Harry Potter’s Scotland Trail – Virtual Online Tour

This afternoon we took part in a virtual tour round parts of Scotland to show us some of the inspiration and filming locations of the Harry Potter books and films run by Eventbrite. It was really good and especially interesting for us, having been to Edinburgh last September and seen a couple of the locations.

The guy who ran the tour was really entertaining. He really played to the kids that were on the tour, asking them which house they were in and awarding them points for their houses.

He even sorted a couple of them into their houses. As you can see from his picture bottom right, he was dressed like Olivander and even had the background of Olivander’s wand shop in Diagon Alley.

We started off in Edinburgh by visiting the Elephant House cafe where J K Rowling wrote the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Apparently there are lots of references to elephants in the Prisoner of Azkaban as a nod to the hours J K spent here. I’ve never noticed any, so obviously I’m now going to have to re-read it for the umpteenth time! We ate a couple of times at the Elephant House when we visited in September, which was lovely, but what they don’t tell you is that the Philosopher’s Stone was actually written in another cafe round the corner. I didn’t know that till today either!

Next we visited Edinburgh Castle.

Many people think that the castle could have been the inspiration for Hogwarts as J K said she always imagined that the school was on a hill with a lake nearby. Edinburgh Castle, as you can see, does overlook the city and hundreds of years ago it also overlooked a Loch which was drained many years ago and is now the picturesque Princes Street Gardens.

Next we saw the Elephant Castle from the rear where J K apparently sat in the window (we sat there too), and she may have looked out and imagined Knockturn Alley, which is the dark magic street where you can find Borgin and Burkes. Harry ends up here when he accidentally gives the instruction ‘diagonally’ instead of Diagon Alley when travelling by Floo Powder from the Weasley’s burrow.

Our tour guide then asked us to work out which deatheater (follower of ‘he who shall not be named’) could have been roaming around Knockturn Alley. It was Lucius Malfoy and we all had to point our wands (or wand finger) at the screen and banish him with the spell ‘expelliarmus’.

From here we moved on to Greyfriars Churchyard. We were encouraged to open the gates by casting the spell ‘alohomora’.

The graves here may have provided inspiration for many of the characters, including Alastor Moody, Professor McGonagal and even Harry’s arch enemy, Lord Voldemort!

We moved on to George Herriot school next.

This has also been sited as possible inspiration for Hogwarts. It was a school built for Edinburgh’s poor and orphans, it had four houses (although, disappointingly, they weren’t Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin!) and it has four towers.

I have my own theory on where J K found her inspiration for Hogwarts, at least the appearance of it. For me, it’s got to be Holyroodhouse Palace. In particular, the ruin of the abbey next to the main building. I bet, in reality, it was probably a mix of all of these along with a dash of fairy-like imagination on the part of the author.

After this we used floo powder to travel to Diagon Alley! For those of you not familiar with this mode of travel, it involves throwing some floo powder in a magical fire and saying out loud where you want to travel through the floo network.

We arrived in Victoria Street which, I can concur having been there recently, does indeed look like it could’ve led to the creation of Diagon Alley.

We used magic to review the real Diagon Alley for comparison purposes.

Now we had to head to the station to catch the Hogwarts Express up into the Highlands to see some of the delights up there. Ordinarily, you’d obviously catch the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross or Hogwarts itself but catching it from Waverley Station gave the perfect excuse to show us the nearby Balmoral Hotel where J K, having long made her fortune, wrote the Deathly Hallows.

You can stay here hoping to emulate that winning formula if you like. It’ll set you back the princely sum of £2500 per night!

This is Glenfinnan Viaduct that you see the Hogwarts Express travel over in the films. I learnt today that you can actually take this journey, on a steam train from Fort William, and you can buy chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans on the Train! Guess what’s just been added to the top of my bucket list?! Finally a positive to come out of not being able to easily go abroad because of Covid-19 – hopefully we’ll be able to get to Scotland instead and do this!!

Our tour guide suddenly stopped at this point and announced that one of the tour members had missed the train and was joining us by an alternative method.

They arrived in the Ford Anglia that was bewitched by Arthur Weasley to fly.

We chugged our way past Loch Eilt which was the inspiration for the lake used in the second Triwizard tournament task when Harry and his fellow contestants had to find ways to breath under water in order to save their nearest of dearest.

Then we gazed at Dumbledore island, where Lord Voldemort goes at the beginning of the Deathly Hallows looking for the elder wand.

Finally we saw a beautiful waterfall at Glen Nevis which was used quite a lot in the films, particularly as the background in Quidditch matches.

Just before we all said goodbye, our host invited us to help him make a potion to cure Coronavirus using a mixture of veritas serum, unicorn blood and felix felicis.

In the end, he decided a spell would work best so we all aimed our wands and shouted ‘Riddivirus!’

Wouldn’t it be good if that worked? Probably won’t, but in the meantime, this was very very pleasant way to pass an hour, and a perfect diversion from less magical events in the real world.

2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.

Crafting Achievements during Lockdown

Like lots of people, at the beginning of lockdown I felt a need, I wouldn’t go so far as to say pressure, but a definite need to be productive. To not waste the enforced time at home. I guess, to make a bad situation a little less negative so I started making a list of all my crafting ‘drumroll’ moments during lockdown. The mistake I made was to assume that firstly lockdown would only be a couple of weeks and secondly that there would be a defined moment when lockdown ended and normality resumed in the same way that normal did before 23rd March and that that would be the time for me to proudly list and record all my achievements on this little platform.

Well, reality’s gone a little bit differently, hasn’t it? Are we still in lockdown? Kind of, sort of, ish! I could, if I wanted to, go to a pub or a restaurant, but I’d likely be surrounded by people wearing masks, I may have a timed slot and I wouldn’t be allowed to stand at the bar. I could jet off on holiday, but again masks would be ever present, lots of attractions wouldn’t be open and I may get stranded or have to unexpectedly quarantine on my return. I’ve had my hair cut and coloured (thank the Lord) but my lovely hairdresser was wearing a visor, she couldn’t offer me a drink or a magazine and while my colour was cooking I had to sit in my own little cocoon (being the stereotypical introvert I actually quite liked this part). I’ve been to the dentist but I felt like I was on the set of Ghostbusters! So, we have what seems like partial normality, but it may be the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anyhow, the point behind this rambling, is that I’ve decided to share my crafting makes, some more impressive than others, now as it doesn’t seem that there will be a definitive return to normal point. So, bear with me while I scroll back eleventy million weeks on my photo reel to the beginning of this weirdness.

Week one of lockdown and I finished my first project and posted it off to its intended recipient (or his mum and dad anyway).

It’s the Bunny Parade blanket by Kerry Jane Designs and it’s currently (actually, probably not literally ‘currently’ given that it’s eighty in the shade today) being enjoyed by my new nephew, Leon.

Next to be finished was a knitted project rather than my usual crochet.

I bought the pattern and yarn for this jumper over a year ago when some friends and I visited Wool Warehouse and met Lucy from Attic24. I knitted it on and off and used this extra time to finally finish and assemble it. I love it, but again, far too *warm *hot *sweltering (delete as appropriate) to wear it right now.

Next I made some masks eases for a nurse friend.

Wearing masks all day, every day becomes very uncomfortable, but is obviously necessary for our key workers, and becoming more so for us all. I hope these helped keep her a bit more comfortable.

Speaking of key workers, I crocheted two rainbows to display in our windows to show support for NHS workers and other key workers.

The bears are there to cheer up children as they walk past. I saw this idea on the news and knew I had to join in.

Next I decided to catch up on some Little Boxes of Crochet that I hadn’t found time to do. First was this delicious tea cup.

Included with this box was a little sewing kit to make Margaret the Corgi.

How thoroughly British!

Next up was the fabulous beachcombing blanket CAL (crochet along) by Eleonora of Coastal Crochet. This is truly my lockdown blanket and it filled my days with yarny wonderfulness and dreams of the seaside at a time when it could’ve been so easy to be fed up (to say the least).

After this things got a bit festive!

These were a kit from Aldi the Christmas before last. We even had a Christmas dinner around this time. Everything was just so strange that. Christmas dinner seemed appropriate!

A bright and colourful bag came next. This was another Little Box of Crochet project.

Niffler looks really cosy in there.

Another Little Box of Crochet next, this time Honey Bloom the Cockapoo.

Next was a little project that I saw Attic24 do ages ago.

I bought the hangers from Amazon a couple of years ago but never got round to making the covers.

I was spending such a lot of time in the garden during lockdown, especially when I was furloughed and the weather was so good so I decided I needed a pair of shoes that I could keep by the door to slip on when I came out. So I made some.

Next came the most recent Little Box of Crochet which was designed by Eleonora from Coastal Crochet (such a busy lady!)

It’s Marilla the Mermaid. Amanda from Little Box of Crochet and Eleonora came up with this gorgeous project way before the awful incident in America with George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Mather campaign but the timing of the box was very apt. BAME people are very under represented in the crafting world, both as designers and in the actual projects, so I hope this starts to redress the balance and that things change for the better.

Marilla fits in perfectly to my new Harry Potter themed office. As do my newly framed mystical cross stitches and long stitch.

I can’t give lockdown the credit for these because I actually finished them in the year 2000, but I did get them framed during lockdown.

Finally, I decided to get crocheting some wreaths. I’ve always wanted seasonal wreaths to hang on the front door throughout the year but have never found the time to make them.

Here are the first three that I’ve completed.

On the left is my Autumn wreath. The fox curled up at the bottom was a previous Little Box of Crochet project. He’s called Gareth. I designed the spider, the bonfire, fireworks and sun and cloud myself and I scoured the internet for patterns for the rest of the elements.

The middle is my Winter wreath. I love this one. It almost makes me want it to be Winter (almost!) Most of this is from patterns I found on the internet or in various books. The snowdrops are knitted rather than crocheted. I embellished it with diamanté pins.

The final one is the latest special kit from Little Box of Crochet designed by Kate Eastwood of Just Pootling. Some of the elements of this were quite fiddly, especially as my tension means everything I do turns out small (even when I go up a hook size!) but it was so worth it because I’m really happy with how it turned out and it makes me smile every time I come in the front door (even if that is less often than usual given lockdown!)

I’ve also done quite a bit of jigsawing during lockdown. Luckily I got back into this at Christmas so I had a few lying around, and also got a couple from Amazon.

I’m very glad that I also made masks, because, while I’ve been sat here on the swing chair writing this, it’s popped up on sky news that masks are going to be mandatory in all public indoor settings from 8th August.

Here’s me rocking the masked look!

Right, I have got to skedaddle because we’re off to the seaside for the weekend the minute hubby finishes work and I haven’t packed anything yet! Toodles!