I have fulfilled a long held ambition. I can now cross it off my list of 'Things To Do If I Was Magic And Motivated'.
I have stayed at the Weasley's Burrow from the world of Harry Potter.
It is an editorial slip that this amazing pile of bricks is situated on the outskirts of Ottery St Catchpole. It is actually in Cambridge. I have been there and seen it with my own eyes.
A kitchen crammed with crockery, cottage-shaped teapots on dusty shelves, fresh flowers, foliage and plant pots, brightly coloured paintings created by children at various stages of their artistic careers pinned up, aprons hung from hooks, mismatched chairs and cushions, and cobwebs decorating the upper displays of hoarded knick-knacks and collected obscurities. Cosy. Comfortable. Pure Weasley.
Mrs Molly Weasley was not present when I dropped by (perhaps visiting Charlie in Bulgaria at the time) but in her place was an equally maternal figure, an eccentric add-on to the cluttered kitchen. Just as much of a larger-than-life character as Molly and more than a match for her.
Patrice boils up chai tea in a saucepan on the stove. She takes her own teabags with her, even to the hairdressers, so she can have her own particular choice of brew. Herb supplement and vitamin pill jars (many assissting with symptoms of menopause) are on every surface, some holding what the label displays, some containing spices, loose tea, peppercorns or dried rosemary. She is on a crusade to get the world meditating, driving a determined one woman campaign to promote the benefits of this 'alternative' way of life. She herself meditates every morning. She swings from wishing to live in Cumbria, to Kenya, to buying a random plot of wild land and building her own environmentally friendly house. She enthuses about the Russian novelists. She says that Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' does not show the real Conrad, 'Nostromo' being far superiour. She never eats breakfast but loves lashings of very smelly cheese. Her reaction to a huge splat of bird excrement on the front windscreen when driving was exclaiming 'Oh! Isn't that just wonderful!', in her lilting Dublin tones. When our plans changed at the last minute, with us deciding to go to the Botanical Gardens as opposed to some tearooms a fair way off along the river, she vehemently and effusively cried 'But the apples Isabel! The beautiful apples!', expecting us to go back on our decision due to the fruit they put out between the tables this time of year. She gave us a book she had just picked up from a friend which had vivid and intimate diagrams of how to have sex whilst pregnant. She calls her phone her 'friend', disregarding the fact that it is falling apart ('I just have to press the 'e' a little harder'). She makes peanut butter cookies in a flash, finding random plastic bags, whatever they may have previously held, to dispense them in so she can take the offering to whomever she may visiting. She is, in a word, a marvel. More magic than anything J.K. Rowling could come up with.
And she gets to live in the Burrow, which I have always thought to be one of the most marvellous places in existence (or imagination at any rate).