Month: February 2022

Visiting London and Wales

Not long after we got to Munich, I saw an ad on Facebook for the West End theatrical production of Neil Gaiman’s book The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I bought the book back in 2014 and we both read it and loved it. I knew that the play had received rave reviews when it opened at the National Theatre a few years back, and it seemed like a great opportunity for a trip back to London to reunite with some of our friends. I decided to play it very safe and buy tickets for a full year in the future, hoping that by then we’d be able to safely travel there and see it. I splurged and got really nice tickets for November 2021 (for our wedding anniversary), and we booked our flights and hoped things would work out. Thankfully, for the most part it did!

Flying to London

The UK had famously dropped most Covid restrictions by the end of 2021, and Omicron hadn’t yet hit. We still had to show our vaccination passes, and there was a requirement that visitors had to take a Covid test within 2 days of arriving. We pre-booked our tests for pickup at the airport and managed to collect them in Heathrow without too much trouble. We caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then walked to our hotel, the Park Grand Lancaster Gate.

My old house

We deliberately chose the hotel because it was so close to where we had both first lived in London. In fact, it was just up the street from where I had lived as a student (and later RA) for the Notre Dame London Program. The old digs had been done up a bit posher than I remembered.

Leinster Arms

This was an incredibly special place to visit – The Leinster Arms. This was my local pub as a student, and it’s where I had my first ever pint in London. I spent so many hours (and quid!) there with my friends when I was a student. I used to have dreams where I was back in this pub. We went straight there, and I was shocked to see how upmarket it is these days. (The London in my mind is perpetually 1999.) It was clean and refurbished, and full of nice-looking couples (rather than feral uni students). My beloved dartboard was gone (as was the dodgy jukebox – which had been affixed to the wall right behind where I’m standing here), but on the upside, the taps were full of local craft brews.

Leinster Arms

The bartender kindly let us know that a table had opened up in the front room, so we finished our beers there. We were about six feet from the spot where we had one of our first dates, nearly 22 years before! Most of the patrons were watching a rugby game on TV – Australia vs. England. “Do you think I’ll get beat up if I cheer for Australia?” the Snook asked. “Best not risk it.”

We walked over to Queensway to check out the neighbourhood, and I was sad to see that the Gooch (another pub) had closed since we last visited in 2016. The Snook was reminiscing about his first address in London, a dodgy backpackers nearby that he had stayed in with his mate Steve. Queensway wasn’t quite as feral as we remembered, and many of the tourist shops seemed to be gone. Whiteleys (the shopping center) is undergoing some massive refurbishment. Queensway Tube Station felt the same as always though, with that weird elevator entrance, but it was nice to be able to swipe in/out with my iPhone. We caught the Central line to Tottenham Court Road as we had a very special person to meet…


Alex! He looks exactly the same, though the salt-and-pepper hair is all white these days. We both met Alex at the same time when was assigned to the “” team with us back in 1999, and he eventually ended up rooming with Rodd in Harlesden before the three of us got a share house in Hammersmith. Now he’s married with a wife and kids out in the suburbs, but he kindly came in to town for a bit of a pub crawl with us…

Covent Garden

We spent a few hours together getting reacquainted with Soho, Covent Garden, and Seven Dials. It all felt very Christmassy and festive. The number of people out and about was truly shocking through. Not just in a “don’t they know there’s a pandemic happening?” kind of way, but in a “this is way more people than I ever remember seeing here on a random Friday night before” way. And what’s with the “pedi-cabs” in London these days? There were heaps of bicycle taxis decked out with lights blaring doof-doof music at every turn.


We ended the night as one usually does, having a late night feed in Chinatown. The food and the company were excellent.

Picadilly Circus

We parted from Alex at Picadilly Circus at midnight. It was so lovely to see him. ❤️


We walked back up Regent Street, peeking in the shop windows. Hamleys had a lovely Harry Potter themed display set up! We finally caught a taxi back to our hotel before retiring for the night.

Full English

We were both feeling a bit seedy the next day after such a big night, so there was only one thing for it – a full English breakfast. We found Sheila’s Cafe nearby that more than did the trick. Once fortified, we headed back towards Covent Garden for our next rendezvous…


Steve! This is the Aussie who dragged Rodd to London in the first place, who crashed with him in the dodgy backpackers and then in the bedsit in Harlesden, and who we once memorably visited while he was bartending at a remote hotel on Loch Lomond. Steve and his wife Kate have been living with their kids in England for many years now, so it was a real treat to get to catch up with him. ❤️ And then a few hours later it was time for…


Ben! Aka Wee Ben, aka the Ferret. Ben is actually the reason I have this silly domain name in the first place, as he first dubbed me the “web goddess” (in a thick Glaswegian accent) way back in 2000. He looks exactly the same. We tramped around the city with him and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. He and Rodd reminisced about visiting dodgy computer markets together. It was nice. ❤️

London Transport

Honestly, I love the Tube. It’s always filthy and you wonder how this Victorian marvel keeps hanging in there, but I love it.

Hyde Park

The next morning we headed out for a walk through Hyde Park. I was looking for a very particular bench dedicated to Rudolf Steiner near the Serpentine. It was a spot that I had loved visiting as a student, and Rodd and I once had a picnic on the grass nearby not long after we started dating. (We found the bench. He’s still just as cute.)

The Arch by Henry Moore

“The Arch” by Henry Moore. We both remembered seeing the large version in Columbus, Indiana when we visited in 2019, but neither of us remembered this one in London. (Turns out it’s because it was taken down in 1996 and only put back up in 2012.)

Horse Guards

As we neared the Serpentine Bridge, we heard the sound of hooves. It was a long mounted horse guard trooping past! No idea why, but it was fun to watch.

Albert Memorial

We exited the park near the Royal Albert Hall, stopping to check out the Albert Memorial. After the West End crowds on the weekend, the park felt strangely empty of tourists.

City of Westminster

We headed to the nearest Tube Station and headed towards the City of London, where we split up for a few hours.

Lunch with the girls

I had a boozy lunch with my AWS colleagues Iliyana and Isabel…

St. Paul's Cathedral

…and then swung past St. Paul’s on my way towards the river.

Millennium Bridge

I crossed the Thames at the Millennium Bridge. (It’s nice that they repaired it after the Death Eaters destroyed it!)

Looking east on the Thames

Looking east, I could see all the way to Tower Bridge, with the massive Shard dominating the skyline.

Tate Modern

My destination was just on the other side of the river though – the Tate Modern.

Mr. Snook

And there, waiting on the Thames foreshore, was a very smartly dressed Mr. Snook…

Beard shaping

…who had been off having some manscaping done at a posh Bankside barber. Look at that beard shaping! 😍

Time to go see some art.

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With great power comes great responsibility…

Oscar Contest 2022

The fourteenth (semi-)annual Web-Goddess Oscar Contest has officially launched! 🎉 And this year you can win your very own set of Spider-Monkeys so you can act out scenes from No Way Home (or the meme!)


Each is crafted from a pair of Spider-Man socks, with felt eyes appliquéd. See? They’re very similar, but all slightly different. You can call them Peter 1, Peter 2, and Peter 3 if you like. (They’re a bit simpler than my original idea, but it turns out that the only person that wants a dirty, sexually repressed, toxically masculine Benedict Cumbermonkey is me.)

Entries are now closed!

The 2022 Academy Awards happen on Sunday, March 27th (California time), which is like 2am here. So I’ll cut off entries a few hours beforehand when I go to bed, and you’ll have to wait until I get up in the morning to find out who won!


Web-Goddess Oscar Contest Sock Monkey History

Nineteen years ago, I thought it would be fun to run a contest and give away a sock monkey. I then kept that up for 10 years running, and you can see the history of my creations below. These days I only do it when the inspiration strikes…

2022 – Spider-Monkeys
2021 – Schitt’s Creek Sock Monkeys
2019 – Freddie Monkcury
2013 – The Avenger Monkeys
2012 – The Monkey with the Dragon Tattoo
2011 – Black Swan and White Swan ballerina monkeys
2010 – Sparkly Emo Vampire Sockmonkey playset
2009 – Batman and Joker monkeys
2008 – Striking Writer Monkey
2007 – Trio of Dream Monkeys
2006 – Gay Sock Monkey Cowboys
2005 – Soctopus
2004 – Plain sock monkey
2003 – Oscar the Sock Monkey

A day at Bavaria Filmstadt

At some point during our first six months in Munich, the Snook casually mentioned that we should go ride on Falkor. I was like, “Wait, what?!” He’d somehow learned about the existence of Bavaria Filmstadt, the local movie studio facility, and that it had a tour where you could literally sit on Falkor the luckdragon from The Neverending Story. I was all in on that idea.

Bavaria Filmstadt has been around under various names for over 100 years. Alfred Hitchcock made his first film there, and the many notable productions filmed in part there include The Great EscapeThe Sound of MusicCabaretDownfall, and Das Boot. And of course, relevant to my own personal interests – a little 1971 movie called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Bavaria Filmstadt

The film studios are south of the Munich city center along the Isar, and not that far from where we live. We picked a nice autumn day and had a nice slow 45min pootle along the river on our bicycles.

Filmstadt Bavaria entry

Here’s the entrance to the studios. We had pre-booked tickets for the 90min tour. The website mentioned English tours once a day, but we discovered when we got there that they weren’t happening anymore because demand had dropped during Covid. Thankfully they had an app that provided some English commentary so we wouldn’t be completely lost.


The entranceway has some fun exhibits set up, like this scale model of the U-96 from Das Boot. There were also a couple food trucks, so we grabbed a quick lunch before the tour kicked off. Then we were ushered onto a little train which drove us around past some of the studios and offices. Our first stop was a “4D Motion Ride” called Mogli’s Dschungel Abenteur. It’s one of those things where you’re watching a very disorienting 3D movie while the seating moves up and down and water occasionally sprays in your face. It was… not my favourite part of the day.

Die Zauberflöte

Then the actual studio tour began. Our group weaved our way through different film sets and props from the movies over the years. I got the impression that the layout depends greatly on what’s been filming there recently. This was part of the backdrop for the upcoming filmed version of The Magic Flute that had filmed six months earlier.

The White House

From there we shuffled straight into the White House! This hallway had apparently featured in the upcoming Kung Fury 2 featuring none other than…

President Schwarzenegger

President Schwarzenegger himself. 😂

Emma the Locomotive

They had a large exhibit of set pieces from the Jim Button German films, including Emma the Locomotive. I haven’t read these books but they’re by Michael Ende, author of The Neverending Story. 

Nepomuk the Dragon

I believe this was Nepomuk the Dragon.

The Southern Oracle

We were were shuffling between rooms when I glanced upwards and stopped dead in my tracks. The Southern Oracle!

The Auryn

At one point we shuffled down a hallway with lots of photos from past productions. At the end of it was a small exhibit of items from The Neverending Story, including a mural of the Auryn.


Morla, the Ancient One! Just looking at that face, I could hear that wheezing voice in my mind.


The Rockbiter! I like that they included a joyous representation of him, rather than the sad “They look like big, strong hands, don’t they?” version that makes me want to cry.

Willy Wonka

I didn’t spot any props from Willy Wonka but I did see it represented in a photo on the wall.

Das Boot turret

They had a major exhibit from Das Boot, including this scale (I think?) model of the turret from the submarine.

Scale model

Another scale model of the sub. They had exhibits outside showing how the crew filmed shots from the movie as well as the 2018 TV series. We then joined the queue shuffling into the long building behind…

Inside the sub

…which turned out to be the actual set of the submarine!


It was a pretty tight fit!

Handsome Snookums

Would it surprise you to learn that he was actually quoting lines from The Hunt for Red October the whole time? “One ping only, please,” I heard him growl. ❤️

Tight fit

Note: the sub is pretty small, and there are places where you have to climb through low bulkhead doors like behind the Snook here!


Another studio had sets from the recent sci-fi film Stowaway.

Gaulish village

The Snook was very excited by this exhibit of sets from Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar. We walked through the mock Gaulish village…


…and found Obelix’s quarry where he works on the menhirs (standing stones)!

Caesar’s dungeon

They also had the set used for Caesar’s dungeon…

Crocodile pool

…including a pool filled with (thankfully fake) crocodiles!

Viking boat

Another outdoor set was a Viking village from the Vicky the Viking film.

The tour also had a couple interactive areas where I didn’t take photos. One was the classroom set from the German film trilogy Fack ju Göhe (which translate to, I kid you not, “F**k you Goethe” in English!). There a couple volunteers sat at desks and recited lines which were then edited into a scene from the movie. Another was about special effects and had a few of us (including me and the Snook) in a mock train carriage while a guy scrolled scenery out the window. (Apparently you could download these clips when you left, but we didn’t bother.)

Gift shop

The gift shop also had some fun Neverending Story merch, including a box full of Auryns and some very cute little Falkors!


Our final stop was to visit the luckdragon himself. They had him set up in a small building near the entrance to the studios, and to my shock not many of the tourists there that day seemed very excited to visit him.

Riding Falkor

A couple stuck their heads in as we were geeking out and taking photos of each other riding Falkor. The guy nicely offered to take one of the two of us, then grudgingly admitted he’d never seen the movie! 😱

Falkor’s face

Look at that face! Can’t you just hear his voice? I felt like a kid again.

Happy Halloween!

I forgot to mention – we were there a couple days before Halloween and they were prepping for a special event. The whole tour was being made over with a haunted house theme for a “Spookytour,” and we saw lots of creepy props and zombie cast members getting ready. The Snook didn’t want to particularly do that, but I couldn’t resist saying “Spookytour” over and over. And wow, special Halloween Dunkin’ Donuts!

Biking home

And then we headed home, enjoying a very autumnal ride through the Bavarian forest.

Rail bridge

We crossed a high rail bridge and you can see that the trees were really changing colour.

The Isar

And a final view of the Isar before we got home…