Michael Palin

Mr Palin (and a cat)

Yesterday, a great big DVD boxset of all the Michael Palin travel documentaries was rediscovered in my Gran’s living room. Gran had been given it as a Christmas present last year.

While I will agree that the various sketches and films created by the Monty Python team are some of Michael Palin’s best work – they’re not my favourite. I loooooove the Dead Parrot sketch, but it doesn’t mean that I hold it above Palin’s other points in the media spotlight i.e. all his travel documentaries and writing.

Especially his travel documentaries.

I spent a great deal of my school years being ill, and when I was too ill to go into school I normally ended up being looked after by my Dad’s mum (this is the Gran that I now care for). When my Gran and Granddad moved from their smallholding to live around the corner from my parents’ house, Gran bought her first VHS player and I no longer had to rely on just school shows for entertainment when ill (this was before Freeview, so no free kids’ channels).

‘Course Gran had to buy some videos to play in her video player. And so she bought boxsets of Around the World in 80 Days and Pole to Pole, both Michael Palin travel documentaries, as she loves travel programs and books. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve watched the Palin tapes through, but it’s a fair amount. It was great to just get lost in his musings about the world.

Watching these two documentaries as a child is probably why I enjoyed going on German language exchanges when I was in secondary school. And while I haven’t been abroad in some time, I do plan to at least take my partner on a aeroplane sometime as he’s never flown.

Pailin is also why I care about not just events in my own country, but what happens outside its borders too. There are so many times in Around the World in 80 Days and Pole to Pole, when Michael and his crew are effectively “cut-off” from mainstream news and media. In Pole to Pole, the Soviet block is seriously beginning to crumble, so Palin and his small crew just don’t know what they’ll find when they get to countries like the Ukraine. (Thankfully, it’s not absolute anarchy, but they do take a visit to a deserted village near Chernobyl and that is scary.)

So here is a salute to Michael Palin – the man who made childhood colds and stomach bugs just a little bit less horrid, but also opened my eyes to the world that bit more.

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