“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive”

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much”

I bet you know where that comes from.

I bet you remember the first time you read it; maybe not the precisions of it, the exact thing you had for lunch, or what colour socks you had on, but I bet you remember that moment. I bet you remember how it felt.

For me; Leeds, and a nondescript shopping centre. WHSmith, maybe. One of the high-street stores; one of those that look like something you’ve seen a thousand times before. We were passing through. I had a book token.

(Book tokens, oh my lord book tokens, the eternal love of the bookish child)

The shelves were at the back of the shop; tucked away. I bought the first three titles in the series, titles twisting on my tongue. Familiar. Unfamiliar.

I have a habit of being late to things; I am a library lover, a librarian, I read what the library has, and sometimes some libraries are more prompt than others. I picked up His Dark Materials in Totnes, all three of them, another deal, more clean-edged spines; the crisp, indulgent pleasure of newness.

Of a book that has never been read before; a book waiting for you.

Only you.

I am rereading this book now, this book that begins with a suburban couple in a suburban street, perfectly normal thank you very much, and I am thinking of those moments and the way that first read contrasts with the second. The third, fourth, fiftieth.

We read; we connect. That first read, that self-making read.

We read again; we reform, we reconnect, we rediscover. We affirm those bonds of ourselves, hard fought and hard forged.

And sometimes; we rediscover a classic. A book that aches with resonance, with sentences that sound a note something far beyond that which they sounded so many years ago.

This is rereading; this is us, this is the story of who and why we are. This is your first love, your first kiss, first loss, first – moment.

And it all comes from


this tiny, tiny thing

this book.










6 thoughts on ““Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive”

  1. I live just up the road from the place where they filmed the Privet Drive scenes for the films, so suburban normality seems natural to me. Which makes the weird and unexpected that much more thrilling, I suppose.

  2. I remember I read the second one first, as I’d won it in a competition. It was the summer holidays between my 2nd and 3rd year at university and I sat out in the sunshine in the garden of my horrid student house in Sheffield reading it. I was hooked.

    I’m also now reminiscing about browsing in WH Smith in Leeds when I was a kid!

  3. I first came across Harry Potter when my mum read it to me and my sister when I was about eight. We all wanted to read the new one when it came out so it became a tradition for us to read it together. I felt like I was growing up with Harry and his friends at the time. It was wonderful. 🙂

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