I’m a really big fan of Oliver Wood, the coolest Quidditch player to come out of Hogwarts since Charlie Weasley. Never expecting any reply, I found out the mailing address of Puddlemere United and sent Oliver Wood a Dodger’s baseball cap (I live in Los Angeles) with a note saying if he’s ever in the states, Dodgers tickets and hot-dogs were on me. You’ll never know how surprised I was to receive a reply from Oliver himself, saying he couldn’t make it away from training, but inviting me to come to London and spend the day with him learning about Quidditch. Needless to say, I was on the next plane!
We met early in the morning at The Leaky Cauldron, which is the place to go to meet a Witch or Wizard if you’re in England. Our first stop was to be the nearby London Museum of Quidditch, but as Oliver explained, you can’t be so close to Diagon Alley and not take a moment to check out Quality Quidditch Supplies. I agreed.
After a quick cup of tea and a little catching-up between Oliver and Tom, the Leaky Cauldron’s inkeeper, we headed out the back and walked straight to QQS. I had been to Diagon Alley once before and longed to revisit all the cool shops again (I could spend all day in Flourish and Blotts, and another whole day in Mr. Cobble’s Vintage Wizarding Wares, which everyone else calls the ‘junk shop’), but Quidditch was my mission today and so I stuck close to Ollie, and we were outside the window of QQS before I knew it. I almost bumped into him as he had stopped
in front of the window. Obviously a new broom was being displayed there, all I could see from my vantage point through the crowd was the bright shine coming off its highly polished handle.
Once inside, Ollie introduced me to the manager of QQS, Karl Broadmoor, one of the dirtiest Quidditch players in league history ever. He and his brother Kevin were beaters for the Falmouth Falcons in the sixties and, as Karl proudly told me, they were suspended fourteen times, a league record. Mr. Broadmoor escorted Ollie and I from the crowded, noisy store into QQS’s back room, and there it was. The Stratus X, the latest racing broom from the Nimbus Company. I couldn’t believe anything could look cooler than a Firebolt, but this magnificent broom did. Its bristles came off its tail in two bunches, making it look like a serpent’s tongue. It wasn’t moving, but you could sense it was humming with pent-up energy. As Mr. Broadmoor was rattling off its statistics, accelleration, turning radius, breaking speed, Ollie just stood motionless and stared at it with his mouth hanging slightly open.
“No chance on taking it out for a test spin, I suppose,” Ollie asked longingly, finally coming to his senses after a moment. “You couldn’t afford the insurance,” Mr. Broadmoor replied.
Back in the front of the store, I wanted to buy one of everything, but I hadn’t changed any of my muggle money for galleons, so I had to just settle for looking. Official Quidditch team robes from all the British and Irish teams. Specially-charmed quaffle-handling gloves. Miniature scale-models of famous brooms. A whole wall of books and magazines about The Sport of Warlocks, Ollie had to drag me away from it.
Quality Quidditch Supplies in Diagon Alley
We bid our goodbyes to Mr. Broadmoor and as we were making our way out of the shop, Ollie threw me something orange. It was a Chudley Cannons cap! “We’re even!” said Ollie, smiling. It went right on my head and there it stayed all day.
Back inside the Leaky Cauldron, it was a quick floo-trip to the Museum of Quidditch. Once again, there were so many things to see and do, I could spend the whole day here as well.
There were ancient letters documenting the earliest days of the sport, preserved in glass cases. There were antique quaffles, some with handles and others with finger holes, like muggle bowling balls. There was also a collection of very old bludgers, some still active and having to be strapped to the inside of the display case. Several Golden Snitches (I spotted at least two) flew randomly in and out the rooms.
There were some ancient brooms that you could actually take for a ride around the museum’s courtyard, and let me tell you, thank heaven for Elliot Smethwyck (who invented the broom cushioning charm in the early 1800’s), you can’t do more than a few minutes on one of those old brooms before you really start to regret it! We also took two of the museum’s Cleansweeps for a spin, they were the first real sports brooms introduced in the late 1920’s. Ollie showed me a few excellent moves I’d never tried before, including the finer points of flying no-handed. The adjustment of balance is hard to describe, but I can tell you that you use your knees a lot.
But my favorite part of the musuem was the History of the Quidditch World Cup exhibit. There you can see an actual World Cup award plus mimentos of past games, the robes of famous players, lots of pictures (all moving, of course), and best of all, several pairs of omnioculars that you can look through to watch famous plays from past cup games, including examples of some pretty nasty fouls, and the most famous seeker of all time, Josef Wronski, executing a Wronski Feint against an unlucky seeker from Spain.
And then it was finally time for the match, the Cannons vs. the Pride of Portree. Another quick floo-trip to Chudley in Devon, and then a portkey north to Hennock, where Chudley Stadium is hidden in Dartmoor National Park. It was a few minutes until the match and the place was packed. I followed Ollie to our seats, we were held-up several times by young fans wanting his autograph, and we finally made it all the way up to our seats way up at the top of the stadium.
“Good seats, huh?” asked Ollie. I agreed, thanking him, and commented that it was sort of backwards from what I was used to at baseball games in America, where the seats all the way down front were the best and the ones up top of the stadium were the cheapest seats. Ollie thought that was funny.
Another difference between going to a baseball game and a Quidditch match I noticed was that I didn’t see a lot of food being sold at the stadium, except for some small mince-meat pies outside. At a baseball game, you can’t swing a cat without hitting some sort of food vendor, hot dogs, pizza, peanuts, nachos, ice cream, soda. But I didn’t mind, because a few minutes after we found our seats, the guy came around selling Butterbeer!
The Prides got out to an early lead, scoring the first goal after only a few minutes. The Cannons got off a few close shots in succession next, but the Prides’ keeper Meaghan McCormack, the daughter of famous Prides keeper Catriona McCormack from the sixties, was in great form, making the save each time. Ollie spoke of her very reverently, and I got the impression that if she wasn’t on an opposing team, he’d be asking her for a date. Ollie also mentioned that Meaghan’s brother is Kirley McCormack, lead guitarist for the Weird Sisters, and that he shows up to Prides matches sometimes, but we never spotted him.
At this point, I guess the Cannons started to get a bit aggravated, because in the next play two of the Cannons chasers got called for stooging, which is more than one chaser in the scoring area at the same time. (Ollie was very impressed I knew that.) The Prides chaser made the resulting penalty shot, making it 20 to nil. A few plays later, one of the Cannons beaters got called for bumphing, as the bludger sailed into the stands not too far from where we were sitting. The referee took care of the errant bludger immediately by blowing it up (I have one of the pieces!), and although you could tell even from so far away by the way he was gesturing that the Cannons beater was insisting it was an accident, it was another penalty shot for the Prides, which they missed, making the Cannons fans go crazy.
With the crowd now behind them, chanting “Cannons… Cannons…”, the Cannons were on their best form, but they were no match for the Prides, and the match was a stalemate for the next twenty minutes or so.
Then, all of a sudden, everyone was pointing to the Prides’ seeker, who, from highest reaches of the stadium, had all of a sudden started a dramatic dive almost straight down. The Cannons’ seeker was all the way at the other end of the stadium, he zoomed in her direction, but it was too late, as she recovered out of the spectacular dive with the snitch in her hand, and it was all over, 170 to nothing.
We lingered for awhile in our seats talking about the match, because not everyone can take the portkeys at the same time, but before I knew it was portkey and floo-powder back to the Leaky Cauldron where we had one more Butterbeer together before we had to call it a day and Ollie and I said goodbye, promising to keep in touch using the email-to-owl exchange. It’s a day I’ll never forget. And I’m still wearing the hat!
D.S. Haber (known to his friends as Dave) is a professional muggle computer programmer and web designer and lives in Los Angeles. He is proud of the fact that he is a new-blood wizard with no (apparent) previous magical blood in his family. His favorite Quidditch team is the Falmouth Falcons, who’s motto is “Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads.” He is also a West Ham United (Hammers) fan.