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.”?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

One Door Opens Another Closes!!!

10th February 2009

It was my first time in the grim city of Wolverhampton. The Novotel there must be one of the most awkward hotel entrances to find. I could see the hotel from the road but it took several circumnavigations of a couple of rather large roundabouts before I found the car park entrance. We had arrived a little before check in time. I left my gear in the car and set about exploring the dismal city streets. The others put their bags in a secure room in the hotel and also went walkabout. We collectively reached the conclusion that Wolverhampton would not necessarily be on our holiday lists.

After asking a lot of people in town the consensus was that the best restaurant in town was Chicittos at a retail park. We were sitting ready to order when the waitress asked if it was anyone of our birthdays. I pointed to Kristian and said, “Yes it’s his. He’s thirty one and a half today!”

The rest laughed and so did she.

At the end of a perfectly adequate meal she came to the table with a bowl containing a ball of ice cream and a small piece of cake topped with a little candle and insisted we sing happy birthday. Hugh, one of the quartet’s violinists was the star soloists after taking a bit suck on one of the helium balloons at the table.

The 31 1/2 birthday cake!!

Things took a rather less amusing turn when we got back to the hotel. The bags were retrieved from the secure room. At least some of them were. Jen’s bag was winging it’s way to Birmingham airport with a courier. Quite why this had happened was a bit of a mystery. The receptionists tried to get hold of the courier to get it brought back. We were lucky that one of the receptionists spoke Indian. A long and at times slightly heated conversation took place. Once the phone got put down Jen was told that the case would be safely back in an hour or so. Sadly for Jen this was not the end of her troubles. The room she had been given was not the best. It stank of both fresh and stale tobacco smoke, the sort that makes you retch instantly. She was told there were no other rooms. At this point Stuart let rip in a polite but firm way. Suddenly from the hotel being full  a spare room magically appeared.

The mornings location was in a very nice school no far from the centre of the city. The staff were very welcoming, friendly and quite excited about the impending proposal. They had done a great job of getting some of the kids involved holding little banners and decorating the hall.

The cable run from the satellite truck to both my camera and the secret camera was a little bit complicated. Steve the Satellite engineer and I got it all sorted, including a separate cable for audio so that the quartet would be heard when Jason the sound recordist and I were away from them.

As yesterday we had a bit of a run between the hall where the proposal would be and the library where Claire would be working unaware of what was about to hit her. 

I had checked that there was enough cable to get us there and back. All the doors were wedged open. There was no possibility torehearse the move because we did not have time and she would have seen us. So I briefed Yijan Stuart and Jen about what to do to clear the cable.

We had a couple of teases to do before the main hit. A minute to go before the first one and a battery on the camera  just about to go flat I decided a fresh one was needed quickly. I let Simon the director know it was being changed so that there would be no panic when the picture disappeared. I clicked the fully charged battery on to the camera and flicked the switch to on. I then hoisted the camera on to my shoulder. I was putting my eye to the viewfinder expecting to see a nice clear black and white image of the hall I was pointing at. What I saw was a the sick retching site of nothing. The gallery was still able to hear me so I yelped out, “I’ve lost the camera”.

Rapidly I checked that the camera was switched on. It was, but it was still dead. I switched it to off and checked the battery was fully charged and properly seated on the back of the camera. It was. I tried switching it on again. I banged it, coaxed it and cursed it, under my breath of course. We were in a hall full of kids. It was still dead. 

There were only a few seconds to us being on air. I heard Simon prepare to take another item. I grabbed the battery I had just taken off and put it back on. The camera burst into life.  I put it on my shoulder and prepared to do the hit. The rhythmic fear inducing battery warning light started to flash. I gulped. “For fucks sake take us quick!” My thoughts sceamed out.

Then Simon said, “We’ve taken another item first. We’ll be with you in three minutes.”

There was no way that the battery would last that length of time. I had no option but to try the fully charged battery again. 

At the first attempt to switch it on nothing happened apart from me feeling the red line of anger and frustration rise up my neck and prepare to envelop me in a hood of rage and desperation. The temptation to hurl the piece of useless electronics and glass full force against the wall subsided when after two further tries to get it to fire up it did. Steve then appeared with the camera from the satellite truck. I motioned that we should be OK. 

Then I was aware of Kristian’s voice. We were on! 

I heaved a great sigh of relief when the short hit ended. I am not quite sure what made the camera throw a wobbler. It behaved itself after that.

Not in front of the children!

It was getting very close to the time for the main event. I then heard over talkback that the mic for the quartet was not working. I dashed over to check the cables. There was no time for me to tell Jason. As  I was pulling connections apart and making them again and speaking to Steve in the truck. He said that the mic had come back. 

I got back to the camera hoping that things would go as well as yesterday’s lives. Just before we went on air I wished Nigel good luck. 

Claire was  in the library where the gallery could see her on the hidden camera. We were all set.

Kristian lead into a little film about Nigel’s love for Claire. The next thing would be our little run out through a couple of open doors, across part of the playground and in through a couple of quite narrow doors that would be closed. We would then be in the library. All that was then left to so was to do was to retrace our steps with me going backwards. That was the plan. 

Out of the film Kristian had a quick word with Nigel. We then set off on our dash to the library. Claire was suitably surprised when we burst in through the doors. “So far so good.” I thought.

Kristian started to bring Claire over. Jason skilfully steered me out of the narrow doors and pulled me on to the path we needed to follow. It was looking good. We were on track. Out of the corner of my eye I was aware that things were not going quite according to plan behind me. I caught a glimpse of a loop of cable flying though the air and bodies moving in a frenetic manner. The hairiest part of the journey was approaching very fast. I hoped that Jason could get me through the double doors then through the smaller interior doors. At that point Jason turned round to see Jen covered in cable as if she’d been caught in a pretty big spider’s web. Yiljan was behind her pulling as if her life depended on it and through the doors Stuart was trying to free a snagged cable at the same time as hauling cable in like a demented trawler man with a net full of prize fish.

At that very instant we were at what should have been a gap of two doors. In the tangled mayhem of cables one of the doors had closed. That was the one I hit at full tilt. The camera battered the thick wood of the door a milisecond before I did. I instantly knew what had happened. For a nanosecond I was sure that both doors were shut. So using all my brute force and stupidity I tried crashing through it. Thankfully Jason adroitly redirected my rearward barge to the gap left be the other half open door. I was through.

Kristian made a comment about me hitting the door. All the time I could hear the guffaws of the people in the gallery. I knew how funny it would look to them and would be good viewing. I just wished it was not happening to me. 

Once we were through the doors the cats cradle of cable then played it’s mischievous part. Somehow a length of camera cable appeared  just about level with Kristian’s head. Once again he made a comment as he pulled it down and both Claire and he skipped over it as if it was an everyday happening.

Our entry into the hall was dramatic, a mishmash of stumbling people snared in the million  tentacles of the not so mythical camera cable beast, followed by a very sweaty red-faced cameraman and sound recordist.

The rest of the hit was excellent. Nigel played his part and got down on one knee to ask the lovely Claire to marry him. She said yes. The confetti cannons went off and I got a great shot of the happy couple in a really emotional hug.

We were off air. When all the congratulations had been said and it calmed down one of the teachers asked if I would like a coffee. “Only if it is 90% brandy!”

On the drive to the next location I could tell that Jen had been well and truly GMTVed because I had asked her to drive so that I could start to do this blog. After an hour in the driving seat going down the M1 she asked if I could take over again because she was about to fall asleep. We still had an hour and a half to drive before we got to our destination and recce’d for tomorrows proposal. Welcome to the whacky and weird world that is breakfast television.

That's how they should have been!

That's how they were!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

007 Pops the Question.

10th February 2009

We had been warned and were prepared for the worst the weather might throw at us. Snow was expected. It was with great relief that I looked out the bedroom widow to see nothing more than a light coating of grey slush.

We were going to be based in a little car showroom opposite the hotel. Not just any car showroom, this one was full of new and vintage Aston Martins. There was one silver DB5 identical to the iconic Bond car. I had a quick seat in it. I was very tempted to spin the wheel a bit, thrash through the gears, press an imaginary button on the gear lever to fire the ejector seat and make lots of screeching noises. I restrained myself, mainly because the rest of the crew were around!

We got set up for the first little tease. I had lit the area that the boys from the string quartet were to be in. Up until 15 seconds to going on air it remained a beautifully lit empty space. A tad breathless and sweating a little the guys arrived about 30 seconds to on air. With a flurry of sheet music and rapidly pulling out instruments and erecting music stands they got into position. They were a picture of musical professionalism they launched into the James Bond theme as the gallery in London cut to our shots. Phew, made it, but only just. The location was not the easiest place to find and they had been on a tour of the midlands courtesy of Tom Tom.

Jen the runner was elected to be a “Bond Girl” and serve up a Martini. Yesterday she had to get a dress for the occasion. I’m not sure if Halle Berry got her dresses from New Look. Not much of a budget gap between GMTV and Hollywood.

Neil, dressed as the dapper 007 was going to come out of the Aston to surprise Toni and do the proposal. The problem we had was getting Claire to the cars. She was going to be in the coffee shop about a hundred meters away. So we were going to have to run outside go in through a door, along a narrow corridor and end up at the table she would be sitting at. Getting there would not be a problem because going forwards even at a run with the camera on the shoulder is not too difficult. It was getting back to Neil that would be slightly more testing because I would have to retrace my steps only this time going backwards. That is not quite so easy especially as there is a cable attached to the back of the camera and needs to be kept out of the way to prevent me tripping up a little or worse still falling over. Yijan, Stuart and Dave were going to have make sure that the cable was kept out of my way. Jason would guide me back.

I was a bit nervous because I needed to let them see just how frantic their job would be. We managed to get one quick run through before we had to get out of the way and hide. 

I walked to the table. Jason had a hold of the back of my jacket to steer me through the narrow corridor. Yiljan and co had a hold of the cable. I asked if they were ready. They said yes. Off I went walking backwards. It was not long until I heard the screams  behind me saying stop as all the cable had tangled up. I stopped. We sorted it out and off I went again. This time a painting on the wall flew off as I battered past it. There was no time to have another go at it or we were in danger of being spotted by  Claire.

The next time we did it it would be for real with over 5 million people watching.

In only a few moments we got the stand by. Then it was go go go. Full marks to Jason, Yijan, Stuart and David did a fantastic job. The walk or half run backwards worked perfectly. It is the cameraman that gets the credit for the shot but, on those shots it is the efforts of the people that clear the cable that make it work. The rest of the proposal went equally as well. We got texts and heard from people later in the day to say that they had been in tears because it was so moving.

When we were off air we said congratulations and did the derig. I came back in having put some kit into the car to see Kristian on his hands and knees in his Tuxedo helping to hoover up the confetti. Ah the glamour of TV.

Another happy couple.

Our Bond Girl 

Sucking up!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Motorway Madness

9th February 2009 pm

After breakfast all we had to do was get up to the next location around an hour or so away. I drove over the Severn Bridge in heavy rain with the speed limit down to fifty. Apart from the weather the journey was going very well until I heard that there was a lorry fire that had closed the M5. Not wanting to get stuck in a long traffic jam I went off at the next exit to get around it. Thinking I was doing the right thing for once I was quite pleased. I had not reckoned on half the cars and trucks in or near the midlands trying like me to get through Tewkesbury. I would have been as well staying on the motorway because according to the radio it was clear for several more junctions before the blockage and Tewkesbury was snarled up because of people trying to avoid the jam!

The weather might be bad but the bridge is beautiful.

Eventually I arrived after having a  mild trauma with the Sat’ Nav’ taking me to the wrong location. David and the producers had gone through a similar scenario were already there. They filled me on the various technical things like where cables are going to go and an idea of the way the broadcast will go. It should be relatively straightforward. There is a small chance of me going A over T at the point I have to do quite a long backward walk. Fingers but not feet crossed it should be OK.

Gorilla Seeks Mate in Cardiff

9th February 2009

We did not need to be on location until 6am. For us in breakfast TV that meant a lay in until 5am. Yahoo!

Ollie with the sat truck was all parked up and ready for action when we rolled up. There was a bit of discussion about where we were going to do our couple of little tease shots before the main event, the proposal. Behind the building we were going to be going into was a pretty park area. 

“Great, that’s that sorted then.” we thought.

 When our string quartet turned up all dressed up in their white tuxedos carrying musical cases looking a bit like extras in a gangster movie they drilled that idea full of holes. The light drizzle that typifies a wet morning in Cardiff was too much for their very precious instruments. Fortunately there was a very picturesque car park we could use. Well it was about as picturesque as a covered car park with fluorescent lights can be. So not very really!

Car Park Heaven.

Kristian, our presenter had already done a lot of TV and obviously knew what he was about. However, I did perceive a little bit of nervous energy kicking around. Then he said that this was going to be his first time “going live”. A wet car park on a driech, dark morning in Cardiff was the place he was going to lose his live TV virginity. He was appropriately dressed in a bright red velvet suit.

We rehearsed the first little one minute tease making sure that the props came in at the right time and that the musicians knew their cue. Then did it for real. It went off without a hitch, just looking a tiny bit bizarre, as do a lot of things we so on GMTV.

Inside the office that the unsuspecting girlfriend was in the secret camera was now working. So as well as our musical interlude outside  in the rain the nation saw Una at her desk.

We had one more similar tease to do just before the main event. It was getting to that awkward time in the morning for cameramen. The daylight was coming up and the colour temperature was changing rapidly. Could I go with a tungsten colour balance on the lights of should I go daylight. I went daylight and it looked OK. Well at least no one in the gallery on London was screaming that the colours were all wrong.

Then we all dashed round to the entrance of the building dragging cables with us and quickly putting lights out of the way.

Christian the potential groom, if all went well appeared in his outfit. We did a very quick rehearsal of the start of the item and then it would just happen. He started off with the gorilla suit covered up and then put the head on just as we were about to go in. He was well up for it and was taking all the TV madness in his stride, but to be fair he was being pretty mad himself. There are not many guys that would dress up as a gorilla, sing a song and propose to their girlfriend all at the same time. What’s more do it live on TV for 5 or 6 million people to see.

The PAs voice was counting out of the commercial break. There was only 10 seconds to us and the tension was mounting. Would we get into the office without tripping up over steps and cables?  Would she be surprised? Would the quartet pick up their cue? Would Christian sing in key? Would she say yes?

Apart from Christian singing in key it all went according to plan. Kristian deftly introduced the madman in the gorilla suit and lead us into the room. I managed to get in without toppling down any stairs or battering off the sides of doors. Una was thankfully very surprised with the whole thing. Her reaction was great and to top it all she said yes. At the point she said yes there was a bang accompanied by loads and loads of confetti being fired. Unfortunately the viewers didn’t see any of it because it all floated down behind the camera. I hope the office has a powerful vacuum cleaner.

Once we came off air we said our congratulations and got our gear out as quickly as possible because there were people in a neighbouring office getting very upset that we were in the car park and told us in no uncertain terms to get out stuff out. Poor Jason the sound recordist took the brunt of it from a very scary lady.

The Happy Couple

The Crew and The Band!!

Off to the hotel for some breakfast and on to the next location that is too far away.

"Marry Me" in Cardiff

8th February 2009

In the cold darkness before sunrise I crunched over the ice to the car. I had a long drive ahead and given the weather over the last few days I was not sure how long it would take me.

I drove along the Biggar road heading south. The snow covered hills and the beautiful purple sky lit by by the predawn light was breathtakingly surreal. The landscape had the feel of a set from  an early Star Trek episode. It is when I see sights like that I that I think it is great working for GMTV and having to be up and about at a time of day with a temperature of minus ten degrees Celsius, when most people are still sound asleep tucked up in their nice warm fluffy duvets. They are unaware of the spectacle that nature has displayed just outside their bedroom window.

The Predawn sky just outside Edinburgh

I had a long and uneventful journey from Edinburgh to Cardiff apart from the weather. As the day wore on and the miles clocked up the weather went from arctic serenity through arctic mayhem to good old British heavy rain.

Near the centre of Cardiff at a secret location I met up with Dave the Production Manager, Kristian our new Presenter and the bevy of Producers led by the lovely Yiljan. I hope Stuart and Jen don’t mind being referred to as a bevy. 

Dave had set up a sort of hidden camera for use on the live tomorrow. We will be shooting a man dressed in a Gorilla costume accompanied by a string quartet singing a song to his girlfriend and then proposing to her. All quite normal stuff for a monday morning.

Once the little technical stuff was done we retreated to the hotel for a nice dinner where we put the world to rights over a few glasses of mineral water. Seriously! When you have to be up at a time that the majority of people don’t even know exists drinking any more than a minimum amount of alcohol is a no go.

Bed by 10pm

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Charming Scars but no Attack, this Time!

Tuesday 3rd February

For once when it was a white hell in London we in central Scotland got off quite lightly. The programme wanted to reflect not only that, but also if the weather had been as bad, would we have coped much better?  How in Scotland the whole thing would not have ground to a complete halt. So after getting the hire care that was waiting for me when I put my car in for a service I set course for Glasgow.

I was asked to get some vox pops, interviews with the general public, talking about how much better the Scots are when it comes to dealing with a little bit of snow. I came to Glasgow because generally if you want to get a good dose of unbridled Scottish opinion Glasgow’s the place. Edinburgh tends to be full of either tourists or folk with English accents. There are also a lot of women of a certain age that look at you as if you are emitting a nasty smell from every orifice when you ask their opinion. They would of course never want to be seen on telly particularly ITV. I get the sense that an exception could be made for a documentary on BBC presented by the ghost of the late Magnus Magnusson.

I had been having problems with the batteries for my camera for a while. Basically they go flat very quickly. There are replacements on there way from London but as yet they have not arrived. Today was the day they all decided to go flat one after the other.

Around the centre of Glasgow is prime vox pop country. I was looking for the ideal folk to talk to, but there were precious few around. I tend to find that trying to ask people that chew their own tongue or have them hanging out of open mouths below slightly staring eyes does not give good results. The inteligencia of Glasgow, or at least people that looked as if they might be able to string a sentence together did not seem to be out and about. There were of course the legion of guys that came up breathing  fumes of Buckfast tonic wine over me asking “whit ur yi daein’?”

I am always polite with my reply because I feel that I don’t want to earn any of the trophy knife scars that they display on their cheeks or over their eyes. 

One of the last times I was doing vox pops a chap came up to me in a similar manner, but before I could give him my polite reply he decided that he would not waste any more time and just took a swing at me. He sent his fist whizzing through the air. It came as a tiny surprise that the target was not any part of my soft delicate face. Instead he whacked the fairly tough unforgiving camera squarely on the side. Then he just strolled away. If what he was on has that ability to numb pain I might give it a go.

The batteries did give me enough time to get two vox pops done before calling it quits. I then had to retire to a Starbucks to get some charge into at least on of them. At least it was warm and out of the rain. 

I gave the battery enough time to charge to let me use the camera and the little light on the top, because by now it was dark. I got the voxes done. They were not as good as I had hoped. I would have loved to get some good Gaswegian slagging off the soft southern English for not being able to cope with the bad weather. I think maybe now it is us Scots that are going soft. The bulk of opinions were that we could not have coped any better and it was just a very occasional occurrence and just bad luck. 

There was one very nice chap who in a very mild soft spoken Canadian accent said that the whole weather thing was a piece of nonsense, given in his view all the snow that had fallen constituted a light dusting. He said the English were as bad as the Yanks. He regarded that as a very severe slight. Unfortunately he was not at all keen on saying it on camera because he had a rather sensitive job. 

I had a couple of “weegies” that were desperate to be on camera. I had tried to give them a polite brush off. They were quite determined and not aggressive. Although I think that those unfamiliar to “Glesga” banter might have found a drunken face that had seen part of a broken bottle at skinsplittingly close quarters well inside ones personal space a tad intimidating. I thought it might amuse the boys in London when they viewed the tape if I did do a wee chat with Glasgow’s very own Wayne and Waynetta. Complete with what the first world war Prussians would have regarded as a superb duelling scar he perched on his girlfried’s back to do the interview. Through a mild drunken slur they managed to miss the point of the whole thing. The only thing that they said was to insist that the weather in Glasgow was really really bad. When I felt I had let them say their piece, stopped the camera and said thank you, the guy slipped off the girls back and in a practised fashion asked if I could possibly spare him a pound! 

I took the tape to the STV studios to be fed to GMTV and headed home along the now slightly drier M8.