The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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5:59pm on Sunday, 20th November, 2005:
We went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire today. I haven't read the book, and was thus as usual perplexed by missing details which I'd probably have known if I had read the book but which didn't make sense otherwise. Not that I suspect the book would have explained why someone intending to spend a year disguised as someone else wouldn't have brought enough potion with them to do the job...
I'd heard that this was the scariest HP movie yet, and I have to say there were parts I had to watch with my eyes closed and hands over my ears. These were the attempts of the boys to pick up girls to take to the dance. Spine-chilling stuff.
Anyway, when we left the cinema we thought we'd walk the 50 yards or so to the High Street to see Colchester's miserable display of Christmas lights.
It was bizarre.
The lights weren't on. They were being switched on at 4:30. The High Street was closed to traffic, and a weird procession of crazed freaky people was making its way to the town hall. There were people dressed as roundheads, carrying pikes; there was a Chinese snake that looked like it had been made at a school for people who can't make Chinese snakes; there was a dance group acting all unco-ordinated, such that the only way you could tell they were a dance group was because they had a sign telling you so. The most weird, though, were the Romans.
It's hard to describe the Romans. There were about 20 of them, in outlandish home-made togas, helmets and (for some reason) shoulder pads, and they had drums. Hmm, not just drums, DRUMS! And not just loud drums, but LOUD DRUMS! They were beating them the whole time, to a rhymth scarily reminiscent of the battle drums of the orcs in Lord of the Rings. They drowned out the public address system, they drowned out any conversation over a distance of more than 6 inches, and you could feel them through your feet. They had some kind of non-drum clacky things they beat, too, to the same rhymth. It was not remotely Christmassy, nor all that Roman come to think of it. Although they all wore the same uniform, half of them were women. All of them had a madness to their eyes that must come to everyone who has to listen to the same, throbbing rhythm hour after hour after hour after hour.
They stopped about 15 seconds before the lights went on. We just caught the countdown, then some lucky winner of a prize draw flicked the switch and the lights came on! Well, 75% of them did — one of the cross-street strings stayed out. Yes, there are only 4 cross-street strings in total. It has to be the most useless display in East Anglia. My home town has a tenth of the population of Colchester and about ten times the Christmas lights.
The man at the microphone muttered something about "whipping up some Harry Potter magic and make it snow", whereupon two artificial snow machines started up on the Town Hall balcony and produced this white stuff which was picked up and carried off by the wind before it had fallen 4 feet vertically. I've no idea where it finally came to rest, if indeed it ever will.
The Romans started up again, we stood for 5 minutes while the crowd got moving again, then we came home.
Movies are fine for escapism, but if you want to see the genuinely inexplicable you can't beat real life.
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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).