Harry Potter and my childhood.

Ridley: Like many people in their mid-twenties, I grew up with Harry Potter. For 12 years, as each book and film was produced, I was there ready and waiting! It was a sad and jubilant moment when the last film was finally released.

Why do I chat about this now? Because J.K Rowling has returned! She’s announced she has a new adult novel coming out. With so many children, who were her original fans, now fully grown up, I’m in little doubt that this new book will do well. Beyond well. I know already I’ll buy it, even if it was about dirty dishwater I’d still get it. I know it’ll be interesting, though I haven’t a clue what it’s about or even what it looks like (don’t judge a book by its cover unfortunately is a saying ignored by me, not deliberately, it’s just what happens. The more interesting/striking the cover, the more likely it is I will pick it up and ultimately buy it) As it is with J.K’s new book there are only rumours that it could be a crime novel.

I was trying to imagine yesterday what the pressure being heaped upon her must feel like. There are some enormous, ridiculous expectations that she has to live up to. I just wonder how you can sit down in front of your laptop and just type, knowing that’s all there, that it won’t go away. Surely it’s given some sleepless nights. At some point though, I think you’d have to just say, ‘feck it, I’ll write for me’ and just go for it. It’s what she did for her other books before this and it seemed to work!

Of course, some of her biggest fans want this to be another HP phenomenon. I say some fans, because there are those of us who wish we could tell her we just expect a good entertaining read, her books don’t need to change the world every time. Her critics, of course, want it to be a flop, for her to fail, so they can say I told you so. But we’ll all just ignore them.

Either way, she’s a fantastic writer, her words enthral you, even listening to her Harvard commencement speech was amazing. 

So…I can’t wait!! 🙂

After hearing this news, I also started to remember where it all began, I believe we each have our own stories to how we ‘discovered’ Harry Potter in the first place. 

My start with reading the series was far from auspicious. I was thirteen, still in primary school when Harry made his first appearance. A younger sister of a friend ran up brandishing the Philosopher’s Stone in my face, insisting it was ‘the best book she’d ever read’. I turned it over to read the blurb and saw ‘boy is rescued by an owl’. All I thought was ‘no thanks, I don’t want to read a kiddies book about giant owls.’

Even to this day I still shake my head in despair.

It wasn’t until a few months later, during the summer time, that I came across the book again. My parents brought home a treat for both my brother and I.

My mother who always worried that he wasn’t reading enough (no fear of that with me!) bought him Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For me she brought back a tape with the song ‘Kiss me’ by Sixpence None the Richer on it. (I loved it. To this day when I hear that song, these memories still come flooding back to me.)

My brother ignored the book. It took me two days before I was bored enough to go hunting for it. I had finished all of my own books and wanted something else to read. I found Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone abandoned on the floor in my brother’s bedroom. (on the floor!!) I settled down into the living room, legs dangling over the armrest with a cup of tea. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. It was a child’s book after all…little did I know!

I flew through it.

I bought the second book that same day. I cajoled my father into giving me a lift into town where I used my allowance money. My parents cautioned me to ‘make it last’ and not to read it too fast.

I didn’t listen.

I finished the Chamber of Secrets also within hours.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had just been published that summer. I had no more money left, I remember painstakingly counting out the exact change in copper coins, penny by penny, to be able to buy it.

I had to wait a day this time. It was excruciating.

The next morning, along with an indulgent fatherly smile, another lift was provided. When I got into town, I remember it was almost deserted. I can’t remember why, it was possibly only due to the horrific weather. The day was dark grey, overcast, it had been raining heavily all morning.

When I arrived at the bookshop, the lights were glaring, harsh on the eyes compared to outside and the yellow wooden floor was so bright.

I paused just inside. It was also very quiet, a fan whirled gently just above the door. I felt a small cool waft of air along my arms. The shop was empty. A single sales assistance stood behind the till, watching me. In my wet shoes I squeaked my way straight across to the stand where the book was on display. I twirled around, clutching it to my chest and I stuck out my fist, it was full of pennies. I dropped them into the girl’s joined hands with a muttered apology.

I almost ran from the shop. When I got home, it was read as quickly as the last ones.

Then I had to wait for a year. Reading and rereading the Prisoner of Azkaban. Twiddling my thumbs like a loon. It was agony waiting for Book 4. The night before it was published, I couldn’t sleep. I was listening to the radio, they were reporting on the hundreds of people that turned up for the Harry Potter midnight party in Eason’s in Dublin. I remember thinking the people that were up there were so lucky to have  gotten the book already. (little did I know, my own local bookshop opened with a party that night too!) 

It was after the 4th book came out, that it really felt like the rest of the world sat up and took notice. It was popular and then some. The parties, events, they all just got bigger as time went on, then the movies happened.

Soon everyone else loved Harry Potter too.

It was my first ever experience of wanting a book now. I couldn’t get my hands on the next sequels fast enough.

I darted around the house, telling anyone that would listen to me how fantastic the books were. I suddenly understood why that little girl had run up to me all those months ago, waving the book around. Every single one of my friends got the same treatment from me, I introduced them to Harry Potter (I didn’t know Latimer at the time, so she didn’t benefit from my uncontrolled enthusiasm! It was probably just as well, I think together our Harry Potter obsessions would have reached scary supernova levels!)

I still marvel at the fact there are children alive now today that never had that anticipation, that will never have gotten a chance to go to those parties. I can only hope one day there will be a new series that can capture people’s imagination and interests like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books did. That those children can have the fun we did. Perhaps her new books will do it again? We shall see!

For now though, for those of you that were lucky enough to have them, tell me about your Harry Potter discovery stories! You too Latimer, when did you flick open that first page of the Philosopher’s Stone and join the HP world?

4 thoughts on “Harry Potter and my childhood.

    1. I know!! The pressure is hard to fathom. She has so many fans just banging at the gates waiting for the new book! Telling her they’re expecting great things, it’d freak anyone out! Thanks for dropping by Talli, love your writing!

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