Travel writer and newspaper columnist A.A. Gill told listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Excess Baggage programme last week that he doesn’t do research, doesn’t take notes and considers himself a rather superficial traveller, a tripper.
Whatever his methods, not many writers can so succinctly drill down into a destination simply using well-honed observational skills. Gill seems to know by osmosis who best to chat with while dashing around a destination – and somehow plans his visit at a particularly prescient moment in time.
Readers who seek politically correct armchair travels, where all the colours and customs of the far-flung world are greeted with wide-eyed awe may not enjoy Gill – he is acerbically provocative, occasionally chauvinistic, has kept the Press Complaints Commission consistently busy and caused a minor diplomatic incident with the Isle of Man in 2006 after deriding its citizens in a Sunday Times column.
While those on the receiving end of his compound-adjective-heavy wit might call it bigotry, his fans – and they are many – would not hold his writing in such high regard were his take-no-prisoners commentary not punctuated with thoughts and ideas pulsating with wisdom.