reading it on my Kindle taking advantage of the nice Saturday sunshine. Given that my one year anniversary for stepping foot on Los Angeles turf was approaching, it seemed a fitting read.

The story goes with a girl living in London who discovers that her estranged mother has died in a motorcycle accident and who lived in a hotel (a pink one) in Venice Beach, California. The heroine travels to Los Angeles in an attempt to learn more about her mother. She visits the hotel where her mother lived, (spoiler alert) and evidently owned and finds her partner passed out on the bed. After a quick rush of thievery, taking her mother's dresses, shoes, jewellery and a suitcase full of letters and photos, the partner regains consciousness and she makes a mad dash out onto the beach.

After reading her mother's letters from her lovers she makes it her mission to find these men and learn more about her mother. Throw in a mugging, casual sex with her mother's acquaintances, a 'stalker', creepy silhouettes of random men, walking around smoking in her mother's dresses and heels and various other things that I've forgotten and you have a gist of the book.

I would say I was a little disappointed with the book in that it barely mentions Los Angeles and is merely a grungy backdrop to support the unusual and slightly damaged personalities of the characters who I found quite difficult to relate to, especially the drug addicts, the alcoholic paparazzo, the mugger, the Armenian women......

I was also disappointed that, aside from her learning about her mother, she falls in love with a man who knew her mother and becomes slightly more about a 'young-girl-can't-think-of-anything-but-the-love-she-has-for-this-flawed-man-who-she-wants-to-save-and-loves-him-so-much-she-wanted-him-to-hit-her' kind of thing (rolls eyes). 

The book does have some good twists and turns and everything is finally tied up in the last few chapters with a little insight into what things are like a few years later. Because it taught me a few things and gave me an insight into a different (and pretty messed up) lifestyle, I'd recommend it.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Malham Cove

There's something about the Moors in North Yorkshire that always makes me feel completely peaceful and grounded. I love being outside in nature (it’s the Earth’s playground after all) and I always leave feeling refreshed, spiritual, desperate to go back and, for some reason, eager to write a book.....after all, I'm not the first one to be inspired by the British Moorlands- did someone say Bront—Ď?

At the weekend we took a trip to Malham Cove in North Yorkshire, just North-West(ish) of Skipton, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. After winding our way through the country roads, that were clearly not designed for the family sized saloon, we came into the village of Malham. 

Spot the rock climbers for scale
The path to the Cove is accessed at the other side of the village and from the car park to the Cove itself is about a mile walk. More intimidating is the walk up to the top, I didn't have the patience to count the stairs but I overheard 'over 400'. Eager to work the quads I powered up the stairs and got 3/4 of the way up until I almost died (not literally of course) and had to have a breather. I really should have stretched first.

The view at the top was worth it! I could have sat staring at it for hours. The exposed limestone crevices are quite an exciting terrain to walk across, but you have to be wary of those that are about six foot deep and one human foot wide. Harry Potter geeks will recognise it from the Deathly Hallows where they pitch the tent before going back to Hogwarts. Only witches and wizards could pitch a tent there! 

The village is a great central location for further walks into the Moors. Nearby is Malham Tarn- the highest lake in England, which also has it's own parking. Parking in Malham was £4 for the day in the field car park and there's also a paved car park. There's also street parking with milk urns for those decent folk that want to make a £1 donation for the convenience.

On the way back we called at Bolton Abbey for a walk and I was immediately reminiscent of my childhood- picnicking and running across the stepping stones trying not to fall in the water. There's not much at the Abbey itself but it would be a nice place to spend a summery day with the family (a bit late now though).


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Yorkshireman in the Big City

Living in a village where the most popular attraction is a miniature Co-op and the nearest Starbucks is a 25 minute drive away, you can understand why I always breathe a slight sigh of relief when I visit a city. The prospect of going to places within walking distance that are open past 8 o'clock is just riveting!

I took a mini pre-weekend break to London to visit my cousin who's at university down there. Being the organised freak I am, I memorised the underground routes before I left home so knew exactly where I was going (always a good tip). From Kings Cross I got off at Piccadilly Circus and was instantly lost. I hadn't anticipated THAT many underground exits and so my 'come out of the underground and turn left" note I'd studied from maps was rendered useless. Luckily I have my dad's sense of direction and had studied enough maps to get on track to The Mall to see Buckingham Palace. Those who have been to Piccadilly Circus will understand my disorientation with the six or seven roads leading from it.

The Mall
The Palace
From there I walked through St. James Park to the Horse Guards Parade and onto Whitehall to see Mr. Cameron's humble abode. After a brief sit down with a bit of car and people watching in Parliament Square (Londoners have some nice cars) I went in Westminster Abbey.

Downing Street
Westminster Abbey
Parliament Square
London Eye
Houses of Parliament
Unfortunately they don't let you take pictures inside the Abbey (rude!). I strolled around Parliament Square and along Westminster Bridge before getting the underground to Swiss Cottage to meet my cousin. If you want to check your level of tolerance for cleanliness then I recommend you spend the night in a student house with a bunch of 19 year olds. 

My socks still aren't clean.

The next day I had a full day of sightseeing to do and got in an early start by getting the underground to Bond Street and had breakfast in Pret a Manger before getting on the open top bus (I love me an open top tour bus). As the bus pulled around onto Portland Place I remember reading that the Queen was opening the BBC Broadcasting House that day and decided that an hour and 20 minute wait was worth it for a, potentially, once in a lifetime chance to tick one off of my bucket list- to see the Queen in person.

BBC Broadcasting House- waiting for the Queen

The Queen!
Regent Street
From there I walked down Regent Street and got back on the bus. The best way for me to see London was to be chauffeured around the city in the nice weather on an open top bus with a guided tour playing in my ear. I got off at the Tower of London to get on the free Thames river cruise that was free with my ticket and got off at Parliament Square to check into my hotel on the Strand. 

St. Paul's Cathedral
The Shard
Cloudy river cruise
I stayed in the Strand Palace Hotel, which was a great hotel that I got a deal on using Its location was perfect as it was two minutes walk to Trafalgar Square and a block from Covent Garden. 

I got back on the bus to Oxford Street for a bit of shopping. The weather was fantastic and it seemed like all of London was out enjoying it. The atmosphere was the best part with the bustling street of people with their smiley faces and the buzz of an active city in the background. I decided to walk back to Trafalgar Square (I did do some walking on this trip you know) and headed down Regent Street towards Piccadilly Circus and down Haymarket to the Square. I must have sat for an hour on the water fountains enjoying the changing pace of the city. It was nice just sat watching people on their way home from work and meeting their friends by the big lions to go and get food together and energetic foreign tourists posing in front of everything that looked British. 

Trafalgar Square

Being there by myself, I took a McDonald's back to my room and watched Comedy Central...ooh that is so sad to type ;-)

The next morning I checked out and walked around Covent Garden until it was time to get the underground back to Kings Cross. The street performers are excellent in Covent Garden and manage to get a huge crowd every time. 
Covent Garden
At the station I made a point to find the Harry Potter trolley stuck in the wall as a homage to Platform 9 3/4. Unfortunately they've now commercialised it and you now have to queue up and pay to have a picture. There's also a new Platform 9 3/4 shop next to it selling wands and clothes and several other souvenirs.

Harry Potter trolley
Harry Potter Shop

Until next time, London.