So first things first. I’ve been thinking about the last chapter, and whilst at the time of posting, I was fairly happy with it, and would have given it, maybe, a solid eight out of ten, I have to say that the next morning, I, like many a competitive Come Dine With Me contestant before me, decided to knock off a point.
Why, you ask? Well, Rin reminded me that in said opening chapter Harry Potter fell asleep whilst flying over Bristol.
I mean, really, I can’t approve of this kind of laziness. What kind of a hero is this kid??!
Let’s just say Rophy would never fall asleep whilst flying over Bristol and leave it at that.
Rin says: Look at Hagrid. The smarmy bastard. I’m crying and wailing for him to pull over and stop so we can peek into our favourite teens’ windows at night, but NOO. HE JUST CONTINUES CRUISIN’.
Heather says: If either of you had read Hogwarts: A History, you’d know that there’s a truce between Giant Clans, and Hagrid can’t land in Bristol because it’s strictly Mandeh’s territory.
Sophy says: WHY HASN’T HARRY SAVED BRISTOL FROM HER TYRANNY???? He was so much cooler when he was a baby.
The chapter opens with a bit of ‘ten years later’ action, and we find that Harry’s life with the Dursleys is and has been just about as bad you’d expect, without actually turning this whole thing into a gritty portrait of emotional and physical abuse that no child should be allowed to read.
They hate him. I mean they really, really hate him.
But first things first! Dudley. Where the pictures of what looked like a “large pink beachball in different coloured bonnets” once hung are portraits of a large blonde boy. Large. You lied to me, Rin. YOU SAID THERE WOULD BE NO STRAPPING. Trying to turn me against him from the start, that’s what you’ve been doing.
And what the fuck is going on with that picture in the poll? That is NOT Dudley Dursley. He’s supposed to be blonde and pink, like a “baby angel” or possibly a “pig in a wig”. And the casting people give me Hitler before he could grow facial hair????
Rin, I know we said we’d recap the first movie once we were done with the first book, but I’m just not sure anymore.
Rin says: But oh my god they’re so adorable, and their voices are like mice. Squeak squeak!
Sophy says: Idk. It’s like they weren’t even trying to get Dudley right. Disheartening.
There are tons of pictures of Dudders being adored at various times and places by his parents. My favourite among the photos is the one of him playing a computer game with his father, because it just seems so wrong. I mean, this is a story about magic, right? Computer games just shouldn’t exist in stories about magic. Computers shouldn’t exist. And if they do, the characters should have the decency to turn a blind eye to it. This is one of the things about Harry Potter though, something that makes it different from most fantasy novels for children – or at least most fantasy novels for children that I’ve read. It intermingles the antiquated, magical world with the modern, muggle world, which is jarring – almost wrong – and somewhat entertaining, perhaps.
(Sorry CS Lewis, I know you totally did the same thing ages ago, but the trouble is that by the time I read your stuff, the modern, muggle world you described was already quaint and faraway. All tweed and ginger beer. Not a computer game in sight.)
Heather says: CS Lewis, I wish you could meet Hermione Granger, I really do. She would straighten your quaint little notions about women right up.
Sophy says: lolol, I don’t remember my feminist sensibilities being offended by the Narnia series. But then I was losing baby teeth when I read them. BABY DINOSAUR TEETH.
Anyway, wow! Who would have thought I could get so much out of Dudley and his video games? He really is a rich and colourful character, isn’t he?
In contrast to the Gallery of Dudley, there is no evidence that Harry even lives at the Dursley house. He is shunned and hidden and made to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs – spiders for teddy-bears, all that.
There are no photos of him in the house, or of his parents, but we the readers get a physical description of ten year old Harry early in this chapter – he’s skinny, with knobbly knees, particularly unruly jet black hair, green eyes behind a pair of round glasses which he holds together with sticky tape. The only thing he likes about his appearance, we are told, is the scar on his forehead, and this is all kind of sad – since when do ten year old boys have body issues???
(And meanwhile, if I had green eyes, I’d be chuffed about it.)
Speaking of the scar, whenever he asks where it came from, the Dursleys get pissy with him and say he got it in the “car crash” that supposedly killed his mother and father. And I say LIES!!! LIES!!!
But on with the plot. Harry is in the middle of a particularly awesome dream about FLYING MOTORCYCLES, when he’s woken by Mrs Dursley knocking on the cupboard door, telling him shrilly, to get up and cook the bacon.
Everything needs to be perfect, she says, because…
IT’S DUDLEY’S BIRTHDAY!!!
Heather says: Sophy, this is getting out of hand. It’s like watching Star Wars with someone who is rooting for Darth Vadar. Or House with someone who is rooting for Cuddy. (Yeah, I went there.)
Sophy says: You went there… and Rophy loved you for it.
The table is covered with his presents, among them a racing bike, and apparently it’s a bit of a mystery as to why he’d want one of those, as he’s very fat and hates exercise unless it involves punching someone.
At this point I chuckle to myself and say “I like Dudley.” Straight from my chapter notes to you.
And I’m wondering whether the bike thing was a ruse to get Heather Hogan to like him. Did it work Heather? No?
Rin says: I don’t know Heather, just…you seem like such a mountain biking nut so I have this image in my head that you’re really good at it and often show off. Wheelies and whatnot. I probably should have draped an American flag off of you, like a cape. Heather ‘Evel Knievel’ Hogan. And I’m just being me.
Heather says: I don’t own any American flags or American flag paraphernalia because they clash with my yellow spandex cycling pants. Also, I can just tell by the look on Dudders’ face that he’s trying to find his way to the lake to perve on Naomi and Emily. Smack him in the head with that rock, Rin; Effy can show you how.
Sophy says: LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT THE DESIRE TO PERVE ON NAOMILY CAST THE FIRST STONE. THAT MEANS NOT YOU, RIN.
Seriously, not you.
Anyway, Dudley’s upset that he has less presents than last year – only 37! Oh noes! – and a whole lot of coddling and promising from Mrs D ensues.
This is the plan for his birthday: More presents, then a trip to the zoo with one of his friends. Every year on Dudley’s birthday, his parents take him out with one of his friends – and really, that sounds pretty rough – one outing a year? Is that normal? Was I just really spoiled or something? Anyway, every year they take Dudley out, and Harry gets sent off to hang out with Mrs Fig, a “mad old lady” whose whole house smells of cabbage. Harry does not enjoy this experience, and the main reason cited is that she makes him look at photos of all the cats she’s ever owned.
I guess Harry’s not much of a cat person. Me neither, Harry. Shifty little things.
Anyway, Harry is rather thrilled to hear that this year Mrs Fig can’t take him. It turns out she’s broken her leg, and I instantly decide she did it descending the stairs one evening, tripping over her dressing gown in her haste to get to The Bill.
We have a lot in common Mrs Fig. BUT I’LL NEVER BE A CAT LADY.
I do, however, have a large collection of dachshund-related memorabilia, that I plan to peruse with Rin next time we meet up.
Rin says: Wow, that doesn’t sound shifty at all.
Sophy says: …
Are you saying you don’t care for sausage dogs? Is that what you’re trying to say, Rin? Is it???
*takes a moment before continuing*
Mr D suggests they ask another friend of theirs to mind Harry and Mrs D retorts with “Don’t be silly, she hates the boy.” Apparently they often speak about him like he’s not there – or, and this I found amusing, as though he’s “something very nasty that can’t understand them. Like a slug.”
Hm. Right now I’m seeing a slug with little round glasses…
And a pig in a wig…
How to choose…
Well… I do like bacon a whole lot…
Harry points out that they could just leave him where he is. He’s secretly excited at the prospect of being left at home alone, and the main reason for this is that it presents an opportunity to watch TV, and maybe have a go on Dudley’s computer.
This is what Rophy thinks of this plan:
Unfortunately Mr D is less enthused. He seems to think Harry will trash the place or something, and even when Mrs D suggests they take him with them to the zoo and leave him in the car, Mr D says no – he might trash that too.
There’s nothing for it – Harry will have to come with them.
Dudley isn’t happy with this plan and starts fake-crying, grinning nastily from the gap in his mother’s arms. I am instantly reminded of this:
But his tears are in vain. Harry is going to the zoo, and he seems way too happy about it and not nearly upset enough that he’s missing out on TV and computer time. That’s it I’M TAKING OFF ANOTHER POINT.
You’re a 6/10 Harry Potter. Passable.
Dudley’s asshole little friend Piers shows up – he has a face like a rat and likes to hold people’s arms behind their backs while Dudley hits them.
Before they leave, Mr D gives Harry a thorough threatening, tells him not to pull any shit or else. Harry starts to object but it’s pointless – apparently – of course – strange things always happen around Harry Potter.
Once Mrs D went all mental and shaved Harry’s head, and I can’t recall whether it was because he was looking particularly scruffy, or because he’d been idly braiding his hair and Mrs D is some kind of Rin stan. Anyway, the point is that the next day his hair had grown back! Exactly as it had been pre-shears!
This is clearly because he has teh magicks in him, and whilst worrying about being bullied at school the next day, he inadvertently conjured up some Advanced Hair, Yeah Yeah, action.
Other examples of teh magicks include but are, I’m sure, not limited to a shrinking jumper and a sudden relocation to the roof of the school.
But Harry has no idea what’s going on. He’s as unable to explain these occurrences as anybody else.
And I’m rolling my eyes so hard thinking DON’T YOU SEE HARRY? JESUS, HOW THICK CAN YOU BE. But then I remind myself that he’s ten. And doesn’t know he’s a wizard. Or that magic even exists.
Whilst driving to the zoo, Mr D complains. He likes to complain, about anything and everything – “people at work, Harry, the council, Harry, the bank, and Harry are just a few of his favourite subjects.”
He’s a little hard on Harry, granted, but still, I have to say, as a fellow complainer, I’m really feeling Mr D right now.
Heather says: “Really feeling Mr D” is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. Congratulations, Sophy; you’ve out-grossed that split-faced smile guy.
Sophy says: HEATHER HOGAN, YOU TAKE YOUR FILTHY MIND ELSEWHERE. We’re writing about a children’s book. For shame.
People at work are the worst. They’re the bastards who stop me wearing my pyjamas 24/7.
I’d write to the council about it but they’re useless.
Anyway, this morning Mr D just happens to be complaining about motorcycles! He uses the word ‘hoodlum’ and I melt.
Harry has the incaution to mention his awesome dream-that-is-totally-a-memory about the flying motorcycle, and Mr D gets pretty ticked off. Nobody likes it when Harry talks about weird stuff, this seems to be a well-established fact, so seriously, Harry, pipe down about your dreams (and your hopes, and your aspirations).
The Dursleys buy icecreams for Dudders and Rat-face, and because the lady in the cart asks Harry what he wants before they can get him out of the way, he winds up with a lemon ice pop!
Also I love the little throwback, whether intentional or not, to Dumbledore and his lemon drops in the first chapter. ♥
Everything’s going pretty well until they hit the reptile house.
Rin says: And this is where Sophy got a little too excited? You can just imagine how she gets when reptiles are mentioned. For her it’s like seeing an old friend.
Heather says: Sophy’s like, *whisper* “Mr. Snake, which way to the Diplodocus exhibit? Don’t worry; you can tell me. I used to have a pet Plateosaurus back in the Triassic Period!”
Sophy says: Turns out the Diplodocus exhibit was just a bunch of old bones. Zoos these days are pathetic.
Dudley goes up to a huge snake that’s having a kip and gets his dad to try and wake it up by knocking on the glass. Harry looks on and totally identifies with the snake – being locked up in a zoo and having stupid people tapping at you all day while you try to get some sleep is sort of like living in a cupboard and being woken up by Mrs D banging rudely on the door every morning.
The snake won’t wake up for Dudders and his dad, but once they’ve moved on and Harry has stepped up, it opens its eyes and winks.
They bond, in whispers from Harry and gestures from the snake, over how fail the Durlseys are, and eventually Harry asks where the snake comes from. At first that seems like kind of a random question to ask, but then I factor in that the idea of origin would surely haunt lonely out-of-step little Harry’s subconscious, and it’s really quite fitting and quite poignant.
The snake points to the sign next to his cage with his tail, which says he’s a Boa Constrictor from Brazil.
Harry asks if it was nice there and the Boa points again with his tail – “This specimen was bred in the zoo”.
Harry’s sense of kinship heightens as he asks whether the Boa, like him, has never been to its true home and…
And then Dudley and Piers get over-excited, I guess because the snake is shaking its head. They advance on the Boa’s compartment, Dudley punching Harry to get him out of the way.
Though he doesn’t know it, this wanton attack, this unceremonious violation of a shared moment causes Harry’s mojo to kick into gear, and OMG THE GLASS ON THE CAGE HAS VANISHED.
Boa is free! Muggles are freaking out! Awesome!
Harry, your food may not have been up to my standard, and your hosting skills could use a little work, but the entertainment was superb and for that reason, I’m going to give you…
Once everyone has calmed down, they head home.
Before pissing off to his rat-family, Piers takes a malicious moment to drop Harry in it by saying he was talking to the snake right before the glass disappeared.
He’s sent to his cupboard without any dinner.
That night he has a weird vision – another memory, we readers know – of green light and a burning pain in his forehead. He thinks to himself how can’t remember his parents at all, how at school Dudley and his gang make sure noone’s allowed to be his friend, how he feels like he has nothing and nobody in the world…
And yet sometimes he thinks strangers – strange strangers – seem to know him. They bow to him in the street, shake his hand, smile, vanish into thin air…
And at the close of this chapter I’m thinking – wait a second, Dudley has a gang? Colour me surprised and impressed! I don’t remember fat little bitches being all that popular when I was growing up, but I suppose it is possible I’ve simply repressed whole sections of my childhood.
And also school didn’t exist when I was a kid.
RIN SHOUTS: IF YOU SPOIL SOPHY, I WILL TURN THIS HARRY POTTER MARATHON INTO A TWILIGHT ONE. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? HUH? IS IT?