My favourite autistic characters (autistic headcanon)

There is a lack of autistic characters on film and tv (although part of me suspects there’s a lot more in literature) but I love a bit of armchair diagnostics, and speculation about which characters might be autistic is always fun for me. These are my favourites (in no particular order).

Quick post this week, but I thought I’d do something a bit more lighthearted than last week’s rant. Hope you enjoy watching! It was fun to make, and the background was definitely a bit stimmy while I edited.

Please DON’T light it up blue for World Autism Awareness day

World Autism Awareness Day is big bucks these days, and organisations, businesses and even government buildings around the world are now “lighting it up blue” for autism. While pretty blue buildings and monuments are undoubtedly pleasing from a sensory perspective, this year I urge you to reconsider your support of their campaign. Here’s why.

While doing stunts for charitable causes can tbe beneficial in some cases (how many of you had heard of ALS before the Ice Bucket Challenge barreled across social media?), just like the pinkified Breast Cancer Awareness industry, Autism does not need more awareness.

We are already “aware” of autism – what autistic people need from society is more widespread education about our neurological differences, and willingness from the neurotypical majority to accommodate us in situations they may never have considered before as “unfriendly” to autistic people.

No amount of fundraising, puzzle piece t-shirts or baking blue cupcakes is going to change the fact that we live in a world designed at almost every turn to accommodate neurotypicals, with very little thought to improving the lives of actually autistic people, especially autistic adults.

So you want to be an ally but don’t know where to start? Ask your autistic friends or family members how you can accommodate them, and what triggers them. Become aware of their particular needs and sensitivities, for example:

  • Do they struggle to hold a conversation with more than one person or with background noise?
  • Do they get stressed or confused when plans change or when you are ambiguous with your words?
  • Do they heavily mask and then need days (or even weeks) to socially recover?
  • Do their facial expressions not match their internal emotions?

If you are a business owner that serves the general public, consider how you can be more inclusive of those with different needs. Do you own a shop? Maybe reconsider the use of very bright lighting or loud music for “atmosphere”. Do you have a restaurant? Then make sure you take bookings online or by e-mail. Ask autistic people what they need and actually LISTEN to them.

Autistic people don’t need gimmicks, buildings lit up in our honour, or for you to change your profile picture to a puzzle piece. (Pro tip: many autistic people hate the puzzle piece and what it represents)

And we certainly don’t need a cure.

Review: Mud Jeans sustainable denim

This week I was curious to try out some jeans from MUD Jeans, a sustainable fashion brand based here in the Netherlands.

MUD Jeans have designed their entire business model around the circular economy and are putting sustainability at the forefront of their business by producing jeans (ethically!) that are actually designed to be recycled once the garment comes to the end of its life and rewoven back into denim.

They have a unique rental model which means that aside from a one-time membership fee of €29, you pay for up to three pairs of jeans monthly, meaning that sustainable and ethically made jeans (that typically have a high price point) are affordable to many more people than before.

Check out my video below and let me know what you think of the brand/concept? Is renting jeans the future?

Planning a capsule wardrobe for Spring/Summer 2019

This week I have been planning my capsule wardrobe for Spring/Summer 2019! Creating capsule wardrobes is not just for the fashion conscious, but for anyone looking for a more sustainable approach to fashion. By working with what you already own, you can take the “slow fashion” approach by writing very specific shopping lists for the season ahead, and trying to buy second hand where you can.

I live in the Netherlands where “Spring/Summer” means anything from 13C and raining to 30C and sunny. So I do need more clothes than those who live with more predictable weather, which is why I don’t want to limit myself to a particular number of items. It takes a bit of time to learn how to create a capsule wardrobe that works for you. I originally tried it in 2016, but I was so focused on copying what others had done and getting it “right”, I didn’t leave any room to buy clothes that I enjoyed wearing. Now I may have gone a bit the other way but I’m hoping to buy some key pieces so I get the most out of my wardrobe this year.

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries on Earth so by consuming consciously we can start to make a difference. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about everyone taking small steps to reduce their footprint.

I hope you enjoy my video!

My autism diagnosis: two videos and some thoughts

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook (or perhaps already subscribed to my YouTube channel by some miracle) will already know that earlier in the year I received an official diagnosis of Autism, about a year after first suspecting it.

Even though I am historically much better with written words than spoken (even more so now I have permanent mum-brain), I’ve been wanting to make YouTube videos for a while, so I thought it was a good opportunity to start that and see where it goes, while working on my speaking and presentation skills.

Typically people broadcast their content via social media of some sort, but I am on major social media burnout at the moment, and more to the point, just don’t WANT to be on it more. So if you want to stay up to date on future content, you can either subscribe to my blog here (click on the black “Follow” button on the right hand side), or go to my YouTube channel and subscribe there. Thanks in advance for your support and patronage.

I will always love writing, so supplementing a YouTube channel with a blog seemed like a sensible way forward, and then – duh – it occurred to me that I already had one. Did I mention something about mum-brain?

Don’t worry, brevity is something I’ll be working on in future videos. 😉 But really, doing it this way allows me to make shorter videos and then waffle on my blog to my heart’s content.

Hope you enjoy the videos! Let me know what you think in the comments!

Adventures in cloth nappies – the first 10 weeks

A few friends have expressed interest in cloth nappies, and as I am increasingly evangelical about them, thought I’d write a little bit about my experiences in the hopes that I will make a small impact and help to normalise cloth, and save the world from a few more tons of disposables. I should point out our son is just 10 weeks old, so I only have experience with exclusively breast feed poop – weaned poop is a different kettle of fish!

We don’t know for sure, but it’s estimated that disposable nappies take an average of 400 years to decompose. A child who potty trains at 3 will have gone through thousands of nappies. As a species, we must do something about this, and that starts with our daily habits. (While you’re here, let me recommend washable breast pads, sanitary towels and most definitely menstrual cups)

Cloth nappies are adorable, comfortable, and if you are committed to washing them properly, will last for several children. They save money and the environment. They mean no running to the shops and no running to the bins (we have underground bins that are just far enough away to be annoying)

I have no idea where I first heard about the new generation of cloth nappies (as opposed to the old fashioned terry nappies a lot of people 30 and over will have had as children), but it was probably Pinterest as I’ve been intending to use them since before I even got pregnant. There are a huge amount of options, and the choice can be a little overwhelming, but since I had a pretty boring and unwell pregnancy (4 weeks of labyrinthitis thrown in for fun) so I had plenty of time to research. Plus who loves to do research as much as I do? 😀


Modern cloth nappies largely fall into the categories as shown below:

Types of cloth baby diapers


Once you get your head around these categories, the choice becomes a lot easier. Once you’ve decided which system you prefer, the only other thing to consider is material, and of course, which colours and patterns to choose.

Of course, choosing your system is half the battle! There are a few ways to decide what to use before committing:

  1. Buy a few of each type, and try them out.
  2. Find a company that rents trial packages
  3. Find a nappy consultant (yes, they exist!)
  4. YouTube research (this won’t allow you to feel them obviously but can give you a very good idea)

I did a combination of 1 and 4, which in hindsight was not the best idea. If I could go back, I would find a consultant – they often give free consultations, I assume they get a cut of anything they sell. Some operate from their homes, but you can also find them on the internet.

What fabric?

The majority of nappies are made out of:

  • Cotton
  • Microfibre
  • Bamboo
  • Hemp

(Usually with a PUL or lanolised wool cover)

These all have various pros and cons – bamboo is very absorbant but rather slow drying, microfibre should not go against baby’s skin as it will irritate, but is very quick to dry, making them suitable for different people’s needs (e.g. those without a dryer/outside drying space might want to avoid bamboo)

In the end, I veered towards bamboo since it is more sustainable and absorbent than cotton, we do have a dryer, and I didn’t like the idea of microfibre (washing microfibre/synthetic clothing seems to be a large source of microplastic pollution in our oceans and the whole point is to be more environmentally friendly, not less). The prefolds we got are unbleached organic cotton. Once baby is a little bit bigger, I might consider some wool covers, but at the moment it would be a bit of a struggle getting them on.

My experience

When I was pregnant I bought a bundle of cloth nappies second hand. These included a bunch of Lil Joeys which are an all-in-one (newborn size), and then a bunch of Totsbots AIOs and Rumparooz pocket style.

Our baby came out early and small (around 2kg/4lb5oz) so we had a week of disposables before the newborn size fit him on the smallest setting. For a while they worked really well. But soon enough we were dealing with leaks, because they simply weren’t absorbing all his wee and there was no way to easily put a booster in without making it too bulky. Plus, we didn’t use liners (more on those later) so we found the poop wasn’t washing out of the machine well, and ended up deploying a poop spoon (lucky was the person who got tasked with scraping the poop off the nappies before each wash). We got about a month of use out of these before I got fed up of the leaking and looked for something else. (Since these were second hand, I perhaps should have “stripped” them – it’s a special kind of intensive wash that is supposed to get rid of detergent build up. )

Since he was still too small for the “one size”, I decided to look for a low cost newborn system for the transition phase and settled on getting some prefolds along with covers. I got 12 of the Bummis prefolds and 2 Whisper wraps and 2 Petit Lulu wraps. For the very short newborn phase I would highly recommend this as I found them quite easy and my partner also really likes them.


Bummis prefolds + Super whisper wrap

You start out with a square (with a thicker section in the centre) and fold it in thirds. Place in cover. Stick on baby. (The internet will tell you there are many exciting folds you can do, but we kept it simple and it worked fine, even with a boy) Our 10 week old baby boy is now 4.6kg (10lbs2oz) and the prefolds are still doing a great job, even at night (with additional booster for extra absorbancy). The infant size is suitable for 3-9kg (7-20lbs)

A few weeks ago, I realised that he was now big enough to use the one size nappies on the smallest setting. During my pregnancy I had also bought some of the Little Bloom pocket style nappies off Amazon.

These are affordable and in my opinion, a great easy start to cloth nappies for the reluctant. You can stuff them with any booster you want – I have a variety but I tend to put two bamboo boosters in (especially at night).


Little Bloom pocket style with bamboo booster

Now, I didn’t get on too well with the other second hand ones I got. The Totsbots AIOs have this sort of tongue flap, and you can put additional boosters in if you need them, but I found them to not be incredibly absorbent, and on the smallest setting the tongue would poke out the front and leave red marks on his belly, plus damp rompers. The Rumparooz have a convenient “poop tray” but if you are using liners to collect the poop this becomes a bit annoying. So the annoyance was not really because they were second hand, but rather I just didn’t get on with the style. AIOs are marketed as the easest alternative to disposables, but to be honest, I don’t find them much less fiddly, and I would suggest that taking 5 minutes to work out how to put on your child’s nappy shouldn’t be out of the question for any parent.


TotsBots All In Ones (Second hand)

Because the prefolds I got were a small size, I wanted to get something that would last to potty training. Most “one size” nappies that last from birth to potty training are probably good for a 10-12lb baby as you can adjust them with poppers. This makes them rather cost efficient.


“Birth” to potty trained

(A cost analysis is of course something for another post, but you are likely to save a few hundred pounds/euros for the first child, even if you buy everything new, and obviously much more for each subsequent child, even taking into account the extra cost of water, electricity and detergent)

I tried out a pack from a small Dutch brand, Panda baby. These bamboo, two part nappies are fitted and come with a cover. The downside is that the extra absorbency is sewn in meaning that they take over a day and a half to dry inside. Drying time aside, I really liked the style, and they were super soft against baby’s bottom.


Panda Baby fitted nappies plus Petit Lulu cover

So eventually I tried out the Totsbots Bamboozle stretch (in the wash at the time of writing but works just like the image above), also made of bamboo, but with the extra absorbency poppered in rather than sewn. This means drying time is less, and I felt it was slightly nicer-feeling anyway. I also prefer the shape of the leg holes as they seem to contain poo better (although apparently breastfed babies can go for days without pooping, my baby is one who goes often and “enthusiastically”).

Aside from the fact that they are super cute, super soft, very absorbent and made in the UK, what I wish I’d known from the start is that you can get whatever fitted nappy you want and pair it with ANY cover – you don’t get specific covers for each brand that you have to pair with them. You also don’t have to change the cover every time – if the nappy is wet and not soiled, I just leave it to air out for next time and grab another cover. I’d say covers can be used 3-4 times (assuming no poosplosions, see above) before being washed, meaning that you don’t need as many covers as fitted nappies.

What do you do with the poo?

I imagine dealing with poo is most people’s number one issue with regards to cloth nappies. I have had cats for years, and so my tolerance for poo is perhaps higher than average (I recall one occasion, when a really nice couchsurfer was staying with us, Storm jumped out of the litter box prematurely and then dragged her butt all over the then beige carpet). But I understand, it’s not very nice to deal with.

Exclusively breast fed poop is water soluble and washes out (in theory) without any other intervention. This is true only up to a point – it will wash out but it depends very much on the action of your washing machine (top loading, front loading etc). In the first few weeks we found that while the poo washed out of the nappies, there was some left in the washing machine (luckily not much but still…). Since then we have used liners to collect the poo. We’ve tried biodegradable bamboo ones which were very soft and then when these were no longer available on Amazon we tried some which were made from corn starch – also biodegradable. They claim to be flushable, but to be honest, I just wouldn’t. Read about fatbergs and then realise we shouldn’t put stuff down the toilets…

These catch the vast majority of poop – so when you change the nappy you take them out, put them in the bin, and the nappy is mostly just soggy by that point. I then put them in a large wetbag that lines an old laundry basket, no lid or anything. This is called “dry pailing” and when they are exclusively breast fed it really shouldn’t smell. (At least, I don’t think it smells, not compared to the war crimes that happen in my cats’ litter trays) I will obviously see what happens when weaning begins, since that’s when it’s supposed to smell much worse!

When laundry time comes (every two days), I take the whole bag to the washing machine. I put rubber gloves on and shove everything into the barrel, separating inserts if necessary. (We also use washable wipes, I put these in a net bag since they are small and sometimes get stuck around the rim)

I wash on 60C, with a prewash and extra rinse. I use washing powder formulated for sensitive skin – no fragrances and without any bleaching agents etc. I don’t use fabric softener. Basically anything other than detergent – bleach, vinegar, softener, will damage the elastic and possibly the PUL.

The nappies come out clean. Ta da! Now currently I stick the prefolds and boosters in the dryer and leave anything with elastic or PUL to line dry. I am about to order a whole bunch of bamboozles, because they turned out to be my favourite, but they are supposed to be washed at 40C and not tumble dried. I am not sure whether 40C is enough to get them really clean but I will see. Tumble drying for a short time on low is nice to retain the softness and fluffiness, and seems to have worked out ok on the one I bought.

Is it worth it?

I think this is a question only you can answer for yourself and will depend on a number of factors:

Do you loathe doing laundry already? If so, adding another load every couple of days might not be for you. I’m sort of a fan of laundry, as household tasks go, but even I will admit I sometimes go a bit mad in my laundry jungle in the spare room.

Can you afford the upfront cost? Although you will save money overall (and can even get money back by selling them on), you need several hundred pounds to spend upfront.

Is your baby prone to nappy rash? I don’t have any nappy cream in the house because I simply don’t need it, and have only seen a little redness a couple of times (and then only with the All in ones which were microfibre). I use coconut oil on these bits, but generally I think cloth is much better for their little butts.

Poopsplosions – I have had poo leakages a grand total of twice, and these were all due to human error (i.e. me not securing the legs tightly enough). Poo doesn’t explode up the back because cloth nappies have elasticated backs.

Are you prone to being a shopaholic? Um, sounds like a strange one, but there is such a variety of cute designs that it is very easy to get carried away. “It’s not for me it’s for the baby”


Cloth nappies are really not as bad as they sound

They will save you money, are soft on baby butts, and are super cute

They don’t have that weird smell that disposables have

3 billion nappies a year are thrown away in the UK. These take several hundred years to decompose and contain plastic that will likely break down into microplastics, a major cause of ocean and sealife pollution

Any questions?

Putting together a capsule wardrobe for Spring

There has certainly been a shift in the cultural zeitgeist these past few years – Marie Kondo is taking over the internet with her decluttering advice, tiny houses are rising in popularity, and capsule wardrobes are in.

I have been increasingly more interested in minimalism, fewer possessions, buying less stuff, and living more simply for a while now. But ideas are not always easy to put into practice, especially when you have bad habits embedded into your behaviour.

As a teenager, I shopped for the bulk of my clothes from a catalogue (hey, no judging, it was cool – sort of) but as I wore a uniform for school, clothes didn’t matter so much to me. They were just comfier things I could change into after a day of polyester shirts and Schrödinger’s tights that rode up and fell down simultaneously.

When I finally had to dress myself 24 hours a day (and pay for my own clothes) my buying habits became vastly more erratic. The questions I would ask myself when shopping were “is this cheap enough to justify to myself?” and “do I like it?” not “does this fit with the rest of my things?” or “will I wear this often?”. I’ve never been a shopaholic per se, but I have used shopping as a means to perk myself up, so my clothes throughout my 20s have been a mishmash of whatever random things I liked that day, what was in the sale/cheap, and what I could find that would fit my shape (fat legs, small waist = no trousers will ever fit you). Putting on weight didn’t help, and I found it harder to find things that I thought made me look good… so I pretty much gave up.

Losing some weight has been a big motivator for me to start re evaluating my wardrobe, because I was sick of investing so much energy in deciding what to wear, sick of wasting money on bad purchases, and sick of looking like a fabric shop vomited on me.

I came across Project 333 and the idea fascinated me, so I decided that along with culling my wardrobe in general, I would start planning out a capsule wardrobe for 3 months (roughly March – May, but starting from whenever Spring finally springs). The idea is that for 3 months you wear only 33 items. This includes tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes. Of course you can set any rules you want and the number 33 is totally arbitrary.

Having decided to give it a go for Spring/Summer, I got rid of anything that didn’t fit (quite a large amount now) and anything that I didn’t really like any more.

I ended up with around 40 items, which was great! Until I actually looked more closely and tried to make outfits with the items.

IMG_20160218_171705 IMG_20160218_173548 IMG_20160218_173811 IMG_20160218_173930 IMG_20160218_174023 IMG_20160218_174221

As you can see there are patterns and colours all over the place, none of which really go with each other. This is what happens when I just pick out stuff I like without thinking about what it will go with. Lesson learned.

Showing this to a couple of friends who I consider quite stylish helped me identify the gaps, which were primarily plain and neutral tops. And the shoe situation was also a bit sad…

So I ordered a few different plain tees and a cardigan from Uniqlo. Stuff from there tends to last pretty well considering the price.

I also went shoe shopping, which is one of my least favourite things in the world. I have flat, narrow and shallow feet. Dainty little footsies and chicken ankles. Literally nothing is comfortable, and having to get the assistant to go back to the storeroom again and again raises my stress levels like nothing else.

But I did it, and ended up coming home with two (!) new pairs of boots. So I spent about €200 in total for the season (for two pairs of boots, 2 tank tops, 3 t-shirts and 1 cardigan) but in theory I shouldn’t have to buy anything else until summer arrives.

I also realised that I was making things too difficult for myself by trying to do a combined Spring and Summer capsule. So I put aside the things I won’t need until actual summer, and focussed on the slightly less exciting prospect of clothes for temperatures between 14-20C (for people who work in Fahrenheit that’s roughly in the 60s).

Once I’d bought the basics, got the right boots, and got rid of the warm weather stuff, things started to come together.

IMG_20160226_094402 IMG_20160226_094611 IMG_20160226_095157 IMG_20160226_100453

(Not shown: my black leather jacket and 2 pairs of Toms. I may also carry a pair of black skinny jeans over from winter, but I’ll see how it goes first)

It’s not perfect by any means (and at 39 items, it’s a little larger than Project 333 called for) but I think once Spring comes and I start wearing the items I will be able to see what is working and what isn’t working.

However, consider my reasons for doing this in the first place:

  • Spend my money more efficiently
  • Have clothes that go with other things I own
  • Be able to get dressed with more ease and less agonising
  • Look more put together
  • Own less stuff, and be a more responsible consumer

I feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to do, even if there are still improvements to be made.

My next step will be to look at my accessories (scarves, jewellery, belts, bags) and purge the excess, although I have never been a massive accessory shopper, the things I have don’t necessarily match with my clothes.

So hopefully I’ll report back in the summer and tell you how it went!


Reading Harry Potter for the first time: Part 2 (Chamber of Secrets)

Part 1 – Philosopher’s Stone

Warning: Spoilers for all 7 books throughout! Long post! Much snark!

Chapters 1–5: Dobby and the return to Hogwart’s

So Harry’s had a predictably shit summer holidays because his extended family are awful and Dobby the house elf has been keeping his letters from him because he doesn’t want Harry to go back to Hogwart’s. Apparently the somewhat convoluted plan is to make Harry think he doesn’t have friends so he doesn’t want to go back.

Dobby also does some magic, which not only causes Harry to be punished significantly by the Dursleys, but also gets him a stern letter from the rather Big Brother-esque Ministry of Magic. I would ask “How are they possibly monitoring all the magic use in the world?” but it’s obviously magic, duh.

But if we assume they can monitor all the magic, how can they be so ineffective against dark magic? Unless, of course, they ARE the dark magic…

Oh yeah, I’ve just remembered that character that Imelda Staunton plays was from the MoM! And she was bad, right? Or was she just an annoying bureaucrat? Can’t remember.

No, she must have been evil.


So is Dobby meant to be incredibly annoying? Or is that just me? I dunno why, but I feel like house elves would probably be female. So far it seems like all the magical characters are default-male.

Now Ron and his brothers have appeared with his brothers to jailbreak Harry. Wooo action scene.

The moving photos and book covers in the wizard world are pretty cool and I think we’re moving towards this as a society with our love of animated gifs. It would be cool if eBooks had animated covers.

Even the nice wizards are really dismissive of the human world, talking about “Muggle rubbish”. I feel like Muggle is supposed to be a really derogative term, but it’s bandied about by everyone. Sounds like a massive racial slur to me.

“The new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher must be a fan – bet it’s a witch”

What’s with the casual sexism?

So the Weasleys seem to be a really awesome family (it’s these kinds of literary families that make me want lots of kids) but concerned – quite rightly – about putting their 6 (?) kids through a massively expensive private school. Even a wealthy family would struggle with this, so why are the Weasleys painted as being so poor? Second-hand books aren’t exactly a sign of an impoverished life, especially in the wizarding world, where old books are commonplace, surely? [Edit: OK, they are probably poor because they have spent all their money on putting their kids through private school. Which leads me to wonder, are there other wizarding schools? Are they cheaper? Or free? You’d think if there were you would see some sort of inter-school Quidditch tournament.]

Ginny’s crush on Harry is adorkable.

So owls are used as the postal service. But if Ron has a rat how does he get letters delivered anywhere during term time? Surely then everyone should have their own owl PLUS a familiar? That’s like saying you may have an e-mail address OR a personal journal.

Harry has a bank vault filled with wizard gold. But he’s all like “oh, I don’t have any money in the Muggle world”. Like there wouldn’t be a money exchange somewhere. There seem to be way too many mixed families for this to make any sense. Also, where did his parents get all that money?

Floo powder seems like a horrible, horrible way to get around. Not only that but Harry is terrible at following basic instructions like “wait until you see Fred and George”.

We learn from Malfoy Sr that the Ministry are conducting raids. Raids? Seems like this Ministry of Magic are a rather authoritarian government. Were they even elected? Or did they all come of out Slytherin too? But Malfoy Sr does seem to have lots of potions for poisoning Muggles, so maybe they are trying to do good after all.

They refer to Hermione as “a girl of no wizard family” and lament that “wizard blood is counting for less everywhere”. So she has no wizard blood but is still a witch? I really hope this is explained.

Hermione’s Muggle parents are exchanging money! So that means Harry is rich in both worlds. Unless the exchange rate is really bad.

Gilderoy Lockhart sounds like the Lord Flashhart of the wizarding world.

Malfoy Sr is a nasty piece of work, which does make me feel bad for Draco. It’s not like he really had any better examples to follow. I’m kind of surprised that Mr Weasley and Mr Malfoy resorted to physical violence, but I supposed if there had been magic involved the MoM would have been round immediately.

Harry and Ron steal the magic car, leaving Ron’s parents presumably stranded on platform 9 ¾ indefinitely. How are they going to get the car back from Hogwarts? Can you just tell magic cars where to go? They say they need to worry about aeroplanes, but isn’t the train to Hogwarts in another dimension? I assumed Hogwarts was in the wizarding world, far removed from Muggles.

They’ve been heading North from London for several hours so can we assume that Hogwart’s is in Scotland?

Violent tree attacks them in their car, conveniently empties luggage and gives Harry, Ron, Hedwig and Scabbers the chance to get away first.

“Why didn’t you send us a letter by owl? I believe you have an owl?”

Because Ron and Harry aren’t exactly street smart, Professor McGonagall. Also, as much as everyone is dissing Muggles, you’d think they would have co-opted the telephone system by now.

Punishment feasts at Hogwart’s consist of sandwiches, pumpkin juice and silver goblets.

You can have your golden goblet back when you’ve learned to behave, Harry!

Chapters 6–10

Jesus, these howlers. Is public shaming really an acceptable form of discipline in this world?

Aaaaand the messed up points system is back. Hermione gets 10 points for answering a question correctly in class. Does that mean that answering 6 questions correctly would have earned her as many points as Harry got for saving the school/world in the previous book? If so, how could anyone be so upset with them when they got 150 points docked for wandering around at night? Just answer 15 questions in class! And if Ravenclaw is supposed to be full of smart students, how are they not winning every term?

Lockhart is insufferable. I think he’s meant to be though. How did he even get this job?

“My name was down for Eton, you know, I can’t tell you how glad I am I came here instead”


Why has no teacher helped Ron fix his wand yet? Surely they wouldn’t be punishing him by denying him an important piece of equipment he needs for his studies? Maybe you can’t fix wands. Seems pretty dangerous having a clumsy second year roaming around with a broken wand, that’s all.

Quidditch practice at dawn and they make Harry feel guilty for the fact they lost the Quidditch Cup last year because Harry was UNCONSCOUS IN HOSPITAL. Aren’t Gryffindors supposed to be kind and understanding?

[Boring sports interlude with everyone getting really worked up about sharing pitches and comparing dicks brooms]

Oh, so it’s Mudblood that’s the awful racial slur and Muggle seems to be fine. The whole pure-blood thing is supposed to be a Nazi reference/metaphor, right?

But if there’s nothing wrong with being a Muggle, why is it such an offensive term? Offensive terms are normally offensive when a group of people has been historically repressed and dehumanised. Has something like this happened with Muggles? Did they have to fight for Muggle rights?

“Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out”

How strange. Is the wizard birthrate abnormally low? OR were *they* the persecuted ones?

So someone born to a wizarding family with no powers is called a Squib. That’s nice. I’m really starting to think that wizards are just assholes.

“Have you got anything to tell me Harry?”

This is the point I lose all sympathy for Harry (and teenagers in general).  Dumbledore is a kind, gentle man, who can help you with your problem, but he chooses to stay silent out of a kind of misplaced loyalty to his peers.

Chapters 11-15: Sleuthing around

The terrible trio have based their entire plan on successfully concocting this Polyjuice Potion based on the assumption that Draco is behind it all. They don’t seem to have stopped to think “hey, what if it’s not him?”

We find out during a wizard duel that Harry can talk to snakes – or rather, everyone else finds out. Of course, this looks super dodgy, and now everyone is kind of suspicious and terrified of Harry. Wizards seemed pretty scared in general, with all the “you-know-who” stuff, and being afraid of a young wizard because he has the same talents as another wizard who was a bad wizard. Some very superstitious people, it seems. But then again, as Hermione pointed out in the first book, wizards aren’t terribly logical.

People are being petrified left, right and centre. And even though Harry doesn’t have anything to do with it, he’s being all like “should I have been in Slytherin?”.

“Snap out of it Harry! In five years’ time no one will give a shit about your petty little life at school, especially what boarding house you were placed in!” is what everyone should be saying. The whole school seems to have a really insular, co-dependent vibe though.

Our trio spends Christmas day dicking about turning themselves into Crabbe, Goyle and an accidental cat. The Slytherin password is “pure blood” – gee, how original guys. You might as well have made the password “we are evil, tee hee hee”. But seriously, are we to assume that everyone in Slytherin is a pure blood? If so, then the school/sorting hat really bears some responsibility for putting all the pure bloods in one house together. I mean, what sort of segregation is this? If the hat is merely sorting people into Slytherin based on how cunning they are, then are pure blood wizards simply more cunning than half-blood/muggle-born wizards? Is the wizarding gene inherently evil?

Also, if Voldemort was a half-blood, why are all the Slytherins obsessed with purity of ancestry? Do they only make concessions for Voldemort because he’s the most formidable wizard of the last hundred years?

Wait a minute, Hermione turned herself into a cat. HOW CAN SHE NOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUMAN AND CAT HAIR?

Speaking of weird, why did they cast a 37 year old in the role of Moaning Myrtle in the movie?

So Draco is not the heir of Slytherin, and he’s also really dumb about bragging about his dad’s underground vaults hidden with illegal Muggle items.

Harry finds Tom Riddle’s blank diary and starts writing in it, as you do. Tom Riddle is just like Harry! What a coincidink! He shows him a memory that is almost definitely fake, and Harry is all like “Hmm, ok, seems legit”. He goes as far as to ask “Do you really think Hagrid did it?”, showing just the slightest bit of doubt but not a morsel of scepticism. Even asking questions like “Who is this dude talking to me from a diary and what does he want with me?” is too much for Harry. HE KNOWS WHAT HE SAW!

Meanwhile, everyone is agonising over which subjects to choose for next year and Harry chooses the same subjects as Ron just in case he is rubbish at them and needs help. Great life choices, Harry.

Seriously, this school needs some sort of guidance counsellor. Especially as Harry keeps hearing voices telling him to kill/rip/tear.

Hermione has been petrified, but she still manages to be the only useful sleuth in the school. I’ve lost count of the number of petrified students, but it must be 6 or 7? Plus the cat/ghost? Either way, Hogwart’s is now starting to panic.

Harry and Ron go to see/confront Hagrid but have to hide when Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, come to arrest Hagrid instead.

I really think one of Rowling’s absolute greatest strengths is in the naming of her characters. The names she chose for even the smaller characters just manage to describe them all so well. I wonder whether she has synaesthesia? The names seem to bring the whole Harry Potter universe to life.

Anyhoos, now Dumbledore has been suspended by Lucius Malfoy and the Board! I mean, I assume that Malfoy somehow forced them into this, but what exactly is their plan for running Hogwart’s without a headmaster and with basically no staff other than McGonagall and Snape?

Even in the face of being absolutely furious at Malfoy, Dumbledore remains calm:

“You will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwart’s to those who ask for it”

See, Harry, stop trying to solve everything by yourself and just ask for help once in a while.

Hagrid is taken to an excessively high-security prison but manages to tell Ron and Harry to follow the spiders.

Now there’s a massive interlude with lots of little spiders in the forest and then more giant spiders. They find Ron’s parents’ car (“the forest’s turned it wild…”) which then helps to save them from the spiders who are loyal to Hagrid, but less loyal to his friends.

It took that whole ordeal for them to realise Hagrid is in fact innocent, and yet they still don’t think “hey, maybe that Tom Riddle guy is dodgy after all”. Because after all, Tom is just like Harry, and you never suspect that people who are like you could do awful things.

Chapter 16–18: The Chamber of Secrets

They are finally able to de-petrify the students, but Harry still wants to go and talk to Moaning Myrtle. Despite the fact that teachers are now chaperoning students everywhere, when Harry and Ron sneak away from Lockhart, McGonagall is right there.

As usual, Hermione has all the answers. She figured out the entire thing, the basilisk, the reflections, the pipes. But since Harry and Ron were busy dicking about instead of checking Hermione’s hands for clues, it’s too late and now Ginny Weasley has been taken by the monster.

LOLS @ Lockhart being “volunteered” to go into the Chamber of Secrets. But why do Harry and Ron need to force him to come with them when he seems intent on running away?

Can wizards do any magic without wands?

Their plan for avoiding death against the basilisk is to close their eyes.

Sounds like they need the Sensory Deprivator 5000.


Ermahgerd Tom Riddle is the bad guy! Luckily he is a fictitious bad guy which means he only almost kills his victims. But Harry’s still pretty dense and doesn’t get that TOM RIDDLE IS THE BAD GUY.

This is like the “HE’S BEHIND YOU” of the book world.

“Harry stared at him. There was something very funny going on here.”

He has to literally spell out the entire thing before Harry even twigs that something isn’t right:

Riddle: I’ve been stealing bits of Ginny’s soul and replacing them with my evilness for like, 6 months.

Harry: Tom, stop kidding around here. We gotta go!

Riddle: Yeah, because of me Ginny committed all these atrocities and then blamed herself and thought she was going mad.

Harry: The basilisk is going to eat us if we don’t hurry! Wait… what?

harrypotter huh

So Riddle leaves himself behind in memory form to one day lead another person to open the Chamber of Secrets. This is an excessively complicated and involved plan.

And now since Harry still hasn’t got a clue what is going on, Riddle has to literally spell out his name in the air and rearrange the letters to read “I AM LORD VOLDEMORT”.


So Voldemort/Riddle had a Muggle father but descends from Salazar Slytherin on his mother’s side. That’s almost as bad as being an Aryan Jew. But his Muggle father abandoned him, so basically the reason he turned evil is because he has unresolved Daddy issues? But what about his Mother? Surely the love of a pure-blood is enough to… oh, I don’t know. Do something magical? Even if she died when he was young?

Conveniently, Dumbledore’s phoenix and the sorting hat come to Harry’s rescue just in time, because he’s going to get himself killed sass-talking Riddle/Voldemort the way he’s doing.

“But I know why you couldn’t kill me. Because my mother died to save me. My common, Muggle-born mother”

So he’s taunting him because his mother loved him enough to die for him. Classy move, Potter.

Is calling someone Muggle-born a bit like accusing someone of being nouveau riche?

Fawkes the Phoenix does most of the difficult work by stabbing the Basilisk in the eyes. Then the Basilisk sweeps the sorting hat into Harry’s arms and he pulls out the Sword of Convenient Plot Points. This silver sword has rubies “the size of eggs” but Harry can somehow lift it. He stabs the snake but gets bitten anyway, but don’t worry because the Phoenix is crying on him and that will heal him.

And then all that remains is to stabby stab the diary with the fang and the big fight is over. Ginny’s alive! Lockhart has lost his memory. Hooray!

And even Dobby gets set free!

Happy endings all round! The good guys win and the bad guys lose.

And – most importantly – Dumbledore awards some extra points right at the end so Gryffindor win the House Cup! Again!

Which is important because Harry is a True Gryffindor as it turns out it was Godric Gryffindor’s sword he pulled out of the Sorting Hat.

So Harry is a hero now, and probably going to get significantly more insufferable as the books go on.

Sam’s verdict

By the end of this book I found myself actually looking forward to future books when good characters die and suffer and bad characters win (at least temporarily). To me, this read more like a kids book than the Philosopher’s Stone, and it was a bit less enjoyable, simply because Harry and Ron were so useless throughout, and the plot twists were so predictable.

And I missed Hermione’s character while she was in a wizard-coma. Without her, there was very little sense from any of the characters. It just seemed like most of this book was Ron and Harry bumbling around, trying not to get caught/expelled.

Still, it’s a rather addictive series and I’ve already made it a third of the way through Prisoner of Azkaban…


Reading Harry Potter for the first time: Part 1 (Philosopher’s Stone)

Warning: Spoilers for all 7 books throughout! Long post! Much snark!

After finishing a massive dense non-fiction book about nutrition, I was in desperate need of something light-hearted and fun to read next. I’d been thinking about finally reading the Harry Potter series for a while, and it seemed like the best time to start: winter is still here, and I want to sit inside and read, but nothing too strenuous. So I decided to take the plunge.

I’ve seen the movies except the last, and pretty much know all the spoilers by now. But I was still curious to read the books after seeing passages and quotes from the books and finding them a great deal more substantial than the movies. Rowling has a reputation for being a master storyteller, so I thought it was about time I read them.

I also thought it was about time I let go my original reasons for avoiding the books; that Rowling shamelessly ripped off – I mean borrowed – elements from my favourite childhood book, The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson may want to forgive her and shake her hand or whatever, but it took me a while before I could. (I will say I think Platform 13 will always be the superior book simply because of the mistmakers and the Margaret Thatcher harpies)


When they are happy they go “aaaaah” and create mist. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, Rowling.

But, OK, I realise it’s been almost two decades and I am a grown-ass woman and I need to let it go and just read the Harry Potter Books with an open mind. Lots of people I love and respect absolutely adore them, so there must be some value I can find in them to warrant getting through all 7 books.

Note: I have a feeling I did read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone a while ago, but I think I was jet lagged at the time and have very little recollection.

Chapters 1 – 5: Yer a wizard Harry!

Setting up a series of books like this must be quite some task, and I’m impressed at how many characters are woven into the story so early on. Hey, Hagrid mentioned Sirius Black! Wasn’t he a wolf? And all the Weasley family – she must have really known where she was going with this from the beginning.

I’m a bit confused about the concept of Muggles though. How can there be mixed families? Is it genetic? Can two wizards produce a Muggle offspring? That would be really shitty if your whole family has super powers and you don’t. And how can Hermione come from a family of non-Muggles? Was she adopted? Or do wizards get chosen, like the Slayer?

There’s clearly some muggle/wizard tension which I totally understand, having wanted to be a witch throughout my childhood, I would be really jealous of anyone who actually was a witch. And I guess if you have superpowers you would look down on those who don’t. It’s human nature. Or wizard nature.

Harry isn’t half so annoying as I had expected. He’s actually quite a sweet boy. I like the descriptions of Diagon Alley. I like that you have loads of different shops for different things. That’s what I like about Haarlem actually. You can go to the cheese shop, and the fish monger and it’s all nice and old-timey feeling. Imagine if Diagon Alley was Diagon Superstore, where you could get all your wizarding goods under one roof.

Good choice, Rowling.

Chapters 6 – 10 Off to Hogwarts

Obviously, Harry meets Ron on the train and they become BFFs immediately. I feel like there should be a note at this point: “This does not happen in real life. Remember this when you start your first term at uni”. I like that Hermione is weird and bossy. Maybe I could have played her part in an alternate reality where I wasn’t too old to audition.

It’s nice that Harry is so excited about going to boarding school. I’m glad he finally gets money and nice things and an owl. I wonder why boarding schools use trunks though? We had them at school (at least in the early years). Is the advantage that they are more easily stackable compared to suitcases?

Sorting incoming first years into houses based on their characteristics at 11 years old seems like a really bad idea and a great way to perpetuate the terrible people coming out of Slytherin. Can the school really hold no responsibility for creating these evil wizards?

Also, is Hufflepuff really ever going to win the House Cup when all the clever and sporty and ruthless ones go to the other houses? There is NO WAY Hermione is a Gryffindor and not a Ravenclaw. I really hope this is explained later on, and not just because she is slightly more brave than she is smart. Because she’s a massive nerd.

What are the fees like for this school?? Golden plates and goblets? I went to a British boarding school and we had to drink out of plastic cups. And… these 11 year old kids get four-poster beds with velvet curtains!!! Way to make the rest of us feel bad about our lives, Rowling! #lifegoals

There’s a lot of very British slang in here. Was this changed for the US versions? I remember reading that the title was changed from Philosopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone because American audiences didn’t know what a philosopher was. So was this referred to as the Sorcerer’s Stone throughout?

So apparently lots of Harry’s classmates had come from Muggle families and had had no idea that they were witches and wizards. Is a witch just a female wizard? There’s definitely a kind of patriarchy in this world.

Why is there no sort of Witchcraft & Wizardry elementary school? Why do they need to wait until they are 11? Might make the whole process much less stressful if they could have built up some knowledge from a young age. They seem to get a lot of homework. Or maybe they just like to complain about it?

Oh Snape. I can’t imagine Snape as anyone other than Alan Rickman. 😦

Snape is really mean though. I’m sure he has his reasons, but bullying a little kid isn’t cool. Meanness aside, that potions class sounds excellent. Unlike Quidditch, which sounds boring and reminds me of people at school who went on and on about lacrosse like it was the most important thing in the world. If I could ride brooms, I would have invented more than one sodding sport – like broom racing, synchronised brooming, broom acrobatics, underwater brooming, and gladiator style broom fighting.

So Harry’s a natural at Quidditch. Snooze. I hate sports. And now Draco’s challenging him to a wizard’s duel. Ffs boys, calm down. Do we ever find out why Draco is such an unnecessarily massive dick to Harry? Other than he and his family are supposed to be the bad guys?

Bludgers. BLUDGERS. Quidditch sounds violent and dangerous. But I guess if you can magically heal broken bones, that must take some of the danger away. Did someone really create magical balls that only serve to hit people in the face though? I bet they were in Slytherin.

Seekers and the Golden Snitch seem to have nothing to do with the actual game of Quidditch. And yet the game only finishes when one of the seekers catches it? Are we supposed to believe that this world of magic is just so wacky that people are ok with Quidditch matches lasting months?

Awarding points to houses seems rather arbitrary and at the whim of the teachers. How do they keep track of it all? Do they have little slips they fill in? And do your house points count towards a personal total at the end of the year? If not, seems a bit pointless to take 5 points off Hermione for going after the troll but 10 points to Ron and Harry for saving her. Also, it must have been so obvious that Hermione was covering their asses. McGonagall isn’t an idiot.

“But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them”.


Chapters 11 – 15 Sleuthing around

Oh god, this chapter is titled Quidditch. Kill me now.

Hermione keeps being painted as a bossy know-it-all who hates to break the rules, but it seems to me that it’s a relatively dangerous school to attend and these rules might actually be a good idea? I know she’s a bit naive in putting her trust in somewhat sketchy authority figures, but why are Harry and Ron’s characters flaws not brought up constantly? Can’t tell if it’s sexist, or pointing out sexism. The ratio of male to female characters also seems strikingly off right now. I don’t think this book has even passed the Bechdel test yet.

“Wood cleared his throat for silence.
‘OK men,’ he said.
‘And women,’ said Chaser Angelina Johnson”

Fine, maybe Rowling is aware of it.

The Christmas holidays at Hogwarts sounds totally delightful. I hope there’s a Hogwart’s themed hotel somewhere.

There IS! Well kinda.

I love how the teachers get drunk and merry too. I wish I’d gone to Hogwart’s.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that”

Good advice from Dumbledore. I think there’ll be more of this to come.

The three of them are running around like the Famous Five but accomplishing absolutely nothing, instead of studying. Listen to Hermione! You do actually need to pass the exams. And now the dragon has bitten Ron on his quill-holding hand.

So Draco gets 20 points taken off him for being out of bed, but Harry, Ron, and Hermione get 50 points each for the same crime? This points system, man. So unfair. Seems like Hogwart’s has a bit of a toxic culture amongst the staff, lots of power tripping going on. And then they get ostracised by the whole school for all the points they lost. This is a pretty barbaric system. Detention taking place at 11 o’clock at night in a dangerous forest? BARBARIC.

Are there actually any pastoral staff in this entire school? Aside from Dumbledore, all the professors seem to exist just to dole out punishments, rather than doing any teaching, or acting in loco parentis. When they are out of class they seem to just be left to their own devices to manage their own time, and punished if they leave certain areas. Why not give these 11-12 year olds some help or guidance with their revision? Or some after school activities to stop them wandering off?

Chapters 16 – 17 Exciting climax

Wherever Hogwart’s is, it seems to have a lovely climate with snowy winters and properly hot summers. I miss that. Summers and winters here seem to blend right into each other.

These three kids have an overinflated sense of their own importance and seemingly a very poor understanding of the Philosopher’s Stone situation. Good job they’re so plucky.

But why aren’t the grown ups doing anything???

Oh right, it’s a kids book.

“It’s only dying a bit later than I would have done, because I’m never going over to the Dark Side!”

Wait, the Dark Side? Isn’t that Star Wars? Who said anything about Harry going over to the Dark Side? Harry sounds like he’s having a bit of a meltdown.

“Voldemort killed my parents, remember?”

Yes, we remember. It’s literally the point of the entire book series.

Since when is booby-trapping the place with a series of cute tests the best way to protect a valuable and dangerous object? I mean, chess, really? If three little kids who have been studying wizardry for less than a year can get past it, perhaps they need to re evaluate their security strategy. Oh wait, I forgot, Harry is the Chosen One.

Having said that, Hogwart’s doesn’t seem to teach conventional subjects at all, so maybe Hermione’s right about the logic puzzle preventing some of the greatest wizards from getting past, although it does seem absurdly easy.

OMG it’s Quirrell! He’s the bad guy! And he’s doing the Bond villain thing where he explains the situation to the hero… “and I’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids”.

And now Quirrell is gloating before he’s actually won. This is why you gloat after you’ve killed your nemesis, people.

Voldemort has got to be under that turban. I think I remember that from the movies.

Why did mirror Harry put the Stone in real Harry’s pocket when he’s standing right by Quirrell/Voldemort? That seems… risky?

Oh right, having the Stone in your pocket burns human flesh. Neato.

So the Stone’s been destroyed and Harry’s woken up with a shit load of presents. And questions for Dumbledore. But Dumbledore’s not telling us why Voldemort wanted to kill Harry in the first place. My money’s on a prophecy of some sort that Harry would overthrow him.

“to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever”

Right in the feels!

So let me get this straight – Dumbledore kind of figured they were going to go after Quirrell, so left them a bunch of cryptics clues in the hopes that they would do so, and hope that they would just be lucky enough not to get killed? That sounds like a very responsible headmaster. Using little kids to fight your battles for you when you’re one of the more powerful wizards AND Voldemort is actually afraid of you. Dick move, Dumbledore.

And then he cheats with some “last minute” points so that Gryffindor win the House Cup. Not only that, but Harry only gets 60 points for literally saving the whole school?

If everyone hates Slytherin so much – even the headmaster, why do they let them in to Hogwart’s? And why do they put them in a house together?

Sam’s verdict

All in all, a really fun read, and I’m definitely excited to read the Chamber of Secrets. I think that the books are going to get more complex and more grown-up as the story progresses. But a solid start for sure.

Finnish book cover

Creepy Finnish book cover

Up next: Part 2 – The Chamber of Secrets