Knowing that there are good folk in the world makes those dreadful moments with the dregs so much more bearable. I should know: I am presently hurtling through Wiltshire, a passenger on a British Rail HS125 with a drunken contingent of supporters from a certain (nameless) rugby club as my only companions. Their team lost and they are far from happy. Several of them are smoking and this is a non-smoking carriage, a fact that under normal circumstances wouldn't bother me in the slightest - today it does. I have been working too hard, am extremely tired, and just want to get home to my tin of Thornton's toffee. Therefore, with stress levels at bursting point, I sit back and think of those that would handle this situation with far more grace than myself....

As another large cloud of tobacco smoke envelops me, I find myself coughing through a large grin. My daydreams have drifted off to thoughts of the Cunning Artificer - the only person I know who I would actually expect to do this to me by default. I think of the smoke: lots of it, billowing all over the bloody place. Then I think of the smile, the beard and that damned infectious laugh; I like Bernard. I like him a lot. In the short time I have known him, he has been a rock to me. Saying all the right things, listening for hours in such a way that even the astute would not realise he had long since nodded off. He really has been a very good friend.

For reasons I will not go into here, I once found myself actually stranded in Woolpit, not the best of places to be on a Sunday night when you are supposed to be somewhere else. Never fear... the hospitality of Windy Ridge ran thick and alcoholicly. After surviving the initial shock, I was given a (very) large drink to calm the nerves, and Isobel served a meal of such proportions that I didn't need to eat for the following month. (Her bread pudding really is to die for.)

Stories in front of the fire followed, and I only wish I had the eloquence to repeat them to you here. But that isn't my job. I write this with the intention of giving you an insight into "The Man Behind The Clay". Well, that is so very easy. Bernard is a very clever fellow. No man can deny that, but there is one point that holds him head and shoulders above the rest, and that is the fact that he really does care. He cares about the Discworld, he cares about his interpretation of Terry's work and he cares about us - the fans. He doesn't have to. He is more than able to make a decent living without the likes of you and me, but we are as important to him as he is to us.

He waxed lyrical about a mammoth project he had on the boil: something really special which he hoped the fans would appreciate. This, as I was soon to find out, was an embryonic discussion regarding his marvellous Unseen University. Even at that early stage he was only interested in knowing whether it was something that a Discette would actually want to own. His ability to create and, more importantly, doing so accurately was not an issue here. He had an idea and wanted to share it with us. Would we like it? As the hours grew smaller and the drinks longer, I heard more ideas for Discworldian creations and memorabilia than you could ever shake a bun at. Most of them will stay in the head of the great man: if we are very lucky, some just might end up on our Christmas lists.

Before I go, will you do something for me? Go over to the mantelpiece and grab hold of that splendid Discworld candle you have just treated yourself to. Nice, isn't it? Now look again... That lump of wax wasn't just crafted for the cheque you handed over. It was created for you. Terry had that vital spark, Bernard metamorphosed his words, and now it's yours to enjoy - and that's something that really matters to Bernard.

Rob Wilkins

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December 1997