I was out to coffee with a dear friend yesterday and she asked me who were the three people I most desired to meet. It was an easy choice for me. Oprah Winfrey because of her social conscience. The Dalai Lama because of his wisdom and humour. And JK Rowling because she singlehandedly reconfigured the reading world for the youth of today.
For a long while before I read Harry Potter, I would see the bestsellers’ lists and would see mention of someone called Harry Potter. He’d be listed with a Philosopher’s Stone or a Chamber of Secrets. Even with a Prisoner of Azkaban and I would wonder at the hype. Vaguely I knew HP was a boy wizard, but beyond that I knew little so I purchased the first in the series when Prisoner was being released and began reading.
I loved the pure simplicity of the tale, I marveled at Rowling’s imagination, and Harry, Hermione and Ron became friends. It was a very small stretch to believe that I, a grown woman, could summon my broom from the laundry by calling “Accio Broomstick’ and then by saying ‘Up’, have it slip into my hand ready for me to mount and fly away. (For those who might think I’m a bit of a witch anyway, its no stretch to believe the above at all). Who couldn’t love gillyweed which enables one to swim for hours under water and breathe? And don’t you love the saying ‘wingardium leviosa’? (made even more special by Emma Watson’s rendition in the movie: Wingardium Leviosaaahh!) And I so wanted a Marauder’s Map.
What I love about the series is the way the language and plot dexterity deepens and matures with the ages of the protagonists. It fits. I imagine it fitted the intended audience as well. More though, I think it was indicative of Ms. Rowling’s own growth as a writer.
Ms. Rowling as a person of grace is inspiring. Quiet, immensely private for which I applaud her, and almost self-effacing. Her outstanding success would allow her every reason to blow her own trumpet but instead she appears very occasionally in public and delivers inspiring addresses.
Yesterday it was reported that that Ms.Rowling has acquired one of the most beautiful pastoral properties in Tasmania. The river on which the property sits bends and loops over a couple of miles to pass by the door of the house in which my husband and I spent the first years of our marriage.
The view over the osiers and river reeds, across paddocks of crops to the misted blue of the mountain of Ben Lomond is not much different to what can be seen at Symmons Plains. Our house had massive fireplaces and our bedroom was big enough to play cricket in and there were two resident cats called Rinso and Panda who would climb onto the roof and cry at the bedroom windows to be let in. I kept my thoroughbred gelding, Nicholas, in the paddock at the side of the house and would ride on frosty mornings very early. In winter the house would be wreathed in ghostly river-mist and when it cleared we could see that Ben Lomond was shrouded in snow and in the summer all we could hear was the faint chuckling of the river over stones and the bleating of the merino flock which grazed along the banks. It was idyllic.
I suspect that Ms. Rowling won’t feel too homesick for Scotland and the UK. She is not far from the little towns of Perth and Evandale or the city of Launceston situated on the Tamar River. She will live on the South Esk River and gaze out at Ben Lomond. The surrounding garden ( a participating part of the Australia’s Open Garden Scheme a few years ago) in which she can wander, is filled with a notable display of botanical delights from England, planted by the former owners’ colonial forbears. But more than anything she can maintain that immense privacy that is so important to her life.
I’m quite tickled actually… to think that of all the places in all the world she decided to buy in this wonderful island home of mine. Pretty chuffed really!