“You are not obliged to say anything, but anything you do say may be taken down in writing and used in evidence”
I must admit to saying that more than a few times some forty odd years ago, but somehow unless you keep a diary there is little writ down on the day to day doings of life, even when they become a pivotal moment in your fortunes from then on.
So dear reader, I made no notes, but I have the best archive ever in Isobel and other fellow travellers plus of course my imagination.
After all my darlings this is a story.
Its foundations were some years in the past but in our meanderings in the world created by Terry Pratchett you could say it really started here.
So, if you’re sitting comfortably then Uncle Bernard will begin.
‘Here’ was Covent Garden, ‘when’ was June 1990.
An article had appeared in the Sunday Telegraph colour supplement which previewed Terry’s latest book: Guard! Guards! This had excited the interest of a ‘man in a suit business consultant’ who was working with us at the time. Isobel had heard a reading of ‘The Colour of Magic’ on Radio 4 in 1985 and as a result bought and read all the available Discworld books. Then I read and also enjoyed them hugely. It took an outsider to join the dots and recognise a commercial synergy between the sort of things we were making (humorous fantasy figurines), and what Terry was creating in his books.
A dialogue opened up with Terry’s agent Colin Smythe and we met up with him in London. Once the principles had been established it was down to meeting Terry himself. At that time there were no ‘real’ Discworld characterisations other than those produced as book covers by Josh Kirby. Great art, fun covers but not exactly helpful. We were advised to steer clear of those and Terry, no mean artist himself, faxed us drawings to give us some idea of what was in his mind. Over the years this process became so slick he only had to say what character he had seen on film or TV and we were on to it, but that’s a whole other story.
So with a very concise sketch and a few years of experience in making any number of wizards from Gandalf onwards I started modelling Rincewind. The wax finished up at about 14 cm. tall. I tried to get that haunted look along with his whole body signalling ‘hangdog’ plus the tatty clothes, battered hat with misspelt sequins and of course his pendant. I thought I had got it about right; working to that scale was never easy and knowing that anyone who read the books would be judging what we had produced certainly sharpened the mind. But that was nothing compared to the prospect of showing it to the man who had created such a fantastic and rich universe and had granted me permission to turn aspects of it to something tangible that anyone could see and hold.
The only other writer I had taken ideas from at that stage was dear old Tolkien. Not many laughs there I can tell you but great images from wonderful storyteller and of course dead, which certainly helped when it came to deciding the ‘look’ of a character.
So here I was about to meet with a man who told pictures in words, could draw and had the final say on anything that was made under his name. No pressure then!
I remember it being a hot day and we met at lunch time or just after as Terry had been to see his publishers not far from Covent Garden. We knew he would be at a café and indeed he was. We sat down next to him, me clutching a cardboard box in which nestled this rather fragile lump of wax, which liked heat as much as a chocolate kettle and with the same propensity to morph into a shapeless lump if subjected to anything warmer than a mortician’s handshake.
There was no preamble, a brief ‘hello’ and it was ‘open the box’. I think he was as excited as we were, after all, suddenly words into something you could put on a mantelpiece. I carefully and oh so mindfully opened the box and took out the wax model, which was securely fixed to a small piece of square board by its base, and put it on the table. Terry and Rincewind looked at each other. Terry stretched out his hand and taking hold of the base board lifted it to eye level so he could really see it clearly. I waited my heart in mouth and nervous as hell. Terry looked at me and spoke.
Just then from only a few meters away a Bavarian Oompah band struck up with earth shattering jollity interspersed with the hearty slapping of thighs that seems to accompany this form of Teutonic torture. I didn’t hear a word the dear man said, not a single word! Our entire conversation was carried out between gaps in this wall of sound and all the while the sun beat down on my wax model. Every time I tried to put it in some form of shade provided by our beer glasses so Terry picked it up to examine it once more. His verdict: it needed only an adjustment to Rincewind’s eight-sided pendant and it would be just right.
Well you can guess the huge relief and shaking his hand on the deal I knocked the ruddy box on the floor. Thank the gods that Terry had taken Rincewind out for one more look before we departed. The ‘suit’ and I made our way back to Woolpit and the very next day this piece was being moulded and put into production and I with Leigh Pamment started on Granny Weatherwax, Two Flower and the others.
It was the beginning. The first of many meetings, projects and collaborations which continued until my good friend’s passing earlier this year.
Finally, this – to me, well it says it all.