On the road again.
There should be a special corner of hell reserved for those who leave hotel room alarms set to go off at 6 a.m. Yes I know I don’t believe in hell, but I am prepared to make an exception for one or two people.
I seem to be in Wellington, at the South of the North Island watching the ferry leave for the North of the South Island. Must get confusing. Couldn’t they just call them A and B. Or 1 and 2. The sun eventually shines through and I find I am in a deserted downtown on a Bank Holiday. Nothing much to do today except packing and preparing for our final show. The hotel has given me a little chocolate Easter egg and a rubber duckie. I’m not even going to speculate.
The great news is I climbed Mount Cleese. Took us a little time to find it because we went to the wrong dump, no not Palmerston North, but their Central Transfer Station. There they gave us instructions for the Civic Dump and there indeed we found the legendary sign for Mount Cleese, in the quite pleasant surroundings of a recycling centre. And there of course the joke became clearer. The sign was put up by the legendary New Zealand comedian Fred Dagg, whose hometown this was. Now even I had heard of Fred Dagg because of my Australian wife and mother in law. He is famous throughout the antipodes and beyond. I don’t think John knows this, and I shall tell him tonight on stage when I surprise him with the video of me climbing Mount Cleese. It’s all really rather perfect and the mystery is solved, and if I was really Michael Palin instead of only an occasional travel writer I should devote an entire episode to it. As it is I can’t wait to play this joke on John, and I shall refrain from posting the picture on Twitter until after the show, as he might see it. He does do Twitter, but he doesn’t read this diary and so I feel fairly safe posting this. I’m going to plant a question in the Q and A about Palmerston North and encourage him to talk about it, before surprising him with the Video. It’s our last Q and A and I must say that I am mortified reading the questions night after night to find that more women want to have sex with John than me. Way more. Is it because he has spent so much money on wives? It’s like when I found out that online Graham Chapman is far and away the most popular of the Pythons despite being dead for 27 years. Or maybe because of it. Well I guess I don’t really mind. It’s too late to do anything about it and I’m looking forward to not being a legend and going back to being a husband, which as you know ranks somewhere below the dogs. We used to be babe magnets, but now we’re just fridge magnets, and I suppose we should be grateful that even any woman cares, even if it is only the wife. And with any luck I meet my lovely wife in an airport tomorrow somewhere en route to Tahiti. She’s been having far too much fun in Brisbane and Sydney, and sent me a picture of my son and her holding a large koala bear which she captioned “Your new Grandson.” A funny woman.
She would probably have enjoyed yesterday’s scenery, though it was a long day’s drive, about six and a half hours, and my chauffeuse Sev, the wonderful Sue Everett, stuck to her task womanfully. She drives a lot of comedians around New Zealand, which is somehow funny in itself, and next week she has Dawn French, but I hope one day she drives her namesake Bridgett Everett. Of course our expedition to Palmerston North took us out of our way but it was worth every moment in tracking down this legendary site.
Sulphurous steam was rising around our hotel as we left Lake Taupo, and it was a lovely drive around the Lake, but then we took the Desert Road and all vegetation disappeared except for low scrub and tank tracks. A longish upland region this, of harsh landscape and we were happy to descend into Taihape, whose town insignia is a Gum Boot. I kid you not. There are large Gum Boots everywhere and we were saddened to see a sign which said we had just missed Gum Boot Day, on March 1st. Book early next year. Another town specialised in large corrugated iron animals. There were huge Nissen hut sized sheep and a museum of corrugated iron creatures. There is a gentle irony at work in these towns which is rather wonderful and as you will see the Dump sign is a perfect example.
The quest for Mount Cleese took us through the centre of Palmerston North which was disappointingly pleasant, around a perfectly sweet square and off into the suburbs where we got lost. John must have been in a very bad mood to call it “the suicide capital of New Zealand”, though I think it was Gary his then assistant who actually wrote that insult and put it on line. “Can be kind of bleak in winter though” Sev pointed out, as she once worked here. Amazingly she had “borrowed” one of John’s bits (Word Association Football) and won an Award for it from a Commercial she wrote. She felt so ashamed to be then driving John that she confessed, and he of course immediately said that plagiarism is the highest form of flattery. Or perhaps flattery is the highest form of plagiarism. I forget which. I shall miss travelling with him. He is the most decent company. We give each other lots of room and we are planning another expedition. It’s not for a while yet, but it sounds like it could be fun.
Anyway Sev and I were thrilled to finally find our quest. The legendary sign was above us, and she held the camera while I posed like Sir Edmund Hilary, the great New Zealander who first climbed Mount Everest. I agree this was only 45 metres high, but still we all have to start somewhere and I am the first of the Pythons ever to have visited this spot and conquered this dump. Michael Palin who has been to many dumps cannot claim this one. I think it deserves a special plaque alongside it commemorating this achievement. So how about that Fred Dagg?
Pictures tomorrow on Twitter for now I have to go and shave. This travel beard is to come off. The wife prefers me unshaven and so tonight I shall say goodbye with a clean chin and a bare upper lip. Some tears, but no regrets. I might manage a final Episode but it may take a while. Thanks for being with me all this way. Chin up, eyes forward and bon appetit.