Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Spoiler-free!)

Let me paint you a picture. It's November 2015 and I am on holiday in Florence. Over breakfast one morning my friend asks me if I've bought tickets to go see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child yet. 'No', I say, 'is it hard to get tickets?'.

When my friend eventually stopped laughing, I went back to my hotel room, fired up my iPad and commenced the search for tickets. I wasn't in any great rush, and when I saw tickets were available around my birthday, I bought them.

Oh, not for my birthday 2016. Hell no. We're talking 2017. This years birthday celebration was 15 months in the making. 

And so, for my 38th birthday, I went to go see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, parts one & two. Part one on Thursday night and part two on Friday night.

I'm not a monster, so this post is totally spoiler-free, what I am going to do is give you some tips for when you go see the plays, because you should do. If you're a Potter nerd, you have to. You know when you went to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the cinema last year and you felt like you got a big hug because you'd missed this world so much? It's that but with thousands of other people in the room, sat next to you, happy to start conversations about the Potter fandom and what house you got sorted into. It's like a convention in a theatre.

(EDIT: Oh god, this was such a good birthday treat, thorough pat on the back for 2015 Alex.)

Having spoken to a couple of people who have already seen the play, I knew the basics. Arrive early, you will need to be in your seat 15 minutes before curtain up and if you want merch, get there early. However, I'm going to expand on all these points because there's a bit more to it than that. 

Arrive Early 

Doors open at 6.30pm but you can start queuing to get in the doors from around 5.45pm. The queue will run down the right hand side as you look at the front of the theatre. Handily, there are two pubs opposite the theatre (The Cambridge and The Spice of Life), I recommend The Spice of Life as you can look out of the window and wait to see the queue forming before leaving your pint and joining the queue. They also do really nice food in there and the ladies toilets are next to the side door, which exits right into the theatre queue (also useful if you're in the queue and desperate to pee). The doors will not open until 6.30pm though, and only half the queue is under the cover of the theatre awnings, so bear that in mind if England is being English with the weather and it's chucking it down with rain.


This is why you're queuing. You cannot set foot in the theatre without a ticket because the first thing you see is merchandise and the merch contains spoilers. Parts one & two both have different merch and they're only for sale during each of the relevant parts. So if you spot something you want for Part one,  BUY IT. By the time Part two happens, it won't be there (yes, even if you see both plays on the same day, you have to leave the theatre between shows and the merch switches). Merch is also on limited quantities to what is there in the shop on the day, so when it's gone, you've missed your chance. I was in the first 15 people in the doors each day and therefore had no trouble getting what I wanted to buy, but things go fast. By the time the play is over, it's slim pickings. 

Also, some tills are cash only, so make sure you ask before you get things rung through. 

You also can get one of these badges as you leave the theatre, they're free and only available at the end of Part One, so make sure you look for the people with the baskets as you're leaving through the main doors.

In addition, programmes are a very reasonable £5.

Make Friends

Everyone is excited as you are so it's easy to strike up a conversation with the people around you. I was sat next to two ladies on holiday from California and Virgina, one of which was there for her birthday celebration (because all be best people are born in March, obvs), and sat behind a mum and daughter on Spring Break from Florida. If they've bought tickets the same way you have, you'll be sat with them for 6 or so hours that day, or you'll be seeing them again tomorrow night, so have a chat. Actually, do this in the queue as well. I spoke to many tourists from the US that were under the impression that the Studio Tours in Watford were 4 hours away and had decided not to go based on that bad information. (Note: it takes 25 minutes to get to Watford Junction from London Euston and the bus to get to the Studios is free from there, and only takes about 15-20 minutes, it's easily doable in a day from anywhere in London, please don't miss out!)  

Go to the Stage Door afterwards

It always seems strange to me that stage doors for shows in London can be so quiet when there's no big names in the production. Not only is this a great way to meet the cast and get your programme signed, it's a great opportunity to tell the cast how much you enjoyed the show, which I'm sure they never tire of hearing.

The guy playing Albus was the most enthusiastic stage-door-signer ever, when I told him how much I enjoyed the plays and it must be the best job he could have he responded with 'I get to be a wizard every time, my job is great!'. Right on. 

Some of the cast will do selfies, some won't. I'm more of an autograph and a chat gal, anyway. I told the actor playing Hermione that she was my new favourite Hermione and she genuinely lit up. This cast love their job; if you get chance go tell them what you thought of the show, they seems genuinely happy to stand and sign, chat and pose for selfies for as long as they are able to.

The House of MinaLima

Word is slowly spreading about this little place on Greek Street (just behind the theatre), which is an exhibition and shop of the graphic art of the Harry Potter films. Free entry, anyone can wonder in and you will want to wander in as it's so colourful. You know the Marauders Map? These are the folks who designed it. 

It's a nice stop off point if you want something to do between the shows if you're seeing them all on one day, or I went in the afternoon on Friday to get me in the mood. 

It's open from 12pm to 7pm every day. Even if you're just in London for a jolly, go and have a look around.

It's also right next door to Maison Bertaux, who do most excellent tea and cakes. 


Unless you manage to get some on release, you might have some trouble here. There's a returns queue that you can join at the theatre on the day that allocate returns on a first come-first served basis but you will pay face value for them. Remember the birthday holiday ladies from the US? They paid £400 for their tickets for the two nights. If you want them, you can get them, but my gosh, you will pay for them.

But there's also the Friday Forty lottery, which is helpful if you're a little more flexible. Every Friday at 1pm, the website release 40 tickets for every performance over the following week at £40 (£20 per part). You're limited to buying two, and you can only buy them on the website on Fridays at 1pm. It's worth bookmarking this link if you want to have a go at this.

Honestly, I waited 15 months to see these plays and I didn't mind at all. It was worth it. 

Obviously, I had a great time seeing these shows and loved them. The only way I've been able to describe them to people is it's like watching brilliant West End Theatre with Vegas-level magic making it happen in front of you. It can't be explained well and it can't be imagined (albeit we all tried when reading the script but nope, you can't). The cast are all wonderful, the production is incredible and it was worth every penny and every day of waiting. 

No spoilers, as agreed, but I'll tell you one thing, and it's something I never thought I'd say ... 

... I frigging love the Malfoys. 

View Post

The March Round-Up

Birthday month is always a busy one, and this one was no exception!

Born on St. Patrick's Day, therefore Guinness is a birthday essential

It started well enough, with a visit to the Beavertown tap room to drink a lot of their beers with my friends (after a hard morning of nerding in Forbidden Planet with the girls):

I can't help but think that putting the Untappd app on my phone has made drinking beer a bit like a game of Pokemon now. 

I went to the Women of the World festival, to see Queen Gillian, which I told you all about in this post. 

I went to see the brilliant Pippa Evans at Soho Theatre, who was amazing. She's very funny, very quick, very musical  and very British. 

The day after I went to breakfast club at Ping Coombe's restaurant Chi Kitchen

I've developed a heavy addiction to Malaysian sweet coffee after that brunch. 

I started #BirthdayWeek at Book Slam at the Wellcome Collection

I bought myself Elements of the Periodic Table Top Trumps that night. Taking my gaming to a whole new level of nerd. 

I visited to Royal Academy of Arts to see the America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930's exhibit, because I love me some Edward Hopper and I wanted to finally see this Grant Wood piece:

When I was in Chicago in 2014 it was on loan, so I soon as I discovered it was in London I ran to see it. 

I saw Derren Brown's new-ish show, which is a bit of a mash-up of his previous UK shows, as he's cultivating a show to take to the US next month: 

And, most importantly, I finally got to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2.

I've got a whole post coming dedicated to this, which will contain NO SPOILERS, so look out for that next month.

I got SO MANY amazing birthday gifts. I had TWO signed books gifted to me (Buzz Aldrin and Kevin Smith), I got twinkly lights, tshirts, jewellery with stars on, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and graphic novels about physicists. I can't believe how lucky I was to get so many 'me' things. My friends know me incredibly well.

Honourable mention for my OHP birthday card. This is what happens when you go see Festival of the Spoken Nerd, your friend (Martin) mentions that he still has an OHP and you decide to lay down a gauntlet for a birthday card to be created for you (when will my friends learn that if you give in to my requests you enable my behaviour further?)

After birthday, things calmed down a bit. I did some catch ups with friends that I've not seen for a few months, went on a team night out with work to a Brazilian rodizio (and felt so full that eating went out of the window for a couple of days afterwards) and went to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey again, as it needed a second watch on a big screen (and it was even better than the first). 

I've been doing great swims and lots of cycles (maximising the lack of gym membership spending). Now the evenings are lighter I'm hoping to get out on Pendletonpops (yes, my bike has a name) a lot more, weather permitting.

I seem to have gained my road confidence back and my cycling distances have been slowly creeping up. Swimming is going great guns, I'll be swimming a mile per session before I know it! 

March has flown by. I can see why but I'm never surprised when it does. I love March. I love my birthday, I love the clocks changing, I love the daylight and the sunshine, I love filling my home with daffodils, I love thinking about the summer ahead and all things coming up this year.

Looking ahead to April is exciting because I've given myself an extended Easter break this year, with six whole days off, WOOHOO! I've got Secret Cinema's Moulin Rouge to look forward to (and a costume to finish), a Doctor Who BFI event before the new series airs, Yuri's Night celebrations and more theatre. And Malteser Bunnies, obvs. 

View Post

Self-Love with Songs

Achieving self-love is a hard concept if you've never dared to try it, and there's no set method of getting there. However, in the spirit of sharing a lot of my journey in previous posts, I thought I'd share one of the strange-yet-successful methods that I found.


I discovered it by accident and it's something very personal to the type of person I am as I'm very noise orientated. It's self-love with the use of songs.

I've always been more aural than visual when it comes to entertainment. Not that I don't love art and books (and House of Cards on Netflix) but at home (or anywhere for that matter) I spend the majority of my free time listening to music or podcasts. Aural adds to visual, even the Night Tube can feel a bit magical provided you're listening to something which makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

For younger readers, this is a cassette which holds a groundbreaking 90 MINUTES of music

This discovery was accidental. It was during one of my lunchtime walks last summer and a song shuffled on to Spotify. It was Clean Bandit's Rather Be.

I love this song. I love the sentiment behind this song, as I had no one particular in mind when I was singing it, I realised I was singing it to myself.

Have you ever tried singing a love song to yourself? I found it disgustingly hard. Despite battling with disordered eating and negative body image for years, it's been a long time since I said terrible things about myself. I wasn't even one of those people who said awful things about themselves when they looked in the mirror (I quite like my thighs, actually). However, singing something to myself, especially a love song, felt alien. Aren't these songs meant to be for someone else? Someone who inspired the writer so much that the muse brought the lyrics into their brain? Someone who they worship for all they do for them? Someone who is a constant companion? Someone who they can't live without? 

'When I am with you there's no place I'd rather be ...'

That's me! I'm that. I'm all those things to myself. I genuinely would prefer my own company to that of most people on the earth, too (small handful of exceptions apply).

Suddenly silly love songs (romance quota = zero) seemed to have a whole new meaning and yet I also understood what people were singing about all those years, Maybe that's not the intended purpose for the song but if something so simple and easily accessible can be used to help heal? Spotify, take my money!

It obviously won't work for every song. For example I think the most romantic song in the world ever is John Denver's Annie's Song; that's one I see as intended for another, so I can't work with that. Fleetwood Mac's Everywhere works a treat (and makes me really happy, as it's one of my favourite songs). 

Okay, it's a bit weird but for me this worked and still works. Singing nice things to myself is on par with standing in the mirror, looking at your reflection and saying nice things to yourself (and it makes that easier too). 

Self-love is something very personal and can seem like the easiest or hardest thing in the world to achieve depending on how you treat yourself. Healing is not linear. However, next time a silly love song comes on and you want to skip past it, try thinking about saying those things to yourself and why you deserve to hear them. 

Because hanging out with yourself can be pretty awesome, as you're pretty awesome to hang out with.

View Post

WE: Gillian Anderson & Jennifer Nadel

Last week was the Women of the World Festival in London, an event which champions gender equality, celebrating the achievements of women and girls everywhere and examining the obstacles that keep them from fulfilling their potential.

Women of the World Festival 2017

I was new to the festival last year, when I went along to see Caitlin Moran launch Moranifesto on IWD, so as soon as the festival was announced for this year I had a good browse of the brochure to decide which event I wanted to go to. 

Of course, as soon as I saw this book launch announced, my tickets were purchased. 

WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is an uplifting, inspirational, and intensely practical manual for change, providing nine universal principles that offer a path for dealing with life's inevitable emotional and spiritual challenges. It's for anyone who wants to see her own life and the world around her change for the better.

By combining tools that are psychological, political and spiritual, WE takes readers on a life-changing journey. It asks: Why are so many of us—and our daughters—still, in the 21st century, locked in depression and addiction, self-criticism, and even self-harm? How much more effective and powerful would we all be if we replaced our current patterns of competition, criticism, and comparison with collaboration, cooperation, and compassion?

Putting these principles at the center of our lives offers an antidote to our me-first culture and allows each of us to be freer and happier, and to replace unhelpful habits with a more positive, peaceful, and rewarding way of living. WE is a rallying cry for women to join together and create lasting change in our own lives, our communities, and across the world.

Authored by ... Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel.

Gillian Anderson Jennifer Nadel

Empowerment with a hint of woo? Sign me up. 

I'll fully admit I came into this with my Gillian Anderson fangirl flag waving. I love this woman and have done since I was 15 years old. She's one I've grown up with; from Agent Scully to DSI Stella Gibson, Gillian has championed strong female roles in her TV work, and in all her work -  if you caught her in A Streetcar Named Desire you'll wonder how she didn't win all the awards for that performance, it was incredibly powerful. She's involved with a fleet of charities and is a fierce advocate for getting involved in volunteering. 

Jennifer I knew very little about until I bought tickets for this event, but a bit of research soon rectified this. A journalist, writer, environmental activist, a Green Party member and champion for women's rights. A decade long friendship between these two women had to lead to something incredible and WE seems to be it. 

The ladies, along with Jude Kelly, spoke to a 2000 strong audience at the Royal Festival Hall for an hour, explaining their motivation behind creating the book. Jennifer described it as the book needed before things got too much in your life; both her and Gillian answered very candidly questions about their difficulties in life and they put so much emphasis on self-love and the need to be kinder and more accepting of ourselves in order to be of use to others in life, something I'm fully onboard with.

After a good half an hour of questions from the audience, both kindly took up residence in one of the conference rooms and signed copies of the book.

Gillian Anderson Jennifer Nadel Book Signing

It was great evening listening to other women say that sometimes they struggle too, which shouldn't have to be said to glean understanding, but at the same time it's nice to hear it. It's comforting and reassuring to see that even someone who you can admire so much that they seem beyond your realm is just as human as you are.

I left very keen to read my copy, I think it's going to be a very useful book to have in the world.

Gillian Anderson Jennifer Nadel WE Women Signed Copy

View Post

The February Round-Up

February over and done with. Hooray and BYE. Spring, I am ready for you.

I mean, it's not as bad as January, but it's not as good March. Thankfully February IS short, so it's done with before you can really get ticked off about it.

I started the month like this:

I needed a weekend at home to clean up the place and not talk to anyone for a couple of days. Those introvert resets are so blissful and result in a lot of sleep.

And beer, because at the end of January I treated myself to a big box of Brewdog. Gotta keep my investment going! 

Once again, my month went a bit crackers after that. I went to watch This House at the Garrick Theatre. I love a good political comedy drama and this one has the best set design - it's like having Westminster on the stage, you can even sit in the seats ON the stage and use the Westminster bar during the interval. I'm able to laugh at politics again, which is a good sign that I've managed to distance myself from the screaming chaos that is UK and US Governments right now however watching UK politics from the 1970's; discussing devolution of Scotland and leaving the EU filled me with a little despair. Don't things ever change? I mean, yes, they do - in the 1970's at least the opposition parties worked ...

I went to see Richard Herring at Leicester Square Theatre do a mash-up of work from his last 10 years of Edinburgh shows, which was great value for money.

As part of my 2017 goals, I wanted to get more involved with causes I believe in and I went to my first demo with the Sister Supporter team this month. This is a group who demo outside the local Marie Stopes clinic to drowned out the religious vigil that stand outside it every day and have the audacity to judge women for having autonomy over their own bodies. I've watched them do this for the 10 years that I've lived in my borough and it makes my blood boil. So, when I discovered this group I couldn't wait to get over there and support women. There's no legal buffer zones outside clinic to prevent women being harassed by religious groups and Sister Supporter are actively campaigning to the Government to discuss this. 

My friend Keira cooked me the most amazing dinner. Fois gras, pasta, a pancake stack and loads of wine? Yes please!

And finally my friend Emily came to stay. I hadn't seen Emily since she before she left for Australia last January, so we were well overdue some cocktails and catch-ups (we had 16 hours of both, that led to a fierce hangover!)

I watched a couple of films this month. Arrival was one I missed the first time around but it appeared at my beloved Prince Charles Cinema, so I went along to see that with Martin and a ton of Maltesters. I really enjoyed it. There's a lack of smart sci-fi around which involves alien life (why does everyone assume they'd be hostile and looking for a gun fight?) and as the premise of this film was based in linguistics it really intrigued me and I wasn't disappointed. It's one I will be rewatching. 

T2: Trainspotting was an absolute delight. I cackled so much when I watched this film. It was so good to see the cast back together and I loved the plot of the film. Well worth the wait for a sequel so well done. 

Aside from making sure I keep a clear weekend to myself this month, my 2017 goals continue:  my swimming has been going well:

I'm enjoying my Great Barrier Reef challenge on SwimIO and can easily cover well over half a mile in 30 minutes, it's crazy how much my fitness has improved over 7 weeks. 

Oh, and I bought myself a bike as an early birthday present.

I can't wait to get out and about on this more during the warmer months. I've not owned a bike for well over a decade, so I've got to start slowly, getting my road confidence back up. Between the swimming and this my gym membership has been binned off, less outgoings mean more cash in the fun savings account.

March is a busy month because it's birthday month! My long wait to see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child is almost over. We also get International Women's Day, which I'll be celebrating by going to a book launch by someone I'm very excited to hear speak about feminism, I'm going to see some magic, I'm going to eat some cake, I'm going to do celebratory drinking. It's already looking like another great birthday.

The final thing I have to mention this month is the new addition to our knowledge of exoplanets; the Trappist-1 planetary system.

source: NASA


This might be the most exciting thing discovered in my lifetime. Seven planets orbiting a star and three in the Goldilocks zone. I cannot wait to find out more about this system, the planets within it and whatever those planets may be home host to. Life just got a little more sci-fi and a lot more exciting.
View Post

My 23andMe

Ever the science geek, last year I ordered a DNA collection kit from 23andMe.

23andMe review + results

After having a chat with someone who had done one of these, and hearing about the information you can get from them, I decided to treat myself to a kit. They currently vary in price (running from £125-£140 depending on where you buy it) and to some that might seem like a massive outlay, but this is an actual breakdown of your DNA, so to me it's worth the outlay. Tests like this would not have been on the market at all a few decades ago, and back in 2007 in the US this test cost $10,000. Only £140 for genotyping? Shut up and take my money. 

My primary interest was my ancestry, and seeing where my DNA has been over the years geographically, but the added extras of health information (in case I fancy a bit of biohacking) and the ability to search for other people with DNA matches was a bonus.

In brief; a kit arrives in the post, you spit into a tube, seal it up and send it back in the box. Then you wait patiently a good 8 weeks for your results ready email to drop into your inbox.

The Ancestry wasn't that thrilling for me as I expected, it was almost as I had predicted:

23andMe review + ancestry

I am so very British and Irish. With a drop of Scandi, French and German. With hints of Italian. And North African (?!). I think I'd show more Scandi if they could have some male family DNA to play with (so I might be buying my brother one of these kits for Christmas), given my ancestors are Danish Vikings, my original surname is of Danish origin and I am very, very blonde.

23andMe review + health data

Oh, and I'm a smidge more Neanderthal than average too. Explains my massive brow bone that my mum keeps kindly pointing out to me.

There's also the maternal haplogroup information, which will tell you which major branch of the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree you fell off. Mine's the same one as Marie Antoinette and Prince Philip. All well and good (and I could have a Danny Dyer moment about this) but once you've been to a lecture on genetics by Adam Rutherford (thank you Brian & Robin's Christmas Compendium of Reason), that gets slapped out of you. Doesn't mean I won't be attempting to perfect my Claire Foy in The Crown impressions, though.

What I really enjoy in this section is the ability to search for people with the same DNA as you. There's so many! I currently have 706 matches for various segments of my DNA, which is lovely as it makes me realise that we're pretty special and unique to ourselves, but share so much with other people out there in the world. How wonderful. You can reach out and ask these people to share their details with you (health, not personal), see their maternal haplogroup and see how connected you are (so far I've found no one higher than a 3rd cousin, but you never know, we're a big family and a broach church).

Anyway, onto the health information, this is what I really enjoyed looking through and reading about. It's broken into a few different sections, as outlined below.

Genetic Risk Factors with contains locked results for Alzheimer's, Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, Parkinson's and open results for other things like cardiomyopathy and thrombophilia. The locked results you just have to re-enter your password to unlock. I'm of the mind that if the tests are done, the information is there and I've paid for it, I'd want to know it, so I unlocked mine immediately. There was nothing controversial on mine, but if you have a good grasp of your family medical history, you'd be aware of any red flags in advance.

Drug Response to popular medications, like Warfarin, Hepatitis C meds, Statins and so forth. I have a fast response to PPI drugs (as I have a bit of a fast metabolism) which means I'd need to have a higher dose (or a different drug) to have an effect. It's also an idea for me to stay away from Statins as I'm at risk of myopathy from them (remind me to keep an eye on my cholesterol!).

Inherited Conditions. These will simply display in two ways: Variant Absent or Variant Present. These conditions are recessive, meaning that they only occur when you have two variants for that condition, one inherited from each parent. One variant makes me a 'carrier', which has no effect on me directly, but if I was considering procreating, the father of my children would need some tests too. The big red flag for me was for a type Muscular Dystrophy, which I am a carrier for, and therefore could have repercussions if I was baby inclined.

Traits. These are fun bits. It can have a go at predicting basic things like hair and eye colour (both correct), lactose intolerance, norovirus resistance, alcohol flush response, if you're likely to be an addicted smoker. The bio-hacks kick in here too, as the results can look at muscle performance (so if you're like me you're a better sprinter than distance runner), how you metabolise caffeine (fast), if you're like to be obese (nope), when you're likely to hit menopause (early), response to diet (fats have little effect on my BMI) and how you respond to exercise (no change in my glucose tolerance, increased insulin sensitivity and that low-impact cardio is the best way for me to lose weight). It's not concrete and a lot of it is research-based but they're quite interesting little bio-hacks. 

The information is constantly updated with new discoveries and scientific information, more people taking tests and sharing their DNA, so even after digesting your results it's worth having a log back in to your profile in a month or so to see what's been happening and who has got in touch.

Is it worth the money? That depends on what you want. As a bit of a nerd who likes science and stats, I get a lot from this (you have access to your raw data, which you can run through various websites to get some further information and explanations about gene mutations). It's also a mild pyramid scheme as a few of my friends have followed suit and done these tests (so we nerd out over the data together) and as I said earlier, because I'm curious about my paternal line I now need to buy a kit for my brother to have a go as well.

The big thing to me about such tests being available to the masses is where this kind of thing could go next; besides biohacking for health and fitness purposes, such easy DNA collection could make for easier diagnosis of conditions, advanced health warnings from home (to avoid having to queue at the doctors to see if your sickness is viral or bacterial and so on). In this form it's far from perfect but it makes me a little excited about what the future might hold for this type of testing and if it's this easy now, what's next on the commercial market?

Basically, if this kind of thing interests you and you like to science for fun, it's worth the money.

View Post
Previous PostOlder Posts Home