Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
Still waiting for it to get really warm in London. Even though I don’t really like it really warm. No, I don’t. Really. When the newspapers start telling us that London is warmer than Cairo I know what we’ll be in for. Noisy and ineffectual air con in the Underground, blokes with their shirts off in Marks and Spencer, late night shouting, arrival of insects from all over the world, and ice cream vans playing Teddy Bears Picnic at full blast.
So I shouldn’t really complain about this recent spell of pretty cool sunshine. It suits me. I’m trying to write material for my Thirty Years Tour solo show (tickets still available!) and if it’s too hot outside I lose the will to write and sit in the garden half-undressed wondering how long I can take it before I have to go indoors and rub 50 strength Coconut oil all over me.
And the countryside doesn’t like great heat either. Green turns to parched brown and sheep, particularly, must get very sweaty.
These recent cool but bright days have been perfect for travelling. My home city, Sheffield was at its most lively and welcoming when I visited a fortnight ago for the International Documentary Festival. We were showing a film called The Meaning Of Live, which takes a backstage look at the Python reunion shows at the O2 last summer. Quite poignant. And funny. From Sheffield I took the train through the Peak District to Manchester. The sun shone and the great, wide green hillsides looked impressive and friendly at the same time. The Lowry Hotel in Salford is a great base to see the best of what’s happening in these great northern cities. A short walk across the bridge over the River Irwell and you come to one of the best modern buildings in the British Isles – The Manchester Civil Justice Centre. On one side is the largest suspended glass wall in Europe. But the whole thing is adventurous and original. And designed by Australians.
I bet most people don’t notice it. You have to be a visitor to appreciate these things. Someone who doesn’t scuttle by it every day, head down, late for work.
From Manchester I went south to Altrincham to see where the Clangers TV series is created. Just an ordinary industrial estate but what’s going in those sheds is amazing. A team of craftsmen and women, all superbly skilled, painstakingly bringing to life one the most inventive of all children’s programmes. Such is the intricacy of the work that only a few seconds are completed each day.
That day I went on to an appearance at the Stoke-on Trent Literary Festival., held at a remarkable location – an upper room at The Bridgewater Pottery Factory, one of Stoke’s success stories. They make all sorts of beautifully-hand painted plates and teapots and mugs – and told me that royal babies are very good for business. I was giving a talk about 25 Years Of Travelling, but the enjoyment of seeing this thriving corner of unfashionable Stoke-On-Trent and the Clanger factory up in Cheshire made me realise that airports are not essential to seeing the world. If you have eyes to see, then the unusual and the rather wonderful is often just up the road.
And a couple of weeks earlier I’d been among the delightful highways and by-ways, woods and meadows of Herefordshire to speak at the six hundred year old church of St. Mary in Linton, where my great grand-dad was the vicar for 36 years. Can Edward Palin ever have expected that 150 years after he preached his first sermon his great grandson would be standing in the very same pulpit?
Sorry, I’m rambling. It’s just that I’ve been reminded what a beautiful island we live in. Until it gets really hot, that is.