We are pleased to publish these messages from Michael Palin
( ex Monty
Python ) a long-time favourite of ours .. and for the last few years, responsible for enlightening many people to the joys of travelling to
out-of-the-way places on his fascinating TV programmes and in his many books.
Website : http://www.palinstravels.co.uk
Received 5th April 2011
On The Road Again
In these days of Twitter and Facebook and instant messaging, a gap of nine months between website messages seems positively Neanderthal, so I apologise. It's not that I take a long
time to type, it's just that I haven't been zooming around the world with my normal regularity. Until last month that is, when, in the space of three weeks I visited Dubai, Brazil and Tiverton.
Dubai was about books, for I had been asked to give the opening talk at the Emirates Literary Festival. I did a quick round up of my working life which I called "Forty Years Without A
Proper Job" (though it's actually forty-six years now since I collected my first pay check) and there was much laughter.
The next day I went up the tallest building in the world - the Burj (meaning 'tower) Khalifa.
The top's not yet been kitted out, so we only got to the 124th floor. I don't know what it is, but the higher you go the less impressive the view is. Of course you can see a long way, but your
relationship with the surface of the planet is so remote that the city below looks like a model, or a diagram. But I've lived in a two-storey house for forty three years so what do I know. The
lift WAS impressive. 124 floors in less than a minute. That's a Formula One lift, that is.
Books have taken up most of the last nine months of my life as I've had my head down trying
to complete my second novel (the only published one so far was "Hemingway's Chair" (1995) "Brilliant - M Palin" It's almost completed now and has the working title of "The Truth".
Writing novels, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, is just not something that sounds exciting on the website.
Much more exciting is that after Dubai I spent eleven days in Brazil. I'd spent one night there
in 1996, on the way from South Africa to Chile to fly to the South Pole, and had seen nothing except the salesmen on Copacabana Beach. This trip took me from Rio, down the coast to the
good-looking old town of Paraty, then up to Salvador and back to Rio via the Minas Geraes town of Tiradentes, heart of the gold rush that made Brazil such a magnet in the 17th century.
It was a reconnaissance trip for a new four-part BBC 1 series, and accompanying book - which should be ready in the autumn of 2012 - when all eyes will be on Brazil as host for both the
World Cup of 2014 and the Olympics of 2016. It was a thrilling journey, full of great sensations, and provided I can stay on my feet, I think this Brazil series has the potential to be very special. Watch this space !
But now to the question you all want answered. Why Tiverton ? Well that was in my capacity as President of The Royal Geographical Society, which has over the last year kept me in
touch with the world without ever going further than our headquarters in Kensington Gore - where anyone interested in Geography should go - we'd love to see you. There's a terrific
library of books, photos and maps and we're always on the look out for new members - especially young members. Plug over. Tiverton was not as wild as Brazil, but the green
Devonshire hills made me wish I'd brought my walking boots. So it looks as if next year will be spent less with my nose in a book than with my nose in a caipirinha (particularly good with
passion fruit). And I should, once again, have some travellers tales to tell.
Meanwhile I just have to live off other peoples. So, keep travelling and keep telling us your
stories. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the website. Yours always,
Received 5th July 2010
Still (working like) Crazy After All These Years.
Thanks to Simon and Garfunkel for most of the title.
Way back last October I told you of my plans to write a novel. Well, I still have plans and
more words to show for it. But it's difficult to clear the days and just concentrate on writing. Being President of The Royal Geographical Society (I started a three-year term in June last
year) involves a lot of appearances at the Society to introduce speakers and occasionally give talks myself and this last year, a lot of time spent fund-raising for improvements to the
Society's headquarters just along from the Albert Hall. Which is where I joined Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam as one-night guest stars in Eric and John Du Prez's take on The Life Of
Brian called Not The Messiah. So for the second time in my life (the first being at the Concert for George) I found myself singing The Lumberjack Song at the Albert Hall. Only this time I
got the words of the chorus wrong! Must be old age!
There was also a Python reunion in New York, so the old bugger is still alive and well and giving me yet another excuse for not finishing the novel.
Recent interruptions have included a brilliant visit to Bologna in Italy for a Film Festival celebrating the work of Peter Sellers. Every time I see work by him and Spike Milligan I
realise how much I've been influenced by them both in acting and writing. In a rare clip from 1953, one of their sketches begins with two men banging coconuts together. "Give the horses
some water", someone says, and they drop the coconuts into a bucket.
Also to Warsaw last month to promote the publication of the book of my journey Around The
World In Eighty Days which now joins Himalaya and Sahara (and my first novel Hemingway's Chair) in a specially translated Polish edition. And earlier in the year, as the ash clouds
gathered over Europe, to Paris to promote the first French language edition of Pole to Pole.
Have tried hard to resist the temptations of book festivals. I feel that I should write the book
first and then go to the festivals. But I've been seduced by the delights of southern Ireland to attend the West Cork Literary Festival to which I'm paying a flying visit this Thursday, 8th July.
That same day sees the publication of the easy-to-read, lightweight, all-singing, all-dancing paperback edition of my Diaries from the 1980s, Halfway To Hollywood, so I'll be doing some
signings and radio and TV interviews over the next two weeks. Again, instead of writing the novel!
Two bits of travel news. If negotiations work out well I plan to reunite with the team next year
to shoot a three-part BBC1 series in Brazil. I hope we can sort it all out satisfactorily as I shall soon be too old to move unaided. (Though whenever I think I'm too old I look at David
Attenborough, now into his eighties and still showing us whippersnappers a clean pair of heels!)
In late March I spent a week in Orissa, a state on the Eastern side of India, south of Kolkata
and north of Chennai. I can recommend it. Little known by tourists from outside India, the capital Bhubaneswar has plenty of accommodation and some of the finest Hindu temples I've
ever seen. Beautiful craftsmanship dating back nearly 2000 years. There's wildlife and dolphins in an inland sea-water lake nearby and further upstate are forested hills which are
home to the adivasis - the oldest indigenous tribes of India. They are sadly not being left alone. The hills amongst which they have lived for many centuries contain valuable minerals
and a huge aluminium refinery was built near the Nyamgiri Hills recently. The mining company want to get at reserves of bauxite, and a particularly rich seam runs through the
Nyamgiri Hills. Unfortunately several indigenous peoples still live there including the Dongria Kondh, for whom the hills gave always been sacred.
The company is currently awaiting a decision from the Indian government which they hope will allow it to begin mining, which will involve bulldozing and blasting the top of the hills to a depth
of some 30 metres. The villages of the Dongria Kondh will be destroyed if the project goes through. Depressing because we all use aluminium so we're all to an extent complicit. But for
the people who have lived here for so long, and whose way of life doesn't need aluminium, the impact of what is to happen is impossible for them to understand.
I found this head-on collision of ancient and modern ways of life deeply sad. Recently in the Independent newspaper the business section advised that the shares of the company that is
mining in Orissa might be a good buy despite its record and reputation. I wrote this letter in protest and it was published in the paper last Thursday 1st July:
"At least your Business Section is commendably honest about claiming the moral low ground. "If You Can Stomach It, Vedanta Is A Good Buy" Independent 30.06.10.
I certainly couldn't stomach it. But then I've been to the Nyamgiri Hills in Orissa and seen the forces of money and power that Vedanta Resources have arrayed against a people who have
occupied their land for thousands of years, who husband the forest sustainably and make no great demands on the state or the government. The tribe I visited simply want to carry on
living in the villages that they and their ancestors have always lived in. Vedanta shares will doubtless go up when and if permission is granted to bulldoze their sacred hills in order to
extract bauxite. If you want to make some money out of that, as the Independent recommends, that's up to you. If, on the other hand you have any reservations about
destroying a way of life, you might wish to pause, think and read a little more about what's going on in the Nyamgiri Hills".
It's a story to watch.
Now I'm escaping into the wonderful world of fiction to avoid all this awfulness. Or better still, to confront it.
Love to all. Thanks for continuing to join me on the site and, whatever you do, never lose
interest in the world!