On the eve of the new millennium, I remember crying. As the clock struck twelve and Big Ben sounded, I quietly took myself away to a solitary room in my grandparents’ house and sat there for a while. Eventually I regained my composure, dusted myself off, readjusted what would become a dependably stiff chin
How very Emma Thompson in Love Actually; how very touching; how artistic. It could have been a Joni Mitchell Album from a libidinous husband, and I could have just pretended to my children that their performance in the Nativity Play was luminary. Instead, I never told a soul. I was twelve years old and may have been quite conceivably hairy for my age, but I just couldn’t understand why at that point I had silent tears tracking down my young face. In fact, I have never understood why.
Perhaps it was that my younger cousins were sleeping through the evening, missing what I thought would be the defining ten-second-countdown of our lives. Perhaps I finally realised the cruel and steady passage of time; the angel who dauntlessly walks on into the future with its head fixed permanently facing backwards into the past. Perhaps, I was just sad. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had no idea what the millennium meant or was supposed to mean. I just knew it was crap.
Incidentally, I’ve never been the most optimistic at New Year. With a birthday on the 30th December to boot, it is hard not to let two events so preoccupied with the passage of time collide and collude, and make sure one feels that the Peter Pan inside has been smacked silly, pushed over on the football pitch, sent home to a cold shower and an even colder mother, and pushed out of the door the following morning to find a desk job. For the Millenarians and I who propounded the end of things as we knew it and the birth of something remarkable, the beginning of the last decade was a disappointing one; little more than a sloppy fart from the Cosmos; a small, gentle expulsion of wind from Zeus’ prodigious behind; a rip in Atlas’ already strained breaches. Ultimately myself, the Millenarians, and their emaciated vegan friends dusted off our day suits, re-buckled our briefcases, and returned to our day jobs; accountants, salesmen, civil servants, teachers, casual bat and ball players who had never kisses a girl, whatever we got up to when the moon wasn’t full and our forest camp fires effulgent; and carry on as if nothing had happened, for indeed it had.
And so I went back to school with a heavy heart. Things, I had been sure, would never be the same. Whatever it was that was supposed to define a turn of the century had amounted to nothing save for a couple of tears mingling with the mud on the sides of my trainers. If anything, I suppose that was the moment – clad in my grey flannel shorts and black Velcro shoes (‘comfy and practical’, apparently,) – I realised the whole thing was all a load of bullshit. From that moment I stopped believing in God. I stopped believing in God because I stopped believing in people. All we did was count time. All we did was count down. All we did was wait to crawl the plodding crawl toward death. Even if we made it to Paradise, we wouldn’t be happy – we’d only ask when it was over.
So, without even a pubic hair to my name, I stopped believing in anything. I probably even stopped believing in myself. For, everybody was so small; for, I was so small; my time on this Earth was so small; and anything I could achieve in said time would be nothing more than a smudge of excrement on a single sheet of toilet paper that rode on the back of a terrific tide of the nation’s crap that surged out to sea. What could I achieve? Probably nothing. Who could I be? Probably no one.
My belief is different now: I know I can achieve great things, as can we all. But, I now know this for two reasons – the reasons for which I have written this article.
Those two reasons are the two people whom I believe have defined the new millennium between them, or as they have at least for myself and hopefully for some other people of my generation. They are: J.K. Rowling the creator of Harry Potter; and Peter Jackson, the facilitator of one of the largest cinematic triple-events in world history, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Mine was a youth defined by cinematic and literary spectacle. In the December of 2001, almost exactly a year later than my sob-session in grandad’s underwear closet, I witnessed what for me would be life-changing events. Admittedly late, I came across a battered copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in my school library. I read it, languidly at first, keenly at second, voraciously at third. The first foundation stone was set effortlessly, you know the rest (if you’ve read Harry Potter. If you haven’t, you know who you are.)
At around the same time, a group of friends and I went to the cinema. I say a ‘group of friends and I’ as they probably weren’t my friends and just came along for the free food and cinema ticket from my Father; only later would they substitute me for the skateboard and the ‘roach’. It goes without saying that they certainly aren’t my friends now, primarily as I replaced all of their weed on one school ‘outdoor activities and teambuilding’ trip with oregano, filmed the evidence, and revealed both my artistic short film and the bag of the offending herb to the headmaster. Needless to say, that didn’t win them over. Neither did it win my girlfriend over; I think she wouldn’t have gone out with me had she known that story in the beginning. Nevertheless, they all now want me to proofread their essays for courses as imaginatively diverse as ‘Sport Development and Coaching’ (there’s a B.A. Hons. in there somewhere, apparently); ‘Business’; and even ‘Peace Studies’, whatever that is; my girlfriend won’t let me proofread her essays as she says I’m too wordy. The film was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, a slightly reorganised version of the first book. In fact, Boromir actually dies at the start of the second, and it is never a gorgeous Liv Tyler who saves Frodo from Weathertop. Otherwise, I thought it was a pretty flawless rendition. The panel of the Academy Awards agreed.
And so to return to April 2011, where an only slightly hairier fourth-year English Literature student is sat in the library writing his final ever article for a short-lived University journalism career; is retrospectively trying to justify his existence and why he can legitimately postpone writing an essay on “Sensation Fiction in Victorian Britain” with no decent excuse other than that his wisdom teeth are niggling again.
For, today saw the online debut of the cinematic trailer for the second installment of last year’s hugely successful Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. Additionally, a matter of hours ago, Peter Jackson announced on his online blog that principle photography for the filming of the forthcoming release of The Hobbit (Parts One and Two) has begun in earnest down under in New Zealand. Both of these events, I shall not lie, have released a tide of adrenalin coursing through my veins and immediately prodded out of their languid slumber the treasure-horde protecting dragon, and secret chamber guarding three headed dog of my youth as a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter devotee. I have been sweating gently with excitement all day.
The question on everyone’s lips is ‘are they going to be any good?’ My answer to you all is: I just don’t care. I’ll watch them regardless, and perhaps the door shall be gently closed on ten years of my life that may have been so different were it not for the artistic endeavours of these two talented people. A new chapter will begin, just as it began for me when I opened the very first page of Harry’s story, and the opening sequence outside Mount Doom ran in front of three hundred cinema-goers.
By writing the above one thousand words of self-indulgent, circumlocutory drivel I have tried to demonstrate that there once was a twelve year-old who didn’t believe in monsters, secret chambers, dragons, or quests. He didn’t believe in anything. He didn’t even believe in himself. That twelve year old was one of many who literally grew up with Harry Potter and his friends, followed all seven of his years through school in tandem with the Hogwarts trio, and additionally spent three years of his life waiting with baited breath for the ticket to see the next instalment of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Of course, at twenty-two, I still don’t believe in monsters, secret chambers, and dragons; and I have different ambitions, passions and obsessions. But, I believe in myself. What J.K. Rowling and Peter Jackson taught me, I shall never forget. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, who manages to effortlessly summarise my entire argument in one succinct phrase:
‘Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten’.