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British Expat Newsletter:
23 July 2008

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Thud!
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Those of you who’ve been receiving the newsletter for some time will know that we think it’s a shame that the media can’t celebrate our best-loved public figures while we still have them with us, rather than leaving it until they’ve died before paying tribute. (The thing which set off this thought in our heads was a wonderful show the BBC put on a couple of years back about Johnny Morris, presenter of Animal Magic and narrator of Tales Of The Riverbank, who had died in 1999.)

Anyway, in that spirit, we’d like to take our hats off to a famous hat-wearer: fantasy author Terry Pratchett.

Pterry (as many of his fans call him) is, of course, a hugely successful author in terms of sales. He was the UK’s top selling author in the 1990s and still sells vast numbers of books, although he’s been overtaken in recent years by J K Rowling. (To be honest, we’ve only contributed to the sales figures since about 2002 – our excuse is that we were initially put off by Josh Kirby’s cover illustrations. We’ve made up for lost time since then, though.)

Why the success? Well, top of the list must be the books themselves; they’re fantastically inventive stories, about characters who display the whole gamut of quirks, flaws and virtues to be found in human life – even if many of the characters aren’t, strictly speaking, human. And they’re chock full of humour, much of it based on clever cultural references embracing elements not just of “pop” culture, but also of some of the greatest treasures that human civilisation has created during its existence.

But then there’s the man, too. Terry Pratchett must be one of the most accessible authors around; he’s amazingly energetic when it comes to attending book signings, often staying well beyond the time the shop’s supposed to have closed to deal with the massive queues that invariably form. (A standing joke among his fan community is that of these vast numbers of books, the more valuable ones are the ones which haven’t been signed!) He attends fan conventions all over the world, and has been communicating with them online (via the newsgroup alt.fan.pratchett) ever since 1992. You can’t escape the feeling that this is a big-hearted and modest man who loves life and people.

Inevitably a world as rich as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld® has inspired other people to come up with spinoffs, and he’s been generous in encouraging them to do so. For instance, in 1991 civil servant Stephen Briggs approached Pterry for permission to write a stage adaptation of one of the books for his local am-dram club. He’s now written several more. In many of the original productions he’s played Lord Vetinari, the über-Machiavellian ruler of the Discworld’s largest city-state, Ankh-Morpork. For many DW fans he is Vetinari in the same way that Tom Baker is Doctor Who – he even represented Ankh-Morpork when it was “twinned” with Wincanton in Somerset. (Sadly, Whitehall officials refused to allow the twinning to stand.)

Out of curiosity, while we were stuck in the UK in 2005, we made a detour to Wincanton while we were on our way back to London from a visit to the West Country. Part of the reason was to see if any of the “Twinned with Ankh-Morpork” signs remained (one did). The other part was that we’d heard of a shop called “The Cunning Artificer” selling Discworld-related merchandise and acting as the Ankh-Morpork Consulate, and we were curious to go and see it. We found it and were made very welcome by the proprietors, the wonderful Bernard and Isobel Pearson. (We also bought a copy of the Discworld game “Thud!”, a deceptively simple board game of dwarfs versus trolls. The moves may be easy, but the tactics and strategy are a lot more complex than they look…)

It seems dreadfully cruel that such a fertile and creative mind as Terry Pratchett’s should be struck by early-onset Alzheimer’s. In 2007 He was misdiagnosed as having had a minor stroke in 2004 or 2005, but in December 2007 he put out an announcement (entitled “An embuggerance”) of the true diagnosis. Typically, he maintained a humorous outlook, commenting that he would “chew the arse out of a dead mole” if there was even the slightest scientific evidence that it would help bring about a cure. However, he’s also thrown his weight (and a million US dollars) behind the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, having discovered that Alzheimer’s research receives only 3% of the funding that cancer does, despite having as many sufferers. (A move which immediately inspired Pterry fans to set up a campaign, Match It For Pratchett, aiming to raise the same amount for the ART. Set up in mid-March, the campaign had already raised several thousand dollars by the end of the month, although they’re now recommending that donations go direct to the ART.)

You’ll find a link to the ART in our Virtual Snacks below; please support them if you can.

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

Terry Pratchett gave an interview recently to Mark Lawson of the BBC. It’s currently available on {link obsolete – the BBC had it pulled for copyright reasons.].

The Cunning Artificer has a website too! You can find out all about Bernard, Isobel and Hilary – and buy lots of Discworld goodies online!

You can find out more about Alzheimer’s and the efforts to combat this dreadful disease at the Alzheimer’s Research Trust website.

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • hitler s mountain pavilion
  • large portrait at the funeral
  • what is ginger beer icecream
  • learn morse with cellphone
  • the night before christmas in lingo other than english
  • bingo manager job
  • france flag swizzle
  • vulture hood mascot
  • clotted cream wiki
  • chastity belts spikes store

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”

– Terry Pratchett, fantasy writer (1948- )

Joke

We usually have a joke here, but this week we’ve got a bit of a treat for you – here’s Terry Pratchett telling a joke!

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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