Every year when one of his books comes out (in paperback) I buy it, or more usually Caroline buys it for me, and I read with enjoyment, normally polishing it off in a day. And if he ever appears on television I’m always there watching, since my inner fanboy has never died. I particularly liked the program he did with the orang-utans, which was fascinating and laced all the way through with his humour. In one scene a massive male orang-utan came walking through the jungle, and when it crossed a wooden bridge the heavy sound of its massive weight coming down with every footstep would have been enough to get any sphincter quivering. He noted how those about him were breaking the speed record for the nonchalant walk as they departed the scene.
Last night I watched the first of two episodes of his program Living with Alzheimer’s, which was funny, sad, offered hope and took it away again. Mr Pratchett was very angry upon discovering he had this malady, and you can see his anger and frustration as he fails to knot his tie, or types slowly and makes constant mistakes. And the killer was watching him doing a reading and starting to lose it at the end, audience dead silent and some teary eyed. What a bummer. However, the humour was there right from the start with, “Hello, I’m Terry Pratchett … at least I think I am,” and there later when he wore something on his head that looked like a Dr Who prop. In the end that guy who always speaks in capital letters in hiss books (the Grim Reaper) can be less frightening than those who usher him through the door.
When I first heard the news that Terry Pratchett has got Alzheimer’s, I felt a little sick. It’s the kind of thing that rips up someone’s heart when it’s a family member and, because he is so well known and loved, there are millions who see him as part of their lives, he’s the humorous entertainer with the beard and wide-brimmed black hat, he’s the guy who regularly produces a book they want to read at once and which never disappoints. If you ever do an English course of any substance you learn the true definition of word tragedy – not how it is thoroughly misused by the media. To me the idea that a man who has entertained millions with wit, humour and an incisive intellect, with wisdom even, being gradually destroyed from inside his skull, that’s tragedy.