I took these photos at Paddington Station in London. I was excited to go to Paddington, partly because it was the way to get to Oxford and partly because, I had grown up loving the Paddington tales and their stories of the bear left at the station with the note around his neck: “Please look after this bear.” Stories of Paddington were part of the fantasy of London, and England, for me as a child: elevenses, tea, imposing train stations, strangers who acted proper but had great heart, always willing to look after the bear. So finally getting to Paddington almost forty years later was fun on many levels and also evoked a nostalgia for childhood. I was not surprised to find a Paddington Bear store at the station, because of course, in our consumer world, what other way would there be to commemorate the intersection of literature and reality? I didn’t shop at the store. Perhaps I should have.
Here, visitors can stand in line to get their photo taken pushing a trunk on a luggage cart through the wall (stuffed owl in place), as a helper pulls back their scarves to suggest the effects of racing full-tilt into wall, and to make the scene look more realistic for photographs. Of course, even writing about making entry on Platform 9 3/4 “more realistic” seems odd.In any case, a long line (or queue) of people awaited their opportunities to try their luck at the wall and take the photo.
Conveniently located right next to the “platform” entry is the Harry Potter Shop.
Now I can’t believe I didn’t go into the shop, but I didn’t. At the time, I was happy enough to watch people file up to pose with the cart and participate in our shared fantasy of making Harry Potter’s world come to life. And I was pretty sure I knew what was in the shop. . . wands, posters, clothing. Lots of things nobody needs but that can help them temporarily participate in the shared fantasy of making Harry Potter’s world come to life.
This experience offers fans ways to get closer to the Harry Potter stories. We know we can’t make them real, but we can try: we can enjoy the fun of a gimmick like the trunk-in-wall designed to bring the fantasy in the everyday, or we can become consumers of products that bring us closer to Harry’s world. Consumer-fans can, like Harry, buy a wand, or a book, or a scarf; the act of buying fuels imagined access to the world of wizards and muggles.