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  The Chatter Box : Messages from Michael
Mountains Successfully Climbed (but still a few peaks left to scale) by Michael Palin on 29 November 2004 8:58pm
The privations of the journey and the helter-skelter rush to complete the book and series suddenly seem to have paid off. Viewing figures for the first episode of the great adventure, broadcast on October 3rd, averaged out at 9.1 million and put Himalaya firmly amongst the Top Twenty Programmes of the week.

That was the highest altitude that our viewing figures reached, but they remain around 8 million, a figure which I need regular doses of oxygen to take in.

The book went straight to the top of the Non-Fiction Bestseller list and is still there as far as I know.

For that Iíd like to thank all those who have overcome their inherent meanness to buy one or more of these lovely volumes, and an especial thank you to all those who stood in long queues to see me on my recently completed national tour. You were brilliant. I shall never forget the great atmosphere at the signings. Wildest of all was The Peak Bookshop in Chesterfield, where, in the middle of a thunderstorm, many hundreds of doughty Peak District readers were undaunted. People were coming into the shop wind-blown and sodden, as if theyíd come off the bridge of a ship in a hurricane. All were exceedingly friendly, patient and tolerant as they bought their books then vanished into the tempest again. This was the adventurous spirit at its best. And I signed 847 copies!

Although I signed for at least three hours at every shop, there was never quite enough time for me to sign dedications to everybody and I apologise to all those who didnít get to see me. In the spirit of the Dalai Lama I do try to have a word with everybody, which means less books signed but the alternative is just to scribble a name without looking up and that seems pointless to me.

So thank you all who came along in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle, Oldham, York, Chesterfield, Lincoln, Nottingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Worcester, Solihull, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Cambridge and Oxford.

Iím pleased to see that many of the reviews have given high praise to Nigel Meakinís photography. With him, and Basil Pao on stills, I am extraordinarily fortunate to have two of the best in their profession working with me. Himalaya is very much a team show, and I wish that the media would acknowledge that by occasionally putting names to all those who keep the quality of the series so high. Without my directors Roger Mills and John-Paul Davidson I would never have been able to assemble all the places and people and the thoughts and ideas to go with them. John Pritchardís fine ear for the sounds of the world has given the shows extra depth and helped create powerful and evocative atmospheres to go with the pictures. And Alex Richardson, the series editor, has woven all these sights and sounds together into a narrative that has been one of the strong points of this series. Alex (and Saska Simpson who edited episode 5) has made programmes into darned good stories!

After the initial nervousness Iíve enjoyed watching the shows myself. Thereís so much that I never saw when I was doing the journey. Only on television can I see what was behind me as I coughed and sneezed my way up the Annapurna Trail. Amazing and beautiful scenery that I never had time to look at!

The Round Britain signing tour was just the start of a journey, much longer than Himalaya, which will take me to Holland, New Zealand, Australia as well as Belfast and Dublin in the next four and a half weeks. I shall be doing a lot of talks and scribbling in a lot of books, but as ever, itís a good chance to find out what people actually think about the series. It brings television to life.

On plane journeys and long nights in terminals I shall look forward to reading a few other books apart from my own, and indulging my addiction to travel as the work takes me to places as far apart as Tasmania and Amsterdam.

Many people have asked what next and where next. Because Sahara and Himalaya practically ran on from one to the other without a break, I feel Iíve been planning, shooting, writing, narrating and publicising shows for most of the twenty-first century. In little more than three years weíve produced ten hours of television, two books and two photo albums of the journeys. I need some time to cool off and look around, to work on friendships that Iíve put on hold and generally enjoy looking at the world for a bit, without having the world looking at me. So for a year at least Iím taking a break from the big TV journeys.

A year that will give me time to decide where, why, how and whether to go on the TV trail again.

Watch this space!

Michael Palin

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