I’m allergic to queues. Apart from the post office, there are few places I’d wait patiently in line for anything. With the post office, I’m conditioned. I think of it as time out – meditative time where I can move temporarily to a parallel universe. And anyway, with the ticketing system in Budapest, it’s not really a queue as such in that there’s no orderly line, just a room of anxious faces watching the numbers tick over. I will also queue for the loo – but then, too, I have other things on my mind.
Going through Kings Cross station in London the other day, I saw a tell-tale snaking line of people all queuing for nothing- all I could see ahead of them was a blank wall. No toilet, no post office, no ticket desk of any sort. I couldn’t leave it alone. Curiosity got the better of me and as I moved closer I was blinded by flashes as the crowds whooped and cheered and clicked away. A celebrity, I thought. But what were the masses queing for?
I edged my way to the front of the rope and saw it. Platform 9 3/4. Of course – I was in Harry Potter country. The line of hopefuls turned out to be young’uns queing to get their photo taking pushing Harry’s trolley through the wall. The extra-long Hogwarts’ scarf was held up by the attendant and then let fly as the poser lept in the air. Next door is the shop – the Harry Potter Shop – where you can buy anything from potions to lotions, from wands to broomsticks. In short, just about anything JK Rowling and her marketing machine have dreamed to be saleable.
I wasn’t a great fan of Harry Potter and had little desire to read him. I’m quite snobbily averse to anything that is so unversally raved about. But when I heard Stephen Fry read the books, I was hooked. Magic. Books written to be read aloud. And while I’d never queue for my photo to be taken, I’ve made a mental note to myself to go back to KC one night, late at night, or very early in the morning when I can have the platform to myself.
Years ago I remember reading about a photography/book project that pictured a city in the dead of night/morning, that hour or so when those who come in late are home and those who go out early have yet to leave. .
Walking through empty streets in the half-light of night/day is something I quite like to do. That strange suspension of reality, of time, of space, that’s my version of Platform 9 3/4, my portal to another world.