Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Monday, 28 June 2010

The Last Hurrah

Monday 28th June

I had the great pleasure, courtesy of having worked on the post match “analysis” last night, of not getting up before dawns fiery crack this morning.

Nick and Richard were down on the Bloemfontein Waterfront doing the last live broadcasts for GMTV on the World Cup in South Africa.

Nick and Richard beside a very big ball.

After breakfast in a cafe that was showing a rerun of last night’s game we set off on the long road back to Johannesburg.

The boring journey was broken up by a stop at a service area for a cup of vending machine coffee and to do a few interviews with England fans on their way home a little earlier than planned.

Fans interview.

Why can interviewees not all be cameraman's lens height?

What we hoped would be our last sunset was as the van trundled up to Jo’burg past a typical township with it’s corrugated iron shacks.

Our last? moving sunset.

We were getting demob happy until we got two sets of phone calls.

The first was to say that there were no flights for at least a day or two. The second was to say that the programme needed a football pundit live on tomorrow’s programme.

So, when we got back to our little pied a terre in Johannesburg after more than six hours on the road we were faced not with a relaxing post job meal and proper sleep. The spectre of many phone calls and another early morning reared up.

Mark made a number of calls the likes of John Barnes to see if they would be available in the morning.

They could not get back to us straight away because they were doing what they had come to South Africa to do, broadcast on various networks about the games that were being played.

In the end for a number of reasons including a rousing silence from the football experts and the non availability of a cheap enough satellite dish the idea was abandoned.

We ended the day in a curry house near our apartment.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

England v Germany Bye Bye to the World Cup

Sunday 27th June

Our new driver friend Dumi turned up bright and early for the drive to Bloemfontein.

We knew that it was going to be a long drive but it was much longer than we had bargained for.

The road is long.....

The minibus that the four of us were in with all our kit was swaying over the road quite disconcertingly at times.

We had doubts about Dumi’s driving ability on this busy road.

That was until we stopped for food not that far into the journey.

The warmish wind was certainly blowing our flowing locks about, well all except Mark’s.

....with many a windy straight....

The traffic was very busy and most of it was football traffic.

.....the traffic's heavy. It's a bother!

We whizzed passed one little thing that I was not quick enough to get a photograph of.

Not that far before our destination there was a light aircraft sitting just of the carriageway at right angles to it.

There were a few police cars with their blue flashing lights surrounding it.

The only explanation, as far as we could see for it being there was that it had landed on the road and been moved to the side.

Have the German's taken to the vuvuzela?

(at least they might have something to blow about)

When we got to Bloemfontein a lot later than we had expected the first thing we did was to go and say thank you to the first of the people that were putting us up.

There were absolutely no rooms in the city. The travel company had been trying ever since England came second in the group they should have topped, but had come up with nothing.

The prospect of an all nighter did not fill us with joy, followed by another five hours in a bouncing cramped mini bus swaying all over the road was not what we wanted.

Then we struck gold.

The ever resourceful Richard Gaisford made a speculative phone call to a random guest house and suddenly we had enough beds for us all, not enough rooms, but at least we were guaranteed a proper bed each.

A short time later he received a call to say another place had been found so there would now only be two having to share.

As we got closer and closer to Bloemfontein and the big game there was still one unresolved problem, and it was quite a biggy.

Our usual source for tickets, ITV Sport, were unable to supply any to us and HBS the host broadcaster had already allocated all their tickets.

It would be difficult for Richard to talk about his first hand experience of the game if he was not actually watching it from inside the stadium and make getting fan’s reaction at the end slightly more difficult.

At all the other games we could easily have gone in without showing our tickets because security and ticket checking was not the most rigourous.

This time it was a little different.

Although purely by chance we did end up inside the stadium by taking a wrong turning but a vigilant steward spotted that one of us did not have the requisite pass.

So we were politely ushered back out to join the mass of fans trying to get through the turnstiles.

We went to go to the media area to try and hoover up any spare tickets that are usually knocking around.

We were going through the cursory security check when an eagle eyed operative spotted that Nick’s camera did not have the special sticker needed to get through the outer cordon.

I had used my camera at other games as had Nick, neither of us had stickers on. It was just today that I had actually stuck my sticker on.

So I was free to go, however a polite but firm security boss decided to take charge of the camera until either we produced a sticker or took the camera away.

The camera in custody.

After much haggling there was no sign of any movement so Nick took the camera back to be left in the safe hands of Dumi the driver.

Whilst this unfruitful set of negotiations were going on ITV Sport came up with the goods after all and provided us with the tickets.

The tickets in my hand.

We had only just taken our seats when thoughts of organising flights home started in earnest.

Upson about to get England's early consolation.

The German's keep at it..



....scoring... athletic style...


....and still celebrating.

To say that it had been a bad night for England is putting it ever so mildly.

A very clear goal disallowed, an abysmal performance and a thumping defeat.

After the game we began the rush to get impressions from the pundits and fans on how they thought things had gone.

First in line for us was a quick interview with Jim White of the Telegraph and then Martin Lipton from the Mirror.

They were rushing to get into the mixed zone to try and do interviews with the players and Fabio.

It was all a very hectic affair, at least that is my excuse.

Jim’s short and speedy interview was over and done quickly. I pressed the record button to stop recording and switched off the camera light.

Then Martin suddenly appeared round the corner. Richard dived in with the mic, I pressed record and fired up the light.

There was a rather irritating light behind his head and I was intent on doing something to try and frame it out.

Richard finished off the short interview and I pressed the record button again. Martin was already heading into the building to got a good position for the interviews.

The searing pain of stupidity struck home instantly when I saw that the red light was still on.

I had committed the worst schoolboy error in the cameraman’s operational hand book.

Always press the button hard enough to start or stop the recording and then don’t fixate on the frame there’s a red light to be checked.

I was as pissed off about that as the England players should have been with their performance.

The saving grace was that all the other interviews with fans and pundits rendered the unrecorded interview redundant.

When we had finished the filming of sad and dejected fans we just needed to get the material edited and sent to GMTV in London.

That was done in a restaurant that was just about to close. We managed to get something to eat and combine it with finishing off the work.

Richard concentrates on the edit.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Cold Cold Cold and Bye Bye Ben

FrIday 25th June

The convoluted journey from Sandton to Pretoria took almost twice as long as we had expected.

The directions that Mark had been given did coincide with those of the iphone app.

This morning we were up against time when we arrived on location. Added to our late arrival was that we were not working with our colleagues from ITN so things would take a bit longer to organise.

We were working with a company called IHA from Turkey.

Their satellite trucks, which are usually fairly basic affairs are affectionately known as Kebab Vans.

They tend to pop up in most of the world’s trouble spots, largely I think because they pay scant regard to health and safety guidelines, common sense or any form of personal safety.

In Afghanistan, back in the days when the Americans were dumping enough ordinance on it to cause proper earthquakes and the Northern Alliance were in pitched battles with the Taliban in the north I saw a kebab van.

When the bombs were falling, taking out whole huge hillsides, tank shells were being lobbed into Taliban strong holds and the rattle of machine gun fire was a constant sound track to the day, there was a little white van waiting for the terminally brave or fatally foolhardy to broadcast from in front of the front line.

The Kebab Van and dish.

Dennis(strange name for a Turk), one of the IHA engineers grabs a quick kip between broadcasts.

This morning there was no danger of the guys being ripped apart by an RPG or peppered by rounds from an AK47.

There was however, the slight risk of chapped lips and numb fingers on top of red glowing ears and noses.

It was bitterly cold, a thin layer of white ice covered everything and the air was thick with stinging grey mist.

A pic I Tweeted showing Ben's hot breath in the cold Pretoria air.

We got ourselves set up as quickly as possible but missed the first little broadcast by, probably less than a minute.

Once again today we did not have a huge amount to do.

This was a bit of a shame because it was Ben’s last set of broadcasts from the World Cup in South Africa.

Richard and Nick were up in Rustenburg doing all the England team related stuff and the programme was doing a lot of stuff on the first anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, not forgetting the start of the Glastonbury festival.

Another sunrise this time over the German camp.

We planned a bit of a pre-match penalty shoot out between the English and the Germans.

Luckily the guys from n-tv who were doing live broadcasts to Germany were happy to help.

The Germans broadcast in the cold.

It was a bit of fun.

Gerrit the n-tv reporter, Mark and Ben work out a game plan.

Like the early morning shadows, the talk was long.

They then wanted to do a little bit with us. So Ben appeared on live on German TV. His German is not a patch on his French so the short interview was done in English.

Role reversal stage one. Ben helps Gerrit with his talkback.

Stage two, being the interviewee.

No microphone envy? Gerrit's is bigger.

When we wrapped Enos, the taxi driver took us back the way which we were told was more direct than the way we came.

True, it was a straighter road but it did seem to take a similar amount of time.

That was it for the day.

In three and a half weeks Mark and I were about to have our first proper day off following a full night’s sleep.

In the late afternoon after a very leisurely late lunch we said good-bye to Ben.

It had been a great couple weeks or so working with him, not many presenters would have put up with the long hours, lack of sleep and constant pressure with such good humour and vitality.

The sun setting on Ben's trip to South Africa.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Leavin' (PE) on a Jet Plane

Thursday 24th June

It is almost getting boring all these beautiful but cold mornings.

The pier in Port Elizabeth just before the sun comes up.

Another beautiful sunrise.

We did not have too much to do in today’s programme.

Bet you didn't know that there is somebody at the back working Ben all the time.

Puppet Masters and part time satellite engineers Dave and Mike enjoying the bright but cold sun.

The location was the same as yesterday’s, beside the pier in Port Elizabeth.

The BBC must have liked those broadcasts because they turned up to broadcast from the same spot.

We only had time to speak to one set of guests this morning, there was a lot of other things going on in the programme, marathon tennis games at Wimbledon and live broadcasts from Jemain Defoe’s mum’s house to name but two.

A group of 6 guys were sleeping in a van in the car park.

At least they had all the comforts of home.

(didn't show that on air)

We moved up to a cafe balcony for the later broadcasts when Ben talked about what was in the local and national South African newspapers.

Blue Water Cafe terrace.

When we came off air we had to blaze a quick trail to the airport to get back to Johannesburg.

That's a big case for a few days Ben.

The flight was only a couple of hours long.

Ben crashed straight out squeezed into his window seat on the packed plane.

The views he missed were breathtaking.

The mountains below..

..mysterious and magical.

I think that our GMTV tour is, to quote the inimitable Mr Shephard, turning in to Carry on South Africa, we have begun acting like Jim Dale, Sid James and Kenneth Williams with our innuendo and double entendre chat.

Not saying who was who though.

When the attractive cabin attendant went to look for something from her trolley for Mark and said, “excuse me I just need to go down on my knees. I’ll get it from the side.” we giggled and sniggered as Ben slept.

We got back to out apartment in Johannesburg, which seemed peculiarly like coming home.

The lapse into adolescent behaviour carried on.

I left a pair of very smelly sweaty socks on the worktop in the kitchen area.

The aroma when the fridge was opened was interesting.

The silver foil container that had the remains of a meal that Mark and I had about two weeks ago seemed now to be home to two small dead furry animals.

I knew that they must be dead because of the smell.

Ben pulled out a carton. The label said milk but it was lumpy smelly cheese now.

My two dead furry friends. Actually two bits of sirloin steak, medium rare.

The rest of what was left of the afternoon and evening was spent organising things for tomorrow’s live broadcasts which would be from the German training camp in a posh, very posh hotel in Pretoria.

We needed to get some props, footballs, German flags and other bits and pieces.

We scoured the huge Sandton City shopping mall and the Nelson Mandela one next door.

There were not many balls left but we did get some. The flags were a different story.

It got to the point where I was offering to buy the black red and yellow flags that were on display in many shops at any price.

No one would sell. We had to settle for little desk top affairs.

Mark was busy trying to get a German guest to be on the programme.

He thought that he has scored a belter from way out but the keeper made a fluke save to foil his heroic attempt.

One of the German World Cup winning team in 1990, Thomas Berthold was at first happy to join us.

The only thing was that his wife was arriving at the airport in the morning a while after we would be off air.

He might just make the programme though.

Then a few moments later his agent called to say that he had the arrival time wrong. It was much earlier.

Mark made all sorts of offers to make arrangements to get her picked up by increasingly plusher and more personal means if Thomas could just appear for us on GMTV.

He was having none of it. He was determined to go to the airport to meet her.

I think he either must have been away from home for a very long time or, they have not been married long if he’s so keen to see her.

Y’know what I mean, nudge nudge wink wink.

I think Mark must have tried about every famous, and not so famous German footballer since the second world war and any other well known German we could think of, there are not that many, but to no avail.

We went to bed after 11 pm bereft of German personnel for the morning’s broadcast.