reLentless commuting: Day 23 (belated)

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Prachettmain_2334426bTerry Pratchett died today.

I found out on twitter in the middle of the day. I work in a small office, which isn’t so much open plan as a room with a bunch of desks; not the best environment for quiet sobbing.

A short walk and phone call to my long-suffering Mum later, I walked back into the silent office. I have no idea if I was missed or if they’d noticed my tears in the first place. Offices can be lonely places when you’re unable to share your grief, or your joy.

On the way home I read his last, heart-rending and poignant tweet to the world:

@terryandrob Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.I looked up at the people in the carriage with me and wondered how many of them might be mourning his passing, and the passing of his characters whose final chapters had already been written.

It’s rare that I don’t see someone reading a Pratchett book in any given month. It was more frequent before e-book readers denied fellow commuters visual eavesdropping on each other’s reading fare.

I wanted to clear my throat and tell the people around me that my favourite author had died, like I had a few hours earlier, only this time be met with something warmer than silence, by an affirmation that I wasn’t the only one. But I would probably just have cried again and embarrassed another bunch of people as they made their way home from work.

I met him once, when he was signing books in my hometown. My Mum had stood in the queue for me for several hours because I’d been in a play at school (see what I mean about long-suffering). When we finally got to the front I saw that he had his hand in a bowl of ice between signings, unfortunately as a star-struck and unemotionally intelligent tweenager I didn’t connect this well enough to desist from excitedly shaking his hand. He was remarkably gracious about the whole thing, a running theme among fans across the world.

My cousin and I traded mournful texts throughout the day. For over 20 years, Christmas has meant the latest Terry Pratchett book. In recent years these tended to get published in October, so led by our stubborn adherence to tradition, we would wait for Christmas day to finally get our hands on it. His wife and my boyfriend were on hand that evening to give us hugs: the sympathy that we could not (and perhaps should not?) expect from our workplace.

As an author, Pratchett leaves behind a wealth of humour and wit and insight and sheer unbounded creativity that I believe will remain loved and appreciated by many generations to come. His death is not the end: new readers will discover his work and for them it won’t matter that he died today. At least, not until they read his last book and realise they must mourn the death of his characters and and the Discworld as he imagined it.

When this Lent is over I will raise a bottle of Discworld Ale in his honour.

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