Harry Potter potions room

I once tried to chat up a guy in a bar using my favourite Excel formula. He shockingly didn’t take the bait. I wasn’t too cut up about it, I figured if he were the guy for me his eyes would have lit up the moment I said VLOOKUP. He would be in my bed right now asking me to show him my SUMIF.

Sexy talk aside, if you can master the below formulas people will think you are a wizard. I am 99% sure that Voldemort could have been taken down with a good PIVOT table and if you learn the formulas below you too might be able to take down a fascist overlord one day. And if it turns out that magic doesn’t exist then they might actually help you with your job. Boring. Bring on the Harry Potter references.

With all this Excel knowledge I genuinely have no idea why I’m still single.


Ok so imagine that you have a list of Death Eaters and how many muggles each of them killed. You are in the middle of a court case at the Ministry of Magic where 4 of the Death Eaters are being tried and you need to quickly know the muggle count for each. What do you do?

Death Eaters

Use the magic of the VLOOKUP of course! Here is our list of Death Eaters and kills on the left (imagine that there are thousands on the list because I can’t be arsed googling more than ten). Bellatrix is first up in the court and what I am going to do is write the following formula into cell F2 of my court list.


1: Click the cell that has the thing you want to look for written in it, in this case I have clicked E2 because that is where Bellatrix’s name is.

2: VLOOKUP’s think in terms of look for the information in a table, so we need to tell excel where this table is. For this example my table is columns A and B, because that is my list of Death Eaters. By writing A:B I have selected the whole damn thing. If your list also included where they lived, their favourite Unforgivable spell and their wand type you would just select more columns.

3: This is where you tell the formula what information you want it to bring back, if it finds Bellatrix I want it to bring back how many kills she had. In the table we selected above it has two columns (A is 1, B is 2), I am going to put 2 because I want the muggle number to come back.

4: Always write FALSE here. Don’t try to understand why, if you don’t the formula will fuck up and Bellatrix will literally get away with murder.

Top VLOOKUP tip: Always make sure the thing you are looking for is in the left hand column of the table.

&” “&

Snape has sent you a spreadsheet of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. But because he is a lovesick resentful dickhead he has given it to you in a really unhelpful format. The names are in column A, and the positions are in column B; what you want is the name and position in the same cell (god knows why, just humour me).

Quiddich team

If I used the formula =A2&B2 it would give me the name and position like this Oliver WoodKeeper with no space between the words; that is why I added the “ “ between them. That tells excel to put the name, then a space, then the position. Fuck you Snape, your tricks don’t work around here.


You copied your Transfiguration homework from Hermione and it wasn’t until just before class that you realised she passive aggressively wrote an extra bit at the start of each spell so that you would be marked wrong. Never fear, Excel is here. The MID formula lets you take the middle part out of a string of text.



1: the click the cell that the text is currently in

2: Write the number of the letter you want it to start with, in this example I want all the spells to start on the 2nd letter, so I am going to write the number 2

3: What letter do you want to end with? Because all my spells are different lengths I have just put 100 so that it captures all of the rest of the spell. BOOM cheating achieved.


Well it is the end of the school year and the entirely random allocation of house points has been done (Longbottom getting ten for standing up to his friends just reeks of a rigged system created by a crazed despot). But because wizards clearly have no understanding of structure it is time to add up the meaningless points.

house points


1: This is the column where Excel is going to look for your citeria, in this case it is column A because that is where all the houses were listed

2: This is where I tell excel what I want it to look for, in this case I have clicked on the cell that has the House name in it in my final points table, I could also have typed “Ravenclaw”.

3: Select the column that has all the fucking pointless points in it (aka, column B)

NB: To select an entire column you can click on the damn letter on the top of the column you want, like click on the actual fucking letter at the top.


There you have it. I’m drunk and I think I may have just insulted both Harry Potter fans and Excel experts. But fuck it, if I see Voldemort I am going just stand there screaming I WANT TO PIVOT YOU until he gets concerned and offers me a cup of tea.

Is there a support group I can join?

Yes, I am a Ravenclaw how did you guess?

Cash Machine in London

Oh London, you are stuff of dreams. A city where Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in the Chicken Shop down the road and the Beatles once threw up in the gutter outside your flat. Well, probably. London is so full of history and kick ass historical figures that one of those is almost certainly right. I get so used to the magical and somewhat mythical London of my dreams, that sometimes the reality comes as a bit of a shock. Your brain sees Big Ben and gets tricked into thinking life is a movie, and then reality bites. Hence me on Christmas Day overjoyed that it was snowing outside, only to realise that it was not snow, it was just a flock of pigeons literally losing their shit.

The longer I live in London the more I come to treasure these ‘reality bites’ moments. I used to see them as little pockets of disappointment, like the time I found out that unlike Bridget Jones, no one can afford to live in a one bed flat near Borough Market (seriously, to afford that she must have been doing something niche with those granny pants on the side). Each new soul crushing discovery was like the London of my dreams was being chipped away to reveal a dirty & crowded beast that stole all my money.

But the longer I live here, to mis-quote Shrek, the reality is like pealing back the layers of an onion to get to its heart. What is at the centre I can only guess, but rather than spiraling down to disappointment, each dose of reality just reveals a more intriguing and homelike London. I London that I kinda love.

The flock of shitty pigeons? Well yes I would have loved a white Christmas, but time has given me the knowledge that London throws a massive tantrum when it snows; given this knowledge I was happy for the pigeons. Seriously, tubes stop running, an almost certain city wide shortage of grit, children starving, Tesco shortages, general panic and mayhem – oh yes London in the snow is something special. Knowing that the magical didn’t tell the whole story is magic in itself, I feel like I am part of the story.

Side note, I saw that a train was delayed the other day because of strong sunshine….

The Bridget Jones Borough Market shock that in my first year made me shed a tear. Now? Now I know the areas in London that I want to live, I know that Borough although convenient (and 800% out of my price range) is also hell on earth when you throw two thousand tourists at it. Oh and I know that Maltby markets are totally better than Borough in any case. I know London now, that knowledge and feeling of belonging kicks the ‘reality bites’ to the curb leaving a happy smugness in its wake.

Of course my flocking pigeons are far less sexy to movie makers. The Hugh Grant speech in Love Actually would have had a lot less impact if it talked about transport shortcuts, remembering your umbrella and knowing the best place for pulled pork on a Friday night. But hey, those little things convexly make London magical, a thing of mythology come to life. The reality bites make it your London.