I had the joy of meeting Terry Pratchett one summer in 1996 when I worked in Forbidden Planet in Dublin. I say joy, well I had the experience of him. As a 15 year old work placement kid I had the task of making him a cup of tea. I did not drink tea. My parents made their own tea. Yet, I struggled on, figuring “how hard can it be?”
I made Terry tea, placed some biscuits on a plate and brought them to the table he was preparing for a book signing at. He smiled, thanked me for the tea, then asked for some sugar. I brought sugar. He asked for milk. I brought milk. I did not realise these were things people wanted in their tea. Or, that loose leaves need to not just go in the mug like the instant coffee I’d been making for the past week. I learnt how to make tea correctly, taught in our small dingy canteen, and how he would like me to continually deliver him tea. Which I did.
I cannot explain how sad I was today when I heard that he had died. That makes three of my favourite authors not alive. Mr. Gaimen, don’t even think of it. Mr. Banks and Sir Pratchett are not in need of your company.
The Discworld was a turning point in my ability to read. Not in a “I didn’t learn to read until I was 14” kind of reading, but learning to read into a story, the nuances, political ideas, the delightful wit and knob jokes. They are probably the reason I write as I do, with less knob jokes though.
My first Discworld book was Small Gods. I chose it because it had a man, strapped to a metal turtle, being tortured. My mother didn’t get it. Or how over the next several years I started to deviate from my beliefs and look for something more, something that was real and not shadowed in faith. So, in a way Terry taught me not to believe in gods, but to believe in people. And how to make tea.
The thought of no more Rincewind, no more Nobby, no more swamp dragons makes me deeply depressed. But they are still there, in words, on paper, forever recorded. For others to discover, love, read.
I think I’ll make some tea. Correctly.