41. When in doubt, go to the library!

Keen Harry Potter fans may recognise the above quote as being spoken by Ron Weasley about Hermione Granger in the Chamber of Secrets. She was a wise girl was Hermione and on this particular wet Wednesday morning I decided to follow in her footsteps and pay a visit to the Newcastle City Library.

I always enjoy a visit to a library, but truth be told if I was just in the mood to spend time amongst books I would usually opt for the Lit and Phil. What drew me instead to the City Library (and what led me to this blog’s introduction) was the recent arrival of a new Harry Potter exhibition.

Inspired by the History of Magic exhibition at the British Library in London, Newcastle City Library is one of twenty libraries across the country to host a magic-inspired exhibition in honour of the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter novel.


The exhibition is smaller than I had hoped it would be. I mean, truthfully it could never have been big enough to satisfy a Harry Potter obsessive like myself, but even those with more realistic expectations might find its size a little disappointing. It occupies only a small space on Level 1 by the entrance to the library and another small area on Level 6.

Despite its small size, however, the exhibition was still able to provide a decent chunk of magic related information. It focuses mainly on the different subjects taught at Hogwarts and looks at the origins and history of each of these. I learned, amongst other things, that Abracadabra was originally used as a magic charm against Malaria in Ancient Rome and that Bezoars really do come from the stomach of goats and really were used as an antidote to poison. Indeed, the exhibition taught me more generally just how much of J.K.Rowling’s work has some origins to real historical creatures, theories and philosophies.

As well as the Hogwarts subjects, the exhibition also contains references to magical tales and events closer to home, including the tale of the Lambeth Worm and stories about witchcraft in Newcastle. Beautiful copies of incredibly old books (from the 16th and 17th centuries) focusing on the use of herbs and plants for medicinal purposes can also be admired as a part of this small but undoubtedly intriguing exhibition. 

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30. See Fenwick’s Christmas Window Display

Anyone who read the very first entry of this blog might remember that I began it in order to keep me occupied during a (very happy) 14 weeks of unemployment. I genuinely thought I would have all 50 activities done and dusted by the end of August… OBVIOUSLY, that didn’t quite work out. Here we are in November and I have only just made it to number 30! The thing is though, even though this isn’t what I intended, I am actually kind of glad about it, because now it means I get to write about Christmas related activities!

I am a Christmas fanatic, but I try not to let myself get too excited until at least mid November. Ideally, therefore I would be writing about Fenwick’s window display at a later date, but I was in town and I just could not resist. Fenwick’s Christmas window is, to anyone who has been brought up in the North East, a HUGE deal. We used to come from Hexham every year to see it as kids. Weirdly, whenever I remember coming as a child I always remember it snowing… but that can’t possibly be true. I bet it snowed one single time and I have really held on to that memory.

Fenwick’s began their traditional Christmas window display in 1971 and have had a whole collection of wonderful themes since then. They say it is their way of giving something back to the North East and so the window always tells a story rather than featuring any brands. Highlights from over the years can be seen here and here.

For me personally, it never disappoints and this year was no different. The window has taken on a Beatrix Potter theme in celebration of it being 150 years since the iconic author was born and the window is full of her most famous tales. It really is a fantastic sight and, as always, didn’t fail to take me right back to my childhood (if only it had been snowing..).

 

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