You’ve probably vaguely heard of Michael Palin. He’s not been terribly busy or open about his work over the decades. If you ignore Monty Python, Ripping Yarns, The Frost Report, A Fish Called Wanda and his work in the travel industry writing travel books and documentaries you’ll find he’s not done much. Therefore, it was with nothing much in mind I picked up this tome of 673 pages and avidly dove in.
You probably can’t see the many bookmarks I left so I’d be able to wend my way back through the myriad of information to have a chance of writing something coherent for you.
Let me go back more decades than I admit to being alive to when Monty Python was on TV in Australia. I used to watch it, sometimes cringing and sometimes laughing uproariously. The Python team spent their time taking the mickey out of absolutely everything, trying to highlight the ridiculousness of people or situations, they were ahead of their time on so many occasions. If you look at the words of The Lumberjack Song you’ll find it has as much relevance today as it talks about transvestites…I’ve always loved scones.
But, to the book.
This shows Palin caring about so many things, his family, his work, politics, and as his children become old enough for school, the school. He has diarised his father’s increasingly ill-health and some of how his mother copes with it all. There are comments on politics, strikes and how they’re coping with rolling gas stoppages. We see little comments on how his family copes with the increasing wealth as Python goes from strength to strength. And I’m not mentioning comments about his co-workers…promise.
As I expected, it’s well written and edited. Thank heavens he edited it. I spent five weeks reading this book, it wasn’t boring but I’m over committed and couldn’t spend much time each day on reading, if Palin hadn’t edited parts out then I’d still be reading. But, to get comments on things that were happening on the day they happened was pretty awesome.
On his fans
There are times when he’s totally gobsmacked by his fandom. Like the time when they accidentally met up with George Harrison who declared himself a big fan, they end up friends and collaborate on various occasions.
We also see other occasions with some non-famous fans who have decided they’re not leaving the hotel until they’ve spent some time with Palin or some of the other Pythons. It doesn’t get ugly but it shows how these situations could become go from pleasant to unpleasant.
On his working
Some of the bits I love the most involve telling us how much work he’s done and in what time span. One entry talks about John Cleese and how he rang up suggesting they do some writing that day. They spent most of four hours and wrote four minutes of screen time! He considered that a good afternoon’s work.
The book in general
Some of his descriptions are lovely. On going to a Playboy Club he describes it as a ‘taste wilderness’ and ‘the bare shoulders [of the girls] are quite pleasant, but the costume’s brutal and unsexy’.
Where he talks about bombs going off in London and they just go on with daily life. ‘But the fact that I heard the explosion in our kitchen seemed to bring the whole horror closer to me’. I found this bit chilling, it was October 1975 so probably an IRA bomb. That’s an episode in English/Irish history which I’m glad is over and moving towards a better understanding.
Just because I haven’t given you a link to buy a book in just about forever I’m giving you two. This one is for the actual book I read and this one is for three of his diaries from 1969 – 1998 just in case you want to go further than me.