Open Jaw: Alan Whicker at 84
Where readers write back
Saturday 25 September 2010
As a young BBC film editor, I had the immense privilege and pleasure of working with Alan Whicker on a series based around a QE2 world cruise. Despite having to deal with literally miles of footage, he was the consummate professional who always displayed impeccable kindness and manners – a rare event in today's television.
Alan's ability to write a perfect script line on demand was awe-inspiring and he also possessed the greatest gift of all – to pause after an interview answer which would often prompt the interviewee to continue with an unexpected gem.
Whicker's genius is to persuade us that to travel and to experience all it has to offer is a pleasure in itself. A perfect English gentleman. There are not many left.
Whicker said after stopping a locomotive in Alaska it was all downhill.
For me, it was being down to one dollar in India when the airport tax was seven dollars, and I was still in the city. It was arriving in Sri Lanka and settling into a beach shack two days before the tsunami. It was being arrested for breach of contract when I didn't deliver my blonde-haired wife after shaking hands to sell her for 24 camels in Marrakech in 1972 (a brilliant Moroccan scam).
There are still tons and tons of adventures out there, if you're prepared to take a few risks.
Heathrow: a Third World airport experience?
I'm amazed you've defended Heathrow. If there was a subtext to Cardinal Kasper's argument then I deplore that, but he's right that Heathrow is a Third World experience. I have even texted that phrase as I shuffle disbelievingly while stuck in a security queue for 45 minutes in Terminal 3.
Leaving is bad enough, but arriving back in T3 from airports such as Changi in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Saigon is an embarrassment. And have you travelled to Ireland recently from Terminal 1? The new system is truly unbelievable.
Not a surprise, really, that Eurostar is cutting back services. The train operators don't have to pay for shiny new stations, so they feel no compunction to actually respect any promises they might have made about using them.
An important new station in Germany would see hourly service all day in all directions. If not better. But then they know how to run a railway.
Your story about scams in Italy (11 September) prompts me to write about a problem I encountered on a recent trip. I used to think the traveller needed only two words in Italian: quanto ("how much?") and troppo ("too much!"). Nowadays troppo is often not necessary but a new one is: convalidare, "to validate", now essential on Italian trains.
Buying a ticket is not enough; to prevent fraud, it must be stamped at a small yellow box located somewhere on or near a platform. However that assumes that you are looking for it in the first place, which is highly unlikely for the average visitor unaccustomed to the practice. The fine for failing to do so is €40 for each ticket. Foreigners are often allowed to pay a penalty of only €5 per ticket, if it is clear they bought the correct ticket and it is a genuine mistake.
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