Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling

Hagrid had some harebrained scheme in hand, which might make him miss Sirius. If they didn’t get there soon, he was going to turn around, go straight back to the castle, and leave Hagrid to enjoy his moonlit stroll with Madame Maxine.
But then – when they had walked so far around the perimeter of the Forest that the castle and the lake were out of sight – Harry heard something. Men  were shouting up ahead … then came a deafening, ear-splitting roar …

Hagrid led Madame Maxime around a clump of trees, and came to a halt. Harry hurried up alongside them – for a split second, he thought he was seeing bonfires, and men darting around them – and then his mouth fell open.

It’s World Cup time! Harry joins Hermione and the Weasley’s at the final of the Quidditch world cup, at the same time being introduced to Floo Powder and Portkeys as means of transport. After a particularly raucas game between Bulgaria and Ireland all havoc breaks loose when a group of Death Eaters (That’s supporters of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to you and me) start terrorising the local muggles before the dark mark appears in the sky, seemingly conjured by Barty Crouch’s house elf, with none other than Harry’s wand!

Back at Hogwarts for their 4th year, Harry, Ron and Hermione learn that this year will feature the Tri-wizard tournament, in which a champion of Hogwarts will compete with the champions of two other wizarding schools. Despite there being strict rules about competitors not being under age, the Goblet of Fire spits out Harry’s name as the second Hogwarts champion, after Cedric Diggory.

Naturally there’s a new defence against the dark arts teacher, Mad-Eye Moody, who quite literally has a mad eye, but was one of the most successful Auror’s in his day. Meanwhile another champion emerges, as Hermione creates S.P.E.W, who help out the under appreciated House Elves, whether they want to be emancipated or not.

As the tournament begins, Harry finds himself up against a dragon, then mer-people, but even worse he falls out with Ron, and the diabolical reporter Rita Skeeter paints terrible portraits of him in the Daily Prophet, while Ludo Bagman seems very intent on helping Harry, and Barty Crouch stops turning up to work and sends instructions into Percy Weasley by owl.

Luckily there is a break for the Christmas festivities and the Yule Ball, in which Harry and Ron struggle for dates, even as Ron and Hermione dance the awkward dance of teenagers around each other, while Hagrid tries it on with the visiting Madam Maxime, who may or may not also be part giant.

As the final task reaches it’s conclusion, Harry and Cedric tie for first place, but that is not quite the end of it, for Voldemort has returned, and for his first trick he wants to kill Harry and this tournament is his ideal opportunity.

Naturally Cornelius Fudge, the minister for magic, refuses to believe the return of Voldemort, even as Dumbledore  vouches for Harry. It’s been rumour for four books, but now he’s real and he’s back, and Harry Potter faces his biggest challenge yet.

A monster book, as Rowling barrels towards the introduction of Voldemort for the remainder of the series, but still surprisingly a read that flies by, with unforeseen twists and turns and the first major death in the series. The Goblet of Fire is engrossing fun, and Rowling also deals subtly with the teenage hormones raging through the students at Hogwarts as they face obstacles and threats that will take all of them coming together to overcome.

‘You know.’ said Ron, whose hair was on end because of all the times he had run his fingers through it in frustration. ‘I think it’s back to the old Divination standby.’
‘What – make it up?’
‘Yeah.’ said Ron, sweeping the jumble of scrawled notes off the table, dipping his pen into some ink and starting to write.
‘Next Monday,’ he said, as he scribbled, ‘I am likely to develop a cough, owing to the unlucky conjunction of Mars and  Jupiter.’ He looked up at Harry. ‘You know her – just put in loads of misery, she’ll lap it up.’

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Stardust -Music Sounds Better with You

My formative clubbing years, spent at Utopia in Reading pretty much until it closed down. We went Friday nights to Disco Inferno with Lionel Vinyl, which to this day has still given me one of the best Christmas eve nights I’ve ever had. Tuesday night student night, and Saturday night, the House/Chart/Garage Meat Market night. Thursday nights were the over 25’s night. Why on earth would you want to go to that I wondered in my late teens. When I hit 25 I realised exactly why you would want to go to a night like that.

But that was years away, it was Saturday night, I was inevitably driving (I didn’t drink for 5 years) and one song I loved more than any others for it’s sheer funk filled danceability  – was The Music Sounds Better with You. From the one hit wonders Stardust (featuring one half of Daft Punk, and let’s be honest, the track has French Disco smeared all over it, and no one really does disco as good as the french anymore) The Music Sounds Better With You was admittedly everywhere, in the charts, all over the radio, we are not talking a deep and dirty underground burner here, it’s pretty much pop.

But who cares, when it swung in over the preceding track through the speakers, you could not help but dance, singing to whoever was nearby that the music sounded better with them. The swaying Chaka Khan sample riding over chunky beats and a simple vocal that for me is an absolute classic slice of 90’s disco..ooh baby..

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

‘I don’t think it looks like a Grim,’ she said flatly.
Professor Trelawney surveyed Hermione with mounting dislike.
‘You’ll forgive me for saying so, my dear, but I perceive  very little aura around you. Very little receptivity to the resonances of the future.’
Seamus Finnigan was tilting his head from side to side.
‘It looks like a Grim if you do this,’ he said, with his eyes almost shut, ‘but it looks more like a donkey from here,’ he said, leaning to the left.
‘When you’ve all finished deciding whether I’m going to die or not!’ said Harry, taking even himself by surprise. Now nobody seemed to want to look at him.

Harry’s back at Hogwarts for year 3. After a long summer with the Dursley’s Harry is ready to return. But just before he heads back Harry sees a large black dog, which as everyone in the wizarding world knows, is a portent of doom! Safely ensconed on the Hogwarts Express Harry first comes across the Dementors, Prisoners of the wizarding prison of Azkaban. Someone has escaped, for the first time ever, and that person is Sirius Black, infamous serial killer and support of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And he badly wants to find Harry.

Being a new year there is of course a new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin who teaches Harry how to produce a Patronus, which comes in mighty handy when Dementors are around. There is also two new lessons, divination, the first session of which Professor Trelawney forsee’s Harry’s doom! Hermione is less than impressed but then she has her own secret, as she seems to be spending more hours in lessons than there is in a day. Secondly Hagrid starts teaching care of magical creatures and inadvertently gets a Hippogriff sentenced to death. Oh Hagrid!

As Sirius gets ever closer to Harry, so do the Dementors. Fred and George Weasley help Harry out though by giving him the Marauders Map which helps him get out to Hogsmeade without a signed permission slip, even though it’s dangerous.
Finally though, Sirius and Harry meet, will Sirius be able to complete what he escaped Azkaban to do, or will Harry’s teenage hormones drive him to exact revenge?

The first time I read these, this was my favourite of the first 5 books, I think partly because the Marauders map sounds like the coolest invention ever, and I had a soft spot for Professor Lupin. As with the first two books, Prisoner of Azkaban barrels along at a great pace and continues to expand the world of Harry Potter, while at the same time driving the plot forwards, and after the Dementors are banished from Hogwarts it’s time to reach for the Goblet of fire.

A sudden sound from the corner of Hagrid’s cabin made Harry, Ron and Hermione Whip around. Buckbeak the Hippogriff was lying in the corner, chomping on something that was oozing blood all over the floor.
‘I couldn’ leave him tied up out there in the snow! choked Hagrid. ‘All on his own! At Christmas!’
Harry, Ron and Hermione looked at each other. They had never seen eye to eye with Hagrid about what he called ‘interesting creatures’ and other people called ‘terrifying monsters’. On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be any particular harm in Buckbeak. In fact, by Hagrid’s usual standards, he was positively cute.

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Reef – Consideration

So my first holiday without my parents. A driving trip to the north of France, at a Eurocamp site. One of my mate’s driving him and his girlfriend in his clapped out Vauxhall Chevette and four of us in a Vauxhall Astra. and I definitely wasn’t going to drive, no sir, not in France. After leaving the ferry a journey that was supposed to take a few hours doubled as we got completely lost. The designated driver felt tired, I drove.

Arriving at the campsite at 3 in the morning after 8 hours driving was not the worst thing to happen that holiday, that would come on the way back. But we were there, we were without our parents. The holiday itself was great, I lived in shorts and sun glasses, I ended up driving on all of our excursions, we all got on surprisingly well despite the nocturnal habits of the couple and Grizzly Bear meets a bansaw snoring of someone else.

But one night I felt rough, really rough. I was in bed while the others got ready to go out. One of the guys was playing a Reef album, I have to admit, even know I don’t know what the name of the album is, but Consideration came on, and I fell in love with it, such a beautiful heartfelt song that sunk deep into my soul after just one listen. I have returned to it time and time again throughout my life to help me unwind and contemplate and to pick me up.

It’s slow, languid pace forces you to slow down before it whirls round and round to it’s rousing conclusion, and you know that whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, it’s gonna be alright..

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling

‘Your sons flew that car to Harry’s house and back last night!’ shouted Mrs Weasley. ‘What have you got to say about that, eh?’
‘Did you really?’ said Mr Weasley eagerly. ‘Did it go all right? I – I mean,’ he faltered, as sparks flew from Mrs Weasley’s eye, ‘that-that was very wrong, boys – very wrong indeed …’
‘Let’s leave them to it,’ Ron muttered to Harry, as Mrs Weasley swelled like a bullfrog. ‘Come on, I’ll show you my bedroom.’

So It’s Harry’s second year at Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry, which he arrives at via a flying car after some mysterious interference prevents him from taking the Hogwarts Express. But the fun doesn’t begin there, oh no. Back in number 4 Privet Drive, Harry is visited by Dobby, a house elf who wears a pillow case and talks in riddles while hitting himself over the head with a saucepan.

At Hogwarts though as the school year progresses it is revealed that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened once again by the heir of Slytherin, and a fearsome and terrible monster is on the loose petrifying children as well as Mrs Norris, Caretaker Filch’s beloved but universally hated cat.

As Harry, Ron and Hermione, all now firm friends, try to work out what the creature is and how to get into the chamber of secrets, Dumbledore appears to be losing his grip on the school and Lucius Malfoy sees the perfect chance to remove him from Hogwarts.

Luckily, the students have a new Defence against the Dark Art’s teacher. Gilderoy Lockhart! Who’s fearless adventures are set texts for all his students and after reading you can be sure that he is one man you want with you in a tight spot.

Personally I think I would prefer Hagrid, but his love of ridiculously dangerous creatures almost causes grievious harm to Harry, Ron and Fang, and does he have anything to do with the Chamber?

So I remember not really liking this book quite as much as the others, but then as I started reading it I remembered a lot more of it than I did the Philosophers Stone, and once again I was enraptured by Rowling’s world, and longed to be at Hogwarts, my heart sinking at the end when the school year finished and I had to return to the Muggle world.

Ron shook his head, wide-eyed. Hermione, however, clapped a hand to her forehead.
‘Harry – I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!’
And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
‘What does she understand? said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from.
‘Loads more than I do,’ said Ron, shaking his head.
‘But why’s she got to go to the library?’
‘Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging.
‘When in doubt, go to the library.’

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Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack

At last! England had it’s own Bad Boy Gangster. Not a rapper admittedly, and he didn’t really do Hip-Hop, and he sung in an unusually high voice, and he was actually born in Germany, and came from Leicester, but he got in trouble with the police! Gangster I tell you, a proper Gangster that Mark Morrison.

I absolutely loved Return of the Mack as soon as I heard it, always danced and sung along as soon as it came on if we were out, and even now my mate says he thinks of me every time he hears it.

I used to go home for lunch at school, and used to get in at about a quarter to one. In 1996 it was Martin Collins on Capital radio at 1pm, and for months every day he would start his show, while I was eating my Pot Noodle, with Return of the Mack or Fast Love by George Michael, both of which were jockeying for the number 1 spot in the charts.

I bought the single, and then bought the album, from which Morrison had five Top 10 singles, the first artist in British pop history to do so. But the album wasn’t quite as good as Return of the Mack. After a few years, for some reason I felt the song was mine, and during a particularly difficult time I promised myself I would never play the whole original version until I was 100% happy, and I still haven’t played it yet (including searching for the video for this post).

I have listened to the remixes though, and at the Funky Fish in Brighton on New Years Eve it soundtracked my entrance into the club, which brought a huge smile to my face, and kicked off a great night and filled me with optimism for the coming year, so hopefully it won’t be much longer before the Mack returns.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone – J.K. Rowling

‘STOP! I FORBID YOU!’ yelled Uncle Vernon in panic.
Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.
‘Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,’ said Hagrid. ‘Harry – yer a wizard.’
There was silence inside the hut. Only the sea and the whistling wind could be heard.
‘I’m a what?’ gasped Harry.
‘A wizard, o’course.’ said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which groaned and sank even lower, ‘an’ a thumpin’ good’un, I’d say, once yeh’ve been trained up a bit. With a mum an’ dad like yours, what else would yeh be? An’ I reckon it’s about’ time yeh read yer letter.’

Harry Potter. Dumbledore. He-who-must-not-be-named. Quidditch. Muggles.
I’m back at Hogwarts. I have read the first 5 or 6 Harry Potters, I think, I know I definitely haven’t read the last one, but I have seen all the films. So despite the fact that I have 3 more books on my shelf that I need to read, now that I am the proud owner of the entire Harry Potter collection, with children’s covers, I’m going to read them all. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, then it’s probably just the music posts for the next few months for you.

Starting again, at the beginning I quickly realised one thing, that these are primarily aimed at children, I don’t remember that as much from the first time I read it, but Rowling’s prose is very much aimed at the younger reader, or maybe it’s just the first few books. It didn’t really matter, it’s a beautifully easy read, and is still very funny in places. Then when the danger comes it still has the ability to hook you in.

So, basically Harry Potter is a wizard! who survived after his parents were killed by a big bad wizard whose name should not be mentioned. After spending the first 10 years of his life with his awful aunt and uncle, Hagrid, a half giant reveals to Harry what he is, and that he is enrolled into Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry, the foremost such place in the world. Thus Harry plunges headfirst into the wonderful world of wizardry. transfiguration, potions, defence against the dark arts (which, as you can guess, will come in quite useful), the wizard game of quidditch with it’s snitch and bludgers. As Harry completes his first year, complete with bullies (boo! Malfoy) and exams, he learns that something very important is hidden at Hogwarts, and someone is desperate to find it.

But what Harry Potter ultimately is, is a great story, and it casts a spell over your imagination that is a joy to experience. I want to be a wizard while reading this. Although I’m too old to go school, I would love to enrol at Hogwarts, wander down Diagon Alley and catch the Hogwarts express. After seeing the films you tend to picture the actors while you are reading, and indeed the school and even the games of quidditch, but even if you haven’t seen the films, you will still have an imagination filled with wands, Bertie Bots every flavour beans, potions and the odd invisibility cloak.

The story, which only starts here, is a classic good versus evil romp where even though I’ve read it before, and I know ultimately what happens, it does not detract at all from the pleasure of reading it. In fact there was a point when Harry first arrives at Hogwarts that set the cogs in my whirring until I had worked out the ending of this book, but there was plenty I’d forgotten. And one of the things I’m looking forward to this time around is by reading the books one after the other, I can keep tabs on the characters and story.

So after finding the philosophers stone, I’ve locked myself in the chamber of secrets with a packet of chocolate frogs.

Harry stood up.
‘Sir-Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?’
‘Obviously, you’ve just done so.’ Dumbledore smiled. ‘You may ask me one more thing, however.’
‘What do you see when you look in the Mirror?’
‘I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks.’
Harry stared.
‘One can never have enough socks,’ said Dumbledore.
‘Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.’

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