I’ve been thinking a lot about Harry Potter lately. There are several reasons for this including the release of the Cursed Child scripts, numerous Whatsapp discussions revolving around Oliver Wood, and re-watching most of the films ahead of a recent trip to the Warner Brothers Studio.
In a nutshell, I bloody love the Harry Potter universe and I will defend it to the death. What’s really struck me lately is how much of this is down to the memories associated with it. Sure, I love the stories and the characters, but I also love how much it’s been part of my life for more than a decade.
I ignored the initial hype surrounding the first three books when I was still at secondary school, dismissing them as the sort of nonsense my little brother read. I was deep in a Yeats and Wilde phase at the time and thought kids books were far beneath me. And then, one Thursday evening, I met a man named Arthur Lemon. I know that doesn’t sound like a real name but it is and it perfectly suited this kind, gentle old man. I’d become interested in public speaking, mostly because I enjoyed the speech-writing element, and had joined a group which he was also a member of. In conversation one evening, the Harry Potter books came up and, appalled to learn that I hadn’t read them, Arthur insisted that I do so immediately. And I did, because I valued his opinion and dammit he was right. He died a year or two after I first met him but I’m glad I got to know him a little bit and he’s forever bound up with my memories of first discovering Harry Potter.
I’ve already written in a previous post about how the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was an important bonding moment for my friendship with the lovely Kate and Sile. It goes much deeper than just the Half-Blood Prince though. Harry Potter is one of the threads that binds our friendship together. It’s that wonderful feeling when you find someone else who loves a book series just as much as you do. In fact, the first time I met Kate was in a lecture at university when she recognised the Death of Rats necklace I was wearing. Book geeks for the win.
I have extremely fond memories of seeing many of the films at the cinema because I saw them in Ireland with my mother and my brother. I don’t get to visit home as much as I’d like to so, when I am there, I always appreciate our ritual of going to the cinema even if my mother does spend half the time telling me off for talking or putting my feet up on the seat in front of me. Seeing Goblet of Fire stands out in particular because of the shame I apparently brought on our family by crying when Cedric Diggory was killed. Ten years on and they still won’t let me forget about it. In my defence, the tears were mostly hormonal – induced by PMS, not be Robert Pattinson. I cannot stress that enough.
I also remember the anticipation of new book releases and the sense of community surrounding them. I’m a little sad that I never went to any midnight release parties but I still enjoyed feeling part of something so big and so important to so many other people. And as for reading the new books themselves, oh man. That was always so much fun and an excellent excuse to lock myself away with tea and chocolate and not be disturbed. Obviously that definition of ‘fun’ has to be strained somewhat to encompass the emotional trauma caused by deaths in the later books…
I visited the Warner Brothers Studio Tour outside London at the weekend and had an unbelievable time. I’d been looking forward to it and had been expecting to enjoy it but was just not prepared for how fantastic it would be to walk through the Great Hall, to stand in front of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, to peer at shelves in Dumbledore’s office, and to giggle far too much at a box labelled ‘John Hurt’s eyebrows’. The visit was made even more fun by the fact that I went with my brother. He’s as big a Harry Potter nerd as I am and he’s part of some of many memories I have associated with both the books and the films. Plus he talked me into buying an expensive but awesome Hufflepuff hoody.
I don’t think JK Rowling’s universe is something you grow out of. Once you’re part of it, that’s it, you’re there for life. And I’m ok with that. Hufflepuff pride!