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  The Chatter Box : Messages from Michael
News from New Europe by Michael Palin on 10 April 2007 4:15pm
I can't believe that over six months has gone by since my last update. Fortunately, my excellent Slovenian blogger (http://michael-palins-new-europe-fan-blog.blogspot.com) has kept tabs on me, so you know I've not been taken up into space or been attacked and eaten by an enraged python.

So what have I been doing other than spending far too much time crawling around the floor with my grandson Archie, now just one year old ? Well, the New Europe series has taken over what's left of my life after crawling around the floor (or pretending to be a bee, or doing horse impressions) with Archie.

Since my last message we have spent about two months filming, in places like Poland, Turkey, Moldova, Romania and Serbia, and when not filming, I've been tied to the computer (not literally, I had one leg free) working to put my impressions down for the New Europe book. What has happened once again is that I have kept different things in my notebooks from those Nigel has seen through the camera, so the book will have its own story to tell. What I'm finding difficult is dealing with not six countries, as in Himalaya, or eight (I think) in Sahara, but twenty in New Europe. And these are not countries miles away; they're close to home and there is much more history and culture and politics to understand. So I have been having to get my old brain up early and make it work late, and in trying to effect this superhuman effort I've become a bit of a recluse. But I'm just about on schedule, and provided I don't go to the lavatory until June, I should get the book completed on time. Once again it will have the benefit of Basil Pao's photos. Incidentally, if you like Basil's work, check out his book "Hands", published by Thames and Hudson and very soon, his new book on China, published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in the UK.

As for the filming, well, even as you read this, our genius of an editor (despite being a Birmingham City supporter) Alex Richardson, is at an undisclosed address in the Soho area, poring over miles of tape and trying to make some sense of it in time for me to start writing and recording commentary for the six one-hour episodes in July and August. There is no shortage of material, in fact there's too much, but already some of my hopes for the new series look like being achieved. New Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, whatever you like to call it, is looking both exciting and in many cases really beautiful, and we are finding some great people to give us insights into their lives, aspirations, hopes and regrets, and generally breathe life into the countries we travel through. Inevitably, there will be those who think we should have spent more time in their country, as opposed to somebody else's, or talked to different people or eaten different food, or not drunk quite as much brandy, or whatever. But equally, I hope that we shall open people's eyes to the vibrant life of Eastern, or Central, or New Europe. And if any of our contributors read this message - THANK YOU.

In a week's time we shall be on our way to the Tatra mountains of Slovakia to begin shooting our last episode through the Czech Republic and up into Germany. Can't tell you anything more, because I don't know how it will all turn out, and even as we speak the starting point of the journey has yet to be decided, but I'm confident that everything will be as fresh, surprising and stimulating as the filming has been. With luck and a fair breeze, these programmes could be as good as my horse impressions (ask Archie).

The book, series and DVD are on track to be in the shops and on BBC TV in UK hopefully around October this year. I shall be doing book signing tours here and probably abroad as well. Watch this space.

Recent recommendations - a German movie called The Lives Of Others, and an inspiring book of letters and communications sent to the PEN writers organisation from writers all over the world who have found themselves imprisoned and often tortured for telling the truth. It's called Another Sky and is published by Profile Books. My other current pre-occupations are watching Jack Bauer and Sheffield United both battling to save their worlds. Who needs Archie ?

Happy Travels to you all,

Michael P

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