In the Grounds of Hogwarts

Our eldest daughter was 16 years old today. Because there are only 24 hours in a day, we went out for dinner last night for her birthday to the local pub. I wondered if the entire event was going to descend into farce when we arrived – discovering the table we had booked had people sitting at it. It transpired the pub was hosting a 21st birthday party. While waiting for the table to be cleared the son of an acquaintance started stealing chairs from our table. I turned to my other half and said “I really don’t want to have this argument”, but thankfully the bar manager strode in and recovered the chairs before leading us to the table.

Moments later the door to the garden of the pub adjacent to our table broke – meaning people could only access the garden either by walking back through the pub, and through the car-park, or by shuffling between our table and the wall to another door. Guess which route people took? And guess how many of them shut the door behind them? I ordered a “big porky” burger, which appeared to be half a pig, slathered in apple sauce, in a burger bun, with a metal bucket full of fries. It sounds like a heart-attack on a plate, but it tasted good.

And no, I still haven’t been running again yet.

This morning we were all up bright and early to open presents with Miss 16. She got a random assortment of bits and pieces from family and friends, but mostly got money this time – and seemed more than happy with that. After checking her bank account after we wouldn’t let on how much we had given her, she came back downstairs looking a bit sheepish, but smiled back when I grinned at her across the kitchen.

By mid-morning we arrived at “Black Park” – and more importantly “Go Ape” – a tree-top outward bounds centre, where groups climb from tree to tree high in the canopy on a variety of rope bridges, and cargo netting. Each loop through the canopy became increasingly difficult, and ended with a zip-wire ride back down to the forest floor. We somehow managed to do three “laps” during the hour we had booked, and to be honest were worn out by the time we completed our final lap. I was surprised when I suggested to the children that we should call it a day that they agreed with me.

After handing in our safety harnesses, we grabbed a hastily prepared picnic from the car, and headed towards the lake at the centre of the woods. I had heard of Black Park before, but didn’t realise why. As we approached the water’s edge at the lake in the centre, it became obvious.

“Hang on a minute – this is familiar”

“They filmed Harry Potter here”

And looking across the water, it was obvious – there was the shoreline where Harry had conjured his Patronus… somewhere else deep in the woods a Unicorn had been slain by Voldemort. Hagrid’s cabin had stood somewhere else in the woods during filming too. I’m tempted to say that it’s a magical place, but realise how silly that sounds.

We finally wandered home mid-afternoon, and set about bringing our lives back online. Even one day out as a family gets paid for pretty horrendously – I had to immediately turn tail and go grocery shopping, the washing machine and dryer have been on non-stop, washing up after dinner took an hour, and then I had to iron clothes ready for a work trip tomorrow (I’m away for the greater part of the week again).

Tonight is all about charging things up, packing bags, and finally crashing out on the sofa to watch junk on the television (that will be me in a minute). No doubt I’ll have more adventures to write about in the coming days about lunatics on trains, and the resumption of my reclusive existence in hotel rooms.

Coffee. I need another coffee.

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