I had seen that Michael Palin was going to be in town a few weeks ago; Waterstones in Broad Street had cranked up the publicity machine and it had done the trick as I, along with many others were in the queue by the time the great man walked through the door. Actually, I didn’t see him walk through the door; I was too busy mulling over whether to give him a copy of Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie or not. My Twitter followers were encouraging. @RodIsBike tweeted “There’s a Python sketch brewing here. Bold like a lion tamer“. @velo_cetera reminded me that “Fortune favours the brave“. I was just a bit wary that my gift may be turned down…
Michael was sitting with a stack of books to his left, beyond which his assistant (agent?) stood casting her eyes over those awaiting to greet the great man of travel himself. Not that the books he was signing were travelogues. The Truth* is a novel. To Michael’s right was a large board which stated the bleeding obvious; that the author was in Waterstones today signing copies of his books. I’ve never attended a book signing before so was unsure as to how many seconds would be devoted to me. As I neared the desk and watched, some shook hands, others didn’t. Some engaged in chat, others let the man himself do all the talking. Some asked Michael questions, Michael sometimes asked his own… I had no strategy in mind other than my opening line; “I know it’s very cheeky but could I give you a copy of my own book…”. It did strike me, only a few seconds before it was my turn that this event was all about his book, not mine and that I was shamelessly hijacking my precious few seconds for my own advantage. I didn’t debate the matter too long however; even Michael Palin himself must, at some point of his illustrious career have taken part in a bit of self-centred marketing, no?
And then it was me. A little nervously I rattled out my pre-prepared line. I forget his response but it wasn’t ‘clear off‘ and his assistant hadn’t pushed me out of the way in favour of a less publicity hungry fan so it was a case of so far, so good. He noted Reggie on the cover as he started to copy the few words that I myself had written onto a Post-it note earlier (I was just following instructions) onto one of the first pages of his book.
“When did you do the journey” he asked
“In summer 2010 and then I wrote the book last year” I replied.
“It’s always a good idea to keep a record of your journeys as you travel” he noted. I did think that it must be a smidgen easier to remember the details if it was all being filmed by the BBC but kept my thoughts to myself.
“Yes… and of course you were one of the inspirations” were my parting words.
I thanked him and then he moved on to a retired chap who I had been chatting with earlier; he had met Mr P. while working for an advertising agency in New York at the time that the film Jabberwocky came out in the late 1970s.
The donated copy of Good Vibrations** was left to one side of Michael until it was covered by an envelope from the Jabberwocky guy (but not before I had managed to snap a picture); he had brought some mementoes from the time of their previous brief meeting. I wonder which of the two donations he will spend more time with?
*”Keith Mabbut is at a crossroads in his life. When he is offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to write the biography of the elusive Hamish Melville, a highly influential activist and humanitarian – he seizes the chance to write something meaningful. His search to find out the real story behind the legend takes Mabbut to the lush landscapes and environmental hotspots of India. The more he discovers about Melville, the more he admires him – and the more he connects with an idealist who wanted to make a difference. But is his quarry really who he claims to be? As Keith discovers, the truth can be whatever we make it… In this wonderful, heartwarming novel, Michael Palin turns his considerable skills to fiction in the story of an ordinary man on an extraordinary adventure.”
** Michael, should you ever read this post on my website, can I just point out something that I didn’t have time to say at the time. The copy I gave you does have an horrendous typo on the back cover. I am aware that the word ‘can’t’ should indeed be spelled that way and not ‘cant’. Unfortunately, the people who print the book were not aware of this until I pointed it out to them… On the positive side, you have one of only two copies of Good Vibrations with this typo on the back cover so you never know; one day it might be worth a small fortune… 🙂