No sooner had I decided I really wanted to be a cow, when this invitation turned up, making me temporarily pause the move towards cow-hood.
(I was on the train home from Scotland – and believe me, that was by sheer luck -and I felt totally done in with travelling. Maybe I’m past it? I noticed these docile looking cows grazing in fields near the train and thought they seemed to have a most uncomplicated life. It rained. Did they worry about their hair? Don’t think so. It was just a case of standing there, on the green stuff, eating the green stuff. Ideal.)
But when Commander Vimes requests one’s company on a paddle steamer it’s hard to say no. So I said yes. And after I’d read the book about the Commander’s latest adventures I got quite worried and had to check there wasn’t going to be that kind of action on Wednesday night. Was reassured about the planned sedateness of it all. (That is if you don’t factor in seasickness. I wasn’t, though.)
To celebrate the launch of Terry Pratchett’s 50th book, aboard the paddle steamer The Wonderful F*nny, I travelled to London and Westminster Pier where the uniformed gent on the door seemed to think I needed helping in(=down). I was OK-ish.
It was a beautiful evening! The kind of London evening I so often get, which makes me want to live in London, and also makes my camera trigger finger itch. (But you can see how good I am with that. Especially in the dark.)
Drinks and nibbles on the top deck. Spinach toast and something salmony with seeds. So that was both the spinach and the sesame seeds to adorn my teeeth dealt with pretty swiftly. I chatted to one lucky fan who had won her invitation at Terry’s talk the previous evening.
A speaker whose name I’ve already forgotten did a talk (admirably early for these things) about how well Snuff has sold this first week and then he presented Terry with a 50-year-old bottle of something or other. And a framed picture with the sales figures on…
After all that praise Terry had to say something. Not sure he had prepared a speech, and his microphone technique left some of it inaudible to some. Not me. I was that close. He asked us to convey his thanks to Mrs P, further down the boat, for allowing him to go out and play every day. Write. Then he cried a bit and that was that. We resorted to applause to prevent ourselves from joining him.
Before The Wonderful F*nny set sail, or whatever it is paddle steamers do, some people disembarked, leaving more boat for the rest of us. Random’s Philippa came and suggested I should talk to Terry. But first I said hello to Rob, who greeted me by saying he remembered how we had met in that hotel room. Quite.
Terry thought I was smaller – or taller? – than last time. I’m not sure which. And because he is Terry – and possibly Vimes, too – I allowed that unspeakable thing to happen. Author photo, with fan attached. I apologise.
And you know, paddle steamers actually do have those paddle things, and they swirl around and paddle. I’d not stopped to think about this, so was unaccountably surprised. I stood outside on what might be called the aft deck or something similarly daft, for most of the trip. Just wish someone hadn’t thought to mention the Titanic.
London on the river in the dark is nice. Very nice. I felt very privileged, being on such a wonderful boat, being paddled all the way down past Tower Bridge and back to Westminster again. Seeing the lit up bridges, with worryingly little headroom for us, and all the sights from the National Theatre to The Globe, St Paul’s, the Tower, HMS Belfast and all the rest. Perfect.
Also just that little bit different from what goes on in Snuff. Have you read it yet? Terry thinks it’s old hat by now, because he’s busy with Happy Families (which I think is what I wasn’t supposed to tell you about last year) and the other book.
Thank you to Terry’s Lynsey who made The Wonderful F*nny do all this, and then went so far as to invite me. And thank you to Terry for writing all those books so that it happened.