Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...
Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorary degree ceremony at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man with a big scythe and mounted on an impossibly white steed arrived to pick up the soul of one Sir Terry Pratchett, aged 66 today. Pratchett, for those who’ve lived in a literary black hole for the last thirty years or so, was the genius behind the Discworld novels and all the history, back story and associated paraphernalia with the fantasy land he’d created.

I was introduced to Discworld by a handful of friends at school who latched on to them a little earlier than I did – Indy and Richard were the main guilty parties if I remember correctly. From reading The Colour of Magic I was hooked.

Annoyingly Terry Pratchett was a hugely prodigious author, chucking out a couple of books a year which made collecting his works quite pricey. On the other hand, they were almost without exception work paying for. Some of my favourite reads of all time flowed from his wonderfully creative mind, including Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

What made his work stand out, to me, was the way he wrote rather than what he wrote. The fantasy world he created was as good as any other which flowed from the pens and keyboards of many an author but his humorous style was second to none. With a bevy of pop culture references in his novels (annotated guides appeared on the internet many years ago which I downloaded, printed and promptly lost while at university), there was an extra layer to the stories which gave them an extra level of re-readability.

What I truly appreciated about him, though, was his eagerness to engage with his readers. Along with Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took to the internet with aplomb in its earlier days as a publicly accessible network and regularly posted on, a newsgroup on the old usenet system. I remember him asking questions about the physics surrounding someone randomly teleporting from one place to another, and the input from respondents was used in (I think) The Last Continent.

He regularly did signing tours and would sign anything and everything he was given… with a different quote in each. I attended two signings in one day in Leeds many years ago, between which I think he signed about 15 books I had. Each one annotated “Best Wishes”, “More Best Wishes”, “Son of Best Wishes” and so on. He added drawings and stamps to his repertoire as the years went on.

And then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One of the most active and creative literary minds of our generation was being eaten away from within. A more cruel punishment for a person I cannot imagine. Yet, despite this, he ploughed on. He still had stories to tell and no damn debilitating mental condition was going to stop him.

Utilising copious notes and voice recognition software to allow him to keep track of the plots while writing as quickly as possible, and with the aid of friends and family, his output slowed but did not stop. Did he need to write more to pay the mortgage? No. He wrote because he was good at it, enjoyed it an – most importantly – other people got happiness from something he did. And also to piss off the Alzheimer’s, a condition he called an “embuggerance”.

And now that creative mind has ceased to function. News was released some months ago that his daughter Rhianna would take over the Discworld when her father passed, and on her capable (trust me, I’ve read some of her stuff) shoulders that responsibility now lies.

Thank you, PTerry (sic). Thank you for seventy-plus novels of laughs. Thank you for being one of many people who engendered in me a genuine love for the written word and how beautifully it can be crafted.

Enjoy that final ride on Binky. Such a brilliant moniker that we named our last dog after him. I just wish your hourglass had been that bit bigger.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory:

Today’s first

Today I carried my first coffin.

Today I said a final goodbye to the first of my two grandmothers.

There was a great turnout for the funeral. Lovely to see so many members of the family who I so rarely encounter. As my gran requested, there was nothing overboard or ostentatious. Just a nice church service, a few words from a minister and a pleasant late lunch for the 60-or-so who turned up.

I overheard my little cousin asking her mum, “Is that granny gone now?”

Yes, Louise. She is. And the world’s that little bit less bright as a result.

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RIP Granny Annie 1922 – 2010

After a very brief and sudden illness, one of my grans passed on this morning.

It’s been a while since I posted anything actually personal on this blog, but I feel this justifies a few words. I only wish I had a decent photo to go with it. Unfortunately all the pics I have of her are actual old-fashioned ones on paper, stored in a drawer a few miles away and I don’t have access to a scanner anyway.

Instead I’ll have to paint you a picture with words. She was 88, which is a great innings by any standard. The thing is, I don’t really remember her looking any different in all the years I knew her. She was just my gran. The little old lady with the white hair who fussed over me and kept buying me sweets. My kind of woman.

If I had to pick one character trait of my gran that stood out more than any other, it was that she always went out of her way to make other people’s lives easier. She was always there to help and hated being a burden on anyone else. Right up to the end she was fussing over us when we visited her in hospital as we were going to far too much trouble on her account.

One thing I remember her telling me only a couple of years ago is how her cooking wasn’t up to that of my other gran. She could “only” manage to rustle up a ham roll on the afternoon I visited.

Let me tell you something – and I bet all of you who know/knew your grannies will agree – a ham sandwich put together by a little old lady who means the world to you is more tasty and nourishing than any 5-course meal slaved over by some self-important TV chef.

I have loads of memories of my gran and I’m really happy to say that I managed to see her quite a bit over the last few months once I returned to the UK. Something I’d not have managed had I stayed down in England or continued travelling abroad.

Right up until the end I don’t think she appreciated how special she was to all of us. The thought simply wouldn’t have occurred to her. She was just… herself.

And that’s why I loved her and why I’ll miss her.

R.I.P. Ed :(

Pussy in a tight hole
R.I.P. little fella

Before I left the UK to go travelling in 2006 I had two lovely cats. Both were adopted from other places – KK from random chav neighbours who moved house and abandoned her, Ed from a friend who had to move house and couldn’t take him with her.

Anni, being sweet and lovely, volunteered to take them both in for me while I was away. This was when I was only going to be out of the country for 6 months… and not the three-and-a-bit years it ended up being. Oops. So off I drove to deepest, darkest Cardiff to deliver them to their new carer.

That was the hardest moment before leaving the UK for me. Anni will tell you – I cried. Just before I left and I saw my cats for almost the last time Anni cuddled me and I cried. I am a soppy git, but I love my animals.

When I came back to the UK after 18 months for a short visit, I saw both of them. By that time, Ed was doing a good impression of a Manx having had to have his tail removed. We never did find out what caused the problem, but first the tip and then the whole thing had to be surgically snipped as he was suffering a lot of pain.

Anni got a new job and couldn’t look after the pussies any more. Fortunately, she found good homes for both.

Up till now, that was the story. There is, however, a very sad new chapter. And the final one for Ed.

Today his new owners found him outside, stone dead, with not a mark on him. They took him to the vet who reckons he was clipped by a car and died instantly. So thankfully he didn’t suffer.

He was a lovely cat. Never any trouble, very playful and I always missed him. I’m so sad I won’t get to see him again.

R.I.P. Ed 🙁

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