In June 2017, I was invited to present at the Margaret River Writers festival. This 3 day event has grown over the years and attracts readers and writers from interstate and overseas. Out of all the draw cards, Michael Palin was the headline act. In comparison, I was a warm up act. But nonetheless, I had been invited along and like all good ex boy scouts I was prepared. Not only was I prepared to give a presentation, but also in case I bumped into the great man himself. Each day I carried with me two books. One was his book, Round the World in 80 days. The other was my first book, Half a World Away: Jungle Guides, African Tribes and a Donkey Called Angus.
My plan (if I met him) was to get him to sign my Round the World book and to give him a copy of my book, which I had already signed (in anticipation that the miracle would occur).
As you can imagine he was the talk of the town and hard to track down. An hour before his centre stage speech I had all but given up and went in search of some takeaway food, before taking a seat to watch his performance.
Imagine my surprise to find Michael Palin walking from a car towards the rear entrance to the venue. On his way, he stopped to greet the owners of a dumpling van.
There was no-one else around.
Unable to contain my excitement, I introduced myself, requested a selfie and asked for a book signing. He was as charming as I had heard.
I gave him a copy of my book and he read the words that I had written for him. They said, "Thank you for making my mum laugh."
And then he was on his way, towards the rear door in preparation for the hour long talk.
It was a wonderful event and the hundreds that jammed into the hall showed their enthusiasm with consistent laughs and claps.
A day later, I wrote a poem in memory of our short time together beside the dumpling van.
The Dumpling Van
I once went in search of dumplings from a takeaway van,
And by the counter bumped into a famous man,
He wasn't ordering food or checking the menu,
But I recognised him at once from his travels at Machu Picchu,
He was tall, well-groomed and watched as I appeared from thin air
Maybe he was studying the fact that I was short, with no hair,
I don't think he was expecting me to produce a book for him to sign,
But with good grace he shook my hand and scribbled a personal line,
I then offered him my own travel book, which he politely received,
As I babbled excitedly about its reviews on Goodreads,
But time was pressing and he soon had to go,
As hundreds were arriving for his headline show,
I was pushing my luck now and still requested a selfie,
And with my smartphone captured his smiling face beside me,
As Michael Palin made his way to the Margaret River cultural centre for the featured event,
I hastily ordered dumplings and ate them in the hospitality tent,
A short while later I watched from the balcony as he spoke,
And joined with the crowd as we celebrated one of Britain’s top blokes,
Maybe on the flight to London he will turn the first pages of my Half a World Away book,
I reckon the first chapter or two is worthy of a look,
The next time I go out for dumplings I’ll remain vigilant once more,
You never know who you might discover, outside the Margaret River cultural centre door.