You couldn’t say that in connection with just anyone, but with Terry Pratchett it sort of works. It is no less awful, but it is the truth. We all are, of course. It is not right to presume that Terry will have an early need for that gravestone, the inscription of which he was discussing with his assistant Rob on the programme Facing Extinction.
Which we watched almost eight months late. That’s the danger of recording programmes because you don’t have time. You forget. Terry forgets very little, and it was a different lack of time that led him to travel to Borneo to visit the orangutans once more. Before it’s too late. For them. Or for him. For us.
Anyway, the title of the show was pretty apt in all its awfulness.
Terry really wanted to meet Kusasi again; the large, old orangutan he met in the mid-1990s. That’s the thing with Terry. He likes the most diverse things in this world, and thinks about them more than most. We should all think more, about more things.
He was a bit wobbly on his legs, and I found myself thinking he’d make the perfect travelling companion for me. Wobble together, kind of thing. But other than that, you wouldn’t know about the Alzheimers if the BBC didn’t ram it down your throat all the time.
(Which reminds me of the tale Neil Gaiman told in Manchester last month, about Terry phoning him for some help with writing his biography. Neil suspected the worst, but in the end the answer to the question Terry had called about was such a minute and unimportant detail, one which most ‘normal’ people wouldn’t necessarily remember, either. It was whether the two of them walked down 42nd Street in New York. Or 43rd Street.)
The day we watched I’d been reading Terry’s new Discworld novel, all about trains, and I was feeling very into trains, travelling, and Terry. And within hours, I’d received – by weird coincidence – an invitation to travel on a steam train with Terry. The sad thing being I had to say no…
But you know, it’s the way all sorts of stuff just coincides. Weird. And it’s rather lovely to see how Terry and Rob get on. Rob didn’t know he’d be tying his boss’s shoelaces when he got the job. Just as well, or they might have looked for another type of assistant.
This was very much a feelgood programme, despite the disappearing rain forests, the poor orangutans, the oil palms and the illegal trade in endangered species. It’s the way Terry Pratchett considers everything and everyone. It’s the way he considers himself lucky. It’s the way he makes the rest of us feel.
As to why I delayed watching this for so long… I don’t have a good excuse. We have all delayed doing far too many things for far too long. Hopefully it won’t be too late for the orangutans. And hopefully we’ll have Terry for many years still.