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

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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.

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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.

My Experience of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

I was always more excited by the books. But once they stopped forever in 2007, I clung on to the prospect of the films.

I have never been so excited for a film before. The excitement didn’t properly begin until about 2 hours before the film was due to begin. There was 8 or so of us going to see it on Sunday night, and it felt like we had been transported back to primary school age. Some people bought their popcorn an hour early and kept having to calm themselves, I chatted excitedly to one of the girls about her trip to Harry Potter world in Florida. My boyfriend pretended he wasn’t excited.

We took up a full row and in dribs and drabs made trips to the loo so we wouldn’t have to get up during this momentous film. It was packed and you could feel the anticipation. I actually was a little scared about how I would feel once the credits had rolled.

The beginning of the film began exactly where Deathly Hallows Pt 1 left off. I missed the omitted theme tune and the usual excitement of boarding the Hogwarts Express. For a while I feared that this film wasn’t going to be outstanding, I’m not sure my eyes ‘get’ 3D… but then it got into full swing and I just got comfortably surrounded in the world I’ve loved since I was very young. I brought tissues but thought it was likely that I wouldn’t cry. I cried. One tear escaped as everyone ‘protected’ Hogwarts, and the school didn’t entertain giving Harry up. I cried the most when Snape expressed his unrequited love for Harry’s late mother, Lily. That was surprising. I cried as Harry prepared to die, and asked the temporary resurrected face of his mother to stay with him, as he walked towards his enemy to sacrifice himself. But I knew the ending, from the wonderful final book, and I think I was mostly crying for the end of an era…I’ve been with Harry’s story for longer than I was without it, and it IS difficult to reach this curtain call with this journey.

I felt a sense of peace and happiness and catharsis as I left the cinema, one of the last people to do so, and as I sat in the bar surrounded by friends who had naturally started to dissect the film, I craved peace and quiet to think about what had just happened and maybe cry a little more.

I know I’m an English student and probably not supposed to like the Harry Potter books (and films). It may not be very intellectual of me, but this story is a part of me now and I’m proud to be in the Harry Potter generation.

(Image from here)

Reader’s Block

When I finished all my essays and exams at the beginning of June, I thought that I was going to be going on a reading spree over the Summer, even with my work and everything. I received Josh Ritter’s book in the post at last, it must have come when I was away at Foo Fighters. It was then that I realised that I have three books that I am in the middle of at the minute, and the large Deathly Hallows that needs to be read before I see the film which is out on the 15th July. This makes five books altogether ! I am so keen to get started on the long-awaited ‘Bright’s Passage’ by my beloved Josh Ritter. But I would love to get all my other books cleared up first.

Firstly I began reading It Sucked and then I CriedHeather Armstrong a.k.a Dooce from Dooce.com. “How I had a baby, a breakdown and a much-needed margarita” I love her blog, and it’s written in the exact same style. It’s funny and honest, and I’m on page 177. I think I could read it quite quickly if I applied myself. I do worry I shouldn’t read anything about post-natal depression though, because I’ve always worried that I will be prone to this. I don’t want to put myself off having babies even more than being the eldest of 8 already has…!

Shoes match !

Then I began reading Jessie ❤ NYC – Keris Stainton I follow Keris on Twitter and her blog and I  feel like I know her now. I have been looking forward to this book and I really feel both Jessie and Keris’ love of New York. I think New York is to Jessie as letter writing is to me. It’s funny and realistic and is looking great from page 116 ! I couldn’t take it to London because I was afraid to add ANY more weight to my hand luggage for the journey over. But I want to delve in again soon!

On the way back from Stansted I called into WH Smith for something to read and When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman caught my eye. I’m glad I bought it, I read 83 pages on the short flight back, and the language swept me away from the first lines. “I divide my life into two parts, not really a Before and After, more as if they are bookends, holding together flaccid years of empty musings, year of the late adolescent or thetwentysomething whose coat of adulthood simply does not fit.”

As I said, I really want to read the final Harry Potter book again before I see the last film and let go forever. I’ve only read this book once, when it came out in 2007 and I’m keen to refresh myself. I don’t want Bright’s Passage to be waiting too long, either. Though I am nervous that it is going to completely attack God. Josh seems to hate a God that he isn’t sure exists and this makes me a bit sad, as I try to believe against all the odds. And I really admire Josh Ritter, as you all know.

The internet, full-time work and wanting to see the boyfriend who I had minimum time with throughout the year are all to blame for my slow reading. I need to make more time for it. Twitter needs to stop distracting me so much!

More Potter?

**May contain Harry Potter spoilers**

So what do we all make of Pottermore? I’ve been trying to look up theories but I’m not coming up with anything interesting! I personally hope that if not a new book, some piece of writing at least from J.K Rowling. No, I am hoping for a book. I read that Scholastic has ruled this out, but I shall cling on to hope. I don’t particularly want another Harry Potter book, the finality of it is looming with the release of the Deathly Hallows 2 film next month. A little part of me died when I finished book 7 I must say. But another visit to the Wizarding World in book form would be interesting… however, it must be about Harry…or at least the Potters (Pottermore.) Ooh, perhaps some kind of prequel?

I can’t see myself getting overly excited for a website, no matter how great it is. Yes, an encyclopedia would be fascinating and J.K Rowling’s website was pretty impressive, especially when you had to work out all the codes and riddles for upcoming book titles etc…Ah those were the days. But unless the website keeps us up to date with Harry’s current life (His birthday is 1980 apparently, so he’s 31 now!) I’m finding it hard to imagine it being anything astounding. Would be happy to be proved wrong, however.

I’m quite enjoying the mystery surrounding it. It’s oh so very J.K don’t you think? She is making an annoucement on Thursday…the day I get my exam results, and will probably be in Belfast, to move out and hopefully attend a wedding…

So, got any Pottermore theories? And aren’t you just SO excited for Deathly Hallows Part 2?

Dear Mr Potter

“Dear Mr. Potter: Letters of Love, Loss, and Magic,” a book featuring letters and pictures from Harry Potter fans around the world focusing on how the Harry Potter series has impacted and inspired its fans, will be released Summer 2011 with all proceeds benefiting the Harry Potter Alliance.

Dear Mr. Potter is a blog-based charity project that focuses on J.K. Rowling’s life-changing Harry Potter series, and how it has impacted, inspired, and affected its fans. For nine months, Dear Mr. Potter has collected the sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching, always incredible stories of the Harry Potter series’ biggest fans through letters and photographs, among other mediums. Each submission tells a different a Potter fan’s unique story and journey.

For those of you who don’t know, Dear Mr. Potter is a non-profit book to benefit the Harry Potter Alliance. The book contains hundreds of letters and pictures from Harry Potter fans from around the world, telling how the series has impacted and inspired them. New York Times-bestselling author John Green, Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance, Paul DeGeorge of Harry and the Potters, and Andrew Sims of MuggleNet are just a few of the recognizable names whose letters you’ll be able to see in the book. It’ll be available for pre-order in a few days.

This fills me with excitement! It’s a rather postsecret-esque cover/idea isn’t it? Harry Potter and post/letters ! My favourites. Just the other day I found @dearmrpotter on Twitter and I was intrigued. You can visit the website here.

As an English (and Philosophy) undergraduate, I know I may be widely frowned upon for reading and enjoying the Harry Potter books. I will admit that in recent years I have grown a little distant from Harry, but his story will always hold a special place in my heart and if I have my own children, I will happily pass on my battered books as they near that all important 11th birthday.

I won’t say that J.K Rowling opened reading up to me, I’ve been a bookworm as long as I remember. I’m not sure exactly when I discovered Harry Potter, I started with the 2nd book, The Chamber of Secrets, I was at the Shantallow Library and I remember that I had heard something about it, so I borrowed it.  That book came out in 1998 – oh I have just Wikipedia’d it – I remember my cousin Edel buying the Prisoner of Azkaban when it came out – in 1999 – and I anxiously waited for her to finish it so I could read it. ( I must not have had any money in 1999) This means I was 9 when I started reading Harry Potter- between 1998-1999. Aw.

I had a go at writing a letter:

Dear Mr Potter,

I guess I am a little late with my letter submission, but I think you still deserve a wee line or two.  I have just discovered that I discovered you when I was 9 years old. The name Harry Potter rang a bell with me and I checked out Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A quiet and shy child, books were my friends and I loved nothing more than to escape into them.

I soon went back to read the first installment, and was fascinated with the idea of a boy finding out he is not who he thinks he is and escaping to an exciting world of magic, friends, danger and fame. I remember my cousin and I used to have deep conversations about the goings -on at Hogwarts, and the third book The Prisoner of Azkaban floored me. The plot was so intricate with the time travel at the end, and the fear of Sirius Black and the shock and excitement and possibility for Harry that he had a guardian in the world he belonged to.

I know that everyone has said this, but my 11 year old self longed for that letter. My heart hurt with wanting to hold that parchment and look at Dumbledore’s signature and board the Hogwarts Express to my new life. Part of me knew the truth, but part of me hoped. I felt sorry for the kids that wrote to J.K Rowling begging her to tell Dumbledore that he had overlooked them, but I understood it too. 11 is a lonely time, and then it turned to even just wanting a white owl that would keep me company, and swoop into the night, returning with fat letters from friends.

Not living in America, there were no midnight book launches or dressing up for me. My Daddy pre-ordered each book for me, and they usually came on sunny July Saturdays, and I skipped out to the Amazon man who smiled as he handed over a brown package, each bigger than the last. I tried not to gobble the book up in one go, closing it firmly when there were only a few chapters left, but I think 2 days was my maximum.

I probably shouldn’t have worried. The dissecting and discussion and frustrations that came after reading were often as fun as the reading itself. I knew this was about somewhere…my friend @AlfieMcDuffs went to Chicago for the summer in 2005. The summer we were 15 and the summer the penultimate book came out. I came across this today – a list – I knew I had it here somewhere, and it made me LOL.

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Stuff about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince to email Aisling (In America) about.

1. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape all these years? I was sure there was some shocking reason why Snape was good-hearted underneath and was thoroughly looking forward to having that explained. Now all that years of “I trust Severus Snape” mystery was for nothing. I’m disappointed Dumbledore couldn’t see through the filthy, hook-nosed, greasy haired stuck up evil death eater. Dumbledore was supposed to be perfect, infallible, but he acted weird the whole book, then ass-hole kills him. I sure miss Dumbledore, though.

2. There was way too much snogging. It was uncalled for, and had nothing to do with the plot. Plus, I’m way jealous of Tonks. I heart Lupin! Hairy palms and all!

3. Dumbledore, God rest him, didn’t actually get around to telling the proper story of his blackened hand, just the bare bones of it. (no pun intended)

There is more but these are the funniest. The book came out two days before this. I was emailing Aisling, but I’m glad I wrote it all down ! Hours of enjoyment discussing the fine details of the book and quoting the funniest parts. This leads me on to the twin thing. Around this time Aisling gave all her female friends boy’s names and vice versa? Firstly I was Alfred or Albert or something. She was George. Then we realised Fred would be good for me, like Fred and George, the identical twin brothers of Ron Weasley. So I became Fred and to this day Aisling is saved in my contacts as George. After that time a lot of freaky twin things happened to us!  Even when she went back to America, or went to Belfast when I was in Derry etc. Also Fred and George are HILARIOUS, as are we 🙂

Image from here

“You’re a prefect? Oh Ronnie! That’s everyone in the family!” [Molly Weasley]
“What are Fred and I? Next door neighbours?”

So just a thank you, Harry for keeping me company when I was growing up, for giving me hope that good will overcome bad, and for showing that you can be a hero and make a big difference even if you are reluctant and confused and don’t know what’s happening half the time!

Love,

Fiona

I probably could go on forever about the Harry Potter books. I don’t want to sound overly obsessive! They were a big part of my life and my geekiness comes out every now and then. I’m glad I am a part of it, I have the greatest respect for J.K Rowling, I think she is a genius for creating a whole world like that. And I actually love her writing.

Thanks for bearing with me – I think I’m going to preorder that Dear Mr Potter book…

Oh, Happy Easter Everyone!