My little girl is poorly, right before Christmas – typical! She is asleep, right next to me, having been up all night, being sick. So far today she’s been better, but clearly not herself. I think the sleep is doing her good though – slowly but surely she’s perking up!

I mentioned in a recent post that my family and I had recently visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour – here, we took in all the magic from the Harry Potter films, which was quite the experience! What did we see? Well, we saw pretty much everything there was to see. Even if you’re not a fan of Harry Potter, the tour offers an incredible and detailed insight to the process of making big movies. The level of work that goes into producing films like this is astounding.

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(how about a letter to Hogwarts?)

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(every wand was distinctive and every credited member of cast and crew received their own personalised wand)

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(there were thousands of bottles of various weird things and potions and each one had its own, unique, handwritten label)

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(we’re off to Hogwarts!)

What we saw was not merely a faithful reproduction of the sets and props – we saw the actual sets and props. It made the experience all the more special to know we were walking through and standing in the places where these movies were made.

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(the Knight Bus, circa The Prisoner of Azkaban)

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(one of the weird plant baby things)

We took hundreds of pictures, which I can’t go through here! Needless to say, it was a fantastic experience (by the way, butter beer is wonderful), and I don’t think we scratched the surface of what it was like.

So, that’s it. If you get the chance to go, go!

Timon

What’s coming up? Well, in a personal sense, there is some moving and shaking soon – I am about to enter my final week with my current employer, before moving on to new pastures. This is obviously quite a big deal, with short-term and long-term repercussions and not a step taken lightly, but after deliberating and discussing and considering, it was a leap that needed to be taken. I have nothing but admiration, respect and friendship for the guys I currently work with, but this new job offers the opportunity to make more money, which will in turn bring other, positive impacts. I had to base my decision on what would be best for my wife, daughter and myself, and so, soon, it will be time to move on from bathrooms.

I need to tell you all about my recent visit to the Harry Potter Experience. It was a birthday treat for both my stepdaughter and myself and it was thoroughly enjoyable. There’s a lot of photos, so I need to spend a bit of time on that one. It would take a while to thoroughly describe the experience!

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Speaking of birthdays, my stepson and his girlfriend stunned me by getting me Super Mario Odyssey for the Switch. That’s in addition to a big Star Wars Cross Sections book and a Star Trek Borg ship model. I think they spent waaaaaaaaay more money on me than they should have, but guys, if you’re reading this, I am very grateful! At some point I need to offer up some early thoughts on Odyssey, and also on the Breath of the Wild download content, which was a birthday/Christmas present from my wife (along with my favourite tipple, Old Speckled Hen!).

The homemade birthdays from my little girl and my granddaughter were delightful! My daughter drew me a Star Wars-themed card and my granddaughter drew me a picture of Scrooge McDuck! It’s like they know me too well…

 

Not for the first time my mind took me to some strange places in my dreams last night. I don’t know what prompted the first dream, and the other two were odd in different ways.

Hillary, World Champion?

It began in Las Vegas. At least, I think it was Vegas. My wife and I were watching a boxing match (strange really, as neither of us have any vested interest in boxing), between an unknown guy and… former First Lady Hillary Clinton. Yes, seriously.


Believe it or not, Hillary gave as good as she got, holding her own well into round 6 and possibly beyond. Even in the dream I couldn’t help but wonder ‘WTF’, and no, I don’t know how the fight ended.

War, with… Animals?

Onward to dream two (I don’t recall if this dream was a strange continuation of the first, but it’s so different it deserves to be classed as a separate dream). I’m driving a tank (or I’m a video game character driving a tank) and blasting enemy tanks in some sort of futuristic war. After wading through dirty sewer water, I’m talking to an anthramorphic fox when a nuke goes off. I blame a combo of Guardians of the Galaxy and the North Korean problem for that one.

Poignant Times

I know exactly what brought on the final dream. I was firstly waking around a supermarket with my wife and daughter, when for some reason we had to go off in opposite directions. My little girl wanted to come with me, so off we went to get a card for my Nan’s birthday, even though at this point she has been gone for five years. Still, it mattered to me to get this card – so off I went to find one.

Suddenly, we found ourselves in my Nan’s old home, even though it wasn’t actually her home. My brother was there, and my Nan was there too. She gave me a hug and it felt very real and very emotional (feeling a bit emotional as I write this). Sadly, my daughter couldn’t see her – my Nan was there for my brother and I.

Surreal and touching and emotional.

Time is a funny thing. It can feel painfully slow sometimes, such as when you’re a kid in school, watching the clock, wanting desperately for the school day to end. Yet you can wake up one day, and it will have been over a decade since you were at school, leaving you to wonder, where did that time go? My daughter is seven – yet I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. Where did all that time go?!

Today is a particular poignant reminder of how time flies. On this day, twenty years ago, my Grandad left us. He was a wonderful man, who did not judge, did not get angry, did not do anything except take everything life threw at him in good humour and grace. In his youth he had served in the Army and fought the Nazis; he was brave, courageous and noble. I have many memories of listening to him talk about the war, though I’m sure he left out the gory details, on account of how young my brother and I were. His was a good soul, and to think  that it’s been twenty years… it’s just staggering.

Tonight I will raise a toast to this wonderful man, and I will look up to the Heavens and hope that somewhere, my Grandad is proud of me. I love you Grandad, and I miss you. x

Time to get a little emotional. Today my baby starts junior school, which is a surreal sentence to write. I don’t see how she can be that big, yet she is off to begin the next chapter of her education and start the next chapter of her life. My baby is not a baby, not anymore.

Such is the way of life. We can only move forward with time, though sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice for time to move more slowly?

Sometimes kids will mispronounce things, and it can be hilarious! They will also come out with funny stuff. My daughter frequently reminds her mother and I that ‘we’re allowed to kiss because we’re married.’ When she was smaller she would sometimes ask to watch Shrek and Fiona, but get her words jumbled and come up with something virtually unprintable…

She was travelling home on the train from a day out yesterday and chatting away to her niece (yes, my daughter is an auntie – it’s a complicated family dynamic!), who is around the same age. I was at work at this point so I didn’t get to witness this first hand – if I had, I don’t think I’d have been able to keep a straight face…

So they’re ‘having tea’ and making their purses talk… yes, talk. Then my daughter has said something along the lines of ‘and let’s not talk about the time when I shit my pants at the party!’. How my wife didn’t erupt into fits of laughter I do not know. My step-daughter thinks she actually said ‘when I lost my pants’, which is to be honest, nearly as funny, but still!

To answer this question effectively, we need to go back, to a time before she was born – to the time when I first learned I was going to be a father. We’d been trying for a baby for a little while, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take for my wife to fall pregnant. Then, one evening, she took a test, and it came up as positive. Another test followed the next morning; she confirmed it – she was pregnant – I was going to be a father!

I went to work that morning in something of a daze. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to tell everyone, but of course, you can’t – so I kept my mouth shut, waiting until the twelve week scan mark. That felt like a long wait!

In fact, whilst I waited for nine months to see my little girl, it actually felt like a moment my whole life had been building up to. Sitting with my wife in the hospital as we waited, and waited, and waited for my daughter to arrive, was one of the longest days (and nights!) of my life. Then, after an eternity, one of the midwifes announced she could see the baby’s head, and at that point, I felt my control snap. Emotions hit me and hit me hard. This was the moment I would finally lay eyes on my baby.

I cried. I cried when she appeared, I cried when she let out her little cry, and when I got to hold her for the first time, telling her (as my voice threatened to crack) ‘hello, I’m your daddy’. Even as I type this, I can feel myself welling up. In that moment, my life and my world were complete. I had everything I could never want or need.

The other day I posted a call to ask me questions. Well, I already have quite a few! The first of these asks ‘how I met my wife?’

The year was 1889… actually it was July 2004. England had not long made their customary hurried exit from a major football tournament. The Cassini-Huygens probe entered orbit around Saturn. If we want to get technical, I’d started talking to the lady who would become my wife a few weeks before, online and on the phone, but I didn’t actually meet her until the 10th of July, 2004.

It was a hot day. I made my way from King’s Cross station to Fenchurch Street (previously completely unknown to me), and met her as she got off a train. Straight away I thought she was beautiful, but we were meeting as friends (in fact, the original plan was for a group meet-up via a web forum, that everyone blew out), and I wasn’t going to presume anything. I just wanted to have a nice day that would be different from the usual weekend fare, and if that led anywhere…

So, what did we do? My memories aren’t 100% anymore, but I recall visiting an art gallery, and having lunch at Planet Hollywood, which included an amazing chocolate brownie dessert thingy, that I took a photo of, and still had until recently. We wandered around Covent Garden and Leicester Square. I felt myself wanting to get to know this woman more. I was a little guarded back then – a few bad experiences made me wary of opening up – but she put me at ease. I could relax with her. By the end of the day, we were kissing, cuddling, and I knew I had to see her again. We parted ways, but that night, I could still feel her arms wrapped around me. It was the strangest sensation, the warmest and happiest feeling, and one I’d never felt before. Since then, we’ve had our ups and downs, as all couples have, but it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to marry her, even if the proposal wasn’t the most elegant proposal! I don’t remember exactly how long it had been, but I knew I wouldn’t find anyone who would understand me quite like she did.

The rest, as they say, is history! Here we are, thirteen years later, and we’ve been married for nearly eight of those. We have a beautiful daughter, a happy home, and I have found my place in this crazy world.

The final chapter of our Highlands adventure took the form of a meal at a nearby hotel, where we said fond ‘until next times’ to our loved ones. Beyond that, the day has been a quiet one – our energy is all but spent, our mood one of reflection on the week’s activities. Tomorrow is the journey home and soon, the routine of work will resume. It’s been a memorable week, crammed with various experiences, and one I shall remember with great joy and delight.