36 Before 36 ~ Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library

Try as you might, there’s no getting away from Harry Potter. Twenty years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the series’ popularity shows no signs of abating, and though J.K. Rowling herself rarely goes a week without putting her foot in her mouth, (or furthering the careers of domestic abusers) the books and films continue to enthrall.

I love Harry Potter as much as the next person, though as I get older and wiser I am certainly more aware of its problems than I was fifteen years ago. But I love the stories, so news of Harry Potter: A History of Magic – an exhibition taking place at the British Library, was very welcome indeed.

Harry Potter British Library
So I took myself off to London on a very, very wet Saturday morning, and, after spending a couple of hours wandering around Bloomsbury, photographing blue plaques, made my way to the British Library. In all honesty, other than knowing that the exhibition would include many of the original notes and doodles made by Rowling during the writing of the series, I didn’t know much else about what I’d be seeing. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn, once I’d entered, that there was a whole other element to it – something that should have been apparent from the name of the exhibition: A History of Magic. Alongside the very exciting notes and doodles, there were rare books, magical objects and artefacts peppered throughout covering each of the main subjects that Harry and his classmates study at Hogwarts.

It added a really fascinating dimension, as much of the inspiration for the subjects come from these traditions of folklore and magic. It’s also very humbling to stand next to a book that is hundreds of years old and realise that you are but a blip in the universe!

Harry Potter History of Magic

Of course, I did particularly enjoy seeing Rowling’s handwritten notes planning the stories, and Jim Kay’s drawings and illustrations are truly wonderful – my favourite was his drawing of Hagrid.

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition, of course, so I wasn’t allowed to take any photos to share with you, There is, however, a companion book available, which I haven’t bought yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Sadly the exhibition finished at the end of February, and even before that, I think it was mostly sold out. But the book is probably a good alternative for anyone who didn’t get to see it, and I believe that some of the exhibits are going on tour around the world.

This was another 36 Before 36 item, so I’m already ahead of myself compared to last year!

1.Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library. 


A Bank Holiday Visit to Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges

I live exactly 37.3 miles from Cambridge, the world-famous university city, but until recently, had never visited. That changed on a whim on Easter Monday, when my friend Hannah suggested a day trip.

The best places to visit, according to Hannah (the driver), are the ones with park and ride systems, because she says that parking is the worst part of driving anywhere! So she researched Cambridge’s Park and Ride, and off we went.

Cambridge Graffiti

Cambridge doors

The weather more or less played ball; it started off fairly cloudy, but the sun was soon shining, and though it wasn’t the warmest day ever, we avoided any traditional British bank holiday rain. I didn’t really know what to expect from the city, aside from the fact that it is, of course, famous for its colleges. The city centre itself seems quite small, and easily navigable on foot.

I was on a Blue Plaque quest; in case you aren’t aware, one of my 35 Before 35 goals is to photograph 50 blue plaques. There will be a whole blog post about this at some point, but suffice to say that I found around fifteen, and searching them out really gave us a good excuse to explore places we might not otherwise have found.Punting in Cambridge

We didn’t go for a punt on the river; the weather was probably a little on the cool side for that, and in all honesty, I was offended by how much pressure the tour guides were comfortable exerting to get us to sign up. It’s a nice idea, and must be a great way to see the colleges, but not on this occasion. And not with those particular tour guides!

The colleges themselves were, of course, beautiful, and the city has managed to merge old and new in a really organic way; of course there are the high street shops that you can’t avoid in city centres, but they don’t detract from the beauty of the centuries-old buildings that have educated some of the most incredible minds of all time.

King's College Cambridge

Cambridge Blossom

King's College, Cambridge

I had a really lovely time in Cambridge, and I’m hoping to go back at some point this year to pay a visit to my online friend Charlotte – as a local I’m hoping she’ll show me some of the less-touristy areas!

Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges

Day trip to Cambridge

Bank Holiday Cambridge

Looking Back ~ April 2016

What happened in April? It all seems like a long time ago (not least because it was), but it was a good month!

Most importantly, I became a great-aunt! I’ve mentioned this time and time again, but April 2016 will always be special to me for this reason, and I’m pleased to report that Peggie Jane (middle name for me) is beautiful!

In other news, right at the start of the month, I visited Glasgow for the first time. It was a work trip, so no real time to see the city, but we were staying by the river, and the views were nice! We also got to head into town for some food and had some lovely vegetarian/vegan Indian food at a place called Usha’s.

River Clyde Glasgow

Elsewhere, outside of work, I headed into London for Mark Kermode Live in 3D again. I decided to take the whole day off and do a little exploring this time; nothing too off the beaten track, as I stayed largely on the Southbank. I popped into Tate Modern, somewhere I like to go very sparingly, as I am not a huge fan of modern art. But I do love Mondrian, and I was excited when I chanced upon a couple of his paintings in one of the exhibitions.

Mondrian Tate Modern

The Mark Kermode event was as wonderful as ever – it’s a monthly event but each one is distinct; they follow a similar structure but he covers all sorts of films, and it’s honestly just an honour to get to hear him talk so passionately about films. I also toddled along to Norwich at the end of the month, again to see Dr K (I know), this time presenting Silent Running.

I also ticked off a 34 Before 34 item (Go to IKEA – blog post to follow), went on a course in London, and very much appreciated the first warm days of spring. I am now able to go for a walk in the evenings, because the sun is invariably shining and it stays light for longer, so I load up a podcast, and walk away!

Earls Colne

May has already been pretty exciting, so I’m looking forward to next month’s roundup.

Looking back ~ March 2016

It’s probably time to stop apologising for how late these posts are coming in the month. I just have to accept that I am not organised enough to get them done in a timely fashion, though I promise that I will try!

So March was a very busy month, not least because I moved house! From where Hannah and I were renting previously, we moved about ten minutes down the road, still in Essex (though getting closer to Suffolk), and into a little house with a lovely view of the river that runs by the house.

New Home

It really is a beautiful place to live, and although we are still not properly sorted (still have no furniture in the living room, and I have a few more bits to get for my bedroom), I do love it here.

Work has been very busy, because all of March was spent building up to an event in Glasgow at the very beginning of April (the main reason why this post is so delayed!). Things have only calmed down temporarily, because we are now going to spend the next month building up to an event in Manchester in May!

There was, of course, some fun to be had in amongst the moving and the working. I went for afternoon tea with my sisters and my niece, which I will blog about separately, because it ticks off a 34 Before 34 item. I went, once again, to the BFI Southbank to see Mark Kermode: Live in 3D – I’m hoping to go every month this year so you should expect to see me mention this again and again! I was lucky enough on this occasion to hear Mark chat with Ben Wheatley, who was busy that week promoting High Rise, as he took to the stage to defend Zardoz. I was also thrilled to meet up with three lovely ladies that I have got to know on Twitter through our mutual love of Wittertainment! I am already friends with Chloe, having been with her to a few different Kermode/Mayo/Wittertainment events, but I was also able to meet up with Liz and Goldy, and we have plans for more Girl Gang-related shenanigans in the future!

Ben Wheatley BFI

I did some laughter yoga at work, which was an experience, and I had a lovely Good Friday with my friends in the park. Hannah also celebrated her birthday in March, so we spent a day in London seeing a film at the BFI and then had dinner at Zizzi’s, so Hannah could try the new vegan cheese pizza (verdict – tasty!).


I’ve also been wearing my dungarees, a lot! They are my new favourite outfit, paired with almost anything (though not a checked shirt, for fear of veering into lumberjack territory), and I have to resist the urge to wear them every other day!

Clark's Shoes

And I bought some new shoes, which are also my new favourite thing, and I can obviously get away with wearing these every day if I want to! I had wanted them for a while, and then I managed to get them from the Clarks concession in Sainsbury’s when they had a 25% clothing promotion. We’re very happy together.

So that was my March, and now we’re already a third of the way through April!