Author/Presenter: Michael Palin
In the autumn of 1988 Michael Palin set out from the Reform Club to circumnavigate the world, following the route taken by Phileas Fogg 115 years earlier. The rules were simple. He had to make the ‘journey in 80 days and never use aircraft, only forms of transport that would have been available to Fogg.
But if the rules were simple, nothing else was. Palin’s Passepartout was not a loyal French manservant but a 5-person BBC film crew, there to record his every move. The golden age of sea travel with regular timetables and ocean liners was, he discovered, long since dead. State cabins and deck quoits were replaced by crowded Red Sea ferries, mattresses of date sacks on an open dhow, hospital beds on a Yugoslav freighter and bunks on eerily creaking container ships.
He discovered, too, that the days are past when a signed photo of Queen Victoria was enough to admit an Englishman anywhere. Passports, visas, customs forms, carnets delayed him at every frontier – and there were 17 of them.
Whether seeing Venice from the back of a rubbish barge, riding round the Pyramids on a camel called Michael, drifting helplessly in the Straits of Hormuz after engine failure, being shaved by an apparently blind barber in Bombay, attacked by a cockatoo in Hong Kong, served a snake’s bladder liqueur in China or subjected to a bizarre initiation ritual as he crossed the International Date Line, Palin managed to do everything the hard way.
Fogg brought back a Princess, Palin a lot of dirty laundry and a television series that stands as an unparalleled tribute to man’s ability to make life difficult for himself.
This book is the story of, and the story behind, the making of the series. Based on Palin’s daily diaries it is a full, frank, no holds barred account of a ‘journey that turned into a Great Twentieth Century Adventure.
Laugh, cry, but for God’s sake buy your own copy.