It’s a beautiful autumn evening in Sydney, a few rain clouds left in the sky from the dredging the previous night and hundreds of people walking along the Quay. Ryan and I walk up the steps of the Sydney Opera House, I can feel the butterflies playing dodge ball in my stomach, not long now and I can see the man who changed my life.
I suppose I ought to start at the beginning…imagine an 11 year old girl, soon to be 12 sitting in front of a grainy TV watching possibly the strangest cartoon she has ever seen. Obviously she has missed the start of the series and is somewhere in the middle, yet the story grabs her attention immediately. Three witches are plotting with the ghost of a king to de-throne an evil duke…”Wyrd Sisters” it was called, it seemed like something she could get into.
She tunes in again over the coming weeks, the more she watches it, the more she falls in love. One day, while watching the credits, she notices that it is based on a book by someone called Terry Pratchett. She was already a bookworm (thanks to the influence of her mother), and the books at the school library no longer entertained her, she found them to be rather childish. During her family’s usual Saturday morning trek to the state library she decided to find the book this amazing cartoon was based on. This wasn’t the first time she had raided the ‘grown up’ section of the library so she knew exactly where to go. After finding ‘P’ for Pratchett, she discovered a number of books written by the same man, but the one she wanted wasn’t there. She searched for it on the library computer and put her name on the waiting list, in a few weeks she would have it in her hands.
Weeks passed and finally, one Saturday morning it had arrived. As soon as she got home she began to read. At first she found it a little bit difficult. It wasn’t written like any other book she had read, yet that didn’t stop her. As she read the words on the pages, a little light flared in her soul. This was something new, something different, she felt her eyes open to a whole new world of possibilities, it may have been her first real introduction to sarcasm…her mother didn’t approve of this.
Too soon the end came, but it wasn’t really the end. She noticed in the front of the book a list of other titles, clearly this was part of a series, the Discworld series, and as such she must start from the beginning! On her very next trip to the library she ordered the first book, one called “Colour of Magic”…it sounded promising. And so a life long affair began. It took her years to read them all in order, having to order and wait weeks even months for each one. But soon enough (well more like 5 or 6 years) she finally caught up, by this stage she had money of her own and could buy the books instead of waiting to borrow them. Each book added another piece to the puzzle of “self” she was building; each line took her further into a world she didn’t want to leave. Over the years she went from being a very shy little girl, to a woman, confident in the fact that she was different from everyone else, and that this was ok.
Over the years she never found many other authors who would also influence her life heavily, but none more so than the strange man in a hat…Terry Pratchett.
This brings us to approximately 1:00pm on the 6/4/2011. After finding out that the Discworld convention was again being held in Australia she was disappointed that she had missed out again. Roaming the website while sitting in her cubicle at work she noticed an advertisement for the Opera House. After reading it, and then reading it again to make sure, she almost cried out in joy! Sir Terry Pratchett was speaking at the Opera House in only a few days’ time. Suddenly reality hit her, with the convention in town and the number of fans that already knew about it, what chance did she have to get a seat and meet her hero? She opened the site for the Opera House and looked at the current events…there he was. On the million to one chance (that happens nine times out of ten) there were still tickets available she clicked on the link. A small cry left her lips, there were tickets left! How could this be? Panic started to rise in her chest, she quickly messages her husband and asked, no begs, to get tickets. “Of course!” he says without hesitation, she almost dies of happiness. Before she orders her tickets, she notices that there is a competition running for 100 lucky fans to meet the man himself. She quickly enters the code word and selects some seats…SUCCESS!!!! She’s going to see Terry Pratchett and if she’s lucky enough she will be selected to meet him! She can’t quite believe it, a wave of euphoria overwhelms her and she sits in stunned silence for a moment. Quickly she tells all her friends and family what’s happening, they are all happy (some jealous) for her.
Fast forward 10 days.
Monday 11/4/2011: She gets a phone call from her sister saying that her other sister is in hospital in Melbourne with suspected appendicitis. She quickly organises a flight to Melbourne to be there when her sister wakes up from the surgery. Luckily her sister is ok, but she stays for a few days just to be sure. Flying back to Canberra on Wednesday night, she begins to think about the competition and wonders if there will be an email waiting for her at home saying that she has won. She arrives home and after settling down, her husband reminds her to check her email. There isn’t one. A little upset, but not too hurt, she is content in the knowledge that she will at least get to see him talk.
Thursday 14/4/2011: Morning arrives, she gets to work early to try and catch up on the days she missed. She sits down at her desk and turns on her computer. The “You have new email” pop up appears on her desktop, 21 new emails. She begins at the bottom, wading her way through meetings and notes until she reached the last and most recent email. It’s from the Opera House, she forgot that she had used her work email to buy the tickets…quickly she opens it…”CONGRATULATIONS!” it says, “You have been selected as one of only one-hundred ticket holders to have your book personalised by Sir Terry Pratchett”! Her heart is racing, she can’t believe what she’s seeing! Quickly she called her husband and squeals down the phone that she won! She is so high, she is going to meet him, not just be in the same room, but actually meet him! Panic sets in, what book should she bring, she’s only allowed one…what should she say! Right now none of that matters, she tells herself, you need to settle down and get to work. The daily grind begins.
Friday 15/4/2011: The work week is over, but now she has a very important decision to make. What book will she bring to get signed. She sits with her husband in front of her overflowing bookcase and begins a process of elimination. She desperately wants to get “Night Watch” signed as it is one of her favourite, but it’s only a paperback copy and hardbacks are better to get signed. She looks at the Tiffany Aching series, “I Shall Wear Midnight” tempts her, but “Wintersmith” has already been signed for her (a gift from a friend of my mother) and she wants to share the love. After pondering for a few minutes she decides on “Thud!”. It’s the only hardback copy of the Night Watch series she has, and it was also a good book (but they’re all good books!). Packing begins.
Saturday 16/4/2011: The bus to Sydney was a shambles, but they made it. It’s wet in Sydney, quickly they run to their hotel. Football is the first order of business. Geelong versus Sydney at the SCG. It was a good game, she felt sorry for the poor guys out in the cold and wet, but anticipation was building.
Back to the beginning…
Sunday 17/4/2011: The day has finally arrived. Today I meet my hero. It starts at 5pm, I have hours to waste before we can go. I wonder around the streets of Sydney hoping to find a hard copy of “Night Watch” just in case (also to see if he’s doing any sneaky signings in store, alas no), but I was unsuccessful. Not to worry, I still have “Thud!”. Slowly the hours tick by, each minute increases my anticipation. Finally we make our way down to the Opera House, we walk past a couple of convention goers, clearly they are here to see him too. I spot a number of other likely people, some with books, others without. Into the Opera House we go…
We make our way up the stairs, we are right in the very back row in the corner, but I don’t care! We wait outside the door as others start to trickle in. 25 minutes before it starts, I’m feeling very nervous and excited! I still have no idea what I’m going to say to him, I hope I don’t make a fool of myself. There are lots of people here from all walks of life, it never ceases to amaze me the diversity of Discworld fans, he truly is a universal author.
Not long now…so glad Ryan is here with me, there’s no one else in the world who I would rather share this moment with. After all, Terry Pratchett is the reason we are together in the first place!
They should be letting us in soon….
And we’re in! Cameras are flashing, even though there is a ‘no photography’ policy…yes I have my camera too!
The feeling of being in a room with thousands of people who think the same way you do is overwhelming. For so long I thought I was the odd one out…turns out the amount of ‘odd’ people out number the ‘normal’ people 10 to 1!
Just got told off for using my camera…don’t think that that’s going to stop me though! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity (turns off flash)! Pity we are so far back, I can’t get a clear shot. Oh well.
HE’S HERE!!!! I think I just died of happiness. A brief introduction with Garth Nix and then a reading of Snuff by one of his companions.
Snuff sounds amazing, another Night Watch book!
He seems a little uncomfortable, you can notice the effect of the Alzheimer’s. Long pauses and a sense of being lost. Yet he has lost none of his humour.
He spoke about a lot of things, the success of his books, his childhood, religion and how it plays a big role in his books (he’s humanist, he calls it “hedging his bets”). He speaks about being a “fantasy” writer in a time where fantasy was looked down upon by most people and how he never really intended to be called a fantasy writer. “You put in one lousy dragon and the bastards call you a fantasy writer!” he says, “Fantasy was allowed indoors as long as it wipes its feet and eats its meals in the kitchen”.
He talks about his campaign to legalise assisted suicide (assisted death) in the UK, it’s an interesting topic and clearly something he firmly believes in.
Teeth throwing has ensued. At the mention of Hogfather, Garth Nix pulls out bags of teeth from the set and he and Terry begin to throw them into the crowd. The people up front are so lucky!
The end is near, but before he goes Garth mentions that it is almost Terry’s birthday…so a couple of thousand fans all sing Happy Birthday to him in the Opera House. Amazing!
And now he’s gone. It was incredible. He is such an insightful man. I make my way down the stairs to the waiting area, promising to meet Ryan afterwards. I’m one of the first ones there, but slowly more people arrive. I glance around at the books others have brought to get signed, “I Shall Wear Midnight” and “The Last Continent” are popular, but so are “Nation” and “Guards! Guards!”.
Here he comes! He’s so much smaller in real life, not much taller than me! He makes his way up the stairs and is less than a metre from me, “don’t worry, we have more teeth” he says, people cheer. He walks down the line talking to people as he goes, “inspecting the troops” he says. He heads back to the table with his entourage and it begins. I grab my camera and try to sneakily take photos…success! Only 7 or 8 people to go before it’s my turn…getting really nervous now! Here I go…I hand over my book, he looks at me, I look at him and say “Thank you so very much”, he says with a smile “that’s ok” and then continues talking about the piles of teeth he has in his garage. I grab two teeth, but want to get some for my friends so I grab a few more. And as quickly as it began, it’s over. I’m on a high! I find a spot to take another sneaky photo and leave. I kind of wish I had stayed behind now, but the staff were ushering us out.
I walk out with a smile on my face and teeth in my hand. It’s been a good day.