As an unabashed follower of the great and good Sir Michael Palin I was overjoyed…..nay, absolutely brimming with bliss….I felt that my cup runneth over…’ on discovering that Sir Michael had revisited some of his early travels and created a new series.
His website says “Michael revisits five of his famous journeys – Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Sahara and Himalaya. In intimate conversation, and using his personal archive, he reflects on how he got hooked on travel, and reveals the challenges he faced making the ground-breaking travel shows. In addition, celebrities including Simon Reeve and Joanna Lumley explain how Michael inspired them to go on adventures of their own“.
As I’ve already mentioned here and in earlier posts I am a huge fan of Michael Palin. I liked him immensely as a member of Monty Python, but my genuine admiration of him as a presenter and a writer came from watching his travel programmes and reading his travel books.
Both Michael and myself were born and raised in Sheffield and we’re both absolutely mad football supporters. Sadly though Michael supports the wrong team in Sheffield. I’m only half joking when I say that.
Although he now follows both of the Sheffield football clubs, his heart is with Sheffield United, whereas I for my sins follow Wednesday. The fans of both teams are absolute rivals of one another. Football in Sheffield is not about life and death…it’s bigger than that. When I was a boy my dad, a lifelong United supporter, took me to watch United at Bramall Lane, but a couple of weeks earlier our neighbour had taken me to watch Sheffield Wednesday play an exhibition game against Santos of Brazil and Pele was playing. I had taken that Tuesday afternoon off school to watch the game along with 37,000 other people – mostly men and schoolboys to see Pele lead Santos to a 2-0 win. Although Wednesday lost, by the time my dad took me to see United play, I was already a Wednesdayite. This pleased my mum immensely as she and her brother used to watch Wednesday in their younger days too. There was a serious rivalry between the clubs back then, and I suppose it still goes on today. But, these days just like Michael Palin, I like both Sheffield clubs to do well. Perhaps this is because of the distance I am away from Sheffield these days. The 12,000 or so miles make it more bearable to hear about United having a win now and then. Both clubs doing well at the same time sadly rarely happens, although as I write this both clubs are nearing the end of the 2022/23 season and promotion for both teams is possible (if not probable). United sit second in their league and have a good chance of promotion to the Premier league, whereas Wednesday (who from over 50 years of experience I have come to know as ‘the nearly team’ – they nearly do well….usually starting of with a roar, hitting the top of the table and then slowly self-destructing and missing out yet again) were doing amazingly well, top of the table with games in hand have, it seems, gone into self-destruct mode yet again and now sit 3rd on the table but the teams above and below now have a game in hand over them. It’s starting to feel and look like the same old story – I hope I’m proven wrong!
Anyway….back to Sir Michael.
When Palin’s first travel series Around the World in 80 Days was released – November 1989 – I had already backpacked half way around the world myself over a 10 month period, returned to the UK, married, started a family and then emigrated permanently to New Zealand with my New Zealand wife…who was formerly my pen-pal – back in the day when people used to write and mail letters to one another. I always say that via my letter writing I won more than any other literary prize around and after 35 years of marriage and 37 years together, I still believe that 100%.
I think that what I really loved about Around the World in 80 days, in particular, was how unscripted, seat of the pants it was. He’d arrive somewhere not knowing the language or much about the place and have to work out how to get from A to B (against the clock) with interesting and often amusing consequences. Even something as seemingly simple as buying a train ticket became a quest fit for Arthurian legend. It truly was groundbreaking TV.
As his expertise grew – his travel experience that is – the shows became a little more polished so by the time he had gone through Pole to Pole and Full Circle he had worn off most of the rough edges and had become a far more professional presenter. He never lost his sense of wonder though about the world and the people in it and this made all of his travel series’ so special.
It was with both joy and a little sadness that I watched him reminisce about his earlier adventures. Being reminded how he looked when he began his travels, in his mid 40’s, to how he is now at almost 80 made me realise that he is getting on in years and that sooner or later we all age. At times his eyes are clear and the younger vibrant man in him is still there, but other times his eyes look rheumy and tired and remind me of my father’s eyes toward the end of his life.
I sincerely hope that Sir Michael will be with us for many more years and that his adventuring is not yet all behind him.
If you haven’t yet seen his ‘Travels of a Lifetime’ series, it’s definitely worth watching whether you saw the original travel series’ or not.
As usual, if you’ve read this far Thank You. Please feel free to comment, like or share this post and we’ll be back with another post soon.