Famous flyer: John Williamson

"I find creative ideas in gardens, shops, buildings, or just colours" ... John Williamson.
"I find creative ideas in gardens, shops, buildings, or just colours" ... John Williamson. Photo: Michelle Smith

What was your best holiday?

There's nothing like being in France to support the Wallabies at the World Cup. We didn't play well, but there is a wonderful camaraderie among all rugby fans so the trip will always be remembered. I must say, though, that Australia is the place I always want to be and travel around.

The best hotel you've stayed in?

Recently, Meg and I were guests of Air Niugini and stayed at the Airways Hotel in Port Moresby, Papua New Guniea. Our beautiful room had a six-metre-high ceiling with a loft bedroom suite upstairs. We had a view over the airport and distant ranges. The view wall was all glass, from the downstairs living area right up to the ceiling of the bedroom level and the curtains were programmed to automatically close after sunset. The atmosphere of the hotel tastefully reflected the culture and had an aviation theme. Our luxurious stay here just topped off a wonderful welcome to PNG by the Australian High Commissioner and seven Huli Wigmen dancers in full traditional dress. Of course, all this would not have been afforded us had I not been there to sing at the dawn service at Bomana War Cemetery and at the Kokoda 70th anniversary dinner.

What do you need for a perfect holiday?

You need to do lots of planning and research, which I'm hopeless at. But Meg is great at all that and we just enjoy being together. Good planning saves robust discussions later, eh?

What do you always take with you?

Surprisingly, I guess, I don't always take my guitar on holidays. In fact, hardly ever; especially if it's overseas. There are times I need a break from music. I come back looking forward to playing it again.

My camera is a must. There are always interesting pictures, be it in cities or the open air. Apart from keeping memories, I find creative ideas in gardens, shops, buildings, or just the colours. These are great references for my bush garden

Where do you want to go next?

I long to slow down enough to go camping for a couple of months around Australia with my good mates. Four couples would make for great company. We are all pretty good bushmen and women and full of practical know-how. We could go anywhere without fear.

What was your worst holiday?

[Never had one.]

And your worst experience on holiday?

Back in 1976 I was a travel host on a trip to the US and Canada. (It included the Calgary Stampede.) On my way back I was booking my luggage in when a man in a white coat said he would take care of my guitar so it wouldn't get damaged. I assumed he was with the oversize baggage department. I never saw the custom-made guitar again.

What's the biggest packing mistake you've made?

Meg is passionate about good olive oil and loves buying different ones around the country. As we are often touring by plane, on this occasion we had to pack a large bottle of extra virgin olive oil in a suitcase. I now have a few shirts that have been soaked in olive oil. After years of washing they are still the most durable cotton shirts I own. Her dresses didn't fare so well, though!

What's the worst hotel you've stayed in?

There was a hotel in Derby, Western Australia, that I agreed to perform in. The show turned out OK after we virtually built a stage in the concrete beer garden. However, after being shown the so-called first-class bedroom, I shuddered at what second class must have been like. The bed was the sunken kind that shearers nowadays would refuse to sleep on. That day I was so disillusioned I wrote Chandelier of Stars.

What do you avoid on holiday?

Meg and I are fussy about good coffee. So we avoid takeaway joints and roadhouses. Personally I favour older breakfast cooks. I think older women know how to make better traditional bacon and eggs. It's about the feeling that Aunty Hazel is cooking the meal.

What do you hate about holidays?

I must admit the worst thing about holidays generally is the waiting at airports or the waiting for a hire car. Waiting, waiting, waiting for your bag to turn up on the carousel and the anxiety that goes with it. And the anxiety of missing the next plane. Or the standing in a queue to buy a ticket for a show.

As told to Angie Kelly

John Williamson's 48th album, The Big Red, is out now.

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