Thursday, 27 April 2017
Wednesday, 19 April 2017
Saturday, 15 April 2017
The Tour has always been very clever at managing crowds, with staged entry times, and a clear clockwise momentum. When we visited originally, everything was shiny and new and drew lots of excited PotterHeads. Directions were clear; once you left a section you could not revisit, you must continue forwards. However our second visit was much more relaxed. Want more time in the Great Hall? No problem, just clear the staging area when requested hang around a bit, wait for the next group to enter and simply step back into the room. The story was the same throughout the Tour. Staff were more than happy to accommodate visitors that wanted to spend a little more time on their favourite sets, as well as take photos for that all important group shot!
Anyone who has visited WBST will be aware of the green screen area. Ride a broom through London, have a photo as you hover over Hogwarts - explore the magic of film. We actually skipped this on our first visit as the queues were just too long, but this time we donned our cloaks and were on a broom in under 5 minutes. And the interactivity is not just restricted to the one area - the interactive elements have been built further into the exhibits. Want to try your hand at broomstick lessons? In the right area simply put your hand over a broom and say 'Up'. Wonder how they made Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid so big on camera? Take a seat in the perspective set. Even the Creature Effects area has become more dynamic. Stand on a square on the floor and see how Dobbie the House Elf can be made to mimic body movements.
I don't remember security checks being quite so extensive the first time we visited. Maybe they were, but they certainly don't spring to mind... Maybe that just says a lot more about how the world has become a bit more fearful in the last few years. Expect a thorough bag check and a body scan before you enter.
The Warner Brothers team have dusted out a number of additional sets/props in the last four years. New to us were the impressive Hogwarts Express (which you can climb aboard and look at carriages dressed for 6 different films), and why join the often lengthy queues at Kings Cross for a photo at Platform 9 3/4 when the Studio Tour offers you the same opportunity (in fact three different photo call opportunities!). The newest area that opened at the end of March is the Forbidden Forest - a place where many naughty Hogwarts student would spend detention - wander through the Hogwarts gates and see a model Hagrid lighting the way, bow to a Hippogriff under the trees, and have a guided tour through the darker areas to experience some of the Creature Effects. To be honest, this new area was a bit disappointing... it seems as though the team have moved some of the exhibits from the 'Creature Effects' area to the new 'forest' - so really apart from a bit of window dressing very little felt 'new.' In fact, we noticed in the Creature Effects area that the explanation video still mentions the giant model Aragog, with the recording of Warwick Davis indicating to wear the model had previously lived, before the giant spider had be found a new home in the Forest. Maybe the team will update the video at some point...
Only 4 places in the world sell Butterbeer so the queue is always long. Personally I wasn't a fan, and decided not to spend £3-6 on a second experience of the creamy fizzy beverage... however Butterbeer too has evolved over the last few years, with your menu choice now including Butterbeer ice cream. At nearly £5 a cone though it's not cheap
The old stuff
To be honest, the old exhibits are still just as fascinating as they were before. We didn't spend as long gazing at the Griffindor Common Room or hanging out in Diagon Alley, but at the same time we did get the chance to experience different things. We were able this time to go into the Privet Drive set (rather than just peek through the windows) and seeing Alan Rickman's old Shape costumes took on a much more poignant tone after his death last year.
This post has not been written in collaboration with Warner Bros Studio Tour London or any other third party. No incentive has been received for writing this post and is completely based on my own experiences and thoughts.
Saturday, 8 April 2017
We'll chalk this week up to experience. It's been a bit full on in one way or another...
At my 20 week scan they'd noticed my placenta was a bit on the low side, so on Tuesday I had a scan appointment to see whether there had been any change in 11 weeks.
Hubby was particularly excited to see our little (*strange bump nickname alert*) "Pickett" again.
Turned out our darling little one isn't quite so little...
The scan showed a very tall baby. Not 'big' but Pickett's legs in particular are on the lengthy side. Also baby seems to be in the totally wrong position. And has apparently been enjoying a swimming pool of amniotic fluid (we're almost double what you should have - no wonder I'm developing a waddle!). Okay, so these things aren't ideal but I didnt care - It was magical to feel the baby somersault around, and to simultaneously see it on the screen. Something I will never forget I'm sure.
Oh, and the placenta? We've nick named it the Great Wall. There's no way that thing is likely to budge.
The consultants were great. They explained things to us. A ceasarean is likely, they wanted to do lots more tests because of the water volume and Pickett's size, to make sure that both I and the baby are well.
So Wednesday saw me back at hospital for my tests. 7 vials of blood, 1 super sweet drink, and 2 hours of waiting later we were finally sent on our merry way with the information that someone would call us the next day to let me know whether the results showed any sign of gestational diabetes or infection, and that, regardless, they'd see me in a couple of weeks for a follow up.
But then when I was at work on Thursday I had a little bleed.
I'd only been told on Tuesday that this could happen and that if it did I should call for advice. It wasn't much, so nearly dismissed it... But I figured a quick telephone call wouldn't hurt.
I called the Maternity Assessment Clinic (MAC) from a corner office at work expecting advice along the lines of 'keep an eye on it," or "We'll make a note on the system." The line was engaged the first few times, so again I nearly gave up and went back to my desk. It was more pink discharge than blood really.
Instead what I was told was to grab some things together and to come straight in...
A colleague offered to drive me to the hospital. Hubby was reached at work, and scrambled to go back home, pack a bag (Yes, I know we probably should have already done that!) and then meet me at the hospital. 30 mins later I was sat in a tiny, but rather warm, (and packed) waiting room.
I was seen quickly. I was clearly prioritsed over some of the others waiting there. I explained again that it was only a slight bleed. And it had pretty much died down. But they were having none of it. My placenta previa is "major" meaning that the whole placenta is blocking the cervix. I'm at risk of sudden significant bleeds that would be dangerous for both me and the baby. They wanted to check us thoroughly.
Blood pressure, temperature, urine test, ECG, medical history, internal exam (where they thought for a moment that my waters had gone...), swabs, scan. They threw everything they could at me to check the situation.
We had three doctors in our tiny cubicle at one point. It felt excessive. They reassured me that it was not. Calling and coming in was absolutely the right thing. They checked the blood test results from the previous day, elevated sugar levels, but still normal and nothing too concerning (I breathe a sigh of relief there when I discovered one of the infections they checked for was syphilis!). After 4 hours they decided they were happy to let me go. I was fine, Pickett was fine. My cervix was closed. The bleeding had stopped. Probably caused by slight hormone surge.
Huge sigh of relief. Honestly I couldn't value the NHS more at this point. The care I've had has been amazing.
The challenge now is that the doctors recommended that I am not ever left by myself in case I needed to immediately come into hospital. Not hugely practical as we don't have family in the area but I'm sure we'll cope.
I feel fine, so went back to work yesterday. I've had a chat with my boss so he's aware of the situation and that there's a chance I might suddenly need to down tools and go.
I started this week with a simple scan appointment and ended up in the hospital 3 days in a row. Each time understanding more and more of my situation. I can't thank the Maternity teams enough. Where as I was dismissive they were responsive and systematic.
I'm pleased to be in their care.
I have another scan in 2 weeks where I think they might make the decision on what to do next. But in the meantime Hubby is doing an excellent job of looking after me.
Even though it seens that things have got a bit more complicated for us, strangely I now feel more confident about the birth. I have to trust in my care team.
The other positive thing to come out of this week is that it's made us pull our finger out and get some baby bits together.... We went straight from the hospital to Sainsburys to pick up some baby grows... just in case!
Saturday, 18 March 2017
- Eat with a partner - each one of these Scotch Eggs is the equivelent of a sixth of a chocolate cake, fondant, more chocolate, a creme egg and more chocolate (or if you follow my varient Oreo cookies). Halving one with a loved one is definitely the way to go.
- Keep in the fridge - it's odd to me the idea of keeping cake in the fridge, but these go all 'fudgy' if they're kept refrigerated. So clear enough space!
- Don't think about the calories - there will be a lot. But hey, it's nearly Easter, so if it's just an occasional treat, I'd say settle down and enjoy.
- 6 Creme Eggs
- 100gm dark chcoloate
- 100gm milk chocolate
- 1 packet of oreo cookies - crushed
- 175gm unsalted softened butter
- 175gm caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 120g self-raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 60g cocoa powder
- 120g softened unsalted butter
- 120gm icing sugar
- 20gm cocoa powder
- Firstly make the cake - simply cream together the butter and sugar, and then add all of the other ingredients together. As simple as it comes. Once the mix is ready pop the cake into a lined tin (doesn't really matter what shape you use as you're going to destroy the cake you make any way!) and bake for 20-30minutes at 160 degrees
- Once the cake is firm and a cocktail stick comes out clean, remove from oven and leave to cool. Whilst the cake is cooling cream together the fondant ingredients. If you find that these do not come together very well you can use a few drops of water to help this combine (literally a few drops is all you need.
- When the cake is completely cool break apart into breadcrumbs. Yes. Totally. The whole cake. Break it into little bits.
- Add the fondant mixture into the cake-breadcrumbs and knead together. I found it easiest to use my hands for this (and meant that I got to enjoy licking my chocolately fingers clean once I was done - bonus!), until you have a shortcrust pastry-like "dough". Separate the dough into 6 equal sized balls.
- Unwrap the creme eggs and carefully wrap your dough around each of the creme eggs. I found the best method was to flatten the dough in your hand over your palm, then place a creme egg on your palm and then carefully lift the mixture around the egg. Once your egg is well wrapped, put the chocolate balls in the fridge to chill and firm up. This is really important. Make sure you leave enough time for this step.
- Whilst the balls are chilling, melt your chocolate (I cheated and did it in the microwave, but you can do it properly over boiling water if you like) - feel free to put both chocolate types together. I liked the combination, the bitterness of the dark chocolate prevented oversweetness.
- Take your firm balls (oi! mind out of the gutter please!), out of the fridge and carefully dunk each into the melted chocolate mixture so that it is totally coated. Immediately then transfer the balls to a bowl of crushed Oreos (the Oreo addition adds a cheesecakeyness to the Scotch Eggs, which I really loved) and coat in the crushed biscuits. Pop back in the fridge to set.
Saturday, 4 February 2017
Saturday, 28 January 2017
I've not been entirely truthful. It's not so much a lie, but an omission. I've been using this blog as a diary on and off for the past few years, and those of you who have followed my journey may recall the reason I was "Learning Early."
You see, back in 2012 I discovered I was pregnant. I made the decision, practically on day one, to blog my journey, and all the lessons I would learn as a first time mum... the disposable/reusable nappy debate, selecting a push chair, whether we'd agree to skip the gender reveal and stay Team Yellow... How naive I was. I had some other, much harder lessons to learn first.
I miscarried my first pregnancy at 7 weeks.
There was the physical and emotional pain that followed, the snubbing out of a future that had been so clear in our minds. It evaporated like mist.
It would take us four years and surgery for endometriosis to get pregnant again, but sadly this second little life decided not to stay with us, and I was confirmed to have had a missed miscarriage at my 12 week scan in March 2016 - just days before my 30th birthday. Part of me thought I was more prepared, I knew what to expect, I'd been there before... I was wrong. Just as each life I carried was different, so was the process I went through to grieve them.
"It wasn't meant to be."
"Your time will come."
"There must have been something wrong"
Kind words, but they felt like razor blades - these were my children. They would never be named, never get a nursery, but each one would stay with me.
So when hubby and I discovered last September that we were expecting again, we dared not get excited. We held hands as we looked at the little plastic stick on the side of the wash basin and took a deep breath, already starting to build up those protective walls should the worst happen again.
Well, here we are, a few months on, and the worst hasn't happened. I little wriggly thing that I've seen on a sonographer's screen and that has been given top marks by all the doctors so far. We're 22 weeks along - over half way - and this morning hubby got to join in by feeling our child tap on my tummy.
So it felt that the time was right to come clean - We've braved the Mothercare Sales, I'm wearing maternity clothes. There's a box in our spare room that contains a buggy.
We're expecting a baby.
Saturday, 21 January 2017
You know the feeling where you're head down in your own problems, turning things over in your mind, sometimes it takes something special to snap you out of that trance... today was one of those for me.
I'd decided to take a walk into the village to do some errands (pet shop, post office, dry cleaners...) when I saw a small group of ladies huddled around an A-frame. Thinking that these ladies were collecting for charity, or wanted me to sign another parish petition, I'm afraid to say I moved to cross the road (I'm an busy person with my own problems after all).
Turned out that these ladies would absolutely make my day.
Turns out the 21St January is national Hug Day, and these three ladies of later years were standing in the bitterly cold to not collect anything from us passers by, but to give: the biggest most genuine hug I think I have ever received from a stranger.
When they asked if I'd like a hug I nearly shook my head, and scuttled away. But a millisecond later, I realised that it did. A hug was exactly what I wanted - they were more than happy to oblige. Like a strange greeting line they each gave me a really big cuddle, we had a little chat and I went on my way with the biggest smile on my face.
Their only request: that I go and share the happiness.
These three ladies, in the space of a couple of minutes managed to pop me out of my head out of my own troubles and made me look at my little village with new eyes. We might all be strangers, but that doesn't mean that we each can't give a little bit of happiness to someone else.
A smile cost nothing, a few minutes chatter could mean more than you realize.
So, Henrietta, Jean and Trudy - excellent work - Hats off to you.