Books: Flying Visits |
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Flying Visits

A collection of my travel pieces for the Observer written between 1976 and 1983, Flying Visits came out in a hardback from Jonathan Cape in 1984 and had a gratifyingly long life as a Picador paperback, although it eventually went out of print. But I remain proud of its constituent pieces even where they have dated. In fact I especially like them when they incorporate a perception or an attitude that history has rendered obsolete. So I reprint them here, without shame, as possibly informative documents about that period of which it is often the most difficult to convey the flavour: the near past. In the Observer the pieces were called Postcards: an idea I owe to the paper's then editor Donald Trelford, who flatteringly thought that the report of a visit by me to an exotic area might be as interesting as an article written by the paper's correspondent on the spot. The correspondent on the spot was sometimes understandably slow to agree with this assessment, but I tried to respect his position by doing quite a lot of preparation before I went, sometimes to the extent of making a beginning with learning the language. Later on in my career, this whole approach transferred neatly to television. For the television Postcards I had more resources, but the format was laid down by the articles that I put together in Flying Visits, often written to such a tight schedule that I was hand-drafting them on the plane back to England. What they most need now is footnotes, and I will try to add these pari passu as we put the chapters to air — to this new kind of air, which nobody then had any idea would one day exist. We were having a hard enough time believing that we were flying.