The Week of Harry Potter and Rookie Mistakes

My first week in London contains a shocking amount of Harry Potter.

Four days it’s been since I last had a second to sit and jot down my thoughts.  And now, as midnight approaches, I think it’s finally time…

Tuesday was an epic day of shopping and wandering, wherein I happened upon a hairdryer (for which I am eternally grateful) at Boots.  I meandered down Tottenham Court Road with Cherene.  We happened into Primark (huuuge clothing store) and a store called Argos.  This place is a truly fascinating concept.  It’s basically an Amazon store.  You walk in and pick a tablet.  You do all your shopping online.  And then, if they have it in the back, you go to the counter and pick it up.  If they don’t have it in the back, you come back in three hours and they hand it to you.  It’s basically online shopping in-person.  Truly fascinating.

Long story short, I purchased a coffee pot that wasn’t there, so we hopped on the bus and ventured home.

Up to that point, we’d been taking the bus practically everywhere.  Three hours later, however, upon my return to Argos, I took it upon myself to wander on foot.  (I stopped at Uni to take care of some stuff as well, like updating my address and getting a piece of paper that I need for banking…more on that later.)  I ended up wandering around SoHo/Southbank for an hour to tour the West End Theatre District and basically play “spot-the-theatre”.

Here!  Have a map of my travels!


That’s a bit over 5 miles, that.

When I walked past the HP and the Cursed Child theatre, I couldn’t help it.  I stopped in to ask about Cancellation tickets.  (The way the cancellation line works is that you line up starting at 6am the day of the show, and then if anyone cancels, they re-sell the tickets first-come, first-serve to those in line.)  Instead, I wound up walking out of the theatre with tickets to go see it on Thursday/Friday (it’s a two-part show.)  Considering this thing is sold out until the end of the year, I figure that’s not too shabby.

I meandered through Leicester Square where they were setting up for the world premiere of The Girl on the Train.  I have to constantly remind myself that I’m in a city where they DO that…so that was pretty cool.


Tuesday also saw the beginning of my issues with Amazon UK.  The long and the short of it is, I tried to order a phone and Amazon, for reasons unknown, assumed I’d been hacked.  They canceled the order (which had already been pending in my checking account.)  I emailed them and explained I hadn’t been hacked, they were just stupid, they apologized and advised I should order the phone again.  So I did–at which point, Chase saw a double charge and cancelled the order.  >_>  Irked, but understanding where Chase was coming from, I then tried to order it a THIRD time with my Citi CC rather than my debit.  Amazon canceled the order again.  Upon my anger (and admittedly, much cursing in their general direction) they “removed the hold” from my account, (Wait, WHAT?!) and advised me to order it again.  Rather than charging it a fourth time, I told them to kindly go fuck themselves and had a friend order it for me on Amazon Prime on Thursday.  It arrived a day later.  (Of those three pending charges, only one has disappeared.  The other two are still pending.)

Wednesday brought about a trip to Warner Bros studios in Leavesden to go to the Making of Harry Potter tour with GISHWHES teammate, Catherine.

This involved meeting up with Catherine in a previously agreed-upon location (as I wouldn’t have any kind of phone) and hopping on a train to Watford Junction (rather than paying $50 to take the shuttle-bus with the other HP fans in Central London).

I decided that dressing for the occasion was best.  I wore my Hufflepuff shirt and pleated skirt with my new black shoes.  In the seven minutes it took to walk from my residence hall to the train station, the shoes tore my skin off of the backs of my feet.  (This is the part where mom says, “I told you so!”)  It was so painful that I literally took a moment to praise my foresight; I stood at the base of a memorial obelisk with everyone wandering by wondering what the hell I was thinking (for the record? I was thinking, “Ow ow owww, I hate it when mom is right.”) and doing (which was changing my shoes to the flip flops I’d stowed in my backpack.)

And then Catherine walked up and we were on our way…again!


Now, Brits are huge fans of queue’s.  We ended up standing in line for about an hour total before we got into the tour.  For the record, I’m 95% certain that Maisie Williams (Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) was behind us.  And apparently I wasn’t very subtle.  The second I tried to take a selfie with her in the background, she deliberately ducked her head.  You can decide for yourself if I had my first wild celebrity sighting or not.


The tour itself was pretty wonderful.  It consisted of many sets, outfits, and props from the films themselves.  I learned about the sheer depth of the crew’s contribution, from the set-designers, makeup artists, props composers, robotic engineers, special effects contributors, all the way down to the composers.  For someone as interested in film as myself, even as one who wasn’t a large fan of the films, getting an inside look as to the process and the passion that this cast/crew had for the eight films was a sight to behold.

Also this:


At the end of the tour, I snuck around the lot and managed to get some extremely blurry photos of the set of the next film being worked on at Leavesden; Ready Player One (OMG!) directed by Steven Spielberg. I’m so freaking excited, I can’t wait.

Once back in London, Catherine and I had roughly three hours to occupy before she caught the train back to Liverpool, so we went touristing.  (I also stopped back by Uni to obtain a corrected version of my banking document because the postal code for my address was wrong…but more on that later.)  We wandered down through SoHo, Southbank, and this time, rather than turning around at Trafalgar Square, I continued on into Westminster and got my first views of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey (not pictured), the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the London Eye.  (We even passed Downing Street!)





Thursday brought responsibilities of the worst kind.  I was determined to set up a bank account (we’ve now reached the later I’ve been teasing.)  Apparently, setting up an account in the UK is infinitely harder than in the US.  Because all the International students arrive at around the same time, it is standard to set up an appointment weeks in advance in order to get a time slot to even talk to a bank.

Well, I didn’t have an appointment…I decided to wing it.  (I had actually applied on Monday evening and hadn’t heard anything back, so I decided to go harass them in person instead–because that’s just the kind of person I am.)  I’m up and at ’em, 9:30am, heading to HSBC.  I wander in, first one in the door, actually, only to discover that if I wanted to make an appointment, they could fit me in as early as 14 October.  (I’m sorry…what!?!?)  As I’m not about that life, the banker started offering alternatives.

I could stick around to see if anyone else no-showed.  I could go to a larger branch and see if they could get me in sooner.  I chose the latter and wandered 20 minutes from there (still don’t have a phone, so it really was wandering,) to find the big HSBC.  The new branch informed me that they have appointments every 30 minutes (rather than on the hour like the smaller branch,) and that if I wanted to wait, I was more than welcome to take a seat.  Fully prepared to spend the next four hours waiting for someone to no-show, I moved to sit before he stopped me and asked to see my paperwork.  “Of course, I have it!” I exclaimed, and whipped out my second copy (because the first had the wrong postal code) of my Bank Note (essentially proving I’m a student.)  There, he stopped me.  “Sorry.  We won’t be able to provide you a bank account.  Your mailing address in the US doesn’t say “United States.”  (…That’s because when you write an address, you don’t HAVE to include “United States.”)  He told me that to wait around would be wasting my time and I should come back once I had a letter that had “U” and “S” on it, but if I were to hurry back, he would still count me as first in the waiting-line.

So I turned around and walked out…straight back to campus for a third letter.  I show up at Birkbeck at 10:20 and walk over to the employee at the Help Desk to explain my dilemma.  The employee says, “I’m sorry.  I cannot help you.  But the Help Desk opens at 11 and if you want to come back then, they can print it for you,” at which point (I shit you not,) I burst into tears.  Through those tears, I explained that this was time-sensitive and that I didn’t have money or a phone and I couldn’t get either without this letter and I wouldn’t be upset if not for the fact that I’d been there twice already and that this was the third time and I had just walked 40 minutes and didn’t have the luxury of standing around waiting for them to open because the bank was holding my place in the waiting-line.  To be honest…it was one long stream of conscience.

I’m not sorry to say that he panicked.  He grabbed the paper and said, “You only need to add “US” to it, yeah?  Let me see what I can do,” and off he popped.  He returned three minutes later with the manager and a printed out copy of the letter.  As he handed it to me, his parting advice was that it was pedantic of them to require the “US” in the first place and if they didn’t accept this third copy, I should bugger off and find a more accommodating bank.  Well hell, I can do that.  Thanks, friend!

So I turned around and walked back to the large HSBC.  I wandered in at 10:45, ready to hunker in for the long haul; I was not leaving until I got a bank account.  At 10:47, Charlotte the Magnificent came over and called me back to set up an account.

…….Where’s my Staples button when I need it?

A brand-new woman emerged from that bank branch at 11:30.  I headed back to the Uni to ask about a scanner (I found a synagogue willing to give me free High Holy-day tickets if I send them a scan of my student ID) and get set up on the on-campus WiFi (which is apparently free WiFi at any campus in Europe.  So that’s nice.)

I then journeyed back to the Hall and picked up my SIM card for my new phone.  Had dinner…and then it was time for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Well, hell.  At this point, I’m an expert at navigating from my Hall to West End.  So at 6:30, I picked up and made the 30 minute hike.  I was so excited to get in and get settled…only to discover that the “partial view” that the box office employee SWORE wasn’t behind a pillar was, in fact, entirely behind a pillar.  I developed a headache attempting to see the first act (attempting being the operative word because I could see all of 15% of the stage…I’m not even exaggerating.)  Luckily, there were two empty seats next to me and, with permission, during the second act, I got to move.

A brief review for those who care. (I.E. Dad, you can skip this part… :P)

I went in with simultaneously high and low expectations.  I’ve already read the script (book) and found it kitschy.  A bit fanfic-y at parts, which lowered my expectations for the show…I already knew the plot.  (Honestly, I will admit that having read the book first made the accents a bit easier to understand.)

However, while I had pre-set conceptions from reading the script, I generally have a hard time expecting anything less than greatness when it comes to the Harry Potter fandom.

So I tentatively went to the show not really knowing how I’d feel…only to discover sheer brilliance.

Every single concern I had from the book was resolved by seeing it on stage…because the truth of the matter is…it’s NOT a book.  It is a stage show.  So much is left out of the script.  You miss out on the magic happening on stage.  You miss out on body language.  So much is missing that it made the script on its own feel fanfic-y; I didn’t get that at ALL from the show.

Draco and Scorpius are hands down the best part of the show.  Ron’s not too shabby either…

Friday began as a slow day.  I’ve been having issues going to sleep…not because of jet lag but because I make poor life decisions and stay up watching Pokemon until all hours of the night.  When I woke up Friday morning, I felt like I was dragging.  I went to breakfast with Cherene (and picked up my phone from reception! Heyoooo!  Now all I need is my debit card to arrive and then I’ll have a working communication device, say whaaaat!!!) and then came back and scurried back under the covers.  I woke up extremely disoriented at 11:30.  Eep!

Plans for the day!  People to meet!  Time to get up.  I hopped onto the Piccadilly Line from St. Pancras/King’s Cross Station (anyone who visits, if you ever want the quintessential Central London experience, ask me to take you there because holy crap…) and went southwest to Knightsbridge.  I wandered through Harrods for a bit and met up with Soraya.  I met Soraya online a few months ago on a new social media platform called Campus Society (essentially FB groups…but for university students.)  She’s a staff member with this UK-based company and when I mentioned I was moving, she invited me for a visit to introduce me to the start-up team.

This lunch visit in Hyde Park culminated in a hint of a job offer–if I want to get more involved on the site.  While I definitely wouldn’t mind the time it would fill in my light school schedule, it’s not exactly in the field I’m looking to get into and I haven’t yet spoken to a single advisor about what shape my work placement will take during my third term.  As an international student on a visa, I’m only allowed to work 20 hours a week; I don’t know the long-term ramifications of taking a job now.  If taking this position would mean I couldn’t do a work placement in my career field, then I think the answer is obvious.  However, if I could maybe work for Campus Society until my third term and then take a step back to allow the work placement to take priority, I think that could work.  I simply don’t know.

I’m gracious of the offer (and told them so) but I also mentioned I’d think about it (and talk it over with someone at the school) and let them know.

After this impromptu job interview, I wandered through down the street, adjacent to Hyde Park, and found the free-to-enter Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).  After spending some time there (and making Jacob extremely jealous in the process,) I returned to Garden Halls to get ready for tonight’s performance of HP and the Cursed Child: Part 2.

This time, I wandered down there taking a different route and still didn’t manage to get lost.  I really think I’m getting the hang of this.  At least…in this particular part of London.

Also, I’m averaging 7 miles a day.  If I don’t see a visible loss of some weight this year, I will shoot someone.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that does bring us up to the present.

This blog post is the result of my father complaining that the last post was too long and nerdy.  So dad, this one’s for you.  Longer and nerdier…because I love you.


Coming Up Next…

  • Shabbat services maybe?
  • BFI London Film Festival.
  • Awaiting the arrival of the debit card.
  • Nearly five days with no concrete plans.

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

2 thoughts on “The Week of Harry Potter and Rookie Mistakes”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s