Popping over to the Andes this weekend, darling, hope you enjoy your shopping trip to Moscow
I know I was praising the man the other day but today I am a little disappointed by Michael Palin. I am traveling on a British Airways from flight Madrid to London. It is delayed. There was a flight earlier (to Heathrow) which was not full but they refused to let me on it because it was a cheap flight and was not supposed to be changed. The fact that the flight that I was booked on was delayed didn’t seem to matter. Rules is rules these days and as a result I will no longer be able to see my nephew Thomas, who was so looking forward to seeing me, after I cancelled a visit two weeks ago when fleeing France. I used to like BA a lot and would tell everyone they were my favourite airline, but after a lousy flight in business class back from Atlanta and now this, I am not so keen.
Well, what has this to do with Michael Palin? Well, he has edited the current version of High Life, the BA in-flight magazine, probably because he got paid a lot of money to do it and probably partly to do with promoting his new book, New Europe, based on his BBC TV series of the same name.
Nothing so much wrong with that either. It is just what he has allowed into the magazine which I find disappointing. He tells us interestingly that travel is a very basic urge, embedded in our genes ever since we walked the plains of Africa and tells us that Europe, itself was settled by nomads, which is an interesting observation. He also tells us that he himself loves flying but likes trains better and would take the train everywhere if he could but due to tight deadlines, TV schedules and all that, he often has to fly. (He IS writing for an airline company!). He ends up by telling us in bold print that Travel is a privilege that comes with responsibilities and if it is done properly it is the best thing (in the world). All fine.
But then we look at the articles which he has commissioned. Six pages on a new Trans-Siberian Express train, which costs five-and-a-half thousand pounds (€ 8,000) for 15 days. Yes, we all have money like that. Then we have five minute guides (on one page) to Vienna, Istanbul, Barcelona and Amsterdam, where we are encouraged to stay at hotels costing between 250 and 300 pounds (€ 300-400) a night and then drink lots of expensive alcohol. This is if we have any loose change after our alcohol-infused trip across Siberia.
This is all bad enough but to top it all, we are asked to look at some short breaks in our ‘Weekend getaway planner’. We are not looking here at a dirty weekend in Blackpool, a cultural trip up to Edinburgh, a walk in the Lake District or even a trip across the channel to Gent or Bruges. This is all so 1980’s. No, the thing to do in the 2000’s while we are all becoming more aware of and concerned about global warming and increasing poverty in , society, is not to go for a cycle ride or a walk in the nearest woods but to go hiking in the Pyrenees, shopping in Moscow, ski-ing in Canada, sleeping with the Bedouins in Oman, spotting the Big Five at a nature reserve near Johannesburg (malaria-free!), checking into a celebrity hide-out in Toubkal, in Morocco (been there, done that!) and, to top it all, crossing the Andes in Chile!
Michael, how can you travel with a sense of responsibility, by taking a three day break to cross the Andes in Chile? How can you, as a self-confessed ‘responsible, anxious, guilt-ridden 20th century throwback’(?) allow this sort of nonsense to be published in your guest-edited magazine. I am sorry, Michael, but you get this week’s prize for hypocrisy. But I still love you.