Harry Potter 20

I have a confession to make.

Around twenty years ago, my sister’s friend lent her a book. My sister was about to give it back when the friend asked if I would like to read it. I opened it to the first page and read:

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

I said, ‘No, thanks.’

What. An. Idiot.

Luckily Harry Potter was more persistent than that. Our teacher started reading it to us in school, and I still wasn’t going to read any more myself, but fortunately my friend did. She became so obsessed that the next time I was at her house, she suggested reading Harry Potter, as she was almost finished the third book and needed to find out what happened. She handed me Chamber of Secrets, and somewhere around the moment when Harry stares absent-mindedly into the hedge – and the hedge stares back – I got hooked. My friend, and probably Dobby, can share credit for getting me into the series.

 

I tracked down books one and four, then finally book three, reading them in entirely the wrong order. It didn’t matter; I loved them all and read them again. (And again.) Funnily enough, the first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone is now one of my absolute favourites, from that deceptively mundane first line to the final paragraph, which makes me emotional every time.

I believe wholeheartedly in the power of books, and Harry Potter is the proof. It’s a phenomenon. This has so much to do with the readers, the mega fans, who wrote hundreds of theories to keep us thinking between books; who have Harry Potter tattoos, like the friend who got me into the books; who get the references when you quote your favourite lines; who populated midnight launches, then cinemas, the studio tour, Florida, the theatre, and now – gulp! – 20th anniversary parties.

However, it was the stories and characters we all fell in love with – the trio who feel like friends, the wonderful Weasleys, the incredibly wise Dumbledore, not to mention the Marauders, McGonagall, Hagrid, Luna, Dobby, Peeves and the Half-Blood Prince…

For these memorable characters, for the suspense and laughter, and hours of enjoyment spent reading – for the magic, thank you, J. K. Rowling. I am grateful to have been one of the Harry Potter generation. (For twenty years, and always.)

Hogwarts castle, HP studio tour

Holiday at Home: Photo Diary

I got home from my trip home over a week ago, but at the moment it seems like if I manage to check something off my to-do list within a month then it’s good going.

I always take lots of photos and never post half of them, so I decided to record my trip with a photo diary:

Outside Copper Blossom

Thursday: After a dinner out on Wednesday evening, and coffee and a cake with a friend on Thursday morning, I met another friend at Copper Blossom just off George Street in Edinburgh. It was so lovely it is going to have its own post soon.

Edinburgh Castle and blossom

Edinburgh Castle and blossom

I had some time before my night out, so I had a wander around Princes Street, the Gardens and up to the Castle.

St Giles cloud and sun

St Giles’ Cathedral in the sun and cloud.

Home photo diary 4

From the Castle Esplanade, looking down the Royal Mile. Camera Obscura is the building on the left and the Hub is the tall building on the right.

Friday: On Friday I got my hair done – finally! I tried a new hairdresser for the first time in about 20 years in January, and it was definitely a mistake. Luckily my old hairdresser put it right! I then went for cream tea with my mum:

Scones with cream and jam

Scones! Mannerstons, Linlithgow

Saturday: I met another two friends for lunch at The Printing Press in Edinburgh. I hadn’t been in before because the food menu is quite pricey, but the bar was brilliant.

Printing Press cocktails

They have a great drinks option called Bespoke Bubbles, where you get a bottle of Prosecco along with various fruit purées to create Bellinis, as well as Crème de Cassis and Aperol to mix. I would definitely recommend this – it means you can create a couple of different drinks in one order.

Printing Press Bespoke Bubbles 2

Sunday: My dad drove us up to Loch Earn for a wee change from London! It was a good drive past Gleneagles and with a stop in Comrie for coffee. This is either the best or worst street sign ever:

Home photo diary 15

Is that Comic Sans?!

Loch Earn was lovely! I could post several photos, but I’ve narrowed it down:

Loch Earn

Home photo diary 20

From where I stand

On Sunday evening we had an amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant (where else?) with my parents, sister and her boyfriend, then on the Monday we spent some time with my boyfriend’s family, as he has an auntie and uncle in Scotland. (She made a brilliant lasagne.) Then it was all over already! Just enough time for a quick breakfast in Glasgow before getting the train back.

Home photo diary 23

His horse was not to be left out this time.

I think I managed to see almost everyone I know on one trip home, so it was busy, but a brilliant week. Now to plan another trip back for the Edinburgh Festival…

Ten good things about today

Ten Good Things, 25.01.17

When real news is getting you down (and you have to specify the type of news you mean), it might help to take note of the good little things in an ordinary day.

  1. I got home on time, despite the trains being a mess. My train might have been cancelled, but there was one that was an hour delayed that was perfect timing. (For me, at least.)
  1. Hugs.
  1. Galaxy chocolate.
  1. Wine and cheese. (It is a day for all the food I like.)
  1. The cheese was only £1.60 for a whole round! (OK, this is becoming a very food-based post.
  1. It’s Burns Night, so there is poetry in Scots going about. (And I know I should be having haggis, neeps and tatties rather than French fare, but I like both. Perhaps later in the week!)
  1. Spending time with a friend.
  1. Watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
  1. This woman who donated a kidney to save her friend.
  1. This video:

30 Before 30 So Far

When I realised it was thirty months until I’m thirty, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to jump on the 30-things-I’d-like-to-do-before-I’m-30 bandwagon.

I had a look at my bucket list and tried to think what else I would like to achieve, but I can’t come up with thirty interesting things to realistically aim for in two-and-a-half years. In one way this was a good thing, though: some of the common choices – like learning a language or going to Paris – I’d already done.

So instead, I thought I would take stock of thirty brilliant things that my younger self might have wanted to do. (Or didn’t even realise she would want to do.)  It’s great to have things to strive for, but it’s also nice to look back and remember the good stuff.

Passed my driving test.

Failed at something. (Also my driving test.)

Wrote a novel (but it was awful).

Visited a volcano.

Went on a camel ride.

Stood in three countries at once – the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Sailed into the mist at Niagara Falls.

Went white water rafting.

Went to university (twice).

Lived in France and Spain.

Learned a language. (Learned two, studied two more.)

Did a different job. (Well, ten, but only one testing a different career – teaching).

Moved somewhere I didn’t know anyone.

Moved abroad without a job. Moved another time without a place to live. Moved another time without a place to live or a job, and figured it out when I got there.

Lived with strangers. Lived with friends. Lived with a boyfriend.

Did a road trip across the USA and visited 16 states on the way. (Or, ‘Saved hard and spent it at once.’)

Hiked into the Grand Canyon.

Been in a helicopter (twice).

Went to a drive-in movie.

Sang karaoke on Beale Street, Memphis.

Saw the New York skyline in real life.

Went to Disneyland Paris.

Had a drink in an ice bar.

Been on the Hogwarts Express (or, visited the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studio Tour).

Met some of my favourite authors. And David Hasselhoff.

Saw some of my favourite bands or singers in concert – McFly and Taylor Swift to name two.

Saw musicals in the West End and on Broadway.

Visited eleven countries (counting the UK as one, which it isn’t really).

Got a job I love.

Fell in love.

*

It’s been not too shabby so far!

16 in 2016: Results

Since it is now the second day of 2017, it is probably time (ahem, a little late) to look at the progress (or otherwise) of my 16 goals for 2016.

Some were no problem: visiting new places, seeing new shows, reading two books per month – easy! (Although I didn’t do the best job of keeping track as I went along, so there was a bit of trawling through my photos to remember everything.)

I have updated my 16 in 2016 list here if you want to have a look, but some standout memories were:

The new-to-me shows I’ve seen this year – all seventeen of them!

Dublin. We went here for a long weekend to see Postmodern Jukebox. The band was absolutely amazing, Dublin Zoo was a brilliant day out and the Guinness Storehouse is easily one of the best tourist attractions I’ve ever visited. We also saw the Long Room at Trinity College – a bibliophile’s paradise.

My friend’s hen do and wedding. A group of 22 of us went to Puerto Banús for my friend’s hen do. They were a brilliant group of women, and we had such a nice weekend. The wedding was completely beautiful.

St Paul’s Cathedral. I had wanted to visit since moving here, and it was as stunning inside as outside.

St Paul's sunny

St Paul’s

Cork and Bottle. This restaurant is hidden away downstairs in Leicester Square, and has all the cheese and wine you could wish for. Continue reading

2016 Highlights

New Year’s Eve. I’ve spent most of today alone, I have a glass of Prosecco in hand, and I’m a blogger, so it’s impossible to avoid reflecting on the past twelve months.

2016 has generally been considered a difficult year. I tried to write about this a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t post as I can’t contribute anything you haven’t already heard to the conversation.

It’s been a tough year on a global scale and a personal one: the death of my gran back in May left me grieving, but also sorry that I wasn’t able to spend more time with her in the year previous, having made the decision to move away.

However, dwelling on things we can’t change gets us nowhere; we should learn from them. I won’t forget this year’s issues, as they’ll be equally important next year, but I’ve spent so much time trying to make sense of the difficult things that for now, the last day of the year, I’d like to be positive.

I’ll start off big: 2016 was the year I fell in love. (Actually, it probably happened last year, but this was when I admitted it!) Moving in together was a big step and luckily it turned out to be the right one. I can’t write anything else that doesn’t sound sickly sweet, so I’ll leave it there.

Decorating the tree! #December #Christmas #tree #elf #decorations #winter #lbloggers #tiger

A post shared by Lauren (@wakeupyourluck) on

 

This year saw the first of my best friends get married in a beautiful wedding. She is so happy, and I’m so happy for her. Another friend just bought a flat. One has just met someone new. Every one of them has had their difficulties this year, so I am grateful for all the good things, and hope many more follow next year.

My sister has had a brilliant year, settling into her new job and new flat with a nice man, and going on a lovely holiday. What more could you ask for? After years of trying different things, I’m glad she has this stability now.

It is difficult being away from my family and many of my friends, but it means the time we do spend together is quality time, and conversations are proper catch-ups. I’m going to try to be organised next year and arrange a Skype call every Sunday to keep up with everyone better. Plus I mentioned (at least twice) to every friend I saw over Christmas that they are always welcome to come and visit anytime.

I also plan to take responsibility for arranging more with my friends who live here next year. Everyone is so busy that it is easy for weeks to pass without seeing some of them, but it’s always so fun when we do meet up that it would be great to do more. One of my favourite photos of the whole year was from FriendsFest, where we are sitting on the Friends sofa with multicoloured umbrellas.

Here’s to more unlimited pizza and Prosecco, Sundays watching Pretty Little Liars, trips to the theatre, escape rooms, concerts, being a tourist, weddings, VIP days, book launches and afternoon teas.

 

Here’s to appreciating the little things: good books, home-cooked meals, days off, fairy lights, chocolate, comfy bedding and keeping a basil plant alive for four months. (Oh yes. Unfortunately he won’t see the New Year though.)

Here’s to a kinder 2017, helping others when we can, listening more and sharing the love.

I hope you have lots of good memories to look back on, and wish you a very happy 2017.

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For the love of homeware

Growing up, I was baffled by my mother’s interest in TV programmes about houses. I’m sure it began before this, but in my memory it all starts with Changing Rooms, and then there was Escape to the Country, A Place in the Sun, Homes Under the Hammer, Grand Designs… the list goes on.

I’m still not going to sit down and watch any of these. (I only caught fifteen minutes of that Grand Designs episode two weeks ago, OK?) I’ll not be knocking down walls any time soon – I don’t think the landlord would be too pleased – and I’m not even going to paint the walls because they are Artex so nothing is going to improve them. However, I am starting to understand the appeal of one thing: homeware.

See, I used to think I hated shopping, but what I actually don’t like is shopping for clothes. Clothes don’t fit or don’t suit you and put you in a bad mood, but I like buying books because I can always find something. Buying stuff for the flat is like buying books. Sure, there are cute little items that won’t always going to go with your colour schemes (yes, I have colour schemes now!) but whole departments of stores have now opened up to me and you’re always going to find something you like.

We have to be careful with money, but there are so many sales and good deals about that we haven’t done too badly. However, the flat came part-furnished – all the essential furniture, but only about three plates in the kitchen – so we got to make the obligatory IKEA trip. Our bargain of the day was 32 pieces of cutlery for £3!

Other bargains included a toaster for £3.50 (Sainsbury’s) and some Simple Value bedding from Argos – the pillows came in such a skinny bag it was hilarious, but they did puff out. A little. In any case, they did the job, until we decided to splash out on our very own bed. (Timing this well with sales, of course.)

We spent a day going around Purley Way in Croydon, where there is furniture shop after furniture shop. I must have tested about fifty mattresses. Eventually I realised I couldn’t really tell the difference unless the mattress was too soft or too hard, like Goldilocks, but fortunately most were just fine.

There were three bed frames we liked, but we eventually opted for one from the Edinburgh range (very appropriate) at Oak Furniture Land. It is unvarnished with a slightly rustic look about it, and I finally understand why people say they love their bed.

I took the opportunity to order duvets and pillows that weren’t the cheapest in the store (Silentnight, I’ll have you know – just from Poundstretcher and Argos!) and a gorgeous duvet set from the ‘Beautiful Birds’ range at Dunelm. You can see it on their site here – I can’t post any photos because we STILL don’t have Internet and the photos on my phone are rubbish!

Our new bed was all put together on Wednesday, and it is giant, comfy and lovely. The other bed has gone into the previously unfurnished room, so we now have a proper bed for any visitors. (And a living room overflowing with the stuff that doesn’t have a place yet…)

My other favourite flat things include the microwave, which was a present from my parents. We were just looking at all the boring white value ones, but when I told mum the kitchen was black, white and red, she got me a red one. (Immediately ten times better than your average microwave.)

We also picked up some candles, a lantern (only £2), and a little lamp from IKEA, which make the place feel much cosier on these dark evenings! And to hide the sofa that was already in the flat, which is a little worn but still comfy, we have two checked purple throws.

Next up – cushions! And perhaps a collage…

(What has happened to me?!)