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

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Off to Egypt.

Monday 31st

On my way down to Gateshead on Saturday I got a hint of what today would bring. I got a call to say that Daybreak might want me to go to Egypt.

Then they said no just to carry on with the search for the new Curvy Supermodel.

This morning the call to be on standby came again and a little later turned in to a go.

I prepared my kit and personal gear, including some personal protective gear.

The flight to Egypt was at 10 pm from Gatwick.

I had to leave on a flight from Edinburgh at 2:25 pm. So I was going to be kicking my heels in Gatwick for a few hours but, that was the most convenient flight.

I had all my stuff almost ready to go, travelling light with just my camera, tripod and flight case with sound kit and other essential bits and pieces.

Then when I was about ready to head to the airport I got another of the many calls that I had been getting from Chris on the Daybreak production desk.

This one meant a quick change of plans.

The news form Egypt was that crews from the US networks arriving in the country had all their kit impounded.

There was also news of Al Jazeera crew being arrested. They ended up being released a short time later but without their camera kit.

It is very difficult, in fact impossible to wander through airports or indeed any public place with a large TV camera and all the paraphernalia that goes with it an not be noticed.

So, it was clear that taking in my kit would not be a good idea.

Daybreak had a much smaller camera that I could take.

I would get be couriered to Gatwick when I arrived before the flight to Sharm el Sheikh.

However, even that small on might illicit interest at the Egyptian airport so I had to make space in my suitcase to allow it to go through unseen.

I grabbed a few bits and pieces that I though might come in handy from my run bag.

I could not take nearly as much as I would have liked.

Then I dashed to Edinburgh airport to catch the flight to Gatwick.

The courier arrived with a couple of blue bags for me, one with the little camera and another small one with a small satellite phone.

The Departure lounge at Gatwick’s north terminal was eerily quiet when a went through security with no wait and no one else in sight.

Not long after I got through Richard Gaisford arrived.

We had time to get a quick bite to eat one of the eateries in the lounge. We were the only people there and before we left to get on the flight the lights went out in the kitchen.

It felt like the early hours of the morning but it was only a little after 9 pm.

The BA flight to Sharm el Sheikh was all but empty with a handful of passengers able to spread about the cabin.

It was a bit annoying to see almost all of the business and premium economy seats empty when we had to wander through to economy knowing that the only sleep that we would get would be on the aircraft.

At least we all had three seats that we could spread out on and although not get fully stretched out it was not too bad.

The flight was only four and a half hours long.

Tuesday 1st

We landed at Sharm el Sheikh at 4:30 am local time which was 2:30 am UK time.

It was as quiet as gatwick had been when we left.

The first hurdle we had to get over was passport control.

A lot of guys that come to Sharm el Sheikh come to go diving or snorkelling.

So Richard and I tried to look like those kind of guys.

I even bought a diving magazine in Smiths which I had stuffed in my pocket and when an official came wandering up to the small queue scanning us with practised eyes I took it out and started to look at the article about the best dives that the Egyptian Red Sea had to offer.

When it came to it the immigration officer in the booth took my passport, smiled, flipped it open, stamped it. and handed it back.

We collected our bags and prepared for the next potential problem, Customs.

Then almost without realising it we were out in to the public area of the terminal having seen no sign of anyone from Customs.

After the usual bit of negotiations we were in a taxi on the way to our hotel.

Our driver told us that the curfew that was in force in the rest of the country was not being heeded here.

When we got to the hotel it took a while before we got to our rooms because there was no note of our reservations.

This was an example of how the internet being down was causing problems for the economy.

When we got in there was enough time to have a quick wash and then go and get ready for the live broadcasts using the small Bgan satellite terminal.

The sun rising over the Red Sea as we looked for a discrete live location.

Richard cabled up the mac and the satellite terminal.

Our set up in the sun.

Then the usual fun and stress with the BGAN began.

The picture froze a few times,

The camera that Daybreak had given me did not seem to be happy linking to the computer.

We tried a few different cables. There was one, a brand new one that did not work at all. The other ones worked but still caused the picture to freeze.

That set up was unreliable.

Luckily at that point we still had time to play with before the programme was going on air.

Out came the tiny camera that Richard carried with him.

We tried that.

It was better but even that froze a few times throughout the morning.

I tried to keep any movement of the camera to a minimum to reduce the stress on the cables.

I was having to hand hold it because there had been no room in the bags for the tripod and we did not want to carry one openly as it would have aroused suspicion.

There were another few annoying problems with the calls not working and other frustrations.

Richard at the mac.

In the end we got all the planned broadcasts done and did not miss any.

We were both pretty tired so after an average breakfast in our “five star” all inclusive resort hotel we went for a couple of hours kip.

At lunchtime we went in to the old town to check out what the atmosphere was like.

The old town and market is where there is a lot of hassle with the guys from the shops trying to get you into their shops using as many techniques as possible.

Things start off friendly but when you don’t buy anything they get upset and angry.

It is just the general sales method but I find it very unenjoyable.

Things going on as normal in Sharm ei Sheikh.

There were very few British tourists around as far as we could see. It was the Russian and other eastern europeans that seemed to be the majority.

Richard spoke to a few of the shopkeepers and restauranteurs. They were happy to speak about how unhappy they were with the situation but, when he mentioned that we would like to film some of them were not keen.

Richard talking to a local shopkeeper.

At one point one of them said in a very threatening tone with his face close to mine that if we came back with a camera there would be real trouble.

We decided not to get the camera out of the bag at all at that point.

Richard calls in to London.

Later in the evening when darkness had fallen and you would expect people to be out and about having food and drink we went into Na’ama Bay.

It is much more upmarket than the old town and instantly felt less threatening.

Very quickly we saw a British couple who told us that they were very happy to be in Egypt and felt no fear at all.

The place was certainly quiet.

I filmed lots of empty seats in the bedouin themed cafes and bars. There were similarly empty tables in the restaurants to shoot as well.

When they saw my camera the locals were keen to tell us how much their business was down.

Gamal, the manager of a very nice looking seafood restaurant told us that normally there would be a queue of people waiting for tables in his place.

Tonight there were only a couple of table occupied.

The chefs normally frantically wielding sharp knives chopping up salad and hacking into shell fish were standing around looking bored.

When we found another set of Brits out for a walk and did a little interview with them the job was pretty much done.

We had come under some unwanted scrutiny when we were doing the last interview.

No one actually approached us but we felt that a tape change was in order so that the material we had collected was not on the tape in the camera.

There were still a few GVs to be done. I was getting on with that when I heard an Egyptian accent asking Richard which channel we were from.

I finished the shot, turned round and saw Richard beside a handsome Egyptian man wearing a stylish jumper and a scarf thrown round his neck a precise manner to make it look casual.

Beside him was an Egyptian policeman starting to talk in his radio.

The good looking guy was acting a a translator for the policeman who was very polite in shaking our hands and had a wide warm smile under a bushy moustache.

Through our modern day Omar Sharif the policeman asked to see our filming permission.

We obviously told hem that we did not have one and did not think that we needed one as we had filmed before in Sharm without one.

The handsome guy smiled in a strange knowing way.

Here we go I thought, the game’s up.

He told us that no matter where we were shooting in Egypt we would need a permit.

He then told us that he worked as a presenter on Egyptian TV and was in Sharm on holiday.

A senior policeman than came up and was equally pleasant and genial.

He told us that getting a permit would be no problem. We would just need to go to an office and get it sorted out.

At that point we fully expected to be marched off to under go lengthy questions and perhaps get the kit taken from us.

Rather surprisingly he told us via “Omar” that we could go later and there was no rush.

We shook hands and parted all smiles.

We had enough material so I made a show of putting the camera away in the bag as we walked off.

Our new police friend was not far behind us and stayed a discrete distance from us until we went back to the restaurant that we had filmed in and had a really good sea food meal, more correctly according to the menu “see food”.

A feast after a long day. Our "See" Food Platter.

Back at the hotel after another taxi ride involving the obligatory pre-drive ritual of fare negotiation and request for a receipt that was never forthcoming Richard edited the report and sent it to Daybreak in London via the little satellite dish.

We watch the BBC World News covering the Mubark speech where he said that he would not stand for another term of office.

If that satisfied the protesters we could find ourselves on our way home.

Any activity overnight in cities like Cairo, Alexandria and Suez would probably determine that.

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