Tag Archives: London

Pottering at the Library

John and I went up to London again this past weekend, just for the day this time, to see the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at the British Library.

We had tickets for the evening but took the opportunity to spend the day kicking with Hogg before then. We met up at Fabrique, Swedish bakery next door to The Orc’s Nest which has delicious cardammon rolls. Then we did a tour of the local nerd spots; Orc’s Nest, Orbital Comics, and Forbidden Planet. At that last one they had Fred Gambino and John Harris art books on clearance for five pounds each, so we nabbed those and made our escape otherwise intact.

Hogg left us at the Library and we had just enough time to check our coats before it was our ticket time. The exhibition was a good size and explored the parallels and differences between the magic in the Potterverse and the history of magic in the real world, primarily but not exclusively in a European setting. It was divided roughly into sections focusing on objects, medicine, herbs, witches, and so on. The Potter and the other artifacts are intermingled in these sections for context, a good idea even if it was clear that for the most part the Potter parts were far more popular.

Some of the art and historical objects on display were world class; John William Waterhouse’s “The Magic Circle” for one, a favorite of mine and nice surprise. Also on display, an astonishing 16th century alchemical scroll describing the Philosopher’s Stone. The real-world artifacts range from purely fantastical to scientific, with a solid section belonging to both worlds in the form of alchemy and early science. One of my favorites there was an illustration by 18th Century naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian of a bird eating spider, which was apparently dismissed as too fantastical by the established science community when she published originally.  A nice touch as well were a handful of objects from modern practitioners, mainly from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, which looks worth a visit.

The Potter artifacts were primarily in two categories; original notes and drawings by Rowling, and Jim Kay sketches and illustrations. The former were sometimes a little overblown (did HP “change the history of publishing forever”?) but generally quite interesting and occasionally very charming,  for instance the handwritten review by 8-year old Alice Newton, daughter of the head of Bloomsbury who convinced her father to publish the first book in the series. Also nice to see were Rowling’s illustrations, which are not bad at all and show how vivid the world and characters were from the get-go. Bu the Jim Kay illustrations were probably the best part, lovely pencil sketches for the most part, standouts included a simple portrait of young Harry, a wide view of the storefronts of Diagon Alley, and a big sketch of Hagrid, whom Kay describes as his favorite subject, a “mass of scribbles with eyes”.

 

Year of the Monkey

January went by quickly but has left me in a pretty good place, with most of my settling in processes sorted out including UK banking and NHS, and with a job on the horizon. I also got my computer repaired and my room somewhat set up, and less productively played about a zillion hours of Pocket Mortys.

During the month I also got some more exploring done in Southampton and John took me to his favorite burger places, a Vietnamese restaurant with good pho in our neighborhood, and an excellent Mexican place in Portswood. We also found out that the kebab place nearest us is actually really good, which is super handy. His brother visited and I joined in a Star Wars roleplay which I admittedly didn’t hate and may even have enjoyed.

We went into London to see the Cosmonauts exhibit at the Science Museum and a recording of the John Finnemore Souvenir Programme at the BBC, both of which I really enjoyed. Later in the month we joined his family to see Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna at the Royal Albert Hall and had really good American style barbecue.

All in all well done January.

So far February is doing its level best to keep up the excitement, and not only by hitting the country with Storm Imogen. We spent this past weekend in Leicester to see some of the Leicester Comedy Festival. I really enjoyed both of the comedians I saw; Sophie Hagen and John Robertson (of Dark Room fame) and John also saw a third show on the Sunday. It was nice to spend some time in Leicester again, the city is looking great and has a few new cocktail, beer, and food places so I’m looking forward to showing people around in May.