People ask us what it was like to cross the Atlantic on a sailboat. I tell them it was everything you’d think it would be. It was inching speed for two-thousand miles. It was travelling with every licking, salty wave. Flying fish hitting you in the chest. We’d find them dried up in the mornings, dotted around the boat – like sardines with wings.
There was the occasional drama. A rogue wave hit us one afternoon while we were frying fish for lunch. We were halfway across. The girls slid down Quest’s cockpit, bouncing back by their harnesses. They kneaded bread flour in the mornings – their main task – and slowed down for the rest of the day.
Strangely, a lot of things did happen during our three-week crossing that stuck for years afterwards. The first one was Delph’s Barbie love. I’d bought little presents for the milestone marks of the crossing – split into four. Halfway across the Atlantic, I gave Delphine her first Skipper doll. She and Lulu went below and played.
The second thing was Harry Potter. Audible convinced me to subscribe before we left the Canary Islands, so I invested in hundreds of hours of Harry Potter, read by Stephen Fry. Lulu had finished reading HP sailing down the Portuguese coast. I’d read the first three books aloud to Delphine but, as JK Rowling’s book sizes increased, my desire to continue went the other way. Oh well – Stephen Fry could do it much better than me I thought.
And he did. Delphine was hooked. Lulu listened too. We listened to Stephen Fry’s voice all across the Atlantic. Each book being around thirty-two hours long, the Atlantic Ocean was subject to Harry Potter’s struggle of being the chosen child. Or the cursed one. The balance shifted almost as much as Quest did.
This meant that the first time we came home, almost a year later, we headed straight for the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour. My mum had to buy tour bus tickets. They were the only available ones. If you want to buy tickets directly from the studios, you have to buy them months in advance. At Christmas, when Delphine said she’d like to go again for her birthday, I bought tickets – for Easter. Even then, they were being sold out in front of my eyes. Easter Monday was the closest I could get.
That’s why we were in the car just after 8am yesterday morning. An hour later, the studio parking attendants waved us through. Everyone was smiling.
‘They’ll be 6,500 thousand people coming here today,’ Veronica, the French ticket lady said as I picked our tickets up. A lot of the staff were either not British or had a host of different language speaker flags pinned to their shirts. Indeed, it seemed there were more European voices milling around us than British accents.
We took a collective breath in when we walked into the studios. The huge dragon from the Gringott’s bank break in Deathly Hallows I hangs from the lobby ceiling. You can see why this place is popular with pilgrimage-ready Europeans.
The main thrust of this place is craftsmanship. The artistry that went into making the Harry Potter movies is almost unbelievable. The process of creating this world from beginning to end. With the generous budget Warner Bros provided, artists, engineers and craftsmen truly let loose. And now, after the movies are long done (the Fantastic Beasts franchise making a noticeably unnoticeable impact here), the preservation of costumes, masks, special effects, props of every kind and scenery is an amazing opportunity to appreciate this process. And for us to remember every licking, salty wave.