Monday 27th April
That’s not supposed to happen over here, dark grey skies and and a spot or two of rain. There was even a little cold breeze. That was a real shame because there was not a lot of filming that we would be able to do today. It would have been our only chance to relax and catch some relaxed sun rather than being all hot and sweaty in the body armour. The sun did not take that long to come through and we were able to do some work.
The wobbly voiced Julian Mannion flew in from Jordan to Basra International to join his ITN crew colleagues.
Richard and I went out to do some filming with some of the chaps from 5 Rifles who have done quite a few tours over here. Since 2003 have spent around two years of their lives in sunny Iraq. I filmed them checking their kit before they go home for what will be their final good bye to Basra.
The rest of the evening was fraught with one or two frustrations, not just for us. As we started the editing process Richard and I needed to get something to eat. We went of the the DEFAC to have a well earned meal to find that we could not get in. This time it was nothing to do with our passes or ID but literally as we walked up to the door it shut. All our charm and pleading with the guard had no effect. He had his orders and they were that the place closed at that time and not a moment later. He was polite but very firm. he did say the the other DEFAC a little walk away would be open. We headed on that direction and had our ID checked a few times again to reach and get into this DEFAC. I spotted a sign that read “Stir Fry”, as I was washing my hands.
“Great.” I thought, “I really fancy that.”
To my great disappointment we discovered only too quickly that although we had managed to get in all the food had been put away. The catering staff sitting down to eat should have been a clue.
Just over the dusty road there is a place to eat in the commercial area of the came in the new J1 village. The food is not cheap. The menu is not vast. The furniture is plastic patio stuff. However, what they do have is well cooked and certainly tasty. At least we did not go hungry as we feared we might.
Whilst we were having our personal little drama over food, the ITN chaps were wrestling with a major problem with their satellite dish. It would not work. Calls were made to the manufacturers. Internet traffic busied up as files to try and rectify the problem were transferred. Some one in London was rushing with boxes of spare parts to get a flight out to get the problem put right so that material could be fed back to London and live broadcasts could take place.
Fully satisfied with our meal the edit was finished off and we tried to send our story back to GMTV via our little satellite set up. The frustration that ITN were feeling was soon match by ours. Every time we tried to send the story it failed. The other small problem we had was that the mobile phone network hardly works at all. Texts sometimes come through but can not be sent. If a call connects the person at the other end just hears buzzing and sizzling. The only sure way to communicate is over a satellite. No problem, we have a satellite phone, but it won’t work either. So, we would need to use the satellite we were trying to sent the story on as a phone, but you can’t so both things at the same time. The way we solved that problem was to transfer a load of communications software on to my personal computer I had brought with me. That would be used as the phone link. We would try sending the material on the GMTV computer.
After a few conversations with the technical area in London to make sure that things were ok at that end we tried again. We were about to give up and try another way when at last the screen told us that the material was on it’s way.
Richard looked at his mobile phone to see that there was a full signal. Quickly he dialled the office and got straight through.
When things all started to go wrong we thought that we would have another of those frustrating late nights, but at a little after midnight we were all finished with the prospect of some reasonable sleep ahead.