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:

It’s been a year already…

Ever since I moved to Swansea, I guess I have fallen off the blogging bandwagon and have been posting here only once a year (approx), which is sad really. Because so much has happened since we moved here and I could have kept the record of all the stories behind it if only I took some time to post about it. Here is hoping to do more in the new year.

2021 hasn’t been any different to 2020 to most and I am not going to add to the doom and gloom of it because we have had enough of that. I have kept myself busy with my post-graduate certificate course in higher education, started training in yoga (online), prepared two new courses when I had a break for a term, visited a few places (safely and within the permitted guidelines) etc. etc.

Now coming to the end of this year, I have successfully completed my PGCE and am now a qualified yoga teacher. I have already started teaching yoga to a couple of my friends and have been doing so for the past few months (online, of course). I recently finished writing all about my travels on my other blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed travelling in and around Swansea and making sure we take breaks whenever we can and as safely as we can. Neither of us is getting any younger but the year-long training of yoga has kept us in good shape. I should say that I have never been better, health-wise, than now and may long it continue. I have also never written so many essays in my life. This year has seen me write so many essays (both for my PGCE and for my yoga training). I think that is why I didn’t feel the need to write anymore in any blog. People are surprised when I tell them about the essays in yoga teacher training. Those essays have enabled me to read various classical texts on yoga and have given me a lot of things to think about and reflect on. It also reiterates the fact that yoga is an all-encompassing thing, a way of life, not just a physical exercise.

I have also witnessed a few heartbreaks, a few disappointments, a few sad events, but who doesn’t. It is part of life and growing up, I think. Just recently my nephew had a breakdown because he wasn’t happy with his Christmas present 😀 and he thought that Santa could have done better. I had to tell him that his message to Santa about his gift was very ambiguous and in future, he would do well to remember that ambiguity would lead to heartbreaks and he better make it super clear as to what he wants.

At work, after being together for almost three years, slowly things started to change as and when folks moved on to better prospects and I ended up finally identifying who my friends are and who are just acquaintances and I am glad for my friend’s circle, which is very small but very good. I also had a good term recently where a very difficult module was totally redesigned and there were no tears. That is a huge success in my book. Even though I wasn’t super happy about going back to face to face teaching this autumn term, we did it and touch wood, no one got ill during the term. We maintained social distancing, face masks, letting people learn from home when they had any slight symptoms etc. What the next term is gonna be is anyone’s guess at the moment. All I know is I am ready for both online and in-person teaching and I have managed to keep the learning experiences similar-ish either way.

Another year without any choir to attend (not even an online one like last year) which is sad, but at least we were able to visit a few churches and see their nativity displays and enjoy a couple of Christmas markets. This is the first holiday where I haven’t been working or even thinking of work. All I have been doing is relaxing, doing odds bits and pieces that needed to be done at home, doing my regular yoga, and finishing some last-minute books for this year (according to GoodReads, I have read 130 books this year, which is quite good) etc. Just chilling out really.

To top it all, I have finally been offered a teaching job back in India in my hometown which I would be started during the next academic year (Indian academic year). That means that we will be relocating to India next year, which is going to be very exciting more for Mr M than me, as it would be like going home after a very long break I guess. The move might not be as smooth as it was when I moved to the UK as it was just me then and this time we are moving as a family. There will be so many things to sort out and on top of it I would have to start my work without much break, but I guess I deal better when I have things to do and Mr M is more than capable of dealing with the admin stuff anyway. My nieces and nephew are quite excited about my move back and are looking forward to it very eagerly.

This virus is not going to go away any time soon. It is in their nature to mutate and spread and then mutate some more and spread again. It is their cycle of life, just like we have ours. Having seen the worse of it in 2020 and then some in 2021, all we can ever try and do is be safe ourselves and ensure that we protect our near and dear ones as much as we can within capacity. Some things are beyond our capacity and control especially, how the governments behave during such a crisis (I am trying hard to not get political here), but we should do what is within our control and capacity and get through this together. I am getting my booster jab today and Mr M has already had his a couple of weeks ago. Here’s to hoping that these boosters help along with some common sense.

Looking back, this year has been jam-packed with loads of learning and travelling and the new year is starting with new opportunities and new experiences. Let’s hope and pray that it is all for the best.

May this New Year bring with it hope, health, and happiness to all of you. Keep smiling and keep spreading joy wherever and whenever you can. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! Happy New Year! 

And it starts….

Reading Challenge

According to goodreads , last year I managed to complete 100+ books and I was glad to get hold of the available Agatha Christie ones from Kindle Unlimited and complete them as and when they were available. This year I have set myself a modest challenge for just about a 100 books. Let’s see how it goes. I managed to start it off with my favourite author and currently reading Reginald Hill’s A Cure For All Diseases (A Dalziel and Pascoe Novel) which we got as a paperback way back in August.