JUST IN case you’ve been trapped down a coal-mine for the past couple of days (or kidnapped by space aliens, or otherwise cut off from the global information flow), the most widely shared news story all over the world has been about the magic wand shop in the beautiful village of Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield. It won’t sell wands to Muggles.
In JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and the accompanying movies, the most important cultural phenomenon of the early 21st century, Muggles are people who just don’t have the magic. They are not witches or wizards; they’re not even house elves. And Slaithwaite, although it is one of the jewels in West Yorkshire’s crown, is not widely known outside the British Isles even in magic circles.
What brought Slaithwaite’s magic wands to the world’s attention was Richard Carter, the proprietor of the aforesaid magic wand shop (called Mystic Moments). He declared to an inquiring journalist that he would not sell any of his lovingly hand-made wands to Harry Potter fans, because they don’t really believe in magic.
Wands are “spiritual tools,” Carter said. “If I had someone come in wanting a wand just because they liked Harry Potter I would not sell them one, not matter how much money they were offering. I can tell what people are like when they walk in by their aura.”
“You wouldn’t believe how many real witches and wizards there are knocking about,” the wand-maker continued. “You would be amazed. They know they can come in here and reveal themselves without people thinking they’re mental.”
Mean-spirited cynics are suggesting that Richard Carter said this because it would get him lots of publicity. JK Rowling herself came to the defence of her gazillions of heartbroken young readers, tweeting “Oh, yeah? Well, I don’t think they’re real wands.” But they are real, or at least as real as Carter can make them. He does believe that they work, at least in the right hands. And maybe they do
If you secretly believe in magic and you have made promises that are impossible to keep, it would certainly be worth giving one of Carter’s wands a try, especially as they only cost $25-$40 each. Which would explain why several foreign-looking gentlemen have recently been seen on Britannia Road in Slaithwaite.
One of them was Chinese. Not that Chinese visitors are all that rare in Slaithwaite – it’s a lovely town with a canal running right alongside the High Street – but most of them don’t come in long black limos with embassy plates. This gentleman parked around the corner, lurked in the shadows until Mystic Moments opened, then dodged in, spent about twenty minutes in the shop, emerged with a brown-paper parcel under his arm, and sped away.
Speculation was rife in the Silent Woman public house later in the day that the visitor had been sent by the Chinese government to get a magic wand for President Xi Jinping. Harold Crossley, the reigning geopolitical expert in the saloon bar, opined that Xi is in deep, maybe terminal trouble because he keeps insisting that the Chinese economy is in good shape when it is actually near collapse. A magic wand is obviously his last chance.
Later in the day a car from the Turkish embassy drew up right in front of Mystical Moments, and a diplomat walked into the shop bold as brass. But he came out crest-fallen and empty-handed. Harold reckons that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wanted to put a hex on his rival Fethullah Gülen, and everybody knows that Richard Carter doesn’t let his wands be used for black magic.
The most intriguing visitor, though, was an American gentleman who drove up in a rental car. Nobody knew who he was, and to add to the mystery Grace Robinson, who was in the shop at the same time, said the man had tried to pay for his wand in Russian rubles. And it’s no use asking Richard, who is always the very soul of discretion about the identity of his clients.
The mystery was only solved when Ernie Best, who patrols Slaithewaite’s twenty-two parking meters, came into the Shoulder of Mutton for his evening pint. He had been putting a ticket on the American’s car for parking on a yellow line when the man came out of the shop and told him to stop. “You can’t do that to me. I’m Paul Manafort,” the man had said.
The name didn’t mean anything to Ernie, who made Manafort wait while he finished writing the ticket, but the well-travelled landlady of the Shoulder of Mutton spotted it at once. “That’s Donald Trump’s campaign chairman,” she said. The pub went silent: everybody was shocked that Richard would let a man like Trump have a magic wand.
But Richard is subtler than that. News is just in that Manafort has been demoted by the down-market Mussolini he works for. The new Chief Executive Officer of Trump’s campaign is Stephen Bannon, from the right-wing website Breitbart News, a man who was once described by the website’s editor as “Trump’s personal Pravda.” So it looks as if Trump’s magic wand didn’t work after all.
Gwynne Dyer in an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries