The bizarre thing about Michael Palin is that he thinks he’s dull. Can you believe it? Here’s a man whom millions of people watch on TV for the simple reason that they enjoy being in his company. It’s the same for the countless others who immerse themselves in the books he has written about travelling the world, or indeed the books he writes about his life when he’s not. They like spending time with him.
He is definitely not dull. Dull is the last thing he is. He is the very opposite of dull. But try telling him that
I’ve just spent a fascinating hour or so with him, and yet here he is apologising: ‘When it comes to talking about myself, I find I’m quite dull,’ he says. I protest, but he persists: ‘Oh I am, I think I am’. He pauses. ‘My work is interesting, what I am is not, really.
‘What I am is somebody who’s been married a long time with a broad range of tastes, reasonably healthy.’
For heaven’s sake! He doesn’t understand, either, that one of the facts which makes people, women, like him even more is that he and his wife Helen, whom he met when he was 15, have been married for such a long time (50 years come 2016). This particularly when of all the Pythons he was the most attractive, the Secret Fancy of women the world over. He won’t have it.
‘You must have had women throwing themselves at you all the time,’ I say. ‘They all missed!’ he shoots back, and laughs.
I mention the Secret Fancy thing, and he grins and looks a bit shuffly and says, ‘The thing is, I’ve still not got over that slight feeling I had as a teenager, that, “How on earth do you talk to women? Why is my hair so strange? I’m wearing the wrong clothes.”
Read the rest of Michael Palin's interview in the September 2014 issue of Saga Magazine. Subscribe to the digital edition for this and more great articles delivered direct to you every month.