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  The Chatter Box : Messages from Michael
Spring Still in In My Step by Michael Palin on 25 April 2005 10:00pm
Posting my reaction to the Palin Hangs Up his Boots story makes me embarrassingly aware that I've been very bad at reporting back to the site - my last message being at New Year. Humble apologies.

As usual I plead laziness, inertia, and too much time spent in the pub or watching 24.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, comes a newspaper report that I'm never travelling again. And in The Independent, of all papers. The one I've read through thick and thin since it started. Two-thirds of a page AND an editorial devoted to an entirely inaccurate story, taken from another newspaper and never checked with me. My wife did tell the Independent journalist that I was taking a year off to think about what to do next but that I would almost certainly be travelling again. This tenacious journalist was not one to let the truth get in the way of a good story, hence the potty revelations in the newspaper this morning, Monday 25th April.

Like many other sad old people I listen to the Today show on Radio 4. Well, I nearly fell off the lavatory this morning when I heard the news of my retirement being read out over the air at 7.40.

So, a nice day which should have been spent collecting an award from the Voice Of The Listener and Viewer and an evening talk about the Himalaya trip at the National Portrait Gallery has turned into a containment exercise against contamination spread by my favourite newspaper.

It will all seem utterly trivial tomorrow but for the record I felt I had to get word out to the website as soon as possible. Hence the message to boot makers.

I particularly resented the implication that I was giving up as I was approaching 62. I know I shouldn't tempt fate by saying this but I feel very well thank you and if I look younger than 62 it's because a) I am and b) travelling is the best way to stay young, much better than Oil of Ulay or plastic surgery.

The fact that I have not signed up for a next series is a quite deliberate decision to have some time to myself after four years devoted solely to the books and series of Sahara and Himalaya. My appetite for travel is undiminished but I'm not yet ready to sign two more years of my life away.

Does this mean I've taken up ballooning or harp maintenance? Not at all.

Since my last message I have been at home for a gratifyingly long time - nearly six weeks - then I travelled to San Francisco, rented a car and drove down the Pacific Coast Highway stopping off to spend some time with friends in Carmel and Santa Barbara. A thick sea mist followed me most of the way, but the sun shone at either end of the journey and I loved my walks beside the crashing ocean at Carmel, the greenness of California after heavy rains and perfect conditions for surfing off Santa Barbara. Sorry, I should say watching surfing.

In Los Angeles the National Television and Film Museum honoured me with an evening devoted to my work, hosted by the brilliant Harry Shearer, famous for Spinal Tap, Mighty Wind, The Simpsons and much great character acting.

I flew to New York for some time off with my wife and the opening night of Spamalot, for whose programme I wrote some very silly material about Finnish musicals. A great night at a very fast, very funny, action packed show which I urge you to see as we are on royalty points!

After flying back from New York I set to work on a documentary for BBC 1 on a little-known but powerful Danish artist called Wilhelm Hammershoi. He lived from 1864 to 1916 and painted hauntingly still, quiet pictures which I first saw at an exhibition of Scandinavian painting in London in 1987 and have never forgotten.

We filmed for three weeks in London, Amsterdam, Delft (he was heavily influenced by Vermeer) and in and around Copenhagen. A fine city, small enough to walk round, but grand enough to feel every inch a capital.

Thoroughly recommend Denmark. They have living well sorted out there and modern design and architecture is the usual impressive mix of elegance and function.

But things are expensive, especially wine. Buy at a supermarket rather than a restaurant. There's a terrific place to eat in Christiania - the free colony set up by hippies in 1970's, It's in the city, but makes it's own rules. The restaurant is called Spiseloppen (which means something like eating like a flea). Good food and un-posh, un-stuffy atmosphere. And wild paintings on the wall.

The film we shot is currently being edited in Glasgow and I shall be going up there in June to record commentary. Next week I'm away to talk about the Himalaya at the Trento mountain festival in north Italy. The Dolomites loom around the city. They're beautiful mountains, jagged and dramatic but with some of the most seductive meadows in Europe spread along their slopes. And Trento is where both the Sahara and Himalaya books were printed so I already feel at home there. And there's the San Leonardo vineyard only a short bicycle ride away. And a much longer ride back !

Travel Channel will be purveying Himalaya to the great American public from June 21st and the book will be out from St. Martin's Press around the same time- but more details of that to come.

Apart from that life's pretty quiet !

Keep your news and adventures coming in.

Good luck and good wishes to all travellers from your definitely NOT retiring, NEARLY BUT NOT QUITE 62 year old fellow voyager,


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