Globetrotter Sir Michael Palin speaks of opportunity to 'enjoy' the UK

HE went from Sheffield’s Ranmoor to travel the world, trekking deserts and jungles, climbing peaks and visiting poles.

Sir Michael Palin. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

But Sir Michael Palin has said the time is right for those with the travel bug to discover the “wonderful places” on their doorsteps and rejuvenate the UK tourism industry.

His comments come days after holiday home owners in the region told The Yorkshire Post how they “desperately need support” to survive the coronavirus lockdown.

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Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, Sir Michael encouraged people to embrace learning about their own country in the future as the coronavirus pandemic restricts foreign travel.

The Monty Python star, 76, suggested that until a Covid-19 vaccine was found, people would not be jumping on planes to holiday around the world. He argued that the UK contained “wonderful places and different landscapes” for travelers to explore.

The travel writer and TV presenter was asked how people might cope with being able to travel less in the future.

Sir Michael said: “I think you can travel less and travel better. If we have to be confined to travelling in the UK, it’s not a bad place to travel.

“There are all sorts of wonderful places and different landscapes and different sort of atmospheres - northern Scotland, Cornwall. Go to places and learn more about them. Enjoy them more. Find out more about your own country.

“Because I think it’s going to be very difficult for people right across the world to actually travel again as they did before.”

Sir Michael continued: “Until we find a vaccine, nobody is going to pack people in aeroplanes. There are going to be no cheap and cheerful flights around the world. It’s going to be very, very difficult to see the rest of the world, so I think narrow your horizons is not necessarily a bad thing. Look more carefully, look more thoroughly, learn to enjoy your own country.”

Under current government guidance, all British nationals are advised against all but essential international travel, with the nation still under lockdown.

Sir Michael admitted to feeling “guilty” that he was “quite enjoying” the opportunity to free up his diary and “do other things at a slightly different pace”.

He has contributed to a book titled Dear NHS: 100 Stories To Say Thank You, to be released in July, which contains contributions from a range of celebrities.

Sir Michael said he wanted to write about “the humanity and the humour of my experiences when in the NHS”.

“I think there is the most extraordinary relationship between the people who deal with you on the wards and the doctors and yourself. They get to know you at the moment of crisis,” he said.

Recalling a time he went to hospital to have his appendix removed, he said: “The people who cared for us made us feel as though they were our friends for that brief time. I think that’s a terrific thing people do in the NHS.”

Saved by neighbour after comedy of errors

Sir Michael has revealed an elderly neighbour pulled him to safety after he accidentally set fire to his house while recovering from heart surgery.

The Monty Python star, 76, said he had open-heart surgery in September to repair two valves and was told by doctors to relax at home.

However, during his recovery he was doing breathing exercises and accidentally blew kitchen roll towards a naked flame and it caught fire.

Writing in Idler magazine, Sir Michael said: "I leapt up and grasped a hand towel, which briefly smothered the flames before itself catching alight.

"In some alarm now, as flames licked up towards the ceiling, I dialled the emergency services - but the moment we connected, the smoke alarm went off and I couldn't hear a word they were saying.

"Just caught something about washing my hands which made me realise that, without my glasses on, I'd rung 111 instead of 999. But I washed my hands anyway, and by a fantastic stroke of luck, the loose tap that we never had fixed finally came apart, dousing the ceiling and partially extinguishing the fire."

At that point, Sir Michael said, his 86-year-old neighbour - who had undergone heart surgery the previous week - wrenched open the window and pulled him to safety.

He added: "Thank God he'd been told to take it easy, otherwise he'd have been out playing golf and my house would have been a write-off."