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.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

In Dublin before the Queen.

Thursday 12th

Yesterday I had picked up a nice Volvo hire car from the very helpful people at the Avis counter of Dublin’s impressive airport.

The first job was to set up the Tom Tom stat’ nav’ and get from the airport in north Dublin to my hotel in the south of the city.

I did get there. In the end.

I had however, spent the best part of an hour driving in never decreasing circles as the Tom Tom, one way streets, no right turns, no left turns, bus lanes, temporary diversions, part time diversions, full time diversions and busy traffic kept me a fairly constant two miles from the hotel until I broke free from my carbound hell and reached the Bewleys hotel.

This hotel was not the hotel that I had been told I was booked into until not long before I arrived in Dublin. There was some kit, a radio mic that I needed from ITN in London which had been sent with great efficiency to the hotel I thought that I would be arriving at.

Then, after checking in I had to go to collect that kit. Perhaps I should have checked where that hotel was before I left the airport. It was on the north side of the city not too far from where I had landed what seemed like an age ago.

This time the journey was not quite so bad because I kind of had an idea of the many wrong turnings that I had been forced round and the rush hour bus and taxi only diversions were no longer in force.

As ever my planned relaxed start to the trip had been slightly scuppered.

This morning after lasts nights late and indifferent meal in town I met Gary the producer for an average breakfast.

Our first job was to head to the home of Gaelic Football and Hurling, Croke Park. This would be one of the places that the Queen would be visiting on her historic three days in Ireland.

Outside Croke Park.

This state of the art top notch stadium could match any other big stadium in the word. That’s impressive anyway but, to think that it is the venue for two sports that are totally amateur and played only in this country with a population of a little over four and a half million makes it gobsmacking.

Inside Croke Park.

It will be quite a thing for the queen to come here, the sight of the original Bloody Sunday.

In 1920 the British army had come into the stadium and shot to death 14 Irish civilians.

One end of the stadium remains purpose built for standing. It is called Hill 16 and is the traditional place where Dublin fans (Dubs) stand to cheer on their heroes. It was originaly built out of rubble from O’Connell Street which had been demolished in the 1916 rising against British rule.

Hill 16.

On Hill 16.

The folk from the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) were very welcoming and gave us and our colleagues from ITV News all the help we needed in getting shots inside the stadium. There was of course one big no no. Under any circumstances we were not to put a foot on the sacred turf that was reserved for the sporting gods and those that kept the grass green and groomed. There is always an exception of course.

GAA President Christy Cooney’s perk of the job.

Grainne watches James Mates and Mark from ITV News working.

Nothing to do with the Royal Visit. There are important games coming up.

Even although Grainne had been in the stadium countless times either as a spectator or a sports broadcaster she was pretty excited at getting the freedom to wander around the bits of the stadium she rarely, if ever sees.

Did she sneak a look in the dressing rooms? Y’know I can’t quite remember.

Grainne loving being in the stadium.

It was being one of those four seasons in one day type of days. We had sunny, windy, rainy and cloudy skies all in the space of an hour or so.

The wind and rain caused me the usual cameraman’s problem as the swirling gusts threw the falling drops on to the lens.

They were also causing Grainne problems because she had just arrived fresh from the hairdressers and the combined forces of nature were doing their best to undo the good work that had been done earlier by her stylist.

Doing the piece to camera in the stadium was not easy.

Finished at the stadium we went off to the Half Penny Bridge, one of Dublin’s iconic landmarks.

Daybreak needed a few very short pieces to camera from Grainne that would be played out as a promo spots after the ITV News at ten and at other points before the Queen’s visit.

Along with the temperamental weather there was traffic noise to deal with and the ubiquitous horn blower with his friend the “get me on the telly” shouter.

There were a few takes but we got them done.

All I needed to do then was go back to the hotel, put the material into the laptop Gary had brought from London and send the short pieces via the internet to Daybreak.

If only it was that simple.

It is very easy to say, “let’s split the atom, go to Mars and turn lead into gold.” Getting any of these things done takes a lot of time, effort, skill and knowledge but still might not happen.

Working with my arch nemesis Avid on a Windows pc laptop is similar.

On this occasion the Avid would not recognise the connection to my camera at all.

Both Tim, one of the knowledgeable and skilled broadcast engineers from Daybreak and I spent several hours of our lives we will never get back struggling with the problem that ended up being worked around rather than solved.

Before the problem had been dealt with what had been a fairly easy schedule began to become a more pressing one.

We were due at another controversial site that the Queen was going to visit, the Garden of Remembrance. It is dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives fighting for Irish freedom from the British.

We pitched up in our taxi to see a little crowd of crews busy doing interviews and pieces to camera outside the closed blue gates of the garden.

Crews working away.

Like us they had all arrived to film in the gardens at the appointed time.

Like us they had all been given written permission to film in the garden.

Like us they had all arranged to meet interviewees.

A few moments later the ITV News crew also arrived.

The reason that the crews already there were busy outside was because we were not being allowed inside.

Interviews being done outside the gates.

Gary had a word, a very polite and respectful word, with the Garda officer guarding the gate and showed her the bit of paper saying we could get inside. Equally politely and respectfully she pointed out that the bit af paper he had was the same bit of paper everyone else had but there was no way that anyone was getting in.

Gary trying to get us past the Garda.

Gary then got on the phone to an official who was frazzled, embarrassed and apologetic. There was nothing that he could do.

Totally out of the blue the Garda had arrived at the gardens in the morning and effectively sealed them off a few days before planned.

So I did a few general shots through the small gap in the gates and we did an interview with another historian in the same place. I carefully framed him with the statue of the birds and Irish flag flying above it in the background.

There was no need for introductions from Grainne’s point of view because this historian, Diarmaid Ferriter, like Paul Rouse, our interviewee at Croke park and just about everyone we met in Dublin was either a relative or friend of hers. Also the driver of virtually every taxi we got into had a tale of the last time Grainne or a relation had been in his taxi.

When we had done what we had needed to do at the Garden of Remembrance and managed not to get wet we jumped in to another of Grainne’s “friends” taxis to go and do a very quick interview at Leinster House, the seat of the Irish government.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh gave us Sinn Fein’s view of the visit. Grainne and he spent a bit of the conversation before the interview chatting away in Gaelic.

The time had now come to try and get the point of view of the ordinary Irish folk. We set out to do some vox pops in Grafton Street, Dublin's famous and very busy shopping street.

Ireland might be going down the tubes in one of the worst recessions ever but there still seemed to be a lot of people out and about with money to spend, of maybe they were just window shopping.

By the time we got there the sunny blue sky had turned dark grey and a downpour greeted us.

No point in even trying to film in torrential rain. Oh what a shame we would just have to take shelter until it passed. Lucky for us that we were right outside another well known Dublin landmark, Bewley’s Coffee shop.

Our shelter from the rain.

When we were enjoying our coffee and cakes Grainne’s sister Sile popped in to say hello.

Like Grainne she is a well known broadcaster in Ireland, mainly on the radio.

By the time the rain had eased it was too late to do the vox pops. They could be done later.

I headed back to the hotel with Gary to hear the ding ding of the bell to start round umpteen in the ongoing marathon championship bout between me and the mighty Avid.

It was not Final Cut on the mac that helped me win this round on points but a sneaky upper cut from Windows free Movie Maker did what the expensive Avid could not.

The promo arrived safe in London.

I was left to wonder what other attack the wily Avid would come up with next.

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