In Honour of September 1st: Leaving Hogwarts [Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling]
The start of another year at Hogwarts…
It’s always interesting to reread a Harry Potter book every year. Not just to revisit beloved characters and place, not just to rediscover details and plotlines I’d forgotten.
No, in some ways, the most interesting thing is my own feelings, which are often not quite what I expected.
I expected a certain nostalgia about the time and place I read Half-Blood Prince for the first time, for the way my life was then.
But I didn’t expect the deep sadness about the things I no longer have… the feeling of waiting for a new book and then reading it, knowing countless people all over the world were doing the same; having something that was both the foundation of friendships and a thread of connection to casual acquaintances; the people I celebrated the book releases with, the house we lived in and the parties we had there.
I would have expected these feelings next year, when I’ll reread Deathly Hallows. The last book, the last book release party, and one of the last parties we had in general before my parents got divorced, the house was sold, and the group of friends who’d felt like extended family to me started to fall apart.
But in 2005, all was well in my world. The freedom of summer holidays, decorating the house with the Carpenter brother and my friend Myrtle McGonagall, yelling at our friend Bone-Hard for playing pranks and spoiling me for Dumbledore’s death. Games and good food and a campfire in the back garden.
And reading, reading, reading. Which, oddly enough, I don’t really remember, except for sitting in my hammock the day after the party, crying over Dumbledore’s death, and then in the middle of it, having to go say goodbye to some guests. And I hated to be seen crying.
I remember the aftermath of reading much more, trying to find some loophole, some way that Dumbledore would not be dead. Combing through all the earlier books in search of RAB (and finding him pretty soon, and waiting two years to be proved right.) Talking about how we’d always thought that Snape would get to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts in the last book so that by the time the curse on the job would have killed him or driven him out of Hogwarts, the trio would not benefit from it, and how, in a way, we were right, even if he got the job a year earlier than we thought – since the trio were leaving Hogwarts too, they still didn’t get to enjoy a Snape-free school.
Since I’ve arrived at the subject of reading, I should probably say something about the book itself. But I’ve never had very strong feelings about Half-Blood Prince, and I still don’t have any. I have feelings about bits of it, but the actual plot, the lessons about Voldemort’s past, the is-Malfoy-a-Death-Eater, the Horcrux-hunting… I just don’t know. I don’t dislike it, but I also don’t particularly love it.
I remember feeling vaguely annoyed by all the couples that were suddenly forming. Romance was not something I was interested in then, and I’m still not particularly interested now (but it’s making me think, I certainly didn’t expect then that I’d reread the book ten years later and still be every bit as single as I was then.)
I’m still rolling my eyes about the predictability and neatness of Harry/Ginny and future Ron/Hermione, and about all the dating drama and jealousy. I don’t know if my classmates and friends were unusually drama-free or if stories always exaggerate the complications of teenage dating. But it always seems ridiculous to me, and it especially bothers me to see the depths Hermione sinks to.
There are only two things about all the relationships that I like: I like Ginny refusing to be shamed for going out with different boys, and I like Remus/Tonks, because that was something I didn’t see coming at all, and if we have to have relationships in books, give me relationships that have to overcome difficulties other than jealousy.
Speaking of Tonks and Remus brings me to another reason why I don’t have any strong feelings about this book… we see so little of so many characters I love. Those two, for one; Sirius is dead; Fred and George are out of school (although I still laugh more than I probably should at “U-No-Poo”), McGonagall doesn’t get many scenes (but I love her conversation with Neville at the start of term – “It’s high time your grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she’s got, rather than the one she thinks the ought to have.”)
I haven’t counted and compared them to other books, but it feels like there are few lines that I love enough to copy them out into one of the notebooks I use to collect quotations. And most of them come from Dumbledore. “I don’t mean to be rude-” “- yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often.” for example, still makes me laugh.
And Dumbledore’s death, of course, is one thing I did, and do, have strong feelings about. It took a very high place on the tissue ranking when I first read it. It seems the older I get, the more easily I cry, or maybe I just read sadder books, so it’s slid down a little since then, but it’s still sad.
And even though I’ve read so much criticism of Dumbledore since then, about how manipulative he was, but… I don’t care. I loved Dumbledore then and I love him now. Dumbledore’s woman through and through.
There is one strange parallel between the book and my life then, ten years ago, and my life now… leaving things behind, growing up. Leaving Hogwarts, hunting Horcruxes. Ten years ago, I had just finished grammar school – which had felt like Hogwarts to me in so many ways – and was heading off into the Unknown of adult life. Today I have just begun another era – teaching my own apprentice. I have helped teach other people’s apprentices before, I’ve supervised interns and potential apprentices on trial work days, so this shouldn’t be such a big leap. But it still feels like a huge step further into adult life, shouldering a much larger responsibility than I have so far, responsibility for another person… it’s not the same as the responsibility to save the Wizarding world, but it’s still something. Another way of leaving the safe and familiar, another way of leaving Hogwarts.
Another busy week, again no posts since the last Harvest Monday, even though I have so many things I want to write, oops.
(But tomorrow, I promise. Because tomorrow is September 1st.)
But for now, let’s look at my harvests.
First of the Dattelwein tomatoes. They really have been taking their time this year.
It’s been the week of the currant tomatoes…
Did I ever tell you the story of how I ended up with the white currant tomatoes again? Years ago, I ordered seeds from the US (which was a complicated thing involving a friend bringing them over to save on shipping), and sold some of my surplus plants at work.
Then this year, I was chatting with a customer about growing tomatoes, and rare heirloom varieties, and she said she’d bought one of those white currant tomatoes from us years ago, and I said, “oh, I grew those”, and somehow mentioned I’d forgotten to save seeds. And she goes, “I think I still have a plant left that I don’t need, if you want, you can have it.” Paid for her stuff, drove off and was back ten minutes later holding out a tomato plant.
And the first of the white radishes, which I only remembered to take a picture of when I’d already started to chop it up for a salad.
There were more tomatoes than what’s in the pictures, too, and lots of herbs. Since I often harvest bit by bit, as needed, I don’t always remember to take pictures.
The Red Kuri squash on the balcony hasn’t set any new fruit (or even bloomed) in a while, so I ripped it out and planted some winter vegetables in the pot. I guess we can call this a mildly successful experiment. And in the process, I broke off an eggplant with my elbow, oops. I mean, I guess it needed to be harvested anyway, but I already have so many vegetables to eat, I don’t need it right now.
Just a small part of my tomato harvest – I pick at least this much every day for my lunch.
My cabbages were so mouse-eaten, they were not at all photogenic pre-chopping. I ended up eating Krautfleckerl (pasta with cabbage) for three days.
Another zucchini… the last of the really huge ones, yay!
More Swiss chard. On Saturday, we had a picnic at the community garden, and I brought zucchini cake and chard strudel.
Beans. I haven’t had much of those yet this year. I remember reading that they don’t bloom when it’s very hot, so that’s probably why. It certainly has been hot this summer!
The first red cabbage I’ve ever grown. It was such a beautiful plant, I was sorry to harvest it. But it was also a huge plant, and I really needed the space to plant a few more lettuces and endives.
(I’ll shut up about this soon enough, but if you’re on Facebook, please support me in the urban gardening competition.)
If you’re on facebook, please, please, please, go and like the following pictures, to help me win an urban gardening competition.
And maybe – even if you’re not on facebook – you can spread the word and get a few more people to vote for me?
I would really love to win the competition, with prize money up to € 1000… I already spend quite a lot on my gardens every year, and I’m dreaming of a drip irrigation for the next summer. I’m so tired of carrying watering cans.
Here are all the pictures from my biweekly competition entries. I’ve been doing very badly with blogging for a while now, but maybe this will give you an impression of what’s gone on in my balcony garden and my community garden plot in the last few months. I kind of want to translate the texts too, but that would take too long.
One more time – please vote and/or spread the word, I really appreciate it!
Late again, because I’ve had a busy couple of days.
Zucchini, zucchini, always zucchini… and tomatoes. There were more tomatoes, a handful for lunch every day, that I didn’t take pictures of.
Pasta with tomatoes and zucchini for a quick dinner.
I harvested all the chard in the community garden, because I was sick of having to water it all the time – it’s been very hot and very dry for weeks, and the chard, with its big leaves, needed a lot of water. I still haven’t eaten it, though, it all went into the freezer.
Chopping and blanching all of it (1.7 kg) took me about two hours…
My beets are getting quite big, too. I ate this one grated, with grated apple and mashed bananas – my mother made that sometimes when I was a child, and I still like it. It’s how I eat most of my beets, actually.
Going to Castlefest – a medieval/fantasy festival in the Netherlands – has become something of a tradition for me (although I skipped it last year). It’s always so much fun to get all dressed up, listen to good music, wander around looking at “shinies!” (which can be anything from jewellery to wind chimes to pretty notebooks), or just sit on our blanket eating and talking and people-watching. There can’t be many places in the world that are better for people-watching than Castlefest…
Even the trip there was fun. Partly because this was my luggage:
If you’ll allow me to use an older picture (since I didn’t take one this time), this is the costume I needed it for:
The first time I wore it – and the reason I bought the broom – was a performance with my medieval dance group last October. We came up with a dance to Omnia’s Wytches’ Brew. It felt fitting to wear the costume to Castlefest, too, since Omnia always play there. (And since it’s not that easy to see in the picture, that’s ivy in my hair. And around my belt. And on my broom. Which I didn’t realise until later matches the name I use here.)
I shared the compartment on the night train with four ladies who were very pleasant and entertaining company, and even got some decent sleep.
Sunny morning snapshot from the train – it was sunny all weekend, not a single drop of rain, and never uncomfortably hot. Just perfect.
On the last part of the journey I even met another woman on her way to Castlefest – with her dress and my broom, it was easy to guess where we were headed.
Other costumes would be a lot more difficult to wear on a train, such as Sahi’s Wicked Tribe costume.
The Wicked Tribe is one of my favourite parts of Tad Williams’ Otherland. A group of hacker children who appear as flying yellow monkeys in the virtual reality the internet has turned into at the time of the story.
Somehow I never took a close-up picture of the monkeys bouncing around the helmet, oops. They’re very cute!
Otherland is a criminally underappreciated series, in my opinion. I need to reread it soon – both so that I can blog about it, and talk about it everywhere, and because now I really miss the Wicked Tribe. And all the other characters.
Walking around looking at “shinies”:
I kind of want to grow bottle gourds now and make these myself.
(Smarchers will understand why this hat made us think of Cyan.)
Sahi and I spend a long time at this stall, going back and forth over how we didn’t really need any expensive notebooks, but they were so beautiful, and we wanted one, but then which one, when they were all so pretty?! We planned to leave and come back later, but in the end, we just stayed and stayed, looking at all of them, and ended up buying one each before we could go. (And now that I’m looking at the picture, I see so many more I want to have!)
(Sadly, there wasn’t a name on the stall, or any cards to be found… I’m not sure why we didn’t just ask, but yeah, we didn’t… May have to google all the names on the list on the Castlefest website…)
Random chicken at one stall/re-enactors’ camp.
Listening to Abe the storyteller (and getting distracted by the pretty castle in the background, which is why Abe ended up all the way at the edge of the picture). I’m pretty surprised with how well I did with following the story in Dutch – much easier than listening to conversations.
Looking at costumes while walking around…
Or just resting on our blanket, eating, talking and people-watching…
You see a lot of kilts and a lot of poi at Castlefest, but rarely on the same person.
We discussed some costume ideas for next year, which is making me want to make things again – I still haven’t had the time to start on anything, but it feels good just to want to again.
Beautiful notebook because I wanted one, new bag because I needed one (my old one, bought a few Castlefests ago, was falling apart.)
New watch, because I lost mine months ago, and I hate having to bring my phone everywhere, and I don’t actually like wearing wristwatches very much, and new earcuffs because I lost one of my first pair in my bicycle accident (and the thing that really bothers me about that is that even if anyone found it, they probably had no clue what it was), and new bells because they sounded nice.
The way back started in a somewhat stressful way, as I only just caught my train – I guess we’d underestimated how long it would take to get there. It was a long hike just to get to the parking lot, after all (and it took us a little longer than expected to get to our “camp”, since that part of the festival had already been closed down when we left).
But I did catch the train, and ended up with a very nice group of people in my compartment again, a young Austrian couple heading home from their holidays, and a young Dutch couple heading to Austria for their holidays. And I slept very well again. All in all, a pretty much perfect trip!