A fuller tribute to Alan Whicker, now I’ve had a delve into the bowels of YouTube.
The world really is a poorer place without Alan Whicker. He had such style. He was so suave. Handkerchief in his top pocket. Hair greased back. The very essence of urbanity.
Yet, when I look back on his clips, I can’t help but think that he captured an age which has now passed. It was an age when world travel had an exotic glamour about it. We saw these jets taking off, Whicker in a bar in Sydney and in a sampan in Hong Kong harbour, and it all looked so unattainably wonderful. Whicker was enjoying it all on our behalf.
Nowadays, most of us are more used to air travel and Sydney doesn’t seem so far away.
Whicker, of course, described everything with such panache in his much imitated style. There’s a clip of his description of the QE2 in 1984 which makes it sound utterly luxurious and fantastic. Of course, we look back on it now in a different light. The QE2 sits in retirement in Dubai and has been superseded by much larger and more glamourous ships. But Whicker’s description of the QE2 was exquisite, including this quintessential Whicker opening salvo:
Dr Johnston said “a ship was a prison with the chance of being drowned.” But this ship takes the sea out of sea-faring. Up close, Queen Elizabeth 2 is overwhelming. As long as a street. As tall as a sky-scraper. Far too big to see. A resort hotel that follows the sun. You relax. They move the scenery. And should any resident of this floating city ever smell the ocean….they come in and fix the air-conditioning.
Here’s the opening of his QE2 series including those lines:
And here’s the series closing, which includes the wonderful story of the lady who went up to a steward and asked for him to call a taxi. The steward replied: “Madam, we’re in mid-Pacific” to which the lady replied: “That, son, is your problem” (which, in turn, reminds me of the time Elton John phoned down to reception from his room high up in the London Hilton and asked them to turn the wind off):
I said in my piece immediately after Alan Whicker’s death was announced that my favourite programme of his was “Whicker’s World Down Under”. I erred. It was actually “Whicker’s World:Living with Waltzing Matilda”. Here’s a clip, complete with delicious theme music, where he goes round Cape Leeuwin lighthouse at the most south-westerly point in Oz:
And, if you crave more Whicker, Amazon have a wonderful sounding DVD called “Alan Whicker’s Journey of a lifetime” which is beautifully summed up in this glorious series of clips: