Sir Michael Palin explains how lockdown helped heart surgery recovery

Sir Michael Palin has said lockdown has been like a “huge doctor’s note” following his open heart surgery last year.

The Monty Python star, 77, underwent surgery in September to fix a “leaky” heart valve, cancelling a UK-wide book tour to allow three months of recovery.

The comedian and TV veteran, well known for his globetrotting BBC travel programmes, said lockdown had offered a chance to recover privately following the operation.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Sir Michael Palin after receiving his knighthood (David Mirzoeff/PA)

He told Radio Times: “The great surprise is that I’ve been extremely content to be in the same place for some time.

“I had heart surgery last September and was told to have rest and recuperation – then lockdown came along. I accepted it rather happily, it’s been like a huge doctor’s note.

“Anyway, coming home has always been the best part of the process. We live near Hampstead Heath in London and near friends.”

Sir Michael has been recording new voiceovers and interviews looking back at his BBC programmes, which include Around The World In 80 Days, Pole To Pole and Full Circle.

Reflecting on his older shows, he said: “I suppose for a long time I felt I was 27, until suddenly I was 76, the heart problem came along and I felt older, and vulnerable – though the surgery didn’t worry me. I had implicit faith in the team.”

Sir Michael admitted it was odd having to abide by social distancing and other coronavirus measures while recording his retrospective programme.

He said: “Oh yes. But I suppose it was right to take care. The interviews and the commentary were done under strict BBC regulations. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything they had touched.

“The microphone transmitter was sent first and I would put it on myself. My temperature was solemnly written down at the beginning and end of every session.

“Actually, at one point my thermometer went wrong and came up as 34.2. No one seemed to notice, so it was only later that I realised that if it was accurate I’d be dead of hypothermia.”

Sir Michael also expressed sympathy for the refugees he has met during his travels.

He said: “People dying on refugee boats is one of the most horrible things we have to deal with. All the people on my travels were hospitable, shared anything they had. They wouldn’t be doing this unless they were really desperate, doing for their family what I would do.

“There’s got to be a better way. They are not threatening our country. I hate branding those people as ‘them’, foreigners. They’re people, same as we all are.”

Read the full interview in the Radio Times Christmas issue, out now.

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