When I was a young teenager, my Dad lent me Equal Rites; an hilarious tour-de-force of sexual inequality and stereotyping which planted the seed of my lifelong love of the Discworld. He didn’t say why he lent it to me; he never does, he just quietly does little things like that which influence the entire course of my life. Since that day, the works of Terry Pratchett have featured through my life and relationships, pinning down memories of people and places which otherwise might have slipped through the colander-holes of my brain, and I am a little sad knowing that a brilliant spirit who has brought joy and laughter to so many people has moved on from this world.
I would like to share with you some of the ways Terry Pratchett has touched my life.
I met Nadia when I was 16. I had just changed schools for my A-levels and was alone, in a new school, in a new county, among strangers. She had been away at boarding school for a while and was returning to a school where the cliques had formed without her. Neither of us seemed to have much in common with the rest of the girls but we quickly discovered a shared love of Terry’s books. And playing cards. Out of lessons (we had none together) we were inseparable and we were each other’s link to the rest of the world. Once, when we had found out that Terry was signing books at Waterstone’s in a nearby town, we snuck out of school at lunchtime, having brought in with us a good supply of Terry’s books in our school bags, and headed to the station. In the shop, we waited in the queue for so long before we finally reached the front. We probably played Cribbage – we usually did. Having listened to Terry’s opinions of people with bizarrely spelled names as he signed the books of the people ahead of me, it was in a quiet voice that I spelled my name for him.
Nadia is my oldest friend and one of only four people I know I will be friends with until we die. Of the other three, two had large TP collections already when I met them and the final one (my Prince) has loved the TV adaptions of Going Postal; Hogfather and the Colour of Magic he’s watched with me (with added commentary on the bits they missed out, but he’s used to that) and is currently borrowing my well-loved copy of Small Gods.
Here’s a memory I wouldn’t trade for anything. On the same day Nadia and I were queuing in Waterstone’s playing Cribbage, my Nan was there too (not that any of us knew that). She had made the trip into town just because she had heard that Terry was there and she knew her Granddaughter read his books. She had no idea which books I had and which I didn’t but as it turned out, Mort was pretty much my favourite, to the point where I already had around three copies. In a lifetime where I have mislaid and replaced so many of my books, this is the only copy of Mort I still have.
My Nan was a wonderful woman who loved me more than I ever deserved and I still miss her deeply fifteen years after she passed away.
When I was younger, my parents would often take my brother and me to France to stay in caravans or campsites. One year, when I was a teenager, my brother went to Corsica with his school so my parents invited one of my cousins to come with us. We went to the south of France and the weather was gorgeous almost solidly for two weeks. The exception was one day when we left the campsite to go to the beach. When we got back at the end of a long day, it was obvious that it had been raining. Hard. All day. Having been used to the fabulous weather we had experienced for most of the fortnight we had left the rainflaps on the windows of the tent rolled up to allow some ventilation and the interior was flooded. I can’t remember the full extent of the damage but Reaper Man, along with my (other) signed copy of Mort had been on the floor of the tent by my sleeping bag. They were saturated. I guess Mum must have taken the sleeping bags to the laundry to tumble dry them or something; all I remember was Dad arranging my books open at various different pages to try to help dry them out. He put them in the microwave when we got home. They remained my favourite books for years afterwards and I have read each one a number of times.
I still haven’t read this book. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for months while I have been reading other things and that makes me feel a little guilty, as if I have been unfaithful to Terry with other authors. This has just jumped to the top of my reading list.
There are so many more moments I could write about, so many more books I could photograph. Looking at this picture I’m thinking Small Gods is upstairs by the bed; Good Omens is in a case I haven’t finished unpacking from my summer holiday and I really, REALLY need to replace the Carpet People.
I wouldn’t call myself a super-fan. I’ve never been to any conventions, I don’t have Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook and I’ve never finished reading any of the Science of the Discworld books, my shelves do not have any models of Discworld characters on them. Terry Pratchett’s writing is just so much a part of my life that it feels like I have lost an uncle. It’s sad to think that some day my collection of his novels will be complete and will stay that way.
What memories do you have of this wonderful person?