The serious business of foolery….

A new fanfic set in the Guild of Fools and Joculators. It picks up the plot from the end of Nature Studies and offers an outsider's insight into education at the Fools' Guild. Well, the Fools' Guild had to be written, and what better way than through the eyes of outsiders who find themselves sucked in as the Guild reluctantly opens its doors to outside scrutiny...

We begin with a discussion between the feared Doctor Whiteface, Lord of Misrule at the Guild of Fools and Joculators, and Howondalandian Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes. Reproduced and edited slightly from my fanfic Nature Studies.

"Please explain how this, ah, lion-taming, works, Miss Smith-Rhodes. Although I have reservations about the novel and the innovative, the described performance is something I find very intriguing indeed!"

"There is no mystery, Doctor." she said. "It has been known for a long time in Howondaland, thet the creck of a whip close to the ears of a large feral cat is a noise they cennot endure end seek to escepe from. I do not believe it is cruel, and I am setisfied it causes no permanent demege to their ears, or else I would not do it. You simply creck the whip so thet they flee from the noise in the direction in which you wish them to go."

Johanna paused, and added the other half of the secret.

"It helps if you can rediate strength, confidence, end purpose of mind, so thet they are deterred from ettecking. A skilled prectitioner, like my old opie, she could make a lion sit, or lie, or stend on its hindlegs, es she chose! I hev to edmit thet et first I misunderstood the clown Bonzo's intentions, but I cen see now thet this could be made into a circus show. Especially in terms of leotards, spengly tights, high-heeled boots, end a woman confident enough in herself to wear them in public!"

Doctor Whiteface nodded.

"You may be of assistance to me." he said. "With Lord Downey's permission, of course. You may be aware that we have been following the educational revolution with some interest? The Thieves' School has always, seemingly, admitted girls. You yourself are a result of the Assassins' School going co-educational. You were one of the first four women admitted to the Guild as full licenced Assassins. Since then, you have brought the first class of female students from admission to graduation."

Doctor Whiteface expelled a sigh.

"Following consultation with Lord Vetinari, our Fools' School has been convinced that we should admit a limited number of girl pupils. We will therefore be admitting fifty young ladies very soon. Just as soon as the, er, arrangements, can be finalised."

Doctor Whiteface sighed again, as if this was something not completely of his own choosing.

"Since we assimilated the Conjurors' Guild, on the grounds that this is a time-honoured conservative entertainment medium which has remained unchanged in its essentials for several hundred years, and therefore perfectly suited to take its place alongside foolery and clowning (1), we have had to accept that every conjuror worthy of the name requires his girl assistant. There is also an ongoing need for tightrope walkers and trapeze artists, as well as knife-throwers' assistants. Therefore the girl pupils at the Fools' School will ultimately be training for these, ah, supporting positions. The thought occurs to me that your new discipline of, ah, lion-taming, should be developed by us, after fast-tracking through the usual acceptance procedures…"

"How fest is fest, Doctor?" Johanna asked him.

"The Council of Mirth meets on Tuesday. I will instruct them that we will be teaching lion-taming to the new girl pupils. By three o'clock on Tuesday, it will have been agreed. I would like to invite you to work with us, as a visiting lecturer, say once per week? It may be difficult for you, with all your other commitments…"

Johanna had thought long and hard about the extra commitment a half-day a week at the Fools' Guild would entail. She was flattered to have been asked, and realised that from an old-time misogynistic Guild such as the Fools, the offer was a high honour indeed. And she realised from her own experience with the Assassins' Guild School that when a hitherto all-male institution went co-educational, it took a lot of work and goodwill to make it work. It was not a change that could be accomplished overnight. The Assassins would not have managed it in time for that first intake of girl pupils without a lot of friendly advice and generously given help from the Thieves' Guild School, previously the only educational establishment in the City to be genuinely co-educational and equal-access.

Now it was the turn of the Assassins' Guild to pass on that hard-won experience to the latest male-only bastion to fall to equal opportunities. Granted, the Fools were not going for full equal numbers, at least just yet, and it still clung to the belief that women would be no use as Clowns or Jesters because they lacked any sort of discernable sense of humour. It would probably take another two or three manifestations of Doctor Whiteface before girl pupils were given a crack at Clowning. No, it was training girls from the age of eleven or twelve in the, ah, soft skills required to be a conjuror's assistant or a knife-thrower's partner; or, where they would be allowed star billing in their own right, as stunt-riders, tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, not to mention the new experimental discipline of lion-taming.

In amongst all this, the girl pupils would of course receive the same standard education in literacy, numeracy, foreign languages, liberal arts, and Domestic Science, as girl pupils at any comparable school. This mirrored practice at the Assassins' Guild school: while all lessons were slanted towards the fact the pupils were students of the dark art of inhumation, only half of them directly dealt with the professional skills necessary to make an Assassin. The rest, especially in the first four years of education, offered the same broad curriculum to be found at any senior school. This was broadly similar to practice at the Thieves' Guild School, although older Thieves, more set in their ways and their illiteracy, bemoaned the move towards the pupils learning useless things like history and literature and "speaking in foreign", when they should be out there perfecting their cosh-work in dark alleys and learning how to Extract Money With Menaces.

Other institutions, such as the Builders' Guild School and the Institute of Technology (formerly the Artisans' Guild School) also performed this necessary balancing act, between a general and a specific trade-related education. Although the Builders' Guild School still prevaricated over taking in girls, citing the plumbing as a problem, know what I mean, squire? Tricky problem, catering for women with their strange need for all sorts of things you don't get in a mens' toilet, guv'nor.(2) Like basic cleanliness and regular cleaning, Johanna thought. She'd visited the Builders' School with a Teachers' Guild delegation, and had shuddered. Miss Penelope Frout, headmistress of the Frout Academy for Inquiring Young Minds, had fainted on the spot when confronted with the Builders' privvies. Mr Gregson, the Builders' Guild leader, had mildly remarked that this was good training for the lads, as some of the bogs, sorry, toilet facilites, on sites were pretty basic, and besides, you don't want the skiving buggers sitting in there all day smoking and playing cards when there was work to be done. So you don't make them too comfortable, miss, know what I'm saying?

Johanna sighed. She was a Licenced Assassin. In order to teach she had also been required to take out Teachers' Guild membership. Latterly, she had saved the life of Commander Vimes in unique circumstances. Vimes had responded by giving her the right to call him "Mister Vimes", and signing her up as a Watch special constable. So she also carried a Watch badge with her and performed duties with them as and when needed. She was also trained to carry out basic emergency medical and surgical procedures if no doctor or Igor were available. So this meant she was an associate member of the Doctors' Guild, as any Assassin trained in field medicine had to be.

And along with the delegated female teachers from the Assassins' and Thieves' Guilds who were helping the Fools' Guild get ready for its first female pupils, she now had to face possibly the severest, direst, most distasteful, ordeal since the night she had completed her Final Exam and graduated with Full Black.

This is getting silly. she thought. And not in a nice way. In a Clowns' Guild sort of way. Ag.

On that August day, she was taking the ordeals – well, the tests – that if successfully completed, would earn her a fifth membership badge as an Associate Tomfool.

Grimly, Johanna wrapped herself in the mid-calf length overcoat, despite the August heat. The verdammte coat was going to come off only when necessary, the merest instant before her big performance, and it would go back on again immediately afterwards. A Clown delegated to provide hospitality tapped her on the shoulder and offered a drink. Despite a dry throat, Johanna made herself take just enough to moisten her mouth. Dressed like this, anything else was courting trouble. Big trouble.

Some time before, Doctor Whiteface had spoken to them of the need for his teaching staff to have at least honorary Guild membership, and that advancing them to the sixth grade of Tomfool (Affiliate), one higher than most students attained, would preserve the necessary teacher-pupil relationship. He had handed out sheets of paper advising the ladies to choose one discipline from Column A and one from Column B and work for proficiency in both, after which they would be judged by a panel of senior Fools and Jesters through public performance in the permanent marquee.

"I understand you all have busy schedules, ladies, but six months should be ample. My staff will of course be on hand to advise and give lessons."

"Well!" Joan Sanderson-Reeves had erupted. "You would think the dratted man would accept we're doing him a favour! Now he wants us to train as clowns?"

"The Assassin is at home anywhere, in any garb, in any society, and can blend into any environment seamlessly and easily." somebody quoted.

Joan fixed the speaker with her best classroom glare. As this was directed at another teacher, it had minimal effect.

"Well, yes, but I doubt whoever wrote the Concordat had clowns in mind!"

Betty Richardson shrugged, allowing Joan's diamond glare to pass harmlessly over her. She taught Economics for Thieves, and was a veteran of many a hard classroom battle. A disapproving glare that had caused even Sam Vimes to blink was something she, as another old-time classroom monster, was immune to.

"Read the list, Joan. Whiteface is making it easy for us. He's put knife-throwing in Column A, look. You're good at that. We all learn it. All we have to do is to throw knives like Fools, and not like Thieves or Assassins."

She paused. Then added, doubtfully,

"Assassins. Knife-throwing. The essence of doing it the Fool way is that the target stays alive afterwards for the next performance. . Has anyone thought this through, or is it just me?"

There was a tricky, thoughtful, silence.

"If I volunteer to be your target and you tie me to the revolving wooden wheel, then I want it clearly understood that you miss with every knife!" said Alice Band, firmly.

Betty breathed out. "I can see problems here. With Assassins. And knife-throwing. The trick is, you've got to be able to miss by just so much!"

Johanna nodded. Throwing knives to miss went against every professional instinct she had. This was going to take some work.

"What else is on the list… escapology. Well, that's not hard. We're all taught padlocks and chains. Card tricks. Is Emmanuelle still seeing Scrote Jones from the Gamblers' Guild? We can call in a favour there. Ropework and contortion…."

One of the group stepped forward and bowed. She wore a black kimono with black tabi on her feet, her waist-sash the purple of an Assassins' Guild teacher and supporting the long and short swords of a Samurai warrior. Her lustrous black hair was tied up in a bun and secured with what looked to the casual eye like mere hairpins, long and thin and thrust through the bun to retain it. She held an innocuous-looking fan which appeared to be made only of thin bamboo slats and ricepaper. However, parts of it glinted metallically as she snapped it closed.

"I believe I can do contortion and gymnastics" she said, modestly. "The State Circus in Agatea is generous with the skills it teaches. I will show the clowns here how these things are done in the Agatean circus."

"I don't doubt you, m'dear." Joan said. Koukochu-sama, Miss Pretty Butterfly, was the Guild's lecturer in Agatean Culture and Language. (3) She also taught ninjitsu techniques and advanced martial arts. "But most of all, m'dears, we'll need you."

"I canot understand why the circus is held in such low esteem in this country." Butterfly went on. "Perhaps you could enlighten this ignorant visitor? I find the clowns so very funny, and at home, the circus skills are held in high honour. Everyone looks forward to a visit to the circus, and the Agatean people revere their clowns and circus performers and appreciate their skils and the years of dicipline and training that make them. It is like Noh theatre, but perormed for comic effect!"

"Another time, maybe, m'dear." Joan murmured, weakly. She wasn't up to a job of this magnitude yet. But sdhe did hope Butterfly's innocent comment might spread and result in a few boatloads of clowns trying their luck in a place where they were apparently respected and admired...Damn funny place, Agatea. So strange and foreign and topsy-turvy.

Butterfly bowed acknowledgement. Joan indicated the other women present.

She indicated the smaller group of women the Fools' Guild had directly recruited to do most of the work with their new female students. Augmented by help brought in from the Thieves and Assassins' Guild Schools, the dedicated Lady Fools would have most to do with their intake of girl pupils. But, as with the teaching lady Assassins, they also had to formally qualify as Fools first, in order to be able to practice. Consequently, the small core of dedicated women teachers recruited for the Fools' Guild School had already endured far worse and infinitely more horrifying ordeals than any Assassin could ever hope to avoid. Alice, Joan and Johanna, who had all had to undergo Assassin training, and run the feared Final Exam in order to (a) carry on living, and (b) teach student Assassins, were sympathetic.

One of the Fools took a deep and shuddering draft of her cigarette, and exhaled gratefully. She was about six feet tall, thin, twanging with suppressed tension, and had a pallid sad-eyed forty-years-on-the-road-with-the-circus lingering beauty about her. She looked at Joan, by consent spokeswoman for the Assassins, with a questioning eye.

Joan kindly patted her on the shoulder.

"We really do, Mrs McGee!" Joan said, insistently. "Or may I call you Deborah? (4) I mean, you and your former husband were nearly thirty years on the road as The Amazing Gremlin And The Lovely Debbie. You too, Doris. You ladies have an absolutely amazing wealth of public performing experience about you."

Joan moved in closer and placed a friendly hand on Debbie's shoulder. In an uncharacteristically Dibbler-like way, she drew in Doris (formerly the assistant to The Amazing Blunko) with her other arm.

"I'm an Assassin." she said, un-necessarily. "But you knew that, Doris. Remember you once came to me for marriage guidance counselling, in the old days? Good, I see that you do! Now, see here, ladies. As Assassins, we do not welcome an audience to what we do, and if anyone judges our performance afterwards, it's a very small and select panel of professional equals. There might be the once-in-a-lifetime inhumation that the customer absolutely insists is performed in public with a degree of show, as a clear and open message. But those are rare. The last one I can think of was the conclusion of the contract on Lord Winder over thirty years ago. (5)"

Joan paused, smiled at each of the Fools in turn, and said

"So you can see, right now we need you. We're here because you need our skills as teachers. We need you to teach us to perform a few little routines in public, how to do it, that sort of thing. And I just know you'll help!"

And with a couple of little hints, backed by the friendly welcoming smiles of the four Assassins, they did.

As time allowed over the next six months, the lady Assassins and Thieves met to train in basic circus disciplines and to assess just how many Assassin skills were transferable to the art of circus performance. They also discovered, to their horror, that however clandestine they were and however secret they thought their training sessions would be, there were always a suspiciously large number of students, from either Guild, who found a reason to be in the area, or "just passing by, miss", usually with suppressed smiles on their faces that were one step short of insolence. This ruled out the sword-fighting arena at the Assassins' Guild, as this large airy gymnasium, otherwise perfect for the purpose, had an indoor gallery ringing it on all sides, a perfect place for students to hide and giggle. Similarly, the knife-throwing ranges at the Thieves' Guild were also just too public, and anyway were in constant use.

Johanna hit on the idea of using one of the large storage sheds at the Zoo, which worked perfectly well until they realised they were gathering another amused crowd. They suspected the zookeepers had tipped off the public and were charging admission to supplement their pay. While this ended when Johanna moved in a couple of animals to train up for her lion-taming performance, the drawback was that her fellow Assassins drew the line at sharing space with a couple of lions and a Ghatian tiger, "and I don't care that at least one of them you've raised since he was a cub, Johanna, and might I frankly add that your saying "he's an old softy really" and inviting us to tickle his tummy, is ringing all my alarm bells?"

Finally, they took up the offer of training space at the Fools' Guild, something most of them had been frankly trying to avoid as the general miasma was more unsettling than the presence of untethered large cats and about as pleasant as tap-dancing in a cage full of rattlesnakes.

"Ag, ag, ag!" said Johanna. They had been allocated Rehearsal Theatre Six, which was at least a large enclosed space with few windows, and those dingy and high on the walls. The walls had been whitewashed an unguessable number of years previously, and the atmosphere stank of old sweat, fear and terror from generations of clowns and Fools who had miserably pranced and pratfalled and capered in here.

But at least the Fools respected their right to rehearse in private.

"O-KAY!" Alice band had said, looking disapprovingly around her. "The first thing we do, the very first thing we do, is to get those bloody windows cleaned and opened. We need light in here!"

"Oh, you mean the comedy windowcleaning routine, miss?" their escorting Clown had said, doubtfully. "The one where the buckets turn out to be full of feathers or confetti and anything but water, except for the very last one the lead Clown tips over his own head in disgust…"

Alice glared at him.

"No, I mean real soap and water and a couple of cloths. The more light we get, the better!"

"It's awfully high, miss. How are you going to get up there? And the Guild won't like you messing around with the fixtures and fittings…."

"Do you want me to go to Miss Drapes again?" Alice said, sweetly. Under his slap, the clown paled. Miss Drapes had formerly been a principal clerk at the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork. Paradoxically, she had given it up for love of a clown; after a series of misadventures, Mr Mavolio Bent, the Chief Clerk and her boss at the Royal Bank, had turned out to be the most gifted natural clown since Bouncy Normo.(5)

While Mr Bent had run away from the circus to join a bank (although he performed regularly in his spare time just to keep his hand in) and she had married him, she had kept her maiden name and accepted a job with the Fools' Guild as Financial Administrator and now School Secretary. Bent-trained as she was, Dr Whiteface admired both her ability to keep the Guild's books and her Maccalariat-lite authority over the Clowns and Fools, all of whom were terrified of the only woman to have achieved high position in the Guild. ( In order to gain associate Guild membership, she had learnt a few basic tricks with coins, banknotes and handkerchiefs. They sufficed, although Mavolio meekly disapproved of trickery of any sort with the Patrician's currency. However, he didn't press the point.) She was certainly one of the strongest advocates of accepting girl pupils, and a firm supporter of the lady teachers. Alice and Joan agreed she'd blossomed since making a late marriage, but she was still as neurotic as a sackful of kittens and therefore ideal material to work at the Fools' Guild.

But under threat of Miss Drapes, hot soapy water and cleaning cloths and brushes had appeared. Meanwhile, some indoor edificeering had established ropes to the top of the room near the windows, and the ten women cheerfully took turns at scrubbing and polishing while the Clown eyed the buckets speculatively.

"Don't even think it!" Alice called down, as she cleaned and polished the glass, balanced at her ease some thirty feet up a rope.

"I'll just get some slippall on the mechanism – it looks as though nobody's opened these windows in years. Steffi? Catch!"

In one of those complex manoeuvres only long-time edificeers can get away with, she and Thieves' Guild edificeering instructor Steffi Gibbet swung in towards each other, and the bucket and cloths exchanged hands.

Meanwhile, a Minstrel had joined the clown. They made "these women are totally insane!" hand-signals at each other, and the particolour-dressed Minstrel unslung what in other worlds would have been a lute or a mandolin, but on the Discworld turned out to be a ukulele.

He tuned up, and in a clear and fine singing voice, proclaimed

Now I go cleanin' windows to earn an honest bob,
For a nosy parker it's an interestin' job;
Now it's a job that just suits me,
A window cleaner you would be,
If you can see what I can see,
When I'm cleanin' windows! (6)

"Honeymoonin' couples too,
You should see them bill 'n coo,
You'd be surprised at things they do -
When I'm cleanin' windows!"

"Pack it in !" ordered Joan.

"Music while you work?" asked the minstrel, hopefully.

"In my profession I'll work hard,
But I'll never stop.
I'll climb this blinkin' ladder
Till I get right to the top;
The blushin' bride, she looks divine,
The bridegroom he is doin' fine,
I'd rather have his job than mine!
When I'm cleanin' windows!"

The minstrel dodged a barrage of wadded cleaning cloths. Assassins and Thieves can throw accurately: but Fools, Clowns and Troubadors have long experience of evading missiles.

"Miss? Miss? " the clown said, desperately, to Joan.

"He's got to serenade you all, miss. It's what he's trained for. The singing and delicate playing of a string instrument, the plangent notes, the refined courtly air, sort of thing, to lovely women what stand at upper storey windows. Even if you're only cleaning 'em."

"Refined and delicate? It's a dratted banjo, man!"

"Ukulele, actually. You'd be amazed how many people makes that error…. Please, miss, Doctor Fondel sent him here to sing to you, it's an assignment, he's being graded on this!"

"I can do the Hedgehog Song" the troubadour said, hopefully.

"No." said Joan, firmly. "Anything but that. Although as it's a grading exercise for you, you may remain. Pick something with less insanitary and unhygienic goings-on in it, if you please!"

The minstrel smiled gratefully and said "Thanks, miss. If old Fondel gives me an "F" for this, I'm in real trouble! You'll be sure to put a good word in for me when he asks you, will you?"

Joan nodded. She'd met Doctor Fondel, the Fools' Guild's Master of The Courtly Arts, who trained minstrels and troubadours. He was a dour and forbidding man with a permanent scowl, and she had trouble trying to work out how he'd ever gained a reputation for singing the songs of courtly love under the bower windows of noblewomen, princesses and Queens. Although she'd heard he'd once been young and handsome until the fateful night he'd serenaded a past Queen of Lancre and her husband had got to hear of it. Running fast and horseriding are also essential troubadour skills, she recollected, but maybe not as important as recognising when an enraged husband's sent his toughest guards to block your exit route.

"Noblesse oblige." she said, as amicably as she could manage. "I'm sure you'd help if any of my pupils wanted to use you in a grading exercise."

The minstrel blanched.

Oh, and avoiding Assassins sent by an enraged husband. That must be a lesson too.

And with rehearsal facilities sorted out, the women found, to their astonishment, that the whole business of setting up routines that would pass a Fools' Guild examination – which would necessarily be lenient towards them - was developing into an absorbing challenge. Who knew, maybe the Fools and Clowns could pass on skills to them that would be transferable to working as Assassins and Thieves. Their routines were emerging, and would soon be on display to the world.

1) Repeated footnote from Nature Studies:- Something like this must have happened. In the very earliest Discworld novels, such as Equal Rites, conjurors have been described as jolly men with leather patches on their elbows and a hearty laugh, who congregate together at parties, associate with thin sad-eyed women (generally called Doris who affect spangly tights and leotards), and generally infuriate wizards by not realising how lowly they are. Yet by the time of The Truth, A group of sad, listless, and defeated men whose guild premises are directly underneath William de Worde's office. By inference one step away from Fools and every bit as cheerful, the trainee Conjurors are led through their lessons by strict rote. It is clear that as with the Fools and Joculators, there is no perceived need to alter what may, at some point in the preceding several hundred years, have once been a winning formula.

Quite clearly, in between Equal Rites and The Truth, something has happened to change the image of conjuring. Quite possibly the establishment of a Guild and the formalising of training into something sounding as unutterably miserable as anything the Fools' Guild has come up with? Indeed, given the generally negative levels of jollity and joviality floating about, together with the undeniable fact that stage magic is a somewhat stilted, forced and unspontaneous form of entertainment, unchanged in its essentials for many years, which has now become something of a cliché - could it be that Conjury has been subsumed as a sub-speciality of Clowning and Fooling, and ultimately comes under the chilly wing of Dr. Whiteface?

(2) The ultimate guv'nor. Lord Vetinari, had replied that of all the possible Guilds to use the plumbimg issue and lack of facilities as an excuse not to take vocationally inclined female students, the Builders and Plumbers were the last ones who should try to get away with it. After all, they'd advised on installing appropriate facilities for nearly a thousand girl pupils at the expanded Assassins' Guild School and then built them, so what had they done since, lost the plans?

(3 ) An online translator gives these choices for "butterfly" - kochou, chou, chouchou, batafurai – and these for "pretty"- puriti, kawaii, airashii. Have I picked the right ones? Useless trivia – British singer Alvin Stardust charted with a song called "my kouchoucou" in 1974. 36 years later I find out it isn't just an assemblage of nonsense syllables, he could be likening his beloved to a Japanese butterfly…

(4) Not to be confused with The Lovely Debbie McGee, who on Roundworld was the Doris to diminutative stage magician The Amazing Paul Daniels. We are reliably told that all Dorises end up as sad-eyed twitching wrecks in the end. (Maybe even candidates for Joan Sanderson-Reeves' professional speciality?) It possibly qualifies them for teaching on the Discworld.

(5) – see Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, where Vetinari himself concludes a very public annulment. Bouncy Normo was the perfect Clown. Just as some people have perfect pitch, absolute rhythm or green fingers, Normo had no sense of humour whatsoever but was a really funny man. The then Patrician had to issue an edict banning him from public performance after three people died laughing. This was even though Normo was standing with his back to the stage and did not utter a word. People would go purple just watching him shave. This was too much for him. Leaving a suicide note that read "What is everybody laughing about?" his suicde was memorsble, prolonged, and took another seven people with him. For the full sad tae of Bouncy Normo, see The New Discworld Companion.

(6) See Terry Pratchett's Making Moneyfor the love-match between Mavolio Bent and Miss Drapes.

(7) Troubadours and minstrels were an off-shoot of mediaeval jesters and clowns. Author Alan Gordon explores the idea of the Roundworld Fools Guild in his novels about the jester Theophilus and his family. (Read 'em. Reccomended). In one book, the famous troubadour Blondel makes his appearance, but as a minstrel who would have wowed 'em down at the Blue Cat Club…

To me, the idea of an impeccably dressed Discworld minstrel – but singing George Formby songs to ukulele accompaniment – is irresistible, especially as Formby was never that funny to begin with. Or maybe the wartime British were so starved of any sort of entertaining distraction that they loved a man who was one step away from being a Discworld clown…