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EDITIONS
Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Palin braves the desert
Michael Palin
Palin is world famous as a member of the Python team
Caroline Westbrook

Although Michael Palin has not actually given up acting for good, it is obvious that these days it comes second to his journeys to the far-flung corners of the world.

"Occasionally a part comes along that is very very tempting, but travel has become a bit of an addiction," admits the 59-year-old.

"I find with acting you can spend all day waiting in your caravan, just to come out and do one shot, so I feel I'm using the limited time that remains to me in my life better if I'm travelling than sitting around on film sets.

His latest expedition, which took him across the Sahara desert to Timbuktu, can be seen in Sahara With Michael Palin, which begins on BBC One on 13 October.

"I just want to see bits of the world that I haven't seen before," he explained.

The sand got everywhere, including in the camera, and there was an enormous amount of work to keep the camera clean

Michael Palin

Hazardous

"I'd never been across a desert before and there's something about the Sahara which has always attracted people, and I wanted to see what it was."

But it was a challenging journey, which saw the former Monty Python star braving fierce sandstorms, hazardous roads and vast quantities of camel meat.

"The sand got everywhere, including in the camera, and there was an enormous amount of work to keep the camera clean," Palin admitted.

"Travelling around was difficult - the roads run out as soon as you get to the Sahara, there are just tracks dotted with boulders, very little of the pure white sand you normally see."

"And the diet was very basic - I got quite ill on a couple of occasions because we were eating things like camel and camel liver, which my stomach isn't used to."
Michael Palin
Palin: "The sand got everywhere, even in the camera"

Matisse

The series is accompanied by a book, Inside Sahara, while a website devoted to Palin's globe-trotting has just been launched.

But it is not just the desert that has been attracting his attention of late.

A documentary for BBC Scotland, The Ladies Who Loved Matisse, sees Palin travelling to Europe, Baltimore and South Caroline to trace the story of Etta and Claribelle Cohn, two eccentric sisters who amassed a huge collection of Matisse paintings in the 1900s.

"We went to Baltimore where the collection is, we went to South Carolina where they lived," Palin revealed.

"The programme is really about two people who had a love affair with art."

I'm almost superstitious about not saying where I'm going next before this programme is out

Michael Palin

"They were marvellous subjects, very very eccentric ladies".

Palin is yet to confirm his next project, but he has got a few ideas in mind.

"I'm putting out a few feelers, I'm not absolutely certain and I'm almost superstitious about not saying where I'm going next before this programme is out.

"But I'd like to go to the Middle East and I'd like to go to the Far East."

Responsibility

He's also keen to continue producing shows for the BBC.
Michael Palin
Palin: "not certain" where he will travel to next

"I think the BBC still produces the best television in the world," he said, "and it's important for the BBC to remember that it does have a world audience.

"The BBC has an enormous responsibility to show this country in its totality, not just to show game shows or celebrity shows."

He said people were immensely curious about how the British live, thanks to the BBC's worldwide broadcasts.

" We shouldn't shy away from these, and I think the BBC needs to remember it has this audience that just wants to know about Britain.

"People I meet while travelling who watch BBC World or listen to BBC radio, really want to know about our country, and the more the BBC can deal with that the better."

See also:

03 Oct 02 | Breakfast
02 Oct 02 | Breakfast
27 Mar 01 | Entertainment
25 Aug 02 | Entertainment
18 Oct 99 | Entertainment
21 Mar 00 | N Ireland
01 Oct 99 | Monty Python
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