Michael Palin

Michael Palin (72) is a writer, ac­tor, co­me­dian, TV pre­sen­ter, and one of the orig­i­nal mem­bers of Monty Python. A for­mer pres­i­dent of the Royal Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety, he was made a Bafta fel­low in 2013. He lives in north Lon­don with his wife, He­len Gib­bins

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS -

Iusu­ally hoist my­self out of bed around about 7.30am. I like to ease my­self gen­tly into the day, and do­ing some ex­er­cise is quite im­por­tant to me. I gave up smok­ing when I started writ­ing the di­aries [ Di­aries 1969–1979: The Python Years; he has since pub­lished two fur­ther vol­umes], and I started reg­u­lar run­ning in about 1979; both were to try and keep my­self fit. When I first started the trav­el­ling in 1988, I re­alised it was go­ing to be tough — I was mid­dle-aged, and I was go­ing to be trav­el­ling around the world and get­ting up at all hours and climb­ing moun­tains, so keep­ing fit be­came part of my life. So now I do 20 min­utes of Pi­lates in the morn­ing while I lis­ten to the To­day pro­gramme.

Then I will go and have break­fast with my wife. Get­ting up and be­ing across the ta­ble from her is nice. We never say very much, but it’s a nice thing to do in the morn­ing to reaf­firm the re­la­tion­ship. Then we go off on our var­i­ous ways. I start the day with a pa­paya, be­cause I read some­where that it has very good prop­er­ties for di­ges­tion.

I’m at my desk by 9am. I try to write the di­ary first, record­ing the events of the day be­fore. I love spend­ing a morn­ing writ­ing and look­ing out over the small gar­den that we have, and feel­ing that that’s as far as I need to go in the day. But most days, there are other things that come along. I have an of­fice in Covent Gar­den, and I might have to go down there. If so, I walk up to the lo­cal Un­der­ground sta­tion and travel through Lon­don. If there is a pro­ject on, very of­ten I’ll have a meet­ing to dis­cuss that. Some­one who read my di­aries did say at one point, ‘You seem to have an aw­ful lot of lunches!’ Well, yes, I do. I’m free­lance; I don’t have to go to peo­ple’s of­fices. If I’m go­ing to meet some­body, I’d like to get to know them over a meal or a drink.

In the af­ter­noon, if I’m do­ing a bit of act­ing, I may have to go off and have a cos­tume fit­ting or re­hearsal, and twice a week I like to build in an hour-long run. I’m a soli­tary run­ner. I don’t go on marathons or big fun-runs. For me, it’s just some­thing I en­joy, es­pe­cially if I’ve been sit­ting at the desk, writ­ing. We live in north Lon­don, and Hamp­stead Heath is just two min­utes from my house, where I can get lost in 800 acres. That’s very ther­a­peu­tic. My mind is fairly open as I run. The ef­fort of run­ning takes more work now that it did be­fore, but the thoughts still come. I had an idea for a film that got made while I was run­ning on the Heath; that was The Mis­sion­ary, made in 1982, with Mag­gie Smith. I find that if you let your mind com­pletely drift and just en­joy the trees and the sky, of­ten some­thing will come up that will break a lit­tle dead­lock. I’ve writ­ten a cou­ple of nov­els, and I find it very easy to un­block plots while I’m run­ning. I’m 72 now, and as long as my knees and body can con­tinue do­ing it, I will.

I try not to get in­volved in more than about an hour’s emails ev­ery day, but they do keep com­ing. You have to push back all that stuff — oth­er­wise you’ll spend the day re­act­ing, not cre­at­ing. The thing about be­ing 72, though, is that there are a lot of peo­ple now who have seen my work, and are in­ter­ested in what I’m do­ing, so there are fre­quent re­quests to give a talk, or be a pa­tron.

Ev­ery now and then, I take a leap in the dark, and say yes. One of those re­cently was when I was asked to be pres­i­dent of the Royal Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety, which is an enor­mously high hon­our. I’m very glad that I did it, but it did take up one or two evenings a week. Oth­er­wise, in the evenings, we tend to eat out quite a bit. I used to eat lots of sausages and pro­cessed food, and there’s noth­ing I don’t like ex­cept tripe and sweet­breads, but I re­alised that my di­ges­tive sys­tem can’t re­ally take very heavy, spicy foods, so I tend to eat a lot of fish these days, and fruit and veg­eta­bles.

We might go with friends to see a film, or go to the theatre. All of our three chil­dren live in Lon­don, so we might see them. We’ve got two grand­sons, and ev­ery week­end they’ll come round. On re­ally en­joy­able nights, we stay in and watch some­thing on TV. We’re cur­rently watch­ing all of The So­pra­nos.

I like to get to bed fairly early. We watch the BBC News and that’s the start of our sleep. There’s some­thing about the news for­mat that sends me off. I’m usu­ally in bed by 11.15pm. I don’t get enough read­ing time dur­ing the day, so I try to read at night. I tend to read nov­els at night, and non-fic­tion dur­ing the day. I fall asleep very easily and sleep very deeply. Be­ing an old in­con­ti­nent per­son, I now have to tod­dle off to the loo — some­times twice a night — which is a bore, and by dawn I’m be­gin­ning to wake up and think about the day, but I’m gen­er­ally in quite good shape, so I can’t com­plain.

The cur­rent tour is 19 dates, stretched out over a pe­riod of about a month. It’s not gru­elling phys­i­cally, it’s more a men­tal ef­fort. You’ve got to be­lieve ev­ery night that you can go on stage and en­ter­tain peo­ple for the two hours with­out them want­ing to get up and go. I value the con­nec­tion with the lo­cal au­di­ence, so the show I do in Not­ting­ham isn’t the same as the show I’ll do in Dublin. I’ve got to keep on my toes, keep up my con­cen­tra­tion.

It’s a strange way of spend­ing the day, one I’m not re­ally very com­fort­able with: you do this show, then you eat late and go to bed. How do you spend the rest of the day? I haven’t yet worked this out. That’s why I like be­ing on tour, be­cause you’re in a dif­fer­ent place each day. You’re driv­ing around, see­ing won­der­ful coun­try­side, cities you’ve not been to be­fore. I like be­ing in a dif­fer­ent place each night; it’s re­fresh­ing, men­tally.

Some­times I think to my­self, ‘Maybe I should just stop where I am?’ I’ve done an aw­ful lot in my life, I’ve had a fas­ci­nat­ing time. Maybe it’s time to stop, and not try and do any­thing new. But I just can’t do that. I’ve tried, but I’m just so cu­ri­ous, I want to get out there and have a look at what’s hap­pen­ing in the world. I’ll keep go­ing un­til I drop.

Some­times I think that maybe I should just stop where I am, and not try and do any­thing new. But I just can’t do that

‘Michael Palin — The Thirty Years Tour’ is at The Olympia Theatre on Oc­to­ber 29 at 8pm. For tick­ets, see tick­et­mas­ter.ie

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