Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

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

I reckon it’s the sky

Forgive me if I seem to come across a bit Terry Pratchett for a moment.

Last week as Meg Rosoff and I worked our way through the veggie thali in Glasgow, she asked – again – why I’d moved all the way to Scotland. And If I like it in Stirling. (Well, we can’t all have lofts in central London!)

I went a little poetic on her, which probably came as a bit of a shock. But I have genuinely felt that one reason it’s lovely ‘up here’ is that there is so much sky. I marvel at it every day as I shuffle round the local streets, or even while taking the rubbish out to the bin.

Sky

There is a lot of sky here, compared to leafy Manchester suburbia. Which was very nice, in its own way, and we were happy there.

I used to stop and marvel at the blue sky every time I went to visit Daughter in St Andrews. Somehow I put it down to being near the sea. Now I realise it was more the absence of tall houses and trees. Like here.

And as I think about it, I wonder if I would not particularly like New York. From the sky point of view, anyway. I always imagined the reason I loved the landscape of my childhood were the flat expanses of open ground. Now I believe it might have been the sky above them.

End of poetic gibberish.

Stirling Literary Society

The Resident IT Consultant had been a couple of times, but I needed something special to tempt me out on a wet and dark Monday night, so it was my first time. Stirling Literary Society meet at The Smith [local museum] once a month, and the thing that got me out of the house was Scottish Children’s Literature. Dr Maureen Farrell from the University of Glasgow drove through floods to tell us about it.

When she realised that her degree didn’t cover any Scottish books Maureen decided to do her PhD on Scottish children’s literature, but was dissuaded because it was thought there wasn’t enough material for a doctorate… (I was unsure in the end if she went ahead with it anyway, or not. But whichever way, Maureen knows a few things about those non-existent children’s books.)

In the ‘beginning’ there were books, and some children read them. And there were chapbooks, sold by travelling chapmen. In the 18th century James Janeway published A Token for Children. Often books were written by puritans who wanted to educate, and needed to use language accessible to children. As early as 1744 there were ‘magazine giveaways’ with balls for boys and hoops for girls.

Then we had Sir Walter Scott. Naturally. He wrote a book for his grandson, but as a ‘very wordy writer’ it probably wasn’t all that easy to read. But he enjoyed it so much he wanted to give up writing adult books. The first proper children’s book in Scotland seems to have been Catherine Sinclair’s Holiday House, where children played and were naughty.

Maureen Farrell’s criteria for what counts as Scottish literature are books by someone Scottish, set in Scotland or about Scottish people. If not, we couldn’t lay claim to J K Rowling or Julia Donaldson.

There wasn’t really time enough to talk even quite briefly about most Scottish authors. Maureen galloped past Treasure Island, The Light Princess, Peter Pan, and on to Theresa Breslin and Eric Linklater, explaining what the Carnegie Medal is (very elderly audience, but maybe not necessary?), Molly Hunter, Joan Lingard, and she showed us covers of lots of books, including The Wee Free Men.

She described the beginning chapter of Nicola Morgan’s Fleshmarket, and I decided I could possibly avoid fainting if I was lucky. Jackie Kay cropped up with both fiction and poetry, local author Rennie McOwan got some attention, as did Mairi Hedderwick and Debi Gliori.

And then there were the books in Scots, of which she had many to show us. I particularly liked Roald Dahl’s The Twits, which became The Eejits.

I reckon you can deduce that there’s enough for a PhD there, somewhere. We could have gone on for hours and only skimmed the surface. There was a lot I knew about, obviously, but there was also quite a bit I didn’t, because I was never a small Scottish child, unlike others in the audience who had strong and fond memories of many of the books mentioned.

The Compleat Discworld Atlas

‘Oh, it’s not a real map,’ said the Resident IT Consultant on seeing the newly arrived Discworld Atlas. Whereas I would say it is as real as Discworld. But what do I know?

In fact, I feel it looks suspiciously like Earth in some ways, which is odd for something supposedly flat, which rests on tortoises and elephants and stuff. (I know. Discworld experts are fainting left, right and centre on hearing – reading – my ignorant musings on Discworld. Sorry.)

It’s just, my Discworld looks different, in my head. And yours, and theirs, will be different still inside your respective heads. Which is where it should remain, unless it’s to get messy.

The Compleat Discworld Atlas

But it’s a lovely volume of regional maps (I’d forgotten, or possibly never realised, quite how many areas there are), with all sorts of information on people and money and anything else you might want to know.

And when you get to the end there is a big fold-out map, which could get very nicely tangled in windy weather or turn soggy in the rain, were you to take it out when you go places.

All in all, this is a nice book. At least, I think so. If it has anything new to offer the Discworld nerd, sorry, specialist, I couldn’t say. It has plenty to offer me, and that’s what matters.

(You could always play with the elastic band which keeps the atlas under control.)