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The Phantom Buggery of Harry Potter - Part 1

by Douglas Lindsay - 12:07 on 15 September 2008
Harry Potter Takes It Up The Arse. That’s the Harry Potter book I used to talk about writing. The joke got the occasional dry laugh, even though it wasn’t particularly funny. What are you writing next? people would ask. Harry Potter Takes It Up The Arse, I’d say, smiling ruefully.

Not that I was ever really going to write Harry Potter Takes It Up The Arse, of course. For a kick-off, Bloomsbury would have had me in court before you could say Avada Kedavra. Secondly, I don’t really want to write a book about anyone getting that done to them under any circumstances. No, it was just a lousy joke borne of professional jealousy. The first Harry Potter was published a year or two ahead of the first Barney Thomson. In the last ten years, someone has bought a Harry Potter book once every millionth of a second. In the last ten years, someone has bought a Barney Thomson book. Once.

Ah well, there’s more to a writer’s life than staggering success, acclamation, awards, money and fantastic literary achievement.

That I have learned my lesson in humility, and have stopped making the lame Harry Potter gag, is all down to a superbug which the kids picked up at Easter last year.

We were on holiday. Everything seemed normal. The kids were spending happy days playing on the beach and in rock pools - it was Millport in April, so they were playing on the beach in fourteen layers of clothing - the sun wasn’t shining, and Harry Potter meant nothing to us, other than an occasional movie.

At some point One of Two picked up a bug. Probably due to the strange and exotic food that you get on the island of Cumbrae. Fish and chips. Pie and chips. Scampi and chips. Lasagne and chips. Chips and curry sauce. Chips with extra chips. Ice cream and chips. Double chips with a side order of chips. The menu in a café in Scotland is generally not unlike the Monty Python spam sketch... if it had been about chips rather than spam.

The bug looked like it would be the usual twenty-four hour kind of thing. Wasn’t horrible, One of Two had to alternate lying in bed and sitting on the toilet. Vomited a few times, but seemed to get over the worst after a few hours. Then next evening, Two of Two came down with the same thing. Typical that it should arrive at ten at night, rather than ten in the morning. He started vomiting. I kept waiting for the final vomit, the one which would finally allow him to settle down and get some sleep. Never came. He vomited all night. It was horrible. All night. Never got any sleep, just kept vomiting and vomiting. This was no regular twenty-four hour bug. This was the Armageddon of twenty-four hour bugs. He was throwing up parts of his body that weren’t even in his stomach. This was an Old Testament plague of vomiting kind of vomiting.

Every time he threw up I made him drink water. At some time around about 2 a.m. he began to make the obvious association. I kept making him drink water and he kept throwing up; two plus two equals ninety seven and therefore it was ALL MY FAULT. The mother of all twenty-four hour bugs had become a conspiracy by his dad to make him get a rubbish night’s sleep. It was impossible to argue the logic with a small boy whose body was being wracked by incessant vomitive convulsions. (Despite what my spellchecker is telling me, vomitive is actually a word, I just checked. Try and use it in a sentence today...)

There was only one way to disprove the theory. I only had to let him not drink once, he just had the one time when he threw up with absolutely nothing in his stomach - I think that was the occasion when one of his kneecaps appeared - and thereafter he acknowledged that water was good, vomit bad, and that his dad wasn’t intrinsically evil.

The night dragged on, the longest night of his life. He didn’t properly get to sleep until after eight in the morning. It’s doubtful, even when he’s a teenager drinking absurd amounts of alcohol, if he will ever vomit that much again in one ten hour span. I certainly hope not.

The next day the two of them were collapsed in a heap on the sofa. They didn’t want to move, they didn’t want to eat, they didn’t even particularly want to watch tv. One of Two hadn’t had the same awful reaction, but she was still wiped out. I still expected that at any minute they would suddenly perk up, demand three bowls of breakfast cereal, and then be careering round the back garden at eight hundred miles an hour.

It was a long time coming. An age, by the standard of the under-10’s. They were to sit in this position, slumped on a sofa looking pale and bleak and miserable, for the next six days.

And it was at this point, when they were at their collective lowest ebb, that Harry Potter arrived on his Nimbus 2000.

(So that this remains a blog, rather than a novel, it will continue tomorrow...)

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