These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 53, “A (Very) Few Words by Hner Ner Hner“, discussing the short Discworld pieces “The Ankh-Morpork National Anthem” (1999), “Medical Notes” (2002) and “A Few Words from Lord Havelock Vetinari” (2002), all available in the collection A Blink of the Screen (2012).
Notes and Errata
- The episode title mashes up two of the three things we’re reading this week, though we have of course not forgotten who wrote these words. “Hner ner hner” is how Pratchett represents the “forgotten” lyrics in the anthem.
- The book with the “When shall we three meet again?” gag is Wyrd Sisters, whose opening scene concludes with one of the witches answering: “Well, I can do next Tuesday.” For more on Wyrd Sisters, see #Pratchat4, “Enter Three Wytches“.
- Black Ribboners are members of the League of Temperance, a society for vampires who want to swear off drinking “the B-word”. It has chapters in Überwald and Ankh-Morpork, and notable members include Lady Margolotta (see The Fifth Elephant and #Pratchat40), Otto Schriek (see The Truth and #Pratchat42) and…another one we’ll meet in a future episode. (No spoilers!)
- Discworld vampires are indeed incredibly resilient; while they can be turned to ash in the traditional ways – beheading, stake through the heart, (sometimes) sunlight etc – none of these methods kill them permanently, and they can be reconstituted using just a drop of blood. This is discussed in Carpe Jugulum (and #Pratchat36), but see also The Truth, where Otto works out an ingenious way to protect himself from the perils of his trade as a photographer using flash salamanders…
- Ben does a reasonable job of explaining the two Discworld calendars. The main ones with Gregorian-style years are the Ankh-Morpork Calendar (AM), which measures full 800-day years since the founding of the city, and the University Calendar (UC), which measures 400-day common years since the founding of the University by Alberto Malich. They’re not used entirely consistently in the books – another reason why Ben is right to say that you can’t solve continuity problems that way!
- On the subject of centuries, the earlier books are generally set towards the end of the Century of the Fruitbat. In The Truth the century has turned, and it’s now the Century of the Anchovy. To complicate matters, which don’t know which kind of year they count one hundred of, and there’s no guarantee they line up with the ticking over of a round number in either calendar – the centuries seem to be an older way of marking time than either of the calendars used in Ankh-Morpork.
- Ben will get into some more of the details towards the end of the podcast, but here’s a timeline of the Australian national anthem:
- Since the 1788 invasion, English colonies in Australia used the national anthem of the United Kingdom, “God Save the Queen”. (That song has a whole history of its own, including the fact that it’s sort of not technically an official anthem, and England has no anthem of its own, unlike Wales or Scotland.)
- “Advance Australia Fair” was written in 1878 by Peter Dodds McCormick, and first performed the same year. It became a popular “national song”, and performed – with some revised lyrics – by a huge choir to mark the Federation of Australia on January 1, 1901.
- In 1973, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam initiated a competition to select a new anthem for Australia, run by the Australia Council of the Arts. None of the original songs submitted were considered good enough, though, so in 1974 they conducted a national survey to choose between “Advance Australia Fair”, “Waltzing Matilda” and “The Song of Australia”. (See below for more on this one.) The winner was “Advance Australia Fair”, which Whitlam’s government made the new anthem, though this wasn’t entirely official.
- In 1975, Whitlam was dismissed as Prime Minister by the Governor General – it’s a whole thing in Australian history, look it up – and famously said “Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General.” His replacement, Malcolm Fraser, reinstated “God Save the King” as the official anthem for many formal occasions, though several songs were allowed to be sung as alternatives at other events.
- In 1977, during a referendum on various topics, an optional question asked which national song the public preferred, and Advance Australia Fair was chosen again.
- In 1984, this was made official, though using a revised, two-verse version altered by the National Australia Day Council. At the same time, “God Save the Queen” was made the “Royal Anthem” of Australia, to be played during royal visits.
- “The Song of Australia” isn’t a song we’d heard, but it does have something of the character of Ankh-Morpork’s anthem! Thanks to listener Joy, who let us know it was written in response to a competition run by the Gawler Institute in South Australia – and was sung in schools in that state into the 1960s! It was also sung in some parts of Western Australia and Tasmania. The lyrics were written in 1859 by Caroline Carleton, an English Australian poet, who – as per the rules – submitted them to the competition under a “motto” to be anonymous to the judges, choosing “Nil Desperandum” (Latin for “do not despair”). After being selected as the winning poem, a second competition was held for music to which they could be sung; this was won by German Australian composer Carl Linger, who entered under the pseudonym “One of the Quantity”. The most famous early performer of the song was once world-famous Australian baritone Peter Dawson (1882-1961); you can hear his recording on YouTube. While it never became the official anthem of Australia – and that’s probably for the best, given its fixation on colonial additions to the landscape – the official anthem of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, “My Bougainville”, uses the same tune.
- Sing! was a book of songs for the classroom produced by Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC. It was produced annually from 1975 until at least 2014. During that time, Ringo Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden” – from The Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road – appeared in Sing! twice, in 1981 and 1988. Since most songs only appeared once, that might count as frequently…
- The first mention of the Ankh-Morpork national anthem was indeed in Moving Pictures, first published in 1990 – about as “early nineties” as you can get. (See #Pratchat10, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Broomstick“, for more.)
- Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” was first published in April 1966. It tells the story of Douglas Quail, an office worker who – unable to afford a real trip to Mars – goes to a company called Rekall to get a false memory of a holiday. Things do not go according to plan… It was adapted twice into films titled Total Recall: the famous 1990 version, directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenggar and Sharon Stone, deviates wildly from the original after the main character’s trip to Rekall. A remake in 2012 starred Colin Farrell and was based more closely on the original, but still changed quite a bit.
- For more on erudite thugs Mr Tulip and Mr Pin, and the inspiration behind them, see #Pratchat42, “Truth, the Printing Press and Every -ing“.
- There are a few recordings of “We Can Rule You Wholesale” online, but we probably only recommend listening to the official one. Luckily some…er…”cheeky bugger” has uploaded the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Claire Rutter version to YouTube.
- Claire Rutter is an English soprano who’s had quite an illustrious international opera career, performing in major roles with the English National Opera, Sydney Opera House, Opéra National du Rhin in France, the Icelandic Opera, and in the US with the Dallas Opera and Santa Fe Opera.
- “My Saint Helena Island”, the unofficial “national” song of Saint Helena, was written by American country singer Dave Mitchell in 1975. You can read all about it on the official Saint Helena website, or listen to the original song on YouTube.
- How old is the Ankh-Morpork national anthem? It’s hard to be sure. No year is given in the preamble, though the vampire who wrote it lived – or rather, undied – between 1703 and 1872 by the University Calendar, so it was presumably in between those years. How long ago was that? More than thirty years, certainly, since the bits of Night Watch that happen in the past include Reg Shoe singing it. And while the current year is never explicitly given for any of the Discworld books – Pratchett clearly never thought that kind of stuff was that important – fan theories based on dates given in Mort, Moving Pictures and Feet of Clay put the “present” events of Night Watch at around 1998, so it’s probably at least a century old.
- As Ben will mention in a footnote, the convention for which the “Medical Notes” were written was at the time the only Discworld Convention, and thus had no other name. It’s now known as the International Discworld Convention, or DWCon for short, even though it’s always held in the UK. (Not to be confused with IDWCon – that’s the Irish Discworld Convention.) The (mostly) biannual convention began in 1996, and the 2002 convention was something of a big deal – the 2000 con, which was to be subtitled “Millennicon Hand and Shrimp”, was cancelled due to record low number of attendees booking rooms to stay at the convention venue. (This guarantee of hotel bookings is one of the things that secures a reasonable price for a fan convention.) It has only been held twice since Pratchett’s death, in 2016 and 2018, since the 2020 convention was scuppered by COVID. The next DWCon is scheduled for August 2022, and memberships have sold out, but there is a waiting list if you’re keen! And who knows – perhaps in 2024, Pratchat will get to go… If you’re keen on getting to a convention, there are many around the world, including in Ireland, North America, Australia (see below), the Netherlands, Germany and Wales. The L-Space wiki has a handy list on their fandom page.
- The Australian Discworld Convention, “Nullus Anxietas”, was founded in 2007, and scheduled to occur biannually in the off years for the UK convention. It’s run every two years since until 2021, when the 7Ath convention was postponed and then cancelled due to COVID uncertainty. Here’s hoping it’s back in 2023 or whenever large gatherings in small convention conference rooms feel like a good idea again. Pratchat was a guest of the 2019 convention, where we recorded our first (and to date, only) live episode, #PratchatNA7, “A Troll New World“, with fellow convention guest Tansy Rayner Roberts. We were also pleased to participate in the online event “The Lost Con” – see #PratchatNALC, “Twice as Alive” – and the convention’s 2021 Hogswatch festivities.
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is an older name for what is now Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The former “disorder” – which existed alongside the new one as two different diagnoses for a while – was folded into the latter in 1994, when doctors decided the two were not meaningfully different and that the latter name was more accurate. It’s considered neurological, and thus is a form of neurodiversity, and had a long history – various names for similar behaviours go back a century or two at least. ADHD is classically characterised by difficulty focussing attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and sometimes hyperfocus – sustained and intense attention given to certain subjects of interest. It’s a well-established condition, and often treated with stimulants and psychotherapy or counselling. Note that many people may have traits similar to these; it’s only considered a disorder when these behaviours are disruptive and inappropriate.
- Liz and Ben’s histories with Lord of the Flies were first explored in #Pratchat7A, “The Curious Incident of the Dragon and the Night Watch“, and #Pratchat9, “Upscalator to Heaven“. The subject most recently resurfaced in #Pratchat41, “The Adventures of Crab Boy and Trouser Girl“.
- Liz has spoken of The Shawshank Redemption in many episodes, most significantly in #Pratchat14 and #Pratchat28, and most recently in #Pratchat38 and #Pratchat47.
- Tourette Syndrome is characterised by physical and vocal tics: sudden, brief movements of small groups of muscles, often in the face or vocal apparatus. Most people’s tics are subtle or pass unnoticed, and most vocal tics are not full words, but brief sounds. As usual, Hollywood likes to show only the rarest and most extreme forms of a relatively common condition.
- For more on “The Them“, see our episode on Good Omens, #Pratchat15, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And We Feel Nice and Accurate)“.
- Zener cards were created in the early 1930s by American psychologist Karl Zener, whose experiments were widely discredited. Indeed the deck is a terrible way to test psychic ability, since a default set contains only 25 cards (five of each symbol), and blind guessing should result in about a 20% success rate or better!
- The Bursar develops Planets in The Last Continent when the faculty land on Fourecks, and they are exposed to the high build-up of magical energies there. For more, see #Pratchat29, “Great Rimward Land“.
- The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy videogame was a text adventure, or interactive novel, published by Infocom in 1984. It was adapted from previous versions of the story by Douglas Adams and Infocom’s Steve Meretzky. Like many of these games, it was considered fiendishly difficult, since you had a lot of freedom in the instructions you could type in, but each scene or location generally only had one very specific “correct” sequence of actions that would avoid getting you killed. As well as the microscopic space fleet, the game came with several other “feelies” – tactile extras included with many Infocom games. These included a “Don’t Panic!” button badge, a packet of “pocket fluff”, several documents, a pair of cardboard “peril sensitive” sunglasses, and “no tea”. Several online versions of the game have been released; here’s the 30th anniversary version, hosted by the BBC, which adds visuals, and some sound effects based on the 1980 television version.
- English doctor Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) is known to us because in 1807 he published The Family Shakespeare, an expurgated (i.e. abridged or edited) collection of twenty of the Bard’s plays. They were based on Bowdler’s father’s readings of the plays to the family, in which he left out things “unsuitable” for his wife and children. The first volume of The Family Shakespeare was actually edited by Thomas’s sister, Henrietta Bowdler, something that only came to light two centuries later – Thomas is listed as the sole editor. He did take over for the second and third volumes, and later revisions, which added more plays. They are both remembered through the verb “bowdlerise”, meaning to edit out things “unsuitable for children” from a work, usually unnecessarily. The first edition removes about ten percent of the original, including removing any mentions of sex workers or brothels, blasphemous exclamations like “God!”, and bawdy songs and jokes. Notably, while the subtitle claims “nothing is added”, they do include substitutions for many key words.
- Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook includes a section on “The Language of Flowers” towards the end of the Etiquette section. Like the rest of the book, this is said to have been largely cribbed from other author’s work, in this case probably Gardening in Difficult Conditions.
- Ben has been unable to find the quote about Pratchett “preferring to hang out with fans in a pub to hanging out with literary authors at a writing festival” – if you know the quote, let us know! (Ben’s looked through A Slip of the Keyboard, A Blink of the Screen and Marc Burrows’ The Magic of Terry Pratchett, to no avail…)
- We’ve been unable to substantiate reports that a portion of Twilight Canyons was read out at the Discworld Convention in 2016, but surely one of you listening was there! We’re not asking for you to tell us anything you’re not allowed to, but we’d love to know if it actually happened!
- YouTube was indeed launched in 2005 – on Valentine’s Day! It was bought by Google eighteen months later for more than $1.5 billion US.
- MySpace was launched in 2003, and you might be surprised to know it definitely still exists, and has at least a few million users.
- Wincanton is about 33km (21 miles) from Pratchett’s home in Broad Chalk. It’s about a 48km (30 mile) trip to the West by road.
- The Discworld Emporium is an officially licensed producer of Discworld merchandise, and an online store selling their own and other official Discworld stuff. It grew out of Clarecraft, a fantasy figurine business run by Isobel and Bernard Pearson, who were one of the first to gain a Discworld license; they contacted Pratchett’s agent Colin Smythe in 1990, and once Pratchett was impressed by their version of the Luggage, he sent them sketches of Rincewind and Granny Weatherwax as references for further pieces. (Some of Ben’s earliest fannish merchandise purchases were the Clarecraft figures of Rincewind, Death and Detritus.) They worked closely with Pratchett over many years, and while they don’t make as many figurines as they once did, they do still produce unique merchandise, including a wide selection of official Discworld stamps. The Pearsons, and especially Bernard, became fast friends with Terry; you can hear him sharing a few stories about Pratchett in his short-run podcast “And he said to me”, released in two episodes in December 2019 and April 2020.
- As far as we know, yes, Wincanton and Ankh-Morpork were the first twinning of a real and fictional town. We haven’t been able to find any others, so it might also be the only such twinning! (Let us know if you know of any others.) As for whether or not it’s official, the answer seems to be: as official as Pratchett wanted it to be.
- Cities can indeed have multiple sisters – including being “triple towns”. (For the alliteration, cities are usually “sister cities”, which is also the more common term in the US; towns are “twin towns”, which is the more commonly used term in the UK and Australia. Especially in America, “twin cities” are usually two separate cities which are located very close together.) Indeed many major cities will have lots of sister cities around the world – Melbourne, for example, has five sisters: Boston, Milan, Osaka, Thessaloniki and Tianjin.
- The English city of Swindon is also in Wiltshire, about 80km (50 miles) north of Practhett’s home in Broad Chalk. In Thursday Next’s world, as depicted in the novels by Jasper Fforde, it is Next’s own home town. Fforde has published an entire page about the city, blurring the line between the fictional and real worlds; you can still find his Swindon page online – including a photo of the sign for the famous magic roundabout!
- Walt Disney World, as mentioned in the footnote, is the second Disney theme park and resort, located in Bay Lake, Florida – though its administrative address is in the city of Lake Beuna Vista (for which the Disney-owned film company was named). It was planned by Walt Disney himself, but finished – in a substantially less ambitious form – at the insistence of his brother Roy in the 1960s, after Walt’s death. Roy also added his brother’s first name to the park to properly commemorate him.
- Stephen Briggs contacted Pratchett in 1990 about adapting Wyrd Sisters for the stage. He met Pratchett when he attended the first production in Abingdon, and the two became friends. As he adapted more and more of the books for the stage – in later years from advance copies, so the play opened the same month the book was published – Briggs became an expert on Discworld lore, and joined a couple of other Discworld superfine as people Pratchett would consult when he had questions about details he couldn’t remember himself. This was how he got involved in the writing of the Discworld Companion, the maps and various other compilations of Discworld minutiae. It was reportedly Pratchett who thought Briggs looked like Vetinari – and also Pratchett who recommended Briggs as the replacement to record Isis Books’ unabridged audiobook of The Fifth Elephant, when previous reader Nigel Planer was unavailable. He recorded the unabridged version of every subsequent Discworld novel, and a fair few of Pratchett’s other works too.
- Walter Charles Dance (1946-), better known as Charles Dance, is an English actor who played Lord Vetinari in Going Postal, the second of The Mob’s three live-action Discworld adaptations, broadcast in 2010. Dance scored his most famous role the following year: that of the cold-hearted Tywin Lannister, head of House Lannister, in the HBO series Game of Thrones.
- David Jude Heyworth Law (1972-), better known as Jude Law, is an English actor whose break-out film role was probably Jerome in the 1997 sci-fi drama Gattaca. He’s had a bunch of high profile Hollywood roles, including playing Dr Watson opposite Robert Downey Jr in the two Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films. His recent work includes a starring role in The Young Pope and its sequel The New Pope, a drama about a young cardinal and ex-Archbishop of New York who ends up being made pope. He also plays a younger version of Albus Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts series of Harry Potter prequel films. He’s currently 50, which probably makes him a good candidate for Vetinari in an ongoing series of films…
- Vetinari and Vimes are both around fifty years old, at least around the time of Night Watch. In that book, Vimes goes back in time about thirty years and meets his younger self, aged about seventeen; in the same sequences set in the past, Vetinari is a senior student at the Assassin’s Guild, and thus probably a few years older (though likely still under twenty). That’d make them both around fifty in the “present”, though the Patrician often acts as if he’s considerably older. Note that this timeline also makes it seem unlikely that Vetinari could be the Patrician of The Colour of Magic, but most fans think that’s unlikely anyway – despite Terry himself saying he is the same person, just “written by a worse author”.
- We discussed “Once and Future“, Pratchett’s short Arthurian time travel story, in #Pratchat49, “Once More, With Future” – including the question of whether it would make a good novel.
- “Rincemangle, the Gnome of Even Moor” is one of Pratchett’s earlier short stories, and the origin of many ideas that would eventually make their way into Truckers and its sequels. We’ll be covering it in a future episode.
- Doughnut Jimmy is a horse surgeon used by Vimes in Feet of Clay to treat the poisoned Vetinari, mostly because he is usually employed by very serious men who don’t give him the option of not saving horses worth thousands of dollars. He is also mentioned in Jingo and The Last Continent, though in all his appearances he tends to treat his patients – no matter their species – as though they were thoroughbred racehorses.
- Dr John “Mossy” Lawn – a character we’ll properly meet next episode – is gifted the money to found a hospital at the end of Night Watch. This becomes the Lady Sybil Free Hospital, which we first see in Going Postal when Dr Lawn treats Assistant Postmaster Groat. Lawn and the hospital also appear in Unseen Academicals and The Shepherd’s Crown.
- When Liz says the old Australian anthem sounds like a “Burn Book“, she’s making a reference to the film Mean Girls. The titular clique of popular but mean high school girls keep a secret scrapbook, called the Burn Book, in which they stick photos of other students at school, about whom they write horrible things.
- In January 2022, Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton announced that the Australian Army would be ordering 120 new tanks and other armoured vehicles. This was back in the news in February 2022 when a visiting US Army general endorsed the plan. Many commentators are very dubious about this plan.
- Federation was process of the six separate British colonies in Australia becoming a single nation (at least from a European perspective). The Commonwealth of Australia was officially formed on January 1, 1901, following referendums in 1898 and 1899/1900. New Zealand and Fiji were also to be included, at least in early discussions, but opted out early on. Prior to the European invasion, Australia was home to hundreds of different mobs of people; today around 250 survive.
- Robert Rankin (1949-) is a British comic fantasy author whose most famous books form the “Brentford trilogy”, which began in 1981 with The Antipope (no relation to The Young Pope, as far as we know). Despite the name, the series actually consists of eleven novels, the most recent (and possibly final) being 2019’s The Chronicles of Banarnia. They’re only a series in fairly loose terms – the books in this series mostly feature the same protagonists (Irishman John Omally and his best friend Jim Pooley), and are mostly set in Brentford, a suburban town in West London. Brentford is indeed a real place, as pointed out by a few listeners, including Simon and Craig! Ben did know this was the case, but the real Brentford has noticeably fewer resurrected popes, alien invasions and demonic incursions than the one in the books, so it seems fair to count Rankin’s version as a fictional place. Rankin’s style has some crossover with Pratchett, but is definitely not the same – and his books are mostly comic urban fantasy, and so most similar in content to Good Omens.
- St. Mary Meade is the fictional home village of Miss Jane Marple, Agatha Christie’s elderly detective. It’s been described as being in a few different fictional counties, but is generally thought to be in Southwest England, about 40km (25 miles) away from London. It was first mentioned by Christie in a Poirot novel, and like the homes of many famous detectives, it is unusually rife with violent crime, especially murder.
- Sunnydale is the Californian city where Buffy Summers lives in the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer television show. It is constantly beset by vampires and other demons because it is located above a “Hellmouth” – a portal to the other dimensions from which demons come. While it’s not a real place, various clues point to it being located northwest of Los Angeles.
- There are several lists of the world’s most liveable cities, most compiled by lifestyle magazines or finance companies. The most famous such list is the “Global Livability Rating”, which has been published annually by the Economist Intelligence Unit (the research and analysis arm of The Economist magazine and media company) since at least 2002. Melbourne has often been near the top of these lists, and in the Global Livability Rating was ranked number one for seven years in a row, between 2011 and 2017. This list, like the others, is said to be based on “quality of life” factors, though it famously doesn’t take into account affordability, or say for whom the cities are so liveable.
- You can find the Pratchat Reading Challenge for 2022 on our website, and on The Storygraph. The books Ben mentioned reading for it are:
- Gideon the Ninth (and its sequel, Harrow the Ninth) by Tamsyn Muir
- The Bees by Laline Paull
- Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley
- The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C. M. Waggoner
- Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey was published in 2012. It’s sequel, Red Side Story, is scheduled for release either this year or next, depending on which website you trust.
- Ben’s promise near the end of the podcast is a riff on the phrase “That’s our promise to you, from Big W“, a slogan used in ads for Big W in the late 1990s and/or early 2000s (like this one we found on YouTube). Big W is a chain of discount department stores owned by Woolworths Australia – they’re basically the Woolworths version of K-Mart. (The Australian K-Mart is owned by the other massive supermarket chain in Australia, Coles, part of the Coles Myer group.)
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
Just want to let you know that the A-M national anthem is very easy for the lay person to sing. My kids all know it off by heart, including the ner-ner bits.
Like Ben, I learned the whole of Advance Australia Fair at school. Even though it was the 80s, we had the old text as well, so I actually know the “When gallant Cook from Albion sailed”.
Mind you, my entire family appears to have ASS.