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Harry Potter and the muggles who wouldn’t grow up

“Harry wished he had eight more eyes… There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels’ eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills, and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon….“ I was nine years old when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. It had just been awarded the Smarties prize when, as a treat, my teacher began reading it aloud to us at the end of a long day. By the time my mum came to pick me…

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A grand London day out

A few weeks ago on a Sunday evening I was feeling brave and in the mood to take a few risks, so I posted the following message on this page: “Londoners, I’m handing my day off over to you! In a bid to try and get to know the city’s nooks and crannies and places I might not otherwise have visited, I’m crowdsourcing an itinerary for the whole day. Send me to all your favourite places or any interesting spots you might know of. I’ll tweet as I go — probably looking for extra suggestions along the way — as…

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5 beautiful, remote spots where time stands still (and you can too)

When all the things that need saying have been said, and all the things that need doing have been done, where can you go to be still and quietly enjoy the lightness of just being? Here are five rustic, remote spots where you can hide away from life as you know it, and rest your eyes upon the world’s prettiest parts with nothing to distract your gaze. The Sunset Gecko, Gili Meno, Indonesia How do you like your sea? I like mine soupy and full of turtles and all different shades of turquoise. My relief on the greyest of British…

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Whistlestop Brussels: A Eurostar adventure

It took me ten minutes or so from pulling into the Gare du Midi to slip back in to my Brussels self

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Don’t you just love maps?

Back in the summer of 1939, my grandmother graduated from teacher training college, fully intending to travel the world before she settled into her teaching career. On 3 September of the same year, Britain declared war on Germany and she was sent to Blackpool to supervise evacuees. She never did fulfil her dreams of travelling, only venturing outside of Europe once – in her old age – to visit family in Canada. I have in my possession her atlas, which she acquired as a young woman in 1937, probably as a gift. I can imagine her poring over it, wondering,…

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