About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

End of an Era

Well, it's been a long journey, from the moment when I opened volume 1 and said to my small son, 'I'm going to read you the first of the two books Grandma sent you for Christmas.'  My son replied, 'I don't want you to.  I won't like it.'  I said, 'Well, I'll just read the first few pages, and if you really don't like it, we don't have to read the rest.'  Son: 'I won't listen.'  Me: That's fine, but I'm going to read it anyway.'  He was hooked by the end of page one.  The adventure had begun.  It ended last night, some dozen years later, with a family outing to the final film, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II.

We were ahead of the game in those early days.  The following World Book Day our son went to school dressed as Harry Potter.  Who are you?  I'm Harry Potter.  Who's Harry Potter?  The following year everyone went as Harry Potter, so my sons went as Asterix and Obelix instead.  They are a classic example of boys who started to read because of JKR.  The books are still there on the shelves, as you can see, read to bits.  Above and below are the grown up books: the poetry, the thrillers, the quantum mechanics.

Book 3 was the first one we went out and bought for ourselves, going straight from school.  Where on earth were the queues at Waterstones?  Did people not know?  Pottermania only really took off at Book 4.  It's book 3 I remember best, sitting on a rug on the lawn one sunny August afternoon, finishing reading it out loud to both sons, now.  I remember crying when Harry's patronus appeared.  I also remember how scary it was, the dementors, and of having to invent anti-Voldemort collects to say at bedtime so that my hyper-imaginative older son could sleep.   And I remember the cassettes, those endless car journeys with Stephen Fry's big voice booming plummily.

Book 4 was the first one our son read for himself, desperate to finish before the curate's sons, beside himself with fury when I got ahead of him by sneakily reading while he was at school.  I have a photo of him at Junior Church, dressed as Ron (hair sprayed red, eyeliner freckles) head bent over his volume.  Oh, the speculation!  Who dies?  Surely not Ron?!  The mean kids in the playground, spoiling it.  How would the series end?  'Then Harry woke up,' was my son's suggestion.  'It had all been a dream.  He was still in the cupboard under the stairs.  He was not a wizard after all.  The End.'

Book 5 was the one where the chancellor scored maximum points for a midnight trip to Sainsbury's to buy a copy on Day One, when Mum had meanly refused.  Book 6, I have no recollection of.  It has fallen, I think, into a black hole in my memory caused by depression.  Book 7 was bought in France, in a shop in Fougeres.  Two copies, as by now there was no way an agreement could be reached between our two boys over who got it first.  This was when we learnt that son 2 could read faster than son 1, heh heh heh.  We have photos of them both nose in book at street cafes across Britanny.  Quite a quiet holiday, that one.

And there were the films, of course.  We've seen them all.  The chancellor famously cried when Neville Longbottom won the house cup for Gryffindor (Kingdom values, the first shall be last etc).  By the final film Hogwarts was no longer recognisable as a hybrid of Durham cathedral and Alnwick castle, places our sons knew well from their early childhood in the north east.  The acting had improved, the special effects had come on.  3D!  Woo hoo!  The end of the last film (apart from the '19 years on' coda) seemed desolate.  The three nearly grown up wizards standing on the wreckage of Hogwarts, alone.  It's over.  We did it.  But there was no reassuring adult presence, no Dumbledoor to explain it all.  It felt like a fitting liminal image for the Potter generation. Your childhood is over.  You are the next generation of grown-ups.

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