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  The Chatter Box : Messages from Michael
A Himalayan Hello by Michael Palin on 28 May 2003 12:52pm
Dear all,

Thanks to everyone who has visited the site, even just to clean their teeth. Though I may be a stern and distant figure, the boys at the coal-face are there, day in day out (apart from lunch breaks, long weekends, trips to Paris, coffee breaks, and coming up to my house to help install my new iMac), to look after your every need.

Just because I don't speak does not mean I don't get to see what's happening on the site and read the various messages you post. I think Andy, Peter and Steve are doing a brilliant job. So are all of you who leave messages and especially those who turned out to see me on my recent trip to the US and Canada. We had great turn-outs in all the major cities - New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco and LA and "Sahara" appeared on the Top Ten Non-fiction book lists in LA and SF.

The visits to the site almost doubled once Bravo started showing the TV series which demonstrates that, despite what they say, many Americans ARE interested in travel, and I certainly found that true from questions asked in interviews and audience Q and A sessions.

My only regret is that when I went on Conan O'Brien's show with an author called Anthony Swofford I hadn't read his book "Jarhead", a personal account of his experiences in the Marine Corps in the first Gulf war. I've read it since and found it powerful, honest and angry. The real voice of the foot soldier, told by a skilful and imaginative writer. Put me in mind of a sort of cross between Hemingway and Norman Mailer's Naked and The Dead. A brave and unusual book.

A completely different kind of book, but one which also brilliantly captures and fills out a particular location, is The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith, set in Botswana. A simple series of stories, but cleverly told and bringing this corner of Africa to life, with a mix of wisdom, humour and good crime writing. A real joy, and there are now sequels if you get hooked.

Finally, as I'm on a book roll, I'd recommend my current reading: Among Muslims, Meetings at The Frontiers Of Pakistan, by Kathleen Jamie (Sort Of Books, London). She's a Scot who writes with poetic beauty and great empathy for the people she meets.

I'm reading that, and re-reading Rudyard Kipling's "Kim", in preparation for leaving very soon to begin filming for six one-hour episodes of a new Prominent TV/BBC1 series on the Himalaya and the countries that border the greatest mountain range on earth. Same trusty crew as on Sahara, and a book to match with Basil's inimitable photos.

I shall try and keep a bit of news coming through, but when I'm working on a series I like to keep my head down working, and not give away what an audience is going to see till they see it. Also we don't know what's going to make it into book or series until much later in the process. So if I go a bit quiet on our adventures for a while, and don't give continual details and up-dates I hope you won't take it amiss.

I think it will be wonderfully different territory from Sahara, but in many places just as unvisited.

One or two things will be different, apart from the snows of the mountains and the mix of religions from Islam to Buddhism and Hinduism. Much English spoken so I should understand it all better, and I'm already missing the bug-free Sahara, as I begin to take my anti-malaria pills.

The series and book will be delivered - Insh'Allah - by the autumn of 2004, which sounds a long time but I know it will never be quite enough for all the work we want to do.

Meanwhile the ever-creative team at Oil Internet will be finding ingenious ways to keep the site fresh. I see that Basil's Inside Sahara photos are now available - ONLY on Palin's Travels, of course - you lucky, lucky bastards.

Please keep sending the messages and letting us know what you like and don't like about the site.

Till soon, love to you all, and Happy Travels,


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