A Christie start

As I promised myself, I continued with my 2nd Montalbano book at the start of the new year. Game of Mirrors was an interesting one to watch. But ever since my first Montalbano book (Excursion to Tindari) I knew that it would be like revisiting the TV series and the scenes just play in your mind the moment you start reading. And it didn’t disappoint me at all. I hope that in future, I will be able to get all the books in this series and give them a read. (Mr M has got one more lined up for me in his Kindle).

Sidenote: If you haven’t watched the Inspector Montalbano series and you like fun, witty, detective Italian TV series, then it is a must-watch.

While sorting out our books for packing, we decided to give away one Reginald Hill, and one Colin Dexter book that we had (they were got in old book shops and aren’t part of any series as such). So checked with my friends, and one of my friend’s parents who have a huge collection of books was ready to have them. And in exchange, she offered to lend me her books until my trip back. I couldn’t turn down such an offer and to my surprise, she has almost all of Agatha Christie’s books. That got me so excited that I was there standing in their mini-library wondering how many books I could take and which one to take :D. Never had I so much choice in my life that it got me all flabbergasted. So I decided to take three of them to start with and I have already completed two of them. Curtain, which is Poirot’s last case (not the last book that was written, which is interesting) and Death in the Clouds. I was amazed at how true to the book the episode based on Curtain was. Death in the Clouds had the same story but was done in the TV series in a slightly different way with a couple of changed characters and back story.

I always appreciate the difficulty in converting a book into a TV series because most of the time it is hard to bring the magic of the words to the screen. So far all these books have made me very happy given that I have seen all their TV episodes based on these books and now I am evaluating if they stick close to the book or not :D. Practically playing the ‘Find the Difference’ game but with Agatha Christie’s novels and TV episodes. I am currently reading Dumb Witness, which is surprisingly different to the way it has been shot for TV-episode. I am enjoying the differences.

Once I am done with these three books, I know I am going to go back for more 🙂 no doubt about that at all. This month is off to a great start already even though there is so much for me to get done given that every day is getting me closer to the end date here. But that is when I take refuge in books which have always given me comfort and I can’t think of any other way to de-stress.

Magic in the New Year

We decided to start the New Year with some magic, and so we booked the Making of Harry Potter tour by Warner Bros Studio, London on New Year’s Day.

We drove to Watford on New Year’s Eve and stayed in a hotel near the Bhaktivedanta Manor (ISKCON temple). We visited the temple that evening (given it was safe to do so on New Year’s Eve than on a New Year’s Day). Given that it was at least 20 mins away from the Watford Town Center, it was quiet and apart from some fireworks we had a relatively calm and quiet end of the year 2021. On New Year’s Day, we went to the Town Center (parked at Atria Shopping Center) and roamed the almost empty high street for a while. Found a place called “Crispy Dosa” where we had our lunch. They had very good south Indian food. I loved my Chettinad Dosa.

After that, it was a 15 min drive to the studio. Mr M was getting on my nerves as he was very leisure and wanted to arrive at the studio only a few minutes before the start of the tour. I wasn’t so sure but given the new year and the new me thing going on in my head, I decided to give him the benefit of doubt and tried to do my calm breathing exercises (it worked!!!) We were spot on time and the tour began as soon as the majority of the folks had arrived. Didn’t realize that there would be that many people in there and this was reduced count. I wonder how many normal attend the tour in a non-pandemic situation.

They warned us that the tour takes around 3 hours and there would be a cafe halfway through for us to sit and have some rest and refreshments if we wish to do so. The entrance was well done, with interactive screens and people talking etc. From there you go on to a small theatre room where they show the video of what the place is about and then the screens go up and you see “The Great Hall” and that is the actual entrance of your self guided tour. The lady who was explaining the stuff in the Great Hall was too fast and too loud. She could have done it a little better, but I zoned her out and was on my own exploring stuff.

There is so much to see and experience and enjoy. This tour also shows how much goes on in the background for something that comes up in the movie for a mere 2 seconds. I have always appreciated the effort by the artists who work behind the scenes to bring something which might closely resemble the imagination of an author or a fan. It is not easy and sometimes it fails, but when it clicks and succeeds you get something like Harry Potter which becomes a huge sensation. The detailed sketches on the architecture of the buildings that were built, the makeup, the costumes, the food that is shown on the tables, the automotive used, the amount of mechanical and electronic wizardry involved in all these things is amazing. It was so much fun.

One of the highlights of the whole tour for us was the awe-inspiring Gringotts Bank and the way the dragon demolishes the bank. It was amazing. The Diagon Alley was another one of those places which I loved 🙂 and when we were ooh-ing and aah-ing over these things we come to the halfway point and then we have to go out for a bit to find the Knight’s bus and Potter’s Place in Godric’s Hollow, the Privet Drive and the Hogwart’s Bridge all sprinkled with some snow. Such fun! 🙂 The Goblins was one more thing that surprised me. How much work has gone into their makeup and I didn’t know that Warwick Davies played two Goblins apart from being Professor Flitwick. Interesting. Since we didn’t take a break at all and didn’t linger too much on the things which are more catered to be more interactive with kids (where kids could practice their spells for the battle, or do the Yule Ball steps, etc. etc.) we kind of completed the tour in about 2 hours and 15 mins or so. But by the time we browsed the shop towards the end and bought a souvenir and came out to the Food Hall our legs couldn’t hold us up.

If you like Harry Potter this is a definite must-see place. Makes you appreciate the effort that has gone into the movie more and also the effect of a series on a whole generation (or two). I am glad that I belong to the generation of Harry Potters (not necessary grew up on it, but was there to see it grow into a phenomenon). Also, it would be wise to stay after the trip (unlike us who had to drive all the way back to Swansea afterwards) as the tour can be tiring. And they have a food place (apart from a Starbucks and a Frog’s cafe which sells amazing milkshakes) inside the studio which we weren’t aware of. If we had known then we might not have stopped off at Watford (and then I might have missed my dosa!!!).

I am glad we started this year with this tour. I truly enjoyed it. Here are a few photographs from the tour.

2021 – In Images

Some interesting finds this year are:

Saturday Special

Mr M practicing his game. 😉 He decided to go solo after I whacked him in his arm (a you’ve been framed moment) during a game of Tennis.

Staying Alive – 85 – Wk 2

For people who are wondering about the title, it is the effect of watching the programme called “The Chase” sponsored the Gala Bingo. I love those bingo calls that is shown in those adverts. It is also very relevant to the current post.

Week 2 of my swimming lessons went well. Nothing too dramatic, sadly. One of the best investments I have ever made in my life is 20£ which I spent on a silicone based ear plugs and a very good pair of swimming goggles. Saved my life to be honest. I went in a little early for my lessons so that I can get a bit more familiar with the water and make sure it knows who I am. There were other lessons going on for kids, but I stayed on the other patch and tried to remember to float. Didn’t get very far, I should say, but at least I did not cry for help.

I got a noodle and tried to hold on to the edge of the pool and float on my back. It was good, I was getting comfy, but I couldn’t get myself to get back in the water and stand. I still have to practice it a bit more on my own to identify the small trick that will help me do that. Thanks to all the efforts of hitting myself on the pool edge to get back up, I have got a shiny bruise on my wrist. I am OK with it as long as I get somewhere with floating.

Since the sectioned part of the pool was open to everyone, three young kids decided to show off and annoy me a bit. This has happened in the past and I am sure it will happen again. But thanks to the super cool ear plug I didn’t hear what they said, even though one kid did come to me and said something in Welsh which I decided to ignore because I don’t think he said anything nice anyway. An instructor came around and asked them to behave because they were mucking about in the water dragging each other down. They were just being kids, may be a bit mean, but kids nonetheless.

When my lesson started I was still not able to float on my back and I was still not able to get my leg up to kick, but at least I tried very hard without panicking and was able to put my face inside the water and breathe out. I did drink and inhale a few pints of it in the process which has triggered my sinus to go berserk, but it is part of the process I guess. The funny part was when my instructor came around to remove my goggles. I was wondering why. Well, I had worn it the wrong way around. 😀 I didn’t even realise that. I didn’t place it correctly and I realised that when I went into the water. I have got a red eye to show for my mistake.

But hey, at the end of the day, I survived even though she made try the kick so much that I was exhausted and started looking at the clock and counting the minutes. I didn’t panic, I didn’t feel like bawling my eyes out, I was able to feel the water, see the water and came out alive with some bruises and red eye to show for my efforts. Not too bad, I should say. I ain’t gonna cross the English Channel any time soon, but at I am trying to keep up the effort to learn.