TELEVISION / Global whining
It is a small world. At Ayer's Rock Whicker was head down in his familiar posture of attention, listening to a consultant explain how he had scraped up the pounds 40,000 for this grand charabanc tour, when they were interrupted by the surprise appearance of a professional acquaintance. Loud exclamations of surprise all round, fancy meeting you here, well I never etc. etc. The friend turned out to be travelling with a rival organiser of luxury foreign jaunts, the British Medical Association, who, for reasons of convenience, had found it necessary to hold a conference in Australia. So, at the Aborigines' most sacred site the songlines of the Amex tribe had crossed.
Moanlines might be closer to the truth. Though insulated from the rigours of travel by the presence of a private jet, a personal doctor and a baggage-handler it was obvious that these were decidedly trepid adventurers. Three weeks into the circumnavigation and onto Day 20, Whicker is fast running out of things to say (his verdict on Ayer's Rock was 'It's still a rather magical rock, I must say', which was followed by a rambling memory of the last programme he had made in the Australian outback). His presentation is given a slightly home- movie feel by the fact that he delivers an off-the-cuff commentary to his camera crew and it is clear by now that it isn't just the lavish meals that are repeating on him.
Though the Taj Mahal, or Sydney Opera House or the mountains of Tahiti can occasionally be glimpsed in the background the foreground is unchanging - a persistant grumble about the rigours of the itinerary. Indeed one of the pieces to camera this week - a spiel about the amazing durability of the octogenarians of the party as compared to its more youthful members - was virtually identical to one included in last week's episode. We had to endure again the mild pontifications of Sir John Hall, basking in the attention of the cameras like a lizard in the sun; had to listen patiently to yet more elaborate descriptions of how much luggage everyone had brought with them.
Two travellers jumped ship in Sydney - a move that had the stronger members of the party tutting with indignation but which looked like simple common sense to armchair travellers already cheesed off with the company. Against the prospect of being trapped in this high-altitude saloon bar for another two weeks, shelling out a few thousand for a first-class airfare home was decidedly alluring. By Easter Island even Whicker had started to fray, codding up his own version of Monty Python's 'Whicker Island' sketch and noting that the famous heads were actually made of polysterene. It was a desperate cry for help.
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