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.

Friday, 17 September 2010

1966, The Pope and all that.

Monday 13th

“We don’t often work in the rain” John my old sound recordist from the glory days at Tyne Tees once said.

Those words came back to haunt him over the years and as I approached my old patch with the sky that had been blue when I set out turning to a claustrophobic grey and chucking out a deluge of rain they began to haunt me.

Gregg and I did a quick interview with Rob a guy that does a Middlesborough football fanzine in a small housing estate where Ayresome Park, Middlesborough's old football ground used to be.

It had to be quick otherwise we would have been about as wet as it is possible to be without actually jumping into a pool or being lashed by a huge wave.

The centre circle used to be there!

In this little estate there were tiny bronze reminders of what used to be there. A couple of those referred to a famous game back during the 1966 World Cup.

Strangely, it was nothing to do England.

It was a game which produced one of the biggest upsets in the tournament. Italy were beaten one nil by North Korea.

Since then the North Korean’s have had links with Middlesborough because of the support they received all those years ago.

Now the Middlesborough ladies football team had been given the honour of an invitation to visit the capital Pyongyang, play a couple of games and meet some of the players that graced the hallowed turf of Ayresome Park when TV coverage was very black and white.

Once we had done the interview with Rob and a piece to camera beside a very impressive yet tiny piece of bronze, the stud marks from where the winning North Korean goal had been struck, we went to The Riverside Stadium to meet the Manager and Captain of the team.

Of course by the time we got to the stadium to do the rest of the shots and interviews under the cover of the stands the rain had stopped and the sun was, if not fully out certainly peeping out from the gloom.

Rachael Hine the Captain arrived. She was rather shy and quietly excited about this incredible trip to one of the few countries left in the world that it is difficult, if not impossible to visit easily.

A rather stressed out but happy Manager Marrie Wieczorek arrived, characteristically according to the staff at the club a bit later than the appointed time.

Her reaction when she met us underlined just how rare this trip was going to be.

She threw several pieces of paper theatrically in to the air saying that it contained a list of the media organisations that were trying to get interviews and shots, and do live broadcasts, and go the trip with them, and give them cameras to shoot stuff.

It was an impressive list from all the UK media to other global networks as far afield as Nippon TV in Japan.

Great minds think alike, Gregg and I had only just discussed that the trip would make a great documentary.

BBC Breakfast had already arranged to get some of the girls in to the studio as soon as they arrived back in London from the trip.

Gregg chats to Marrie and Rachael in the tunnel.

The filming and interviews did not take long. It was very straight forward in the dry.

The Riverside Stadium.

The pair of us then went to Tyne Tees Television’s small office in Billingham where Gregg edited the report using some material that Tyne Tees had of the girls training and footage from the famous 1966 game.

I had the chance to do a bit of catching up with one of my old colleagues from my time in the north east.

Eric, now a cameraman used to be my electrician and then my sound recordist in the good old days when companies like Tyne Tees actually made television programmes.

Then I heard the news about a job in Newcastle tomorrow. So I toddled up the road to spend the night in a hotel up there.

Tuesday 14th

I collected Phil Reay-Smith from the Central Station in Newcastle.

It had been an easy start to the day because I had not needed to get up out of bed too early.

I was glad about that because last night despite a comfortable bed in a nice full hotel I did not get a good night's sleep.

The room was hot with no openable windows and the air conditioning sounded like a jet engine on full after burner.

So, I had the choice of either being sweaty or being subjected to an annoying loud drone.

Phil was not getting to the city until lunch time.

He had been in the Daybreak studio doing some live broadcasts.

We drove to the home of Rachel who had a bit of a bad experience when she got some cosmetic dental treatment done.

On the way it was clear that although he was enjoying the job at Daybreak getting used to the amount of hours and the weird twilight world that we live in was a slight shock.

No one is ever really aware how working the strange hours that we do effects both body and mind.

As soon as she opened the door it was clear that the dental problems had indeed been solved.

Rachel’s smile was bright and very welcoming.

Rachel's happy new smile.

She was slightly nervous about being on camera but none the less did a very nice interview telling Phil the horror story of needless work done on her teeth, bits popping out when she was eating soft pasta and trying to get treatment to get it all put right.

I did a few set up shots with her including the obligatory, yet cheesy ones of her brushing her teeth.

Our next location was the good dentist who had put things right.

I always find it surprising when well educated people who are very used to dealing with people and do jobs in which a small mistake can have serious consequences are nervous about doing or saying things in front of a camera.

Russell was one of these people but he came up with the goods and the job was quickly done.

I dumped Phil back at the station to get on a train back to London and had my own very pleasant drive back up to Edinburgh in the bright evening sun.

I stopped off a few times to take some photographs with my iPhone.

The red flag at the Otterburn army ranges.

Just what you need when your hungry!

Wednesday 15th

I was in two minds about taking my warm waterproof jacket with me this morning.

I could see a bit of tree movement and hear a little bit of wind noise outside but it did not look too bad.

When I had collected the key for the gate to the entrance to Calton Hill from a surly and slightly unhelpful security man and driven up the hill that gives the iconic view of Edinburgh’s Princes Street I was so glad that I had opted to wear it.

On the way in I was lashed with water and buffeted with wind. I felt that I was driving an unsteady boat rather than my car.

At the top of the hill it did not get any better, well it did slightly, the rain took a break but the wind picked up.

I rigged the camera and Andy the engineer on the ITV Border satellite truck tried to get the satellite dish to lock on to the satellite.

The camera rigged on Calton Hill in the dark predawn wind.

The plastic covers that protect the moving parts of the dish flapped and cracked as the dish, with noisy and jerky movements hunted for the satellite in the dark moody sky.

It did get locked on and we were able to transmit the voice over that Gregg and I had recorded in the warmth of the car to London, but not before Andy had moved the truck three times to try and nudge it towards finding the bird.

The truck with the dish finally locked on beside "Edinburgh's Disgrace".

In theory the live broadcasts c

ould not have been simpler for me. They were just short pieces with Gregg talking to camera.

I was having a nightmare holding the camera steady even though it was firmly attached to the tripod at the same time as trying to keep as much rain as possible off the front of the lens.

As soon as I took the shower cap lens cover away the water attacked the lens like a hoard of angry bees committing suicide against the windscreen of a speeding car.

Gregg was having to expend a lot of his thinking process in just standing upright in the howling gale and make his cold mouth work at the same time.

Before we did our first broadcast after the one we missed whilst the dish was struggling against the might of the wind I heard Erron the director telling Christine and Adrian to pay attention and be ready to pick up just in case the signal was lost.

Gregg does manage a bit of a smile.

Luckily the segment with Gregg linking into a report that he had put together in London yesterday went off without either a technical hitch or any words being fluffed.

During the report London lost our signal. It had been prudent on Erron’s part to prepare the highly paid studio duo because they indeed had to pick up after the report rather than Gregg.

Well at least something had worked.

Then the worst happened. The wind in all it’s black fury picked the camera and tripod up flipping the whole shebang over before I had the chance to catch it.

That all to familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach came to visit once again when I saw the lens nestling in the soft grass.

I picked the camera up fearing the worst.

I was relieved when it appeared that the only damage was to the zoom mechanism. The rest of the camera was working and the pictures looked fine.

The damage to the lens.

The wind calmed slightly and the rain all but stopped for the next broadcasts and shots into the weather forecast.

Feeling windswept and battered Gregg and I went for a warming breakfast.

Ravi, one of the producers from London met us and we toddled off to get our accreditation passes.

That was done quickly and easily at the media centre set up in Holyrood Park beside the Palace.

Hollyrood's media centre ready for the invasion of the world's media.

Belahouston Park in the Glasgow not far from the southern exit of the Clyde tunnel was the next stop for Gregg and me.

We had been asked to go and check things out where Gregg would be live tomorrow morning.

It took us a little while to get into the park after the usual security things We were not long inside having a look at the huge operation and checking how Gregg and the crew would get in at 5 am tomorrow morning.

Then my day got much busier. I had hoped to be able to get home for a small sleep after I dropped Gregg off at his hotel in the centre of Glasgow.

Calls from Ravi and Nick told me that was not going to happen.

There was in interview to be done with Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister.

I set off along the M8 not really looking forward what lay ahead. I have done interviews, live broadcasts and filming with Mr Salmond in the past, none of them particularly pleasant experiences.

So when I went up to the waiting area of his office to meet Ravi and Daybreak correspondent Cordelia Kretzschmar I was not feeling in the best of moods.

I was stunned by the welcome that we all received. Alex could not have been nicer or more happy to see us.

Setting up to interview Alex Salmond.

There was no apparent rush to get things done even though this had been a last minute request for an interview and after we were finished he was happy to chat to us, mainly about the large painting he had on his office wall that had been loaned to him by the artist.

The First Minister talks to Cordelia about the painting in his office.

Well that was not so bad I thought as we left the horrible monstrosity that is the Scottish Parliament building.

Food and bed were beaconing.

The food part happened but the bed thing did not.

There was more shooting to be done for a report on the final preparations and cost of the Papal visit.

Ravi and I grabbed a quick pizza whilst Cordelia did girlie things in her hotel room.

Then saying good-bye to Ravi, Cordelia and I went on the hunt for a few shots in and around Edinburgh.

Around sevenish I handed the tape of the rushes to Cordelia and at long last headed for home.

Thursday 16th

The streets of Edinburgh were as quiet and dark as you would expect at 4 am when I drove into the city centre to meet up with Nick the correspondent, Ravi the producer, Colin the sound recordist and Paul with his satellite truck.

In a few hours these same deserted streets would be busy, full of flag waving cheering crowds as the Pope’s motorcade made the reverse journey to mine.

The satellite trucks in a convenient place for fast food.

Our busy morning started with a live broadcast from Nick into the ITN very early news bulletin at 5:30.

It was a bit of a rush for us because we did not know about it until we all arrived at the location around 5 am.

We got that done and out of the way quickly.

It had been a bit of a pain in the ass because it had interrupted the organisation we needed to do for the Daybreak live broadcasts.

As a result a few of the guests that Nick had arranged to meet at the time of the broadcast had gone elsewhere when he did not turn up.

Day breaks over the east end of Princes Street....

.....gradually gets to the west end.

I was setting up for our opening shot showing the daybreaking sky over the east of the city when Doug the Technical Director called me over talkback.

He could see a problem with part of the picture coming from my camera. A portion of the left hand side of the frame was not in focus.

I had not noticed it. When he pointed it out to me I was horrified and surprised that I had not seen it before.

I was relieved that it got a lot better when I zoomed in and also when I reduced the size of the lens aperture.

Unfortunately it was still very dark and I was going to have to work wide open.

Obviously the damage to the lens when it was blown over yesterday was not confined to the zoom mechanism.

Nick had arranged loads of folk to come down for our live broadcasts including a pipe band.

The BBC Breakfast team on a balcony above Princes Street were not that happy when they saw our guests turning up fearing that the band would be playing when they were on air and drowning them out.

It was tempting but, we resisted cueing them every time we saw the beeb starting to broadcast.

The BBC Breakfast camera position just above us.

We had lots to do with live shots, recorded interviews, weather shots and main broadcasts to do.

Nick chats to MIke, an anti pope protester before he does his down the line interview....

...and on the phone to the Daybreak office.

There was the usual confusion about exactly what was needed and when, but it all appeared to work and when the light came up allowing me to stop the lens down a bit the problem with the lens was greatly reduced.

Kelly Anne from STV does an interview with the flag carrier.

Cardinal Kieth O'Brien does a down the line radio interview.

The final shot on Daybreak for the morning.

After we were off air Nick and Ravi said good-bye. I hung around to get a glimpse of the man himself as he went past the camera position.

The Pope in his Popemobile.

That was it, time to catch up on a bit of sleep,

or so I thought.

It was a call from Gregg that put paid to that plan.

I was needed at Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park to do some shooting at the mass that was going to take place in the early evening.

There were two major problems with that prospect.

My journey might coincide with the Pope making the same journey on the same route.

Also, we had been told by the police that the Park was now in lock down and no more media were being allowed to go in or out until the Pope had done his stuff.

Fortunately I managed to get on the road just before all the traffic restrictions came into force.

On the M8 there were signs showing just how big the police operation was.

On every bridge over the motorway between Edinburgh and Glasgow,and there are a lot, there were at least two policemen.

I met up with Gregg.

We jumped in a taxi.

The driver did that sucking through his teeth thing accompanied by a snigger and a shake of the head when we asked to go to the park.

“Yi’ll no git any whaer neer it the day. Awe the roads ur bloked.” he said.

True enough, he got us as close as he could which still entailed a long walk with the kit in the uncharacteristically warm late afternoon Glasgow sunshine.

The Daybreak programme folk in London were keen on some kind of human interest story from the mass.

There were a few that Gregg was trying to organise, like a 9 year old kid that was suffering from cancer and was going to be meeting the Pope.

However, it was increasingly apparent that the people with all the good stories were not keen to do anything for us.

So as we trekked towards Bellahouston it was with a weary feeling that it was all going to be in vain.

The police we spoke to enroute all told us exactly where the media entrance was but that it had been closed and already late arrivals were being turned away.

The Pope was still not due for around another forty minutes.

We carried on.

To say that we were stunned when we arrived at the gate

was an understatement.

As we approached it was opened and after our accreditation was inspected we were ushered inside.

We made a bee line for the media centre where Gregg had made arrangements to meet someone who might be able to help.

The Media Centre at Bellahouston Park.

When we arrived I sent out a quick tweet photograph of the mass media in the big tent.

As a result the broad grinning face of Alan Fisher approached.

Now working for Al Jazeera he used to be a GMTV correspondent and we had done many jobs together in the past.

He had seen my pic, knew that I must be there so came over to say hello.

We talked about the new Daybreak programme, discussed what we thought was good and what was bad about it.

He had just introduced me to his crew when I heard Gregg shout for me across the room.

He waved at me frantically .

I grabbed my kit and ran after him as he sprinted out the door.

His contact had come up with a nice little story for us to do,

but we had to be quick.

The people that we needed to speak to and film were in an area that was about to be sealed off as the Pope was now only a few minutes away.

We dashed like maniacs to get to the location before it was closed off.

Panting, we introduced ourselves to the head of a school in Castlemilk, one of Glasgow's less salubrious areas and four boys from the school.

I did some shots of the boys watching the service along with an elderly man who was clearly quite emotional about the whole thing.

Our boys wait for the Pope.... the bright sunlight.

Then Gregg did interviews with them.

After the flurry of feverish activity we looked at each other.

We had our story, a perspective on the visit from across the generations.

The shots had been good as had the interviews.

The next stage was to get the voice over done and get the material to Daybreak in London.

It was once again time to get in to gear and move quickly.

We had to get to STV as quickly as we could and not get caught up in the crowds leaving the mass.

We power walked back the way we had come and got a taxi straight away to take us to STV.

In one of the STV technical areas we viewed the rushes. Gregg was then able to write his voice over script to the exact shots that he had seen.

Gregg writes his voice over as Emmerdale plays on the many screens in STV's ingest area.

Like Phil Reay-Smith earlier on in the week the reality of the effect breakfast TV has hit Gregg.

On the drive back to Edinburgh he was so befuddled with fatigue that remembering his own name was one of the more difficult things he tried to do.

It had once again been a busy week for the both of us.

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