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The Redster: NINE

The Cutester: Five and three quarters

The Redster fell in love with all things Potter sometime last year.

I’d discouraged her from watching any of the films while I put off the decision of whether or not I wanted her to get into Harry Potter. The whole cropping up of witches in kids’ literature was giving me a dilemma – if we’re teaching her to follow Jesus and read the Bible, which explicitly forbids witchcraft, why read about witches for entertainment? I feel very comfortable not celebrating Halloween because however light-heartedly it’s done, it’s still a festival of death, fear and pumpkins, although the pumpkins, I must say, are quite tasty. (One Halloween I thought I’d make a positive statement by carving a godly pumpkin to put in a window. But the cross shape looked somehow more Gothic and horror-show than any other pumpkin on the street and attracted hoards of trick-or-treaters.)

But then, what about witches in kids’ stories? And what about Harry Potter? The fact is, I read every single Potter avidly when they were first published, and Babyfather and I saw all of the films once they were released on DVD, so to ban it from the house seemed hypocritical. And, moreover, the whole point about magic in Potter – like Winnie the Witch or The Worst Witch – is that it’s just a device to create fantastical worlds where anything can happen, which is what you want in order to lose yourself in a book, and if you have magic in a book, it might as well be done by a witch or a wizard. It is a time-honoured literary device, and, certainly as far as Potter is concerned, has nothing to do with the real life practice of witchcraft or the occult – as far as I know. Or maybe real occult practitioners do actually blast their opponents off their feet with wands made from unicorn horns?

So, the Redster was unexpectedly lent the first book in the series by a friend at school, and I had to think fast. I decided to approve. Events unfolded quickly – culminating in me, this weekend, answering the door to a local vicar while dressed from head to toe as a witch (Prof McGonnagall to be precise) including a very black, very twisty, very pointy hat. I can explain…

The borrowing of the first book had led to the next five, and to the forming of a very earnest fan club with a group of the Redster’s friends at school (anyone who loved Potter could join) of which the committee met one Saturday and collaborated on the first chapter of a sequel: Albus Potter and the Last Horcrux (not to be published anytime soon I’m afraid – the committee hasn’t met for months). The next thing was obviously going to be a Potter party, and that’s what took place today, the week the Redster turned nine.

I don’t know why this happens, but the children’s parties take over my mind completely in the fortnight or so running up to them, and it’s possible that I enjoy them more than the kids. But seriously, if the opportunity presented itself to you to play Quidditch in your own back garden, and then to vicariously enjoy all your favourite childhood party games (renamed along Potter lines, such as Winking Avada Kedavra) wouldn’t you jump at the chance? And possibly dress up yourself? And when a friend’s husband is game enough to actually play the part of Dumbledore, in the beard and everything (everything short of an inflatable Phoenix or, heck, even a parrot, which I completely failed to source), wouldn’t you be beside yourself with glee? Or is it just me?

It was the vicar’s daughter who said emphatically, ‘That is the best party I have ever been to,’ – and she hasn’t even read the books. The other rather more well-informed party guests picked me up on my Quidditch scoring but still seemed to have a good time. The Redster got on OK too – she was sorted into Gryffindor, which won the most chocolate, er, house points – and is now the satisfied owner of Harry Potter merchandising galore, from a Gringotts piggy bank to a Wii game. The younger siblings, intended to be quietly parked in front of a film upstairs, quickly ditched that idea and went feral instead in a compact but loud and fast-moving pack, finishing by all arriving in the kitchen wearing knickers on their heads.

So I think it went OK.

P.s. My joy is complete! The Quidditch player who won the snitch (in real life, a table tennis ball spray painted gold, badly) asked to take it home with him. His father reported this morning that the last thing he did before turning out the light was to pick it up off the bedside table and give it a kiss.