What I read: January 2018

This long old month is finally coming to a close. I have written 2017 almost every time I have had to write the year, as usual. Only managed 2.5 books this month, there has been a lot going on! I have really enjoyed them however and would like to share.

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

This was started in 2017 and finished at the beginning of the year. I was really enjoying Master of None on Netflix, and remembered someone recommending this about a year ago. I don’t really know what to comment on the recent accusations against Aziz. This is a great investigation by Ansari and the social psychologist Klinenberg. It begins by polling elderly residents in US residential homes about how they met their partner. And so many were from the same block, or same apartment building! And they were so happy. Now that the whole world is open to us through online dating etc, are people still so happy? It’s witty and thought-provoking, and uses a lot of actual data without being boring at all.

The Power- Naomi Alderman

Really fascinating. Women have developed an electric ‘skein’ a power that allows them to hurt and help with electricity from their fingers. That sounds ridiculous, but it is such an eye opener when men are afraid to walk down the street alone…hold on, is that familiar? And what a basement full of enslaved sex workers will do when someone sets them free and gives them power… Some of the personal stories were not completely riveting for me. Although abused Allie who becomes cult leader Mother Eve, like a holy female Mother is truly amazing. This book rewrites history in a way, a fictional female editor recommends that the man writing this particular history publishes his book under a female name to give him more authority. She thinks the image of male soldiers is super sexy because they’re just so unlikely.

Three things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

Ah, my personal favourite. And not just because it has a Battenberg pattern on the front! I was crying in Cafe Nero today reading over bits to write this.

  1. The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
  2. There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
  3. Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

I have read Dr Joanna Cannon’s blog for so many years, shes a psychiatrist who has worked the hospital wards for many years. Her stories are beautiful, and full of care and patience and love. There is at least one beautiful sentence on every page. I remember printing out a blog post she wrote about her mother getting old for my Mother and Aunt. She’s that good!

Florence, an elderly resident at Cherry Tree Home has fallen and she is waiting to be rescued. She goes over the last few weeks, the new resident who is not as he seems, and tries to find a terrible secret from her past in her memories.

It’s a book about loneliness, friendship, kindness and forgiveness. Flo and Elsie are the stars of the book, the friends. I think I figured out one of the things about Elsie early on, but it didn’t take away from the book at all. It’s interesting in this sense how Elsie prompts and helps Florence remember things. They depend on each othter.

Even the secondary characters Miss Ambrose, who is like the manager of Cherry Tree and ‘Handy Simon’ the repair man, I could really relate to their anxiety and worry about their career, and their meaning of life searches and disappointments and hope. I also think its so special that Joanna thinks of these issues, as she is a Psychiatric doctor, surely she doesn’t have these dilemmas?

We walked into the men’s department, and it was coat-hanger quiet.

Jack bought several pairs of socks and a new pullover (which he said would see him out)

Jo’s experience on hospital wards have inspired her, she’s obviously understanding and kind, she can and does teach us about loneliness and caring for each other.

Perhaps the most important moments of all turn out to be the ones we walk through without thinking, the ones we mark down as just another day…we benchmark our lives with birthdays and Christmases and holidays, but perhaps we should think more about the ordinary days. The days that pass by and we don’t even notice. Elsie once said that you can’t tell how big a moment is until you turn back and look at it, and I think, perhaps, that she was right.

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7 Year Itch

They seem to get closer and closer together, but I’m writing this with two minutes to go on the 7th birthday of my dear old blog Life Lyrics and Lemon cake ! Although we had a meagre 2017, (I lost two beloved Grannies and I met the love of my life) I’m still proud of my wee section of the internet, and I’m glad I have this platform should I see fit to use it. I have higher hopes for writing for 2018, and I am hoping to make exciting changes to my life really soon, and I want this blog to be there as a testament to that.

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Birthday Card by Happy Jackson

My writing has been virtually non-existent in recent months…years. I know that writing is something important to me, I just wish I could find my fire. Maybe I still have to do a bit of living first?! Half a shelf of beautiful blank notebooks have me thinking.

I have finished my first book of 2018- The Power by Naomi Alderman. Impressive! It took me a while to get through, mostly because of life being busy and my visitors from Germany.

I’m now reading Three Things About Elsie by the wonderful Joanna Cannon. (I’ve loved her blog since forever!) It’s just gorgeous and thoughtful so far. It also has pictures of Battenberg on the cover ! So I hope to have a few reviews soon.

This is my 218th post. I still don’t have a specialised niche. thank you for reading as always about books, letters, love, life, friendship and Josh Ritter.

Also a funny lemon cake story from last year, while in a freezing Strasburg with P in November, we went into a cafe bar for coffee and I was too shy to really use any of my GCSE French (Sorry Monsieur Gallagher). I was asking the lovely French waitress for a slice of lemon meringue in my dirty Derry accent while the half German rolled about laughing and she wondered what in the world I was talking about. I still have to work on my Universal English skillz.

I’m attempting the ‘curly girl’ conditioner-washing method on my hair for a couple of weeks. So far, oily scalp is the problem as I knew it would be, and my hair isn’t going curly very much. There were years when I was bout 16 when it really did curl up with no effort! Does anyone have any experience/advice? I wonder should I give up or try to persevere. This is random information, but since we were catching up …:)

Anyway, happy 7th birthday to the blog! Thank you to my readers. Please stay with me on my 2018 writing journey. The internet can be lovely place for creatives sometimes.

How to Support the Writers + Artists you Love

Fi

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Miss G is 40

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Today is a very special day. One of my most loved friends is 40! I am thinking of her all day, we are separated by some distance Derry- Edinburgh and I’d give anything to be giving her a big birthday squeeze and maybe clink a couple of cocktails. I tried to think of something a little bit special for her, so I came up with ’40 friendship things’ about her and me to celebrate the occasion. We have a special link to WordPress. We have been talking for maybe 6 years? And met for the first time IRL in 2013. Anyway. I know she is sometimes quite shy on social media so I hope this is cool, but she is someone so special to me, and my little way of marking the day. So, Happy Birthday my beautiful, loyal and generous friend. I love you very much. Please celebrate your 40 wonderful years with your whole heart, until we meet again!

40 friendship things

(A friendship that started on wordpress)

  1. Discovery through our blogs, she has a kick ass, impressively regularly updated beauty blog, that she can choose to link you below if she wants to! Inspiring, helpful and impressive stuff. Blog hero. I think she was the first to start leaving comments for me, from her blog to mine, maybe searching NI !
  2. Which leads me to… Love for NI, Belfast, and maybe someday Derry! We have had so many wonderful times here due to this, including at least 3 outings to Belsonic, a brilliant bus tour of the Causeway Coast, (I had never been through the Glens of Antrim) days and nights in Belfast, so much fun and discussion.
  3. Cocktail appreciation, homemade mojitos in East Lothian, and fancy expensive ones in the Europa hotel, where we felt scraggly and under dressed but happy, not to mention creating wonderful cocktails behind the bar at a beautiful bar in Manchester with her lovely hens.
  4. Snail mail, including postcards from places we have visited without each other, and lots of long letters when we were getting to know each other. She even asked me an important question by post which was a beautiful surprise!
  5. In -jokes and laughter by the bucket load.
  6. Breakfast discussions over coffee and sugary cereal. Mostly when her and her now-hubby are generously hosting me in lovely Scotland. But sometimes over hotel breakfast or that amazing apartment in Belfast. And oh how we miss each other in the first days back to reality, after.
  7. Music and lyric appreciation. The first dance at her wedding by the National was a killer ! “you know I dreamed about you/for 29 years before I saw you/ You know I dreamed about you/I missed you for 29 years.” – (Slow Show) I also in turn torture her re: Josh Ritter who she has seen live too! Coincidentally.
  8. ‘Getting married’ in Camera Obscura in Edinburgh, long before her husband popped the question. We got little rings and everything!
  9. Crying at the Europa Bus stop/ Edinburgh Airport when we are parted.
  10. Her loving appreciation of her beautiful home city of Edinburgh. It easily rubs off to captivated visitors.
  11. She;s my so called ‘Catfish friend’ – because we communicated through twitter and wordpress only for so long, I was vaguely nervous about meeting in person in Belfast in 2013. My mum was convinced she was a ‘big man’ and my brother was on standby (Sorry!!!)
  12. For some reason we had many an important life discussion in Pizza Express in Belfast. Boyfriends were voted out indirectly and wants and needs came into focus.
  13. A natural beauty with the best figure, this girl has a dressed down, relaxed style generally that actually makes me feel so much more comfortable being around her and allows us both to focus on the priorities!
  14. Book club jealousy. Sometimes they have cocktails at her group! No fair!
  15. Hair tips. Volumise! And have you tried conditioner washing?
  16. Whatsapp, email, text message, blog comments, retweets… invaluable digital support!
  17. Really similar world views! But still plenty to dissect and chat about.
  18. Open top tour love, and many lovely and hilarious bus experiences due to this.
  19. Belsonic freezing happiness! Suade, Stereophonics, Foy Vance.
  20. Late night drive-thru Krispy Kreme runs! That is all.
  21. A most loyal friend. Hard to find.
  22. We both went the journalism route at one stage, we both blog and we both want to write. I’d say we both have a flair! Her most definitely. Scribbling sisters.
  23. Luca’s ice cream sundaes. Belly bursting but in the idyllic town of Musselburgh and sometimes bittersweet a few hours before I went to the airport.
  24. We both have the most special Grandmothers in heaven whom we continue to love always, and who had a positive and meaningful impacts on our lives.
  25. Over thinking twins We understand each other as we are each as bad.
  26. Coffee appreciation.
  27. The patience and encouragement I feel from Edinburgh. Even when I feel my life is stagnant or I might be doing something crazy, she is calm and understanding. I only hope I even partly return the favour.
  28. Road trips, including in the party bus, Claudia and Bertha. Are the names right?
  29. Hotel Adventures. Ten Square, Belfast gets a special mention. Beautiful setting for our chats and food!
  30. Constantly inspired by her packed schedule of gigs and plays and events.
  31. Book gifting, swapping recommendations, reading the other’s review and chatting about words, it’s always a pleasure and I trust her judgement.
  32. Introvert issues. We usually have a story to tell or a quirk that’s wordlessly accepted!
  33. That hen do. A special little happy weekend of new friends, old friends, relaxing and escaping, city life, drinking and eating and shopping and pretending it’s #notahendo to the Airbnb man in Manchester.
  34. The German language. She speaks it brilliantly and her mother was a teacher, I want to get to that place and beyond!
  35. Overcoming our fears. We both recognise that we must, and we encourage the other ! We can do it.
  36. She is the most loving cat Mum of Mirren who is a beautiful girl I like to visit.
  37. Social media queen. Always handy with a hashtag and good photographic evidence of the event! I’m definitely partial to social media myself, heck we met here! But she does it so much better.
  38. Moments that we are forever bonded by : Fire friends?! And our car being attacked by zombies at a Drive-In cinema.
  39. The age she got married at. What a beautiful wedding, inspiring bride, gorgeous speech, breathtaking venue…Krispy Kreme donut cake, view of Edinburgh castle, walking to the chapel, being led by a big Piper, and best of all standing beside her as a bridesmaid, I couldn’t have been prouder! And so grateful for the beautiful honour that it was.
  40. So, on your 40th birthday my dear friend, I am so sad not to be there and I do hope you understand, but more than that I am so happy our digital and then real paths crossed, that we trusted our friendship senses and set out on this slightly long distance adventure. When we see each other the words tumble and the tears of laughter roll, we take life by the horns and we don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. I love it! And I truly do appreciate all your constant generosity and surprises, your support and your checking in with me through all my real trials and my over thought dilemmas. It’s truly my honour to know you, be inspired by, celebrate and cry with you and look forward to the future of our friendship.

Celebrate you as hard as you can! I hope we can have a cocktail soon. So much love rushing to you in Edinburgh, and hopefully a little box in the post too ❤

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lynnbeach

How to Be Champion

I love Sarah Millican. Yes she’s a ‘dirty bitch’ as my Mum says (she loves it!) But she’s also so real, wise, FUNNY and is outspoken about the world’s beauty standards/ sexism. She maybe doesn’t match up to what is deemed beautiful or fashionable by the Instagram generation but she has learned not to give a crap (except literal IBS craps that she describes in detail!) and she encourages all of us to do the same.

My International friend (ha) Caoimhe and me saw her live stand up, two years ago? In our hometown and we loved it! Her honesty about her marriage breaking down, her dividing us into flowers or pets, her ACCENT, and bravery all make me love her. Also her sharp risqué wit that had me laughing til I cried.

 

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I’m a proud member of Standard Issue, the online magazine, now podcast Millican started in 2014.

In September, 2014, Standard Issue launched as a smart and witty online magazine for women by women, covering everything that interests women – ie everything. No celebrity tittle tattle, no photo shopping, no calorie counting, no cellulite circling. Just honest, good, interesting and funny writing from a bunch of cracking broads.

Standard Issue will never tell you who to be, what to wear or how to look. We believe that every woman should feel empowered to simply be herself.

I was excited when I saw she had a new autobiography out, How to Be Champion. I devoured it, with plenty of tea and coffee and cake as prescribed, in a couple of days while not wanting it to be over.

Sarah’s description of school was similar to mine, I always felt extremely ugly and I would melt if anyone asked if I had a boyfriend. She was studious and interested and got picked on for that, the reason people are in school!

She’s obviously worked SO HARD to get where she is, and I enjoyed reading about all her different jobs. Even though I still feel like I was stuck in her 19-year-old job at age 28!

Sarah got married at age 22 and the marriage broke down after 7 years. She was absolutely floored, really hit rock bottom, moved back in with her parents, became deeply depressed, but somehow started finding funny elements of the situation and worked on her writing, and somehow stumbled into stand-up comedy which she was made for. She’s wise and smart about the divorce. I think it would be very helpful for someone going through the same thing.

Her achievements are amazing, and she really deserves her success. I hope I can somehow channel her enthusiasm and willingness to work hard and sleep on people’s sofas for maybe writing a novel someday. She somehow gives people extra permission to be themselves while being HILARIOUS of course. I love a book that makes me literally LOL.

She has her priorities right, and in so many ways the Internet…the world does not, and this book is a breath of fresh air for women especially.

I almost did a cry as Sarah would say, when I finished the book. I read someone’s tweet that said ‘It’s a rare thing to find a book that feels like a friend.’ @NaomiPanter

I feel like that too. I just kind of wish she didn’t tell me the thing about hotel kettles. Can’t stop thinking about it.

Granny Mc

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Mary Mc Gowan as she was then, around 16 years old. 

My Granny Mary Mc Callion, my beloved ‘Granny Mc’ passed away on Friday 15th September at 4.am. She was 87. We weren’t ready.

It remains surreal, over a week later, and we passed through the wake and the funeral as if in a dream. Thankfully, miraculously, great peace was felt by all after the beautiful funeral ceremony.

My Daddy, brave but devastated, asked me to write something for the newspaper. He wanted people to know about my Granny, and also for them to know how beautiful the funeral was.

It appeared in the Derry Journal one week later. (Thank you) I wrote something like this:

Wee Mary, our Granny Mc.

 

By Fiona McCallion

 

‘A wee woman, but a big light.’ How Fr Joe Gormley described Mary McCallion, who died on Friday morning. She knew it, in the end it seems, but she still sent her family home with reassurances, from Altnagelvin hospital, where they had been at her side since she was admitted on Wednesday.

The visiting priest who was visiting on Thursday night, to bring her Communion was a friend too. He was rushed away early by doctors before he could do a little job Mary had asked him to do: write a love note to her husband of 57 years, Jim.

There was shock and numbness when the call came in the night and the rush to the hospital for her five children. She was 87 years old, and up to a few weeks ago full of life and joy. She was full of love until the end.

The wake took place in High Park, where Mary’s devoted daughter, also Mary, lives. It was the house she raised her five children (she lost one more as a tiny baby) through the Troubles, the street full of loving neighbours and friends, a place brimming with memories.

The rain poured but the people streamed through the door, tears and laughter, lives touched by goodness. Pain shared, support lent, stories traded.

The former Tillie and Henderson ‘factory girl’ had friends far and wide.

‘She was a wee saint.’ People spoke of the way Mary talked to them, holding their hand, deeply interested, placing value on them and making them feel special. She made everyone feel like they were no. 1 in that moment. ( I always thought it was just me!)

Generous and always providing, her son Jim observed, ‘She’d give you her last and make you feel like you were doing her a favour taking it.’

Mary’s other son Joe called her ‘a daughter of compassion.’ She never turned anyone away.

The day of the funeral on Sunday dawned glorious, bright and warm. A big change from the wintry, dark days before. Butterflies were seen during the familiar walk from High Park to St. Mary’s Church, Creggan. Sons, grandsons, her brother and friends carried Mary to her beloved Creggan chapel. There was a poignant pause outside Mary and Jim’s home of 68 Iniscairn Road, where many people stood at their doors.

‘Faith, family and fun.’ Fr. Joe Gormley, a relatively new friend of Mary’s, spoke of her beautifully, her love, dedication to living the Gospel and her lifelong preparation for this day. He said she is a great loss to the community of Creggan.

Tears flowed in the packed congregation. But peace was felt and love pervaded the church.

Mary’s husband Jim, never seen without her at daily Mass, was solitary but strong and composed as he sat beside his wife for the final time.

Many lessons of giving and selflessness were learned and will be learned.

23 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren to celebrate her life and pass on her messages.

The graveside was peaceful, beautiful even, flowers and family under the shining September sun. A new plot beside the Lecky Road, Mary’s first home. Jim sat in a chair as the final prayers were said. The family held hands in composure and love.

Her death is still surreal for those that loved her. She will leave a huge gap in this life, and many hearts are heavy and a little broken.

Her family feel blessed that she reached the age of 87. Her example of  love will live on through them and the hundreds of hearts she touched in her humble, giving way.

My Granny Mc is survived by her husband Jim, her daughters Catriona, Ann and Mary and her sons Jim and Joe. 26 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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The wee photo of my Granda Jim and Granny Mary Mc Callion, taken a few years ago. It appeared in the paper too. 

I have an image emblazoned in my mind of my brothers Jimmy (27) and Jacob (7) hand in hand in the dying sun, carrying a wreath of flowers towards my Granny’s final resting place just before Jimmy helped carry her coffin there. Jimmy in his shirt and tie and Jacob in a full suit bought for a wedding. Jimmy bent to speak to Jacob. When they came back they told us that they carried the wreath from my mother’s brothers and sisters, quite by coincidence.

One of many beautiful moments from a day that I thought would be close to unbearable.

Also, can I just say that I thought it was heart-warming that my Mum’s whole family were there to support my Dad. Especially after losing their own Mum, our darling Granny Breslin just 7 months and 1 day before. People are so kind, in general actually. And people’s presence and care and warm words mean the world, and I’m so glad for my Daddy that people have been so kind.

My Mammy’s big brother Eddie wrote to me yesterday, ‘ Mary didn’t do miracles for all to see, but a saint she’ll always be to me.’

I wrote most of my newspaper piece opposite the chair my Granny always sat in when she had soup and tea and cake in my house a few days a week. How utterly strange that she won’t sit there again, I won’t speak or listen to her wise words and kindness again.

My sister Clare cried as Granny won’t be there at her upcoming wedding. But she will be, C. In all the ways it matters.

I keep saying that I have lost my biggest fan, I really could do no wrong in my Granny’s eyes and even when my life was not going anywhere near how I hoped, she would heap the praises on me and I would feel a million times better about myself. She prayed for me everyday and I know it really helped me in my life, I can only hope she has a little more influence in the prayer department where she is now. Awk, I didn’t deserve it ever and we really didn’t deserve her.

My Granda has lost his ‘sweetheart’ and I can’t imagine what he is going through. He is blessed to have caring and loving children, I hope they can all find the solutions together and be comfortable and find peace.

Everyone can learn a lesson about what is important from my Granny Mc, and she will live on in many, many hearts. Not least mine.

Trying to #KeeptheSecrets

Almost a month ago now I saw ‘The Cursed Child’ the much discussed ‘eighth story’ is the Harry Potter series. I am so grateful I got to go. And if it hadn’t been for my friend Charlotte online-queuing for tickets TEN MONTHS before, I never would, so thank you C!

It’s in the Palace Theatre near Leicester Square in London. As is my life at the moment everything is happening at once, and I was only home from my good friend’s wedding in Scotland the week before, so I was a little bit stressed about it but it was SO GOOD.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan at all, and the wizarding world has meant anything to you, I urge you to go and see it if you can.

 

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Buoyed from the Warner Bros Studio Tour (excellent! Almost cried in the gift shop wanting to buy everything). We had chosen the two night option (The play in its entirety is about 5 and a half hours long and divided into Parts 1 and 2), you can also choose a Matinee performance and a night-time one. Because we were visiting London, this meant we could sight-see and manoeuvre the Underground successfully on Thursday and Friday visiting the British Museum, eating a very expensive chicken burger, Covent Garden, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, St. James’ Park, Hyde Park and Camden Market. We were knackered. Getting the ‘London Legs’ as my friend Caoimhe aptly called them!

There’s a buzz of excitement around the theatre and a queue forms down the side of the building. About an hour before it begins we have our bags searched and are allowed in to the historical and grand Palace Theatre. It’s impressive in gold and wood and beautiful inside. We sat in the bar area and waited for the doors to open.

I was like a ‘wide eyed child’ from beginning to end as Katie says in her review. The sets, props, MAGIC, choreography and costumes are amazing from the get go. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was totally transfixed from beginning to end.

As I discussed with friends, the plot IS pretty far-fetched even for the Wizarding World and something about it just isn’t true JK Rowling, despite her name being there as a writer beside Jack Thorne and John Tiffany ?

However, if you are in any sense a fan of the Boy wizard, you will love this play. It’s like nothing I have ever seen, and the true essence of the world of Harry Potter is really respected and celebrated with enormous talent.

The original cast had just changed merely weeks before we attended, I am sure the play will run for years and years and have many casts…  The character of young Scorpius really stole the show. I’m doing my best to #KeepTheSecrets here, but I thought Samuel Blenkin as Scorpius was charming, nerdy, and his comic timing was ‘on point’! My other favourite was probably Thomas Aldridge as the ever-lovable Ron Weasley. Rakie Ayola had poise and grace as the wonderful Hermione Granger.

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**PLOT SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ‘THE CURSED CHILD SCRIPT’**

There was magnificent use of characters facing the audience while confronted with a wondrous sight that we could not and did not need to see. There’s probably a theatrical name for it. Such as Hogwarts in the sunrise, the dragon task of the Triwizard tournament and  Harry’s heart-break as he watches Voldemort enter Godric’s Hollow on 31 October 1991.

People appearing in portraits was done with comedy but also high emotion. Dumbledore is one of my favourite fictional characters of all, and I will admit to crying several times.

There is something of community about The Cursed Child, you almost make friends with your seat neighbours as you sit beside them a second night, ‘Keep the Secrets’ badges are distributed after Part 1, and the internet surprisingly has respected this plea for no spoilers and #keepthesecrets hashtag!

A time turner is vital to the plot, and I always say Prisoner of Askaban is my favourite book because of the time travel aspect. They do this SO WELL in the play. And I suppose all this ‘Nineteen years later’ business (when the play was set. 19 years after the final Harry Potter book, THIS year actually, 1st September 2017) gives a feeling of time travel mixed with nostalgia for the fans.

I finally decided to finish writing this today, as it’s J.K Rowling and also Harry Potter’s birthday today! 31st July, 52 and 37 respectively. Happy Birthday to a woman who created a very happy magical space for me to escape to, and fictional friends for me to love, and to a boy who inspired me and kept me company for a very long time!

#HappyBirthdayHarryPotter

Harry Potter 20

I have recently been torn about my Hogwarts House. The latest Pottermore Sorting technology puts me in Ravenclaw. Wit, Learning, Wisdom. All very admirable qualities. But I have a sneaking suspicion I’m more than a little bit Hufflepuff. (Dedication, Patience, Loyalty) Most of the people I’m close to are Ravenclaw too. So I’m glad I would have company at least, to answer the questions posed at the common room door.

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I have written extensively about Harry Potter before, but as today is 20 years since the release of The Philosopher’s Stone, I wanted to say some more words about what these books have meant to me!

(Here’s a piece from 2011 I wrote for the Derry News after the final film came out.) As I say here, my Harry Potter love story began 19 years ago with The Chamber of Secrets in the Shantallow Library. I remember it quite vividly! I was 9 years old.

Hogwarts completely captured my imagination, and more. I think everyone can relate to Harry’s isolation and struggles. Harry Potter was just as much of an escape from the real world for us muggles, as Hogwarts was escape from the Dursleys for Harry himself.

I remember the giddy excitement in the weeks before a new book was released. My Dad always preordered them for me. I read obsessively on Mugglenet and Harry Potter message boards about the hilarious escapades of those across the water in the USA and England queuing for their copies. The fun! I longed to go to a midnight release party, dressed up and the geeky community of it all.

Community. Connection. I think this is mostly why Harry Potter and the world JK Rowling created is so important. My friends are major Harry Potter geeks to this day. I’m 28 now. My best friend Aisling and I call each other Fred (me) and George (her) partly because she had a phase of giving everyone opposite sex names AND we used to and still do have eerily similar things happen in life. Fred and George Weasley were the twin brothers of Ron Weasley. Hilarious, ginger, hearts of gold.

My little sister Ellen (10), who’s a ‘word millionaire’ by the way, she’s read 1 million words in books according to her school <3, and I read the beautiful illustrated editions when I remember… Bad sister!

By coincidence my colleague Charlotte and I are going to London to see the play at the Palace Theatre The Cursed Child and The Harry Potter Studio Tour this week. Leaving tomorrow! It’s been booked for 10 months or so. And now I’m writing this instead of packing. Squeeee! I’m so excited and we have bonded so much already because of HP!

I know a boy who’s returning home from Finland tomorrow. He’s studied a semester there, and has spent a large portion of the last few weeks trying to find Durmstrang Institute… Or maybe that was his magical Erasmus exhange programme from Hogwarts. I hope he isn’t too addled with Dark Arts when I see him!

My George told me to dig out this email I sent her while she was in America for the summer when we were 15/16. It’s about the sixth book, but check my enthusiasm!

On Tuesday, 19 July 2005, 19:29,  <fiona—-@bt—t.com> wrote:

Heya George

Ok, as promised I’ll type out the stuff I wrote in my file block!! You’ll probably get bored, sorry! And it kinda looks like I hated it, but I didn’t really, or I’d be in a state of depression now! Here goes, *ahem*
Stuff about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to email Aisling about
1. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape all these years? I was waiting to hear a brilliant reason, and thought Snape might be good underneath! I was looking forward to hearing it! Now all the years of “I trust Severus Snape” mystery was for nothing… she seemed to be building up to something there! I’m amazed Dumbledore couldn’t see through the hook nosed, filthy greasy haired stuck up evil legitimens death eater! Come on, Dumbledore was perfect, infallible, until book 6 where he acted weird then ass hole killed him. I so miss him *sob* I cried when Dumbledore said “I’m not worried, I’m with you” to Harry. Premonition he was going to die. Cried again of course when he did.
2. There was way too much snogging! Half of it could have been left out! Plus, I’m way jealous of Tonks. I  love Lupin!! Hairy palms and all.
3. Dumbledore, God rest his soul, didn’t actually get around to telling the full story of his injured hand! He said once it was a great story and he didn’t have time, then he just mentioned it in passing! Say what now? I know it was destroying the ring…but still.
4. Why did Snape get the Defence Against the Dark Arts job? And we never saw him teaching a class did we? When he taught potions, nearly every class was written about! Hold on… could Dumbledore have been under the Imperius curse to trust Snape in this book and give him that job?
5. How come Lucius Malfoy’s still in Azkaban if the Dementors have left? Could he not escape. (I’m not demanding u answer these questions, by the way!)
6. Sirius!!! He was barely mentioned, I half hoped he would come back. And what about the two way mirrors?
That’s my initial thoughts anyway. I forgot about Trelawney…good point. She’s probably still standing there!! There are A LOT of unanswered questions!! But wasn’t “U-No-Poo” funny? The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!!! What a weird thing to happen to Bill, get your face mauled by a werewolf who wasn’t transformed… crazy!
Well, hope you enjoyed my fanatical musings, looking forward to hearing from you. Must go see if some Harry Potter message boards are open, see what other people think.
Talk soon
love ya
Fiona xoxo

Hilarious. I will probably never grow up.

Ok, I love this story of connection. Aisling/George has recently adopted an ADORABLE puppy. His name is Harry Pupper and he has his own instagram.  When she visited the family who owned the litter, she met a young girl, lets call her Katie. Katie is about 9 I think, and when she heard Aisling was calling her puppy Harry she was delighted. She is a big fan and said no one at school likes Harry Potter except her. Katie’s mum explained quietly to Aisling that Kate has Asperger’s Sydrome and children at school make it difficult for her. Katie happily renamed all the puppies in the litter, (and I was trying to convince my Mum to adopt Hagrid for a while). Katie’s dad is very ill, he has terminal cancer and Aisling could see that Katie was buoyed up by the world of Harry Potter and the connection Harry still felt with his parents even after death. Katie’s mum said Katie lit up while talking to Aisling and the world of Harry Potter really stimulated her imagination and communication. When my friend returned again to collect her new wee Harry, she came armed with some HP merchandise and handmade bookmarks saying, ‘Don’t let the muggles get you down.’ I’m not crying, you’re crying.

I think Harry Potter is so long lasting because it’s a story in these hard strange times where Good prevails. It’s a tale of hope, courage and friendship. And who could do without those right now?

Perhaps it’s a bit like my interest in The Walking Dead. We are drawn mor eto the lives and interactions of the characters and their lives than the magic, per se. Although the magic helps!

I have a funny story from work this week. Because of the anniversary we have some pretty nice merchandise like cauldron bowls, muggle studies notebooks, Gryffindor common room signs, cute mugs etc. There are also posters, one of which lists spells and charms and illustrates the wand movement required… So on a late Wednesday night, no customers about, I whip out a rolled up poster and start practising my REPARO wand movement. (Quite swirly) My friend/colleague Chelsea rounds the corner. ‘Are you…dancing?’ No, Chelsea. It’s worse than that… Please don’t tell every…Oh, never mind. Ha!

I would say my favourite book is The Prisoner of Azkaban maybe it’s because it’s the book before they start getting super dark. But also Harry meets his Godfather Sirius. Which is fraught with terror for a while until he understands. Also time travel, I have discovered is one of my favourite themes.

My favourite character is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.  He is like Atticus Finch where wisdom is concerned. Gentle and twinkly, brave and always there… All the best quotes come from him, too.

duble
From Etsy here

Congratulations on 20 years, JK Rowling. You’re a real hero of mine. Lumos ❤ Keep being a light to children and big children everywhere. And thank you.