13 Aug 2007

If Harry Potter were Irish...

Many moons ago, long before we ever had Harry Potter, mobile phones or Sat Nav, I went on a driving tour through the Highlands of Scotland (Scottish people, be assured that the following is not meant to offend in any way, that I love you all like in-laws, etc.).

Anyway… I was in awe of the majesty of the wilderness. An entire landscape unmarred by human intervention. Not a single one off rural house in the countryside to be seen.

Bleak. But in an environmentally sustainable way.   

In the way of these things, after a few hours driving my mind began to wander. Lack of visual intrusion in the landscape is, of course, to be ‘welcomed’, as they say, but there are times when you wished you could see at least the occasional house. I mean, what if you got lost? And it started to rain? And then your car broke down?

You assure your wife as you set off to find help that you’ll be back within a half hour, but three hours later things are going pear shaped. A steady stream of cold rain is running beneath your shirt collar from the nape of your neck down to the crack of your arse. Your feet are blistered. You’re beginning to think you might be lost. Exhausted, confused, desperate you realise your only choice is to try and find your way back to the car… 

But wait! Suddenly, just ahead of you, you spy a medieval stone cottage on a craggy outcrop near a jagged mountain peak. Your step quickens, hope returns: ‘Please,’ you find yourself saying out loud ‘please, let there be someone inside with a working telephone’.  

You rap on the door and to your immense relief you immediately hear footsteps approach. Thank The Lord! Your heart races! The door swings open! But no! To your horror, the figure standing in front of you is… The Headless Horseman!

Back in reality (remember I’m driving a car through the Scottish Highlands), I did a ‘u’ey and broke the speed limit all the way from Inverness to Edinburgh. The landscape had spooked me.

Now this could never happen to me in Ireland, I thought. Driving around the Ring of Kerry, after I’d gotten used to the beauty and started to daydream I’d almost be wishing my car would break down just so I’d have an excuse to spend the night under the stars safe in the knowledge that at daybreak I’d casually stroll off until I happened upon a middle aged lady with a massive bosom in a farmhouse near Sneem or somewhere who’d bring me inside and fill me full of lovely cups of tea while her five strapping GAA playing, silage cutting, sons and their even bigger, hairier and balder first cousins would lift my car with their bare hands into the farm yard and stick bits of tractor engine into it to make sure I got back to a mechanic in Kenmare. There, the car would remain unfixed for days as everyone waited for a part to come down from Dublin… 

For those of you with some training in psychoanalysis the point of all this is already obvious – if JK Rowling had set Harry Potter in Ireland, she wouldn’t have sold a single book. Quidditch in Connemara? Womping Willows in Wicklow? Mad Mandrakes in Mayo? A total nonpossibility. I don’t want to get too complex on you here, but the bottom line is: the Irish landscape is as it is precisely because we inhabit it. And we are as we are because the landscape inhabits us. If this weren’t so, we’d all end up with Hogwarts Syndrome –a state of psychosis where people deprived of a proper, healthy relationship with their environment are condemned to viewing nature as hellish nightmare.

In other words, if you’re still following the argument, in terms of the space time vortex, Hogwarts is the parallel inverse of Ireland. And this is why we have one off houses in the countryside and the Scots don’t.

(Obviously, I’m oversimplifying things here. The sharper tacks amongst you are already tracing the roots of Hogwarts Syndrome back to Nessie, which, after all, was nothing more than a poor Englishman on a holiday drive through the Highlands who goes into daydream mode but instead of being dismembered by The Headless Horseman he imagines himself chased by a humungous freshwater serpent. It makes perfect sense.)  

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