The Wooden Whale, and Other White Whales

Wooden Whale 1

“And this is what ye have shipped for, men! To chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out.”

I recently wrote about my long-term hunt for a green man incense burner.

In writing this, I Got To Thinking about certain other white whales I’ve pursued over the years.

Urban Dictionary defines a white whale as “something you obsess over to the point that it nearly or completely destroys you.”

Now, I wasn’t exactly obsesses with any of these things. They’re just things I was “on the lookout for” for much longer than was perhaps reasonable. I caught some of these white whales. But some are still out there, waiting to be found.

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Meet John, the Excitable Ent

Ent 2

For some years now I’ve been looking for a green man incense burner.

I saw one for sale once in that shop that sells everything in Liverpool’s Albert Dock. You know the one.

It was a beaut. It had a long root-lined tray to collect the ashes. The green man himself was a large tree stump with a face. You put the incense stick in his mouth, so it looked like he was smoking.

I didn’t buy that beaut. I saw something similar in a new age shop that existed for a short while in Belper. I didn’t buy that one either. And since then a green man incense burner has been my “white whale”. The monomaniacal hunt’s been on.

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The 5 Best Things At Glastonbury 2014

Earlier this week I got back from my sixth Glastonbury Festival.

The annual Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is a big deal for me. As I explain over on FCK LDN, I love the darn thing so much that I’ve started to feel strangely Christmassy about the whole ruddy ordeal.

Now, I’ve already done the emotional gushing over there, so I’ll use this space to list the five best things I saw at Glastonbury 2014.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should perhaps have used my own personal blog to share the above personal ruminations, instead writing this here “review” for FCK LDN. But this gloomy place has been dormant for months now, and it could do with a bit of cheering up.

So here we go. Live on Lord Gloom, a list of the five best things at Glastonbury 2014. They’re in ascending order! I think.

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Being Bleak In Whitby

Whitby Bay

Whitby! Having been told over the past few years by a few different people that I’d love it here, I was rather keen to go. The plan was to combine a trip to Whitby with a trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The plan worked! But it did involve driving from Belper to Watford. Then back to Belper. Then to Whitby. A total of nine hours or so in the car, spread across more than 12 hours, with an extended plod through an almost-overwhelming museum thrown into the middle of it all.

It was all right for me. I was a passenger; I could look out the window. But poor Alex, doing all the driving. She’s a warrior. A heroine.

As we approached the coast, a fog descended. She was driving us across unfamiliar, winding country roads. It was nearly midnight and the fog was so thick we couldn’t see a thing. Before us a sickly yellow mist. Behind us a hellish red glow, as the brake lights illuminated the impenetrable. When we got there I was knackered, so I can only imagine how past-it she was feeling. Next time you see her, buy her a pint. Or a cocktail.

There were a few more tests. The one-way system. The parking issue. The fact that we couldn’t find our accommodation. We weren’t lost per se, as we seemed to be on precisely the right street. But our accommodation simply wasn’t there. We were staying at no. 15, and the street appeared to end at no. 13. Turns out it was just around the corner, but I had to knock on a door and ask for help. Luckily a kindly old Yorkshireman pointed us in the right direction. It had seemed hopeless, but when we finally found the place, we found a complimentary bottle of wine and box of chocolates.

Things were immediately much better, but let this be a warning to the curious. If you want to go to Whitby, you might be required to pass The Test.

We passed. Just. We fell asleep almost immediately. And when we got up the next morning, we were rewarded with a beautiful bleak paradise.

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The Making of Harry Potter – Like Disneyland, But In Watford


Hogwarts Model

We went to The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Watford. It was a present for my girlfriend, who really wanted to go. Of course, I really wanted to go too, but it was only upon arriving that it sunk in just how much I care about that troubled young magician and his pet owl.

Yes, whilst there it gradually dawned on me that – holy potato – I first started reading the books when I was but 12 years old. That means that Harry Potter has been part of my life for 15 years. That’s more than half the total time I’ve been alive. No wonder I still really feel for these characters. No wonder I still find myself wishing, sometimes, that my Hogwarts letter was just lost in the post, and that the possibility still exists for me to enter Hogwarts as a mature student. You’re never too old to go to Hogwarts, are you? Are you? Are you? No.

And it’s not just me: Harry Potter truly matters for millions of people. People love this stuff. There is a passionate, dedicated fandom and, lord above, I appear to be part of it. Why else would I seriously consider spending £20 for a green t-shirt with “Wizard” written on it?

But one of the most life-affirming realisations was that J.K. Rowling has, for all these years, been one of my biggest role models. She lights the way as a writer, as a human, as a muggle. She’s a glorious product of welfare UK; a genuinely inspirational example of how to be rich without being evil. Even more heartening, though, is that she understands how much meaning she’s given to the lives of millions, yet still she appears humble, strangely down-to-earth, despite her hypercolour imagination. She always comes across as grounded, yet spellbound, as if she too is enchanted by this world she’s created.

Each of these realisations sunk in quite early on in the tour. As we were queuing, in fact. One of the first things they show you is a short film on a huge screen in which Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson speak fondly of the time spent filming these films, a time during which these studios were essentially their homes.

Having by then accepted how much this whole thing means to me, I was by that point feeling warm and fuzzy, and getting more than a little bleary eyed. But then something truly magical happened. The film ended with the three actors entering those iconic Hogwarts doors. The music swelled, and then the cinema screen began to ascend, revealing the REAL doors behind it!

There were quite a few gasps and squeals of delight. It was just like Disneyland, but in Watford.

We were then free to explore the Warner Brothers Studios at our leisure. My pithy, concise intro has been neatly wrapped up in – goodness – well under 500 words. So from now on, I’ll let the images do the talking.


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