Forging Magic

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~~~

“I’ve finished it!” Ridley skipped into the room, waving a thick folded piece of cream paper. Purple glitter tumbled out from the folds in the page to flutter down into her hair, making her look like a giant demented pixie. ID-10022438She jumped to a stop beside Latimer, who ignored her. The only sound in the room was Latimer furiously tapping away at her keyboard. Ridley rocked on her heels and waited. When the other girl was finished typing her sentence, she peered up over her glasses. Her wary expression was highlighted by the glow from her computer screen. With a sigh, she took a fortifying swig of her tea, while Ridley smiled at her and nodded, urging her to ask.

“What’s finished?” Latimer said, setting her cup down on the table with a dull clunk.

Ridley’s grin widened. She thrust the sparkling page at her and the tinsel bits scattered everywhere. Latimer’s hand shot out to close down her laptop and prevent the pieces from falling into it. Shaking her head, she took the page and prised it open, then groaned at the avalanche of glitter that slid off the smooth paper and landed in her lap. A huge swell of lavender perfume rose up from it.

“I got tired of waiting, so I stopped…waiting that is, and I started making instead,” Ridley said, twirling around the room. “I figure my letter isn’t coming, that or my owl got really lost…I wonder…do you think something happened to it?” Her face fell and she stopped spinning to stretch back and squint out the window. Hulking grey storm clouds lumbered by overhead. “Poor owl…”ID-10084553

“What are you – is this gold leaf?” Latimer said, leaning closer to stare at the ornate writing at the top of the page.

“Yep, I figured they’d do it right, especially on their invitation letters.”

Dear Ridley, we are pleased to announce you have been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…you forged this!” Latimer’s head swung up and she scowled. She shook the letter, part of it creasing under her thumbnail. “Where’s mine?”

“Yours?” Ridley frowned, reaching forward to carefully extract the letter from her friend’s grip. She tried to smooth out the crinkles with her fingertips. She averted her eyes, refusing to glance up and tried to hide her smile. “Why would I have one for you?”

Latimer scoffed, pointing at her. “You don’t expect me to believe that you’d be happy to go to Hogwarts on your own?”

“Of course I would!” The other girl stuck her chin up in the air. “You’re very presumptuous to think I’d spend my time making one for you, it takes-”

“Hand it over.” Latimer smirked, thrusting her hand out between them. “I just know you’re lying when you start using words like presumptuous.” There was pause; she wiggled her fingers.

“Fine.” Ridley reached round to her back pocket and tugged out a heavy envelope.

“Thank you!” Latimer said, hugging it to her chest. “What’s brought this on?”

“Don’t wrinkle it!” Ridley said. She waited until the letter was placed on the table before answering. “Well we’re going to England. Where we’ll be in both London and Oxford, if we can just find a door, just one entrance into Diagon Alley or platform nine and three quarters, I’m pretty certain my papers are good enough to fool anyone once we’re in. In your packet there, you’ll find your letter, a train ticket, bank statements for Gringotts and a few other handy bits and bobs.”20130405_1087

“Impressive.” Latimer said.

Ridley nodded and smiled. “I know.”

“Forget about the glitter though.”

“What! Why?”

“Because…” Latimer grimaced, she tried to brush it off her legs but it just collected in her shoes and stuck to her palms. Another wave of lavender fragrance was released with the movement. She sneezed and held her hands up; the little purple pieces sparkled in the light. “It’s a Pandora’s plastic bottle of twinkling chaos! It was only invented to look pretty when it’s locked away, but you should never release it.”

“I think glitter is fun!” Ridley raised her arms and clapped her hands, a small cloud of purple shiny bits puffed up into the air from her fingers. “Dumbledore would have agreed I’m sure.”ID-100100592 Laughing and dancing beneath the falling particles, she accidently inhaled a few of them and started coughing. Latimer jumped forward and began whacking her between the shoulder blades.

“Hack them all up, Ridders!”

“All I can smell is lavender!” she cried out, her eyes and nose started streaming. She bent over and clutched the edge of the desk. “I think I’m allergic. They’re trying to kill me!”

Latimer nodded, still clapping her on the back. “What did I say? They’re evil in a bottle.”

“Tea!” Ridley wheezed, she grabbed the cup up from the table and washed down the last of the glitter. Taking deep breaths, she glared down at the tiny glinting choking hazards on the wooden floor. “I think you’re right Lat, we’ll forget about them.”

Latimer crossed her arms. She waited until the blond haired girl was upright and breathing normally again. “So…you have a plan then?”

“Our best bet is the train I think.”

“So it’s off to platform nine and three quarters!”20130405_605

~~~

“Ridley?”

They pushed the trolley forward, closing their eyes just as they reached the wall and then suddenly, they were through. White steam billowed out from the large black chimney of the train; it swirled around them, obscuring everything and leaving only large purplish shapes and shadows to hint at what was there. Laughter, voices and music drifted to them from all directions. As the mist started to clear, a large black engine emerged from the thickest of the cloud. A sharp whistle pierced the air.images (3) Students in Hogwarts robes bumped past the two girls who huddled to the side and stared around with open mouths. They side stepped away from the crowd, avoiding the large wooden trunks that trailed after people, each one with familiars perched on the edge. Latimer and Ridley grinned at each other and clutching their envelopes, they lunged forward.

Ridley! Wake up! We’re here.”

Ridley’s eyes flew open and she glanced around. “Ah nuts.”

They were nowhere near the gleaming engine of the Hogwarts train; instead she was almost blinded by the blue and yellow colour scheme that had been slapped on everything throughout the cabin of the plane. The intercom crackled overhead as they taxied towards the docking bay at the airport.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to London. We hope you had a nice time on your flight with us. We have arrived on time to Gatwick airport.” Trumpets and music blared out; celebrating the fact they’re arrived as scheduled. Ridley shuttered and touched her throat; glad the flight crew had no access to glitter or confetti.

Latimer grinned over. “Let our adventure begin!”

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Ridley: And did it ever begin! We wandered all over Oxford and as Latimer mentioned in our previous post, we stayed in Christ Church. For a lot of the holiday it really was Harry Potter themed. Before we took a bus to Oxford, we popped over to Kings Cross train station. 20130405_619There we waited in line for around twenty minutes to get our picture taken at the wall where they’ve set up the platform nine and three quarters sign (and a fake trolley with suitcases).

20130405_607They let you borrow scarves and Harry Potter glasses for it as well. We took individual photos and then a joint photo, for the craic!

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While I did worry a little bit that we were probably too old to be in the crowd queuing to get this done, when I glanced behind me, there were quite a few women older than us there (and only women actually now that I think of it! No men!) waiting to have their picture taken. Not that I cared really- never let embarrassment stop you from doing something you love or really want to do, in the end it will always be something you regret if you let your red cheeks guide you!! So Latimer and I snatched up our Slytherin scarves (Slytherin were just misunderstood you know, we firmly believe we could have infiltrated them and brought them over to the good side. ‘Draco, come with us, escape snakeface!’) and we posed to the best of our abilities! I had my suitcase with me (not on purpose, I’m not that sad, yet, we’d just literally arrived off the plane and this was just a little detour), so I incorporated that into the picture, it was Latimer’s brilliant idea!20130405_1053

After our ‘photo shoot’, we wandered into the Harry Potter shop just down from the sign. 20130405_610We both couldn’t help thinking that when we were younger, in the height of our Harry Potter fangirling, we would have given anything to visit there. They had amazing things for sale.20130405_61620130405_105520130405_106120130405_105720130405_1062 It’s just as well I suppose we didn’t end up there all those years ago, I would have been extremely broke afterwards!20130405_105920130405_61120130405_1060

Then on to Oxford where we stayed in rooms in Christ Church itself.  20130405_624We were allowed to have breakfast, from 8am to 9am, in the Great Hall; my god that was an experience of a life time. Both mornings we were there, we arrived promptly at 8 and didn’t leave until 9, we made sure to spend the full hour there. 20130324_092211Drinking tea, eating sausages and corn flakes, discussing life, humming the Harry Potter theme tune softly (and not so softly), all under the giant oak rafters (as Latimer said, it was like we were sitting under the inverted hull of a great wooden ship).20130405_98520130405_982 People were reading their newspapers, or discussing all sorts literary things (we were there during the Oxford Literary festival, we caught the tail end of it, so there were writers and literary people staying in the college too and we had breakfast with them all surrounding us). 20130405_989

20130405_98620130324_09124220130405_981While they continued to discuss high-brow, intellectual topics (which were interesting, I won’t say they weren’t), I gazed around, wide eyed and kept imagining owls flying in through the windows and circling above me. It made me very happy.

Randomly over toast, I ended up chatting with a retired classics professor; he was visiting a friend who lived in the college. He told me about how in his time as a researcher, he’d studied Latin wax tablets and Egyptian papyrus scrolls-you can imagine how much my eyes gleamed at that and how impressed I was!20130405_978

After breakfast on our last day, we wandered around the room, studying the portraits and as we were ‘residential guests’ we were allowed up at the top table (you were allowed eat there too, but no matter how early we arrived, the seats were always taken!). We took loads of pictures! Of course.20130405_100120130405_1005

It was such a privilege to able to wander the grounds. On Saturday night, after a dusting of snow had covered everything, we stood in the large courtyard at the heart of Christ Church.20130405_65520130405_67220130405_96820130405_95620130405_949The fountain in the centre bubbled away and the church bell started to toll. We were completely alone, though there was a murmur of voices coming from the Great Hall, where an official dinner, part of the festival we guessed, was being held and dull light shone out through the stained glass windows lining the long room. 20130405_105120130324_091142All the wrought iron lamps around the courtyard were lit and the gates were closed to the public. We paused on the flagstones, we were absolutely frozen, our feet and hands were numb, but the world stilled and we just marvelled at the beauty of an absolutely perfect moment.20130405_974 Then there was a cough behind us, as someone hurried down the stone stairs to join us outside and we started forward again in search of warmth and a cup of tea.

No wonder so many magical books have been set in such a wonderland.

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Find more of our Oxford Tales here 🙂

 Through an Oxford Shaped Looking Glass (Alice’s Christ Church :))

– Time for Tea! 🙂

Bram Stoker Festival 2012

Spooky, ghoulish goings-on, in the courtyards of Dublin Castle this bank holiday weekend… welcome to Bram Stoker’s imagination!

Ridley: The Bram Stoker festival was packed with things to do all weekend, from talks by Patricia Cornwell, writing workshops for children, plays and discussions on vampires. Christopher Lee was even awarded the Bram Stoker Gold Medal by the Philosophical society in Trinity College for his past role as Dracula. Bram, in his time at Trinity, was the president of this society.

So many of these events were ticket only and sold out quite quickly!

Latimer: We didn’t realise until too late that you had to have tickets for these events! So we really missed out. Derek Landy (author of Skulduggery was talking in one of the theatres) and there were lots of talks about vampires and vampirism in Trinity College (as Ridley says, Bram’s old Alma mater). There were a lot of interesting talks, and I was really disappointed that we didn’t get to go to them! 😦

Ridley: Well, no matter, we did manage to get tickets to one event at least!

We attended a night time, outdoor performance by the award winning street theatre company, Spraoi, in the Grand Courtyard of Dublin Castle. It was held there as Bram used to have a tedious desk job in one of the offices in the castle.

Latimer: I like to imagine Bram sitting at a desk inside the fantastic building that is Dublin Castle, daydreaming about Romania and vampires! I wonder did Dublin Castle spark off any dreams of Vlad’s castle? You can just picture vampire’s roaming the darkness of the Castle courtyards…

Our good friend Orbie joined us on this night of terror! She told me that there was a Bram Stoker App (made by the Science Gallery), that was devised for the festival. The App uses your phone GPS to tell you if you are in a hotspot for vampires or ghosts in Dublin. When it tells you, you are, you take a photo of the street or area, and a ghost will appear on your image! Or so Orbie told me… While we waited in the queue to go into the Castle courtyard… we tried to find some ghosts!

Then we got bored and the queue started moving, so we were swept inside and pretty much forgot until now about this App!

There was the chilling sound of people moaning like ghosts… The idea of the event was scenes and characters from Dracula. As the crowd moved forward under the arch into the courtyard, we were met with a massive moon display, against the backdrop of a dark and eerie courtyard. There was a man sitting within the moon, screaming and shouting…

We were pulled into a dark world, filled with vampires and ghouls. There were performers wandering around the cold courtyard, screaming and hissing.

As I was standing staring at an eerie display (wedding dresses hanging off a man-made tree) a ghoulish performer came up to me and started pulling at a plastic bag I was holding (it contained a proof copy of our book, which I was handing off to Ridley). I gave a nervous laugh, “you’re really getting into this” I said, there was absolutely no break in character, she raced off to pull at some of the other people (some of the crowd was also dressed up for the night as vampire’s and devils – she was particularly fascinated by these people, me in my north face jacket didn’t do much for her! Boring I guess!). 

As we walked from display-to-display, a rock band played Gothic sounding music under arches lit in an eerie green glow…

Vampire girls dressed in haunting white dresses stalked through the crowd. They came together at one display (a bench lit by a single street lamp) and performed a strange struggle – pulling out of a young girl dressed in white (eventually turning her into a vampire). I think these girls were Dracula’s vampire women!

As Orbie was talking her photos of this performance… this girl crept up behind her!

Naturally, I started snapping photos, THEN, I said “Orbie… behind you!” and she turned and jumped out of the way with a yelp, “JAYSUS”!

The crowd started to move then over to a macabre display of an autopsy table… two vampire ghouls were pulling at the body… Afterward I got some photos and it looks pretty creepy… The face… the face! Very scary!

All the while, a carriage was working its way through the crowd… the man inside looks like he could be someone important… eh? Well, yep, as it turns out, this guy was playing Bram Stoker…

He was heading towards this large wooden construct;

Once he reached the top he read to us, telling us to stay in the light, and out of darkness… away from the shadows…

He then sat back, writing at a typewriter.

Nearby, there was a display in the corner that looked important.. 

There was a massive coffin beside it… Dracula making his way from the port (as in the book… which for me is actually the Gary Oldman movie… I remember the port from the movie!)

Out of it came this massive skeleton! Dracula!

A performer dressed up as a more manageable-sized Dracula, made his way to Bram in his wooden tower, along with all the hissing vampire ladies!

Dracula looks like he’s smiling here, haha, going, ‘this is great! look at me Mammy!’ haha

Bram brought the night to an end, with a brief final reading from the book. It was pretty cool.

Ridley: The event was really interesting! (Though it was wet and absolutely freezing!! Our hands were red raw, time to buy some gloves, me thinks!).

Latimer: Yea! My hands felt like I’d stuck them in a -80 freezer! The pain traveled right up my arms! It was so cold! God bless my north face jacket (the best buy ever!) – it did save me from the cutting breeze, I just needed some gloves!

Well, afterward everyone made their way home, out of Bram Stoker’s dreams and back to reality… Which took the form of a woman dancing in the window of her apartment (which faced an entrance to Dublin Castle)! She had the lights on, the curtains pulled back and was going wild dancing. Everyone stood there laughing (of course she knew everyone could see!). Then she jumped away, leaving her two flatmates (who were sitting down on the couch) staring blankly out at us! 

The festival was fun, hopefully they’ll make it a yearly thing! It would be pretty interesting. We’ll hopefully be more prepared next year! 😦