The metallic lights of London tingle, like something out of L.I.L.Y., but Christmasy: a green-blue-turquoise sheen alternates out of the corner of my eye. Ice blue crystals from other lights fill my foreground, clinging to tree outlines against the black, and, yet, the night hugs me. I pass stalls packed with ripe rounds of fruit and folded Christmas trees and think how much Lily would have loved this.
Two opposing teams met in daylight and fought into nightfall. London and Reading stood face to face across Hampstead Heath Park pitch for the first time, our team somewhat swamping theirs. On the words “brooms up!”, we raced away. It’s a thrill even just to shiver on the sidelines when waiting to swap, ‘sub’, players; part of the delightful insanity of Quidditch is the teamwork. Those on the side on the pitch see what the players themselves might be missing.
Both teams were formidable – both teams had rough players not afraid of attacking. Of course, amongst the passing and yelling came ducking and weaving, lunging and falling, as in any battlefield, with the objective of snatching the ball(s) and scoring. The shouts curled into the air: “beat him!” “back – protect the hoops,” and “go for it!” With Quidditch, the violence can be in the words.
The Reading Rocs (Facebook page) succeeded victorious after the three matches, but there were times when both teams came close. We won the first match 110 – 80, on a snitch grab; the second match we only lost by a debatable 10 points – nevertheless, the snitch was easily in the hands of one of our capable Seekers. Against a fresh Chimera (a player from the Oxford team, arguably the best team in the country) we battled using wits and brawn. This was someone against whom the ‘visible’ skills of Quidditch, that is, the running and the ball-possession, would not do. Instead, we needed some swiftly-cooked distraction tactics. And, although we did not quite succeed that second match, we were ready to face the hooves against the ground one last time.
Metaphor or not, that is literally what Quidditch feels at times. When one has the ball, the opposing teams stampedes, using every force to steal that baby. I faced one such pile-up this weekend, and my only tactic against it is to scream and hold my child to me. Metaphorically speaking.
By the time the third match raged to a beginning, the sky already dappled itself with mid-afternoon colours; by the time we had finished, those few minutes after the festivities closed, sunset lay lightly upon us.
I think back on the day as I push through these half-familiar London streets, ex mente almost with a sudden fatigue from not having eaten more than cake and ice cream for the day, and I smile gently. My joy comes less from the fact that we won a Quidditch game, but more from atypical comparison: the Sunday I would have had would have been one of university work and self-absorption, negatively reinforcing this dreary pattern into which I have slipped. In a way, I still have been working, but instead for the teammates and the unity of one hell of a game!
We walk in the night as a collective – for two teams meld into one after we shake hands and toss each other through the Quidditch hoops – and we drag our heavy feet through the half-lit streets of London to a Weatherspoons Pub, grab a bite to eat (via McDonald’s ), and, as eyes heavy with exhaustion close, we settle on the memory of a day well spent.
(Match photo by Matthew Gooch; sunset photo by me)