The Harry Potter Experience (no spoilers)

July 24, 2007 at 11:30 am | Posted in books, Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter, London, reading | Leave a comment

Unless you’ve been under a rock you’d know that the final Harry Potter has now been released. Now gentle readers gather round and listen t the story of one fan and his journey to buy the book at Waterstone’s Piccadilly. Late Friday I begin walking towards the West End and the bookshop from Angel.

At about 11PM I am standing in front of the shop looking out at the beginning of the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of the costumed fans. Standing around me are other passers bys and numerous members of the media taking photos and conducting interviews. I see Weasleys and witches galore.

Now I begin the walk to the back of the line. About 20 minutes later I was at Pall Mall and the last one. For all of 5 seconds before another dozen people were standing behind me. On my way I had seen too many witches and wizards to count but on the whole there were more ‘regular’ people. I wish there had been a greater concentration of fandom and costumes but at any rate I was now in line. Ready and waiting. Emphasis on the latter.

In line I whipped out my DS stuck in my iPod earphones and began the long wait. Occasionally watching some of the street performers who came past. What I never saw were street vendors selling coffee or food to the waiting masses. Surely they would have made a fortune?

Eventually I got bored and started paying more attention to those around me and found that I was fortunate enough that the group behind were a jovial lot and we got along well trading jokes and theories. At around 00:30 we got word that Tim’s sister (one of the guys in the line) had bought the book already at Tesco’s after they basically dumped the book out the front. At this point we became aware of the people behind us – an American family – who other than their child were not at all into the queue. For a brief period we found ourselves looking after their 12 year old son while they went off somewhere. Shortly thereafter one of the group left to try her luck at Borders in Trafalgar, later ringing her friends to say there was a short line but few books. This is how we lost another.

I admit to considering leaving as well but wanted to go inside the largest bookshop in Europe to see what they had on offer.

At the corner and every 5 minutes we were subjected to Father talking to son about the line and wanting to go home so he could sleep. Meanwhile son, Solomon, was insistent on staying. “After all it is the experience!” To which Father replied “this isn’t an experience, it’s a line!”. I can appreciate this line of thought but was still hopeful of seeing something interesting in store.

Perhaps about 2:00 we spoke with a Waterstone’s employee managing traffic and he advised that the in store experience was no done and it was only about purchasing the book. I’m quite disheartened by this and so apparently is Solomon’s Father who after hearing tis quickly takes this news as a chance to take his kid and get out of the line and head home. Knowing things had wound down I would have preferred to purchase my book elsewhere but unfortunately any other shop is likely closed.

So with a stiff upper lip I and my remaining 2 companions stuck out the line until the end as we witnessed hustlers trying to sell the book at £50 as we waited. I don’t think they had any takers. There were also any number of people yelling out alleged spoilers. Lastly, of course were all the people who walked past us as we waited with their Waterstone bags carrying their precious cargo.

Oh wait precious is another book altogether.

At long last we were almost inside the building and were met by some surprisingly cheerful staff and upon entering we even got a clap! Now that’s an experience is it not? Worth the wait.

On the ground floor I’m offered a copy of the book and quickly cross the small space to the cashier. Again the staff member is friendly and attentive. I’m surprised by their attitude given the hour. After all I’ve only had to stand for 3 hours, whereas they’ve done this plus serve a few thousand customers. Kudos Waterstone staff.

I said my final farewells to my line buddies and began the walk home and at last arrived just after 4:30. Went to the local 24hr supermarket, gathered up copious amounts of junk food and got cosy in my room and read for about an hour.

Crashed for a few hours, woke up at 9 and then read most of the day.

At long last I finished the book. Without spoiling I’ll say simply that it was a a good book and ended the series in a reasonable manner. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation of the last two novels.

I’ve been told I’m a fanboy and a geek for going through all this trouble. I admit it. I am. And it was worth it.

Museum of London – mark your diaries for 2009

July 24, 2007 at 5:30 am | Posted in London, Museum of London, Out and About, Travel, UK | 2 Comments
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On a rainy and dreary Sunday last week I found myself at the Museum of London, situated in a walled circle at the centre of a roundabout (hence the circle presumably). Well that and its location near the old city wall and perhaps the design is inspired by a medieval turret.

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The museum, as expected from the name, covers the history of the city through the political and not so political figures who have made it their home. Beginning with a background of the land and its stone age past you begin to get a sense of the long association this area has had with human activity – albeit not always a constant presence. By the same token you become overwhelmed with repetitive displays. How many similar looking stone axe heads does any one person need to see to appreciate that ancient humans used tools? While chronologically this provides a linear experience to the rest of the museum it also dulls the senses and makes one wish the museum were over already.

After ancient Britain I walked into the not so chronological exhibit dealing with the Great Fire of London. I found this exhibit informative and yet frequently playing too much to child visitors. Finally through the fire I begin the museum in earnest as I bizzarely have gone from Stone Age to 1666 and now to back to the Roman era.

The Roman display is informative as you look through recreations of the homes, diorama and maps before moving into medieval London. On this particular day there was a woman dressed in period garb discussing medicines of the day. This worked out well becuase next is the display dealing with the Black Death. More displays follow and I admit my usual enjoyment of museums and history has fled. I’m bored and don’t feel like I’m getting a true appreciation for each of the periods as what content there is seems related solely to whatver artifact they can find. With the above in mind had I seen longer texts I’d at least acknowledge that there is the opportunity to delve deeper should you so wish. Regretably this is not the case.

I made my way downstairs to the Tudors and was barely in when met by a sign saying that the rest of the museum (and London’s history) was closed for redevelopment and I should come back in 2009 when it re-opens. This at least explains why one of their most popular exhibits (the Fire) was so out of place at the beginning.

Until it reopens the museum might be worth a look (particularly as it is free) but if you can wait till ’09 it might be better to postpone until then. Otherwise if there’s bad weather come and check it out (again: free) but there are other opportunities to see London’s history through these historic periods, for example the Tower of London.

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