Brian Viner: Phew! I've magicked up Harry Potter tickets

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The Independent Online

Jane and Jackie, my wife and her sister, are not prone to one-upmanship, at least not since Jackie's boyfriend had a car, and Jane's didn't, 20 or more years ago. But the schoolboy wizard Harry Potter (whose namesake Stephen coined the term "one-upmanship", spookily enough) pointed his wand and zapped some sibling rivalry back into them.

"We've got tickets for Sunday the 11th," said Jane. "Great," exclaimed Jackie, in mock sincerity, before unleashing a thunderbolt worthy of Lord Voldemort in a tizzy. "We've got tickets," she said, "for Saturday the 10th." If only I had managed to get us into the world première of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Yonks ago, I rashly promised my children that I would do my best. I told them that I knew Nearly-Headless Nick (John Cleese to you and I), and that he might be able to magic up some tickets.

But eventually I decided it would be unfair even to ask him. After all, in the world of make-believe, there has been nothing as precious as tickets for the Harry Potter première since Willy Wonka slipped five golden passes to his chocolate factory into his Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights.

So before my offspring cast me as Nearly-Clueless Twit, I resolved to buy tickets to one of next weekend's preview shows, so they could at least see it before the film's official release on 16 November.

I was hastened into action by last week's flurry of newspaper reports suggesting that tickets were already scarce, that corporations had reserved entire cinemas for their employees and it might be months before ordinary punters could get in. As scare stories go, this was even more terrifying than the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Mercifully, there was no truth in it, or at any rate, those fiendish corporate giants had not yet swallowed up Muswell Hill Odeon. We have our tickets and my children are thrilled, almost as thrilled as my wife and I, for we too, I fear, have succumbed to Pottermania.

Indeed, we were both rather pathetically excited when six-year-old Joseph, invited to go to school on National Book Day dressed as his favourite literary character, chose to go as Harry. Jane duly felt-tipped the requisite lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. But when he got to school there were at least a dozen Harrys already in the playground, comparing, like samurai or stevedores, the size and shape of their scars.

"Alfie's scar was rubbish," Joseph told me when he got home. Jane nodded solemnly. "It was," she said.

It remains Harry Potter's greatest feat of wizarding. The lad has made kids of us all.