Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Harry Potter Studio Tour

I'd just like to start this post by thanking everyone for their lovely responses to my last post. Reading all your kind messages on Twitter and Instagram has made me feel so much more confident about coming back to blogging and it was so wonderful to hear that my post had helped other people in my situation seek help. So honestly thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

Since my previous post got the bad part of the last year out of the way, I feel as though it’s time to share one of the high points of 2016! In July I was lucky enough to go on the WB Studio Tour London to see the studios where Harry Potter was filmed!!!!!

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a die-hard Potter fan so when I managed to get tickets for a time myself and Joshua would be off I was over the moon! We stayed in Watford (which is where the studios actually are) for a weekend in July and on the Saturday, we grabbed the shuttle bus from Watford station to the tour!

Now the shuttle bus itself was exciting enough, painted to look like the Night Bus from Prisoner of Azkaban, but as we reached the studio warehouses I nearly fainted. Outside, underneath the giant WB sign, were the living chess pieces from The Philosophers Stone – although they were slightly less living when I saw them.

The Chess pieces were just the start of the magic. As we entered the first warehouse we could see the Ford Anglia from Chamber of Secrets dangling from the ceiling as well as Harry’s room under the stairs from the Dursley’s house. However, my absolute favourite part of the entrance has to be the flying key sculpture, I’m not ashamed to say I may have shed a tear when I first laid eyes on it!

I don’t want to give too much away about the tour just in case anyone wants to go so I’ll skip the entry chunk of the tour, but to anyone who has been before OMG how amazing is it!?

After the section of the tour that must not be named (see what I did there) we got to see The Great Hall as well as other amazing sets from the movies, including Hagrid’s Hut, Dumbledore’s Office and Snape’s Classroom – complete with self-stirring potions! I also saw Umbridge’s Office and had to resist the urge to go kick over her chair but I must say I admire the old bird’s love for all things pink and cat related.

After we completed the first section of the tour we stopped for some lunch in the outside dining area. Even the food was amazing! I had Thai fishcakes and noodles and Josh had a burger and we both had our first taste of Butterbeer! In my opinion it tastes like a cream soda float which I love, however Josh wasn’t as keen as it just tasted like sugar to him.

While we were sat in the court yard we could see the actual Night Bus from the films, The Dursley’s House set, Tom Riddle’s Grave and the Potter’s House at Godrick’s Hollow (that definitely brought more than one tear to my eye). It was really weird to see so many sets, that had always been real places in my mind, all sat in one court yard together.

After lunch, we went onto the section of the tour that contains all the magical creatures, costumes and animatronics. It was amazing to see all the effort that had gone in to making these wonderful creatures and characters come to life in the movies, but I may have ran away screaming after seeing a life sized Aragog hanging from the ceiling!

After that we saw all the original art work and sculptures from the films as well as a gigantic model of Hogwarts which, again, may have left me with mascara running down my face!

None of this though could compare with turning a corner and coming face-to-face with THE Hogwarts Express. As we entered the platform smoke billowed out of the chimney as the train sounded it’s horn and for a second I genuinely believed that I was about to board the train and start my life a real wizard. Unfortunately, the train remained where it was but I did get a pretty awesome Hogwarts Express ornament from the station shop!

Speaking of shops the main gift shop was AMAZING! It contained a replica of Ollivander’s where you go to have your wand choose you…or grab a replica of your favourite characters if you were feeling less adventurous. It also stocked essential goodies in all of the house colours, so being the natural Ravenclaw that I am, I had to get the standard blue school tie.

There was also a Honeydukes sweet shop in there stocking everything from Fainting Fancies to Chocolate Frogs – which fortunately did not have one (or any) good jumps in them. Myself and Josh came out with baskets absolutely stuffed full of wizarding goodies and I daren’t even admit just how many Galleons I spent in there!

It really was the most magical day of my life and I haven’t shut up about how amazing it was since! We’re planning on going back again sometime this year so stay tuned for more pictures, which you can see first by following my Instagram - @alicelouisealk.

Have you ever been to the Studio Tours? Or are you planning a trip in the future? Let me know in a comment below!

Alice x


Monday, 16 January 2017

Hello again

Hello! It’s been a long time since my last post on here and I’ve been trying to find a way to put into words the reason for my absence for quite some time now. I think the best thing I can do is to just jump right in so here it goes, I have been pretty ill.

Now I don’t mean ill as in throwing up or coughing or in any way that you would be able to see, I mean mentally. Now I know a lot of people that write blogs have mental illnesses and it’s thanks to their strength that I’m here writing this post today.

I don’t want to go in to the full back story of what caused me to be the way I am as I would like this blog to be a way for me to focus on my future and aid in my recovery. However, I would like to talk about what’s happened to me over the last year.

For a few years prior to now I’d been feeling really low and struggled to control my emotions (something I’ve mentioned in previous posts). I’d struggled with depression in the past but thought I was magically all better since I didn’t cry every day and ignored what my brain was trying to tell, I now know that’s not how mental illness works. Then around this time last year all of these issues came to a peak.

I was stood on a platform waiting for my train to arrive and I remember waiting there and thinking about jumping onto the tracks, apologies for being blunt but it is how it is. I remember calculating where I’d have to jump from for the train to still be going fast enough to kill me before it pulled into station. I was stood not far from the car park and it was like something just snapped in my head and I just ran away from the track and started crying in one of the stations bathrooms. That was the day I realised that something really wasn’t right.

It took another few weeks for me to speak to my boyfriend and tell him how bad things had gotten in my head, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made as he then encouraged me to go see a doctor, I was reluctant at first but after he showed me the statistics of how many people actually see a doctor for these kinds of things I felt more calm about the situation, knowing I wasn’t the only person in the world that had thoughts like this really helped.

I was fortunate enough to be seen by a wonderful doctor who took the time to sit and listen to how I was feeling and soothed me while I sobbed that ‘nothing was wrong with me and I have a good life I shouldn’t be like this’.

Dr Smith (name withheld for privacy reasons) explained that sometimes little things can build up when we don’t deal with them straight away which seemed to have been the cause of my depression reappearing with a vengeance and she also diagnosed me with a social anxiety disorder, meaning I struggle to deal with certain social situations leading me to have panic attacks – which have been regular this past year.

I was put on anti-anxiety medication along with anti-depressants and was also given the details of a service called ‘First Step’ that helps to put you in touch with local counselling service in your area who I now speak to regularly. They helped give me the strength to speak to my family and explain to them what had been happening and, instead of telling me that I'm crazy and to get on with it like I expected, they offered me all the help and support I could have hoped for.

So yeah, one year on I’m still here. I’m a far cry from being ‘well’ but I’m on the right tracks to getting where I want to be emotionally. I’m still on a lot of medication as it’s trial and error as to what works with these kinds of meds but I’m starting to see progress in the sense that I can control my emotions better. I have found it so much easier to speak to family and friends about my issues since getting in touch with First Step but I know that counsellors are always there when I need to be set on the right track.

This is such a personal post and I’ve been so scared to write it but I’ve decided that it’s time to come to terms with who I am and what I’ve been through and I refuse to let it hold me back any longer. So I’m back, hopefully for good, and plan on writing again regularly.

I would also like to say thank you to the wonderful mental health blogging community for helping me to realise that I’m not alone in this and that it’s normal to experience these issues and to even write about them!

I hope that this post might have helped someone like me to stop being afraid of what other people might think and if you’ve ever experienced anything similar I’d love to read your story in the comments below.

Thank you for your continued support.
Alice x

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