Low-tech geekery and grey knee-socks

Last summer, on the last night of a month-long stay in London, A. & I wandered down to the flagship Waterstones, in Piccadilly — which claims to be the biggest bookshop in Europe. The occasion was the midnight launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I had no idea how many people would be there, but optimistically expected maybe a hundred. It’s not as if it was a signing, or a reading. People were just lining up to buy a book a few hours in advance of normal opening hours.

We were both stunned when we turned into Piccadilly from the Circus. It was mayhem. Well, no, because that implies chaos. It was like a party. We wandered, open-mouthed, westwards along Piccadilly until we found the end of the line, which was somewhere in front of Fortnum & Mason. That’s a long way. We — the whole line, not just us — were a spectacle for passing cars. Some sounded their horns in some sort of solidarity — or some sort of protest. Others called out, asking what the occasion was, or being drunkenly cool by jeering at the geekiness. There were TV crews filming. Radio shows were passing along the line interviewing the waiting fans. We discovered that the American family in the line (Note to self: I’m British, and, moreover, this was Britain. We don’t have lines. We have queues.) behind us had literally just flown in for a vacation, and had barely checked into their hotel after what must have been a horrible journey before heading down to Piccadilly to get the book as soon as they could. I estimated that there were about 1500 people in the queue by the time we got there, and another 1500 behind us by the time Waterstones opened at midnight.

No question, whatever I might think about the book — probably the weakest of the five so far, and definitely the slackest editorially (though without the massive plot-hole that mars Goblet of Fire) — we both felt part of something special that night. A. refers to people waiting at the dock-side for the arrival in the US of the latest installments of Dickens’s serialised novels.

Being a perv — but not just being a perv, thank you very much — I also loved that night that it was an occasion for fans to dress up in Hogwarts school uniforms. They looked great, and were having so much fun. As a new LA resident, I see the same total commitment to film series at opening nights. I find it estimable, and somehow very cheery. Perhaps it’s the sense of community that I can perceive. But to a great extent I’m also comforted by the fact that it’s very low-tech geekiness. My geekiness tends towards the high-tech, and there’s certainly community to be found there too, but I think the health and persistence of low-tech geekiness in a high-tech age is a wonderful thing. I’m always pleased when I wander past a branch of Games Workshop and see crowds of earnest kids, and not-kids, passionately engaged in tabletop games. I suppose I worry that anything computery will inevitably trump the non-computery, and am reassured to see that it doesn’t work that way.

This little reminiscence was brought to you by the good people at Harry Potter Cosplay’s Journal, where the geekiness is in searching for just the right uniform combo. Though, of course, Snape-worship can’t ever be too far away. This page wins my award for the best line:

Naughty girl…Severus is going to use those ponytails as handles, you know. 😉

And just why is it that the Slytherin uniforms are so much cooler than the Gryffindor ones? Is it the bad girl thing? Speaking only for myself, it’s the grey knee-socks that make me swoon.


  • While I certainly agree with most of what you’ve written here, I can’t help but wonder if you’re trying to attract more hits to this site by mentioning both Harry Potter and Snape . Isn’t that cynical of me? And I’m so young too…

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