Over thirty years ago, a group of five Englishmen and one wayward American re-wrote the rules of comedy. Monty Python's Flying Circus, an unheralded collection of sketches, hilarities, inanities and animations first appeared on the BBC late one night in 1969. Its impact on the world has been felt ever since.
"Lots of fun"
Michael Palin has kept a diary since newly married in the late 1960s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a TV scriptwriter. Monty Python was just around the corner. This volume of his diaries reveals how Python emerged and triumphed, how he, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, the two Terrys (Jones and Gilliam), and Eric Idle came together and changed the face of British comedy. But this is but only part of Palin's story.
"A great romp."
In this comic retelling, young Jack foolishly sells his family's cow for a handful of magical beans. Overnight, they grow into a beanstalk that reaches up beyond the blue sky itself, leading Jack into a hilarious series of misadventures with a dimwitted ogre and his extra-large spouse.
In the autumn of 1988, Michael Palin set out from the Reform Club with an ambitious plan: to circumnavigate the world, following the route taken by Jules Verne's fictional hero Phileas Fogg 115 years earlier. The rules were simple. He had to make the journey in 80 days using only forms of transport that would have been available to Fogg.
Following the hugely popular and successful Around the World in 80 Days and Pole to Pole, Michael Palin set off to meet another challenge: an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the world's largest ocean, the Pacific.
"Excellent, per usual"
The third and most ambitious of Michael Palin's adventures is a voyage of epic proportions - the circumnavigation of the Pacific Rim. He travels for almost a year through the 18 countries that border the world's largest ocean, and is forced to negotiate mountains, plunging gorges, cross glaciers and dodge icebergs. Volcanoes also mark Palin's journey. He climbs one which has freshly erupted and follows great rivers like the Yangtze and the Amazon to some of the most remote places on earth.
"Great fun travelling the world with Michael Palin"
Michael Palin's epic voyages have seen him circumnavigate the globe, travel from the North to the South Pole and circle the countries of the Pacific Ocean, but perhaps the greatest single challenge he has faced is his latest, a crossing of the vast and merciless Sahara Desert. As the journey unfolds, the Sahara reveals not only the emptiness of endless sand dunes, but a huge and diverse range of cultures and landscapes, and a long history of civilisation, trade, commerce and conquest.
"Excellent, like taking a vacation!"
"The Voyages of Sinbad" from the Arabian Nights - Sinbad is a Baghdad merchant who acquires great wealth by going on seven voyages. He describes these to a poor discontented porter, Hinbad, to show him that wealth can only be obtained by enterprise and personal exertion. The Jungle Book - Animal stories set in India. The central figure is a human boy, Mowgli, brought up by a wolf as her cub and instructed in the lore of the jungle. "The Flying Trunk". A tale of a magical trunk that allows the owner to go wherever they wish.
Michael Palin reads his own account of an epic journey across the Himalaya. The greatest mountain range on earth, it includes the Khyber Pass and the Silk Road, the mighty peaks of Everest and K2, and the gorges of the Yangtze. He passed through a fascinatingly mixed bag of countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and secretive mountain kingdoms like Nepal, as well as one of the most volatile regions in the world, Kashmir.
Michael Palin reads his own account of a journey into a new Europe. Michael Palin's New Europe starts with a simple idea: that only a couple of hours from home are a half of Europe that is for him as unknown and unexplored as the plateau of Tibet or the vastness of the Sahara. Cut off for most of his life by Cold Wars and Iron Curtains, Europe's eastern lands are now open for business - and Michael sets off to discover them.
Michael Palin is off again, this time to the seemingly desolate Sahara Desert. There's no easy way across, as he and his team discover on their most challenging expedition yet.
"A wonderful journey."
Three years after the epic adventure described in Around the World in 80 Days, Michael Palin was off again. Not circumnavigating the globe, but journeying from one end to the other: the North Pole to the South Pole. Following the 30 degree east line of longitude and using aircraft only as a last resort, Palin and his team endured extremes of heat and cold as they crossed 17 countries on trains, trucks, ships, rafts, ski-doos, buses, barges, bicycles, and balloons.
"A delightful voyage"
Michael Palin journeys to a vast country of unimaginable contrasts - Brazil. An economic powerhouse, it is host to a staggering variety of peoples. He starts his journey in the north, in the remote mountains and forests on the border with Venezuela, and finishes in the south at the legendary Iguaçu Falls. He travels by river-boat, float-plane and foot to visit tribes deep in the jungle, samples life in the agricultural and mining heartland of Brazil, experiences the modernism of Brasília and the heady mix of Rio de Janeiro, and ventures into the favelas.
"Want a modern look at Brazil?"
Just So Stories - Amusing and fanciful answers to questions of how animals obtained their individual characteristics. "How the Alphabet Was Made"; "How the Camel Got His Hump"; How the First Letter Was Written"; "The Butterfly That Stamped"; "The Cat That Walked by Himself"; "The Crab That Played with the Sea"; "The Elephant's Child"; "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangeroo"; "How the Leopard Got His Spots"; "How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin"; "How the Whale Got His Throat"; "The Beginning of the Armadillos".
In this first volume of his diaries, Michael Palin tells for the first time how Monty Python emerged and triumphed. Perceptive and funny, it chronicles not only his struggle to find a niche in the world of television comedy, but also the extraordinary goings on of the many powerful personalities who coalesced to form the Python team.
"Silly is the word."
Travelling to Work is the third volume of Michael Palin's widely acclaimed diaries. After the Python years and a decade of filming, writing and acting, Palin's career takes an unexpected direction into travel, which will shape his working life for the next 25 years. Yet, as the diaries reveal, he remained ferociously busy on a host of other projects throughout this whirlwind period.
In his most challenging journey to date, Palin tackles the Himalayas, the greatest mountain range on earth. It is a virtually unbroken wall of rock stretching 1,800 miles from the borders of Afghanistan to south-west China. Penetrated but never conquered, it remains the world's most majestic natural barrier, a magnificent wilderness that shapes the history and politics of Asia to this day.
"It took me far away from home"
The second volume of Michael Palin's diaries covers the 1980s, a decade in which the ties that bound the Pythons loosened as they forged their separate careers. After a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, they made their last performance together in 1983 in the hugely successful Monty Python's Meaning of Life.
In Pole to Pole we join Michael Palin on the second of his epic challenges. Travelling from the North Pole to the South Pole, he experiences every extreme the globe has to offer. As he crosses 16 countries by train, truck, raft, Ski-Doo, barge, balloon and bicycle, he meets a diverse range of fascinating characters and landscapes while his own endurance is tested to the limit. With his customary aplomb, he plunges himself into the local cultures, starring in a crayfish documentary in Novgorod, attending a baby-rolling ceremony at a Cypriot wedding, and consulting an Mpulugu witch-doctor.
When Michael Palin was researching his novel Hemingway's Chair, his interest was stimulated by Hemingway's appetite for travel and "Papa's" evocations of the places he knew. In pursuit of Hemmingway, Palin begins at the beginning, in Oak Park, Idaho, then travels to Italy where Hemingway served in the Ambulance Brigade in the First World War. Then on to Paris in the "Roaring Twenties", bull-running at Pamplona and Hemingway's love affair with Spain.
"Travelling like a Champion!"