A truly magical day

As previously mentioned, one element of “let’s get over the fact that we didn’t get Olympics tickets” was buying tickets for the Harry Potter studio tour instead. Morven and I decided to mark the fact that neither of us had been at the other’s 30th birthday celebrations, by spending a day acting like extremely geeky children – which is exactly what we are, underneath our mature, 30/31 year old exteriors…

In fact, most of other similarly mature friends had already been. True, my sister went on a school trip, but she has now declared it to have been her best day of paid employment ever (and this is a woman who gets paid to regularly sit in theatres with her pupils). Colleagues provided tips on what to do and when; albums on Facebook gave small hints as to what to expect – but nothing could prepare me for the moment we arrived at the doors of the Great Hall…

…honestly, there may have been an undisguised squeal. I won’t spoil the reveal, but wow. In fact “wow” was a regular response to everything, that and awed silence.

Actually, the fun started before we even got into the tour. We were early (they say you need a lot of time to get from Watford Junction station on the HP bus, but you kind of don’t), so we did the logical thing and killed time in the gift shop. [Great move – it was relatively quiet pre 11am, less so when we emerged at nearly 4pm.] And what is the logical thing to do in the HP gift shop? Try on cloaks and Hogwarts uniforms, obviously.

I don’t want to spoil the tour for others who are considering going, but if you’re interested in the whole thing, there is an inevitable Flickr set. The bottom line is if you were at all entranced by the films, it’s £28 well spent. Even if you are a HP cynic, there is no doubting the enormous amount of effort and detail that went into them. To be able to walk around the sets and discover some of their secrets is literally magical. In fact, I suspect much of it would be lost on children – we took four hours (including a lunch stop) to go round, we were told a group had recently taken nine and a half! I can’t think that younger children would enjoy it much at all – it’s not an experience to be raced around, it’s something to be savoured and enjoyed.

We did this in the most obvious way possible – playing the Statue Game with the giant chess pieces and generally horsing around – I tried to break into Hogwarts and drank a Butterbeer while behind the wheel of a Ford Anglia.

A note on Butterbeer: It is not nice. For a start, it’s meant to be hot and it isn’t, and I’m pretty sure that the Three Broomsticks never served it in plastic cups. Secondly, it’s super sweet and Cream Soda appears to be a key ingredient. I’d be intrigued as to how it compares with the Butterbeer served at the Orlando Harry Potter experience…

Finally, you know those things you always think you’ll never do, yet end up doing anyway? Like paying money for professional photos of you doing stupid things? Morven and I are now the proud owners of two shots each. Initially, we weren’t going to bother – then we discovered you could dress up in a cloak and ride a broomstick, so we figured we’d just do it for the experience and not bother with the photos. [I was strongly drawn to the cloaks. I guess it’s a good job I’ve signed up for a career wearing cassocks.] Then we watched the people ahead of us and all of a sudden I needed a photo of me, in a cloak, on a broom and in front of a London bus. Riding the broomstick was possibly the funnest thing ever – so fun, that we ended up unable to choose photos. Here’s me on my broom next to the number 73 (which goes past the end of my road, how apt):

My second photo is rather special. So special that the woman serving us laughed at it too. Apparently the green screen technology still has issues with blonde hair, so for one shot the guy supervising my flying lifted the cloak’s hood over my head. Thus, I was transformed from innocent Hogwarts student to potential Death Eater:

It’s a fitting tribute to something that I and many others hold dear. Emblematic of this is the final room of the tour – an Ollivander’s style wand shop that contains a wand box for every single person involved in the films. Cast and crew alike are spread across countless shelves and much fun can be had finding people. Utterly beautiful.

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