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, 15 June 2010

Cold, Lost and Rather Miserable!

Tuesday 15th June

On the 9th tee of the Lost City Golf Course we expected the chill African Dawn to morph into the warm sunny African day that we were getting used to.

Paul sets up the dish before sunrise.

However, this morning although the sun did come up a bitter breeze accompanied it.

Ben tries to keep warm as Mark works in the cold.

The broadcasts we had to do were not particularly complex, just Ben speaking to camera and two little interviews with Anton Ferdinand, Rio’s brother.

Anton Ferdinand and Ben in the cold cold sun.

Nothing is ever as easy as it seems.

A spectator on the fairway.

On the first broadcast I had put personal mics on both Ben and Anton because they were sitting down. I thought that it would be better than having Ben us a hand held mic.

Anton may be tall and physically imposing but his personality is much more unassuming.

Therein lay the problem. He is very softly spoken and Ben, as you would expect has a voice that projects rather well.

I thought that I had got the levels of the mics pretty much spot on but I was told by Dave the technical director that it had not been good and lt had been a difficult job for the sound department.

So, on the next broadcast with Anton I gave Ben the hand held mic and made it a difficult job for me having to boost the levels quite a bit when Anton spoke and then quickly bring them down when Ben was speaking.

There were no irate phone calls from either the sound department or Dave the technical director. Maybe I got away with it.

Ben and Mark take Anton and his entourage back to the clubhouse...

....and then...

...come back.

When we got back to the hotel for breakfast we were frozen to the core.

Even in the inside part of the grand Crystal Dining Room it was cold. Most ot the people eating breakfast were wearing fleeces or jackets.

At the outside tables in the bright sun the hotel had been organised enough to provide blankets.

Eric and Lizzy were having breakfast at one of those tables all wrapped up in grey blankets.

The cereal with hot milk and tea did not warm me up.

I only got warm after I spent as long as I could in a very hot bath.

Our transport back up to Johannesburg was three hours late in getting to us. I had longer than I expected to thaw out.

We said good bye to our generous and efficient host,

She’s the diminutive pocket sized ball of energy PR boss of the hotel who has a long complex name but goes by the soubriquet HP.

She’s an interesting character speaking 9 languages fluently with a working understanding of at least another 2.

The multilingual HP.

On the road in our basic mini bus the glamourous life continued.

Yesterday it was Wimpy, today it was KFC.

The three of us munched away at the fast food feast that we had treated ourselves to on the two or so hours it took to get back to Johannesburg.

When we got back to our base in Jo'burg there was just time for us to dump our bags, although in my case not all of them, and say a brief hello to our beds and other comforts.

I had not dumped all my stuff in the apartment because I didn't have it all to dump.

On the drive down from Sun City I got a call from the hotel to say that the housekeeper had found the clothes that I had put in the wardrobe but not had time to wear and forgotten to take out.

With little or no real public transport the car is even more important to South Africans than it is to Americans.

The difference is that here the road infrastructure is not nearly as advanced as it is in the states.

The result is that at times like this gridlock is inevitable.

The story that we were going to do was with an Englishman who was a bit of a North Korean football fan.

We were hoping to meet him before he went into the game and do a bit of shooting with him.

He and his wife were patiently waiting for us at one of the gates to the Ellis Park Stadium.

The traffic was pretty much at a standstill.

Our driver said that the stadium was close but not really close enough to walk to.

Just in front of us was a tall circular building with a massive advert for Vodacom on the roof.

In the dark that had now fallen the huge letters were just visible against the evening sky.

They should have been shining out in the Johannesburg night but were very dark.

The area we were in is Hillbrow and this building its symbol.

We had been hearing about it.

The tall cylinder of concrete and glass is occupied by hundreds if not thousands of Congolese people. It is one massive squat.

It is like an huge extended Polo mint with the famous hole.

The residents allegedly use this hollow as a place to dump their rubbish.

So as well as an obvious massive harbour for all sorts of crime, diseases, and animal infestations it must surly be a conflagration waiting to happen.

It’s other claim to fame is that it is a no go area for the police who just never even think about going in there any more.

It came to the point where we had no option but to start walking to give us any chance of meeting up with Brian before the kick off.

We got out the combi and joined the few fans that were striding out in the very cold Jo’burg air.

The three of us had just rushed out of the apartment not really being aware of just how cold it was.

The sound of the vuvuzelas as our constant accompaniment we stepped over uneven pavements, went through cold dark underpasses and passed by shuttered shops.

The menacing Vodacom tower with its residents comprising of a large number of the city's dodgy characters was on our right.

This was not the place to be on any other night.

Even tonight the chill air and deep black shadows lent it an air of foreboding.

We could not let Brian wait any longer and he and his wife had gone into the stadium to take their seats.

We got our tickets and went to find our seats and try to find Brian to at least say hello.

It would have been great to film him inside but FIFA regulations are quite clear about us shooting inside the stadium.

We would have to wait until half time to do the filming that we had hoped to have done before the game.

The three of us were quite excited at the thought of settling down to watch the Brazilians do their flamboyant best against the North Koreans.

However, it was so bitterly cold that it was impossible to sit comfortably for any length of time unless you were dressed in arctic clothing.

The players warm up. Wish we could!

I have never witnessed so many spectators moving in and out of their seats during a game of football before. no one seemed to be able to cope with the temperature.

The cameraman tries to warm up.

It was becoming, at minus three degrees Celsius the coldest World Cup game in history.

Ben and Mark as the chill sets in.

Bet the players did not want to stand still for too long.

Now that's a big T-shirt.

At half time we got Brian out of the what should have been a bubbling cauldron of buzzing excitement but was in fact a shivering pit of people just trying to keep warm.

We did a little interview with him and a couple of shots.

At the end we did something similar to get his reaction to the result.

His team had gone down, but not without slipping one past the mighty Brazilian defence. The North Koreans lost 2-1.

The shoot was finished it was around 10:30pm, we had been up since around 4:30 am and for most of that time we had been in sub, or approaching sub zero temperatures.

We were not in the best of humour, any sense of fun and enjoyment had long seeped put of us just like the warmth.

All we needed to do was to sent the material back to GMTV in London.

Ah, the dreaded words.

Our long nocturnal African adventure was about to begin.

Carol back at GMTV had managed to locate a satellite dish from which we could send the pictures back to London.

It was a Reuters dish on a truck in a position al bit away from the stadium on some high ground. It was being used as a position for broadcasters to do live reports from with a view of the stadium in the background.

It was not far away from us but our first tiny test was to meet our driver David with the combi.

We did manage to get together after a lot of confusing phone calls.

Our driver was not all that familiar with the area, or as we were to find out later, many of the areas that we needed to get to.

He did not know where the location of the satellite truck was.

So I put the iPhone’s sat’ nav’ to work.

Along a wide dark empty street we drove and then up an even darker narrow road up a hill to an area we were told was called Highlands.

We reached the road where we had been told we would find the Reuters truck and turned into a still dark but obviously nice residential area.

The area was well named because through the gaps in the houses we could see vistas of the city of Johannesburg spread out below.

Dave drove us all the way along the road and all the way back again.

There was no sign of any truck, or indeed any life of any description.

Driver Dave said that although we had come to the road we had been told about it was not in the area we had been told it would be in.

So we headed in the direction he thought it might be, but we were not convinced as we were heading back to lower ground.

At the same time I called Carol in London to get a local number for the truck so that we could talk to them directly.

When she called back it was with news that the three of us and Dave did not want to hear.

Although Reuters had accepted the booking the truck had packed up and moved off.

We had been in the right place after all but the truck had gone.

We were bereft of any sense of humour now. Even though the car heater was giving us some superficial heat the cold had bitten so deep it would take a while for us to get properly warm.

Carol and now Paul, who was about to take over from her managed to get us another place from which we could feed the tape, a company called Globecast with their office nearby.

I was told it was less than 5 km from where we were.

Dave did not recognise the address.

So the iPhone was brought into play again.

I entered the address, Park Road Richmond.

The iPhone gave me a series of Park Roads in the UK with one in Richmond in London as the favourite choice.

I re-entered the address as, Park Road Johannesburg.

This time it came up with a location 4.8 km from where we were.

I started to direct Dave along the route suggested by the Sat’ Nav’ app.

I took us through the eerily dark quiet streets. There was no sign of any life. Piles of rubbish flapped about in front of doors that were firmly locked, not even any light was sneaking out from under them.

The area was not looking like the sort of area where a broadcaster would set up an office but the directions were certainly correct according to the trusty iPhone.

However, when we arrived at Park Road on the sat’ nav’ map the road that we were on was not called Park Road.

It was Barney something Road.

All the other roads around us matched the roads on the map. We were a little confused.

Dave the driver began looking a bit uneasy.

Mark called the Globecast office. The lady there had a quick chat with Dave in the local lingo. He handed the phone back to Mark after a quick conversation and he had started driving again.

Mark put the phone to his ear, “Oh right. So we need to get out of here then.” I heard him say.

We turned into what looked like a dead end.

At the bottom of the road was a small crowd in hoods and hats silhouetted against the light coming from a doorway.

I could also see a couple of people wrapped in a scruffy sleeping bag.

The hairs on the back of my neck sprang up.

Things did not look good. I was a getting concerned that we were in an area that we should not have been, driving down into a dead end road full of dodgy characters and no way out.

In an instant my fears were allayed when I spotted that the light was coming from a redhead photographic lamp, I made out a camera on a tripod and other paraphernalia of low, very low budget movie making.

Mark had just finished his conversation with the lady from Globecast and looked up.

His reaction was immediate and the same as my initial one, only he was more vocal.

“Stop! We need to get back. This is too dangerous!”

Ben and I burst in to hysterical laughter brought on by tiredness pointing out the camera etc.

I re-entered the address into the sat’ nav’ as Park Road Richmond Johannesburg to see if it would come up with another one.

It did. this time we were on the right road.

As we approached the building Mark was getting last minute directions.

He was told that the building was one of the few with lights on.

At that moment we were right outside a brightly lit office building and a van was driving through the gate.

We followed it in only to discover that, after a brief conversation with the driver of the little medical laboratory van and two security guards who did not speak very good English that we were in the wrong building.

Eventually we managed to get to Globecast just round the corner in the nick of time to get the material fed.

The Globecast office...

..Mark watches the pictures as they go to GMTV in London.

It was now approaching 1 am.

The journey back to the apartment was all that lay ahead of us.

Our tired frustration was not over when Dave took a couple of wrong turnings on the drive back.

It was 2 am before we got back to the apartment.

It had been an interesting 22 hour working day.

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