In exactly one month's time today I will be at the amazing Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio tour. It will be momentous as a. it's my birthday and b. it's Harry frikkin Potter!
So I thought I'd explain my HP journey.....This was originally blogged last August on a different blog.
I went to see the last Harry Potter film last night and it struck me when I got home that for most of my adult life Harry has been there.
I thought I’d share with you my Harry Potter journey. It’s 11 years since I first walked into WHS Smiths in Northwich, walked to the Children’s section at the back of the shop and looked for the funny book with the red cover with a train on the front and the wizard on the back.
I have always had a love of children’s books, well, from being a child oddly enough. Being brought up by my grandfolk for the first 6 years of my life I wasn’t stuck in front of the goggle box for entertainment. My Nana is and has always been a big reader with a book on the go all the time. We would make regular trips to Sunderland library and I was constantly encouraged to read, I have her to thank for my booklust. Then, when I moved to Cheshire, I spent many an hour reading bedtime stories to my little sister when I was “too old” to read them myself, thoroughly immersing myself in the guilty pleasure and seeing my sister’s face light up at the twists and turns of the tales.
To name the most obvious (and most famous) I read C. S. Lewis, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and they all greatly shaped the way that I saw the world when I was knee high. My sisters and I would often re-enact scenes from the books, usually Dahl, mainly the Twits from what I remember and of course we made our own marvellous medicine. We called it zittyzapperhairremover, something I was recently chastised for telling my nephews about. My sister and brother in law are yet to have their little ones run to them with a bottle of foul smelling “medicine” as yet though, so no harm done.
Anyhow back to Harry.
Pottermania had not by any means reached it’s peak. The reason I’d picked up the Philosopher’s Stone was due to chance really. I’d come home from a shift at the Deli and sat down with a cup of tea to rest my aching feet and switched the box on. Blue Peter was on. Now I wasn’t a regular at watching it considering I was 20 at the time, but I’m pretty sure that it was winter and they were doing that Christmas mobile thing that they did every year - which if you know me you know I’ll watch anything remotely Christmas related. So there I was settled down in the Christmas spirit when they started talking about a book and a wizard and then they read some of it out to a group of children. It was about quidditch. It sounded rather odd. It sounded rather brilliant. I thought why not?
So when I got my wages I went to Smiths and bought a copy. I pretty much devoured it within a few days and so on for the rest, until I finally ended with Goblet of Fire which was the last in print at the time. I didn’t know I’d be waiting three years until the next but wait I did.
In the meantime I read the books again, and again, noting every time how some insignificant thing mentioned in the first or second would later become important in the future books. I love the intricacies of the stories, the planning that has gone into the timeline right down to the smallest detail.
I made a lot of journeys to Manchester over this time after meeting a boy, and the long train journeys were a great excuse to get some extra Pottertime in again. So I would sit and dodge fares by being so engrossed in my book that I didn’t get asked for a ticket, maybe the magic was working on me somehow. I remember this boy being slightly bemused as I’d go to his house and sit on his sofa, read and ignore him until the end of the chapter. Priorities after all, right? It was only a matter on months before I moved in with him so it can’t have been that annoying and when he gave me the key to his place he had cut, it came with a Harry Potter keyring that I still have on my keys to this day.
By this time I had gone from strange looks on buses and trains, to “why are you reading kids books?”, to “what’s that about then?”, to “Oh I’ve heard of them” and I now had a few friends in my house reading them, my parents and indeed my Nana too. Pottermania was talking hold.
I’d also added ‘Quidditch through the Ages’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ to my collection, having been printed for Comic Relief in 2001.
I had badgered my boyfriend to read them and he wasn’t having any of it, so I managed to annoy him into letting me read the first and second to him (more for me because I like doing the voices than anything else – I do a mean Gilderoy Lockheart) then he picked them up and read the rest himself, no pestering involved.
On 21st June 2003 I was in a queue at Waterstones in St Anne’s Square at midnight waiting to get my hands on the pre-ordered copy of Order of The Phoenix. There wasn't a massive queue, say 30 people, when I first got there, maybe stretching to 70 tops even when we were leaving (by we I mean me and my boyfriend who had come to keep me company but I’m pretty sure who thought I was completely bonkers, although he’d read them I don’t think he really felt the urgency, then again he hadn’t been waiting as long as I had). I have to admit I was thrilled to have the new tome in my hands (well actually special OoTP bag) and started reading it as soon as I sat down. I read it in a week, tops using every spare minute I had. Lunch breaks, cig breaks, bus journeys, pretty much not speaking to anyone until I had finished.
I might add at this point that usually before a new one came out I re-read them from start to finish. This may sound a little odd but I really wanted to remember the tiny things that may come into play and thought this was the best way to get the best out of the new one.
I also re-read the books before I went to see the film versions. This is because before the films I had my own version of the characters in my head and not all of them have matched the way the actors look in the films, so for one last time I like to leave them up to my imagination as afterwards I just have the actors’ faces wandering about in my head. This is not to say I dislike the films, I think they’re brilliant but I’d always be a devotee of the books. (although: I know they can’t fit everything in but the whole Kreacher thing was a travesty to me, and the battle of Hogwarts so many things that were missing that would have added so much…plus boathouse? What happened to the shrieking shack? Why was there a need to change that?)
Two years (and a few weeks later) I was back at Waterstones, this time on Deansgate with my fiancée and a close friend for the next instalment The Half Blood Prince, it surprised me how many people where there compared to the previous time. It seemed to be much more accepted rather than a silly thing to do. Admittedly there were more kids which was lovely to see until they got tired and started crying, I wonder how many had badgered their folks into it or how many had said they were doing it for their kids but they were really there for themselves.
This time four of us sat in the living room (in the last house share before me and my better half got our first place together) and read…and read….and read. I tried to hold back the tears when Dumbledore died, in fact before he died when he was drinking and pleading for his life, it was one of the most emotive things I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t stop getting suddenly shiny eyes and gasping as one of my favourite characters was yet again gone, hearing it echoing around the room as we promised we wouldn’t let each other know where we were up to until we were done. I felt bereft at the loss of Albus.
Then two years one week and a marriage to aforementioned boy later I was again at Waterstones (for The Deathly Hallows) which was a veritable hub of excitement, squeals and a three floor long queue, to get our mitts on the last book. It was a bittersweet moment really, knowing that this was it, and for once when I got home I didn’t just jump straight in. I went to bed, I got up and I took my time over the last Harry Potter book to be written. I sat on one sofa and my husband on the other and we read together with cups of tea, stopping every now and then to talk about it and keeping the same pace so we could finish together and we did, and I felt a little sad but very happy and very teary eyed. What a wonderful chap that Snape was after all.
There is of course the films, and I have been to see every one of them, most on the opening night apart from the last two as now I prefer a quieter audience. Sat beside me holding my hand in all but the first one has been my squeeze, checking on me to see if I’m getting emotional at any point and cuddling up in just the right places.
Overall though this isn’t just a story about a boy who lived or the history of Harry and me, it’s the history of Harry, me and Timothy. The three of us bound together by a girl on a train reading a book.
And so quoting the first bookmark that my other half made me in 2002:
“Silly little bookworm, sitting on a bus, reading about wizards, causing quite a fuss
Pretty little bookworm, fairytale bug, hurry home to 902 and give your man a hug”
And I did, and I have never stopped hugging him. I do what I’m told you see.
I love you Timothy (more than Harry Potter - shhhhh) ;D xxx
Note: I bought my better half the limited run collector’s edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard for Christmas 2008 and he has said many a time that really it was a present for myself, quite innocently though I did think he would like it, though ultimately my potterbrain was in gear and maybe buying it for him justified buying it for me, it’s tripled in value though so really you can’t grumble, and it’s oh so cool. It has become somewhat of a running joke in the household, the book that was bought for you for me.