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

Friday, 18 March 2011

The dash to Osaka.

Thursday 17th

It was another early start this morning. The plan was to do the long drive to Sendai or over to the east coast to some of the devastated areas.

So at 5 am I met Cordeilia and Arata in a dark quiet hotel lounge.

Two things put wiped out the plan.

The first was an e-mail from an office very jittery about the radiation risk. It told us simply, “Do not go anywhere near Sendai!”

The next was a bit of a local difficulty. On top of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, Japan, well the northern part, was having to endure blizzard conditions which had blocked many roads.

There was just cause for the concern over the possible problems with the radiation.

In a situation like the one in which we found ourselves media organisations use as many sources as possible to piece together lots of bits of often conflicting information to give them a picture from which a judgement can be made.

There were not so many really conflicting opinions on this one. They all confirmed that the problem of radiation was real. The only difference was in how serious it was deemed to be.

One very reliable and credible source said that there was already a sizeable amount of radiation in the atmosphere. Any answer to the question as to where that might go was literally blowing in the wind.

At the moment that wind was favourable blowing out over the pacific but, it was forecast to change.

It was decided then that we needed to leave, certainly northern Japan as soon as we could.

So then the annoying nonsense of getting us flights home began.

The office in London told us that there were no flights out of Akita.

We started thinking about alternative exit routes either directly out of Japan or to another airport in Japan that would get us out.

It was during breakfast and our colleagues from ITV News were sitting next to us going through the same process only they were not being told that there were no flights but being given a choice of flights that they might be able to get on.

There were lots of frustrating phone calls going on.

To say that the ears of our folk at the ITV travel company Uniglobe, should have been burning would be one huge understatement. At best their apparent inefficiency was annoying and frustrating. At worst in the current circumstances it could seriously endanger our lives.

The result appeared to be that we could get a flight out of Osaka on Saturday but would need to drive there as all the flights going there were full.

The only solution would be to drive, which would take around thirty hours.

Richard, Hannah and Kyle did not have much option being much further south and much closer to Osaka but, it would still be a long trek for them .

One of the ITV News team told us that there should be at least two free seats because they had just cancelled them.

Our travel company said no.

We decided that given the airport was not much of a detour off our marathon journey it might be worthwhile stopping by, not just to check for flights but to send a pre-recorded report.

We prepared to set off.

There were all sorts of pieces of advice coming from the safety experts in London and being passed on to us.

One was that we should dump any clothes that we had been wearing when we had been down in the Sendai area in case they had picked up any radiation.

Given that I had been wearing the same clothes for the whole time we were in that area if I had picked any radiation up it would be well soaked in.

So, I got the jacket, fleece, t-shirt etc. that I had been wearing and piled them up in the small bin in the bathroom.

My "radioactive? pile" of discarded clothes.

I was just about to leave the room with all my kit when it dawned on me that the jeans I was wearing were the ones that I had been in since I left the UK.

I quickly slipped them off and added them to the pile. There was another pair of trousers in my case that I got to without too much bother.

On the way to the airport the runner at Daybreak, without the help of the travel company had managed to come up with a flight to Osaka for us.

There were two problems, well minor inconveniences really.

The flight was via Tokyo and there was only thirty minutes to change aircraft, which is about the optimum time for bags to go missing.

Leaving a snowy Akita.

Some pretty sights on the way to the airport.

At the airport I set up in our tried and tested position this time in bright, if not warm sunlight, not snow. Cordelia went in to get out flights sorted.

The camera position ready and waiting for Cordelia to come back.

She came back with a double doze of bad news. Firstly we had just missed, by a minute or so the last time to check in for a direct flight to Osaka that had seats available on it and secondly there was no record of our booking on the flight that we thought we were on.

Not far from me Arata was on the phone. Cordelia interrupted the call and they went back in to the small airport terminal. I waited by the camera.

In the bus car park in front of me a group of red cross workers were getting out of minibuses that bore the registration plates from Hiroshima and Kobe.

Sorting out their kit.

Cordelia came back a little while later with a broad “we’re sorted” grin.

We were not on the flight that we thought we were on. She had managed to get us on a slightly earlier direct flight.

Minor panic over.

Cordelia then did her little report that was recorded in London.

I derigged, packed and we went into the terminal.

Arata who is a bit of a phone addict appeared, even for him to be on the phone a lot while all this was all going on.

He was trying to solve his problem. We had driven all the way up here. Now we were leaving by air.

There was no one to deal with the car. It was Arata’s Tokyo boss’s car and she actually needed it to get her and her family out of a now panic stricken and scared city.

It was now also pretty full of fuel that could be put to some good use.

Instead it would languish in the car park a Akita airport until someone came to collect it or some sharp-eyed opportunist, fair to say not many of them in this law abiding country, noticed the keys hidden behind one of the wheels.

In the airport terminal we did a bit of filming of people getting on flights and an interview with a rather scared Chilean lady.

We then had time to get a bite to eat and a coffee before take off.

It was then that my little hasty error came to light.

Cordelia was yet to join Arata and me in the coffee shop so I offered to get the drinks in.

I ordered and automatically went to get the cash out of my back pocket.

The only thing was that my pocket was not there it was back at the hotel in a large bin. As I had left the room the chambermaid went into clean it up and I told her just to throw out the clothes.

That was rather unfortunate because the pocket contained the hundred quid in Japanese Yen that I had taken out on my credit card at Heathrow so that I had a contingency fund.

I got the cash for the coffees from Cordelia and gave myself a good talking to.

Out transport to Osaka.

The Red Cross lot that I had seen earlier in the car park were on our flight. They were going back home for a short rest after having been on shift for four days pretty much non stop.

One of the doctors on our flight.

I did some shots on the plane and a piece to camera. The sound was far from perfect because the only microphone that I had to use was the camera mic and aircraft are noisy things.

The shot was far from perfect as well because to get some kind of usable sound I had to be very close to Cordelia, too close for a flattering shot.

On the final approach to Osaka.

Japanese TV interviewing the Red Cross guys in Osaka.

There was one small problem that was apparently solved as we boarded the flight.

It had taken a while to find a hotel with any rooms for us in Osaka but, we were told one had been organised.

By the time we landed we would have the details on an e-mail.

The name of the hotel had alarm bells ringing. “Comfort Hotel”.

It got worse when we got in the taxi and told the driver the address.

He said that it was not in Osaka.

We ended up in a grimy industrial area called Sakai.

The tall thin hotel was in keeping with the rest of the grey washed out buildings that we could see.

Sure enough the word comfort and this hotel did not quite fit.

I could just about squeeze into the space behind the door that somehow qualified to be called a room.

As wide a shot as I could get of my "room".

The three of us feeling a bit pissed off went out to get something to eat.

There was no restaurant or cafe in the hotel.

We walked a short distance and saw a tall slightly grand building not quite in keeping with the local area.

I had a hunch it was a hotel. It was not easy to get to on foot. There was a river and rail track in the way but we found our way there.

It was indeed a very nice hotel, maybe not five star but certainly not too far off.

We asked if there were any rooms for tonight and tomorrow.

Tonight was fine but tomorrow seemed to be causing problems.

The receptionists did a lot of sucking on their teeth, shaking their heads at each other, pointing at the computer screen, tapping on the keyboard and writing things on scraps of paper.

After a few moments they smiled and produced three key cards.

We then went back to the other hotel in a taxi to get out luggage.

Later on we tried to get rooms for the other three who would be arriving tomorrow after their live broadcasts in Kyoto.

Once again the same ritual was enacted but the result was different. No rooms could be found.

For the first time since we had arrived in Japan we had two hours of free time.

Cordelia had a nap, I had a shower and Arata chilled.

Feeling slightly refreshed we had a drink in the hotel bar overlooking Sakai and Osaka in the distance, although it was impossible to tell where the boundary was.

With the lights of the buildings and streets bellow twinkling it was difficult to believe that the country was undergoing its worst time since world war two.

We went through to the restaurant next door and ordered three set meals.

It was a Teppanyaki restaurant.

The food was excellent. There was very fresh sea food. It was impossible for it be any fresher.

The steak was, ironically, Sendai beef, It was the most tender that any of us had ever tasted. It genuinely melted in the mouth.

Given the treatment the cows get it should be a bit special. They are fed on a diet which contains beer, they are massaged every day and classical music is played to them to keep them calm.

It was lucky in some ways that we had been forced to skip so many meals and eat frugally for most of the week because when the bill came it looked like quite a lot because it was quite a lot.

There were a few days worth of meal allowances there.

No comments:

Post a Comment