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.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Lost Memories and Megabucks for Make Up

Monday 26th October

On the first dark morning after the clocks went back I was in Durham.

“Good morning. Would you like a bacon sandwich.”

Those were the magic words that Sandy greeted me with when I turned up at his door at a horribly early hour. 

His wife Christina having been misdiagnosed several times ended up suffering a massive brain haemorrhage.

As a result she had been left with virtually no short term memory.

Christina and Sandy.

Elaine the correspondent and Pete the sound recordist arrived very shortly after I started munching the bacon roll.

Steve was outside setting up the satellite dish.

Christina called us all darling in an exotic east european accent.

Donna one of her 24 hour carers helped to get her ready for our two little teases and one main broadcast.

All the time we were setting up Sandy and Donna were asking her simple questions and gently prompting her to remember little things.

She had just come back from a holiday in Cyprus but had no recollection of any of it. She did, after many hits and clues work out that she had been there but that was all she could say about it.

I really felt for both Sandy and Christina. Sandy because having to repeat everything all the time only to have it almost instantly forgotten must be wildly frustrating. Christina because she does know that she is unable to remember. It must, quite literally drive her crazy racking her brain to recall what happened on a few moments earlier.

Elaine, Christina and Sandy.

From a technical point of view the broadcasts all went off with no problem. 

Well apart from Pete having an issue with Elaine’s neckless jangling against her microphone, but he sorted it out.

A TV crew doing a live broadcast from inside your house is a great event. It doesn’t happen every day. People talk about it for years.

The sad thought is that by the time we were in our cars and driving away Christina would have absolutely no recollection of what had gone on.

Donna had taken a few photographs of Christina and Elaine to help record things. I hope this blog helps as well.

All the best and thanks for the excellent hospitality.

Almost as soon as we came off air we got a call from the office.

 The result of the call had Elaine and I heading north east to Sunderland to do a spot of filming with Debbie who was earning a quarter of a million quid a year selling cosmetics.

We arrived at her house in a fairly modest estate of private homes. It was in a state of total upheaval. She and her partner were getting a massive amount of building work done.

In the lounge surrounded by partially demolished walls and other evidence of major refurbishment Debbie was perched on a tall chair having her hair and make up done.

It was a good story, Debbie had been made redundant from the factory that she’d worked in for years and needed £400 to pay her rent.

She started to sell Avon products door to door.

That was five years ago. Now she’s sitting in the midst of expensive construction work and a top of the range Mercedes sports car in the drive. All of it funded by her current £250 000 salary.

She reckons it will be nearer £300 000 next year.

Debbie and her nice car.

It may well have been a good rags to riches story but we thought it was going to end up as a bit of a promotion for Avon because, even in these days of compliance and being unable to mention the products by name it would be pretty obvious who the company was.

Avon certainly thought so. A few moments after we arrived Emma, one of Avon’s PR team jumped out of a taxi after flying up from London to oversee things.

It was going to be a fairly easy shoot, a quick interview with Debbie out on her rounds, a few shots of her in the flash motor, a few shots of her delivering her products to a customer and of course a piece to camera with Elaine.

In the end it all pretty much worked out but there was a time when it all looked like falling apart.

None of her local customers wanted to have the pleasure and joy of appearing on GMTV.

We did a quick rethink and as a lot of Debbie’s earnings comes in the for of commission from her huge sales team we filmed her chatting to a couple of them.

The time of year imposed its deadline on us. 

For the next few months it will be the same old story of fighting to get things done before the light goes.

We did manage to finish the outside shots in the fast fading winter light.

Elaine and I parted company. She headed south west and I headed north.

The only thing left to do was to get the tape fed to GMTV. That would be done by out ITV colleagues at Tyne Tees.

In a modern call centre type building not far from the Metro Centre in Gateshead I left the tape with the security guard at the Tyne Tees reception and continued on up the A1.

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