Sunday, 26 April 2020

Snape gets gnawed by Fluffy, Broomstick trouble and Harry finds a Mirror


First - sorry for the delay in posting this update to my journey through the novels of Harry Potter.  I've had a busy week, and work, life, and the need to get rid of the moss in my lawn before the grass mowing season, got in the way.

I'll try and post more regularly again now - I'm still in Book One - but I'm up to page 230.

Spring has sprung - nothing whatsoever to do with Harry Potter - but nice flowers in the garden :-)

With his first Quidditch match looming, Harry is thrown a curve ball by Hermione - who kindly 'lends' him what turns out to be a library book! - Quidditch Through the Ages - which, while it was an interesting read, costs Gryffindor another 5 points when Snape confiscates it from Harry, on the grounds that 'Library books are not to be taken out of school' - which seemed a bit harsh.  

Later when Harry went to try and get the book back - Professor Snape was overheard complaining about his leg wounds - revealing that the Three Headed Dog in the forbidden corridor caused his limp.  

The Quidditch match didn't quite go as planned - with Harry's new Nimbus Two Thousand developing  a  mind of its own - bucking wildly - and nearly un-seating Harry, refusing to go where Harry wanted, Hagrid comments to Hermione that the only thing that can interfere with a broomstick is 'Dark Magic' - and scanning the crowd, Hermione spots Professor Snape jinxing the broomstick from the other stand.  Racing round behind him, she casts a spell, setting his robe on fire - which distracts Professor Snape from meddling with Harry's broom for long enough for Harry to regain control of the broomstick, and reveal that he had the golden snitch in his mouth from when he 'nearly swallowed it' in the dive!  The opposing team complain - but Harry hadn't broken any rules and it was good enough to win the match by One Hundred and Seventy points to Sixty.  

After the game - while discussing the 'broomstick cursing' episode with Hagrid - (who can't believe that Professor Snape would do such a thing), Hagrid lets slip that the three headed dog's name is Fluffy - and that whatever Fluffy's guarding, has something to do with a Nicolas Flamel - Ooops!  More clues for Harry . . 

Christmas decorations are up at Hogwarts, and in the post Harry gets a gift, a cloak of invisibility, which the unidentified sender says Harry's father left with him for safekeeping - and he has sent it on to Harry as he believes it is time it was returned to him.

After a splendid Christmas lunch, Harry uses his new cloak to gain access to the restricted section of the library but is heard by Filch who reports the noise to Professor Snape - and while nipping into a side room to evade the search - Harry comes across a magnificent ornate tall mirror with an inscription carved around the top - Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi which as every fan of Bletchley Park and Simon Singh's book The Code Book: - The Secret History of Codes and Code Breaking will easily be able to translate, when regrouped  and reversed, as I show not your face but your hearts desire.

Harry looks into the mirror, and sees his Mum and Dad, Ron sees himself, older as the head boy, and Quidditch captain.

Pushing his luck, going back to the mirror for a third night, just about to settle down for another look at his family, he is surprised by Albus Dumbledore - who comments that it's "strange how short-sighted being invisible can make you", and then in a kindly way explains that like many before him, what he has discovered is known as the Mirror of Erised, Albus Dumbledore lets on that he has been watching Harry and Ron on previous nights - saying "I don't need a cloak to become invisible".

Dumbledore asks what Harry thinks the mirror is - Harry replies that he thinks the Mirror shows whatever we want, and is corrected, with the explanation that the mirror simply reveals the deepest most desperate desire in the viewer's heart - Harry - sees the family he has never known, while Ron - always overshadowed by his brothers sees himself as top dog.

It's also pointed out that the mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth.

Saying that the mirror will be moved that night, and that Harry should not search for it - Dumbledore reveals what he sees in the mirror - 'a pair of thick woollen socks' complaining that he didn't get any socks for Christmas, - people insisted on buying him books.  Oddly enough I generally have exactly the opposite problem - I get socks when I would prefer books!

 

Monday, 20 April 2020

Special delivery - Nimbus 2000

Harry's new broom arrives - I imagined that since the Gryffindor Quidditch team's latest trainee was supposed to be a surprise for the other houses, and with significant wizard type expertise available to Professor McGonagall and friends, it should have been possible to find a spell which cloaked the arrival of Harry's Nimbus Two Thousand - or at least magicked it straight under Harry's bed in the dorm tower - avoiding prying eyes.   

But No!  That's far too simple.

Instead - the broom not only arrives in the public owl post - but arrives in a broomstick shaped package flown in by SIX large Screech Owls - not exactly a stealthy arrival.





So it was just as well that Professor McGonagall attached a helpful covering letter, explaining "DO NOT OPEN THE (Broomstick shaped) PARCEL AT THE TABLE" - it contains your new Nimbus Two Thousand, I don't want everyone knowing you've got a broomstick - or they'll all want one.

That's alright then.

Harry's first team training introduces three balls - a huge football sized Quaffle to chuck through hoops - some little black balls with a mean streak designed to put you off your stride or knock the unwary off their broomsticks, and one they didn't get to play with - the golden snitch - a flying ball with wings that the seeker (That's Harry?), has to catch to get a hundred and fifty points - simples.  (I'm sure it will make sense when I get used to it).

Halloween arrived and brought baked pumpkin, - fine if you like the taste of pumpkin - but personally - having tried pumpkin pie once, (very sickly - mainly sugar with added vegetables - Yuk!)..  I now use pumpkins for their intended purpose - which is carving, generally a toothy grin and triangular holes for the nose and eyes - then stick a night-light candle inside to look suitably spooky for Halloween.

Ron upsets Hermione by loudly telling all within earshot (including Hermione herself, - Ooops!), that she is a nightmare - cue Hermione flouncing off to the ladies loo, just before it's announced that there's a troll on the loose in the dungeons.  

Harry and Ron find - and defeat - the12 foot mountain troll in the ladies.  - Ron nearly loses his wand up the Troll's nose - but manages to pull it out (covered in Troll bogies - which he wipes on the troll's trousers).  Hermione is rescued - but the noise of their troll battle - (ending when the troll is levitated by a sneaky spell, knocking himself out on his own club), alerts Prof McGonagall, Snape and Quirrell - Asked what on earth they were doing - Hermione tells a little white lie and says it was her fault - she went looking for the troll on her own - and gets fined 5 Gryffindor house points for being stupid enough to go hunting trolls, but Harry and Ron get 10 Gryffindor house points back for defeating the troll.   

Last but not least - they are all friends now - as the book says 'there are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other - and knocking out a 12 foot mountain troll is one of them'.   I'll have to remember that handy tip for making friends.  Now where did I put that 12 foot mountain troll?  I know it's here somewhere....

 

Friday, 17 April 2020

Seeker and Cerberus but no Midnight duel

The outcome of Harry's first 'unauthorised' but hugely successful broomstick flight, was that he's been spotted as a 'natural' with a rare gift for broomstick flying.

Far from getting expelled, and on the first train home to the Dursley's, which is what he feared. Professor McGonagall marched him down Hogwarts' corridors - to meet 'Wood' the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team - excitedly telling the captain that she's found a 'seeker'.  

First years don't generally play for the house in the Quidditch team, but with his natural skill Harry now looks set to be snapped up by the Gryffindor team, with Wood and Professor McGonagall sorting out the details later, getting Harry into training - while trying to keep their new talent under wraps, hoping to wrong foot the opposing House teams, in some future Quidditch tournament.

I can't say I've ever flown a broomstick - but I've come close - I can fly a glider pilot a light aircraft, and ride a motorcycle.

Me in 1985, flying solo in the same Cessna 152 which I took my first flying lesson on 6th March 1983 G-OLEE
Maybe not quite a Nimbus 2000, but I'm guessing that the rush of solo flight, or riding at speed over the exposed moorland roads of the remoter parts of Wales are not dissimilar to aerobatics on a magic broom! 

Riding the A44 in Wales towards Aberystwyth - glorious open roads with perfect sweeping bends


I look forward to seeing how Harry gets on with his Quidditch training.

The midnight duel - that never happened, then lead Harry, Ron and Hermione crashing into the forbidden corridor - to face the 'giant three headed dog guarding a hatch in the floor' . . . 

I'm getting a serious case of déjà vu here - with flashbacks to Cerberus - the three headed hound of Hades guarding the entrance to the underworld - captured by Heracles in ancient Greek mythology, while rescuing Theseus (who had unwisely run off with the lovely Persephone who happened to be the wife of Hades).    

Surely it can't be the same dog - this is the21st century?    I guess we'll find out later.    

The Gryffindor mob then dodge various ghosts, using spells (generally remembered by Hermione - who seems a bit of a swot), and remembering passwords to make it out of the forbidden corridor back to the Gryffindor dorm in the tower.

WooHoo!  Page 175 - over half way through book one!

 




Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Potions, gas explosions and Neville's Remembrall goes flying

The bit where Neville melts his cauldron and everyone is climbing on to their stools to avoid getting their shoes dissolved by the escaped potion, in the Potions Chapter, reminds me very much of chemistry lessons at school.  Today, the Health and Safety regulations mean that school chemistry lessons are taught without much practical 'experimentation', and the dangerous stuff is generally shown to the class by multimedia or YouTube demonstrations.

But when I went to 'big school' as an 11 year old in 1966, 'safety' meant wearing a lab coat to save your school uniform from getting burnt by the acids in racks on the bench, or scorched by the flame from the bunsen burner each of us had, for heating up test tubes full on interesting chemicals in the practical sessions.  And of course wearing the safety glasses provided.

As well as our own 'experiments' in the chemistry coursework, large 'spectacular' or 'risky' experiments were demonstrated live on the front bench by the chemistry teacher whose name I think was Mr Auty. 

One of the best used a large round cake tin with a small hole punched in the lid, which was used to demonstrate that for an explosion to occur, you needed exactly the right mixture of fuel and oxygen.  The fuel was mains gas, which was supplied by a rubber hose connected to the laboratory bench gas tap - the gas was piped into the tin through the hole in the lid, for a few minutes making sure that the tin was full of gas, (with no air mixed in).  

The tin was placed in the centre of the bench and a lighted match applied just above the hole, producing a tall bright flame as the escaping gas burned in the air.

The flame got progressively smaller as the gas was used up, so we thought that was the end of the demonstration and relaxed - then - BOOM! as the flame went inside the tin the gas air mixture hit just the right mixture needed for a loud explosion - which blew the tin lid right up to the ceiling.  Excellent!  

If you want to know how this worked - google 'Chemistry - demonstration of spontaneous combustion', but if you get into trouble I never told you about it!

Harry and Ron ended up going to see Hagrid for tea, and Hagrid seems a bit reticent about the details of their visit to Gringotts bank, which was in the news following a burglary where nothing was taken from the vault - odd!

Neville's barn owl brought him a present from his Gran - a Remembrall - which Draco Malfoy immediately took a fancy to - giving it back only when Mr Snape turns up in the nick of time.



Later - the class are taken outside to practice Broomstick flying - Harry seems to be a natural, managing to get his Broomstick to obey the Up command - and then chasing Draco into the air when he again 'borrows' Neville's new Remembrall, managing to dive after it and catch it when Malfoy spitefully threw it in the air - looks like trouble brewing!  

Harry Potter is told off by Professor McGonagall - could be serious. and it's only page 160. 





 

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Tea with Hagrid - and Birthdays

I've run out of my favourite teabags - Assam by Lidl - it's a lovely malty 'builders tea' kind of teabag, but since I'm not allowed out at the moment due to the Covid-19 Lockdown - I'm stuck with drinking my way through my emergency tea supplies.

Not all bad - it has to be said - as I've got some  proper loose Assam tea which only takes a bit longer to infuse than the 'proper teabag way'.



Sorry about the 'Tea' diversion - blame it on Hagrid - who invited Harry for a cuppa in the Potions chapter - after all - as potions go, there is nothing much better than a nice cup of tea especially at three o clock on a Friday Afternoon.

Cherry disagrees, and spurns hot drinks in favour of cold drinks - generally with fruit in them.  But I'm sure she will discover the joy of proper tea sooner or later - probably later.

Speaking of Cherry - I haven't seen her thoughts on Jonathan Livingstone Seagull yet.

Either way - 

Happy Birthday Cherry :-)  (15th April)

have a lovely day.


Monday, 13 April 2020

The Sorting Hat, HedwigCam and a manx cat

A few things have happened today -

As far as Harry Potter book one is concerned, I read Chapter 7 The Sorting Hat, and - since it sorted everyone else - I went to the Wizarding World website and got myself sorted too. (It seemed rude not to).  As well as my House (which is Ravenclaw), it also selected me a wand

Elm wood with a unicorn hair core, 11" and brittle flexibility.  

I think we've been here before!  you are either brittle - in which case you snap! or flexible - in which case you don't  - Ho Hum . . 

My assigned patronus was a manx cat, which is nice - I'm not sure what a patronus is - but Cherry assures me that I'll find out in around book three - and for now I've gained a cat.

My Children's Collection of Harry Potter Books arrived this morning - I made a 'HedwigCam' unboxing video which also shows everyone exactly where my hair is thinning - excellent!


Either way - the books weigh 3.3 Kg, and will keep me in Harry Potter reading material for a good few weeks yet.  They also appear to get thicker towards the end - with The Order of the Phoenix being an especially chunky book.  

In 'The Sorting Hat' chapter - the start-of-term banquet struck me as an excellent idea for first year students - they never had those when I went to school. 

The ghosts seem like they could be trouble later on - but I loved Nearly Headless Nick. "Someone had tried to behead him, but had not done it properly".  The start of term notices 'no magic to be used between classes in the corridors' seems certain to be completely ignored!

All the characters I remember from the (very few) Harry Potter films I watched when Cherry was younger, seem to have ended up in the same house - 'Gryfinndor' - Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger Neville Longbottom, and Percy Weasley, so I guess they are the main gang.

The next chapter is about Potions - but I'm all Pottered out at the moment - so I'll leave that for another day.
 

Tired Owl

Looks like the rest of my Harry Potter library has arrived,3.5 Kgs - I bet that made his wings ache!   

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Piggy banks, sticks and Hogwarts Castle

I'm on page 120 - it's been a busy few pages! Hagrid - The Keeper of the keys, has freed Harry from the Dursleys, whisked him off to London,  made a withdrawal from Harry's piggy bank - Gringotts of Diagon Alley, and kitted Harry out for Hogwarts - with robes, parchment, quills, books and everything else a student wizard needs for his first term.  Including the wand (which apparently chose Harry).  Hagrid also bought Harry a birthday gift - Hedwig - his owl - I always wondered where Hedwig came from - and now I know!

The wand shop was the first time in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that I found myself questioning the facts.   Bearing in mind that by this time I have accepted without question that wizards are commonplace, owls deliver letters, boats can be propelled with nothing more than the tap of a pink umbrella, entrances open up from a couple of bricks to a Hagrid size portal, and then close again behind you and goblins guard a bank several hundred feet beneath London.   

The section in Mr Ollivander's wand emporium snapped me right out of the story with a 'That's not right!' kind of thought.  

Here's the phrase that did it  

"Your father, on the other hand, favoured a mahogany wand.  Eleven inches. Pliable

Mahogany is a fine hardwood, but one thing it isn't is pliable. But I can't keep falling out of the story whenever I find something I think is factually wrong - we're in a wizarding world here, and I need to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

After all - If I pick holes in Harry Potter books based on the physical properties of materials, I might as well complain about the dragon heartstrings and phoenix feathers as well - in which case we won't have much of a story left.  

I've therefore decided that this must be 'wizards special wand making mahogany' - with characteristics not found in ordinary 'muggle mahogany' 

What's brown and sticky?       A stick!
So I'm good with Harry Potter, and from now on - anything which contradicts what I already know from 60 years as a muggle will be considered to be special wizarding world stuff with magical properties, and I'll just carry on reading. 

The trip to Hogwarts from Platform Nine and Three Quarters, introduced the Weasley's, Hermione Granger and identified the pale snooty boy from the robe shop as Draco Malfoy - we're now out of the boat under Hogwarts ready to enter the huge oak front door.  

I can't wait to see what happens next!









 

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Unexpected Harry Potter side effect



I bought my Harry Potter books from Amazon, which is where I buy most of my books, both physical paperbacks and Kindle eBooks.   Amazon always helpfully suggests books it thinks I might like, based on my interests in a section titled 'Books you may like'.

This generally reflects my normal preferences - normal that is for a 64 year old bloke with a wide range of interests, slanted towards science, technology, aviation, computing and science fiction.

I went on Amazon again tonight after my recent purchase of a boxed set of the Children's edition of Harry Potter books 1-7,  chosen partly for the cheery covers, and also because despite containing exactly the same content, the children's edition was £31.50 and The Complete Collection (Adult Paperback) was £45.56

As usual Amazon offered me a selection of books it thought I might like - see screenshot below, but it seems to have been more than a little influenced by my purchase of the Childrens Boxed Set, - as it is now peppered with books like 'Why is SNOT green', lots of Jokes & Riddles, Train your Angry Dragon, Treasure Island, Biggles delivers the goods, White Fang, Unicorn Rescue and The Squirrels who squabbled.



I have a feeling it might be a while before Amazon offers me its previous well considered, and accurately targeted 'Grown up' version of -  'Books you may like'  -  In the meantime, I've bought a copy of 'Why is SNOT green'.   After all - with the current COVID-19 pandemic, you never know - it might come in handy. 

STOP PRESS - by the miracle of modern technology, my latest purchase was wirelessly delivered to my Kindle - and as I'm sure you're all dying to know - I can now reveal why snot is green.

I found it on page 138.   Apparently the nose contains a sticky substance which traps and flushes out harmful bacteria, and cells that the body produces to fight and kill the bugs - it is these special proteins called lysozymes that make your snot green.

I didn't know that - you're truly never too old to learn :-)



The first Three chapters

Well I'm on the way - I'm at page 50, Harry has reached his eleventh birthday, and I've already developed a desire to see Dudley (and the rest of the Dursleys) meet a sticky end, or otherwise get their just deserts.  

I've met the boa from Brazil, found out what a put-outer is, and learned how Harry got his lightning shaped scar (Boo Voldemort!).  

It's a pacy read - there's a lot going on, and probably made a lot easier for me by having a daughter who regards Harry Potter as one of life's essentials, rather than a luxury.  


 Even without reading any of the Harry Potter books, I've absorbed many Harry Potter 'truths' over the last 20 years - like muggles, potions (though I haven't come across any of those in the book yet), flying motorbikes, and owls - though I hadn't realised that owls came in flocks - my personal owl collection consists of one fluffy Hedwig - a present from Cherry - who lives on the top of my bookcase together with the rest of my furry animal collection.

Hedwig

I'm not bored - quite the opposite - it will be interesting to find answers to some of the things that have occasionally confused me while listening to Cherry talk about Harry Potter, both on YouTube and with her friends over the years.
 

Friday, 10 April 2020

It's here


I've got the first book, all I've got to do now is read it.  I'll start it this evening. 

Breaking my Harry Potter Duck

Book one - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The deed is done - I've ordered my first Harry Potter book from Amazon - and it's out for delivery.  

I'm nervous - which is a surprise, 

I've successfully avoided reading Harry Potter for nearly 23 years, since my children Ben and Cherry discovered it and both loved it, devouring every new Harry Potter book released since then (7 in total I'm told).

Yesterday 9th April 2020 I was talking to Cherry via What's App, about stuff - including the new Red Dwarf episode on the telly, and somehow ended up agreeing to read all the Harry Potter books, in exchange for her reading seven books I chose.

I ordered the first Book in the Potter series, and Cherry is presumably settling down to read Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. 

This then is my last 'Potterless' day.  I'll let you know how I get on.

There's gnome place like home

De-gnoming - is on the list of jobs for the day, but breakfast first - Mrs Weasley certainly seems to be making up for the starvation ration...