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, 4 March 2011

Refugees at Djerba airport and going home

Friday 4th

Sods law or something, the worst night’s sleep in the best hotel room.

So I was not as rested as I would have liked when we left the Raddisson in Djerba all packed up and headed to the airport.

In the quiet darkness Hasan parked the car in the car park with a view of the international terminal.

It was still dark when we arrived at the airport.

Gregg started setting up the laptop and BGAN satellite terminal.

I went into the terminal to be confronted by a mass of scruffy quiet humanity.

All over the ground floor of the terminal there were men in large regimented groups separated by barriers. They were sitting peacefully just waiting.

Not happy but sitting it out.

As I went round shooting most paid me no heed. A few gave weary smiles. One man out of the thousands that were there waved one of his hands in the air and held up an open passport with the other giving me a broad grin.

I was astounded at the tranquility.

There really was hardly a sound to be heard.

Up stairs on the first floor there was a similar lack of noise. This time it was for obvious reasons.

There were men laid out under the ubiquitous thick colourful fluffy blankets.

Having a sleep.

In areas of darkness they slept. In areas of bright fluorescent light they slept.

A few were reading or just contemplating.

There were a few flashes of energy and excitement when a group was moved around the airport, hopefully getting closer to getting on one of the mercy flights.

Hey guys you jut woke him up!

One from the UK was due in later in the morning.

Don't think that would normally be classed as hand luggage.

You can always try though.

I finished getting some shots and took the camera out to the car.

Gregg edited some of the shots, encoded them and sent a minutes worth over to Daybreak in London.

Gregg editing the shots in the back of the car.

Once that was done we set up for live broadcasts.

Gregg and could not quite believe that we were only a hundred yards or so away from the terminal with out little satellite kit on the roof of a car and albeit small camera on a tripod. No one came to tell us to leave or indeed even ask what we were up to or where we were from.

We were left perfectly alone.

If we had been back in the UK and tried to do what we were doing at even the smallest of international airports we would have been pounced on by security and airport officials before the camera had clicked on to the tripod and thrown out post haste.

A pretty airport building in the dawn light.

Our set up in the airport car park.

We'd not be able to do this back home without hassle.

As had become routine Gregg did a report to camera as soon as we got connected with London in case there were problems.

We had to do one recorded piece that would go out in the eight o’clock news bulletin because if things went according to plan when that was on we would be hurtling down the runway at the other side of the terminal on a flight bound for Tunis.

The plan was to record this just before the live seven o’clock broadcast.

Hasan our driver is quietly praying as he sits on the trolley.

After we had done the six o’clock broadcast Gregg and Chokri went into the domestic terminal to see about checking in for the flight so that all we needed to do after the seven was put the bags on the belt.

A short while later Gregg came back to the car and asked for my passport.

He gave it, along with his and the print out of our tickets to Chokri who assured us that he would sort everything out and he wandered off in the direction of the domestic terminal.

A while later he sauntered back with our passports and boarding cards.

We had checked in at a check in desk without being there, another thing that would never happen in the UK

Everything was going well right up until Tasmin the news reader was linking in to that seven o’clock broadcast.

Just like the other day there were only seconds to go before Gregg was due to start speaking when Simon the director just said, “We’ve lost him! Take the aslive!”

Tasmin’s delivery slowed just a little to give the guys in the gallery a chance to play one of the pieces that we had sent over just for such an eventuality.

Due to the skill and professionalism of the guys in the gallery in London the viewers would not have know that there had been a failure of anything at all.

Gregg and I did not have time to dwell on the annoyance of the technical disaster because we had to pack the kit away and hot wheel it to the domestic terminal.

In calm measured fashion Hasan got us there on time.

We said good bye and thanks to both Hasan and Chokri in the time honoured fashion with a note filled handshake.

They had been a great pair and thanks to Chokri’s tip we ended up leading the way on Wednesday.

At one of the domestic departure gate signs of the recent inhabitants.

We were waiting to be given the go-ahead to board and the baggage handlers were loading the baggage. I was happy to see that my suitcase was on the trolley.

What made me slightly concerned was that there was no sign of the baggage tag that had been put on it when we checked the bags in.

I made a move to go over to the bag to make sure that it was not there but, was immediately stopped by one of the airline officials.

I explained that the bag was untagged. The man was insistent that it was not a problem and the bag would go on.

It was not the going on that worried me it was what might happen to it when it arrived in Tunis that gave me cause for concern.

I did see go on the plane.

Happily it appeared on the belt in Tunis.

We were rather disappointed with the grey rainy weather that welcomed us in Tunis but, very pleased to see our plane to London nestled up to the gate on the grey tarmac waiting for us.

We were also pleased that because the flight was almost empty, not many people electing to come to and go from region at the moment for obvious reasons, we were going to travel club class.

Gregg gets off the flight from Djerba in the Tunisian rain

The happy sight of our London bound aircraft.

Taking care of the baggage. I can see my suitcase :)

On such a short journey as ours Club does not make a huge difference but having the peace and quiet of the lounge and real cutlery for the in-flight meal are very nice.

There was a slight delay in our departure from Tunis because the Tunisian immigration authorities would not allow one of the arriving passengers into the country.

So we had to sit on the ground for a little while until a very tearful blonde woman was escorted back on to the aircraft.

One of the cabin staff sat her in the empty first row and talked to her very soothingly and soon she was calm but still not happy.

As we left Tunisia Gregg and I reflected on the fact that on the whole time we had been in there we had encountered nothing but courtesy, respect and good humour.

Given the circumstances in which we were working, the situation a lot of people had found themselves and the turmoil that was going on in Tunisia we expected a great many problems and a lot of stress.

Instead apart form the normal stress of the job and the lack of sleep there were no real problems.

A Canadian journalist we met at the airport was so impressed with the country and its people he said he would bring his family on holiday at the first opportunity.

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