So It Begins

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Latimer: And so it begins… Christmas shopping… the last ride of the Rohirrim… 

Okay, that might (might) be an exaggeration! But I saw this funny post on Tumblr and it sort of fit:

It’s Christmas, you have one of two feelings:

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Or

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I’m not totally one way or the other, but it feels like this year, Christmas sneaked up on me – then knocked me out with a sledgehammer.

As I stumbled around half-dead for three weeks, I now find myself madly shopping in a delirium of, sweat, confusion and panic, blind panic!

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Over the past few years I’ve found myself buying children’s Christmas presents for nieces and nephews. The last time I had been in a toy shop was to… well, be the one who people were buying presents for! I was the last child I knew!

Now, I have five nieces and two nephews to be buying presents for!

And I panicked. When I stepped into the big toy shop to do my ‘buy, buy, buy SOMETHING… ANYTHING’ Christmas shop last weekend, I faltered. I got confused; really confused.

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I reverted back in time. I stood staring at the Sylvanian Families, laughing; “Aww, still as expensive as ever… oh! The Badger Family, I remember you!” 

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I was a child again. I forgot why I’d come to the shop.

I started looking at all the new dolls, thinking they were cool. Asking myself if a three year old could handle the awesomeness of gothic dolls based on monsters (no, thankfully I came to my senses on that one).

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I bought myself some glitter glue; which I needed for making my Christmas present tags for the kids, but it was weird because, I’ve not had glitter glue since I was a kid!

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Thankfully I did manage to leave the toy shop without going too crazy.

Although my last giddy thought as I left was; “I have money now… I could buy things if I wanted…I could buy the Sylvanian Families cottage/barge/windmill! Oh the POWER!”

I pray the power of the toy shop will not have grown stronger by next Christmas!

Summer is coming

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Latimer: Ah blissful summer is here at last! The sun is shining, people are smiling and we’ve even got some really nice weather lately! The Irish curse of talking about weather – ah well you see we don’t get a proper summer very often, or at least it can’t be relied on, so we always have to mention it when it happens! So, for now at least we have really nice weather – people are getting sunburned… yeah, that’s a big deal!

Summer always ends up being a busy time of year; Ridley and I have been writing away working on the next book! Come on the editing stage 🙂

But, aside from that, the big thing about summer is holidays! Oh holidays! Thinking of the next adventure puts me in mind of the first real one!

This is the one where Ridley, Latimer and friends went to New Zealand and Japan!

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Oh magnificent New Zealand… as I sit here in the heat of the Irish summer, thinking back on the glorious holiday that was New Zealand cools me down at bit, because summer in the Northern Hemisphere is of course winter below!

This holiday was a big deal for us at the time because none of us had ever gone this far on our own (like real proper adults) – four of us, Orbie (who we’ve mentioned now and then), Latimer, Ridley and Bubbles (another friend of ours).

We got ready – this was a big deal.

We rented the glorious campervan, the Kea (and Bubbles was the only one who could drive)….we were going to drive around New Zealand and camp!

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We were given snow-chains in case of notoriously bad snow… we were so scared, we were so excited, we were…  grown up! This was such a great time, but initially we were very worried.

Day one in Christchurch – with the van and the maps… we were thinking it was a mistake. But then we got the GPS up and going, Bubbles got comfortable with the camper-van and were off, on this amazing adventure  –  this first taste of a now life-long love of travel, the dream of the faraway…

We had all these wonderful experiences…

we saw such amazing landscapes…

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we drove for miles on empty roads that wove past waterfalls and cut through snow-capped mountains…

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we climbed glaciers…

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we swung down canyons…

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we visited the beautiful Milford Sound…

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we dove out of the sky… like a boss 🙂

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I’ve always thought we look like we’re out of Top Gun here!

we met Maoris and went to a hangi (a sort of party, where food cooked in a pit)

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We skied and snowboarded… life was good!

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Then we left the snow behind and headed for the mind-melting Asian summer – the melting temperature of an Irish person isn’t high!

We visited Kyoto and got caught in a Matsuri festival we didn’t understand. The Japanese festival goers gave us beer and when the young Geisha arrived, a helpful man dragged Orbie off and helped her get cool pictures of the Geisha…

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We went to a tropical island – that was a random adventure. We were going to sleep on the beach, but decided against it and had a very strange time in a surfers hostel, where Ridley had to fight off ants as she slept and I screamed at a massive spider that then scuttled off to hide in Ridley bathroom…

Looks like paradise though, ne?

We went to Koya-san and stayed in a Buddhist temple and got up for prayers at 6 o’clock..

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So many random things happened.

All these memories that as I type I become lost in again; summer time is a time for making plans for adventures! The sun is out, the days are long; it makes me feel like there are adventures out there, beyond the walls of where we are.

I’m excited! I want to pull out my bags, hitch them up and go off into the world again!

Now all we really need to do is figure out where to go!   

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! 🙂