Francine: [00:00:00] and I’m wearing pyjama bottoms, one of the few perks of living in the end times.
Francine: So your eyes are working as, uh, God did not intend now
Joanna: Exactly. I can see. It’s amazing.
Francine: you’ve got lasers in them. Is that how
Joanna: Yes. That’s how it works. Laser eye surgery is weird, very surreal. This is also, I’m only just allowed to wear makeup again. So I’ve gone overkill today.
Francine: No, it’s good. Your wings look, whatever the correct compliment is. Sharp, is sharp correct?
Joanna: Yes. Yes. On fleek.
Francine: Yeah. No, I can’t say that
Joanna: there are very few complimentary things I can say without sounding sarcastic.
Francine: anyway. Yes. You can see properly now and light sensitivity is gone and all that?
Joanna: Mostly. It’s still a bit rah, and too many hours staring at a screen is not great for me.
Francine: Have you got some orange lenses?
Joanna: uh, no I haven’t, but um, I’ve got the blue light filter on, on the laptop, which helps.
Francine: Oh, that’s the same thing. Pretty much. Yeah.
Joanna: Yeah. And I’ve got, um, my TV, I’ve just set the brightness way down for now.
A, it’s at a distance and B it’s so rare I’m actually fully paying attention to anything I’m watching ever.
Francine: speaking of TV. Fuck Downton. Jesus.
Joanna: Oh God.
Francine: if, if this goes in the show: listeners, I, a decade after it finished, I think, was persuaded to watch Downton. And I just got to a bit with a scene that I hate and now I don’t feel like watching the rest of it, so…
Joanna: I meant to warn you when you were talking about, uh, like content warnings and things. And then I thought… I can’t remember why I didn’t now.
Francine: probably because it would have needed spoilers by that, at that point. To give you a background on our conversation, listeners, we both kind of disliked Netflix’s – and I guess other stream services’ – default of putting all the trigger warnings for the entire programme at the start of each episode, which means that if I, for instance, really don’t like watching sexual assault or rape scenes–
Joanna: You don’t know which episode that’s in, because it says it for every single episode. And obviously not every episode of Downton Abbey contains a rape scene.
Francine: The trigger warning [00:02:00] for it is sexual violence. And because we got to like season four with nothing – pretty much nothing – I was like, oh, was that the kind of like coerced consent thing right at the beginning? Is that what they meant?
I think we’re probably fine now…. And then no.
Joanna: Yeah. no, I read binged Trueblood recently, because my tastes in TV are ridiculously trashy, and that has a content warning – a vocal one, admittedly, which isn’t always helpful – at the beginning of every episode.
And it’s a specific for the episode content warning,
Francine: Yeah. I feel like there are definitely websites that do this where you can look it up without too many spoilers.
Joanna: Yeah. There are websites that will give you heads up of triggers for specific episodes.
Francine: There’s like one called doesthedogdie.com or something? Which I’ve got to start checking. I can’t cope with that. Oh my God. That’s like instant in tears.
Joanna: My old head chef had kids and there were a couple of really good for heads ups of things you’re thinking about watching with kids that might be borderline
Francine: oh, that’s cool. Yeah.
Especially as kids, like, all have different thresholds.
Joanna: exactly, and every parent has like a different threshold of what they’re comfortable with their kids seeing like some really don’t mind if there’s some swearing.
Other things we watched recently!
Joanna: Last night, I went to see, Brooklyn Heights and Nicky Doll, of Drag Race season 11 and 12 respectively, perform songs from the musical Chicago.
Francine: Goodness. And how was that?
Joanna: Amazing. I mean,
Francine: I thought you didn’t like Chicago.
Joanna: I, well, I used to, it used to be one of my favorite musicals and then obviously some events kind of put me off it. So this was a very nice way to get over that issue. Nothing will make me love Velma Kelly again like seeing her portrayed by a six-foot-four Canadian drag queen.
The whole show was great, cause it was built as that, but they obviously had other stuff going on as well. Um, including Harvey rose, who I’d never heard of before, an incredible drag performer. So, full goatee, full, beautifully applied face of makeup, skin type jumpsuit with a skin waist and the arse cut out.
Six inch [00:04:00] stilettos, dancing and lip-syncing to an electro swing remix of the Real Slim Shady.
Joanna: It was amazing.
Francine: Pretty good.
Joanna: I had a really great time. But it was also really nice– I went with my sister and we got to the theatre and obviously there’s all these people waiting to go into the show, just looking around and realise like I’m in a room full of almost entirely queer people.
And it’s been so long since I’ve done that, because I’ve barely been to anything since the pandemic’s ended – and specifically being in a room full of queer people is its own very calming thing.
Francine: That’s nice.
Joanna: Also, I got to make fun of my sister for being the token hetero all night.
Francine: That’ll be me if we go, won’t it, although I don’t think I’m quite as straight as your sister
Joanna: No, one’s quite as straight as my sister.
Francine: There’s a spectrum and I’m a few notches along.
Joanna: Whereas I have wandered completely off the spectrum because I got bored, saw something shiny and ran off chasing it.
Francine: You got lost in the woods somewhere.
Joanna: What’s your gender and sexuality? Kidnapped by the Fe…?
Francine: Yeah, no, that, that scans for you. I’m going to say.
Sorry, I do want to hear about that more when I see you, but…
Joanna: Phantom of the Opera.
Francine: Yes. Um, I quite enjoyed it. I can’t believe I’d not seen it to this point and I’m glad you made me
watch it because there are definitely references I wouldn’t have gotten.
Joanna: Charlie (Hi, Charlie!), one of our regular listeners, uh, put it out, actually, not really seen fund from the opera before reading the book either. And it’s when you don’t really need to, because Phantom of the Opera is one of those things that just kind of vaguely lives in the back of your brain via cultural osmosis.
Francine: Yes. Cultural osmosis.
Joanna: Yeah. Everyone’s aware that it’s a musical about a haunted opera house and the Phantom’s got a mask and there’s a big dramatic song.
Francine: Yeah. What I didn’t realise is all of the songs I knew were in the first hour.
Joanna: Yeah. Pretty much. I mean, I love Masquerade, the big song, the big number that opens the second act, because costumes. That’s always like such a big, ridiculous spectacle of costumes.
Francine: Yeah. [00:06:00] I can see why it’s not well known outside of the performance though. Like you wouldn’t bring that up on a sing-along musicals playlist.
Joanna: Whereas, like, Phantom of the Opera is epic.
Joanna: And Think of Me is really fun, even though I can’t do that because I’m not a soprano anymore.
Francine: I’ve been, um, trying to explore my Alto range, more kind of learning how to sing in the lower registers, which I always struggled with when I was younger. And honestly, I’m kind of, I’m happy with swapping my extremely high soprano capabilities that I had when I was younger for some lower registers, because it does give you a lot more choice.
Joanna: Yeah. I struggled to belt as well in the lower register. My belting is somewhere like either sort of top of Alto, bottom of mezzo soprano.
Francine: Yeah. I’ve always been shit at belting. I think it’s largely psychological for me, I must say, because I can do it okay in the car, on my own, but even in the house I can’t – I live in terraced housing, and I know somebody might hear.
Joanna: I struggle to do it when I’m doing it in front of people. And I can’t sing with a microphone very well, I think because I learned to sing, you know, we, you and I both grew up doing sort of choir and things, so we never learned to sing with amplification. So I never got the hang of singing into a microphone and how loud that needed to be.
Francine: Yeah. Do you remember the open mic days that we briefly partook in? My stagefright really was quite horrendous.
Joanna: We also really both struggled with nerves. I got better at speaking into a microphone when I was performing poetry regularly. Like, I got the hang of it and, uh, projecting into a room with a microphone. Um, ’cause nerves used to really get the best of me with that as well.
Francine: Yeah. Now you are– you come across very confident now, anyway.
Joanna: Yeah. I managed to get over, like, theatrey stage fright. Because I think I was doing it often enough.
Francine: Hm. And it is, I think we’ve talked about it before, it is different as well because in theatre you are being [00:08:00] somebody
Joanna: Yeah. so it doesn’t matter how nervous you are. If your character is not nervous, you’re not going to appear nervous.
Francine: Exactly. Yeah.
Joanna: So, poetry kind of worked around by the character of poet is not nervous.
Joanna: Now, now we’re in September. I am going through this sort of dilemma of do I do Inktober and do my 32 poems in 31 days again this year.
Francine: I always love it when you do. I will understand if you don’t.
Joanna: I’m, I’m kind of leaning towards no right now, because I feel like I’ve got other work I should really be focusing on. But at the same time, I’ve done it for about five years in a row now. And I’ll miss it if I don’t do it
Francine: it’ll be the first time you’ve, you’ll be able to do it without having the chef job, because even last year we were off lockdown for October. Weren’t we?
Joanna: Yeah, no, I was working full time and what have you. It’s not even the writing the poems, that’s the tiring bit – it’s the writing the poem and then recording it and then uploading it to everywhere I upload it to.
Francine: I suppose you could just let yourself off the hook there. Maybe just record and upload one a week, and write and post the rest of them.
Joanna: Yeah. Quite possibly I’ll figure something out. I’ll decide what I’m in the mood for when I get to October
Francine: Yes. As always, I’m going to assume we will magically be energetic and productive by next month. Obviously, by next month, we’ll be fine.
Francine: It’s fine. Future Me can deal with everything.
Joanna: As the days get shorter and I start just mainlining vitamin D in the hope that I don’t fall into a deep seasonal depression and do nothing for six months.
Francine: The walking helps a lot. Now I have a dog.
Joanna: I should probably, if you don’t mind, make an effort to tag along with you for a few walks,
Francine: Oh, sure. Yeah. I’ll start inviting you again. I stopped once we went back to work.
Joanna: Yes, because now we’re allowed to socialise by doing things like sitting down and drinking coffee, which is very civilised.
Francine: It is. Or usual coffee date has been postponed because the third member of our crew
Joanna: Has buggered off to a different part of the country. How dare he. [00:10:00]
Francine: It’s disgusting.
Um, speaking of disgusting
Francine: I was going to try and segue from The Phantom of the Opera, but we got distracted. Yes. Let’s make a podcast.
Joanna: Hello and welcome to The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret, a podcast in which we are reading and recapping every book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series one at a time, in chronological order.
I’m Joanna Hagan.
Francine: And I’m Francine Carrel.
Joanna: And today is part one of our discussion of Maskerade.
Joanna: This the 18th Discworld novel.
Note on spoilers: this is a spoiler-light podcast. Obviously, heavy spoilers for the book we’re on, but we will avoid spoiling any major future events in the Discworld series; and we are saving any and all discussion of the final Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, until we get there, so you, Dear Listener, can come on the journey with us.
Francine: Swinging on the chandelier.
Joanna: We’ve got some missives from the Roundworld, don’t we?
Francine: Several! First of all, relevant to this episode, was an email from Leanne C., who recommended a short TikTok series on why people should hate Wagner. I do remember he’s a Nazi and we hate him, but now we have more reason.
Basically, Leanne says, it talks about how opera was fun and not at all elitist, and that Wagner changed the whole layout of the theatre to force people to sit still and appreciate his music for seven hours rather than talking and eating while the music was happening. And that’s how it started to become thought of as elitist.
And that’s such a narcissist thing to do, which I guess Nazis generally have personality issues. So that makes sense.
You know, what the worst thing is about Nazis?
Joanna: Just so up themselves.
Francine: Yeah, so that’s very cool. And I will put the links to that in the show notes, so, thank you, Leanne.
We also have a book recommendation – I’m getting so many recommendations from people at the moment, I love it – from a Jordy H. He recommended a book about the excavation of the Terracotta Army.
Joanna: Ooh. Cool.
Francine: The [00:12:00] book was For the Time Being by Amy Dillard. Jordy said:
Dillard is one of the most awe-inspiring writers I’ve found, and this book is a kind of experimental nonfiction split into ten different themes: birth, sand, encounters, clouds, China, etc. In the first “China” section she describes visiting the dig while on some kind of writers’ tour of the country, and her profound shock and almost existential horror at what she saw there.
Joanna: Oh, interesting.
Francine: I will be tracking down that book now. We also have an email from – I love our listeners, by the way, I’m getting so many good recommendations–
Joanna: Yeah. Thank you, guys. You are awesome.
Francine: From Helen C., on cool maps and a breakfast one in particular.
Joanna: Oh, I remember this email and yes, I’m excited.
Francine: So, when we were talking about maps in Moving Pictures part three, the subject of the wonderful quirks of cartography had come up. So, Helen saw an exhibition on maps few years ago, and had a favorite by far called Breakfast Island, which she’s linked to [https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/breakfast-island].
And it’s basically an insight into the work, sleep and leisure activities of early 1950s Britain. And you can see this kind of oddly shaped land mass in the middle and then it has place names referencing traditional foods, such as Cereal County, and then surrounding it are lands like The Land Of Sleep…
and it’s all very silly and fun. And I like it. And I will also link to that because the British library very kindly has it on the website. Yes.
And Helen says,
I spent a long time giggling over the minutiae of Breakfast Island. I hope you enjoy it too.
And we did.
Joanna: We very much did.
Francine: and I will be looking into even more funny maps, actually, because I have a book – no, wait, no, I don’t have that book. I have The Madman’s Library, which I think I also got you.
Joanna: You got me The Madman’s Library for Christmas.
Francine: And that author also has one about maps, which I’m going to get. [The Phantom Atlas, Edward Brooke-Hitching].
Joanna: [00:14:00] Excellent. I do love obscure cartography.
Francine: Yes, absolutely. I’d love to be able to draw maps and things. I’ve had a little go every now and then, but obviously my complete inability to read maps kind of hurt me a little bit there. I find it incredibly difficult to visualise points, like even if I’ve got a map in front of me.
When I’m navigating a new walk, for instance, with the dog, which I’ve started doing more of lately, I will have a map, and written instructions if possible. And like my app open showing me where I am on a point. If I’m using that, I can usually only go about a mile out of my way.
Joanna: I’m not amazing at following maps. I think I’m better than you.
Francine: Yes, you are. Jack, luckily, my husband, has a fantastic sense of direction, really quite amazing. And so if he’s ever off work and coming with us walking, I can print him out a terrible low res map and he’ll be able to navigate us wherever.
Francine: He just has a sense of direction.
Joanna: Yeah. I have something of a sense of direction. It’s not perfect, but it does exist.
Francine: Yes. Yeah. Apparently it’s quite, um, common with ADHD that you can’t really position yourself on a map very well.
I’m kind of working on designing a map at the moment. So I’m obviously working on designing a board game and it takes place across the board, which is a landmass because different players control different areas of the landmass. And it is very challenging.
Francine: Have you checked out the various cartography subreddits?
Joanna: Yeah, I’ve been looking at them, but I’m trying not to fall deep into the minutia of it because obviously what I’m designing is a play board that happens to have a map on it.
So I think what I really need to be studying is games like Risk.
Francine: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Joanna: We should have a Risk night at some point, that’ll help.
Francine: We absolutely should. I know we’ve been saying that forever.
I am bad at it and I love it.
Joanna: As I’ve never played it, I will probably be worse. It’ll be great fun.
Francine: Yeah. You always say that and then you come [00:16:00] and thrash me at whatever you’ve said it about. So…
Joanna: Yeah. No, I am. I am secretly good at things.
Francine: You’re obnoxiously good at things generally.
Joanna: Thank you?
Francine: Yes, no, it’s a compliment, just with a side helping of anger at my own incompetence.
Joanna: Okay, I’ll take it.
Thank you to the people who emailed us. We do read them all. We’re just sometimes slow to reply.
Thank you to Miguel, who sent us the Lords and Ladies DVD, which we haven’t had a chance to watch yet, as I’m waiting till Francine and I can watch it together. But yes, we’ve now got a DVD of a very, very low budget fan-made production of Lords and Ladies. So, we are absolutely looking forward to watching that.
Speaking of listeners recommending things, if any listeners can recommend a tattooist that does Discworld stuff and knows Discworld, give me a shout.
Francine: Oh, you’re back on that!
Joanna: Yeah. I really want to get that done by the end of the year. In fact, if any of our listeners are tattooists, then definitely give me a shout.
Francine: Yeah, for sure. I’m looking forward to seeing your tattoo, which has been planned for so very long… And then the apocalypse started happening.
Joanna: Yes. Which is very rude.
Right. Should we, uh, start actually talking about the book?
Francine: Oh yeah. Sorry. Yeah. I forgot what we do. It’s been a while.
Joanna: It has been a while.
Francine: So shall I try and introduce the book?
Joanna: Yes. Introduce us to Maskerade, please.
Francine: Cool. So, as you said some time ago now, it is the 18th Discworld novel. What we haven’t done in a while is read the blurb.
I keep forgetting about that. So:
The Opera House, Ankh-Morpork… a huge, rambling building, where innocent young sopranos are lured to their destiny by a strangely-familiar evil mastermind in a hideously-deformed evening dress…
At least, he hopes so. But Granny Weatherwax, Discworld’s most famous witch, is in the audience. And she doesn’t hold with that sort of thing.
So there’s going to be trouble (but nevertheless a good evening’s entertainment with murders you can really hum…)
Joanna: That’s a good blurb
Francine: It is a good blurb. I think whoever writes his blurbs is
Francine: Yes. Um, I also found a review that I particularly enjoyed, on Colin Smythe’s website as usual, from SFX at the time. And I’ve forgotten what the time is exactly.
Joanna: He finished writing it around the end of 1994, I believe. So. I think we are in the mid nineties.
Francine: Uh, 95 it was published. So yes. Well done. Um, anyway:
It’s a measure of Terry Pratchett’s skill as a writer that a book like Maskerade, which from any other author would elicit a review of justified hyperbole, can be dismissed as merely ‘well up to his usual standard’ …. The book is dedicated to ‘The people who showed me that opera was stranger than I could imagine’, so it’s fairly obvious how it came about. What is remarkable is that while it lampoons opera for the ridiculous, elitist, over-priced, over-hyped and pretentious rubbish that it is, it also simultaneously celebrates opera for the glorious elitist, over-priced, over-hyped, pretentious splendour that it is!
Joanna: That is an excellent review.
Francine: It is.
Have you ever watched an opera?
Joanna: No, I was going to ask you the same thing. Have you ever really gotten into opera?
Francine: No, I’ve not, I, but that’s not for… I’ve just never tried, because you know me and long things.
Joanna: Yeah. This is the thing. I love theatre. I love musicals. I love ballet, so I don’t need to understand with words everything that’s going on on-stage. And I think the reason I haven’t gotten into opera, I mean – ballet is sort of in the same boat in that It’s not very accessible, but I, that it was sort of brought up in a young age, I did ballet for a little bit, although we didn’t stick to it beause, we couldn’t afford it, ballet is expensive–
Francine: Yeah. Luckily I was terrible.
Joanna: but my mother took me to live ballets and things, but she wasn’t particularly into opera. Um, so my, probably my earliest introduction to opera is the cartoons. I’ve mentioned a lot, which the Loony Toons Opera parodies. What’s Opera Doc. And the, I can’t remember the other one, but the one where they do the Barber of Seville.
Francine: That was a crossword clue the other day. What’s Opera Doc. [00:20:00]
Joanna: Yes, it was. I got that one.
Francine: Took me ages to get it.
Joanna: But I’ve, I’ve got a friend who really loves opera, who is someone I know through sort of theatre things. And she’s really encouraged me to try and engage in it more. But it’s, it’s really hard– like, with musicals and musical theatre, you know, you can listen to a soundtrack and there’s like movie adaptations of a lot of the most popular ones.
With things like Shakespeare, you’re brought up to learning it in school, and with a lot of theatre stuff, there’s like low-budget productions that you can go to. If you want to get into theatre, you can go and find good theatre for like a tenner. It still has its issues with a elitism – very much so–
Francine: But there are accessible performances.
Joanna: Exactly. With opera, there aren’t really lower-budget performances.
You don’t get a lot of cheap opera performances. I’m not saying things need to be super cheap. I understand it’s expensive to put productions on, believe me, but it is hard to see live opera or to get into live opera in the way that you can with theatre and musical theatre, because it’s just not there in the same way.
The difference between opera musical theatre– it must have kind of split off at about the same time that our listener said,
Joanna: With the Wagner stuff. Well, yeah, so I was going to look more into the history of this, and then I realised that there’s only so many things we can cram into a single episode.
Francine: Yeah. We can have a look next week, maybe.
Joanna: Yeah. This may end up as a rabbit hole at some point, where I’ll go into the entire history of theatre.
Francine: Oh God.
Joanna: The definition I’ve always sort of understood is the difference between an opera and a musical.
It’s something I’ve heard a lot of people say, is that – and I could be completely wrong and listeners please feel free to correct me – opera is sung all the way through, whereas a musical is a play where people are also bursting into song.
Francine: So, Hamilton would be an opera?
Joanna: Obviously it’s not the only definition, but it’s one I’ve seen used a lot. So the Phantom of the Opera is an opera. [00:22:00]
Francine: Yes. There’s a tiny bit of speaking, but only reading the letters aloud and things, isn’t it?
So I’ve never really super got into opera, which means there are a lot of references in this one that have definitely gone over my head.
Francine: Yeah. But the general atmosphere I think is definitely knowable from just having done theatre stuff. For both of us, you more than me, but having done musicals and things, I definitely recognise some of the atmosphere.
Joanna: I definitely recognise some of the atmosphere, the superstition stuff we can talk about later as well, and even like some of the things like the plays or names of opera… I am aware a lot of them because it’s parodied often enough. Like, I think most people have heard of La traviata, even if they don’t know what it’s about or, Don Juan.
Francine: Yeah. And there are even some Arias that like, we basically recognise.
Joanna: Oh yeah, like you sent a message, a voice message to our group chat the other day, humming something, saying “what’s this from?” because it’s annoying with classical music–
Francine: How do I Google that?
Joanna: And luckily I recognised it was from Carmen.
Francine: Yes, yes, yes. You are my musical Google. Thank you.
Joanna: I have many uses.
Francine: Anyway, so yeah, let’s do the podcast and stuff.
Joanna: Let’s talk about the book.
Francine: do you want to summarise the first part, which goes up to page 125?
Joanna: It does go up to page 125. You are correct. Let me have a sip of coffee and then I shall tell us what happened.
When shall these…two meet again? Nanny asks the burning question and burns the toast as herself and Granny meet on the mountain top and miss Magrat. Meanwhile, in Ankh-Morpork, a Mr Goatberger receives a mysterious manuscript.
As Nanny contemplates extending an invitation to surely-still-a-maiden Agnes, our would-be witch confronts the Ankh-Morpork opera house, before entering to audition with an impressive rendition of the infamous hedgehog song (check out our tiktok).
The opera house selection committee, including new opera house owner Mr Bucket, meet to discuss the auditions. Both Agnes, going by Perdita, and the glittering (if unskilled) [00:24:00] Christine are cast in the chorus. Meanwhile, Granny gets itchy feet and Nanny visits Mrs Nitt, Agnes mother, and spots something shocking at the bottom of the teapot.
As Agnes and Christine take a look at their new digs, Agnes begins to tell Christine all about the meddling local witches in her home village.
The meddling witches in Agnes’s home village discuss the mysterious face in the tea leaves before discussion turns to Agnes, off on her operatic adventures. As Agnes complains to Christine of women who know what’s best, a letter interrupts Nanny’s speculations and Granny learns of the hot new cookbook penned by a Lancre Witch. A moment of mental maths with a side of embarrassment has Granny concluding that a trip to the Big city might just be for the best.
Meanwhile, back at the opera, Agnes learns of a Ghost that haunts the house, selfishly holding onto box 8 on opening nights. An accident with the big organ and the smell of turpentine has the house in a panic, with Tommy and Mr Pounder the rat-catcher both claiming to have caught sight of the ghost as Agnes keeps her head. As Mr Bucket tries to balance the books, he learns of the smashed organ and Mr Salzella provides a handy bit of ghostly exposition.
As Death coaxes out a Swan Song, Granny and Nanny catch the coach to Ankh Morpork, with Greebo in tow. The wizardly-proportioned and mostly-snoring Henry Slugg briefly wakes to take part in a pork pie, before receiving a fawning reception at the local coaching inn under the name of Enrico Basilica.
That night, as Greebo briefly revisits his human form, Granny and Nanny listen to Slugg practice as both a vocalist and a polyglot. The brief bathtub performance is interrupted, however, as the inn’s owner asks for Grannys assistance with an ailing child. Granny stays up late to make a deal with Death, and the child lives thanks to four ones.
Agnes stays up late for the novelty, and bumps into a suspicious Andre. Christine panics at a talking mirror and swaps rooms with Agnes, who spends the night receiving reflective singing lessons.
The next day, Granny and Nanny meet Enrico Basilicas translator before learning of Henry Sluggs humble origins. He thanks them for their silence with a handy pair of opera tickets.
Meanwhile, Agnes eats breakfast and Walter Plinge isn’t quite where he should be. Mrs Plinge, his mother, learns that Mr Pounder [00:26:00] might just have found something marvellous. The rat catcher’s joy is short-lived as he meets his untimely end at the hands of the ghost, and more missives from the operatic phantom arrive with a rag-tag bunch of exclamation marks. Salzella wants to flush the house out, and the ghost would like Christine to sing the part of Iodine in tonight’s performance, thank you very much.
Francine: Iodine is a lovely name for a girl.
Joanna: It really is.
Francine: Very nice. Very nice. Loving the connective clauses, getting right in there.
Joanna: Onto the helicopter and loincloth watch!
Joanna: The witches have decided to take the coach rather than using broomsticks. And, as broomsticks normally sub in for helicopters, the coach is now doing the duty.
Francine: Okay. Sure.
Joanna: Look, we have to just go through the layers here.
Francine: N, no, it’s fine. It’s fine.
Joanna: Uh, we have a copper jelly mould on loincloth duty.
Francine: That one I can see more.
Joanna: It’s clothing a loin.
Francine: Cor, you don’t see that every day.
Joanna: We used to have one on the wall in the kitchen when I was growing up, it was the shape of a fish.
Francine: I was worried about how that sentence was going to end.
Joanna: I very, very rarely used it as a loincloth.
Onto the other things we’re keeping track of. We have not only no turtle opening, but no description of the Disc in the opening pages at all.
Francine: We are expected to know,
Death’s here, obviously, we still haven’t had a book without Death, and we are in Ankh Morpork, we still haven’t visited or at least mentioned Ankh Morpork in a book yet.
Joanna: Quotes. I believe I’m first.
Francine: You are.
Joanna: There were so many lines I could pick because honestly, this is one of my favorite books for the sheer giggle moments.
Nanny wandered the summer hayfields regularly, and had a sharp if compassionate eye and damn’ good over-the-horizon hearing. Violet Frottidge was walking out with young Deviousness Carter, or at least doing something within ninety degrees of walking out. Bonnie Quarney had been gathering nuts in May with William Simple, and it was only because she’d thought ahead and taken a little advice from Nanny that she wouldn’t be bearing fruit in February. And pretty soon now young Mildred Tinker’s mother would have a quiet word with Mildred Tinker’s father, and he’d have a word with his friend Thatcher and he’d have a word with his son [00:28:00] Hob, and then there’d be a wedding, all done in a properly civilized way except for maybe a black eye or two.
Francine: That is a beautiful paragraph of innuendo. Not innuendo. Euphemism!
Joanna: Yup. Euphemism.
And classic Lancre renaming all the way down.
Joanna: The excellent thud of the joke at the end.
Francine: And good to know, also, that Nanny’s still dispensing advice for those who need it.
Joanna: Also, I mean, fairly accurate. There is very little to do when you live in the countryside in the summer.
Francine: Yeah, luckily I’ve never been quite that rural.
Joanna: That’s not what I heard– uh, no, sorry.
Francine: I say!
Joanna: What’s your quote, Francine?
Granny looked out at the dull gray sky and the dying leaves and felt, amazingly enough, her sap rising. A day ago, the future had looked aching and desolate, and now it looked full of surprises and terror and bad things happening to people…
If she had anything to do with it, anyway.
Joanna: So, characters, and we’re going to start with Granny Weatherwax.
Francine: Excellent. How’s she doing?
Joanna: Uh, well, she’s got a little bit of ennui, unfortunately.
Francine: Oh, no.
Joanna: I’ve heard there’s a cream for that. Sorry.
Francine: It’s a loose end kind of an ennui, isn’t it?
Joanna: It is. They’re sort of– they’re missing Magrat as the third member of their trio, because she’s gone off to queen, as one does.
They needed to be three again. Things got exciting, when there were three of you. There were rows, and adventures, and things for Granny to get angry about, and she was only happy when she was angry. In fact, it seemed to Nanny, she was only Granny Weatherwax when she was angry.
Francine: And you’ve noted here that Black Aliss was mentioned again. She’s been – she came up in Witches Abroad, didn’t she?
Joanna: Yeah. This sort of proper evil fairy tale witch that sort of went bad because she had nothing else to do with all of her power, I suppose.
Francine: And the idea being, I think, that because Granny Weatherwax has so much power, she could also become an evil, powerful witch. And it seems like Nanny’s duty to try and prevent that if possible for the good of everybody.
Joanna: And give Nanny something to do. But I like the pointing out that Granny sort of needs a bit of anger to keep her going.
Francine: [00:30:00] Yes. Which is interesting, isn’t it? Because if you look back before Wyrd Sisters, there’s not really a suggestion that all of these adventures were going on, but I suppose she’s used to it now? But she’s, yes, she’s definitely missing it now it’s gone.
Joanna: And I think the sort of having the three of them work together, you see that relationship because Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, and Lords and Ladies sort of work as a trilogy. And those are the three witches books with the trios. And now we start moving on from that to the more witches books… But not as that trio.
Francine: Yeah. And we even get, like, another go at the intro from the first.
Joanna: Yes. Because it’s now when shall we two meet again.
Joanna: And so it’s nice to see sort of– and this is nothing like Wyrd Sisters, really, apart from the fact that it’s Granny, Nanny and a theatre parody.
Francine: And then speaking of Nanny, of course, she’s the… What’s the word, starting things going… catalyst. She’s the catalyst!
Francine: You know, the starting things going whatsit in an engine!
Joanna: Nanny wants to recruit Agnes as the third member of their little coven, but unfortunately Agnes has gone off to Ankh Morpork to seek her fortune.
Francine: And Nanny’s accidentally made a fortune that she is not in possession of.
Joanna: Yes. Uh, she must be in want of a wife. Sorry. Little Jane Austen joke for you there.
Francine: Oh, I’m sorry.
Joanna: And Granny gets involved in this whole thing and, your quote about “looking out and now the future is full of surprises” – the line after that is, “in the scullery, Nanny Ogg grinned to herself.”
Francine: Again, demonstrating her more sly than she appears nature.
Joanna: A lot more clever than she appears.
Francine: Yes. And, and again, a lovely touching moment where she’s genuinely worried that, uh, Esme has flown off with the geese,
And then, obviously, we have Agnes,
Francine: Who is the protagonist, I would say?
Joanna: I would say she is– well, Agnes slash Perdita I suppose.
Joanna: And this is our main problematic thing to talk about in the episode.
Francine: Yes. Do you have the purple purple post-it note?[00:32:00]
Joanna: I mean, yes, but that’s because I’m using purple as one of my four colors this week. ‘Cause I’m trying to mix them up since I was left with purple leftovers from my packs of post-its.
Francine: That’s a good sign. Probably.
Joanna: I’m not using purple for feminist rants in this copy, is my point.
Francine: But as a shorthand for rants, let’s still use it.
Joanna: As a shorthand. Yes.
We get a bit purple post-it with Agnes, who was described as:
There was a lot of Agnes, it took some time for outlying regions to come to rest.
Agnes is fat. This is a key part of her character and it takes it’s set in. Irritating ways. Her fatness is very much a part of her character and she obviously isn’t happy with her fatness.
And there’s a lot of fat jokes in the book. I think I’ve already had my rant, when Sybil was introduced, that I didn’t like how she was described some of the time.
Francine: Yes. And I must say, this is much worse than that.
Joanna: This is much worse than that. It’s frustrating because… it’s very difficult to put my thoughts on this into words, because on the one hand, I really love Agnes slash Perdita as a character. I think she’s one of the better-written Pratchett protagonists. I think he’s getting better at writing young women.
Joanna: I think a lot of aspects of her character are very, very human and not parody-ish. That overwhelming need to reinvent yourself. Also something I like about her as a fat character, who is not totally happy with her appearance, obviously, she is not trying to starve herself or lose weight. She eats normally.
Francine: Yes, because she is sensible. That’s, like, part of her personality as well.
Joanna: There’s an interaction with her and Christine, it’s near the end of this section, when they’re having breakfast and Christine has a single stick of celery and sort of makes the comment of, “oh, I can’t eat more than that or I’d blow up like a balloon, you’re so lucky, you can eat whatever you want,” and you can see Agnes sort of… hmmm…
Francine: Eye twitch.
Francine: Uh, yeah, that was what I was going to bring up actually. It’s almost more frustrating because you can see that he’s been so thoughtful in [00:34:00] places, and he’s taken experiences like being put in a box like this, you know, you’re going to be thoughtful and write on pink note paper, and he’s taken things like thoughtless comments that people would make, like Christine, and like, he’s thought about those, but then he’s just felt the need to put in “ha, fat”.
Joanna: Something else I’ve found interesting, actually, is that Agnes is described, like I said, on page 17, is outlying regions taking a while to come to rest because there’s a lot of her.
Joanna: When Nanny Ogg thinks about Agnes on page 36, it’s, “You needed quite large thoughts to fit all of Agnes in… she was quite good looking in an expansive kind of way…. approximately two womenhoods from anywhere else.”
And it’s not till page 43, when Nanny brings up Agnes to Granny and Granny says, “Fat girl, big hair.” And that’s the first time she’s described as fat in the book. And it’s by Granny, which is a very good character thing. Granny is the only one who would call a spade a spade in quite that way.
Francine: Yes. And it is less offensive.
Joanna: Yeah. It is less offensive than her outlying regions taking a while to come to rest. And that’s what– it’s that line that really irks me about it.
Joanna: There’s nothing wrong with the fact that there is a fat character. And I liked that there is a fat character that is not trying to become thin, whose ultimate outcome does not rely on her becoming thin, and very realistically is treated differently because of her size.
Joanna: You could have this character without making the lazy fat jokes. That’s what’s frustrating about it.
Something I completely forgot to look up and I will look up for next week is how Agnes slash Perdita is– because we met this character before in Lords and Ladies. She’s part of Diamanda’s little group. And she’s one of the ones walking around with the black lacy gloves as one of the goth girls. I want to go back and have a look at the description. I don’t know if her size is mentioned or not.
Francine: She was definitely [00:36:00] described in terms of like, not looking like Diamanda.
Francine: And she, she was again the sensible one. Wasn’t she?
Joanna: there’s a line about Nanny picking up that she’s actually got some magical potential. She’s got some witchy potential.
Francine: Yes. Yes. I wonder if Pratchett knew then that he was going to pick back up on her.
Joanna: Or if he was just planting a seed, so we’d have something to come back to.
Joanna: But yeah, I think she’s interesting. And I like the idea of the Perdita thing, you know, I love, I absolutely respect someone’s urge to want to change their name or change things about their personality.
Joanna: But something I did notice is that Agnes is inner monologue, not her sort of Perdita inner monologue, but her’s,is quite bitchy.
Joanna: Understandably, because she’s really frustrated with the fact that she’s become someone who’s got a lovely personality and great hair.
Joanna: I, I, I’m not, I’m never going to complain at someone for being bitchy, because I am a raging bitch.
Francine: I was going to say, I didn’t pick up on it as something grating. I must say I, um,
Joanna: No, I don’t find it grating. I like it as an aspect of her character because it’s, it’s her that’s bitchy. It’s not her Perdita thoughts that are bitchy.
Francine: yes. And it’s her that’s bitchy and she still is capable of acting politely and sensibly and yeah, it’s a lot more realistic than having an angelic character or a bitch character.
Joanna: And I do enjoy it. I think it’s good writing because quite often, when you have fat characters, especially in media, they can fall into these kind of lazy stereotypes. You have Sybil is fat and is endlessly polite and charming,
Joanna: Or you get the characters that are fat as a sort of horrible metaphor for evil and they’re also horrible people.
But Agnes thinking about Christin, it’s sort of realizing “the question had been asked not because Christine in any way wanted to know the answer, but for something to say . . . And my father is the emperor of Klatch and my mother is a small tray of raspberry puddings.”
Joanna: But she has, especially about Christine, a lot of bitchy thoughts that sort of come down to “well, would I quite like to be the [00:38:00] sparkly one?”
Francine: Yes. Also quite fair, of course, ’cause Christine is not listening. Um,
Joanna: Oh, yeah,
Francine: and um, and, and again, I like that we’ve got a female character here who was quite realistically thinking, “oh my God, you are quite irritating. And I wish I wasn’t being passed over because I don’t look like you.” And yet who’s being perfectly pleasant to Christine is,
Joanna: And also, kind of understands that yes she is, but it’s not really Christine’s fault.
Joanna: Who else have we got? We’ve got Walter Plinge.
Francine: We do have Walter Plinge.
Joanna: We have got Walter Plinge who– thank you to Marc [Burrows] for pointing out a connection I didn’t make, which is that the name Walter Plinge being used as a sort of joke name in theatre programmes is a real thing, but he’s also somewhat with the beret and the clumsiness based on a character, Frank Spencer, from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Francine: Yeah. Which I didn’t connect either, even though I love that programme.
Joanna: I haven’t watched it for many, many years, but obviously the extra fun layer of connection here is that that was played by Michael Crawford, who then went on to play the Phantom in the original [musical], so well done, Terry Pratchett. That’s a good one.
Francine: Walter, I think we’ll see more of him next section.
Joanna: Yeah. We’ll talk about him a lot more because we only really meet him
Francine: We have Mr. Bucket,
Joanna: Mr Bucket, the–
Francine: Who is Mr. Bouquet in the, in the, in the play, in he musical,
Joanna: That’s a reference.
Francine: Another reference to old television. We’ve talked about the Bouquets before and, um, Keeping Up Appearances.
Joanna: yes. Hyacinth Bouquet.
Francine: And he’s the, the, new owner.
Joanna: Yes. He’s the new owner.
Self-made man, in the wholesale cheese business before buying the opera house,
Francine: Yeah. What do you think of him? I quite like him.
Joanna: I have got a soft spot for these sort of call a spade a spade, judge a man by his handshake characters that haven’t got a clue what’s going on
Francine: Yeah. Feeling bad for him while also finding it quite funny.
Joanna: Yeah. And I loved that he’s just very willing to relate everything to the wholesale cheese business.
Francine: Yes, of [00:40:00] course. It can be applied to anything.
Joanna: And then we’ve also got Mr. Salzella who is interesting as a character.
Francine: What’s his job title again?
Joanna: He’s the director of music and musical director. Yes. And then Dr. Undershaft, is the choir master.
Joanna: Salzella is an interesting one because he’s a sarcastic asshole who thinks he’s better than everyone else, but he’s well-written enough that you can totally get it and not dislike him for it.
Francine: Yes. He’s the opera elitist, but he’s doing kind of the wry, Yes, Minister type. If we’re going to be constantly referencing old TV.
Joanna: I like that we get so much of his inner monologue, which just allows for Pratchett to continue being really funny. And we’ve got this bit of a,
“I’ve been through the mill, I have,” Bucket began, “And I made myself what I am today.”
Self-raising flour, thought Salzella.
Francine: Did you look up whether Salzella’s name is a reference to anything? I didn’t.
Joanna: Uh, no I didn’t but it wasn’t mentioned in Annotated Pratchett, which is usually my first port of call for those sorts of things. I do highly recommend it. I’m going to bring up some fun anecdotes for the next episode, but have a look at Annotated Pratchett for this one. ‘Cause there’s lots of good stuff.
Francine: I’ll link it at the top.
Joanna: And then who else do we have?
We have Andre, of course, the mysterious musician, organist.
Francine: With a very heavy-handed “look out for this guy” near the end.
Joanna: Oh yeah. It is not subtle. I love it.
And then obviously, yeah, we have Christine.
Francine: You didn’t put exclamation marks on her name.
Joanna: I’m also not going to try and squeak. I’ve got a bit of a sore throat after I was screaming at drag queens last night.
Francine: Yes. Um, Christine. Nice. I like her.
Joanna: I really like, uh, I, I like her very specific cleverness of knowing that she’s very pretty and that certain things sort of happen to her.
Christine has wanted to be in the opera for a very long time. She may have absolutely no talent, but she did go and study it because she has a, obviously a wealthy father and what have you, and has gone and studied a conservatory. And she wants to be a famous opera singer. She is passionate about it. She’s really excited to be working to the opera. It’s a dream come true for her.
Whereas for Agnes, [00:42:00] it was a job advertised, Agnes wants to be a singer. Yes. She wants to go to Ankh Morpork, but she had, she didn’t know the opera house existed. She didn’t know opera existed.
And there’s something really lovely about that dynamic between the two of them. When you find Agnes living a bit of Christine’s life and Christine just constantly excited to be here, even if she has to nibble her ideas into very little bits.
Um, and then who else we got Mr. Goatberger, the publisher,
Francine: Oh, yes. Sorry. Yes. Yes. Again, we’ll see more of him.
Joanna: But I wanted to point out because this will become relevant in… where are we on, this is the 18th book… in seven books time!
His chief printer entered, clutching a sheaf of proofs. “We’re going to have to get Mr. Cripslock to engrave page eleven again.”
Along with the line at the publishers, explaining that the printing press doesn’t really exist in Moorpark because wizards don’t approve.
Francine: Yes. Yeah.
Joanna: Put a pin in that.
And then Henry Slugg slash Enrico Basilica.
Francine: Yes, our good friend.
Joanna: Something I do want to point out on the topic of him, quickly going back to the fat jokes: he is obviously a very large man. And he is described as “a man of almost wizardly proportions”. It is nowhere near as snigger snigger as some of the, uh, jokes about Agnes.
And I think it’s going to be quite interesting as we go along to look at how his size is discussed, compared to how Agnes’s size is discussed.
Francine: Yeah. I think Nanny makes a couple of mean remarks, but I mean, it’s not, it’s not handled in the same way. It never is. Is it?
Joanna: No, fat man and fat women are two very different things.
Joanna: Yes. Locations. Obviously we start in Lancre, with the witches. I’ve only really bothered mentioning this in, uh, as a location because– do you ever have a line in a book or from a TV show or something that just lives in your brain which isn’t on its own, even that funny, but you sort of find yourself wanting to reference it all the time. For some reason, there’s [00:44:00] something about the way Mrs. Nitt says, “And there’s the fair, every Soul Cake Tuesday, regular,” that just lives in my brain,
Francine: It’s the one thing to do!
Joanna: Especially because of the sort of town we live in and where there’s, you know, there’s the Whitsun fair and the Christmas Fayre and the food and drink festival.
Obviously these haven’t all happened recently because of COVID, but there is something where you can point to it to.
Francine: Every Soul Cake Tuesday, regular, (pandemic excepting).
Joanna: I don’t know why. I just, I really love that line. It’s one of the funniest in the book for me. And it, it is not that funny. So I really wanted to fit that in.
Francine: I think I’ve definitely had a few that I brought up, so I, uh, I’m not going to judge you for loving that one so much.
Joanna: And then yeah, obviously Ankh Morpork and the opera house, “A big rectangle that someone’s glued some architecture to,”
Sorry, I can’t, because I only read the whole book like last week I keep, I think I’m referencing some things that are from part two, but it’s not a major spoiler that that’s a joke that was made.
Francine: I might look up some of the more interesting opera houses’ architecture actually, because it is a playground of a genre for an architect, isn’t it?
Joanna: and it’s sort of massive and goes over about three acres and has some elephants stabled in the cellar just in case.
Obviously not an opera house, but you’ve wandered back around backstage at theatres and things, haven’t you? It is fun seeing the absolute chaos and bits of things compared to the massive what have you of the stage.
Francine: Yes. It’s I’d say it’s comparable for anyone who’s worked in retail, to back of house in retail.
Joanna: There’s a place in town that’s sort of like a member’s bar, that’s got huge rooms. And one of the rooms we’ve used as a theatre, there’s a stage that can be kind of assembled that lives in pieces in the cellar, along with lots of other stuff that’s stored. And it’s how you get to some of the beers as well. And I’ve occasionally helped out with other things there. So I’ve helped get things in and out of the cellar. And every time I wander down there, it’s like, oh, that’s the captain’s wheel from when we did Robinson Crusoe at Christmas…
Francine: Oh, I love that.[00:46:00]
Joanna: That’s a bit of the Shakespeare set…
Francine: Oh yeah. Gosh. Back of house hospitality mixed with back of house for theatre.
Joanna: The really lovely women who did costume for all of those shows is an amazing seamstress. And she’d always go overboard and make beautiful new things for everything. But what was great is once I’ve done a couple of shows with her, she’d turn up and “I’ve seen that before I wore those trousers when I was pretending to be a boy to sneak onto a pirate ship! I’ve worn that doublet!”
Francine: The opera house also has a cellar that is flooded, that we’ve now learned about, which I expect we’ll revisit. Foreshadowing.
Joanna: I wonder how a flooded cellar could be relevant in a parody of Phantom of the Opera… Get me my floating coffin slash chaise longue….
Uh, Genua, the apparent home of
Francine: Genua? I hardly knew her! Sorry.
Joanna: So we have been to Genua. Genua was, uh, was the home of Witches Abroad, wasn’t it?
Francine: main city.
Joanna: So Genua in Witches Abroad was New Orleans, basically. And now is apparently Italy.
So Enrico Basilica is from Genua and keeps getting fed pasta and squid, and they keep giving him olive oil and tomatoes all the time.
Francine: You can imagine it can’t you like, it’s that whole thing about once you become known for liking something, that’s what you get given as a gift, but.
Joanna: Yeah, which is why no one knows my favorite animal.
I don’t have anything else to say about Genua other than New Orleans is, apparently, now in Italy
Joanna: or Italy has now been, I don’t know. Maybe they’ve got like a little Italy and that’s the very specific part that Enrico Basilica’s from.
Francine: the idea of being served fried pasta, wherever you go is a…
Joanna: I mean, fried pasta is quite nice.
Francine: is it?
Joanna: Yeah, you can do like sort of pasta chip type things. I mean, it’s dough, it’s flour and water.
Also think about how the best bit of lasagna is those crispy bits at [00:48:00] the edges with the sauce on.
Francine: Okay. All right. Fine.
Joanna: I’m not suggesting you just take a handful of dried pasta and throw it in some hot oil.
Francine: That’s what I was imagining.
Joanna: And you can do like crispy angel hair, pasta nests, and
Francine: Yeah. So we’re okay. Okay. I’ll take some of it back because I was definitely imagining just frying dried pasta.
Joanna: Yeah. Although if you’ve ever had a chance to try deep fried gnocchi.
Francine: Uh, I have, and yes,
No, wait, no. I’m thinking of the little bulls, um,
Joanna: That’s gnocchi.
Francine: Yes. Yes.
Joanna: Okay. Right. We need to stop talking about food on this podcast.
Joanna: A Maskerade ball.
Francine: Oh, well done. We’ll talk about that. After this short break.
Don’t worry. We haven’t got ads.
Joanna: we are not going to start advertising.
Francine: No, we are not.
Little bits we liked
Joanna: Little bits we liked
Francine: folk hokum.
Joanna: That’s so fun to say.
Francine: Isn’t it?
It’s when Granny is curing, um, what’s-his-chops, Mr. Joe, John Weaver, Jarge Weaver, like George, I suppose, with his, with her suckrose and akwa solution.
And put a pine board under your mattress, obviously, so he has a harder surface to sleep on, which is good for his back, but he’s like, “oh, so’s the knots in me back end up in the pine?” And Granny was impressed. “It was an outrageously ingenious bit of folk hokum.”
And I love it. Just the little leap of kind of almost logic and it, and the fact that Granny is like pouncing on it. Like, yes, that is exactly what it is.
Joanna: I also really liked the whole, she can see people coming because the cottage neatly overlooks a bend. She wasn’t looking that way, but that’s not the point.
Francine: And the little left thread on the latch trick. If I ever live in a house where that’s possible…
Joanna: On the one hand, I’d love to live in a witch’s cottage. On the other hand, imagine the dusting. [00:50:00]
Francine: And the heating bill.
Joanna: And the fact that I really like having vast amounts of natural light in my home. And that’s not really a thing when your house is covered in ivy.
Francine: Yes. As much as we would like to be, I really don’t think we have the kind of hardiness of a Granny Weatherwax
Joanna: I am not as cottage core as I would like to be
Let’s talk about autumn.
Francine: let’s talk about autumn. And now this a, I think, more important than it seems to be part of Discworld, especially around Lancre. Pratchett really enjoys describing the seasons and the weather and the natural landscape in little snippets through his books.
Joanna: Yes, Pratchett really does write beautifully about the turning of the seasons. He manages to make it thematic in books where it isn’t relevantly thematic.
Francine: Yeah. There were a couple of, lines like, uh, “And this was the worst time of the year, with the geese honking and rushing across the sky every night, and the autumn air crisp and inviting.” And, “the wind had died away, leaving the sky wide and clear for the first frost of the season, a petal-nipping, fruit-withering little scorcher that showed you why they called nature a mother.”
And I wonder if it was autumn as he wrote it, because it’s all very, very vivid. And I love autumn, autumn is the one season that really inspires me to write about nature for a start.
Joanna: There’s a real beauty to it. And there’s something really lovely about a cold, sunny autumn day.
Joanna: And that sort of wind, that’s just brisk and nice when you’ve been on a walk and you come home all chilly.
Francine: Yeah. And it’s, I, I’m not sure what it… It is hard to describe, isn’t it, which I suppose is why so many poets have a crack at it, and it’s harder for me to go for it.
And it’s also, it’s kind of tied into new beginnings in a way that’s quite odd because it is the death of summer. And that, um, I wonder if partly it’s just because it’s tied into the school year.
Joanna: There’s school starting in September.
Francine: And then obviously you’ve got harvest, so it’s the start of a new cycle in that way. Isn’t it? It’s before you sow, and…[00:52:00]
Joanna: Yeah, it’s not, it’s not my favorite time of the year because– I was joking earlier about, you know, seasonal depression. So I love spring. Spring is my favorite time of the year, because it’s that real transitional season.
Francine: I also get seasonal depression quite badly – spring is worse for me, almost, because it takes so long to get going and I get the frustration of it. One day, finally, when it is sunny and everything’s in a million shades of green, it’s almost worth it.
But you’ve got the vitamin D thing, haven’t you? So mine doesn’t kick in as quickly as yours does.
Joanna: My body just does not make vitamin D. I have to take huge supplements in the summer, let alone in the winter. Uh, but there is still something I do really love about autumn, about crunchy leaves. And…
Francine: it’s very aesthetic.
Joanna: the, the bluster, when you, when you’ve had a hot summer, which
Francine: Yes. Bluster. Perfect.
Joanna: when you’ve had a hot summer, there’s something about the chilly winds and the leaves blowing.
Francine: Yeah. It’s very, it’s not… it’s nearly ennui.
Francine: You can, you can walk with your hands shoved in your pockets and the wind slightly stinging your face, but not so much that you’re desperate to get back home.
Joanna: And there’s something I was talking about earlier. I can’t remember if this was in the soft open or kind of before we got going, but one of the things I always look forward to is when it gets to October and it really gets chilly, I make a beef stew and I make very, very good beef stew, and it’s a very all-day, meditative process.
Francine: You do. You do make good beef stew.
Joanna: And there’s something satisfying says, this says the vegetarian
Francine: was really no good vegetarian alternative, I’m afraid.
Francine: I love a mushroom stew and it’s got similar kind of umami tastes, but you really can’t do the same things with mushrooms. However.
Joanna: Piles of mashed potatoes, basically. That’s what I look forward to about. Awesome.
Oh, and bonfire night and baked potatoes and sausages and things.
Joanna: I’m mostly just thinking about food. I’m not even that hungry. I had a really good breakfast.
Francine: I’m actually not for once, luckily, yeah.
Um, yeah. Sorry. Sorry. What was I? Oh yes. The, the podcast. That’s right.
Um, yes. I like the description of autumn. [00:54:00] What’s your, what’s your first little bit?
Joanna: Uh, well obviously the great joy that is, The Joye Of Snacks, Nanny Ogg’s, new cookbook.
Francine: Oh yes.
Joanna: Um, I do actually have, see if I can reach it without slinging my microphone across the room…
I have Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook.
Francine: Oh, fantastic.
Joanna: Which was gifted to me in a, I think it was an Amanda Palmer gift exchange awhile ago. And it’s, it’s very silly, but it includes recipes for things like chocolate delight with special secret sauce.
Francine: Have you tried making any of them?
Joanna: I’ve actually never tried any of the recipes. And I think for this month, I really ought to.
Francine: Yeah, that would be fun.
Joanna: Actually the chocolate, the recipe with the special secret sauce does sound pretty nice. I might try that at some point.
Joanna: Um, but also I like the name, The Joye Of Snacks. There was a sort of quite a famous book, I think from the eighties called The Joy Of Sex.
Joanna: that itself, the name was a parody on a very famous cookbook called The Joy Of Cooking.
Francine: Yes. I was going to say, “from the eighties?”, but yes. it’s like the classic, classic, isn’t it. And then, um,
Joanna: The Joy Of Sex was a play that, and that was a classic. And so The Joye Of Snacks is obviously playing on both and it makes me giggle.
Francine: yeah, 1930s was The Joy Of Cooking.
Joanna: I love the idea that Nanny was so proud of all these recipes that she’s come up with scribbled on the back of things, and she’s ended up sending them off to a publisher because other people might like it.
Francine: Yeah. It is lovely. Isn’t it?
Joanna: And Granny’s incredulity as Nanny’s explaining the book to her, and eventually says, “Is there anything in this book that doesn’t relate to goings-on?”
Francine: Goings on! She is a lot less, uh, shocked then she used to be, isn’t she? I think she’s spent enough time with Nanny now.
Joanna: Yes. She’s not shocked. She’s just sort of slowly resigned herself to Nanny.
Francine: “I’m not going to say this,” but she isn’t just randomly calling her a harlot anymore.
Joanna: What about maids of honor? Well, they start as maids of honor, but they end up as tarts. [00:56:00]
Francine: I love it. Do you know, just the word tarts always reminds me of this time that my grandma, when, when I was a teenager, I think, we went clothes shopping a couple of times and she looked at a top or something and said, “oh, I don’t know about this, it’s a bit [whispers]tarty.” Like that was too much of a swear word for my grandmother.
Joanna: I’ve met her. I can absolutely picture this. Your grandmother is marvelous.
Francine: She is.
Joanna: I love describing someone as a tart or calling things tarty. I don’t know why.
Francine: It’s such a, well nowadays, certainly, harmless.
Joanna: Yeah. I would never calling someone a tart as an actual insult, it just makes you sound very old fashioned and quite prudish, but there’s something about a friendly calling someone a tart.
Francine: Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw that at some point, a tart as a compliment, kind of language evolution thing.
Joanna: It is almost a compliment now, isn’t it?
Anyway, anyway. So, names, yes, just a brief interlude.
Uh, I think I’ve talked before, about just how much I love Pratchett’s talent for coming up with nonsensical names that roll off the tongue, or that have, what was it? “Rotational capability.” So, as mentioned in your quote, actually, was Violet Frottage and Deviousness Carter, I particularly enjoyed. Agnes’s father and uncles: Primal, Medial and Terminal Nitt, I particularly liked and, uh, Seldom Bucket.
Joanna: Seldom Bucket is marvelous.
Francine: my picks of this part of the book for silly little names
Joanna: I also enjoy Mr. Goatberger, which was the main reason he was listed in characters. Goatberger’s quite a fun name. And I know I mentioned, you know, this is a “Ooh pin in this for seven books later,” but Cripslock is just a great name. [00:58:00]
Francine: Cripslock is a lovely name.
Joanna: We do like a clicky word.
Uh, exclamation points.
Francine: Exclamation points!
Joanna: Exclamation points!!
Francine: You’ve got your squeak back!
Joanna: I’m slowly waking up on my fifth cup of coffee.
This is not the first time this has come up because it’s uh, I say an argument, considering some of the arguments I see on Terry private Facebook groups it’s a very innocuous one, but when someone brings up the quote about exclamation points, as a sign of madness, someone will say it’s Reaper Man; and then someone says, no, actually it’s from Maskerade. And then someone else comes in and says, no, actually it’s both.
Francine: And another one on top of it, isn’t it? I think we’ve already come across it twice. Didn’t we?
Joanna: I think it was in another one, uh, it might have even been Wyrd Sisters. I feel like the duke probably was a five exclamation point sort of man. But here we really see it in action and, uh, listeners, I will tweet the marvellous calligraphy Francine has done in preparation for the episode.
Francine: Well, I try and get some handwriting practice in every now and then, and when you’ve got something so…
Joanna: Dramatic. Yes.
““What sort of person,” said Salzella patiently, “sits down and writes a maniacal laugh? And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.”
‘I don’t understand! Is this man mad?’
Salzella put an arm around his shoulders and led him away from the crowd. ‘Well, now,’ he said, as kindly as he could. ‘A man who wears evening dress all the time, lurks in the shadows and occasionally kills people. Then he sends little notes, writing maniacal laughter. Five exclamation marks again, I notice. We have to ask ourselves: is this the career of a sane man?’
I think it’s just because I’m also a sarcastic arsehole.
Francine: Yeah. He is a beautifully written arsehole.
Joanna: And I love a beautifully written arsehole.
Joanna: Please put that on my gravestone.
Francine: oh yes. And yes. Even the fact that Christine’s double exclamation marks throughout do kind of [01:00:00] keep you in mind that she’s always talking like this!!
Joanna: Yes. And she’s always,
Francine: And it’s not annoying somehow that he’s done that!!
Joanna: no, it just works.
Francine: and the interrobang?!
Joanna: God, I love the word interrobang
Francine: Yeah. It’s um, oh God, Nope. I’m not going down this route, but… there’s a whole load of really like similar, odd punctuation. I had about on a podcast recently and, uh… I’ll tell you about it another time.
Joanna: Don’t, ’cause I’ll get out my PowerPoint presentation on the ampersand.
Francine: Oh God. I kind of want to see that.
Joanna: I originally learnt about it from your husband, actually, he was the one who first explained to me how it came about.
Francine: That does not surprise me.
Joanna: Um, but yes, the exclamation points thing is one of those funny Pratchetty things that comes up over and over– not over and over again, but it’s a running joke throughout the books. And it’s one of the ones that’s, it’s one of the not-annoying ones that stuck with the fandom.
Francine: yeah. For sure.
Joanna: I could live with without ever hearing a joke about a duck at all.
But I don’t mind if a Pratchett fan says, oh, I feel a bit five exclamation points today.
Joanna: oh, and the last one, theatre superstitions, so on page 85 it’s Salzella explaining to Bucket, and he’s talking about the superstitions that largely exist because actors is very paranoid that it would become their time and they won’t be relevant anymore. Um, and everyone’s on edge. Everyone worries about luck.
Uh, live flowers are unlucky, green, real jewellery worn on stage, real mirrors on stage, whistling on stage, peeking at the audience through the main curtains, using new makeup on a first night, knitting on stage even at rehearsals, a yellow clarinet in the orchestra is very unlucky – don’t ask me why – and you never stop a performance before its proper ending.
Francine: The show must go on.
Joanna: Exactly, the show must go on. One of my favourite bits from Moulin Rouge.
Francine: Oh God. Yeah.
Oh, we should rewatch that scene.
Joanna: We should definitely, we should have a musical night.
Joanna: Anyway. What did you find out? We both looked up some fun little, uh, [01:02:00] theatre superstition things.
Francine: Oh yeah. So, I went down the route of looking at the dancers stuff because I figured the, um, you’d, you’d have a better idea of what theatre ones were. So, I looked at somebody else’s research. So, ballet dancers, themselves, uh, are part of the opera and are a very superstitious and obsessive lot.
I found a 2013 thesis by Maria Aranzazu Baselga about her observations of, and others’ observations of, ballet dancers, like ritualistic checking of shoes, tying retying, tying, retying, uh, using a specific hair elastic each time. Cause they had a great performance last time. So, use this hair elastic again, or this pair of tights again. They must always practice on a certain spot in the barre…
And this becoming defined as a superstition academically because it also comes along with a feeling of dread that things would go wrong if they weren’t adhered to.
Joanna: Yeah, There’s a big overlap between superstition, confirmation bias and OCD.
Francine: Yeah, I was, yeah, it does sound very much like kind of compulsive things. And that doesn’t surprise me, because from what I understand, the world of the ballet dancer is extremely stressful and kind of the, the idea of being in control of certain parts of their life,
Joanna: And compulsive tendencies do very much come about from an overwhelming need for control. And if you think about the fact that being a ballet dancer comes with an automatic side of eating disorder, you’re going to find those compulsive tendencies. And a lot of speaking to someone who has some compulsive tendencies,
Joanna: That doesn’t surprise me, that there’s so much superstition slash reading into every little bit of confirmation bias in things like the ballet.
Francine: Yeah. Um, so yeah, I’ll link to that, uh, study, ‘cause it’s quite interesting in itself.
Did you find some more theatre-relevant things?
Joanna: Yeah. One thing I found interesting, I looked at some of the ones that are actually mentioned in the book. Uh, one thing I found interesting that I hadn’t read before or ever heard was that peacock feathers shouldn’t be worn on stage.
Francine: I knew they were unlucky somewhere.
Joanna: It’s the eye. apparently, it’s an [01:04:00] evil eye that brings bad luck.
Francine: Would that go for the rest is kind of evil eye amulets, I wonder. In Turkey and Greece, for instance, you’ll often have evil eye amulets-
Francine: And they’re good luck.
Joanna: Yeah. I wouldn’t, I, that was one. I couldn’t find any origin things other than peacock feather evil eye. I I’m sure there is more if I’d have more time to research,
Uh, green costumes, green and blue costumes, both considered unlucky for different reasons. The green costume thing, superstition that they’re bad luck, partly came from- So, you know, the phrase “the limelight” comes from spotlights that were made with quicklimes, so they would have like a greenish tinge?
Francine: I did not know that.
Joanna: Yeah. Uh, so if you wear green under the limelight, you’re somewhat rendering yourself invisible because you’re wearing green under a green light, so that’s part of green being unlucky, because you’re rendering yourself invisible in the spotlight.
Francine: Isn’t that interesting. And nowadays, like you wouldn’t wear it if you were about to go on TV in case there was a green screen
Joanna: Exactly. That I found interesting, but there’s also, in 1673 Molière, a French playwright performing in one of his own plays, uh, had a coughing fit during the play, brought about by tuberculosis, and started to haemorrhage while onstage.
Finished the performance still, but died a few hours later, still in his costume, which was green.
Francine: Yeah. That’ll put you off.
Joanna: Yeah. Uh, blue costumes were, there was a rumour spread that they were very unlucky. That was actually because blue dye was really fucking expensive.
Joanna: So, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword of, uh, the rumour of them being unlucky because they were so expensive, but also blue costumes along with silver considered very lucky, because it means that it’s a very rich production.
Uh, whistling on stage is considered unlucky and that’s because quite often stagehands would use whistle cues moving scenery and things around backstage. If anyone was whistling on the stage, it could confuse things. And obviously when lots of heavy stuff is being moved around, that means accidents could happen.
Real jewellery and real money on stage are considered bad luck. And that is because, um, it was encouraged not to use real jewellery and real money because obviously then there’s higher risk of robbery. [01:06:00]
Joanna: And one last one I really enjoy is the ghost light, which is the superstition that there must always be a light left on onstage.
So, there are ghost lights left on in a theatre whenever the theatre is dark.
There’s often a single light on stage and one of the theories- no-one’s really sure of exactly how this came about – one of the theories is that obviously originally it would have been gas lamps and a single gas lamp was left running to stop any gas build-up because there was something for it to run through.
Francine: Oooh I was gonna say, ‘cause it seems dangerous with gas lamps, but that makes sense. Yeah.
Joanna: Uh, another theory is, um, uh, no-one’s quite sure how true this story is, but there’s a story of a robber attempting to rob a theatre, which was dark, and falling into the opera pitch because he couldn’t see it, and then successfully suing the theatre. Because he fell into the opera pit. And so now it’s always lit so that can’t happen.
It became popular from about the 1920s, but it’s still very much done today. Theatres always have a light left on a stage – so, even during the pandemic there was a ghost light in every theatre when all the theatres had to close.
Francine: Oh, that’s quite romantic.
Joanna: Yeah. There’s something quite sweet about that one that I enjoyed.
I couldn’t find anything about yellow clarinets though.
Francine: No, that might’ve just been one he threw in there. He does that.
Joanna: Mirrors on stage were also sort of considered bad luck, but it’s really just, obviously they reflect light awkwardly.
Francine: Yeah. That just seems like a common sense one, doesn’t it?
Joanna: A lot of the bad luck things are common sense, like the green costumes and the not having real jewellery and real money.
Francine: Yeah. Cool.
Joanna: But I liked the real jewellery and real money one because it reminds me of back in Wyrd Sisters, where the pretend crown that’s all paste and plastic looks so much more real than the real crown.
Francine: Oh, yeah. Yes. Yeah. The theatre versions of things are more those things.
Joanna: And things like- with drag and burlesque performers always say, like, cheap Swarovski, crystals and rhinestones sparkle much better than diamonds do, especially under stage lights.
Joanna: Shall we get on to the bigger bits?
Francine: Yes, all right.
Joanna: My big talking point first is honestly, this is just so good.
Francine: I like that.
Joanna: I always forget how good this one is. Part of it is, honestly, I mean, there’s loads of different aspects to why it’s so good, but it’s so funny. There’s so many little moments that make me snort out loud, and it’s not even like, I’m not a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera, or a huge fan of opera, but I really enjoy it as parody.
But there’s so many little details like the foreshadowing. And obviously, I’m not going to talk about everything that’s being foreshadowed, because we’re in section one. But as always, we do allow for spoilers for the rest of the book.
But things like the placebo effect, Jarge and his placebo effect, right at the beginning with Granny, and how she ends up playing on the placebo effect right near the end of the book in the big climax of it.
Joanna: Little moments like Greebo’s human switch flipping
Joanna: Happening early on because obviously spoiler, but we’ll get human Greebo properly near the end of the book. And I always love a bit of human Greebo, and there’s one little moment – and I’m going to point this out now so I remember to mention it again in a lovely moment right at the end that Mr. Slugg is talking about where he grew up in the Shades, that they shared a drain with two other families and a man who juggled eels.
Joanna: And of course, the Chekhov’s chandelier in the whole thing, because everyone reading this book has some awareness of Phantom of the Opera.
And the other thing he does so deftly that it’s really quite beautiful is the tonal whiplash of that scene with Granny and Death in the stable. Um, you have really good- You need a really good writer to pull this off, and obviously Pratchett’s an amazing writer, but in a very funny book and a very pacy [01:10:00] book, it, there’s not a dull moment.
It ticks along from point to point, especially if you look at the structure of it compared to the structure of, say, an opera or to the structure of The Phantom of the Opera and where it’s building up towards an end of act one moment,
Joanna: which obviously we haven’t had the chandelier crashing, but we somewhat are getting to that point of the, the ghost ramping up his threats.
Francine: Yeah. Actually, let’s make a note of that when we get there, see if it is about halfway that that happens. I wonder.
Joanna: Yes, I think we probably will, but it takes such a clever writer to, in a book this pacy and this clever, and this funny to put that scene in that doesn’t need to be there. Um,
Francine: If you’d asked me to recount the plot points of this book, I wouldn’t have remembered it to be there, to be honest
Joanna: no, in fact, the two Death scenes in this section don’t need to be there. The swan bit is just funny
Joanna: and throws a few more opera bits in, but it doesn’t feel jarring or “why are we doing this when we could be getting on with the book?” because it’s just written in as a really fun aside.
And then to get to the bit where we stop at the coaching inn and in the midst of all the fun and the chaos and the silly coach journey and the silliness of the ghost, because really the ghost thing is quite silly. Although obviously we have a horrible death at the end of this section, or near the end of this section.
Francine: I think, yeah, that’s a really good point. And it makes me think of the kind of moment of seriousness of Nanny when she sees the thing in the, in the tea leaves and like runs up to Granny as well, it is this kind of minute of something very serious is happening. And Nanny, who’s always making the jokes, is the one delivering this news, and she’s scared that Esme will have died, and, and the kind of seriousness of the moment is broken when Nanny nearly throws water over Weatherwax and, and she’s caught.
Yes. Um, but no, you’re right. It’s these little injections of, and don’t forget the things at stake and these witches are powerful and [01:12:00] moral and- the four ones bit, by the way, is something that went over my head every other time I’ve read it.
And I think I might’ve seen someone point it out since we started this podcast.
Joanna: I love that moment. It’s one of my favourite Death moments. This is for the listeners: Granny offers a single hand of cards against Death for the baby’s life to save this baby that’s in a coma, draws-
Francine: For the baby’s life and her own, I think.
Joanna: – for the baby’s life and her own because they’re playing double or quits – draws four Kings and Death says he can’t beat that, he only has four ones – four ones, of course, being four aces, which would beat Kings, aces are higher.
Joanna: and he chooses.
Francine: Yes. He has the little wink moment. See, in my head beforehand, I’m pretty sure what I thought was he knew and swapped the hands deliberately, so that he’d lose, but no, he chose to interpret that-
Joanna: He chose to interpret that as a loss to let the baby live
Joanna: Somewhat intimidated by Granny.
Francine: Yes. And then fixed his shoulder, so they’re kind of back into his comedy.
Joanna: Yeah. The healthy respect that Death and Granny have for each other almost as one professional to another.
Francine: Yeah. This does seem like the first time they’ve met, doesn’t it almost? Or talked at length. They must have met briefly before if Granny can see him and help people in and out of the world.
Joanna: I think they were aware of each other as professionals. And I think-
Francine: and the moment with the candle!
Joanna: yes. When she blows the candle out and Death’s like, “Yeah, all right, you made your point, can you put the light back on?”
Francine: “Okay. Fine.”
I just think it’s this book is amazingly well-written to manage that pace, to put that tonal whiplash in without it feeling jarring, and to plant so many seeds for the final act and, and to be as well-structured as to kind of somewhat much the structure of the [01:14:00] musical. Cause if you think about it, the sort of the death of Mr. Pounder, the wrap capture is that moment where someone was hanged in The Phantom of the Opera, two thirds of the way into act one.
Francine: Yeah, it is another little jarring moment. Isn’t it? In a, I, the bit that jarred me more actually was a bit afterwards where Agnes is kneeling on the stage and, uh, Salzella, I think, looks up and sees something spinning up there.
Joanna: It’s the little moments of horror that are written in without making it horror.
Francine: yes. Very good
Joanna: Alternate personalities, Francine.
Francine: Yeah, speaking of themes that run throughout, actually, the one I particularly like, in, in this first part and it’s all kind of introduced and obviously we’ll, we’ll, we’ll see it evolve, is the dual personalities, the chosen alternate personalities, of so many of the characters.
So, so many that I’m quite comfortable calling it a theme, not just a thing I noted.
Um, so obviously you’ve got Agnes and Perdita:
She was a good repository for all those thoughts that Agnes couldn’t think, on account of her wonderful personality.
Perdita would use black writing paper, if she could get away with it, and would be beautifully pale, instead of embarrassingly flushed. Perdita wanted to be an interestingly lost soul in plum-coloured lipstick.
Francine: Highly relate or did, certainly, as a teenager or a kid. Did you kind of have this alternate version of yourself that you wanted to be?
Joanna: I still, I don’t have it now, I’m a lot more comfortable in myself now. I like who I am, but I definitely do still have moments of trying to channel this cooler version of myself I’ve got in-
There’s a book I really love – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – and the main character in that, whenever I sort of want to feel a bit more calm and in control, I sort of find myself channelling her because just by every, all the sort of mishegoss that happens around her, she’s always very poised. And I am not naturally [01:16:00] like that. I am, like I said, I like who I am as a person, but who I am as a person is chins akimbo, wildly, manically gesturing, and accidentally got out a PowerPoint presentation on the nature of the ampersand.
Francine: That’s very important.
Joanna: And I like that about myself, but sometimes I want to be very cool and very poised.
Francine: Yeah. I’ve told you about this before, I can’t remember if I’ve said on the podcast, but when I went from middle school to upper school, I made a very concerted decision to – age 13, for anyone who didn’t grow up in the ridiculous three tier system – um, I made a very concerted decision that I was going to be a different person now. I, I’d been bullied quite badly throughout middle school, and I was like, you know what, I’m done with that now, I’m going to be this person. I had this vague idea of who it was in my head. And I did it. I absolutely channelled this new person, which I’m going to say is just a very direct way of growing as a person.
Like I didn’t do it in a very normal gradual way. Before that, I think I definitely had some of the as well, uh, I even had like a name for the person I’d wanted to be. It was Sasha. I always really liked the name Sasha as a kid.
Um, yeah, I still do like it, not so much that I’d want to change my name to it now.
But yeah, no, the idea of the very cool and coordinated, importantly, and I kind of gave up on that idea, but I wanted to be…
Joanna: Unfortunately, you have got quite a lot of limb and not a lot of control over said limbs.
Joanna: Not to Walter Plinge levels, but…
Francine: no. Yeah. I did have a massive growth spurt at about 11 and just never really regained control of my centre of gravity again, unfortunately.
Um, yes. Anyway, so that’s very relatable for teenage girl kind of stuff. And then the other ones, I mean, you’ve got, uh, Nanny’s Gnome de Plum
Joanna: The Lancre Witch.
Francine: and then the kind of aside that Nanny respected anyone’s right to recreate themselves, which I rather liked.
Um, and interestingly was not [01:18:00] one of the quotes brought up in the recent unpleasantness.
Francine: You’ve got Henry Slugg and Enrico Bas- Basi-
Francine: Basilica. Thank you. Um, oh, like the building?
Francine: And then you’ve got, as you mentioned, Greebo and the human. Two sides, and he’s the only one who’s not decided to have the alternate personality, which is interesting.
Joanna: no, he’s just sort of got it in his back pocket
Joanna: when he needs to- and it’s not even really an alternate personality. It’s an alternate physical form, but the personality is very much the same. It just manifests very differently. And that’s, that’s a fun kind of subversion of the rest of the alternate personalities.
Francine: Yes. Anyway, I liked that there’s so many of them, they were all for slightly different reasons, but kind of the same,
Joanna: And I love that Granny’s just self-important enough to worry that people might think she is the Lancre Witch.
Francine: She’d probably be right. But not many people would just say so.
Joanna: I think actually, Granny is a really good counterpoint to all of this because Granny went through all of this – you know, we see some of teenage Granny, especially in Lords and Ladies, and Witches Abroad when we talk about her sister.
Francine: Yes. When we see what she could have been in physical form.
Joanna: And Granny is now just incredibly confident in herself and who she is.
She is, although she’s got her ennui and her itchy feet and wants to be doing more, obviously she loves borrowing and being in the, in the other bodies,
Joanna: she is, through all of that, very solidly Granny Weatherwax and that is all she needs to be.
Francine: I suppose there’s a kind of connected point in that having the third member of the coven would cement their identities further.
Joanna: Yes. And this kind of brings me onto all the different bits of witchiness in this, because we are in a witches book. I like how Pratchett writes the witches, and I like how he writes the shifting dynamics. And this is the thing Nanny is hinting on, right at the beginning of the book, is this maiden, mother, and crone thing that I’ve talked about a lot before. I love that dynamic, [01:20:00] And Nanny sort of, not to put too fine a point on it. She is one, she fits into one of those roles well, and Granny fits into one of those roles well, whether she likes it or not,
Joanna: And Nanny is not just a mother in that she has had children, but she is a mother in that she is, you know, she’s described in other places that she had a way of making people feel at home in their own homes. She adopts everybody on the coach and gets to know their families as soon as she sat down.
Francine: Yeah. She is maternal.
Francine: Nurturing in her own way.
Joanna: Granny is the crone. And they need a maiden to round out the trio or it doesn’t really work.
Francine: Yeah. And really, you need somebody to cut the bread.
Joanna: exactly. And toast the marshmallows.
Francine: I don’t know about you, I cannot cut bread in a straight line.
Joanna: The trick is I don’t like bread knives. I just use a very sharp kitchen knife to cut bread. And that works quite well.
Francine: I might try that,
Joanna: Also, if you’ve baked bread, let it cool down for at least an hour.
Francine: But I like it when it’s hot!
Joanna: I know, but then you crush the crumb, and it comes out funny.
Francine: Well, it’s all right if you’re going to eat the whole life in that sitting though, isn’t it?
Joanna: which is honestly what happens a lot when I make bread.
One of the other bits I like on the, on the witchy things, is Granny’s frustration at the fact that people don’t think properly.
Joanna: And this goes on to the running thing throughout the book of “what’s the first thing you’d try to take out if your house was on fire?” And when Nanny says that she’d take Greebo because it shows she’s got a warm and considerate nature, Granny says it shows you’re the kind of person who tries to work out what the right answer is supposed to be. That’s a witch’s answer.
Francine: Do you know what yours is?
Joanna: [sigh] Probably my phone…
Francine: That’s gonna be in your pocket. Let’s assume that’s already on you.
Joanna: My laptop?
Look, a lot of my life is attached to technology. Like, I can replace… photos are fine. They’ll go, or they won’t, uh, I couldn’t carry all of my fabric stocks or pick some of the fabric I like, but all of my writing is- and a lot of works in progress [01:22:00] are – on my laptop and I use it.
Francine: Do you not have it backed up to the cloud?
Joanna: Oh no, I do have a backup.
Francine: Okay, good. Right. Sorry. I didn’t want to interrupt the podcast to lecture you on the importance of that, but I would.
Joanna: One is none. I am fully aware of that, but still
Francine: Yes, no, absolutely, it’s a massive inconvenience, yes.
Joanna: I could function as long as I have my laptop.
Joanna: What about you?
Francine: Opposite end of the spectrum, actually, I assume I can just replace the technology with insurance or whatever. And, but I want my teddy bear. Thank you. Oh, the dog, obviously.
Joanna: Yeah, I feel-
Francine: yeah, assuming the dog is fine.
Francine: then my Teddy bear, which I’ve had since I was a one-year-old, and a piece of jewellery that Jack got me as a wedding present
Joanna: Aw. I do have a lot of those sentimental things in the house. Like I’ve-
Francine: Oh, my passport.
Francine: That’s a fucker to get replaced.
Joanna: I need to replace my passport. Um, I’ve got like Bunny Bunbun who I’ve had since I was a baby and Tico the cat who I’ve had since I was two, named after the Tico Tico song from the whiskers advert.
But I’m just not that attached to things anymore. I think when you end up acquire- Because I’ve obviously had to clear out my mother’s house and she was very sentimental, so we ended up with all these things, and my sister and I constantly had to go through this, “Oh, but we shouldn’t get rid of-”, and eventually saying, we’re just going to put it in attics until somebody else goes through, “Oh, but we shouldn’t get rid of-”, and if that’s the case, then let’s get rid of it now.
Joanna: And it’s made me a lot less, although I love all of the things I have, it’s made me a lot less attached to them.
Francine: yeah. It’s a quality I should probably work on, I do get very sentimentally attached to silly things… and it’s more than sentimental attachment, it’s kind of a panic that one day I will miss them more than I want them now. It’s uh, “but what, what if one day this person is gone, and I wish I had this.”
Joanna: I am still very sentimental, and I have lots of things. I have a whole board in my room that’s just gig tickets, and little cards from people, and [01:24:00] posters from plays that I’ve been to, and plays that I’m in. And I’ve got like boxes of theatre programmes and things like I’m not not someone who holds onto those things.
I’ve just, I’m willing to accept that I may not always have those things
Francine: Yeah, that’s good. That’s healthy. I think.
Joanna: Anyway. sorry. That was a tangent.
Yeah, the other, the other sort of, witchy thing I like is the pull of the edges.
Francine: Oh yes.
Joanna: And this is-
Francine: Like the half moon.
Joanna: like the half moon. Sort of liminal spaces.
Witches are drawn to the edges of things, where two states collide. They feel the pull of doors, circumferences, boundaries, gates, mirrors, masks, and stages.
It’s nice because this is bringing back the theme from Wyrd Sisters but now with an understanding of it. In Wyrd Sisters, theatre was new, somewhat, to Granny and Nanny. Whereas now obviously they, they do understand it.
Francine: Yeah. And they get the traveling theatre through occasionally, like as he’s mentioned. Yeah,
Joanna: And obviously, you know, they, they know TomJohn and his fairly successful theatre company he’s involved in.
Francine: And although it’s not a stage, the same thing was said about the ring. Wasn’t it? The Dancers.
Joanna: yes, it’s, it’s the edge of something. It’s a space.
And I like that idea of, because it’s such a classic part of Gothic literature, is this idea of the liminal and the edges and that’s- And so to have this be a theme specifically with the witches in the Pratchett book, and there’s probably people listening who’ve got more interest in things like Neo-paganism who can tell me more about how it’s still a thing today. Um, it’s not something I know much about at all, being an overwhelmingly atheistic cynic…
Joanna: But I do kind of understand that pull of things like mirrors and edges. And I love that mirrors come back as a theme, having done Witches Abroad and the mirror magic there.
And obviously then the theme of it in The Phantom of the Opera with him teaching her from behind the mirror.
Francine: Which is always a terrifying prospect, isn’t it?
Joanna: Yeah, I don’t-
Francine: Mirrors are scary.
Joanna: Yep. Mirrors terrify me, even though I quite like looking at myself.
Francine: Oh [01:26:00] yes. I’m a massive narcissist when the time arises, but, uh, in the middle of the night, a mirror is “But what if something else is there?” kind of prospect.
Joanna: Anyway, that was all I had to say. I just love the way he’s got all of these lovely, witchiness in the witches book.
Francine: Hmm. Yeah. He brought it back in and brought in the kind of narrative, but without being so explicit about it, but he’s like, he’s having his characters point out that they know they belong in this trope or that trope and they don’t want to be in.
Joanna: I think there’s something very comforting about being on what’s now the fourth/fifth witches book If we count Equal Rites is that he- it’s like settling back into a comfortable hoodie.
Joanna: Um, we know these characters and we know what tropes he’s going to play with so well that it’s, it’s a very comforting read because- we’re familiar with the rhythms and it’s still new and fresh and exciting and clever, but it’s very nice to revisit these characters and sort of be, “Oh, we’re in a witches book!” not in a, not in a dull way, but in a, “Oh, so we’re going to have liminal, and we’re going to have edges, and we’re going to have the maiden and the mother and the crone.”
Francine: Yeah. And how’s he going to make those fit in this completely new setting?
Joanna: Exactly. And especially with witches in Ankh Morpork. I always love it when there’s a witch in Ankh Morpork.
Joanna: We’ll talk about that next episode.
However, on this episode, Francine, do you have an obscure reference finial for me?
Obscure Reference Finial
Francine: I do. I found another physics one, you’ll be appalled to learn.
Joanna: Yeah, no, I nearly looked this up, but I literally hit Wikipedia, saw physics and yeeted myself out again.
Francine: I nearly did that and then went to an encyclopaedia instead, which had far fewer mathematical terms.
Um, anyway, a catastrophe curve is what I’ve looked at, uh, from page 79:
A catastrophe curve, Mr Bucket, is what opera runs along. Opera happens because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong, Mr Bucket. It works because of hatred and love and nerves.
Actually, I’m going to point this out now: this is the first time I’ve noticed something that Pratchett starts doing more and more, which is to have a character, as he [01:28:00] monologues, put the other character’s name several times in the speech, as a kind of punctuation mark. Just a writing device that I noticed.
Um, but point is, catastrophe curves. A catastrophe curve in itself isn’t a term I could find a lot on but searching for it brings up catastrophe theory in mathematics. A quote from the Britannica is:
A simple example of the behaviour studied by catastrophe theory is the change in shape of an arched bridge as the load on it is gradually increased. The bridge deforms in a relatively uniform manner until the load reaches a critical value, at which point the shape of the bridge changes suddenly—it collapses.
And that kind of process is something that can be applied to things like aeroplane accidents, for instance, generally what you’re looking at is a lot of things being neglected or not done so well, and a lot of little things going wrong, and everything kind of degrades in a similar fashion until suddenly one little thing goes and then…
Francine: An aeroplane crashes with 200 people in, you know. And I’m guessing same thing with opera and theatre. It’s fine until suddenly it’s really not. And it is a concept that I enjoy and have read about before and hadn’t read about in this kind of context before, so.
Joanna: excellent. Cool.
Francine: And I was pleased to be able to avoid the terrifying looking graphs.
Joanna: Yes, I, they intimidated me. I’m not built for that sort of thing.
Thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret. We will be back next Monday with part two of Maskerade, which begins on page 125 with the line:
The stagecoach rolled to a halt in Sator Square
and ends on page 254 with the line:
“Do you think I might just have a few hours without something awful happening?”
“In an opera house?”
In the meantime, you can follow us on:
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The next Down The Rabbit Hole that we do is going to be epic because I’ve already gone down five tangential rabbit holes.
Francine: I’m very much looking forward to it.
Joanna: I can’t wait to talk about it.
So, we shall see you next week.
And in the meantime, dear listener, don’t let us detain you.
Francine: I can’t remember if this was on record, but Joanna has a black hat on a tripod in the background and it really is like a side character in this podcast for me. So, I just thought I’d mention that.