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

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Another tsunami? Aftershocks and frustration.

Monday 14th

After having our heads down in the car for a two hours and perhaps a fitful hours sleep it was time to get up and get to work.

Breakfast was a hot can of coffee from one of the many vending machines dotted all over the place in Japanese cities.

Hannah shows Richard which coffee she wants.

We then split into two teams.

Richard went off with Kyle and Hannah to report from Minamisanriku the town that had been totaly wiped out by the tsunami.

The big thing for Arata was to go and see his mum and family to make sure that they were well.

So Cordelia and I went with him.

Swapping the baggage around the cars.

Driving through the city to get there apart from a few little queues at supermarkets and a lot of people wearing masks things looked pretty much life as normal.

He had been away from Sendai for a while and the area around his mums home had been redeveloped which meant he could not find it.

He was talking to his mum on the phone to try and get directions but she was so excited that her directions were not making any sense.

In the end we stopped at a DVD shop nearby and she came down to meet us.

I fillmed the happy reunion and we then went to see his grandmother’s house which although still standing was in a bit of a mess inside.

It look as if the rooms had been tipped upside down and shaken about.

In fact that was pretty much what had happened.

Then on to his family's home.

We now had a part of a report which we needed to edit.

I wanted to do this using mains power if possble because I knew that battery power may be an issue for the upcoming live broadcasts and sending the report to Daybreak.

Arata’s mum was kind enough to let us use their lounge to set up the laptop and do the edit.

Editing in Arata's mum's lounge.

Next stop was Arahama to witness some of the damage to the villages to the East of Sendai and perhaps find a location to do our live broadcasts from.

Arata, his mum and Cordelia check where Arahama is on a map before we leave.

When we arrived there we could see a potential live location.

We tried to get to it with the car so that I would not have to have the kit strewn on the ground.

There was a policeman manning the point we wanted to get past.

There was no way he was going to let us any farther with the vehicle.

So we parked up and went up on foot.

Arata tried his best to persuade the policeman.

The sight was incredible. Houses badly damaged with walls colapsed, yards and gardens filled with mud swept in there by the tsunami.

There was a whole roof sitting in a pool of water. It had been lifted off almost intact and laid carefully on the saturated land

I filmed a piece to camera with Cordelia talking about the damage.

I then started to get some shots of the devistation.

I had only done one when Cordelia called over to me and said that we needed to move as there was a three meter tsunami on its way.

It was clear that this was a serious situation from the reaction from the people around us. They started to run.

So we did too. I also pressed record.

As we ran I handed Cordelia the cable mic and she did a piece to camera saying that we had been told to get out fast.

Along the road beside us the emergency and clean up vehicles came past. From their loudspeakers some were blarring out shouts of encouragement to move quickly.

I was going as fast as I could. The camera bouncing on my shoulder as I pounded along.

When we got to the car I was very out of breath and coughing for air, cursing my decision to bring the big camera as opposed to the little one.

Arata had the car turned round really quickly and we joined the line heading inland.

It was getting near to the time that we had to find a location for our broadcasts and get the report edited.

We found a great spot overlooking the helicopter base being used by the Japanese Defence Force in dealing with the catastrophe.

The position was on the balcony of a block of flats that had signs of earthquake damage.

I was hoping that there would be power for the rest of the edit.

We were taken up to one of the empty appartments by the building supervisor.

He broke the bad news about the lack of electicity.

Then casualy he mentioned that there had been a warning put our for everyone to cover their skin or move out of the immediate area.

Cordelia and I had a bit of a discussion about the safety aspects of the appartment we were in and the warning.

Given that the appartments were empty and the earthquake damage was visibile we decided to err on the side of safety.

We still had a little time in hand before we were scheduled to be on air.

So we jumped back into Arata’s car and drove a little fruther inland towards the city of Sendai.

We were passing another block of flats that looked as if it had a good view over the city that was waiting for another big earthquake.

There was a seventy percent chance that there would be some kind of quake today around 5 or 6.

Arata went up to one of the flats to ask if we could use the balcony and also access to an electic socket.

I lugged all my gear up to the small appartment.

The lady was very helpful and welcoming.

What we walked into almost knocked me back.

Just like Arata’s grandmother’s house there was stuff all over the place

Anything that was on a shelf was now on the floor along with the TV and large shelf units where toppled over.

If I had been told that the place had been ransacked by junkies in a drug induced frenzy I would have thought that a reasonable expanation.

The lady was busy trying to tidy up. I was very surprised that she was quite content for me to plod about in her flat with my clod hopping boots.

I sat amidst her mess and after recording the voice over for the reoprt set about the final edit.

Things were looking good. I had power, time and a great position.

Sadly when I had finished the edit things started to look less good.

The first thing was that there was a big enough overhang on the balcony to prevent the satellite terminal being able to see the satellite.

I still had time to play with so I was not too worried.

I wasn’t worried just slightly annoyed that the only spot to see the satellite from was well out of range of the electrical sockets.

It did not take long for the fast beeps from the BGAN to let me know that it had a strong signal.

It was when I put the report into the computer application to send it over the satellite to London that the frustration began to build.

There were a few IP adresses for sending the material that should have been in the system but were not there.

I made a few calls and ended up having to get an initially grumpy chap from the software company out of his warm bed.

He changed his attitude when I was repeatedly apologetic and told him where I was and what I was trying to do.

He was a great help.

It had taken quite a while to get it sorted and we had already missed a few broadcasts.

Eventually I managed to get the report to Daybreak.

Whilst I was sitting on my perch on the fire escape stairs a lot of the residents and men in white helmets and grey working suites were squeezing past me with a look of curiosity, a slight bow and softly saying the word sumimasen, which is a catch all for sorry, excuse me and please.

During the process of me not getting the kit working Cordelia was doing reports on the phone into the Daybreak programme.

At one point the building began to quiver. I looked around and a lot of the residents suddenly appeared and either stood on the walkways or made their way down to the ground.

The carpark for the building was quite large so we chose the latter and sprinted down the eight flights of open stairs.

Once the tremor had stopped it took a tew moments for the people to start drifting back into the building.

I went back up to wrestle with another problem that had cropped up.

For some reason the computer decided to not to recognise either of my two cameras.

Time was getting on and we had not done one live broadcast I was really at the stage of tossing the whole kit off the balcony the next time I felt a bit unsteady on my feet and blame it on the after shocks.

As a nice background sound track to the morning was the distant sound of alarms and sirens that kept going all the time. The fairly frequent sound of helicopters overhead added to the emergency noise concert.

A Hollywood sound designer would not have done a better job on a multi million dollar mega disaster movie.

The only thing was that this was for real.

I was not having a very successful afternoon. All my efforts and concentration was on getting things sorted.

In doing so I had not realised that the building had slowly become quiet and that the surrounding streets that earlier, although not thronging with people had been fairly busy, were now deathly quiet.

As the same time as noticing that a few fairly strong gusts of wind whistled round me and it was as if the building was shivering in response.

It was yet another of the many aftershocks.

I needed no second bidding from Arata when he suggested that we get the kit and ourselves down as fast as humanly possible.

It was just before the eight o’clock bulletin but, given the morning I had been having and the kit was still nowhere near looking as if it wanted to work I thought his advise wise.

So. I was not too unhappy about having to cut my losses and pull out.

By the time the gear was packed, or more precicely simply thrown into the back of Arata’s car it was getting dark.

There were no hotels that were open for business. So the next dilema was finding somewhere to stay that had power so that I could charge up the kit.

Arata said that his mother would be very happy if we went to stay at her house.

We reluctantly agreed because although the family home was intact there had been no electricity for three days and there was still no gas for cooking and we did not want to impose ourselves on them.

Arata’s mum was very welcoming indeed. She rustled up a very tasty curry rice dinner for us.

I suppose it is to the Japanese what mince and tatties is to us Scots. A good hearty home cooked meal.

We were conscerned about Richard, Hannah and Kyle who were quite a way farther north.

Luckily they had found somewhere to stay. It wasn’t luxury but, it was warm and dry.

Back in the lounge again. Kit on charge and Cordelia sending e-mails.

Cordelia, Arata and I bedded down for the night on futons on the lounge floor.

It was very cold so as well as the warmth of the covers we needed to keep most of our clothes on.

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