A trip to Warner Brothers Studios for a Harry Potter adventure

We like so many other families will happily call ourselves Potter fans. I have the joy of seeing the boys read, watch and love the Harry Potter books and films while I have memories of reading them myself.

I came to the books later than most but once I did in my teens I couldn’t put them down. I vividly remember reading the last book and spending the whole of the day it was delivered laying on the sofa reading it on a day off work. By the time I had finished I was in the total darkness as I hadn’t been able to tear myself away long enough to turn on the lights or shut the curtains.

Leo, my youngest son in particular is a total Potter head. He knows everything there is to know, he was writing out spells before he could write most ‘normal’ sentences. He uses spells in day to day life even today and spells such as ‘nox’ and ‘lumos’ are common place in our house.

You can imagine then that when I received an email last month from The Warner Brothers Studio Tour London – the making of Harry Potter inviting us along to a family bloggers event to explore the studios and their special Goblet of Fire features that I actually shrieked. It was quite loud, I think Karl thought I had finally given into the madness! I was so honoured to be asked and felt like I was waiting for Christmas while I counted down the days.

We made a bold decision and didn’t tell the boys what we were doing. It was a Friday afternoon so picked them up from school and told them we were off on an adventure. There were numerous guesses as you can imagine. My favourite was a goat sanctuary and we managed to keep them believing that until we pulled up outside the studios.

You can imagine the excitement, the delight and all the questions. Nate asked if there were any goats inside which I will make sure to remind him of when he is older to embarrass him! When you arrive you realise just how massive the scale of making the movies was. The studios are huge and the excitement builds the minute you get to the ticket office due to large posters from the films.

We were greeted by some of the lovely staff and given a Goblet of Fire lanyard with a number of tickets inside the plastic pocket. These included a chocolate frog from the studio shop, a Butterbeer, dinner and a photograph each from the green screen area.

The entrance area is huge and you can see the Weasley families flying car, giant pictures of the cast throughout the years of filming and for the Goblet of Fire special the huge goblet used for the premiere of the film in London which I would say is at least twice the height of Hagrid. Here there is the studio shop, a cafe and an area where you can store bags and coats. We were quickly greeted by lots of other family bloggers and asked to wait ready to be called in for our adventure.

I’m not going to give away all of the secrets as you need to be surprised by all the magic they have to offer. You are literally blown away by being taken into the world we know and love. The staff knowing they were talking to bloggers and their families all of whom were massive Potter fans had us cheering along like children (even the grownups) and were so welcoming and clearly loved working at the studios. They were happy to answer as many questions as we had to ask (Nate and Leo as usual had loads) and there were lots of staff on hand in each part of the tour to offer guidance and show off added extras. The Forbidden Forest in particular had lots of special effects on offer.

I imagine you will have been reading up to this point thinking that I’ve not mentioned awful behaviour from the kids or any kind of unexpected disaster which usually is a key theme around any of my blog posts. Don’t worry I’m not going to disappoint you! Nate and Leo being their usual selves did quite a lot of rushing ahead and then running back to us to tell us what was next and how amazing the studios were.

At one point we were on the Hogwarts Express (yes you can actually go on it!) and looking through the windows into the compartments that were each set up around one of the films. Karl and I were discussing how amazing it was and how we felt like we were really there when we heard a massive crashing of metal outside the train windows. I actually and quite stupidly said to Karl ‘at least for once we know it’s not our two’ then both looked up the train to see no Nate or Leo. I then looked out of the window of the Hogwarts Express to see Leo entwined in the rope and metal railings that ordinarily make the area you queue in to get onto the train. Staff members from the railway shop had run over and were helping him and Nate was stood looking sheepish knowing as soon as we turned up they would be in trouble.

I absolutely dreaded the looks we would get, not only from all the other parent bloggers of impeccably behaved children but also from the staff but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The staff were kind, thoughtful and tried to put Leo at ease acknowledging we were in one of the most exciting places we could be. I was really touched when one of them came and found us a little later to find out how Leo was and ask if we were having a good time.

Shortly after the Hogwarts Express incident we stopped for dinner. We were all really hungry and thirsty and I cannot resist Butterbeer. There is a lovely range of food and we all were able to find some yummy food we wanted. I then had the delight of trying Butterbeer ice cream for the first time and I have to say I would have happily eaten 27 of them. So so yummy, you really need to try it if you can!

There are outside sets and props too for you to look at and explore and we spent a good hour here. The boys loved feeling a massive part of the magic and we took so many pictures of them enjoying themselves. My face hurt from all the smiling! As with any attraction we were able to learn lots about how the books were bought to life for the big screen and to see how the geniuses who worked on the films made it so magical. You wouldn’t imagine that some of the things you see were possible and yet there they were ready for Leo to knock over!

On purpose I haven’t gone into what to expect in great detail as for me and my family part of the joy was not knowing what is around the next corner and as the studios change the exhibits and themes throughout the year you can always expect something new. What I will say though that the studios are a family trip that you will never forget. For the young and the old it was a magical wonder and I haven’t smiled so much in a long time. There are few things that ignite the spark in all of us and Harry Potter is one of them. There really is something for everyone to see, hear and do.

We were lucky enough to be invited along as guests and to buy tickets isn’t cheap however you can stay all day. They don’t rush you and you can stay in each area for as long as you like. The only thing you can’t do is go back so make sure to drink in each and every area before you move on. You can find more details and book online here. I would say that for a family treat it is one of the best days out we have had and has something to offer to all. I plan on taking the boys back for Christmas to see the Great Hall in all its festive splendour.

I also hope that we are not on the banned list after Leo’s accidental attempt at destroying Platform nine and three quarters!

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Yes I’m hard to love but I didn’t choose to be this way…….

When you are someone who suffers from any kind of mental health issue you will be well aware of the stigmas attached and also how difficult it is for someone who doesn’t suffer to understand.

Let’s be honest why we as sufferers do the things we do often doesn’t make sense. It’s not always rational, it’s not simple or following common sense and it doesn’t always make us feel better but we do it anyway. To give some examples things like not going a certain route to avoid seeing people, not wanting to wash, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling like everyone hates you and many more that I could spend all day listing.

What I as a sufferer find makes things even harder is when people treat you like being down, anxious or anything else you suffer from is a choice you are making. It’s almost that opinion that you could switch it off but choose not to. I can assure you I do not choose to feel low. I don’t choose to feel meaningless, worthless or anxious and I certainly don’t choose when I do or don’t feel this way.

Even someone who is medicated and well aware of their triggers will have good days and bad. Often the bad days hit you like a train when you don’t see them coming. You can wake up and just feel not right. You can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do would be to pull the covers back and get out of bed. The thought of leaving the house and people looking at you and seeing all your weakness pouring out of you is abhorrent. Even when they probably wouldn’t notice anything at all was awry but you know and to face a world knowing that can be debilitating.

I get completely that to be a friend, partner or family member of someone who suffers with their mental health can be exhausting, miserable and downright confusing however the worst thing that you can do is make that person feel like their issues are their own fault and that they are making a conscious decision to be the way they are. Just as no one would chose to have a broken bone no one would ever make a choice to feel the way many of us do inside our own brains somedays.

We as humans make mistakes. Small ones, big ones, life changing ones, ones that can affect everything around us or put our lives in danger. Many of these mistakes are made at times of crisis when actually we as people are making ourselves the hardest to love. When we are the hardest to love that’s often when we need to be shown love and understanding the most.

You as a friend, partner or family member of a mental health sufferer may get frustrated, angry, hurt and have no idea what to do for the best for your loved one. But the best thing to do is just that, love them. Don’t make them feel bad that they are suffering, don’t add to their pain by treating them like having a mental health problem is a choice and don’t take the love away. These times of crisis really are when they need you most.

I find talking really helps and support is on offer for both sufferers and those who care from them. There are massive resources online and you can search for local support groups in your area. Please ask for help and keep talking to each other.

Lucy xxx