Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Slipin' an' a Slidin'

On hol's in the Big Apple at the mo.

13th February 2009

What was going to befall us on Friday the 13th?

We were in deepest Derbyshire. The journey from London yesterday had been in bright sunshine. As I got off the motorway the snow covered hills glistened  an sparkled like tiny bursts of phosphorus. It was an idyllic scene. I was enjoying  the drive. Admittedly the images going through Stockport had little chance of ending up on even the most optimistic of chocolate boxes. I ended up at the comfortable little B&B courtesy of a Sat’ Nav’ tour of a number of snow covered narrow roads. I was so glad that there were no cars trying to come the other way as I slithered and slipped my way along.

There was about enough daylight left for us to go for a bit of a walk to explore the castle in Castleton, Peveril Castle. We walked up to the entrance under the gently falling snow. It was closed. The lady was just locking up. Kristian asked it there was a way round to have a look at the castle. We were pointed in the direction of a gap between a couple of picturesque stone houses. 

The path in a valley between the castle on one side and a steep rugged hill on the other lead up in to the distance. It was beautiful. The producers of The Lord of the Rings could have easily filmed a lot of their movie here. The intrepid five of us embarked on this mini adventure. Laura, a revered member of Scouse royalty, or so she says, had joined us a producer so Yiljan could return to London. The sort of  expedition she was prepared for was one involving hard climbs up shiny escalators and tough times slipping in and out of designer dresses in warm fitting rooms. The ice, snow and biting cold were not her natural element. In her black hooded coat she looked as if she had walked straight off the set of a Scottish Widows advert. Kristian was sporting a warm waterproof jacket three sizes too big that I had given him. His footwear was a pair of very nice leather soled brogues. Stuart had warmish kit on with trainers. The snow had stopped. Jen, her dad a member of a mountain rescue team in Scotland had his oft quoted warnings about proper equipment, clothing and fading daylight ringing in her ears.

Laura "The Scottish Widow"

It was clear that reaching the peak of any distant mountain was not on the agenda. However we set off in the direction of the valley disappearing into the faraway hills. At least we kind of tried.

“I think I want to go back now.” came from Laura with her bottom lip turned down.

“Harvey Nicks is just round the next bend.” coaxed Kristian.

Not that we were making much progress. In fact no progress at all. Kristian spent most of the time doing a good impression of a hamster on a wheel, legs moving in a blur and then hitting the ground with a heart stopping thump. 

The antics of this two legged bambi had us all in stitches. My sides ached from laughter. 

We eventually got a little way up the valley on to a path of rocks that gave a bit more purchase underfoot. The light was starting to fade so after a mild cajoling from Jen and me we made our way back down. 

Kristian was like a runaway deranged manic oversized toddler unable to stand up for more than the time it takes in inhale between fits of hysterical laughter. The comedy was increased when Laura and Jen tried to help Kristian and his slipping flailing limbs down the slope. The three of them made the same slow progress as a trio of drunken sailors leaving a bar on shore leave after six months at sea. Stuart could hardly hold his camera phone steady for laughing and giggling uncontrollably I tried to get a couple of still shots of the slapstick carry on.

Keeping the Presenter off the slippery slope?

Back at the pub where we had a hearty dinner we recounted our adventure to the others.

The next morning as we set up our premarital sting a local out walking her dog in the very early morning came up and said there had never been so much activity in Castleton at that time in the morning.

David and I set up the hidden camera.

There was a gazebo at the bottom of drive of the guest house our couple were staying in. We did all the teases there under a very nice floral arch brought in for the occasion.

We had another slightly daunting backwards walk to do again. I made sure that we could rehearse at least some of it. I was so glad we did Pete the sound recordist was trying to use the boom as well as ride the sound levels and, I hoped, guide me back. After I had twice almost forced him through a rather unforgiving fence he had to abandon the boom for the track back and put his faith in Kristian’s ability with the stick mic’.

Of course there had to be our share of stress when the hit was getting close. firstly the sound cable leading from the string quartet went down and despite Steve’s best efforts and remaking the ends in double quick time it remained dead. Then the camera cable played the same dastardly trick. At least there was a spare on of those which was quickly run out.

The actual hit went off well. We sprung the surprise and got the couple to the arch without incident. Although on air Kristian did remind me and the viewers about a certain door. Cheers. A nome check’s great when you’ve done something good, not so good when there’s egg from a hundred happy hens dribbling down your face.

The question was asked.

Another Yes. Yahoo. 100 %.

The end of a manic week full of incident and a good share of laughter and lumps in the throat. I hope that the GMTV viewers got as much out of it as we did.

Now I've got a woman what do I do with it??

12th February 2009

It is not often I find myself working in the big city. The lack of gold covered pavements and people in bowler hats is always a disappointment.  In the predawn chill I met Simon the sound recordist outside a restaurant called Ponti’s Kitchen, the location for our fourth proposal. It is just off Regent’s Street very near Oxford Circus. After the cable debacle yesterday today was going to be relatively straight forward. The location was only a few yards from the links truck. The area we would be working in was with little opportunity for much running around. There was a very nice coffee shop right beside us. What more could we want. 

The main prop for this little extravaganza was a huge cake that Kristian was going to leap out of at the appropriate time when the unsuspecting potential groom arrived to be proposed to by his long time girl friend. The legion of commuters on their way to work were totally nonplussed by the sight of this huge white and pink wooden confection and white tuxedo wearing musicians cavorting on the street. We had banked on that being the case so our “victim” would not think it strange this TV nonsense going on so close to his restaurant.

Yiljan in "The Cake".

We did a couple of teases on Regent Street that went off as planned. Bernie and Hugh with their viola and violin did a great job of hitting the right notes given their fingers were blue.

We then moved to the restaurant for the main hit. We could only get in when were sure that the hopefully up and coming groom was otherwise occupied down stairs. It was less than five minutes to go before we got the sign that the coast was clear for us to get in.  Our four merry musicians went in first laden with instruments, stands and sheets of music. The entrance of the cake was rather inelegant. The step to be negotiated was not too high. The doorway was wide enough, just, to get it through. With a fair bit of “To me.” 

“To you.”

“Swing it this way.”

“No! Swing it that way.”

Calmly from the gallery, “Two minutes to you.”

“It’s coming apart. Keep it closed!”


“Watch your fingers!”

“One minute to you”

It was in position at last Yiljan, David, Stuart and I were beaded in sweat. I lifted the camera on to my shoulder. With little time for courteous ceremony the lady was pushed in to position. The Presenters were on the link from the studio. 

“Here we go. Coming to us!”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Wayne the cellist about to get up out of his seat and say something. With a slightly exasperated gesture Stuart indicated for him to sit down and start playing. One bar before Kristian started to speak the gentle string melody started.

A quick bit of blether and a brief chat with our surprisingly calm impending bride Kristian linked to a short piece of film whilst getting into the cake. Inside he could not see what was going on and none of us could hear what he was saying.

I positioned myself for our man to arrive. Someone downstairs was going to send him up to us on some pretext or other to arrive as the film finished and we were live to the nation again. 

“Out of VT in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” came the count from the PA in the gallery.

“Cut. And Cue.” said the director.

I stared in to the viewfinder at the top of an empty stair case. I had no idea what Kristian was saying. I stared harder willing our man to appear. There was no sign of life. 

“This is making wonderful telly.” I though sarcastically

The only option that I had open to me was to go looking. I started down the stairs that lead to the kitchen and office. As I was making my way down and round  all I was thinking was “Please appear ‘cause I’ve got to get back up these bloody stairs, backwards!”

At the bottom I was just about to poke the camera into what I assumed was the kitchen when a head wearing a chef’s hat popped out. Was that our man? I hoped so ‘cause I had not seen him before. He looked suitably bemused at a television camera complete with a bright light inches from his face. I stumbled my way upstairs with a confused looking man kind of trying to get past but not sure if that was what he should do. 

When we got to the top the poor guy tried to go in the opposite direction from the cake and gently bowing boys. We barred his way. The confusion was deepening. He was starting to get a bit flustered. At a cue from the director Kristian leapt up out of the cake added to the confusion by wishing him happy birthday accompanied by the band playing the traditional tune. As expected he said that it was not his birthday a slight element of relief appearing on his face. Kristian then cued a change in the music, brought our lady out and she popped the question.

Another yes.

The confetti cannons crashed. We were off air. 

A weeks holiday in the Big Apple then who knows what? A trip to Africa soon? I got a call from London to say I might be off there in a couple of weeks. Would it be too presumptuous to say “Watch this space.”?

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