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April 05, 2011

Michael Palin: 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,
Michael
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