Wednesday 27th January
Philimore our driver had us on the road nice and early for the drive to Bafokeng Stadium which will be where England play their first game against the USA.
It is also the place rumoured to be where they are going to be based for the whole of the competition.
It was a drive of almost two and a half hours north west from Johannesburg.
As Soon as we're on the Road Dan gets Tweeting.
Michelle had a bit of an earlier start than us when she set off north with Frank a local cameraman to film an interview with a tribal chief in the region.
We arrived and were warmly greeted at the Bafokeng Civic Centre by Martin a local bureaucrat.
He gave us a very detailed 45 minute talk on the history of the area, the various tribal wars and the way the Stadium came into being.
In a nut shell the local tribal chief got tipped the wink by Paul Kruger, the National Park was named after him, that it would be a good idea for tribe to get their land registered legally or they might lose it.
The elders met beneath the tree where all the decisions were made and decided to get together and buy the land they already lived on.
The Decision Tree Still Standing Opposite.........
.......the new Decision Building, the Civic Centre.
Once they owned the land they got the really good news that underneath was the worlds biggest Platinum deposit.
With the income, the community under the guidance of a far sighted leader who in the 1970s forecast that major sporting events would be held in South Africa built a big stadium.
So they ended up with the only community owned stadium in the country and recently have also purchased a football team not surprisingly called the Platinum Allstars.
It will be where England start their World Cup Finals journey on the 12th June.
The sky was not as blue as we would have liked it but at least we had missed last night’s storm that was so strong it had caused quite a bit of damage, ripping the roof off part of the Civic Centre car park and knocking down trees and lamp posts.
At the stadium Martin then put us in the hands of the broad smiling and enthusiastic PR girl Lerato Matauny.
Stuart the producer did a little interview with her and I shot some general views of the stadium.
We managed to get the first of what we hoped would be a few minor exclusives on the trip.
I was allowed to film inside the changing rooms that will be used by the England team.
At a nearby market we stopped to get some shots of the colourful activity.
The Local Market.
It was a bit of a contrast with the upmarket glitzy shops and restaurants that the WAGs and the boys are used to.
There were cars and pickups piled with peppers and tomatoes. Over the rough earth guys wheeled battered shopping trollies filled with all manner of stuff.
Ladies of a certain age walked around purposely with anything from small bags to huge boxes on their heads.
Local Cameraman Frank and Producer Michelle Return from Shooting at the Bus Station.
I could have stayed there for hours. Every time I switched the camera off I saw another great shot.
Nigel spotted the first person wearing an English Premier League football team shirt.
I did a few shots and a short interview with this slightly nervous guy in a Gerrard shirt.
All the people were very friendly and lots wanted to be on telly.
The sun was high in the sky and very strong. We were a little sweaty and sticky when we got back in the combi for the long drive back to Johannesburg.
When we got back to the hotel there was time to put some of the material into the computer for editing before a quick shower and dinner.
Thursday 28th January
This morning was going to be the only chance for a very slight late rise because we had to wait for Dan Lobb GMTV’s sports presenter to arrive off his flight from London.
Of course that would be the only night when I woke up in the middle of the night, took ages to get back to sleep and then woke up an hour before my alarm was due to go off.
I sat in the lobby feeling like I had just come in from a particularly good night out and needing to get to bed.
When Dan came in saying that he was feeling great after a great sleep and feed in his business class seat on the flight over through my groggy haze, I thought about the contortions that the four of us endured on our flight.
Almost immediately we were on the road to Soccer City to do some pieces to camera.
From the same place I had filmed from yesterday I did some more shots because the sun was out a little more and we did Dan’s pieces to camera.
Getting Ready to Start.......
......The Piece to Camera.
He had brought a replica World Cup ball that Adidas had provided for us to use as a prop.
They are not yet on sale. I think that at the end of the trip there might be a bit of a fight to see who gets to take it home.
On the long road back down to Bafakeng to so more pieces to camera and an interview with one of the community elders we stopped at an amazing place that sold life size models of all sorts of animals.
Dan did a piece to camera about not getting an elephant in his hand luggage but maybe putting it in a trunk.
The Little Elephant's Pretty Good........
....But the Lion's not the Best of the Models.
That started us off on a stampede of puns on animal related terms.
By the time we got to Bafukeng we were “boar-ed” and “dog” tired with “trotting” out a “pack” of them without a “paws” and had pretty much “herd” them all.
At the Civic Centre we did a quick interview with on of the local tribal elders.
They are almost considered royalty. Martin the civic official related a story of when one of these locally important people had turned up unexpectedly he had to run around trying to get a tie and a jacket before meeting them.
Things have to be done correctly. There is even an official Protocol Department.
Nigel, Dan, Stuart and I looked at each other standing in the blazing sun wearing scruffy sandals or boots, shorts and sweaty t-shirts.
In the event Kyosana Joseph Rupetsand dressed in a smart suit with his tie neatly tied showed no signs of offence as, looking like backpackers that had taken a wrong turning we were introduced to him.
Protocol Dictates Jacket, Shirt and Tie. Oops Dan!
He was a great interviewee being very enthusiastic looking forward to the World Cup and welcoming all the football fans.
We were going to be given another little scoop after the interview but we had to get there quickly.
It was lunch time and we were all a bit peckish. So Michelle and gone off whilst we did the interview in search of some food.
On the way to the next location, the hotel that England will stay in and train at during their time in South Africa we ate the only thing she could find, soggy toasted chicken or cheese sandwiches accompanied by a can of fizzy juice.
The Royal Bafakeng Palace hotel was still a partial building site when we got there but the main part of the hotel was open for business.
I was only allowed to film in the public areas and not in any of the rooms. So I got as many shots from as many angles as I could to cover not just what we needed for the reports for this trip but to keep in the library for future use and possible sale to other broadcasters as we were the only ones to be let in so far.
Out the back of the hotel were four football pitches. Two were FIFA A grade pitches and the others B grade.
These were where the England boys would train and practice.
They were also not quite finished. The A grade pitches had the flood light posts up but as yet no actual lights.
I got some shots and we did a piece to camera with Dan on one of the pitches.
The end of the piece to camera had him kick the replica ball into the goal. “The first Englishman to score at Bafakeng!”
Cheesy or what? Well it is GMTV.
It only took the consummate professional two takes.
I would not be surprised if the first take does not appear on a TV blooper programme because he managed to hit the bar from a few yards out when aiming at a totally open goal.
I would have liked to have spent a lot more time doing shots of the pitches but time was getting tight for us getting to the next location, the Ivory Tree Game Lodge at Pilensberg National Park, a game reserve where we were going to go on an evening game drive.
The England Team Hotel in Rustenburg
When we arrived at the lodge we left out luggage and flight cases with the porters to put into our rooms and climbed aboard a Land Cruiser geared up for animal viewing.
Nyko our ranger guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable as he drove us around the park looking for the big five.
Almost as soon as we got into the park we came across some zebra going over the road.
Dan did a quick piece to camera about a zebra crossing, more cheese.
It was his first time on safari and he was quite excited about his first sighting of zebra.
I have done a few of these in the past and I knew that it would not take for him to get blaze about them because for sure we’d see loads.
We saw all kinds of other animals and I had lots of shots of antelope, giraffe and some rhino.
Perfect Pose from the Antelope.
Close Encounter with the Rhino.
Nyko, in interesting detail told us about each of the animals that we saw.
He was taking about the giraffe and how it was possible to tell the male apart from the female.
He was going into great detail about the signs and mentioned the growths on the giraffe’s head.
At that point Nigel pointed out that there might be a more obvious way to spot the difference.
Meaning the horns Dan said, “what do you call that?”
I think Nyko must have been referring to Nigel’s comment when he replied, “ I call mine the black mamba”.
A Giraffe Crossing........
....and Nyko the Comedian.
Birds Roosting as the Sun Goes Down.
Close up of one of the Birds.
The Sun Dying Red Behind the Hills.
When darkness fell Nyko got out a powerful hand held search light and scanned the bush either side of the road as he drove.
Occasionally out of the pitch black we would see pairs of bright specks of light.
They were the reflections from the eyes of all kinds of animals, cats, birds and reptiles alike.
With the help of the searchlight we saw owls, night jars, antelopes and a puff adder along with lots of other things.
I was particularly excited about the snake.
The Puff Adder in the Light of the Searchlight.
It was dark, slightly cold and pretty late when we got back to the lodge with a nice early start in store for us.
Friday 29th January
Nyko personally called each of our rooms at around 4:30 am to get us up for the early morning game drive. I was already up because I had to get my kit ready.
In the darkness we climbed aboard the Land Cruiser. I was very pleasantly surprised that it was not cold.
As far as Nyko was concerned the sole purpose of this morning’s drive was to find lions and elephants.
This would mean that using the combined skills of the rangers who would communicate over the radio we would be racing around the reserve.
Nyko called it, chasing sightings in the Ferrari Safari.
The only thing that I thought funny was at that point we were probably the first vehicle in this morning.
Nyko was very keen to be in there before anyone else.
I think that he was slightly disappointed that when the light started to come up another ranger from another company had gone in earlier than us and was on the radio saying that he had heard some lion vocalisation.
Nyko floored the big four wheel drive machine and sped to the location, bouncing off the tarmac road onto a rough track.
Around the corner a long way up the track we saw the stationary truck with several sets of eyes looking out intently.
Nyko cut the engine, letting the truck drift to a halt. The camera to my eye I made out the features of a lioness slowly padding through the tall grass and thick undergrowth.
She paid neither of the vehicles any attention as she came out of the cover and bounded across the track and disappear back into the foliage on the other side.
It was not the best sighting in the world and it did not last long but at least it was another of the big five on tape.
One of the interesting and slightly disturbing things for our European minds that Nyko told us was that when he was around twelve years old he had to go up the mountain to take part in a circumcision ritual.
When he came down the mountain he would be considered a man.
We did not find that particularly disturbing. What we did find disturbing was that he said the same thing happened to the women.
We had needed to get a few pieces to camera done both in the vehicle and out of it.
Nyko took us to a point where it was relatively safe to dismount and do what we needed to do.
Making our way to the View Point.
Is that Nigel off up the Mountain?
He also provided coffee and biscuits.
Nyko and the Coffee.
The general views of the vast Pilensberg National Park were not as spectacular as I would have liked them to be because the cloud was low and grey with a thin unpleasant mist hanging in over most of the ground.
I needed to get a head on shot of Dan from the front of the truck when it was moving.
Unlike Top Gear GMTV does not have a budget for specialised car camera mounts.
I was lucky that this Land Cruiser had a set of heavy bull bars and a couple of grab points on the bonnet.
I was able to safely wedge myself onto the bonnet and get the head on shots with Nyko not driving too quickly.
Although we drove around for a lot longer there was no luck with the elephants until of course we were heading back to the lodge.
The call come over Nyko’s radio to say that they had been spotted but at the opposite side of the huge park.
There was no time to go to see them we had a flight to catch.
Our Van to the Airport With the Registration Number for Sound Geeks.
Back at the lodge we loaded quickly loaded the kit on to Philimon’s combi. There was no time to pack the kit that we had been shooting with into the flight cases. We had to do it at the airport.
Packing the Gear on the Jo'burg Airport Pavement.
The flight we needed to catch to George, a city in-between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, in just over one hours time.
The large lady at the check in desk was not impressed when we pitched up with our fifteen pieces of hold baggage and large bits of hand luggage including of course the camera.
There ensued the usual hassle with the excess baggage. That was the easy bit.
There had been some mix up with Stuart’s booking. For some reason his ticket on our flight had been cancelled.
There was a seat available on the flight for him but it would involve a bit of payment and a lot of keyboard work on the part of our friend at the check in desk and her colleague at the busy ticket desk.
This was largely due to the the tickets having been organised through the South African Tourist Office.
The rigmarole at the check in desk meant that we had to rush to get to the gate in time to board the flight leaving Stuart still trying to get the penalty payment sorted.
He did make it but to do it he really had to rush, getting to the gate at the same time as us.
It was then a bit annoying that the bus we were crammed into to ferry us to the small plane waited for ages before moving off.
When we did get aboard I was in need of a visit to the smallest room on the small plane.
However, because it was a small aircraft it took me a bit longer than usual to put my camera in the overhead bin I had to dismantle it by removing the viewfinder, part of the lens and taking the battery off.
By the time I had done that the boarding procedure had been swift and the two cabin staff so efficient that in no time we were strapped in our seats being given the safety briefing.
I did not really listen to what was said by either the flight attendant during that chat or what the pilot when he came on the pa to give us the details of the length of the flight, what the weather was like and the height we’d be cruising at.
I’d heard it all before.
All I could think of was getting relief from the coffee and juice that I had drunk at breakfast and the water that I downed on the drive.
As soon as I heard the ping that accompanied the seat belt sign going off I unclipped my belt and jumped up out of my to get to the only toilet at the back of the plane.
I was astounded to see that the occupied sign was lit and as I approached one of the cabin attendants said that there was someone in the toilet.
The flight was not full so there was a free seat a couple of rows away.
I sat down and stared at the sign and tried to get it to go off by the force of my mind.
Eventually it did go off.
The narrow concertina door opened and a beautiful blond twenty something girl emerged wearing a slightly low cut tight fitting black top with little silver sequins sparkling in the sunlight blasting in through the small windows.
She also had on a pair of very clinging black trousers which she was adjusting around her slim hips below a tantalising view of her taut, tanned and fit tummy.
This sexy goddess went passed me back to her seat unaware of the manly thoughts that had rushed into my head but I did still need to get to the toilet pronto.
I jumped up, crashed through the partially open doors and rammed the door lock across.
The light came on and at in the same instant my testosterone fuelled thoughts went out in a flash.
The object of my male desire must have needed to get relief even more than me because I guess she must have had a bit of a gastrointestinal problem.
The odour in the confined space made me gag I wanted to get out into the fresher air of the cabin as fast as I could.
I had to do what I needed to do quickly for two reasons, my bladder was ready to explode like a an overfilled water balloon thrown by an excited child and I was desperate for clean air.
In my haste to perform the urgent task I was unaware of the imminence of one of those annoying little incidents that happen to us men.
I relaxed my muscles to allow the deluge to commence. The point of ultimate relief was at hand. That felling of pleasure about to sweep over me when a stray hair that had become lodged in a certain area caused a rather uneven distribution of the high pressure torrent.
I had to use all the strength in my internal muscles to shut the valve.
Enduring a pain known to all mankind I removed the mischievous hair and continued to empty things out.
The sweet air outside was beckoning like a long lost friend waving in a crowd at an airport arrival gate.
I so desperately wanted to embrace that friend and feel the clean fresh air stroke my nasal passages.
Unless I wanted to leave the toilet like a just used shower room.
I went for the clean up option.
Whilst I was busy with the paper towels I had a chance to check out my left eye which had been getting a bit sore since this morning.
I was developing a stie. It was probably as a result of being hit by one of the little small flies that were hitting our faces on last nights game drive.
At last I finished and got out into fragrant air and went back to my seat as if nothing had happened.
During the rest of the two hour flight I noticed the poor gorgeous babe make another couple of hurried trips down the aisle to the back of the plane.
Producers. They Can't Stop Using the Phones as they Wait for the Bags.
When we arrived in George we were warmly greeted by a tall elegant chap called Glen. Once our kit was loaded my first question was if we could stop at a pharmacy on the way to the hotel.
Glen pulled into a large shopping mall and gave me directions to Clicks pharmacy.
Nigel and I went in. A very helpful lady gave me a tube of stuff that should help my red inflamed eye.
Nigel and I then stood at some shelves and discussed the merits of the various condoms that were displayed.
I was glad that the shop was relatively empty and it wasn’t a place I frequent.
“They don’t need to be too big.”, said Nigel.
“Non lubricated is preferable.”, was my input.
We talked about the best pack to to the job and then selected one.
I went to the check out to pay clutching a pack of condoms with a silhouette of an african couple kissing intimately and what was rather like a small animals cage containing the medicine for my eye.
The chap serving me did not turn a hair as he unlocked the cage to give me the tube and scanned the pack of condoms specifically for ebony coloured skin.
The condoms might not actually get used but they are always a good safety precaution, particularly to keep radio microphones dry on small boats.
We would be shooting Dan doing some canoeing at our next location.
Back in the van we asked Michelle how we were going to get away with a receipt on the expenses that said condoms and ointment!
The longish drive from the shopping mall ended at the beautiful self appointed six star resort of Pezula we were enthusiastically greeted by Jeanine the PR lady for the resort.
Our suite keys, on cute teddy bear key rings were all waiting for us as was a welcome drink.
We we invited to have a seat and enjoy our drinks. At that point after the early start and my eye being quite painful all I wanted to do was get to the room, treat my eye and freshen up.
We did have a brief chat about what we needed to do and how we were going to do it etc etc.
The reception area had looked elegantly modern in dark wood.
The whole place just oozed modern stylish understated opulence.
My room was pretty special, certainly up there with the best places that I have stayed in and for once I would spend two nights there.
The Bedroom part of the Bedroom.
The Lounge Part of the Bedroom.
Saturday 30th January
The schedule for today was not too rigourous, giving us a chance to recharge our batteries slightly.
So, after a night in a comfortable room and a healthy breakfast with no option for a fry up we were ready for the day ahead.
Jeninne had organised a black mini bus with soft leather interior to take us the the first location.
We drove out and a few large stylishly modern but from a security point of view very effective gates. We began see why this place was at the top of the French list for places to stay and train.
When we passed the place that the French would use as the training field it was a done deal in our eyes.
The area was normally used as a cricket pitch. It was in a very picturesque hollow surrounded by straight growing conifers.
The Perfect Pitch to Train on (When It's finished).
The French were certainly not going to rough it.
The English place was certainly nice, albeit considerably less near completion but no where near as luxurious as this place.
Capello was going for altitude rather than excessive comfort.
At the top of a hill we stopped at a wooden building where Carmen introduced Dan to Beau a fine looking chestnut gelding.
Dan had never been on a horse since he was six years old.
We rather hoped for a “It’ll Be Alright on the Night” moment when Dan got on Beau’s back to go out for a gentle trek in the forrest.
However, mounted up, not quite like a seasoned western star but without mishap.
Dan and his Steed.
Once Dan was comfortable I got onto my grey horse called Ron and off we walked.
As we were only going to be walking the horses Nigel and Stuart had chosen not to ride.
Maybe Stuart and Nigel Should Have Chosen to Ride.
From on top of Ron I got some shots of carmen and Dan going through the dappled light of the trees and against the backdrop of the blue sky and sparkling sea.
Nigel was cabled to my camera and walking along beside me so that we could get good quality sound from Carmen and Dan’s radio mics.
I had my opportunity to get some cash from the TV bloopers programmes when I moved round from facing forwards on Ron to facing backwards.
Luckily for my self respect but not for my bank account I did not fall off.
The Wrong Way Round?
The Right Way Round?
We got some nice material.
The next thing on the agenda for us was lunch.
Around the whole area you have to be on the alert for the mischievious baboons that have been known to pinch fruit out of peoples hands as they try to eat.
Lucky You Had Breakfast Then Nigel.
All the beaches in South Africa are fully public but not all the land that borders those beaches.
Near this luxury exclusive resort there is a quiet difficult to access little bay with a beautiful sandy beach.
On the steeply rising land round the beach are various beach houses of different sizes and styles.
Two of these places are looked after by the Pezula estate and are as you might expect, pretty special.
They look like little castles but are very clearly built from modern stone.
One of the Amazing Castles.
We were having lunch outside one of these.
They are exclusive enough to cost around £9 000 per night and sleep 10. For that amount of dosh the package includes a personal chef and other staff.
One of the Rooms in "the Castle".
Jeninne the PR Looks at Home in the Mega Plush Pad.
It is so exclusive that one very famous South African has stayed there, but Pezula are not allowed to state publicly who it was.
There is a photograph of that person in the castle on a shelf. So I sat in the seat that the person had been sitting in.
It might be a small claim to fame but I was excited about it.
Stuart and Dan Discuss the Piece to Camera.
I did some shooting in and around the castle along with a couple of pieces to camera with Dan.
Nigel Sorts Dan's Radio Mic.
We also did a few things on the beach where we saw lots of small green coloured shell fish that were washed onto the sand by the waves and then squirmed around on the sand.
The Curious Shell Fish.
Although the beach was all but deserted there was a group of excited kids playing around, running through the waves and digging holes.
Like children all aver the world the camera is like a magnet.
Wherever it is pointed they want to get infront of it usually good naturedly jumping and shouting.
Our time table for the day might not have been a rush rush rush one, but we did need to get things done.
Nigel worked his magic by letting them hear themselves through his microphone and sound mixer. He gave each one in turn a chance to put on the headphones whilst the others laughed and sang songs.
Nigel Keeping the Kids Amused.
That gave me the time to get the shots of the empty beach done without interruption.
The next item on the agenda was to see Nigel really earn his cash for the day, not so much for recording the sound from Dan and our new interviewee Ivor, but for paddling our kayak.
We all went off on a very gentle paddle on a still calm beautiful inland river that ended up on our beach.
Dan and Ivor Chase Stuart and Carmen.......
Nigel doing his Stuff as I Shoot Dan and Ivor.
It was so still and relaxed that there was no need for the supplies I had bought at the pharmacy yesterday.
We spent a while getting the shots and sound bites we needed on the pretty river.
All Smiles now but you Might be a bit Stiff in the Morning Nigel.
When we got back Nigel was sure that he would be stiff tomorrow from all the exertion of propelling both of us along and more importantly keeping us straight.
We had started off the day with a pice to camera with Dan talking about this being the place for the French.
We ended the full daylight shooting with another piece to camera with Dan geting a manicure and saying “I wonder if Thiery Henry had a hand in choosing this place”.
The girl doing the manicure ting for the camera thought we were all a it mad.
She Didn't Quite get the Gag.
After the sun had set we did another couple of pieces to camera at a specially prepared Braai where Greig one of the chefs at Pezula cooked a rnge of typical South African food.
In other words meat.
If you ask for the vegitarian option here the chances are that what will be presented will be chicken accompanied by the words, “It’s corn fed” and a smile.
I spotted a slither of white over a distant hill.
It was getting bigger.
It was the moon rising up into the darkening sky.
I got a few really atmospheric shots of it with flames from the garden candles in the foreground.
unfortunately like a lot good and fortunately bad shots that I had taken these lovely ones did not make the final edit.
Time is always so much a pressure.
On a job like this with so much good material the time allowed for the finished piece is never enough. As a result so much great stuff ends up on the virtual cutting room floor.
Our night ended up late on in Michelle’s room recording Dan’s voice over so that she could edid tomorrow on the drive to Port Elizabeth.
Dan Recording His Voice Over.
Sunday 31st January
We had time for a fairly leisurely breakfast.
Then it was once again time to wave good-bye to an excellent hotel. The French team should certainly enjoy it and what a training pitch.
Glen was outside the reception with the mini bus and trailer.
The kit and we were loaded aboard and set off on the long drive from Pezula to Port Elizabeth.
En-route I did a bit of trying to get the blog up to date.
Michelle did some editing of the material that we had shot until the battery went flat on the lap top.
Working with video or photographs really uses up a lot of power compared with just tapping away at a word document.
Editing on the Long Drive East to PE.
It was Andy Murray’s big day at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Dan, being an ex-professional tennis player and me being a passionate Scot we were keen to keep up to date with the match which was going on during the length of our journey.
Andy was two sets down against Federer when we pulled into a service for a grab and go snack.
I spotted an appropriate packet of biscuits that might work as an edible talisman for his success.
Sadly, not long before we arrived in Port Elizabeth the victory was Federer’s, although in the end it had been tight.
The Good Luck Biscuits. Pity They Didn't Work.
It can only be a matter of time before the boy from Dunblane gets a grand slam win under his belt.
Michelle Getting Some Work Done by the Lake.
The warm late evening sun was easing away when we pitched up at the lake infront of the impressive Nelson Mandela stadium.
We were there to check out the location for tomorrows live broadcasts and send some material to GMTV.
Rick and Dave the satellite boys were all rigged and ready for the to feed to London.
All I needed to do was to take the material from the Avid lap top and put it on to tape to play over the satellite.
It should have been a very simple procedure doing what is called a Digital Cut.
Alternatively I could just play the footage from the timeline on the Avid and record it “on the fly”.
Once again I had the frustration of dealing with the recalcitrant beast.
It would not do what it was told or supposed to do.
The satellite came, was extended and then went.
The combined minds of us in Australia and the boffins on the long distance line to London could not get the thing to behave.
Rick and Nigel Have a go with Another PC to Check Connections etc'
The Avid Setup Once Again Not Behaving.
Whilst I was wrestling with the thing Michelle had dashed back to the hotel to get the tapes so that the very essential bits could be sent.
She arrived back at the now chilly lake and we got some of the footage away safely to the UK.
We had to call it a night at the location because if we continued to fight with the technology and kept extending the time on the satellite the cost would have been huge and unpredictable.
Back at the hotel with a good internet connection Stuart had a sleepless night sending the material over the web using a thing called M-Link.
That did not happen easily either because various settings were not correct.
Monday 1st February
Stuart had won that battle with the Avid assisted by the IT boffins up in the northern hemisphere.
Although the victory was his it had gone into many sessions of extra time as happens in a lot of these situations. The contest ended at around 4 am when all the material was safely back in London.
I had been there so many times.
Stuart did however get a bit of a respite by not having to join us on our early start back at the lake.
The South African was, like us, up nice and early.
I could have done with it being up a little bit more and not shining directly in line with the way I wanted to shoot.
As the morning wore on it didn’t move round much but did get a lot higher in the clear blue sky.
The backdrop for our broadcasts was the Nelson Mandela stadium over the lake.
The Nelson Mandela Stadium in the Shape of a Flower.
Dan Writes his Lines.
Michelle Talks to London.
Dan Learns His Lines.
A group of what we thought would be football loving kids were due to turn up and be in the shots during the broadcasts.
The group that did arrive in a school bus were like men in a smart light grey school uniform.
They were into football but not the cute cuddly nippers we thought that we might see.
The guys were all around sixteen and seventeen. They were all very polite with very firm handshakes and when they called me sir I was quite unnerved.
We had them displayed their keepie uppie skills in the back of shot, they sang some South African football songs for us and showed off there football shirts some of which were from the English Premier League.
Michelle Chats up the Boys.
The other guest we had for the morning was Barry Hilton, a well known comedian in South Africa, although he was not going to be a funny man for us.
His role was to talk about what the English fans visiting South Africa could expect to encounter.
The plan was that he would also talk about the traditional Braai which is what a South African barbecue is called.
He came along with a charcoal Braai set up including tables and chairs.
Meat on the Braai.
However, the programme powers in London decided that they did not want the Braai item.
So after the live broadcasts I did shot Dan having a chat with him about the Braai which would get used on the GMTV website
Barry at the Braai.
Boys and Their Balls. They Just Won't Stop Playing With Them.
We said goodbye to Barry, his braai and the Boys from the school and got back to the hotel as fast as we could to pack and get to the airport to catch the flight to Cape Town.
Getting all the kit and us checked on for the short flight on a relatively small aircraft was done really quickly, so quickly that we had time for lunch.
It might have been a Wimpy, but it was the posits one I’ve ever been in.
South Africa is all about meat. There were all kinds of beef on the menu from what you’d expect from a fast food joint like burgers to what I certainly would not expect, T-Bone steaks.
Dan, Stuart and Nigel had to try the milk shakes. If they had been kids as soon as they had drunk them they would have been jumping around on the ceiling like dervishes.
That fluorescent colour and intense sweet flavour can surly only come with the aid of enough E numbers to make a footballers salary look insignificant.
Very often the amount of kit that we carry comes as a shock when transport is organised.
The folks in Cape Town were taking no chances. When wheeled our trollies out of the terminal and through the car park our transport was waiting, A full size coach!
Our super size vehicle whisked us the fairly short journey to our hotel in the centre of the city.
We were having the privilege of staying at the newly opened Taj hotel.
We had to go straight out to do some filming on board a rather sexy large luxury yacht. Tonight it would remain moored up. However, tomorrow we had more to do and that would involve putting to sea.
Michelle and Stuart had to do other things, like edit what we had shot and sort out details for tomorrows broadcasts.
It was just Nigel, Dan and I that were off to Cape Towns chic, trendy and often very expensive waterfront.
Recording the Voice Over Before we left so Stuart can Edit.
The hotel laid on their courtesy car for us.
So, rolling up to the millionaire’s marina in a top scale black Range Rover with soft leather interior and all the toys we did not look out of place.
The Princess Emma at dusk in the Marina.
Maxine and Richard the Princess Emma’s crew welcomed us aboard.
We just had to do a couple of pieces to camera. The boat was at our disposal as long as we took our shoes off.
It is standard practice on most nice boats particularly when like this one the interior is carpeted on thick pile cream carpet.
One of the pieces to camera that Dan did was about the WAGs and their glitzy lifestyle. At the end of it opened a bottle of champagne with a healthy pop.
It had reached that time of night when you have not had a great deal of sleep and delirium so when the cork flew off in the direction of distant diners in a posh restaurant and we heard it land with a far away “dink” we crumpled in hysterical laughter expecting to hear indignant voices shouting in complaint.
Luckily no-one’s five star gourmet meal was ruined by being bombed by the cork from a cheap bottle of cheap fizz.
Well you didn’t think that the boat owners would give us vintage to use as a prop did you.
Having enjoyed our brief taste of the way the other half live we wandered off to have a late meal of yet more meat.
Meanwhile back at the hotel it was Stuart who once again was coming out of the corner to do another few rounds with Avid and the supposed flexible and time saving technology.
He was embarking on yet another sleepless night.
Like many of us before him he barely managed to control the urge to launch the work station out of the window.
Tuesday 2nd February
The Taj is, according to the brand new plaque on the wall by the door one of the world’s leading hotels.
I have to say that if the quality of sleep I had was a guide I would certainly put it in that category. The bed was very soft and comfy and I almost had enough time in it.
This morning’s transport was on quite as grand a scale as yesterday’s from the airport but it was still a big bus.
Our happy driver Frank took us out of the city to Milnerton Golf Club where we would get a great view looking towards the iconic and breathtaking Table Mountain for all the world like a protective mother embracing her precious child the city of Cape Town nestling below.
What a Location!
At this exclusive club we decanted ourselves and our kit into little golf buggies and drove down the course to an elevated tee that was not in use. This was to be our live point.
Dan sets off in his Buggy........
.......Always Trying to Pick up the Girls!
André and Ryan the local satellite boys had already set their dish up ready to go.
Shortly after we had connected our kit and organised the talkback a Marimba band arrived with their big polished wooden instruments.
Michelle Briefs Dan While the Band set up.
Michelle had disappeared for a little while and had an air of being slightly stressed and flustered. That’s not unusual for any producer when a live broadcast is imminent and things are not going quite to plan and that does happen more often than we would like.
However, even when things are not coming together Michelle is fairly unflappable.
So I though it strange that she should appear to be a bit hyper when the weather was perfect, everything was working technically and the guests were all present and correct.
NIgel Checks Dan's Ear Piece.
When we left the UK Michelle and Stuart had given me some of the production cash to look after. I had it safely secreted in my hotel room.
In a voice a tiny bit more high pitched than usual Michelle asked me if I had any of the cash with me.
When I said no I am sure her already pale face became even whiter.
She then asked if I would mind paying some of the location fee we owed to the golf club for allowing us to broadcast from the course on my credit card.
I said that it would not be a problem. She visibly relaxed a little.
On the way back to the club house she told me that Mo, a somewhat questionable character by all accounts with connections in all the wrong places and the middleman in the deal done to let us use the course had been on the phone to her about the location payment.
She had brought half the money with her. The other half was with Stuart. He was back at the hotel trying to get some sleep.
Michelle had told the people at the club house that she could pay half the fee in cash and the other half on her credit card or of they wanted cash she could get it from the hotel after the broadcasts were over.
They wanted payment there and then so she handed over the wad of high denomination notes that she had and gave over her card for the rest.
The card was declined.
It was at this point that Mo was suddenly on the phone.
He told Michelle in colourful and direct language that left no room for misunderstanding that if the fee was not paid in full immediately he and some of his colleagues would pay us a visit.
They would not be bearing gifts but guns and would see to it that were ejected from the course with ultimate speed.
So with her ears still smarting from this call we made our way for me to pay using my credit card.
The manager showed no signs of any underlying drama when he accepted my card and swiped it through the machine.
He even smiled when he handed it back to me saying that it had also been declined.
He said that the girl from the office that normally deals with credit card payments would be in shortly.
I hastily made a call to my credit card company and thankfully sorted out the problem so that when the slightly snotty and very brusque woman arrived and dealt with the payment it went through without any problem.
After the Stress Michelle has a go on the Marimbas......
.....So do Nigel and Dan......
....Then she has a go at Nigel's Job.
Before the small payment problem we had done one live broadcast with the amazing vista as the backdrop which like the others had gone pretty well except they did seem very short.
The afternoon was a pleasurable hour or two.
Stuart, nearly refreshed from a smidgen more than a couple of hours sleep joined Dan, Nigel and I as we once again stepped aboard our floating mini palace, the Princess Emma.
We did have a fair bit of work to do, some teases, lots of shots of the boat at sea including shots of the Green Point Stadium from the bay.
I also filmed Dan doing a tour of the boat showing off its sumptuous facilities.
A boat of that opulence and cost, well over £4 million and all its beautiful lacquered wood and deep expensive upholstery is still not the most spacious of things.
So doing the walk around tour with a six foot four presenter, a sound recordist not that much smaller and a cameraman with a big camera is not particularly easy, especially when a slight scratch or dent caused by the Hefty thing would cost rather more that a lot of people earn in a month to put right.
Dan started on the second bedroom and pointed out the grand double bed, the digital tv and state of the art entertainment system. I then backed off out of the room so that he could edge down the short corridor showing off the two smaller bedrooms with single beds.
I moved the camera into one of the rooms.
He made some joke about the cameraman and soundman having to share this slightly smaller space whist he would of course have the grand salle.
He was now in that very rich and elegant bedroom with its beautiful desk walk in wardrobe and even bigger bed than the first room but, the best bit was in the ensuite bathroom.
I took the camera towards the back of the room through a door to reveal a comparatively small bathroom, yet big enough for a Jacuzzi.
That bit of shooting was exclusively for the GMTV website, gm.tv.
One of the other aspects that we had to show was the smart kitchen complete with chef.
On her first trip out on the boat was Rachel. She was preparing some prawns, crayfish and oysters for us to film.
Of course once the seafood was filmed it was either going to be thrown away or eaten.
Fortunately we had enough of an appetite to avoid the food being wasted.
I am not sure if Rachel will be in a hurry to get back on the ocean waves.
That’s not because she saw a hungry TV crew set about her carefully prepared gourmet food like pirañas after Ramadan, but because she was suffering from a bit of sea sickness.
Cooking is not the best for sea sickness and neither is bobbing about when the engines are not thrusting the boat along.
We had spent a short time like that when we were recording a few pieces to camera with the stadium in the background.
Enjoying Rachel's Cooking.
One thing I didn't tell the boys until a little bit later on, thinking that the food was just being used as a prop and except the prawns would not be eaten. So the crayfish that we devoured like three huge locusts descending for a bit of fast food was only part cooked.
Lucky Stuart does not eat fish.
We were a bit nervous for the rest of the day but none of use had to rush off for a seat in a small room.
As well as its obvious interior and exterior grandeur Russell gave us a demonstration of the Princess thrashing along at an impressive speed.
On our little cruise we managed to see a couple of Southern Right whales.
I got a few shots as their backs appeared and disappeared.
Sadly we did not see the tail break out of the water
On the way in and out of the marina there was another ship that impressed us landlubbers and Russell the salty sea dog alike.
It was some kind of military vessel that looked to us all as if it had just been brought in to star as the baddy’s secret weapon in the new James Bond movie.
In the fading sunshine there were also loads of seal to be seen.
Stuart took the tape back to the hotel to edit and do battle with the tricky Avid, only this time the enemy would have and ally, the hotel’s temperamental internet system.
Wednesday 3rd February
Stuart had won that round in the bout against the angry Avid and irritating internet with a technical knockout early on in the match.
So he was able to join us on our trip to Table Mountain. The plan was to do live broadcasts from the summit of its fantastic flat top.
The views from there are really breath taking with no exaggeration. I can testify to that because back in 1999 I did the first live TV broadcasts from there for GMTV.
Then we had brilliant sunshine from a sky so deep blue it was almost indigo. The Sowetto String Quartet looked and sounded incredible back then from such a spectacular location.
I am really surprised that no big budget music videos have been done from there.
Today however, might be different. The forecast was not so promising.
When I looked out of my bedroom window up through the high rise buildings I could see a clear light blue morning sky.
There were a few small diffuse clouds drifting around. So I thought it could be good.
Michelle had gone a little earlier than us to check the weather.
It was not perfect but it was possible that we’d get away with it.
The view we had as we drove up the snaking mountain road to the cable car station we could see the clouds thicken up a bit.
The Weather Closing in.
When we pulled up we say an omen. We were not sure if it was a good omen or not but at least it was a sign.
There was a vivid full rainbow arcing out of the grey sky.
I quickly knocked off a couple of shots as Dan prepared to do a hasty piece to camera.
It had to be fast because rainbows like this one and its shadow do not come along very often and when they do they tend not to hang around for long.
I was glad that Dan was pretty much a one take kind of guy.
We all then climbed aboard the early cable car that was put on especially for us.
As well as our kit Ryan took up the transmitter for the radio link that would send our pictures and sound down to André at the satellite truck outside the bottom cable car station.
On the way up we could see the weather closing in.
When we reached the top and our live position there was thick fog all around us.
It was a no go.
The View from the Top.
We had another problem. The shots and pieces to camera with the rainbow would need to get back to GMTV in London.
In order to get them back in time for transmission we needed to get them back asap.
It is not possible just to send stuff willy nilly over the satellite system.
Time on the actual satellite had to be booked and once the signal has been down linked it needs to be routed to where it needs to go.
So it has to be booked and sorting all that takes a little bit of time.
We did have a test time which was happening now.
Getting to André in the truck was essential as there was no time to set up the link and send it from where we were.
The helpful guys on the cable car got us going as quickly as they could but it was going to be touch and go.
I was very keen for the shots to make it because they were so good.
We dashed off the cable car and trotted down the last few flights of clanging metal stairs.
André was waiting with his cable ends.
I connected them up.
Nigel was calling Doug the technical director back in the gallery in London.
There was not much time left when the unflappable Doug told Nigel that they were recording.
He gave me the thumbs up and I pressed the play button.
The material had just finished playing when André said that it was time to “goodnight” the satellite. That’s tech jargon for ending any transmission booking.
The goodnight time is the important one because that determines the length of time the satellite has been used for and therefore how much it has cost.
Some times extending the time on the satellite by just a few moments can cost hundreds of pounds and sometimes it is not even possible to extend it if things are busy.
Now we could turn our attention to the alternate location.
We were on the balcony of the offices of the Cable Car Company.
Even from here the view over the Cape Town cityscape is great.
However this morning the weather had closed in so much that even at the much lower altitude the clouds were flitting across the vista.
Now it would be completely obscured by thick damp grey clouds and a few moments later it would be relatively clear with only light wispy bits wafting across the scene.
To add to our woes was rain. It had started to come down quite heavily.
That was a problem for me because when I looked out of the bedroom window earlier and saw fairly clear weather I did not bother to bring the waterproof rain cover for the camera.
Once more with the help of the cable car team I improvised with a black bin bag.
Our only planned guest this morning was the CEO of the Cable Car Company.
Sabeen was looking quite striking in a white linen trouser suit and a colourful blouse that Michelle commented on, asking her if she got it in Cape Town.
As if there was going to be time to shop. Well Michelle and Stuart would have the time because they were staying for a couple of days to relax after the busy schedule.
We did have an extra unplanned guest.
When Michelle had been setting the live broadcasts she had spoken to many potential contributors including a local Cape Town Jazz celebrity called Robbie Jansen.
He had been initially asked to come along but subsequently cancelled.
He had played jazz saxophone all through the apartheid years when that kind of thing was regarded as somewhat subversive.
He arrived with a couple of friends/minders. One was carrying a small oxygen cylinder which had a tube leading from it going over Robbie’s ears and then round under his nose were two little prongs of plastic sent the oxygen up his nose.
Now in his sixties and suffering from a respiratory disease that has pretty much stopped him from performing.
In all his years in Cape Town he had never been up in the Cable Car to the top of the mountain that is synonymous with all that is Cape Town.
In his youth he had, like a lot of the locals climbed it.
However now he could hardly walk without struggling for breath.
Unfortunately for us there was no space to put him in the main programme but we did want to reward his effort in coming to us.
So Dan did an interview with him, which he could only do sitting down, but he did insist on doing a short rendition of Cape Town Samba on his sax.
It was probably not his best performance on a grey, cold, damp day, but I have no doubt that in his day he would have been able to belt it out with feeling and even in his obvious poor state of health had a mischievous twinkle in his sparkling youthful eyes.
It is meeting people like him who are not big well paid egocentric celebrities that often make my job very worthwhile and satisfying.
Human skill, endurance and fortitude that are displayed by a few people on the planet are always a wondrous thing to me and induce a real humbling feeling in me.
It was a bit of a big day for Nigel. His partner Janet was going to have a big milestone birthday. It would of course be insensitive to mention which particular milestone that would be.
When we finished the last broadcast that brought down the misty curtain on our broadcasts and almost brought and end to the hectic schedule Nigel gave her a call.
We gathered round his phone and the five of us rather out of tune sang happy birthday and since the trip was football related, “he’s comin’ home he’s comin’ home. Baldie’s comin’ home!”.
Nigel was looking forward to getting home as he had a bit of a special surprise planned for Janet;)
No! Nothing sordid, a very nice surprise. A diamond kind of surprise with an important question.
So that was it. Our whistle stop tour of the Eastern and Western Cape was over.
All we had to do was to get home.
Oh those fateful words again.
We went back to the Taj to repack the kit for the final time on this jaunt.
About an hour and a half after we had finished our broadcasts half way up the mountain we were saying good-bye to Stuart and Michelle and leaving them to luxuriate for another couple of, this time stress free nights in the finest of locations.
It is not a long trip from the centre of the city past the still ever expanding shanty towns, now called unofficial settlements.
We had given ourselves plenty of time to check-in hoping that we would have time to get some lunch once the bags and boxes had disappeared into the baggage system.
We ended up once again rushing to actually get on the flight with no time to even grab a take away.
South African Airways were sponsors of the trip, their name and music was played before all of our pieces. It was like a mini title music sequence for “Dan’s Soccer Safari”.
So in London a deal had been done so that our excess baggage would be charged at a reduced rate and for those of us not fortunate enough to be booked in business class, that was all of us except Dan, if they were available we’d get an upgrade.
I had heard the upgrade story so many times before. Strange how business class is always full when we pitch up, even when we don’t look as if we’re on our way home from an all night hobo convention having won the prize for the best costume.
The beautiful girl with the sparkling eyes behind thin black stylish glasses, an even sparklier smile and a great name, Hazel Love was very helpful.
However, the bit of paper that I had about the discount rate for the excess baggage was only for the London to South Africa section of the trip.
I made a few calls and sent a couple of hurried e-mails. The marketing woman in the London office could not help and claimed that she did not even know who I could talk to about it in either Cape Town or Johannesburg.
I felt like we had been tempted out there with all kind of treats and goodies when in reality they were never going to materialise.
So, my credit card took another heavy hit.
In the process of paying for the excess the conspiracy to prevent us having time to eat carried on because the South African Airways computer system did what computers like to do, freeze.
Perhaps they should look at a mac based system?
In the end we did make it to Johannesburg for the planned wait of around three hours before the flight to London.
There was a bit of good news.
Trailing behind Dan and waving the excess baggage receipt the nice lady let us into the lesser of the South African lounges.
It was lesser on two counts, firstly it was only just a step up from the public lounge area not the full monty lounge like BA, Virgin or Emirates and secondly it was just a temporary one.
However, it was good to be able to chill for a while.
A while that became a longer while when the announcement came telling us that the flight was to be delayed by two hours.
At least we did not suffer the same fate as the group of angry Germans. from my scant knowledge of German I hear them say shrisen and kaput which means shit and bust.
Their flight to Munich had been cancelled.
When we did get on board our Boeing 340 sure enough business class was rammed but the cabin up the back was pretty empty.
Yahoo! There was only one person in each of the middle rows and a few were empty and we were pretty much the last to board.
Dan was in his club seat in the busy section whilst Nigel and I were in the quiet section.
Nigel chose a double seat by a window because he likes to lean against something. I chose a middle row because I like to stretch out.
There were a few of the double seats by the windows that had two people in them but there were also a fair few that were vacant.
A couple of the middle rows were also still bereft of bodies.
So before we started to taxi people were shifting around and sorting themselves out.
There was a little old lady in one of the double seats beside my row.
I heard her talk to on of the cabin staff and then plonk herself in the seat at the end of my row.
My euphoria at looking forward to a proper stretch out sleep died a million deaths particularly when I hurriedly checked out the rest of the cabin. All the rows and doubles now had people in them.
With the exception of a family up at the bulkhead and another couple of rows comprised of pairs of travelling companions mine was the only row with more than one person in it.
I was mad, but felt very guilty about feeling like that when I looked over at the small wrinkled woman in the seat that I had reserved for my feet.
In the end I did get a reasonable sleep but not as restful as the others I enviously saw wrapped up in their red airline blankets like contented mummies laid out waiting for their journey to the afterlife.
The airborne part of Nigel and Dan’s journey came to an end at Heathrow Terminal 1.
Nigel and I said good-bye to Dan in the baggage hall and then went off to do our paper work at customs.
There was a bit of a wait for us to get the things filled out and stamped but it was in interesting wait.
The Customs lady was dealing with some military firearms that had gone astray and were now ready to be delivered or collected.
The chap who had been parted from them was obviously in the military. There was a lot of discussion about serial numbers and that the guns could only be sent to a military base.
There was a lot of jargon going on in the three way conversation with the airline staff in front of the customs officer, someone on the phone and the officer herself.
That all gave an impression of mystery and secrecy.
Was this guy a member of the secret service flying in from a dangerous undercover mission that saved the free world from being taken over by a mad multibillionaire megalomaniac, or was he one of those air marshals that we don’t hear much about?
Nigel an I then parted. He was whisked of home and I had to get my kit to Terminal 5.
I was waitlisted for a flight that was due to leave in slightly less than an hour.
When I got to the Heathrow Express area where terminals 1, 2 and 3 converge there was a train at the platform ready to leave in 5 mins according to the display board.
I hurtled down the tunnel to the end where I knew that I could get my stacked trolley onto the platform.
There is often some one there from Heathrow Express to help open the little gate.
I just started to decant my many boxes and ran the short distance to load them on to the waiting train.
I put the first couple of boxes into the train and ran to get the another two.
The next thing I knew a member of the train staff did turn up and rather than help me told me not to put any more on to the train and promptly went and removed the ones that I had put on.
He then wave the train off. My chances of getting on the flight rattled of into the tunnel.
The unhelpful guy then informed me that I would have a wait of fifteen minutes for the next train to terminal 5.
Had I been a violent person I would have pulled his grinning bald head off, scooped out the soft bits, defecated in the cavity and then used it as in unlubricated suppository.
Well at least the three hour wait for the next available flight would give me the time to get some more of this blog written.
I opened the front door of my house at around three thirty in the afternoon local time on Thursday 4th February, five thirty South Africa time.
I could clock off now having been on the go since before six am South Africa time on Wednesday.