I woke up this morning as I would on any other day, alarm sounded, arm wildly flailed to find the snooze button, hop out of bed, pull on some shorts, turn on phone and head to the kitchen to make some toast. After my blood test I buttered my toast, sat down and started checking my messages, I had been tagged in a post on Facebook by my friend Ian, so I opened Facebook and went to see what he was drawing my attention to.
This is how I learned of the death of Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE.
Our cat had decided to spend the night outside, this is unusual for him, so Deanne got out of bed to open the back door and call for him. After being outside for seven hours the cat came in and used his litter tray immediately, rather than taking the more sensible option of relieving himself in the garden, but I digress.
I felt numb, but not as sad as I would expect, reading the article from the Independent newspaper. I walked through to the bathroom and held the phone out to Deanne to show her the news and as she said ‘oh no’ I burst into tears. I think that sharing the news with her had made it real. She asked me if I was alright and I didn’t answer, because I was not.
To explain why let me take you back in time to 1988. I was a prolific reader, even when I was 13, and begged, stole and borrowed any book I could get my hands on to devour the words held within. One day my eldest brother, Paul, had just finished a new (second hand) one. As usual, I asked if it was alright if I read it then took it before he had a chance to answer.
I started reading and found that I couldn’t put it down. I laughed so much that I cried, then I actually did have to put the book down in several places because I couldn’t control my body for the humorous convulsions taking it over.
The book was about an inept, cowardly Wizzard (not wizard), living on a flat world carried on the back of four elephants, standing on the back of a colossal turtle named Great A’Tuin. The magician was called Rincewind and he had been tasked with looking after the Discworld’s first ever tourist, a friendly bespectacled man with a profusion of gold, coming as he did from the Counterweight Continent. The book was called The Light Fantastic.
I finished reading, put it down and immediately counted up my meagre savings to see if I would be able to afford the first book in the series, which was called The Colour of Magic, thankfully I could and so, at my first convenience, I did so.
This is how I came to know Terry Pratchett, and how I became ensconced in his worlds and words. At first I just had to get the books, no matter how, so for a time I bought them when they came out in paperback, as it was more affordable, but as I got more and more entrenched in the fabulous places and people it started to become an addiction.
I would investigate the release dates and make sure I had enough funds at my disposal and a free morning in which to visit the local bookstore so I could get there first thing in the morning, buy a first edition hardback copy of whatever the latest one was, then spend the rest of the day in repose on the sofa letting the characters, situations, stories and puns (or plays on words) bathe my mind in a glorious warm glow of happiness.
To put this in context, my wife and I met about 13 years ago, it is our twelfth wedding anniversary and 13th anniversary of being a couple at the end of this month and I love her, and our son, more than I can put into words. Having said that, I met Terry (in a metaphorical sense, although I was lucky enough to see him in the flesh as well) 27 years ago and although I didn’t know the man, exactly, I have loved his words for longer than I have been growing hair on my face, I had Terry before I had my first job, he was with me through the good times, the bad times, the happy and sad times, he helped me cope when life was at its toughest and added to the euphoria when things were at their best.
This is why I will miss Sir Terry more than I can say, I have read almost everything he has ever written, I own a good deal of his work in first edition hardback, have a folder containing newspaper articles and short online pieces I discovered over the years, and only just got hold of A Slip of the Keyboard. I feel like I know him as well, or better even, than I know some of my closest family members.
The hole that his passing is going to leave in my life is irreplaceable. The only positive twinkle being that I have an enormous library of his scrawlings, from The Carpet People, first released in 1971 three years before my own arrival into the human race, to the final message on Twitter, which I suspect he had quite a hand in crafting. I will read these again and again, as I always have, and I will get pleasure from knowing that he would have appreciated he was making someone’s life a better one.
Terry Pratchett was not just my favourite author, he was a part of my family and I will miss him as such.
Here’s hoping Death was kind, giving him a pat on the back and offering to carry his typewriter.