In praise of Bill Peach

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

MY good mate Bill Peach, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and trav­eller ex­traor­di­naire, died last week. His sad pass­ing has made me think of the old days — not just the con­vivial lunches we shared and our ad­ven­tures far and wild but the tele­vi­sion se­ries and spe­cials he pre­sented about Aus­tralia in the 1970s, a time when we all but cringed at the prospect of lo­cal travel.

A hol­i­day back then meant head­ing off over­seas, with all the ca­chet and duty-free plonk and perfume that went with it.

Bill loved to re­fer to him­self as a ‘‘real stick­y­beak’’ and, with his sun­beam smile and a coun­try boy’s love of his coun­try, he was de­ter­mined that view­ers should share his en­thu­si­asm for Aus­tralia’s great spa­ces and nat­u­ral won­ders.

Long be­fore we met, I was daz­zled by Peach’s Aus­tralia, Hol­i­days with Bill Peach and Bill Peach’s Jour­neys. He made me want to get out there amid the roos and red dust, the camel trains and baf­flingly long roads.

An­other great trav­eller, Alan Whicker, died in July. Bill and I had din­ner with the Whicker’s World pre­sen­ter one evening, seated at the ‘‘top ta­ble’’ be­fore the English­man went on stage to de­liver a key­note ad­dress.

Whicker was oddly ner­vous; Bill kept pour­ing him white wine. I was on the red. Wewere all very re­freshed. I top­pled my glass all over Whicker’s hand­writ­ten notes. The blue ink pud­dled into pur­ple blots. Bill and I laughed mer­rily. Whicker was cross and bam­boo­zled but his sub­se­quent off-the-cuff talk seemed to go down a treat.

I am not so en­am­oured of the cur­rent crop of toothy pre­sen­ters of travel shows with all that glossy hair and makeup and earnest cos­tumes with too many zip­pers. I much pre­fer the on-the-road foodie se­ries with chefs who roll up their sleeves.

My present fave is Reza Ma­ham­mad, the English restau­ra­teur who tried to set up an In­dian restau­rant in provin­cial France with Nigel Far­rell in the A Place in France re­al­ity se­ries.

His Reza’s African Kitchen has just wound up but surely will loop on the ca­ble chan­nels. He is a tiny chap with a lisp but good­ness, he’s a goer. Reza goes fish­ing in crocin­fested rivers and stands up to ex­cit­edly dis­play his catch, rock­ing the tin­nie. ‘‘Reza, sit down!’’ my part­ner and I shout. He cy­cles mer­rily through game parks, eats unimag­in­able lo­cal del­i­ca­cies and never stops gig­gling.

Reza is al­ways up for a good time, as was Bill. I won­der if those vin­tage ABC shows might get a com­mem­o­ra­tive air­ing. In an era of in­stantly ac­ces­si­ble travel, they could stir our wan­der­lust anew. A peach of an idea? Thank you to in­dus­try col­league Mike Smith for this week’s Open Book in­clu­sion from his grand­dad’s li­brary.

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