The Spectator

Waiting for Harry

Waiting for Harry
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The queue party in Hampstead was more queue than party - a few Waterstones employees in witches’ hats and T-shirts saying 'Muggle' wandered up and down taking notes of children who had come in fancy dress, but the atmosphere was one of cheerful patience rather than festivity, with everyone waiting patiently until a New Year's Eve-style countdown at midnight.

The only remarkable thing about it was the number of people who had decided to come and get their hands on a copy of the book at midnight. At 11, it had stretched as far as the crepe van - by midnight, halfway down the high street. There were about 300 people there, all very well-behaved: eager children twirling wands, acting out scenes from the films or speculating on the new book; teenagers smoking clove cigarettes, eating pizza, or sitting cross-legged on the pavement; and the odd sheepish-looking adult. Perhaps unsurprisingly, lots of the children were bookish, serious girls; the one behind us was particularly precocious, talking earnestly about what Gordon Brown and David Cameron thought of Harry Potter, and lecturing her mother on the style and structure of the last book.  The queue was regarded with good-natured bemusement by passers-by and the drinkers inside the local gay pub, the William IV, including a strikingly pretty transvestite who came out to smoke on the steps and chat to people in the queue.

Inside Waterstones, the books were still quite neatly stacked even after hundreds of fans had eagerly seized their copies. Getaway cars started pulling up outside, tired fathers in Volvo estates and Landrovers. In front of the tills, novels by various authors had been stacked in great shiny piles, in the hope of tempting Potter fans to buy other books and thereby recovering some of the losses incurred by selling Potter at half the cover price. But most of the shoppers left with only the book they had come for, tired but still so excited to find out what had happened to Harry Potter that many started reading as they were walking home, or being carried there on their parents' shoulders.