Saturday, 24 March 2012

It ain't easy being eight

My eight-year-old son LOVES Harry Potter. Over the past couple of months he has devoured the entire series of books. He lies in his bed immersed in the world of spells and curses late into the night and he wakes, bleary-eyed the next day only to instantly turn to the next page.

If he had been born a decade earlier I know he would have insisted on being amongst the crowds who dressed up in black robes, round specs and pencilled lightening bolts onto their foreheads, to camp outside book shops waiting for the latest installment.

He has watched every movie numerous times, had a Potter-themed birthday party where we festooned a local hall with Gryffindor banners and my other half made the brave sacrifice of dressing up as Dumbledore to entertain the troops of small party guests.

We have visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando where we queued in tropical heat to fly the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts and I ran across the entire park to buy him the Potter T-shirt he wanted before the place closed. My reward for this sporting feat (those theme parks aren't small) is that he hasn't really taken it off since.

We have been devoted Potter parents. We chose to holiday in Northumberland last year just so we could take him to Alnwick Castle which inspired Hogwarts and was used in some of the filming. He  was entertained by being taught how to fly on a broom and was shown every spot where his hero had stood.

We even endured a third-rate Harry Potter tour of London, which involved a tortuous two-hours of being wittered at by a clueless girl who knew less about boy wizard than most of the people on the tour. It's not good when your then seven-year old son has to correct details expounded by the tour leader.

In short my boy is a super fan, which is why when I got invited to a press preview day a the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour I knew he would be thrilled. Of course what I had forgotten when I broke the news is that he is eight.

Now had I told him when he was seven, or six, or indeed any age when he could articulate a reaction before he turned eight, he would have jumped up and down for joy. His delight would have been writ large across his smiling features and I would have basked in his unadulterated pleasure at the news.

But my boy is eight. So this child who has lived and breathed all things Potter for years greeted the news that I had managed to swing a preview visit to the latest shrine to JK Rowling's creation, with a muted smile and a grunted 'Good'. I had to tell myself firmly that this is his pre-teen way of showing excitement, but I did feel a bit deflated. My 36-year-old husband was more thrilled by the news that he could come along too.

The trouble is that I thought I had a few more years of my sunny little boy, before he morphed into Kevin the Teenager. Admittedly he isn't yet declaring 'I hate you', but I now know it's only a matter of time. He is sulky, moody, emotional and it's hard work keeping up.

During the tour I stood at the entrance to Daigon Alley, which is pretty spectacular, waiting impatiently to see his reaction. This is the boy who once chased excitedly through the streets of London while we searched for the entrance to this mythical street. Who tapped at bricks to see if they would shift and magically transport him into the street where Harry was kitted out for Hogwarts.

I was bouncing around, thrilled to be able to show him such a treat. I kept calling him to come and look, while he stubbornly insisted on dawdling over the preceding exhibits. Eventually he shuffled up, took one look and said 'Yeah it's great'. Not the wide-eyed wonder I'd been expecting.

Still I have to remind myself of my own youth and how much of a badge of honour it was to maintain this carapace of cool in all interactions with adults, who after all are irretrievably sad and know less than nothing. I must not take it personally has become my mantra as he bursts bubbles of parental enthusiasm with such aplomb.

Fortunately the day was not an entire washout as when he stepped into the house-sized room which holds an awe inspiring scale model of Hogwarts I noticed that his eyes were shining with tears. 'What's wrong?' I ask. 'Hogwarts isn't real', he sobs. 'But I thought you knew it wasn't real', I reply. 'Yes, but it was the only home Harry ever knew', he cried. Heartbroken for his fictional hero and for the shattering of his half held illusions.

I held my boy tight in my arms and reassured him that Hogwarts was just as real as Harry within the pages of the books, and remembered that underneath all that teenage-style attitude he is still my sweet, sensitive little boy.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fifty shades of Grey - what's all the fuss about?

As an occasional mummy blogger I feel that it is OK for me stray from my usual fare of amusing anecdotes about family life into the territory of book reviews just this once, for the book in question - Fifty Shades of Grey - has been dubbed 'mommy porn', such is its success amongst us mums.

It was first brought to my attention by fellow blogger, Nappy Valley Girl, who currently resides Stateside where it has topped the New York Times bestseller list. She piqued my interest so I instantly downloaded it to my Kindle. It's a pretty tawdry tale about a virgin college girl who is seduced by an enigmatic and gorgeous billionaire (surely a creature that only ever exists in fiction) with a taste for kinky sex. Now many are up in arms about the morality of such a tale, but that is not what bothers me about the book. 

I am not averse to a bit of filth, but what really put me off my stride was the appalling writing. Now I know onscreen porn is famous for its wooden acting and stilted dialogue and I do understand that that's not really the point of it. But when it comes to written smut do standards have to sink equally low? 

There was no way any amount of riding crop flicking, nipple tweaking or cupping of sexes was going to get me hot under the collar when I was so distracted by the monotonous, repetitive style. I found myself twitching not with lust for the sexy Christian Grey, but with irritation as the writer explained that he was wearing 'a white linen shirt and black pants' or that he had 'soft copper hair' for the umpteenth time. 

Describe what your hero wears, if you must, but please, please, please only do it once. I don't need to be reminded every other page. I don't give a fuck. Get yourself to the Red room of Pain E.L. James, you need a good spanking for your tedious repetition of trivial detail. I know that Ana's borrowed plum dress 'clings in all the right places' you told me five pages ago, and 10 pages ago, and 15 pages ago - ARRRGH. And that is not a cry of sexual abandon.

Every vaguely interesting revelation, argument, sexual act, day with the letter y in it is greeted with either Ana or Christian's breath 'hitching'. Not entirely sure what that means, but it is certainly a catch all action that indicates that the lead characters are shocked/aroused/annoyed/alive. 

Another thing that really annoyed me was that, although the book is written by a Brit, it is an homage to the Twilight vampire movies, and as such is written in ersatz American. So the heroines lips are awkwardly wrapped around the phrases 'Oh my' 'Holy crap/shit' and 'Jeez' every other sentence. Surely this is not how American's really speak, even inside their own heads? 

Perhaps I am missing the point as clearly other women's quality control switches off the moment a pair of hands are roughly tied behind a back or smooth buttock cheeks pink up under the discipline of a twitching palm. A quickie over the bathroom sink and they care not for a misplaced full stop or the excessive use of slang. But Fifty Shades of Grey left me not panting with desire, more fuming with righteous wrath at it's flagrant abuse of my mother tongue.