Day in London Photo Series

London is a city that is a world in itself. With a history since Roman times and many different influences over the years, it is a mysterious labyrinth of lanes and alleys. A vibrant mixture of cultures spread across the many boroughs. The people of London are what make it, their lives and stories. The city is alive with its rush and roar, the sights and sounds.

We are introducing London in this photography series, where she is the subject matter, and all the images are to show her magnificent self.

Live, Love, London x

Harry Potter Studio Tour

I started reading the Harry Potter series in 2001 when the first four books were published. I read them so greedily, pouring myself into the pages and escaping into another world. I was captivated and truly enchanted. I never went as far as queuing up at midnight for the next book or dressing up for the upcoming film (which is totes fine btw), but I was and still am a huge fan of the universe.

So naturally, when Warner Bros at Pinewood opened the doors to how the magic was made on the big screen, I definitely wanted to visit and see for myself.

The Making of Harry Potter is located North West of London, a 15-minute bus journey from Watford Junction. Easily accessible by train and shuttle bus or a short drive from the M25 motorway.  It is free parking right outside, and Golden Tours even do a shuttle bus from central London (at a cost).

Entry is ticketed with prices around £40 for an adult. Tickets must be purchased in advance and can be printed off or collected from the venue. Your card gives you an allocated entry time slot for entry into the attraction. Get there with plenty of time, you can always have a drink or bite to eat in the cafe or have a wee look around the shop. You do not want to be late and miss anything!

When you first enter you are taken into a prescreening room with some pleasant and overtly happy hosts (seriously had too much butterbeer!) to watch a short 5-minute clip on what the tour is really about.

I really want to tell you about the tour but also want to keep it a bit of a surprise for people who haven’t been before.

Walking into the Great Hall is pretty magical and the only part of the tour which is guided. The tables are laid, and the costumes and outfits are scattered around, including the teachers at the far end of the hall.

Pretty much everything from the films is here on tour. From the Gryffindor Common Room, Potions Classroom, Hagrid’s Hut, the Burrow’s kitchen and Dumbledore’s office. In a previous expansion, the Hogwarts Express train is now on site and even more recently the Forbidden Forest (hopefully minus the spiders!).

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The average person spends about 3-4 hours at the tour, and about halfway through is a cafe where you can stop for a Butterbeer (be warned it is super sweet, I had to share a small one!) before stepping outside where the Knight Bus, Privet Drive and the Potter’s House at Godric Hollow is.

There are interactive sections and demonstrations where you can learn specific wand movement for duelling, you can play Quidditch in front of a green screen, and I have even visited when Death Eaters are lurking about (Hallowe’en special event).

Yes, the tour is quite pricey, even for London standards but you are getting a lengthy, immersive and interactive experience. It is magical for any Harry Potter fan, and also if you are not a huge fan (like two people I went with), it is still a really cool experience understanding how these blockbuster movies were made.

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Bletchley Park

Situated an hour north of London, is an inconspicuous estate close to Bletchley train station. A mansion and grounds, that was pivotal in the modern era of information technology and cloaked in secrecy. The home of the code breakers in World War II has exceptional historical importance and is still relevant today.

The Mansion and grounds were purchased in 1938 by the head of the secret intelligence service, in the event of war. On the train link between Oxford and Cambridge and only 50 miles from London, it was a prime location to attract academics that the secret service would hope to hire.  Bletchley was to be the new home of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS).

Following the outbreak of war in 1939, Bletchley Park became home to the codebreakers.  An elite specialist team with the aim of intercepting and interpreting any messages. At the height of espionage, numerous different coding machines were being used to communicate in secret. For months and months, the allies had no way of deciphering them. Tens of thousands of people worked at this park, in small and modest huts during the course of the war.

One of the most notable residents of Bletchley was Alan Turing. Regarded as the father of modern-day computers, Turning was fundamental in developing a machine that was capable of replicating and breaking the Engima and Lorenz codes used by the enemy. Turing’s work during and after the war is regarded as the breakthrough into computer science. His post-war life and death are full of prejudice and tragedy, especially for someone who has done so much.

Bletchley Park was not only groundbreaking in what they achieved in shortening in the war and saving thousands of lives but also in the number of women who worked there. Numerous women were given the opportunity to progress into STEM subjects with dwindling numbers of men who had gone off to the war. Women with experience in mathematics, physics, engineering and languages. These trailblazers showed that anyone could have the right skills and make a difference.

Under the Secrets Act, most of what happened at Bletchley is a mystery, with many taking their secrets with them. We may never know the full extent of what happened and what was uncovered at Bletchley, but their hard work, patience and dedication saved many lives and secured the outcome of the war for the allies.

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Tower Of London

An impenetrable fortress on the north bank of the river Thames is the Tower of London. A long and multi-functional history since being built in 1066, the Tower has been a palace, a prison, an armoury, a royal mint, a treasury, a public records office and the home of the Crown Jewels.

Most famously the Tower of London was a prison, with grisly rumours of torture. Some famous names during the medieval period were held and/or executed at the Tower, including Anne Boleyn (Henry VIII’s second wife), Guy Fawkes (gunpowder plot) and even Elizabeth I was imprisoned here.  A plague immortalises Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters, both in remembrance and as a warning to other prisoners of the possible consequences of their actions. Rudolf Hess in 1941, the deputy of the Nazi Party was the last state prisoner to be held at the Tower. As late as 1952, prisoners were held in the Tower. The infamous Kray twins were held in 1952 at the Tower for failing to report for national service.

The Crown Jewels comprise of 140 various ceremonial objects used by the British Monarchy.  This includes 7 crowns, with a dazzling array of gold, silver and 23,578 precious stones. The tradition of the ornate coronation has been around since the 12th century and the collection has grown, until the English Civil War (1642-1651) where the monarchy was overthrown and a number of objects were destroyed. With the restoration of the Crown, the collection was remodelled and first went on show in the tower in 1771.

An iconic symbol of the British Monarch and London’s history, the Tower of London is a great place to visit.

Best to get there early and head straight for the Crown Jewels as it gets really busy. Book your tickets in advance for discounts

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Russia World Cup 2018

‘The World Cup is a very important way to measure the good players, and the great ones’ – Pele

The beautiful game of football is played worldwide by millions of men, women, and children. Played first (official association football) in 1863 and how the game has grown since this scoreless draw between Barnes and Richmond. Now represented by an estimated 265 million people across 207 member associations, and the pinnacle of association football is the World Cup.

Hosted every four years since 1930, Russia hosts the 2018 competition which starts on Thursday 14th June. This tournaments’ hosts are Russia, and the bidding was not without scandal or controversy. Allegations of corruption were raised by the English Association, with suggestions that Russia bought votes.  Russia has quite strict laws against freedom of speech and profound discrimination with regards to race and LGBT groups. Ongoing doping issues are surrounding Russian athletes resulting in their inability to compete in Olympic competitions. Suspicious activity along its boards with Ukraine, the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot out of the sky and the threat of domestic terrorism, it is incredible that the tournament is starting this week.

The British Government has issued the following 11 pointers to stay safe when in Russia for the tournament:

  1. Preparation – check the local government websites before you travel for up to date travel advice
  2. Health Insurance – the European Insurance Card (the old E111) is not valid in Russia so all travelers will need travel insurance
  3. Fan ID – all match ticket holders need to apply for Fan ID as their Visa for entry into Russia
  4. Visa – those without a match ticket need to apply for a Russian Visa to enter, and it can take some time (so hopefully you will have applied already!)
  5. Passport – needs to be valid and have an additional six months before expiry. Take a few copies of the ID page and the Visa/Fan ID page, and store it safely when away.
  6. Match Tickets – only purchase from authorised suppliers and must be linked to the Fan ID to enter the stadium
  7. Plan Your Journeys – Russia is massive country, so plan your travel between the host cities ensuring you have enough time
  8. Accommodation – when visiting a host city, you are required to register within 24 hours. Book accommodation well in advance and ensure that they have recorded you upon arrival.
  9. Stay Up To Date – sign up to the government website for frequent updates
  10. Be Sensible – be respectful of others, including law enforcement and be sensitive to others. Don’t be an anti-social twat.
  11. Emergency Number – 112

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The Great British BBQ

Numerous countries around the world are famous for its barbeque traditions, and the UK is amongst them.  The UK has strong indigenous barbecue culture. Something of a Bank Holiday or lazy Saturday tradition is a barbecue. A quick glimpse of the sun, and its the optimistic rush to the garden shed for the grill.

The Preparation

British tradition is to invite pretty much everyone to a barbeque. Digging around in the shed, cupboards and loft for an assortment of chairs and blankets to accommodate everyone.

Then the food. Brits over prepare for BBQs in the same way that they do for Christmas but buying the supermarket out of food! Head to a supermarket on a sunny Saturday, and there won’t be a burger or sausage in sight.

Ideally preparing food in the morning or even the night before works out best, marinating any meat the night before but Brits are last minute in preparation, generally because of the unpredictability of the weather.

The Weather

Ahhhh, the Brits and the weather. A proud national obsession, with its endless changeability and unpredictability. The constant checking and changing and feeling it out. Any planning will involve vigorously checking the weather on numerous apps or websites, in the vain hope that it might actually be true.

Many BBQs starts with the optimistic weather but will end in the mad dash to the kitchen once the rain begins, with the poor chef underneath an umbrella to make sure the food still gets cooked.

The Food and Drink

Burgers and sausages are a staple of the British BBQ. Everyone will bring crisps and there are never enough burger buns to go round (why are they in packs of 4 when burgers are in packs of 6!). Dessert is most probably a Victoria Sponge and the drinks are beers and nowadays ciders. Someone will make a jug of Pimms, especially if Wimbledon is on the telly.

The sausages will be burnt on the outside but raw in the middle. The chicken will be well overcooked due to the panic of it being raw in the middle. Everyone will eat lots but there will be plenty left over, especially the potato salad.

The Act

There’s something irresistible about the prospect of food sizzling over smoky charcoal and eating outdoors with friends and family on a warm sunny day. An almost primitive act of cooking large slabs of red meat over flames. Most men will revel in having a few cold beers while the fire is burning, the smoke rising, the captivating aromas.

A BBQ is an energetic and engaging experience, and if you are ever invited it is well worth attending

 

 

Barbican, London

A brutalist concrete jungle casts shadows over the City of London. An ambitious community project from the 1960s oozes with character and charm.

Formerly a gateway to the London Wall, an original part of Roman Londonium. Incredibly part of the wall still survives as you walk around the complex. Population blossomed in the area during the 1850s, as did the ‘rag trade’ or textiles markets, especially at the Cripplegate end of the Barbican complex.

Devasted during World War II, the area was rebuilt in the 1960s. The idea was to populate the city, to build a community in the heart of the tragedy of the devastation. Brilliantly ambitious to create a utopian style complex in the centre of the City of London.

With its high rise walkways, the communal and private spaces, lakes and canals and its three towering blocks, it feels like a city within a city. Unique, charming and practical.

This complex divides people, either you love its brutal yet enchanting character, or you hate the perceived impersonal concrete towers. Either way, the compound is now listed and protected because of its distinctive appearance and the hope it gave to the rebirth of London in the 1960s.

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