Terry Pratchett and the 13th floor

We went to see Terry Pratchett last night, which was a highly entertaining evening. We skipped the free wine (I don’t like drinking when I’ve got to get up for work in the morning, and MrPloppy isn’t supposed to drink with the pills he’s on anyway), and the woman from The Press doing the interview was obviously more used to written journalism (her incompetence was rather sweet actually – she’d obviously read one of those books on public speaking that tell you to write your notes on little cards that you can discretely hold in the palm of your hand; which would have been fine except for the fact that she also had to hold a microphone (I’m not sure why they only had a lapel mike for Pratchett, and not one for her as well), so her introduction went along the lines of “Tonight we welcome [pause to put down microphone and flip to next card] Terry Pratchett, who is, of course, [pause for next card] the author of the best-selling [pause for next card] Discworld series…” – you get the idea. At least things improved once she’d got the welcome out of the way, because then she could get the next card ready while he was answering the question.), but Pratchett made up for it – he’s a brilliant speaker in his own special way: he rambles on and takes forever to actually answer the question, but the asides and anecdotes are so funny that you don’t care about the original question anyway. And best of all, he seems to actually enjoy his fans, despite the annoyances (classic example: at the end of the interview, he was going to do a book signing, and said that as there were 600 people in the audience, he was going to have to limit what he signed to only his most recent few books, and listed them. Of course, someone called out from the audience “but what about…” There was a bit of banter between them, and in the end he sighed and said he’d change the rules, and sign anything, but only three books per person, and as long as none of them were soup-covered copies of Good Omens held together with cellotape. I’ve been to other author signings where they will only sign the book they’re promoting, and only if you buy it at the signing, but there was definitely no sign of that kind of attitude).

We didn’t stick around to have anything signed – the queue was predictably huge, and I’ve already got a couple of books signed by Pratchett from when I was in the UK, so we decided to make our escape. The talk had been in the conference room on the 14th floor of the Grand Chancellor Hotel (which is one of Christchurch’s top-end hotels – when we arrived, we got into the lift, and the lift attendant immediately said “14th floor?” – I asked him if it was that obvious that we weren’t guests, and he just smiled), and there was a small crowd waiting for the lifts, so we decided to go down the stairs instead. I love the stairs in posh hotels – they’re always in the “behind the scenes” part of the hotel, so you walk through the door discretely marked “Exit” and suddenly go from luxury to basic – all concrete block walls and no carpet – and then when you get to the bottom, you step back out (through another discretely hidden door) into the luxuriousness of the lobby. I suppose they assume that people who can afford to stay in that sort of hotel will never take the stairs!

Anyway, I took the opportunity to be the first person to bookcross in the Grand Chancellor – I left a book on the 13th floor landing (I was kicking myself I hadn’t thought to find a second-hand copy of a Discworld book to release!). Quite a few of the other people waiting for the lift followed us down the stairs, so the chances are one of them will have picked it up – otherwise, I suppose it will be found by one of the hotel staff – certainly not by one of the guests!

Currently reading The Meaning of It All by Richard Feynman and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

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