Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

That’s funny

Much as I don’t enjoy the trend of famous comedians suddenly discovering that they need to write a children’s book, and doing very well and getting plenty of publisher attention for their efforts, it has caused one improvement to the state of things. Humour is now seen as something worth considering.

I have always liked humorous fiction. I have long felt there’s not enough of it, and also that it’s been so wrong to look down on it. As though humorous fiction is to children’s fiction as children’s fiction is to Booker prize type fiction; i.e. inferior.

It’s not. In fact, I’d suggest that just like writing for children requires more skill, and not less, to write good humour means you have to be really excellent at what you do. Not everyone can do it, or do it well, but when they can, the results can be spectacular.

A couple of weeks ago Adrian McKinty blogged about his twenty funniest novels and it’s an interesting list. I agree with his choice, about the ones I’ve read. I might have picked others, and it could be Adrian doesn’t find them funny, or that he’s not read the same books I have. These things happen.

I do agree with him about this, though: ‘It’s got be funny throughout too. One really funny scene as in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim for example just doesn’t cut it. I’m also not allowing anything that people say is funny but which actually isn’t or perhaps used to be funny but isn’t anymore. I’ve read Gargantua and Pantagruel and they are not funny. Shakespeare’s comedies are not funny. Dickens is not funny.’

There’s a lot in life that’s not funny. But there’s also a lot that is. And yes, I hated Lucky Jim the first time I read it. Loved it on the second read. But Adrian is right; one funny scene isn’t enough. (Apart from The Vicar Of Nibbleswicke, I don’t reckon Roald Dahl is funny. Not in that way.)

I’ve not thought this through enough so I can give you my own list, but Terry Pratchett is obviously on it. Would be, I mean, if there was a list. And even if I stick to children’s books, I reckon Douglas Adams has to be on it. From there it is a quick jump to Eoin Colfer and from him to many other Irish authors (it must be the water?), and then jump again, to Frank Cottrell Boyce, Joan Aiken, Morris Gleitzman, Debi Gliori, Barry Hutchison, Hilary McKay, Andy Mulligan, Kate DiCamillo. And last but not least, my fairy blogmother Meg Rosoff. She doesn’t only kill goats.

My apologies to anyone not mentioned. I didn’t go about this scientifically, but merely wanted to mention that being funny is a good thing. A good read is good for your wellbeing, and a funny read is even better. Go on, find something to make you laugh! Preferably until you cry. The hankies are on me.

9, 9, 9

No need to send any emergency vehicles my way. I’m merely obsessing about numbers again. Last year it was the eights, approximately a month earlier than now. But it’s odd the way it is 999 at a time like this. And last Wednesday was the ninth day of the eleventh month. I’m presuming it’s coincidence.

Anyway, today it has been nine years, nine months and nine days of solid Bookwitching. Who’d have thought? On the other hand, I don’t suppose anyone sets out to write a blog, expecting it to be for a set period of time. I don’t know how long I will keep at it, but I reckon you are safe from this type of inane blog post in the future. Somehow 10, 10, 10 seems wrong. Besides, it’d be too close to Christmas.

And I’ve had the party, even if I broke my promise of inviting you. I suppose I was worried I’d run out of Irn-Bru. I now feel all partied out. What’s more, the ‘dining room’ is gone. Not to a better place, either. But we’re hoping its replacement will be a better place, if and when it happens. We had Jekubs to begin with, which made me very nostalgic for The Bromeliad. The Jekubs dug trenches, of which there are still remains. And there is mud. It’s not quite war, though.

House build

We could make it an al fresco Christmas, I suppose.

Wintersmith

After my recent close encounter with Steeleye Span, which made me feel so guilty, I decided the least I could do was give the Resident IT Consultant the CD on which they collaborated with Terry Pratchett.

Steeleye Span, Wintersmith

When we first met I he introduced me to the music of Steeleye Span. I had heard of them, but never really listened to their stuff. I soon found that the Resident IT Consultant’s taste in music wasn’t as totally hopeless as I perhaps had expected, and I listened to quite a bit of Steeleye Span for some years.

But then I slowly moved on to other kinds of music and haven’t listened as much to Steeleye Span in recent years.

It was the Resident IT Consultant who introduced me to Terry’s books as well. Or rather, when I realised there was this much talked about author I might want to find out more about, it turned out we already had one or two paperbacks on the shelves, and I was able to educate myself.

So here I am, listening to the Resident IT Consultant’s birthday present. Maybe I should let him have a go as well.

After that unexpected live performance at the Barbican for Terry’s memorial, I felt they had got ‘rockier.’ Maybe not. I suspect it’s more the difference between live – and loud – music on stage, and how it sounds on your system at home. Maddy Prior sings as beautifully as ever.

I especially liked hearing Terry’s voice on The Good Witch. It felt as if he was talking directly to me.

There’s always one

Bathroom visit in the early hours, a few weeks ago. Barely awake, I noticed an annoying beeping sound. I thought about it. ‘Hmm, it’s rather like when smoke detectors try to tell you they are hungry,’ I said to myself. ‘If we had one.’ It seemed odd that I could hear the neighbours’ one.

Exiting the bathroom, I discovered we did indeed have a smoke detector. And it went beep once a minute. I felt I couldn’t demand the Resident IT Consultant should pop out of bed to deal with it, so I tried to sleep a bit more despite the noise. Wasn’t easy, but I managed some. Woke up to find the beeping had stopped. Still informed the Resident IT Consultant about it (he’d heard nothing…) but I could tell he didn’t believe me.

What’s more, he wasn’t going to change the battery, because the smoke detectors are wired in. I suddenly remembered finding this out once before (when it had actually rung and scared the living daylights out of Daughter and me) and how stupid it all seemed. And then I had forgotten.

I was travelling to London the next morning, so wanted an early night, and contrary to other such well-intentioned evenings, I was ready to hop into bed at nine. ‘Beep!’

It was on again. Obviously having rested all day long it felt nice and fresh. This time the Resident IT Consultant couldn’t deny hearing it. Hah!

How was I going to sleep? He thought about it, googled how to do it, and then proposed climbing up there and removing it live, as it was too dark to see anything if he removed the lighting circuit fuse [to which it is wired] first. I thought about this and then said I wouldn’t allow it. After all, he was supposed to drive me to the airport the following morning and it’d be so inconvenient if he eloctrocuted himself just then. And I’m a bit fond of him, too.

After more thinking he decided to go ahead anyway. The dratted thing came off reasonably well, while obviously still beeping as it had a back-up battery. The Resident IT Consultant pulled the battery out and put it and the smoke detector side by side, rather like a chopped off limb.

‘Now you’ll stay quiet,’ he told it.

‘Beep.’

Yeah, you couldn’t make it up. There was a back-up back-up battery. ‘I’ll put it in the conservatory,’ I said. We could still hear it. I went out in my pyjamas and stuffed it in the garage instead, where it beeped away during the night.

But at least sleep was once again possible and the Resident IT Consultant was still alive and I made it to the airport, the London Book Fair, Terry Pratchett’s memorial and all that.

We now have a replacement pair of alarms, which [touch wood] shouldn’t be quite so hard to disable in the middle of the night.

Maybe.

Ankh water

Ankh water

I overlooked this bottle the other week, as I carefully photographed everything that was in my Terry Pratchett partybag.

I was extremely thirsty that evening, but this bottle of Ankh water was safe from me. I’m not sure I can ever drink it. One, it’s a precious memento. Two, is it safe to drink Ankh water?

Surely it’s a fairly questionable substance? So on balance I reckon it will be better for it to grace some surface or other at Bookwitch Towers, and I can smile at it as I swoosh past. It’s got a reasonable date, after all.

And to return to harping on about libraries, I know I forgot to mention the Beaconsfield library two weeks ago. They have decided they want a plaque outside in Terry’s memory. After all, it’s the place he reckoned he learned the most in, having little respect for his secondary school.

Aren’t we glad Terry had his library to go to? Would we have had any of his books if he’d been stuck with school learning only? (Well, maybe. Apparently some of his teachers became Discworld characters. But still. Libraries rock. Apart from the Stockport librarian who felt Terry was unsuitable for children.)

Teary about Terry

When Terry Pratchett discussed his inevitably upcoming memorial with his assistant Rob Wilkins, the one thing he wished for was to be there. He was, in as much as we all had him in our hearts last night. We talked about him. And there were a number of heartstoppingly bearded men in black, wearing hats in the bar outside the Barbican theatre. But those fans have always been there. It’s just that on the other occasions, so has Terry.

Terry Pratchett memorial ticket

Why I was included on the guest list for this outstandingly special memorial, I don’t know. But there I was. And as we were warned not to take photos or have our mobiles on, or we might end up a bit dead, I didn’t, and we didn’t, and it was mostly too dark to see to write notes, so I’ll make up a few things now instead. There was a choir. There was a display of all of Terry’s books travelling through a time glass.

Terry Pratchett: From birth to death, a writer

Lord Vetinari kicked off – after the death threats – by thanking Terry from all his characters for putting them in his books before they ended up in someone else’s books.

After a long-wished-for opportunity to utter the words ‘do not let me detain you’ to Vetinari,  Rob was there to speak for the family, introducing others, including Terry’s daughter Rhianna. There were people from Terry’s past (whom I might have known if I knew more). There was a coven of Terry’s three editors; Philippa Dickinson, Anne Hoppe and Jennifer Brehl. Only once did Philippa fear she’d gone too far in suggesting a change in one of the books, but whereas Terry wouldn’t go so far as to say she had been right, he could see some merit in what she said.

Dried Frog Pills

Larry Finlay, MD of Transworld, told about the reports Terry used to send after every author tour; what the bookshops had been like, and the hotels. You could get a four and a half star rating (frozen peas provided for his aching signing hand), but never five. And the ‘first’ hotel of the country was so bad he could well believe it was. Old floorboards, and so on.

And then there was Steeleye Span. You could hear the collective held breath of the audience as we deduced we were about to be treated to some top notch music from Terry’s favourite band.

You can’t send just anyone in after such a music display, and they didn’t. We got Neil Gaiman, who had flown in specially for his old friend, reading his foreword to A Slip of the Keyboard, including the tale of their long trek through San Francisco when they really should have been on live radio. He was also able to spill the beans on a Manchester bookshop that did get a minus star in Terry’s ratings. (It’s when the staff lock themselves in and won’t come out until the customers have gone away.)

Terry Pratchett postcards

Rob told us about the four documentaries about Terry Pratchett. The three we may have already seen; on Alzheimer’s, about the Orangutans, and about choosing to die. Currently there is work on the fourth, and I suspect some of yesterday will end up in there.

By then we’d been there for well over two hours, and Sir Tony Robinson chose to come on stage and mention bladder control. He admired us for it, as well he should.  He had the opportunity to prove again how perfect he is for reading Terry’s words out loud. This time he chose a letter Terry had written. (In fact, Terry left behind a number of letters to friends and family, written one day in October 2014 when Rob was out of the office.)

Terry Pratchett memorial brooch

Another thing Terry had arranged was for some special jewellery for special friends; the less visible people who helped make everything possible, his agent, his editor, his illustrator, his banker and so on. The ones who Terry turned to in order to find out the necessary force needed to pull the head off a troll, for instance. They are the Venerable Order of the Honeybees, and their rewards were presented in a newly made version of The Luggage.

More singing from Steeleye Span, and special thanks to Maddy Prior, who came and sang to Terry at home shortly before he died.

Terry Pratchett memorial tissues

As you can tell, this was very much not a dry eye kind of evening. Luckily there was in the ‘partybag’ left on everyone’s seat a packet of tissues. I put mine away, and then wondered what the protocol was for nicking my neighbour’s pack which he hung onto for the whole evening. But there are always sleeves that can be put to good use.

Rob was aware that the clock was ticking, but he still talked us through what the future has in store. There will be no more Discworld books, but there will be books on all sorts of things, including a biography by Rob. Films are also in the pipeline, for The Wee Free Men, Mort, and Good Omens (with screenplay by Neil Gaiman, despite his agreement with Terry that they’d always work together).

And lots more.

Gallivanting

I’m not at home. I might be on my way there. I certainly hope so.

It’s been another of those London in 24 hours (that’s from my door at home back to my door at home) shenanigans. (I believe I said ‘never again’ a couple of months ago, but I do find that at my age memory isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. So to speak.)

With a bit of luck I’ll be able to fill you in on all this later.

Terry Pratchett - Snuff launch