Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Around the World in Eighty Days

Snow fell last night, and I concluded it worth my while taking a days holiday from work.

So, today I started to read Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days. It was one of a series of Palin books I recommended my children to buy me for Christmas. In addition, I treated myself to a large Collins World Atlas as a companion to the travels I am about to follow. So far, I have read up to  Day 10. I feel I have embarked on an epic journey of my own, and if I succeed it will probably take me many more than 80 days to complete reading the whole set.
Now, I'm not blaming Michael for this, but why is it that reading sends me to sleep? I've long known that reading is an excellent way to send myself off to sleep at night, but why should that also work in the middle of the day? Had I kept awake, I am sure I would have read more.
Palin's ground based travel is a time consuming way to traverse the planet, but surely the only way to travel if you are a reporter like Palin who wants an insight into many cultures and customs and loves to report on the immediate sights. Anyway, I've learnt about the Corinth canal today. This canal saves the ship traveller a 200 mile circumnavigation of Peloponnesia, a consideration that doesn't even enter the head of an airline passenger travelling to the Greek islands from the UK in a matter of a few hours.
The other great benefit of this series of books is that somewhere in my head there is a vague recollection of having watched the filming of the adventures on tv. So I was laughing out loud when, on Day 8, I was reminded of the camel episode in Giza. Palin describes the inevitable commercialism of this famous tourist spot, in which vendors almost bend over backwards to be the tourists best friend.
From the book:- "What is your name?" "Michael."  "My camel's name is Michael!"
So I am now in Suez, enjoying my one-day-off holiday, in my mind if not in reality. In reality I must face the treacherous icy roads of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire tomorrow morning and evening, as I take up the slog of daily life in snow-bound England.
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