Well, friends. Bad news. I’m not a witch.
I just returned from a three week trip to Ireland and London, hoping the owl carrying my invitation to Hogwarts had simply been circling the UK looking for me, not able to cross the Atlantic. But I was not stopped by any magic avian, seniors with long white beards, or enormous groundskeepers. Just a drunk homeless man who presented me with two children’s books of Irish fairytales. And when I replied, “Oh, no thank you, I don’t have any money,” he bristled, clutched the books to his chest, and said, quite clearly, “I’m not selling these. These are mine.”
The closest I came to witchcraft was a visit to King’s Cross Station. I thought I remembered reading that the British government erected a tribute to JK Rowling and her millions of fans via a faux Platform 9 3/4. So we trekked to the landmark and circled the station, searching for the site. After about fifteen minutes of wandering to no avail, doubt struck and it occurred to me that perhaps I only WANTED there to be a Platform 9 3/4, and that I dragged Phil to a regular old train station in England to locate something entirely fantastical. I considered inquiring about the attraction to a station attendant, but on the chance that the homage was only a delusion of mine, I couldn’t risk approaching a busy government worker to ask, “Excuse me, where is Platform 9 3/4?” While there was the slight appeal of getting to reenact the scene when Harry Potter first searches for the platform in book one, the attendant would think I was either nuts, stupid, or obnoxious, and while I might be at least one of those things, I’d rather not support American stereotypes.
Finally we found a small throng crowded around–wouldn’t you know– Platform 9 3/4, where half a carriage carrying old fashioned leather luggage and an empty bird cage protruded from the wall. One by one tourists took their turns to approach the photo opp, and an energetic personnel stepped forward to wrap a Gryffindor scarf around the neck of each Potter enthusiast. Of course I wanted a photo of me entering the wizarding world through the Platform portal, but I couldn’t justify waiting 30 minutes to take it, while the rest of London, the nonfictional rest of London, waited. So we left.
I went back to Platform 9 3/4 four times. We went in the morning, in the evening, and in the afternoon. And each time, the crowd–and I could swear it was exactly the same crowd– stood in my way. Bollocks.
Despite having missed my wizardly calling, the trip was a success, outdoing our honeymoon on the very first day, when we arrived to find that the hotel I booked still existed. It behooves us to keep our standards low.
In addition to the Irish castles, waterfalls, impossibly green grass, Guinness, fresh grilled fish, and the palaces, abbeys, and parks of London, we enjoyed an entirely unique and unexpected perk, which is what I want to talk about today:
I saw Sarah Jessica Parker in Green Park.
Phil and I were walking back from Buckingham Palace when we heard two tots ahead of us ask, “Mommy, can we play over there?”
All she said was, “Sure!” and I knew. That was the “Sure!” of Carrie Bradshaw.
My eyes darted ahead to find a thin woman with wavy blondish hair. She bent over and her hair fell in front of her face before I got a good look. She had all the trappings of Carrie Bradshaw, but I couldn’t walk away without getting a clear view. I searched beyond her to her companion. Is that Matthew Broderick? Then I realized I hadn’t seen Matthew Broderick since he was Ferris Beuller. The middle aged man in front of me might have been Matthew Broderick, or he might have been a stock clerk from Cincinnati; I wouldn’t be certain until he spoke and I heard Adult Simba.
I quickened my pace. I was now maybe four feet from Mission Parker-Broderick. Sarah was still bent in half, searching through her purse, her back facing me. Phil said, “Alena, I know what you’re thinking,” in a tone that attempted to pull back on my reigns. I ignored him. He couldn’t have known what I was thinking because I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just doing. I heard Carrie, now I needed to see Carrie.
When the bent-over woman was directly in front of me, I crouched down into a Gollum position and circled her, craning my neck, searching for her face, in what Phil would later call my Parker mating dance.
The actress froze, an animal sensing danger, her hair still curtaining her face. Since I couldn’t remain squatted by her feet for much longer without inciting legal repercussions, I straightened to find Matthew Broderick at my nose, eyeing me, close enough that we could have shaken hands– if I wasn’t posing a threat to him and his family. I cleared my throat and walked past.
But I wasn’t finished.
We continued down the path until we were out of sight and then cut back, crossed the park, and plopped down in the grass approximately a five minute walk ahead of where we expected the famous family to emerge. (As always, Phil was a reluctant, but good sport.) We pulled out our London guidebook and pretended to be plotting our route, when really we were just plotting.
We brainstormed a few celebrity pickup lines.
Feigning ignorance: “Oh, fellow Americans! Any idea where we can get a decent burger around here?”
Feigning slightly less ignorance: “Hey, you look familiar. Did you go to Camp Tikiwonka?”
Expressing excessive admiration: “Sarah, I am such a fan. I am still shocked you didn’t win an Oscar for Hocus Pocus. Not even nominated. Highway robbery.”
But we never had the chance. When the family got within twenty feet of us, they ducked under the canopied branches of a willow and stayed there until we gave up and left.
I can’t imagine why.