I came fairly late to the appreciation of Pratchett, and to the Discworld in particular: in 1991 I was looking for a subject to be the main project of my diploma show for the last year of my model-making course, and was introduced by my brother to ‘The Colour of Magic’, a tale already nearly ten years old. The description of the Discworld struck a chord, and became my immediate obsession as the new major project for the show. I just managed to finish the piece on time, it was a very involved model – the turtle, the elephants, the Disc – but was proud to have achieved it, even though it curried little favour in my overall grade or otherwise.
At the end of college, we had our last recession, and I ended up being unemployed for nearly three years. The Discworld had meanwhile been consigned to my parents’ attic, and would probably have stayed there as it was rather too large to be displayed in the house; but it so happened that my mum had learned of a book-signing event in the nearby city – happening the day she called from her workplace about it! – and that she’d contacted the bookstore, who had asked to borrow the model for the event. Naturally its time in the attic had left the Discworld a little the worse for wear, so some last-minute emergency fixings had to be done, again just scraping by in the available time.
Meanwhile I joined the back of the book-signing queue, and got to be very honoured by the fact that the actual Terry Practchett stopped for a while – even though he had a car waiting to whisk him away – to offer me praise for my work – which was worth much more to me than any consideration (or lack of it) given by my diploma-invigilators. It was far more gracious than he needed to have been, but then he went a massive step further, and bought the model from me right there and then! I came home absolutely buzzing, greatly lifted from the depression of my failings in life…
A few years later, just sitting down to Christmas dinner at my brother’s house, we were watching the freshly-made adaptation of Pratchett’s ‘The Hogfather’, when I nearly dropped my dinner – my model was in the background of a travelling shot in the toyshop! We were recording the show, and so of course rewound at the first opportunity to be sure we hadn’t imagined it – and yes, there it was! Totally made my Christmas.
I’ve always regretted that I never managed to properly thank Sir Terry for those two special moments: I did write to the publishers at the time of the model-sale but I don’t know if the letter ever made it through the post; and of course I more recently tried to say a hello or two via social media, but with so many folks trying to contact him on a daily basis I didn’t expect my post to stand out amongst the crowd, and I’ve never felt that I ought to be any more pushy about it – the plain facts of him having bought it from me, and then actually including it in the adaptation, were greater than any expectations I could have had for a left-in-the-attic bit of diploma-daftness. It was so gracious of him to have done any of that, and I can’t thank him enough – for that, and of course for all the books, that have brought me through several low periods in life whenever a laugh’s been needed. Much as the Pratchett family must be of course feeling very low now, I’m sure they can also look back at many a laugh over the years – and though I’m sure the words of this one small fan, who was so hugely moved by his graciousness – will be of little consolation, I wish them all the best at this time. In the short chat I had with him as last-in-line at the book-signing, it was clear he was a grand lad, and it’s such a sad shame he’s gone so soon.
Thankyou Mister P.