It was strange to see Michael, whilst still garishly-clad, on foot rather than by train; but I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of this new series, which saw him walking through mountainous parts of the Basque country. It’s an area with special resonance for him, because his parents met whilst his Spanish refugee father was working/studying in Britain and his Scottish mother was caring for Basque children evacuated after the bombing of Guernica. Thankfully, ETA have stuck to the ceasefire for years, and the beautiful area is very welcoming to tourists.
Thirty-five years ago, the late Howard Kendall became manager of Athletic Bilbao. Having done great things with Everton, a lot was expected of him; but he struggled, largely because they’d only sign players either born in or trained in football in the Basque country. That’s got nothing to do with Michael’s programme, sorry, but it did teach English football fans a lot about Basque issues. The rule’s still in place now.
We saw Michael meet a walking stick maker, a smuggler, a British author living in a Basque village – and made very welcome there – a miller, a stone maker, and an expert in local mythology. And, of course, we learnt a bit about food and drink in the area. Then, at the end, we saw him join the Camino route, and talk about its importance.
He’s such a wonderful presenter, and I enjoyed every minute of this. As he said, he thought his best days were behind him when he left politics, but they most certainly weren’t. Looking forward to more.