The National Harry Potter Quiz Championship

Harry Potter quiz

It was amazing, really: New Zealand’s hundred nerdiest Harry Potter fans gathered in one room. We were in a pub in Wellington, magically decorated with Hogwarts flags and fairy lights. Each table had been given a pack of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. Most people were in costume. We were there because we were the best, the winning teams of our respective regional Harry Potter quizzes. Tonight’s quiz would crown the best of the best. Tonight, one team would claim the coveted title of New Zealand’s Biggest Insufferable Know-It-Alls.

My team, the DA, was representing Hamilton. (It’s quite a journey from Hamilton to Wellington, so kudos to the teams who came all the way from Dunedin!) We were dressed as the Hogwarts Founders – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin – with the Sorting Hat and some cuddly animal mascots. We ended up getting second prize for costumes, actually! None of us expected to do that well with the actual questions, but we were in for a nice surprise. In the meantime, we ordered some Harry Potter-themed bar snacks and cocktails.

Hogwarts HousesThe pub was called Leroy’s Bar in the centre of Wellington. The quiz was being run by Gee Quiz. The quizmaster was wearing an impeccable Mad-Eye Moody costume. Other great costumes included a fantastically detailed Luna wearing her lion headdress and carrying a light-up balloon that had been fashioned into a hare, (her Patronus,) and a whole team dressed as wizards trying to dress like muggles. I’ll be tempted to go back to Leroy’s Bar when I’m in Wellington again, as it seemed like it would have a decent atmosphere even without all the Harry Potter accoutrements.

The questions were surprising. We’d done some revising in the weeks leading up to the quiz, making mental notes of things that were likely to be in it, but there were many things we’d never have thought of. I must say, it was fun digging around in my brain, excavating things I didn’t realise were there. I suppose I read (and listened to Stephen Fry reading) Harry Potter so many times as a child that those things are there to stay. It was the same for the others in my team. The same for the whole room, no doubt.

Hogwarts Founders costumes

Being in a room filled with people united by a singular passion was a special experience. The excitement was contagious. I thought I wouldn’t care too much about the final scores, but by the time they were being read out, I was on tenterhooks. Sixteen teams. We were in the top fifty percent… then the top twenty-five percent… and we came third, only two points behind the winners! We got a bar tab and some keyrings and posters, but, most importantly, bragging rights. I am now officially one of the biggest Harry Potter nerds in New Zealand!

Harry Potter in New Zealand

From the Diary of an Immigrant Child

I’m rubbish at keeping diaries. Only once in my life have I kept one successfully: my first few months in New Zealand. I was ten years old, friendless in a brave new world, and I wrote. And guess what? I recently found that diary in the bottom of my old toy chest at my parents’ house.


The ten-year-old me

I’m twenty-four now, so reading through what the ten-year-old me had written was both hilarious and heartbreaking. I was absolutely obsessed with Harry Potter. I know we all were at that age and still are, but the number of Hogwarts-based dreams I recounted is ridiculous! The number of times I reported my little sister Lucie hurting herself is also ridiculous. I remembered her being a clumsy child, but not that clumsy!

Anyway, I thought I’d take the best bits from the ten-year-old me’s diary and share them here. If you’re planning on emigrating with kids, you might find it enlightening. Or mildly amusing, at least. I was surprised how few spelling mistakes there were, but I’ve kept them for authenticity’s sake. I’ve also – would you believe – removed a lot of my Harry Potter-related ramblings.

So, here we go. (I’m going red as I write this.) Presenting the diary of an immigrant child…

Sunday, 29th July, 2001

My name is Abigail Jane Simpson, I am ten years old and this is my new diary. I’ve never kept a diary before. I’m only going to write in it when I feel like it. I’m going to name it, though. As I’m Harry Potter-mad, I’m calling it ‘Hermione’. I’ll write all my poems and stories in it, and my secrets too. I love new notebooks. This is a Harry Potter notebook. I can’t wait until the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone comes out. Everyone says I should be Hermione…

aircraft-435656_640Well, I’ve just moved to New Zealand. Last Friday. We were all really tired, my mum, my little sister and me, as we were flying for over twenty-four hours and had a stopover in Singapore. I bought some really pretty clothes there. Then my dad picked us up at the airport and we went to the oldest pub in New Zealand to meet my dad’s new friends. (He’s been out here six months already. I almost forgot to cry when he left us at Manchester Airport.)

Yesterday we got new bikes. Mine is cool. More like a boy’s bike. Then we went shopping for some homely stuff. Dad didn’t have very nice stuff living on his own. Except the seti [sic] and the television. It’s bigger than the one we had in England. New Zealand is a nice place, but the house we’re living in at the moment is grotty. Dad took us to the beach afterwards with our new wetsuits, but it’s winter in New Zealand so the water was freezing. Lucie’s lips went blue.

Auckland Museum

It was to Auckland today. We went round the harbour and part of the museum. When we got back, we rode our bikes up and down our street. (My sister Lucie and I.) Mum went to bed early, so Dad, Lucie and me played Mystery at Hogwarts, which is like Cluedo, but better because it’s Harry Potter. When we’ve moved house, I’m aloud [sic] a kitten. I’m going to call it Crookshanks. (Hermione’s cat.) I’m also going to collect different editions of Alice in Wonderland, as I already have four.

I should be asleep now. I’m going to email my friends tomorrow…

Tuesday, 31st July, 2001

Dear Hermione,

I’ve been at the playpark today. On my bike. We went to the supermarket in the morning and then I went to pick up our library cards on my own. The playpark is by the library. I was there a long time. I met a twelve-year-old girl with long, blonde hair named Emily. We found that we both like Harry Potter. She has a younger sister too. She guessed that I was English because of my accent. Maybe we could be friends. I hope we meet again…

Wednesday, 1st August, 2001

The air raid siren has just gone off again. Dad says it’s not an air raid siren. It’s for the firemen. But it sounds exactly like an air raid siren, like the one that used to go off and Gran had to hide under the table when she was a little girl. It goes off and the firemen have to just drop what they’re doing and go. They’re just volentry [sic] locals. I have a lot to learn about Kiwis and Mauris [sic]. The Mauris [sic] hunted the moer [sic] and it went extinct. Dad thinks they should do a Jurassic Park on it.


Awhitu Beach

Sometimes I get annoyed with my mum. She nags me and just stops in the middle of something. Today it was doing my hair. She talks about the last time I did this and the last time I did that and I get so frustrated listening to it and try to get away as quickly as possible.

We went to another beach today. The sand was so soft. We tried to play pettonk [sic], but the balls kept getting buried. I got into the bath as soon as we got home.

Thursday, 2nd August, 2001

Dear Hermione,

I’ve just written a postcard to my friend Ashleigh. My sister’s just watched Jurassic Park for the fourth time in a row. We rode our bikes around the grounds of Waiuku College, waiting Dad for come out. We got separated and Lucie had a moody on the way home. We need to be up early tomorrow because we’re visiting Sandspit School. The last few days have been okay, but I’ve been a bit down as well.

LittleAbbyI’m going to tell you a secret now, Hermione. Back in England, I have this friend called Luke and guess what – he hugged me twice before I left. Twice! In front of everyone! My best friend Elizabeth only hugged me once.

I’m looking at the photo of me and her now. (She gave me a photo of me and her as a leaving present, in a nice frame.) I miss her.

Friday, 3rd August, 2001

We walked to Sandspit Road School today. We talked to the headmaster. It looks like a nice school. I’m starting in a week. It’s better than Bracken Lane, my school in England, because it doesn’t have a uniform. It also has a jungle gym and a swimming pool. And school finishes earlier in New Zealand. I wish I could go to Hogwarts instead. I’d be in Ravenclaw.

Sunday, 5th August, 2001

We bought a house yesterday. The bedrooms are massive.

Today we went to another beach. Lucie was trying to throw a big stone into the water and it my head. I’ve got a nasty bruise. There was sheep shit everywhere.

Thursday, 9th August, 2001

Dear Hermione,

Lucie’s making me read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to her until my throat hurts. It was absolutely boiling this afternoon. It’s supposed to be winter! I fell off my bike because a butterfly went into my eye.

Saturday, 11th August, 2001

I feel nervous about Monday. I’m starting school on Monday.

Monday, 13th August, 2001

Dear Hermione,

witch-hat-309449_960_720Today was my first day of school. I felt sick last night. I looked in the mirror and my face was white. Then I thought about Harry getting nervous before the Sorting Hat put him in Gryffindor. I’ve got a picture of him playing Quidditch. He’s got this really determined look on his face. It made me feel a bit more determined. But I still didn’t sleep well. School ended up being great. I think I’m going to really enjoy it.

Saturday, 25th August, 2001

About school: I like it, but I’m not being stretched enough. I’m bored at the moment. Yesterday I taught some of the girls how to play High Low, a skipping game I played with my friends in England. Miss Charteris wanted a go, but she only lasted a few seconds! Then there was a long line of people wanting a go. They all tried together, but it didn’t work, so we had a girls on boys tug-of-war. The first round, we let go so all the boys fell over. The second round, the rope snapped so we all fell over.

Monday, 27th August, 2001

I saw Emily again, but she ignored me.

Turei, 4th Hepetema, 2001

Dear Hermione,

I’ve written the date in Maori today. Mum’s really annoying me. I’m preparing my school speech.

On Friday night, we went round to our dad’s teacher-friend’s house. He’s got twin six-year-olds called Abigail and Elizabeth – what a coincidence!

wavesOn Saturday, we went surfing. The waves were brilliant. In fact, they were quite dangerous. I could have drowned! Grandma was scared when I told her about it on the phone. But we stayed at the beach a lot longer than planned. It was a boiling day. Dad had the car key around his neck. He was passing the key to mum, but he dropped it in the sea and it disappeared. He searched for it frantically, but there was no hope. How were we going to get home?

Mum went up to the lifeguard. He tried the old bent wire trick in the car door, but we’ve got a Japanese car. A bit of wire snapped off inside the door. It’s still in there! Then the lifeguard offered dad a lift home to get the spare key. Dad said he’d rather break a window of our house than break a window of our car. We’re moving house in two weeks anyway. So Mum, Lucie and I were left sunbathing at the beach while Dad and the lifeguard went home.

Dad said he was there trying to break in through the window in his wetsuit and this old lady came and Dad said, “Don’t call the police! It’s my own house!” and the old lady said, “No, I just wanted to see if you wanted any help.”

Mane, 24th Hepetema, 2001

Lucie was playing in the creek and she slipped and cut open her ear. There was blood everywhere! She had to be taken to hospital. Her ear has a bandage on it now. She looks like a pixie.

Tuesday, 25th September, 2001

It was hot in the morning and most of the day. We were in the garden just about all day. Not bad for the equivalent of March, eh? I wrote a poem:

Warming sunlight streaming through the
Twisted shadows of flowering plants
A sapphire sky
Driftwood and pine cones
Neatly arranged rocks
Enclosed by sweet blossoms
Creating a beautiful picture that can’t be painted.

Saturday, 30th September, 2001

oyster-576545_640Lucie was playing at the beach and she slipped and cut open her hand on oyster shells. So that’s another bandage. She’s grounded until she’s fully healed. We were at the Geelen’s bach. I got bitten to death.

Sunday, 7th October, 2001

Lucie’s not been very well. She threw up last night. She’s so hot that she feels cold. She thinks evil shadows are climbing up her bedroom walls. Mum did tell her not to put her head under water at the hot pools.

Sunday, 14th October, 2001

THE SHIPPING HAS ARRIVED! It’s starting to feel more like home now.

Wednesday, 31st October, 2001

Dear Hermione,

What a day to be poorly! I had to come home from school. I’m not going trick-or-treating tonight. It’s not like Gran lives around the corner anymore anyway.

Thursday, 8th November, 2001

Today we got the afternoon off school because there was a storm yesterday, which made one of the drains overflow and the whole school stinks! Luckily, Shrek just came out on video and Mum bought it for us.

Saturday, 1st December, 2001

We saw the Harry Potter film today! I drew a scar on my forehead with Mum’s lip liner.

Thursday, 6th December, 2001

People were teasing me for having hairy arms, so I put hair removal cream on my left arm, but it burnt all the skin really badly. I had to take a day off school because I couldn’t move it. When I went back to school, people kept squeezing it and made it worse.

Saturday, 8th December, 2001

Yesterday was the Waiuku Santa Parade and today we had our first Kiwi barbecue.

Sunday, 9th December, 2001

I spent all day writing my novel today. It’s about a girl called Sarah, and her friends, and an evil wizard.

Monday, 24th December, 2001


A sunny New Zealand Christmas…

I can’t believe that it’s Christmas Eve! This year has passed by like a rocket! Dad coming over here… My last few months with my friends… Saying goodbye to Grandma… Shopping in Singapore… Seeing Dad again after six months… Starting school… Moving house… Settling into the Kiwi lifestyle… Now we’ve got our Christmas decorations up at the same time as the paddling pool!

It just feels wrong.

Christmas won’t be the same without Nana, Gran, Grandpa or Uncle Damon. I really miss my friends too.

Lucie slipped and cut open her face.

Monday, 14th March, 2016

I’m not crying after reading that. I’m not. I’m not!

If you want to read what happened in the lead-up to me starting this diary, see Last Night of the Poms: The Story of Our Move to New Zealand. See also Why New Zealand Made Me Write and The Existential Crisis of an Immigrant Child.

Featured Image: “Girl Writing” by Berthe Morisot (1891)