Chapter 2. Packing Backwards
It’s a King Lear kind of a day in LA with lowering winds pushing down trees and tipping over telegraph poles and the remains of shredded parasols lie in shrouds by the sides of pools. I’m preparing to set out on the road, on an Expedition with Major Cleese, in search of intelligent life in the Antipodes.
Currently I’m packing.
No, sorry, Yanks, I don’t mean I’m carrying concealed weapons, I mean I’m packing as in Suitcase. Packing up clothes and books and guitars. And of course meds.
That’s the nice thing about age: in the old days we had drugs. Now we have medication.
I have a whole shitload of bottles and vials and injectables, whose sell-by date is hopefully ahead of mine, and most of whose functions I can only guess at. However if World War Three breaks out while I’m downunda I’m covered. I’ll be On The Beach with a copy of Neville Shute and a bag full of emergency suppositories.
Meanwhile I am discussing with the wife who should play us in the movie of our lives.
“Angelina Jolie” she suggests.
“And who will play you?” I ask.
I have also been trying to write some new gags for the road.
“There are two types of people, and I don’t much care for either of them.”
“I’m a 72 year old man embarking on a mid- life crisis. It should be over by the time I am 145.”
That sort of thing. The kind of one liner I used to be paid by David Frost to churn out, when I was just a writer. I love saying Just a Writer. It’s a bitter writer’s gag.
Shakespeare? Just a writer.”
I have decided to announce I am working on my Autobiography. It’s title?
“Are those my underpants? “
My wife finds this spectacularly unfunny. My assistant Alana howls with laughter.
I’m not really working on my Autobiography though I was asked to write it in the year of The Python Final Farewell Show at O2. (2014) Publishers offered me a ton of money, but I worried that John Cleese was shortly coming out with his own memoirs and it seemed to invite odious comparisons from the insidious Daily Mole.* So I declined.
*name changed to protect the guilty.
The point of autobiography is that it’s your last chance to be rude about people you love, especially old wives, and friends and work mates who never did you any harm, but sadly I find that with age I have become more forgiving. I know. I apologise. If you can’t think ill of your fellow man then who are you? But I don’t. I can’t be bothered to carry a grudge any more. Even on Twitter where the ground rules invite abuse I find it much more fun to forgive people. It’s far more effective. They can’t stand it. Turning the other cheek that’s fucking asking for it. Look how many people Ghandi annoyed by fasting and being forgiving. It’s far and away the most annoyingly passive aggressive thing you can do.
I’m not much of a diarist. I think we can leave the detailed daily form to our good Mrs. Dale, Michael Palin, who is constantly painting the Forth Bridge of his life a day at a time. I’m going to stick to blogging. A series of self-indulgent essays about how wonderful I am. Think of it as the equivalent of a morning dump, cleaning out the shit in my mind.
So yes I’m packing.
Will I need that frilly nightie? How about an emergency garter belt? You never know. Spanx? Yes or no? And what colour eye-liner? Panties? Shall I take a selection? Lip gloss. Check. You see the thousands of decisions that we people in showbiz have to make.
As it happens I have a Degree in Packing.
Twelve years of boarding school, three terms a year, there and back, is six packs a year. That’s 72 packings. Then there’s College, and then there’s filming, oh the whole thing is endless. I’m either packing, unpacking or preparing to pack of unpack. If you count the arrival in Sydney for a hellish day of publicity we’re going to be in ten different cities in a little over a month and a half.
So I have pioneered a whole new packing technique. It’s called:
You just visualize the last place you will be visiting on your travels and then start with that. Since I will be in Tahiti that’s easy. A pair of Speedo’s, a travel guitar and a hat.
Before that we’re in New Zealand, and that could be tricky. Is Wellington at the end of March chilly? Ought I to wear wool close to the skin? Is Mourhino a sheep? And how about Auckland? Do they still get quite so drunk? Will I need a special garment to protect my clothes? And what if we have to visit a sewage farm? Will they provide Wellingtons in Wellington? I know they named a sewage facility after John and it is my ambition to have one named after me.
Before that we’re in Melbourne, and by the look of it it’s deucedly hot there. In fact all Australia looks like it will be very hot. Perth is boiling and we start up on The Gold Coast. It’s a quandary.
In Sydney, the first stop, we are scheduled to appear on breakfast TV and basically give interviews all day. This is a typical Australian joke. They get you jet-lagged off the plane and ask “What do you think of Australia?” Since you’ve only seen the frigging airport and you’re so bleary eyed you can’t even remember your own name, it’s tough to come up with a funny response.
How I miss the days of Norman Gunston when he greeted celebrities with his brilliantly bad questions…
To Linda McCartney: “You don’t look very Japanese to me.”
He pioneered a whole new school of celebrity interview, where the interviewer is not real. Sacha Baron of course nailed it in many disguises.
Ah well, Time to go shopping…. so wellingtons, Spanx, and special undergarments….