No Wrinkles

My nieces are at the age where they just make an impromptu video call on WhatsApp and can go on for a long time. But it has been a while since I had spoken to them as they were busy with school and exams and such. I had sent them a selfie when I had received my reading glasses and I was trying to smile and take a selfie at the same time. I am very good at multi-tasking except for taking a selfie and smiling at the same time. I have never got that right and trust me, I have tried it way too many times and have failed every single time. Something about seeing yourself in the camera and trying to smile and yet thinking about the composition… never works for me. I applaud every single one of you who can take a good selfie.

So last week, when my nieces called, the first thing my niece said to me was “Your face looks so nice and so smooth…no wrinkles”. I wasn’t sure where this was coming from and why I wouldn’t have wrinkles. I am at the age where when I try to concentrate or when I try to smile or laugh you do have wrinkles on your forehead and your mouth which are otherwise called laugh lines. Also, I wasn’t sure if this was a backhanded compliment of sorts. So I asked her what she meant about wrinkles, she told me that in the photograph I sent with the reading glasses on, my face was full of wrinkles and that I looked old but now when they see me on camera there isn’t any and I looked the same as always. I couldn’t help but laugh and be surprised at the same time.

The more I spoke to her I realised that they still see me as the person from 5 years ago. They are surprised when I look a little bit haggard, especially on a bad day and show my age. They are not able to understand how I could age so much in so little time. By the time I finished the call with her, I felt so much older 🤣. I hope that when I move back and they see me more often, these kinds of comments will reduce (not expecting it to cease but at least reduce).

Magpie Murders

Recently when my friend gave me all these Agatha Christie’s books, he also gave me a book called Magpie Murders which was recommended by his sister. I have heard of it but wasn’t aware of the storyline and such. When I had finished Christie’s books, I started on this one. It took me a week to complete this but it kept me hooked the whole time. It is a very cleverly written book that has a story inside a story and is cleverly woven. It has so many viewpoints, not in terms of characters, but who the characters are. You see a story as an editor, as an author, as a reader, as a critic etc. It also satisfies readers who love to solve puzzles because that is what this is all about. I am trying to say so much without saying too much about the story because it will spoil the book for everyone. If you love mysteries, thrillers, well-written fiction, then this is a must-read. And to my surprise, I found out that there is a TV series that is being filmed which is premiering tomorrow. Yay!!! Can’t wait for it now that I have read the book. I don’t usually give 5 stars to books that aren’t from my favourite authors ( I am biased that way) but this one did.

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: