Friday, June 28, 2013

London Day 4 - In Which we Ride Broomsticks, Soak up the Southbank, and Laugh Ourselves Silly at the Tate Modern

Having read the Harry Potter series once to myself, once again to Jacob, then again to Zoe, and then having watched all the movies, I consider myself to be a bit of an expert, and a huge fan. So I was super excited when I learned that the Warner Bros Studio where they filmed the Harry Potter movies was open for tours just north of London. To get there involved a train trip from London to the town of Watford Junction, which possibly rivals parts of Detroit’s inner city in terms of sheer bleakness. This sign welcomes you when you emerge from the train station: 

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Come to the circus, then later, this clown will eat you in your sleep.

Fortunately we were quickly whisked away on a shuttle bus to the huge complex that is the Warner Bros Studio. Unfortunately, there is a period of time when you are made to wait in various holding rooms, and forced to listen to annoying tour guides who insist on asking everyone repeatedly if they are a) Harry Potter fans (Duh) and b) if they are having fun yet. As our entry time was the first of the day, most of our group was still asleep so he felt compelled to ask us two or three times. as we got quieter each time, he finally figured out that he should just get on with it.

We did pass the Cupboard under the Stairs on our way. So cute.

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And I would like to point out that Daniel Radcliffe and I have the same sized hands. I’m not sure of the significance of this, but as my hand size seems to be a discussion point for many people, here is something new to talk about.

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Ok – well almost as big.

But it was all worth it when they opened the the doors to the great hall (THE Great Hall!!) and there were all the tables, laid and waiting for the house elves to send up the dishes.

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After the Great Hall, we were let loose in a huge sound stage where many of the sets from the movies were located, as well as the make-up and costuming areas


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Dumbledore’s office was one of my favourites, complete with the Sorting Hat.

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I could go on and on, about how each of the oil paintings on the walls at Hogwarts were hand painted, and each of the 11000 wand boxes in Ollivanders were hand decorated, but I might lose you.

I did have moments where I felt vaguely disappointed that everything was actually fake, but that was quickly replaced by awe and respect for the sheer volume of creative talent that went into the making of the movies. From the incredibly detailed masks in the Creature Shop, to the walls and walls of architectural drawings for each of the sets, to the 1:24 sized model of Hogwarts that was used for all the shots of the castle from the air, it was all extremely fascinating, and inspiring.

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Zoe has been wondering pretty much all her life what Butterbeer tastes like, so she was more excited about the chance to try some than almost anything else.

I’m happy to report that it tastes just like you would think it should.

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The best part of the day though, was the chance to try out the green screen technology and ride a broomstick. Jacob stole the show but I can’t figure out stupid YouTube so sorry you’ll have to wait to see that.

When we finally left the studios, there was still time to see more of London, so we headed back into the City, and wrestled our way through the underground to the Embankment, where we walked across the Thames to the Southbank. There is a vibrancy to this side of the Thames, with theatres and galleries practically stacked up on each other, festivals for anything you can think of, and street performers all over the place. I love it and could stay there all day, but we thought it would be a good idea to pay a visit to the Tate Modern as everyone always raves about it, it’s free, and it was near the tube station. So three good reasons right there.

The Gallery used to be a working power station until 1981. It’s an imposing structure with a 325 foot high tower and looks like the last place on earth that you might find art. Jacob and Zoe formed an opinion early on about whether or not that might have been a sign of things to come, but in we went anyway.

One of the first paintings we saw was a Picasso – I forget which… ‘Lady with a Blue Head’ or something like that.

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My mum and I had the following conversation about Picasso, which she wasn’t very impressed with. (The conversation, not Picasso…).

Me (Looking at the Picasso): Hmmmmm…

My Mum: It’s very interesting isn’t it?

Me: That’s one word for it.

My Mum: I think he must have been a very interesting man don’t you?

Me: Well judging by his art…

My Mum: Have you seen his eyes?

Me: No. Do they look like halibut eyes too or that just his art?

My Mum: No no they’re just full of such intelligence

Me: But are they crooked?

My Mum: Where have Jacob and Zoe gone?

Me: I mean why does everyone in his pictures have to be so crazy looking? And what about the feet?

My Mum: They must have moved to the next room.

Me: What does he have against fish anyway?

My Mum: I’ll be in the next room.

The next room was where things started to fall apart for us:

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Jacob took one look at this and suggested that perhaps the artist hadn’t finished putting things together before the Gallery opened that day.

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This was on the other side of the room. What is it. I mean, apart from looking like giant turds. Which I’m sure was not the artists intent. But let’s face it, that’s exactly what it looks like. Like maybe an elephant had eaten too much cement.

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And how do you like this net bell made from concrete sausages? Hmm? How do you like it? Zoe was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

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And then there was this in the corner.

When Jacob said it should come with a sound effect button, I completely lost it. We were holding each other up we were laughing so hard and Zoe had to tell me to stop making a scene. It was time to leave the building.

I’m afraid that was the extent of our brief foray into modern art. I can at least say that if nothing else, it stirred our emotions and definitely elicited a response. I'm just not sure it was what the artist  was hoping for.

After that we needed food so we hit up a local pub for a delicious dinner, then dragged ourselves home. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep.

Tomorrow we leave London for Yorkshire. It’s been another amazing few days here, and while I’m not happy to leave, I’m looking forward to the next leg of the trip.

Thanks for reading,



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