A day before I left home again, I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s a battered copy with my name written in it in sparkly gel pen — three times. As I packed, I snuck it into my bag, leaving new, unread books behind. It’s not a coincidence that this slightly melancholy moment in my life unfolded between the pages of a Harry Potter book. When I first started university, I took Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with me to deal with homesickness. And the more MA coursework I got stuck into this year, the more re-reads of the series I did.
Over the years, Harry Potter has become a source of comfort. Last January was such an occasion. The New Year’s festivities were behind us, leaving the world slightly deflated of energy, as if everyone were thinking, ‘What now?’. The days seemed comprised of darkness and frost. My friends and I decided to bring a bit of magical cheer into one dismal winter day by planning a Harry Potter tour of London. Here are the locations we risked frostbite to visit:
1. Platform 9 3/4
We started the day at none other than the iconic platform 9 3/4. Here, you can take a picture with the trolley, take a look around the shop and most importantly, go through the barrier and spend the rest of the day in the wizarding world.
We’re always moving. From one step to the next, one side to the other, one corner of the world to another. As I sat waiting for my flight to land this evening, it struck me how a single journey can contain a multitude of meanings.
The young woman sitting beside me, who spoke with an English twang, took her glasses off and hid her face as the plane descended. The relief of homecoming was hidden by what appeared to be a curtain of dread as the plane landed with a thud.
A row ahead, an elderly lady turned off flight mode on her phone. Closing a game of Candy Crush Saga, she slowly typed out a message in another language. Having left home, maybe reassuring someone of her safe arrival.
This evening I stood on my balcony and looked up at the stars. A train trundled by in the distance, then all was quiet. There, in the darkness mingling with the light of my bedside lamp, I felt torn. I’m both leaving home and going home tomorrow — leaving my family home and going back to England. I’ll be back soon, but even that reassurance is fleeting.
I looked at the apartment buildings facing ours. Lit kitchens and living rooms with families enveloped within. TVs turned on, people sitting around tables. It reminded me of a time when I was in that secure bubble. In a way, I’m lucky enough to still be in that bubble. I come home from time to time and enjoy the comforts of a child on holiday from school. But then I have to leave again, and real life begins.
It’s easy to forget in the long months of summer, but there’s something particularly ambivalent about repeating this pattern in the late months of the year. The murky sky seems to seep the energy from my bones. But the house seems cosier as the air turns chilly.
But because I don’t want every letter to be quite so pensive, here are a few things I really like about autumn.