Long time no Harry Potter! It’s been a week or so, and I find that I’ve missed being everyone’s Nana. I guess that’s a good sign. I mean, I either like the story, or I just really love talking at people.
First, an update on our hero.
Since we last saw Harry Potter he’s been in a cupboard.
This is what Dudley has been up to: He’s taken his racing bike for a spin and knocked over old Mrs Fig, whilst she was hobbling across the road on crutches. That’s just the kind of kid he is, you guys.
Anyway, to be fair, I suppose the only reason Harry’s been all boring in his cupboard is because he was punished like the blazes for that awesome stunt he pulled with the Boa in the last chapter. He’s cupboard-bound up until the summer holidays start, but his release isn’t all that wonderful.
See Harry can’t escape Dudley and his gang during the school term and apparently he can’t escape them during the holidays either; their favourite sport is “Harry Hunting” and they’re determined to indulge whether school is in or out.
Harry Hunting??? On the face of it, it sounds like something Rin might be into…
And she’d totally make me play too, and I’d totally ignore the rules and start creeping along after Dudley and then she’d pack up her things and go home forever.
Heather says: A rubbish bin, Rin? Really? Sophia’s got an invisibility cloak. If you want to be a real stalker, you’re seriously going to have to up your game.
Sophy says: LOL WHAT NO SHE DOESN’T. She’s just a master of disguise. But I agree, I sincerely hope Rin is wearing jean shorts in there.
Anyway, we’re told that Dudley’s GANG of friends are all big and stupid, and Dudley is the biggest and stupidest of the lot, “so he’s the leader,” I guess we’re supposed to believe that since they’re stupid they embrace stupid logic, but really, wouldn’t the least idiotic of the bunch be able to maneuver himself into the top spot most easily???
I suspect Dudley’s leadership position has more to do with his awesome racing bike and the other 3849382 expensive toys he must have accumulated over the years than his corpulence or pea-brain.
And meanwhile he has a FREAKING GANG. Yeah, I’m still not over that.
I’d like a gang of my own, I think. Is it wrong that I’m faintly hoping Ropher will turn out that way eventually…?
Rin says: I’m sure I have Triad blood in me.
Heather says: My new life goal is to see Ropher listed as a cult in the Handbook of World Religions.
Sophy says: IT’LL ALWAYS BE THE DREAM.
But enough of such
monumental trivial matters. Harry finds that this year he feels quite differently about the end of the summer holidays from most small children. To him it is a ray of hope, because he’ll finally be going to a different school from Dudley. Dudley is going to a fancy-pants private school, which, if I were reading the British version, would be rather confusingly called a ‘public’ school. Thank God those poor little American nippers and I don’t have to strain our brains with British eccentricities.
Anyway the school has an appropriately silly name – ‘Smeltings.’ The poor-ass school Harry will be going to has an appropriately forbidding name – ‘Stonewall High’.
Wait a minute what? Since when is Harry going to ‘Stonewall High’??? I may not know much about Harry Potter but I do know that he’s supposed to be catching a train to fart-joke-ishly named place called Hogwarts.
But no, they’re still on about this Stonewall place, and I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see what twist of fate gets Harry on that train. Dudley says they shove people’s heads down the toilets Stonewall, and asks if Harry wants to come upstairs to practice. “No thanks,” says Harry “The poor toilet’s never had anything so horrible as your head down it. It might be sick.”
Holy zing! I appreciate the emergence of Harry’s impudent side. He’s rapidly becoming less of a Fanny Price and more of a Jane Eyre.
Heather says: Oh, Sophy. Most people would have gone with Elizabeth Bennet as the opposite of Fannie Price because of the Austen connection, but you went with Jane Eyre because of the orphan connection. And it’s such an apt literary reference, you clever little thing! (P.S. I think Jane Eyre was bisexual. And I think Charlotte Lucas was totally gay for Elizabeth Bennet.)
Sophy says: You’re making me want to reread. WITH GAY EYES.
Mrs D takes Dudley off to London to buy his school stuff, and so Harry has to go and stay with Mrs Fig. She’s not as bad as usual – as it turns out she broke her leg tripping over her cats and she’s not as fond of them anymore.
And to that I say ‘Weak, Mrs F.’ I may have tripped over my dressing gown, but I’m mature enough to know that it was my fault for being careless, not the dressing gown’s fault for existing.
Heather says: Sophy, you fool! The tail of that dressing gown belt is twitching to go rogue again! I can see it from all the way over here!
Sophy says: Mrs F wheedles her way into my affections pretty easily though, via the means of letting Harry watch TV. She’s a prince among mad old ladies whose houses smell of cabbage.
Anyway, when Harry goes home he’s treated to a bit of a fashion parade featuring one very fat, very pink, very GANG-HAVING model. Yes, you guessed it, it’s Dudley Dursley prancing about weightily in his new school uniform, and we lucky readers get a full description of the sight. To be fair, the whole ensemble sounds rather revolting, but it’s hard to remember that when one particular item Dudley is wearing may as well be jumping up and down, beating its chest wildly and yelling ‘SOPHY OF ROPHY! SOPHY OF ROPHY! IGNORE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD EXCEPT ME!’
Mr D gazes upon the knickerbockers and says it’s the proudest day of his life. Mrs D bursts into tears, but for all the wrong reasons.
Harry suppresses laughter, and I’d like to say I do the same, but I guess I’m not quite there yet. Still at the bewildered awe stage, I think, Harry. I’ll be sure to leave you a note saying ‘LOL’ when I catch up.
Rin says: In primary school I used to wear knicker bockers for Softball. Except they were blue with red stripes down the side. Year 6 softball were my glory days. Seriously, we were district champs. *flashbacks* And now I’ve realised that I should probably not mention that I used to play softball.
Heather says: *makes note to steal photo of Rin in knickerbockers hoisting trophy over her head for Rophy locker shrine*
Sophy says: I think we called them bloomers. Which might be slightly less upsetting but also might not be.
Another special feature of Dudley’s new look is his ‘Smelting Stick’. SS’s are knobbly sticks Smeltings students use to hit each other during class when the teachers aren’t looking. We’re told this is good training for their lives as adults, and I gotta say, if, as that statement implies, the muggle world prizes bullies, I think Dudders will go far.
In stark contrast to Dudley’s ORANGE KNICKERBOCKERS, Harry’s new school clothes are actually Dudley’s old pieces of crap, and look like “dirty rags swimming in grey water”. Harry asks what’s in the bucket, and when Mrs D informs him that it’s his uniform, Harry, who is getting progressively cheekier and correspondingly more awesome, says he didn’t realize it had to be so wet!
Mrs D is less appreciative of Harry’s burgeoning sense of humour, and tells him, with her usual talking-to-Harry crossness, that she’s dying the rags grey – because everyone wears grey at Stonewall High. And I suppose this is supposed to be a grim prospect, but frankly, I’m quite fond of grey. Especially on pale blondes with icy blue eyes…
Rin says: We can stop the recap here. I’m happy to end it here.
Sophy says: Mrs D says Harry will look just like everyone else, which I guess is the Dursleys’ dearest wish for him; Harry thinks he’ll look more like “bits of old elephant skin”.
Somewhere along the line we’ve skipped to the next day. Mr D – who is actually being pretty consistently referred to as Uncle Vernon now, so I’ll be calling him Uncle V – tells Dudley to get the mail. Dudley objects that Harry should get it – he’s busy banging his smelting stick on the table. Atta boy, Dudley. Practice makes perfect.
Meanwhile, I’m sort of wondering why Uncle V asked Dudley to get the mail in the first place. Since when isn’t Harry their maid??? Oh well. Shan’t dwell, since it affords Harry another opportunity to be surly and awesome, parroting his fat, whiny cousin with “Make Dudley do it”. Uncle V gets his priorities straight again, sharpish, tells Dudley to poke Harry with his smelting stick, and Harry trudges off to do their bidding.
But really, Dudley did him a favour by being lazy and busy with his pole, because there’s a letter for Harry, and it’s a good thing he’s the one to collect it, as I’m fairly sure the Dursleys wouldn’t approve of him wantonly communicating with the outside world.
Harry is all aflutter, because nobody has ever sent him a letter – no really, apparently he doesn’t even belong to the library, so he’s never even gotten rude notes about overdue books!
His virgin post is rather adorably addressed thus:
Mr. H. Potter
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
And to make matters even more exciting, the envelope is all snazzy and parchmenty and lacking in stamps, boasting green ink and a purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake surrounding a large letter H.
Ooooh. I smell Hogwarts! Also, badgers are awesome. By all accounts they are important personages, who though rarely visible, make their unseen influence felt by everybody. FACT.
Heather says: Guys. Mr. Badger and Mr. Fox are real. In real life.
Rin says: Oh my god. Oh my god. OH MY GOD.
Sophy says: FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF.
Anyway, remember how I said Dudley did Harry a favour by making him get the mail? Make that tried to do him a favour. Because Harry has decided to be a MONUMENTAL DOLT and bring the letter into the kitchen so he can open it in front of everybody. At this point whilst reading I laughed and laughed and called Harry an idiot, repeatedly. Rin rolled her eyes and tried to defend him, saying he was only 11. To that, I said “HE’S A DOLT. “
And to that, Rin said, with a kind of superior glee, “noone said he’s the smart one. you have to wait for that one :)”
Anyway, predictably Uncle V gets hold of the letter before Harry can read it, reads it himself and goes nuts. Harry is ordered out of the room, and so is Dudley – even he isn’t allowed to take a look, and this fact is most vexing to him. He’s not used to being ignored, so he gives his father a sharp tap on the head with his smelting stick.
But even that doesn’t work. Whoa. This letter must be seriously upsetting. As in ‘The Skins movie will centre on an Anwar/JJ friendship, featuring Lara, The Baby, and all all ukulele soundtrack’ upsetting.
Harry presses his ear to the door and listens to Uncle V and Aunt P talking about the letter. They sound scared, are wondering how the letter-sender could know Harry sleeps in the cupboard. They resolve not to answer the letter and hope whoever sent it will just go away.
That evening Uncle V does something he’s never done before and “visits Harry in his cupboard.” Harry asks where his letter is, and Uncle V says it was addressed to Harry by mistake and that he’s burned it.
Harry has apparently grown a brain since the ‘lala opening my letter in the kitchen lala’ incident, because he’s not buying that shit. “It was not a mistake,” he says, adding rather adorably “It had my cupboard on it!”
Uncle Vernon tries to sweet-talk him by saying he can move out of the cupboard and into Dudleys “second bedroom.” When Harry is less than sweetened, and asks why, Uncle V insists, snapping at him to get his stuff upstairs now. I suspect that this is because ever since he read the address on the envelope he’s have been having visions of social services knocking the door down and whisking Harry Potter away and straight on to Dr Phil’s stage.
Dudley’s second bedroom is where he keeps all the toys that won’t fit into his first bedroom. In contrast, it only takes Harry one trip upstairs to take everything he owns up there It’s a good thing he is small and not overburdened by possessions, though, because otherwise I’d worry he wouldn’t fit into the room, loaded as it is with goodies. Among them is “small working tank” Dudley once ran over the neighbour’s dog, and – and this is the really good part – his first ever television set which he put his foot through when his favourite program was cancelled!
Such passion! Now I feel sort of guilty for not breaking things when Dead Like Me was axed.
We’re also told that there are a bunch of books on the shelves amongst the debris of Dudley’s fervour, and they are the only things that appear never to have been touched.
Okay, okay, Dudley doesn’t read, and little kids should all read if they don’t want to grow up to be Dudley? Is that the message? Well I’m afraid it’s not working on me. My commitment to TV is unwavering. Aligning Dudley with TV is only going to make me overlook his shortcomings, not turn me into a book-snob.
Rin says: I’M NOT WEARING SHOES.
Sophy says: THE SHOES ARE NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. You and I both know that if it seriously came down to a choice between a small snivelling boy and Television, you’d be on the couch with me and Duds. Stop trying to whitewash yourself, Rin. You know, I know, the public knows.
Rin says: I won’t deny it.
Sophy says: The next day Harry has finally seen the error of his doltish ways, and is bitterly regretting not opening the letter in the relative privacy of the hall. Dudley’s in shock, because none of his attempts to get the scoop on the letter have worked. We get a rather delightful montage of his efforts, quoted ad illustrated below…
“He’d screamed, whacked his father with his Smelting stick, been sick on purpose, kicked his mother, and thrown his tortoise through the greenhouse roof.”
AMAZING. And usually I don’t like watching people vomit.
Heather says: Sophy is doomed. First the dressing gown and now this. Worst judge of character ever.
Sophy says: Oh really. So what are you trying to say about Rin, exactly??? Or YOU for that matter?????
Today Uncle V is on the lookout for trouble and insists that Dudley get the mail, not Harry. His concern is well placed, as Harry has received the second letter of his life. It’s as parchmenty and wax-sealy as the first, but this time it’s addressed to Mr H Potter The Smallest Bedroom 4 Privet Drive. There’s “a moment of confused fighting in which everyone gets hit a lot by the smelting stick”, but Uncle V comes out on top, letter in hand, and tells Harry to go to his cupboard – “I mean, your bedroom.”
So. The plot thickens. Whoever sent the letter isn’t slow on the uptake, because they know Harry has moved out of the cupboard and they know he didn’t get their first letter.
Harry has a plan, and it’s probably not quite cunning enough to double as a toothbrush, but it’s not letter/kitchen either, so… progress. He wakes up super early and tip-toes downstairs to wait for the postman, in the hopes of intercepting any further correspondence, but as he steps outside he treads on something big and squashy – Uncle Vernon’s face. He’s gone one step further and actually camped out, and I’m all ‘Whoa, Vernie, this isn’t the Twilight premiere.’
Today there are three letters for Harry, but unless they send so many Uncle V can’t hold onto them all at once, quantity isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference. Harry loses out again, and Uncle V nails the mail slot shut.
On Friday there are twelve letters, forced haphazardly through cracks and under the door, and Uncle V starts boarding the whole house up whilst singing ‘Tiptoe through the tulips”. This is getting creepy.
Dudley’s not fazed by the fact that his father is clearly going bonkers. He just sneers at Harry, asking ‘Who on earth wants to talk to you this badly?”
And I’m all… maybe… Rin of Rophy? Could it be???
Heather says: That’s more like it. Stand up and show us your jean shorts, Rin.
Rin says: No.
Sophy says: Scary. Powerful. Scary and powerful.
Uncle V is cheerful on Sunday because there’s no post, and he can take a day off from crazy. But no dice, Uncle V. Apparently whoever’s sending these letters was just using the postal service for a laugh, and so on Sunday letters simply pelt out of the fireplace, and Harry, along with everyone else, jumps around trying to catch them as they stream into the room.
To no avail.
Uncle V pulls “great tufts” out of his mustache and tells them they’re going away – “he looked so dangerous with half his mustache missing that no one dared argue.” He wrenches through the boarded up door, as Dudley tries and fails to pack his TV, VCR and computer into his sports bag, and they head for the highway.
Uncle V drives in zigzags trying to “shake ’em off”. This is the worst day of Dudley’s life. He’s missed 5 programs he wanted to see
They stop at a hotel and have stale cornflakes and cold tinned tomatoes for breakfast. Yikes. This is bad. Sounds like something Rin would throw together.
Rin says: OMG YOU BITCH. That’s uncalled for. I would at least fry an egg and put it on top.
Sophy says: Then you’d call it a “Stale Salad”.
And all this agony is in vain, because 100 letters arrive at the front desk for Mr H Potter, Room 17 Railview Hotel, Cokeworth.
Still Uncle V manages to play keepy-off, and they leave the hotel immediately. At this point he’s seriously crazy, so I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when he finds “the perfect place”, and said “perfect place” turns out to be “the most miserable little shack you could imagine”…. perched on a rock. At sea. In a storm..
Dudley complains that it’s Monday and he’s missing ‘The Great Humberto’. We’re told that it must actually be Monday – you can count on Dudley to know the days of the week because of television. Seriously Rowling. Stop it with this Dudley/TV thing or I’ll never get on the right track. I mean, I think it was somewhere around here that I told Rin “I’m Dudley. You can be the little drip with the lightening scar. I have TV. And a gang. And a layer of blubber to keep me warm in the water. ”
Anyway, anyway, anyway. The point is that if it’s Monday, and it is, then tomorrow will be Harry’s birthday! As they cross the belligerent sea in a little boat, Harry realizes, with secret delight, that he’ll be 11 years old in a few hours – not that that will matter to the Dursleys. Even at the best of times they do their utmost to ignore Harry’s birthday. Last year they gave him a coat-hanger and a pair of Uncle V’s old socks. I bet they didn’t even wash them first and Uncle V wore them around the house without shoes for a week beforehand – filthy.
When they get to the shack, Uncle V distributes the rations – four bags of chips and a banana each. After they’ve eaten he tries to make a fire with the empty chip packets which… no. Unless they mean hot chips, since the Brits call chip-chips crisps, but still even then… no. Rowling agrees with me, and so there is no fire. Mr V Jovially remarks that they could use some of those letters right about now, and I don’t think Harry appreciates the gag.
Uncle V is damn cheerful though, despite their somewhat dire circumstances. He announces gleefully that nobody stands a chance of delivering mail out here in a storm, and his logic is a little bit ‘YAY IV’E CUT ALL MY TOES OFF NOW NOONE CAN EVER CUT MY TOES OFF.’
Rin says: Okay, this fixation with toes/broken toes has GOT to stop.
Sophy says: Look, my toes have just been through a lot in their time is all.
And so has little Harry. He is tired and sad and finds the softest bit of floor he can, thinks about his letters, counts down to his birthday…
And just as he gets to midnight, there’s a booming sound louder than the storm.
Someone is knocking at the shack door.