Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

Facing Extinction

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…

Facing Extinction - Terry Pratchett and Rob

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.

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Angels

Wall angel

Should I be concerned? Even worry? There are an awful lot of angels here now. And you know, I used to think they were nice. ‘People’ to be trusted.

From this point of view it was unfortunate that I read L A Weatherly’s Angel last week. Her angels being of the not very nice kind, I now find myself eyeing the angels in my house rather differently. Might not be as benevolent as I imagined. Not even mostly harmless.

And Christmastime is when they appear. They hadn’t arrived when I blogged about Angel the book last week, but now they are here in force. On the other hand, this ‘beanpole’ looks so very sweet and innocent. Doesn’t she?

GM Angel 2

GM Angel 1

IN Angel 1

HG lookalike angel

The one at the top of the tree has always struck me as sweetness itself. Likewise her sister creature further down the tree.

Friend Pippi’s hand-tatted angels, with and without body, look serene and kind. The Daughter (younger version) lookalike from the furniture giant may have a hole in her head, but is otherwise quite angelic. If that’s not a stupid thing to say.

I noticed the same Daughter had positioned the little dumpy CW-shaped angel in the white tutu near my chair, so that she and I can stare at each other. Her wings are ridiculously tiny and will fly her nowhere.

The tree at CultureWitch Towers has a dozen angels, if not more. We never had angels when I was young, so I wonder if it’s fashion, or maybe the foreign influence of living in a strange country. Very strange. (But nice!)

Perhaps I should simply ignore the badness of Lee’s fictional angels? There are other angels in books. Philip Pullman’s are fairly nice, and on the side of good. Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s angels in Good Omens are a little bad, but not in a terribly unpleasant way.

BW shaped angel

Though I always felt a bit uncomfortable with the angel in David Almond’s Skellig. Might be just me. Tim Bowler has several characters with that same angel feel to them, though I don’t think Tim actually says they are angels. A bit scary, though.

IN Angel 2

And then there is my bathroom radiator…

(This post co-published with Bookwitch.)

Would you like trains with your pasta, sir?

When the lovely Clare from Random House took me out to dinner last winter, we went to Carluccio’s at St Pancras station. I had never been, which shows what a country bumpkin I am. Though I do recall buying an early train ticket from the now boarded up original ticket office.

It was winter, and although it’s under a roof, we didn’t sit outside. I noted – in that sieve I call a brain – that I should really make a point of taking Son there for a meal. What could be better for a train nerd than to eat pasta at the end of the tracks? But the likelihood of the two of us being there at a suitable time seemed slim.

So it was only as he was searching online for a choice of dinner venues near Euston the other evening, that my memory kicked in and I told him to forget all that because we were going to St Pancras to look at the trains. And we did.

As luck would have it, the restaurant was packed to the gills, but had one free table for two at the fence, with a good view of Eurostar rolling stock. He had ravioli with parmesan, black pepper and trains. He also taught the (Spanish speaking?) waitress a new word. ‘Fire away’ was what he said to her offer of black pepper, which made her back off, so he had to explain that it means yes. She was grateful for her new knowledge.

I may have come late to Carluccio’s, but I like it. The dishes aren’t the same pasta dishes you get everywhere. And they do coffee ice cream. Have you chocolate eaters any idea of how much I crave dessert and cakes that contain no chocolate? Something with an adult taste. I’m no coffee drinker, but I reckon this ice cream could be mistaken for coffee, were it not for its round shape and the low-ish temperature.

My first time eating at St Pancras was the day before I met Terry Pratchett. This recent St Pancras eating experience was the day before I met Terry Pratchett again. Nice pattern to it. And all the work of Clare.

The Beast Below

That would be the Terry Pratchett style creature, then. And above him a community much like the Glasgow in Julie Bertagna’s Exodus, except this one was the whole country. England, not Scotland, obviously. They do their own thing these days. And could the scriptwriters really have known that this would screen just at the time a new election has been announced?

Amy and the Doctor

When you see the Demon Headmaster, you know what he’s going to be like. Every time I tell myself he’s a vegetarian, so must really be quite nice… And speaking of schools; do school children of all centuries have to be dressed in our style of school uniform? It’s just not likely. Is it?

Lift problems, Doctor Who

I do hope nobody with a lift phobia was watching this evening’s Doctor Who. It’s your worst nightmare, or pretty close. Though I suppose that was the intention. Queen Liz appears to have been informed of every detail about the Doctor, down to a quote about his hair, which I’ve already managed to forget, but it was apt.

Queen Liz, Doctor Who

Personally I enjoyed this episode, but having looked at Facebook very briefly it seems it didn’t meet with everyone’s approval. When will people realise it’s a children’s programme?

(Photos © BBC)

Terry Pratchett platform at the National

I could smell Marmite. I’m sure of it. I looked around me in the Olivier stalls, hoping to catch the Marmite in action and frown a little, but the only thing I caught was a salmon salad in the row in front of me. Either it was a Marmite fed salmon, or the Marmite was elsewhere but so pungent that it made itself noticed all over.

Yesterday’s platform event with Terry Pratchett at the Olivier just before the evening performance of Nation was well attended, and people just love Terry. He was in good form, considering he’d already sat through at least four interviews, and had had barely time to be fed. Terry could have done with the salmon, I’d say.

On stage he was interviewed by Sara LeFanu, who got her dates and facts a little mixed up, but not about anything major. The drawback with a platform event featuring two people ‘in conversation’ is that the audience only gets half as much as they do with someone talking directly to the audience. I realise this suited Terry better, but we would all have loved more.

And although this was about Nation as a play, once Terry and Sara had talked about the background for the book, the Q&A session with the audience was almost exclusively about Discworld. Audiences tend to go really quite deaf when it comes to this kind of thing. They are asked to stick to certain topics, and then blithely go on about whatever is nearest to their hearts, anyway.

But it was good, with very heartfelt applause as Terry left again.

Nation at the National

As a job description ‘parrot’ can’t strike an actor as the most marvellous of parts to land, but as with all previous birds at the National Theatre, this parrot is almost the best in the whole play. Almost. The vultures aren’t exactly lovely, but cleverly done. But as I said, Milton the parrot, played by Jason Thorpe was loved by all.

Nation at the National Theatre by Johan Persson

And for all ladies currently swooning over a certain vampire actor, I can recommend Gary Carr, who is Mau in Nation. As Daphne, the young English girl says when she encounters Mau the first time, he really is a very fine specimen. Unfortunately the very lightly clad Mau wears trousers in the second half.

Melly Still and Mark Friend have done a great job of making the NT stage into a tsunami wrecked tropical island that’s believable, and Mark Ravenhill has adapted Terry Pratchett’s Nation in an imaginative way. After seeing several children’s novels adapted to the stage at the NT, I’ve stopped worrying about how it can possibly be done. It can. It’s as simple as that.

Mau is left alone on his (alternate) Pacific island after the tsunami strikes, and Daphne (or Ermintrude as she is called at first) is washed ashore off her English ship. They learn to understand each other as they go along, and as the island collects more survivors from elsewhere. Mau learns how to be a chief, despite his young age, and Daphne, played by Emily Taaffe,  becomes adept at making beer and spitting in it, and in helping babies being born, which is unusual for a 19th century girl whose father is 139th in line to the throne. She gives up her stays and switches to a straw skirt.

It was clear from the shocked gasps from the audience when *** that many hadn’t read the book, whereas your witch was able to be quite calm about it.

The novel has been changed a little, but I surprised myself by being surprised at how touching the end is. While providing entertainment and fun, Nation also gives us something to think about.How we live, how to make choices, how to run a country whether you are an island chief or the King of England.

And the parrot is great. Did I already mention that?

(Photo © Johan Persson – Jason Thorpe as Milton the parrot, Emily Taaffe as Daphne and Gary Carr as Mau)

How does a fruitfly lose its car keys?

I think I fell a little bit in love with Terry Pratchett when I saw the BBC snippet on his reaction to getting a knighthood back in December, or whenever it is that the list of new knights appears. I had seen him in real life before then, but here he was far more personal.

I’m still a little bit in love after Wednesday evening’s programme on BBC2 about Terry’s first year of living with the diagnosis of Alzheimers. The best news from the programme is that not only is Terry still as funny as before, but it seems it’s more his spelling that’s going, than his ability to think up new plots for books.

Terry’s search for more information, and hopefully a cure, is the natural progression for a man like him. And whereas it can’t ever be ‘nice’ for a famous person suddenly having to become a front figure for some illness or other, it could be that it will eventually be beneficial to others with that same illness. Terry’s assistant may have felt that the odd contraption Terry wore on his head (and I don’t mean his hat) was very Heath Robinson, but I felt it was straight out of Discworld.

The fact that Terry has always been a little unconventional is a good thing. It means that he’s not so different now. The change would be far worse for someone really strict and proper.

And it seems that fruitflies can be given Alzheimers, and then be cured of it. At least in the lab. But I don’t believe they had an answer as to how the fruitfly loses its car keys.