Travelling to Work

Travelling to Work is the final published volume of Michael Palin's diaries, and covers the decade from 1988 to 1998, when he was mostly occupied in making travel programs, carving out a niche for himself as a warm, friendly, spontaneous companion on various journeys around the world. The first, almost by accident, was Around the World in Eighty Days, and the massive popularity of this show inspired many sequels: Pole to Pole, Full Circle (around the Pacific Rim) and later, after these diaries are finished, journey through the Sahara and to the Himalayas. 

A little frustratingly, and ironically, these diaries say almost nothing about these travels, as Palin has written and published separate companion volumes for each of them (which I'm also going to read). But it means that Travelling to Work is in fact a chronicle of non-travelling work: acting in various films, some hugely successful (A Fish Called Wanda) and some not so much (his role in You've Got Mail ended up on the cutting room floor!), writing novels, managing property, sitting on boards, giving and receiving awards.

As Palin grows more rich and famous, his life more comfortable, his diaries become less interesting. He meets more celebrities, and mixes in more rarified circles (there are several encounters with royals), and though he never loses his genuine interest in other people and his unaffected charm, his life does become less relatable. But having said that, is is reassuring to learn that even for Michael Palin, things do go wrong: projects fall through, cherished ideas are received with indifference or harsh criticism, months of work are wasted. But he never loses his innate optimism and joy in life, which is ultimately why these diaries are such a pleasure to read.

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