In praise of Bill Peach
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.