It had been a quiet few weeks with just a few little jobs including a jaunt to Newcastle to get the Geordie take on Cheryl Cole being given the sack from X-Factor USA and a little profile of the Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson for a kids writing competition Daybreak was launching.
At Real Radio in Newcastle to talk about the Cheryl Cole story.
One of Cheryl's old friends tells Gregg Easteal what she thinks.
Producer Ali gets a book signed by Julia for her kids.
A while ago I had been told to get ready to go to Canada with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their first state visit since their recent marriage. I got quite excited. It would be a big, busy but high profile job.
I was then told a few weeks later that I would not be going. I was slightly disappointed but, such is life.
I drank a consolation cup of coffee as the unread e-mails involving Sky News, the BBC and ITN that were circulating regarding the arrangements for making sure all the material shot would be compatible with all the organisations made that scrunching sound as they disappeared into the trash.
It was an important and slightly complex process because the material also needed to be compatible with US and Canadian satellite trucks. Added to that was the use of High Definition all round. There was a month’s worth of meetings and discussions to get it right.
Last Thursday I got the call to say that I was now back on the job.
I heaved the e-mails out of the trash and the guys on the production desk at Daybreak had to rush around to see if they could source a camera and edit system to fit in with what the other organisations had agreed on.
On Tuesday afternoon I found myself in the Daybreak office in London with a lovely shiny new hired HD camera, a slightly less shiny borrowed Avid loaded laptop lent by ITN and a P2 card reader.
It took a fair bit of technical jiggery pokery by the chaps in the Central Technical Facilities department at Daybreak and numerous tests and the odd phone call to Bob, the top ITN technical whizz before the system appeared to be working acceptably.
Yesterday the departure lounge at Heathrow’s terminal 3 was mobbed, with seating difficult to find because of the renovation work going on when I met Daybreak’s Chief Correspondent Richard Gaisford.
Unlike the ITN team our direct flight to Ottawa was uneventful. They had arrived from their flight at Toronto a day earlier to find that BA had decided not to bother loading any of their twenty seven cases onto the flight.
We were looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep after we touched down in Canada before the madness of the tour started on Thursday.
We kind of knew that that was going to be out of the question when as soon as we switched our phones on they vibrated, buzzed and pinged heralding a deluge of messages.
We would have to go out and film a preview piece before getting any sleep.
Richard got down to a bit of research as we headed to dump our kit at the hotel which was, rather annoyingly way outside the city.
He found a bakery in the downtown area of Ottawa that was famous for doing interesting things to mark big events. On this one it was an 80 kg sugar maple leaf with a wedding photograph of the newlyweds.
When we got there was an obvious space where the thing should have been. It had been taken away because the weather had been unusually hot and humid which had caused the thing to melt a bit and get all saggy.
It was now quite late in the evening and there was not much chance of us getting anything else interesting to shoot.
Claude, the large chatty owner took us up to the bakery kitchen where another one was being made. I filmed it and we did an interview with him in his heavy French accent.
Claude with the big Maple Leaf.
The Maple Leaf.
His bakery is pretty well known. President Obama had popped in a couple of years ago when he paid Ottawa a visit.
Sweet Canada Day cookies.
A few vox pop asking what the locals thought of the impending visit and a piece to camera with the rehearsals for the concert on Parliament Hill going on in the background and the shooting was done.
The difficult bit was still to come, the edit and getting the material back to London.
We got the material into the mac that Richard brought with him and then went through a few tests to send the edited report back to Daybreak.
Eventually the material was there. So after a working day of twenty two hours we got to our beds for a few hours sleep.
The material had not been as good as London had hoped given that we were shooting on High Definition.
When we were less knackered we would do some more tests of various setting for sending the material to Daybreak.
This morning after breakfast and doing the tests we took a taxi for the long journey into the the media centre set up in a building in the city centre to collect our accreditation and meet up with our colleagues from ITN.
Richard on the phone to London to check which test was the best.
Outside we knew it was Canada. Hockey on the street.
The first few pool arrangements had been made and I had been assigned two of them, numbers 003 and 004. I was given plastic tokens to attach to my accreditation.
The accreditation pass with the the pool passes.
There would be not much chance for getting food once we were in place so Richard and I grabbed some food before getting on the media bus up to Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General.
Onboard the media bus press from all over the world.
A very British scene outside Rideau Hall.
Some of the media who would be at the “fixed point” had already arrived and were set up even though the Duke and Duchess were not even in the country yet and they had an engagement at the war memorial in the city centre to visit before getting to us.
The media gathering at the "Fixed Point".
A Japanese journalist at work.
Getting the red carpet ready.
More media passes.
When we were chatting and waiting the aircraft with the royal party passed overhead on it’s way into land.
Colin from the Canadian government assembled our little pool party which consisted of me as the representative of the UK broadcasters, Francois from CTV representing the Canadian broadcasters, Greig with a live radio link camera and four stills photographers, two Canadian and two UK.
We took a slow wander up the wide drive to the impressive building set in a huge area of well tended parkland. On either side of this drive behind the ubiquitous grey metal barriers was a large crowd, consisting mainly, but not exclusively, of females of all ages.
Walking up to the start.
We waited and chatted for the arrival. Terry, the small well build rugged looking Canadian officer in charge of media security gave us the signal that the motorcade was on its way.
We fired up our cameras. A few seconds later the first of a line of huge black cars eased round the bend in the road in front of us.
The lead car stopped just where we were. We did not know which car the Duke and Duchess had arrived in because our view was blocked by a combination of big dark suited security officers and various other officials who had emerged from the black cars so well polished the rays of sunlight bounced off like jets of white lasers.
We knew that Prince William and Kate were out of the cars by the roar and applause from the expectant crowd.
The pair started to come into view as the went along the crowd shaking some of the outstretched hands, smiling, having a brief conversation and accepting the occasional little gift.
We started getting our shots.
The protocol states that we should not be too close on these sort of walkabouts. However, there is always the hope that we can pick up a snippet of conversation between the royal and a member of the crowd.
On this occasion that was never going to happen for two reasons.
Firstly the security guys were determined that we were going to be kept even further back than usual. The second reason was that in order to do this all we could hear was a constant stream of “Keep back!” “Keep moving!” “Back!”
Even when one or both of them stopped momentarily to chat when our little pack paused we were encouraged to keep moving.
It was all a little bit of a bun fight but, we did get our shots albeit a bit wobbly as we were eased back by forceful hands.
As we got close to the Hall we moved to the side to get in position for the Prince to do an inspection of the guard.
I got some good shots pulling focus from the Canada patch on the top one of the soldiers sleeves to the Prince. The soundtrack to accompany this was the resounding booms of artillery firing in salute.
This done we were moved onto another position so that we could shoot the speeches.
As the Prince delivered his speech in English and in French I caught the Duchess’ reaction, a mixture of amusement and pride.
Still image from my position for the speeches.
The Royal Party then went inside to carry out other official engagements.
Richard came and joined me so that we could interview some of the crowd before they all drifted away.
That done it there was now time to start giving my material to the other members of the UK TV pool. Firstly, Hedley from Channel 5 News gave me a quick lesson in copying from one P2 card to another in the camera. He then got his copy and duly passed that on to Ed one of the Sky News Cameramen.
So that just left ITN and the BBC to get the material when I got back to the media centre.
Next on my agenda was another pool picture opportunity at a barbecue where the Prince and Duchess would be chatting to some young Canadians.
We were taken to a room in the depths of the hall where we waited to be summoned to the venue and shoot for ten minutes or so.
The stills photographers do a bit of editing and sending whilst we wait.
There were no windows in the room so it came as a slight surprise when we were told that it was torrential rain outside and that the barbecue might not happen and if it did there would be some sort of delay.
A while later Miguel, the Prince’s press secretary came to tell us that indeed the barbecue would not happen as planned. Instead there would be a gathering in one of the rooms in the hall, appropriately named the “Tented Room”.
The room was decorated in wide rich pink, almost red striped fabric with the ceiling tailored to simulate the sloping roof of a tent.
Pretty impressive bad weather venue.
We were ushered in and put into a position to capture the couples entrance and greeting line.
It did not take long for them to come in looking very happy and relaxed.
They went along the short line chatting to the young people I got busy getting shots of the action and chat from as many angles as possible.
There was one little bit of interaction that I caught that showed the closeness and comfort of their relationship.
Prince William was talking to one of the guys about a course he did and Kate was about to add something when jokingly he turned and said that she had never gone to those lectures.
She laughed and I suspect that if it had not been for it being a formal occasion a playful dig in the ribs might have been meated out.
Not long after that we were rounded up and headed out of the room to collect our kit form the holding area and get the coach back to the media centre in the city.
When I arrived I gave the material that I had filmed of the two events to ITN, Sky and the BBC.
ITN and Sky News working in the Ottawa media centre.
That was the end of day one for me.
Richard had been busy editing when I was shooting and he would be up a bit later than me going to a CTV studio to do live broadcasts into Friday morning’s programme.
I had to get up early after my late finish last night but, not too early to take the long cab ride from our hotel to the media centre to give ITN some more of yesterday’s material that we had not had time to copy before we got thrown out of the media centre when it closed up for the night.
Once I had done that with no programme to file a report for on a Saturday I settled down to enjoy a bit of the amazing atmosphere of Canada Day in a warm sunny Ottawa.
That was until I got a couple of slightly panicked voicemail messages from the ITN Royal Producer Georgina.
In the midst if the celebrations ITN had a camera in position for live broadcasts into the Evening News and the News at Ten.
The problem was that because of security and the size of the crowd it was looking possible that Tim Ewart the Royal Correspondent would not be able to get to the live point in time.
“Would it be possible for me to go to an alternative standby live location?”
The answer was yes but, I would need to go back to the hotel and collect my kit which would take about an hour.
That would be just about enough time for me to get to the location on Parliament Hill and set up before transmission time.
Hailing a cab was not too easy as there were not that many around and most of the roads in central Ottawa were closed.
I did manage to flag one down driven by a very nice Lebanese guy called Abdul who had liven in Canada for thirty years and proclaimed it the best and safest country in the world.
There was one little hiccup in the plan. I did not have enough cash for the return trip, about $140. I’d need to get to an ATM to get cash out.
We stopped at a bank. I dashed in punched the keys on the pad when prompted and agreed to all the charges and other time consuming questions. I did it more that three times reducing the amount of cash I was asking for each time but, my card was not authorised.
Luckily back at the hotel Richard had enough cash for me to grab some to pay the taxi fare.
Abdul rushed me back to the city and got me as close as he could to Parliament Hill the site of the big set piece concert event of Canada Day.
I still had a bit of a walk to get to the NBC truck that was providing he satellite link for ITN.
Satellite trucks on Parliament Hill.
Sweating heavily from rushing in the searing hot sun with my camera, bag and tripod I reached the top of the hill with not much time to spare.
Quickly I set up the camera on the tripod and prepared a microphone.
Then I got the call to say that Tim had managed to get to the original live point and that I would not be needed.
The standby camera position that was not used.
It was now mid afternoon so I decided to dump the kit in the media centre get some food and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
Lots of red in Ottawa City centre on Canada Day.
It had to be Buffalo burger followed by a Beaver Tail.
Queueing for Beaver Tail.
They are "float fried" big doughnuts covered with, in this case hazelnut chocolate.
I met up with Richard who had caught up on his sleep and the guys from Channel 5 news Simon and Hedley.
We took advantage of our media accreditation to get on to the media platform to watch part of the concert and see the Duke and Duchess arrive, watch a little bit and then leave.
The Duke and Duchess arriving at the open air concert on Parliament Hill.
The media pool getting shots of the Duke and Duchess watching the concert.
On one of the big screens.
Kate and Wills chatting together.
It was a great concert and a good showcase of Canadian talent.
There was one more event that in out off duty mode we would like to see, the fireworks.
We saw signs for a rooftop party. Just the place, good location and drinks on tap.
I thought that things were not quite what I expected when the guy at the door to the rood terrace was putting the entry wristband on my wrist.
The open air bar was not very busy, quite dark and not as high up as we had imagined.
My impressions were confirmed as Richard was ordering drinks at the bar.
I said to him that I didn’t think this was the place for us.
He looked puzzled.
I told him to turn around.
When he had a look behind It became clear the kind of bar we were in.
Two handsome shiny faced boys were investigating each others tonsils with their tongues so enthusiastically that the time to “get a room” had long passed.
We considered leaving but. decided to stay for the fireworks display and the local “entertainment”.
We really should have left because when the fireworks started all we could see was a bit of a glow from the flashes, quite a bit of smoke and the odd bright flare that had strayed a little too high.
We were not high enough up to witness the full splendour of the fireworks.
Time to get back to our hotels.
No programme on Sunday and all the events being covered by the UK media pool there was nothing for us to do so Richard and I could look forward to a relaxing drive from Ottawa to Montreal and perhaps a light lunch, a spot of shopping and sightseeing followed by a congenial dinner.
Of course that was never going to happen.
An e-mail that popped up in Richard’s inbox in the morning scuppered that for me.
I had been assigned a couple of the media pools for the day because logistically the other cameramen were unable to cover them all.
We would still be able to have a leisurely drive across to Montreal because the events that I would be shooting would not happen until later in the afternoon and evening.
Of course that was not going to happen either.
The straightforward process of getting our hire car from the conveniently placed Hertz rental office in our hotel was complicated by being given a car that could not be taken to Montreal and left with Hertz there.
We would need to go the airport in Ottawa first to change the car for one that we could take to Montreal and leave at the airport when we were leaving.
We made our little detour to the Ottawa’s airport to change the car only to be told that there were no other cars available and we would have to keep the one that we had.
So a pointless trip to start the day.
At least when we got to Montreal the hotel was easy to find we had time for a quick noodle lunch in the food court of a mall nearby.
Like Ottawa the weather in Montreal was perfect. Deep blue skies with the very occasional hint of cloud meant the sun could do its work heating things up.
So rather than sweat walking the short distance with my kit to the Montreal press centre set up in the Delta hotel a couple of blocks away I jumped in a cab driven my smiling but quiet rastafarian eyes hidden behind Ray Bans.
Media Central Montreal.
Adam the ITN cameraman based in Washington DC and I joined a collection of other British and Canadian reporters and photographers on a bus to the Sainte-Justine children’s hospital.
Neither of us had been given the little number tokens for the pool that we needed to attach to our accreditation to allow us to get into the facility.
We had been told that I would get my number 11 and Adam his number 10 from Patrick, the prince’s press secretary.
Outside the hospital there was already a sizeable crowd waiting to greet the Prince and Princess. Some of the greetings would not be favourable. I made a mental note to get some shots of the protesters and the banners that called royalty parasites.
Media outside the hospital.
I could not get the shots straight away because we had to sort out our badges and the little pool groups were all being organised.
We explained to the French Canadian official that who were supposed to be getting our passes from. Ian, a photographer from the Daily Mirror was in the same position.
He was as courteous as possible given his possible connection with Paris but, would not let us in until Patrick arrived.
When he did arrive a very short time later he knew nothing of the arrangement to give us our passes but told the Canadian officials we were to be allowed in.
Adam remained outside and I went in to prepare for the arrivals shot and whatever was going to go on in the foyer of the hospital.
There was a little desk with some bits and pieces of scientific paraphernalia on it manned by a couple of cute kids. They were doing some kind of experiment.
It was pretty clear that with nothing else set up in the hospital lobby the royal couple would be heading for there to chat to the kids.
There was a little rostrum set up to put our cameras on. One of the Canadian broadcasters, CBC already had a live camera on the black riser.
The only thing was, that to my eyes and the eyes of the two UK photographers that were with me it was in the wrong place.
Even when we were told what was going to go on when William and Kate arrived it still seemed to be in the wrong place but, our French Canadian minder insisted it would be fine.
We chose to ignore him and selected our own positions.
The hospital foyer and the camera rostrum.
In the event nowhere was ideal.
The only shot that anyone got that was of debatable use was as the couple walked in through the door.
After that they were surrounded by security and other officials who were either unaware or simply didn’t care that they were blocking the view that all the media had of the VIPs.
Matters were made worse when Adam’s slightly larger pool group steamed into the opposite side of the foyer like rolling maul. I could see Adam having to fight for a shot of the pair.
When they had gone into the hospital on their private tour of the hospital to meet some of the young quite ill patients we made our feelings felt to Terry, the Canadian official and Patrick.
Not one camera had been in the right place to get any shots. The cameraman on the live camera also said that he could see nothing of the royal couple.
Then time was spent setting up the departure where a posy would be presented by a very sweet looking girl in a white dress so that the shots would work.
Adam was then taken off to a room where there would be an opportunity for him to get shots of William and Kate talking to some of the children.
Very frustratingly the departure was more of a debacle than the arrival.
Once more the big security men, flunkies and other people in the entourage took up the space between the cameras and the couple. Not one frame of still or video captured the shots of the little girls in the small crowd handing Kate flowers or the official posy being given by the girl in white who had been practising it for a while. Poor kid would have no permanent record of the one moment in her life when she met a real life princess.
It was a disaster all round and had been a complete waste of time. None of those shots would make air and would probably not be fit for the library either.
At least Adam did get some usable material in the room with the kids.
As soon as was possible I got out and got a few shots of the protesters before the small group faded the volume down and drifted away. Those shots might make.
The bus then took us back to the media centre hotel where if it had gone according to plan I would have dubbed off my shots to be used on the next news bulletins.
Understandably no one was really interested.
ITN did take some but more for the shots of the protest than anything else.
There was one more little thing to be done. A departure shot of the Duke and Duchess from the cookery school.
The position was again a pool one so I would need another one of the numbered tokens.
Andy the Sky News producer drove me the short distance to the media position on the pavement opposite the door that they would use to leave and provided me with the vital numbered token.
The little road was about 100m long with the door pretty much equidistant from both ends where at one end was a small group of well-wishers and at the other end a similarly sized group of protesters with a few banners.
Outside the cookery location.
I was there more as a standby just in case there was a problem.
I got shots of the protest group just in case and the couple leaving but, like the earlier stuff it was destined for a cyber cellar probably never to be seen by anyone but me in black and white through the viewfinder.
It had ended up being a long frustrating day for little reward or satisfaction.
I managed to get almost six hours sleep then it was an early rise to get to Montreal’s Trudeau airport for the fairly short flight in a fairly small aircraft back east to Prince Edward Island.
Our less than five star hotel in Charlottetown was the Rodd Royalty. Acceptable for a pair of on the road media types but it would not have been on the itinerary for potential places to recce for the Duke and Duchess to stay during their time on the island.
Our hotel sign.
The word from the Daybreak office was that what was wanted for tomorrow’s programme was a piece that just showed the highlights of the last couple of days.
My first thought was, “easy day”, just a voice track to do and a short piece to camera.
Then, quite rightly Richard thought that we should be doing at least some sort of preview to what would be happening here and it would be spectacular.
The prince was going to do a practice ditching of a Sea King helicopter and both he and the Duchess were going to take part in a Dragon Boat race on Dalvay Lake north of Charlottetown.
On spec we headed up to Dalvay to see what was going on.
We landed lucky. The the teams of paddlers made up of high profile Canadian sportsmen and women with links to Prince Edward Island and other important types were out on the lake coming to the end of a bit of a practice session.
Our timing could not have been better, the welcome could not have been warmer and the help could not have been more forthcoming.
I got some shots of the boat on the lake. when it came in we did a few interviews.
As a keen but not very good ice hockey player the big one for me was meeting Adam McQuaid, defenceman for the Boston Bruins who had just beaten the Vancouver Canucks in the recent Stanley Cup Final games.
Doing the interview with Adam McQuaid.
With some good worthwhile material in the can we headed back to our hotel to get ready for another important part of the day.
In a restaurant on Charlottetown’s quaint old harbour area there was going to be the media reception of the tour.
Primarily for the Canadian media to meet the Duck and Duchess but, the UK media was also invited.
It was a bit of a rush for Richard and I to get ready after our day out on the lake but we quickly got brushed up and I tied the tie that I had bought from Tie Rack in Hearthrow’s terminal 3 on the way out to Canada.
There is a lot of protocol that surrounds Royal events and these media receptions are no exception.
The rule as far as the UK media is concerned is that there are no photographs or video taken and that anything that is said is not reported. It may be used as guidance and background only.
So it is strange to see normally slightly scruffy hacks, snappers and crews trussed up in collars and ties and cameras staying firmly away from trained beady eyes when they are as close as anyone ever gets to people usually seen through the lens at a distance.
However, there is no doubt that if any royal was to say anything outrageous or really unexpected it would be pretty certain to make the papers, be on the radio and quoted on TV.
That has yet to happen though because in the Palace PR game this is a given so the royals are still at work and mindful of what they say.
Small crowd outside the media reception.
So, back ot the hotel our working day was only half over. The report still had to be edited and sent back to Daybreak and with the time difference and the processes involved there was not a huge amount of time left for that to happen.
There were one or two little hiccups that did not help.
Of course Richard’s mac with Final Cut was an exemplary piece of kit. It was the pc laptop loaded with my arch nemesis and sleep depriving Avid that caused the problems.
We were editing and sending and creating a library all at the same time.
Richard was editing and I was trying to do the rest but the thing kept freezing, crashing and generally not doing quite what it should for most of the night.
All this did not infact cause any major delays in getting the material back to the UK. It just gave me cause to want to once again take windows and the software that runs on the system to northern Scandinavia so that I could give it the best Viking funeral ever. It would be great watching it burn brightly in huge hot orange flames and then sink without trace below the dark, cold, deep, waters of the north sea.
When eventually the reports were sent we could get to bed and get a tiny bit of much needed sleep.
It is not everyday I hit the pillow having shaken hands with a sporting hero and princess.
Three hours in bed was all that there was time for before I had to get up and get packed ready for the long day of travelling ahead.
We took the hire care back to the Charlottetown’s airport just in time to check in for the first of our three flights.
Our little transport in front of the larger royal one.
The Sea King that the Prince would ditch later in the day at Dalvay lake at Charlottetown airport.
The first leg of the journey was back to Montreal.
We had about an hour to wait for the next flight, the long one of the trip, to Calgary.
We had time for a quick breakfast of pancakes and juice.
The next flight lasted about four hours taking us way west.
There was a bit of a delay in our arrival into Calgary so we had to do a bit of a gate to gate dash to get on the final plane that would take us north to the Canadian wilderness and the diamond mining town of Yellowknife.
We knew that there would be something for us to do when we landed but would find out what was in the programme and news editor’s minds when we arrived.
Under normal circumstances when we switch our phones on after a flight there is a deluge of messages, most just repeats of ones sent or left earlier asking questions or making requests.
It was not the case in Yellowknife. Between us we had four phones. Not one of them would pick up a signal.
We bumped into the Sky News crew who were having similar problems but, at least a couple of their many phones did have a signal.
Richard needed to get a couple of e-mails, one regarding the time for a live broadcast that he had been asked to do for CTV the Canadian national commercial broadcaster, ITV’s equivalent.
The only place that we could fine any WiFi was in the rather scruffy McDonald’s that was in the midst of a refurbishment.
Luckily it was busy so we just loitered in the corner and got busy with our e-mails and twitter feeds without bothering to buy any of the horrid food they sell. OK maybe the coffee and doughnuts are just about acceptable.
The live broadcast for CTV was not such a rush as Richard had been told so we could relax a little on that and the report that was needed for the morning was going to consist of a lot of pictures that could be put on in London.
So, although we would have a long day working the chances were good for getting more than a couple of hours of sleep.
Going so far west we had gained an extra three hours on to the day. That meant that we would end up working those extra hours and we were already pretty knackered.
Yellowknife's baggage belt with polar bear and seal.
Yellowknife was very different to the places we had come from. The instant difference was the weather. It was very wet, grey but, thankfully not windy.
Wet and grey in Yellowknife.
It has the feel and look of a town that is designed for industry and survival. It is without pretence. Buildings are largely functional and utilitarian with only one or two exceptions. People dress for function rather than fashion.
Our hire car, a rather old and battered Ford Focus with huge cracks in the windscreen, was the last car available.
We did look on our American and Canadian media colleagues who drove off in newer, bigger, more spacious and luxurious vehicles than our rattling banger with a lttle envy.
The horrible weather through the cracked windscreen.
Interesting vehicles on the wet Yellowknife roads.
Our destination was to be APTN. This took us by surprise because we did not think that an international organisation like Associated Press Television would have a permanent bureau here and even a temporary one for this visit was la little unlikely.
It became clear when we arrived. APTN was Aboriginal Peoples Television.
Richard on the phone to London in the APTN office central Yellowknife.
On their very wet rooftop in the centre of the town Richard prepared to do his broadcast for CTV.
The same technical problems crop up wherever you are in the world. Brad my fellow cameraman was having trouble getting the talkback from CTV through to Richard.
Checking the talkback.
The time for the broadcast was fast approaching as is always the case.
With a matter of seconds to go the fault was traced to a dodgy telephone cable, probably affected by the heavy rain.
It was changed and suddenly Richard was talking to the News Anchor in the CTV main studio.
Richard on a coast to coast Canadian news bulletin.
The good thing then for us was that we would only have to do a little bit of work to produce the report for the morning. A lot of the pictures that Daybreak wanted in the report were already back in London.
The Duke and Duchess would be heading into the wilderness tomorrow to a place called Blachford Lake.
The only way to get there is by float plane. So we pitched up at the one of the Float Plane Bases and asked it I could film there aircraft and do a piece to camera.
In keeping with the rest of Canada the relaxed hospitality we were told we could do whatever we needed to do.
Arctic Sunwest's Twin Otter float plane.
Richard checks for e-mails before we do the piece to camera.
We did the piece to camera quickly and went up to a little hill nearby in the old town and I did some shots of the town.
Yellowknife from Pilot's monument.
The old town from the same spot.
It was getting late on in the evening by that time but the grey daylight was still very bright.
We needed to eat so we found a restaurant that we could combine eating and getting the little edit finished.
Over an Elk and Buffalo steaks with one of the waiters doubling up as singer we got the report done.
Editing in "Fuego" the basement restaurant.
I was about to head out to Tim Hortons to get some breakfast when I got a call that I was surprised to get.
Georgina, ITN’s royal producer called to ask if I would mind doing the pool at Blachford Lake.
Mind! For me it was potentially the best job on the whole tour. I casually said, “Of course. No problem.”
Richard was also going to be their to provide the journalistic briefing for the pool after the event.
The timing was perfect for us because it would happen through the night in the UK. The breakfast programmes would be first to broadcast the pictures.
Before going there we had to go to another little event in the town. William and possibly Kate would be playing street hockey.
We were there primarily to do a piece to camera with at least one of the couple in the background.
The sun was hot and the locals were turning out in force to see the visitors to their town.
Appropriate transport for the media in Yellowknife?
Richard and I talked about how we could make the piece to camera work on the little space on the camera platform on which we had staked our claim.
Packed camera platform.
Terry and the pool including Nathan from Sky News work out their positions.
Press Secretary Miguel Head at the street hockey.
The other Press Secretary Patrick talks to the legendary royal photographer Arthur Edwards.
A group of three women that we had been chatting to heard us saying that a stepladder might be of help and said that they could get one brought along.
A short while later a three step step ladder appeared.
Once again the Canadian hospitality and helpfulness came out so naturally.
Our three friends and the ladder they organised for me.
The Duke did take penalty shots but Kate just started a game by dropping the ball between the players at the face off. She could not play because she was wearing high heels.
Waving his goodbyes after failing to score in the street hockey.
Richard had been told that our media sea plane to Blachford would be leaving from the Air Tindi terminal on one side of the area of water that is home to a few float plane quays.
One of the many seaplanes on approach to Yellowknife.
It was on the approach to this facility that we encountered our first and only bit of jobsworth rudeness.
We stopped at the gate and the stern faced plain clothed policeman, hard eyes hidden behind his oval alien eye shaped sunglasses immediately barked, “You can’t come in here!”
“OK. Thanks. Is there anywhere around here where we can park?”, Richard said.
“I’m here to tell you that you can’t come in. I’m not a parking attendant!”, came the retort accompanied by a sneer and a dismissive wave of his hand.
“No need to be rude.”, said Richard as he wheeled the car around after a fraction of a stunned silence from us both.
We parked the car a very short distance away and went in. There was a plane ready at the quay and a pen for the media that was slowly filling up with photographers, reporters and cameramen.
Air Tindi Transport for the Duke and Duchess.
There was no sign of any of the other few guys that were going to be coming out with us and the departure time was creeping up.
I asked a guy wearing an Air Tindi shirt sipping a cup of coffee if the plane moored up was the media one.
He said that it was not. It was the one for the Duke and Duchess and that as far as he was aware the media flight had gone and it had left from another base.
I shouted at Richard who was busy in the phone that it appeared that the flight had gone and we were in the wrong place anyway.
There were a couple of official looking guys who offered to call to check.
Richard and I were in a slight panic. One of the biggest events of the tour for us had now possibly just slipped away from us.
One of the guys in a suit rushed out and said that indeed we should be at the other base and the flight was ready to go.
We heard his last few syllables as we were dashing back to the car.
Richard got us to the base at the other side leaving rubber and dust behind us.
We dashed into the place were we had done the piece to camera yesterday to see a plane at the quay. We slowed up a bit as we realised that we had probably made it in time.
We got to a dead stop when we found out that due to another bit of miscommunication we were actually the first to arrive.
When the others that were travelling with us did arrive we got onboard the plane.
Our Arctic Sunwest transport.
The journey out to Blachford Lake and Lodge in weather that was the complete opposite to the grim rain of yesterday was fantastic.
Taking off from the water.
I spent the short twenty minute flight getting shots of the bleak but spectacular scenery below.
The media passengers.
I also did a quick shot of Richard on the plane looking around and out the window.
Over the lakes on the way to Blachford.
The arrival in this amazing, beautiful wild wilderness was breathtaking, as the seaplane gently settled down on the lake.
Security always comes first. So before getting ashore properly our kit was checked.
Sniffer dog checking out my run bag.
Terry, our Canadian media organiser and minder had travelled with us. When we were ashore he gave us a briefing about what would happen.
We discussed how we would shoot the arrival and then set up the cameras up.
Waiting for the arrival of the Duke and Duchess....
....Richard starts to copy material in preparation for the fast edit later.
Unfortunately we did not get the shot of their sea plane touch down on the lake because it landed behind some trees and then taxied in to the quay.
They emerged from the plane and I rolled and that was the way it for the next few hours.
They get off the aircraft.
We filmed and photographed Wills and Kate as they looked at exhibits showing what the Canadian Rangers got up to and demonstrations from the indigenous Aboriginal people of their traditional way of life.
We would pause for a short while, get the shots we needed and then zip ahead of the couple to get ready for them coming to the next exhibit.
Wills and Kate get the initial briefing.
A shot from behind my camera.
Relaxed and enjoying the view.
There was a great bit of interaction between the royal couple when they were presented with a red Canadian Ranger hoodie each and put them on for a photograph.
Wills get Kate sorted.
William helped sort out the neck drawstrings that were a bit tangled on Kate’s top.
Security is never far away.
The final thing that we would be able to shoot was the pair accompanied by a big Aboriginal elder taking a canoe over to a tiny island out in the lake.
This was for most of us lensmen the money shot for the day.
It did not disappoint. The three of them paddling away emerged from behind the seaplane on the quay and headed the kilometre to the island.
It was a great image, spiky northern trees, a bright blue sky and couple of young people having a good time in a vast expanse of fairly open water.
William in the front with Kate and Aboriginal Elder Francois Pauli in the rear.
They had not even neared half way and we had all the shots we needed.
As soon as we started to stop shooting a small flotilla of small boats with little outboard motors each manned by two people followed the couple.
Security not far away even on water.
Our real work was about to begin because the event had taken a little bit longer than planned and we still had to get back to Yellowknife, edit and send the reports.
On the flight back there was no time to take any more shots. We needed to get the material into the mac to get started on the edit. The BBC and Sky would also need the material for their breakfast programmes.
Richard with the mac taking in the shots on the flight back to Yellowknife.
Back at the media centre in the middle of Yellowknife we set about the edit and distributed the pictures. We were all up against the clock now to make our transmission slots.
Richard on the edit.
We were in the middle of the edit when via Georgina the ITN producer we received a strong rebuke from the BBC.
They were very unhappy about the shot of Richard in the plane in the rushes because this had been a pool facility and it was against all the rules to put a shot in of the reporter on the facility if it is not possible for all the reporters in the pool to get the same opportunity.
As is it was the shot of Richard was not going to go into the piece so the wrist slapping from auntie was not required.
The report was not quite ready for the 6 am news bulletin but made it for all the rest.
It was well past midnight local time 7 am UK when we packed up and left the media centre.
Two things struck us straight away.
Firstly was that it was still very light albeit a dusky light.
1 am sky over the town of Yellowknife.
The second was that on the quiet Yellowknife streets in the still dusk air we were succulent fresh meat for the biting things that had not at all bothered us out at the lake although we had been warned that they might have been a problem.
They were not the only hungry ones. I was so much in need of food that I had to succumb and go to the 24 hr McDonalds that I had managed to avoid eating in yesterday.
I was so hungry that I almost enjoyed the fries and chicken nuggets I had before getting to bed.
As usual Richard and I had not had nearly as much sleep as we would had liked.
There was time for a quick look around one of the places that Kate and Wills saw yesterday but that we had not, The Legislative Assembly.
It is an impressive modern building where the representatives of the sparsely populated communities do the political thing in the manner of local traditions.
As in all the places we have visited in Canada we were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm.
We were offered a full tour of the place but the pressure of time meant that we were just able to stick our heads into the main Chamber.
The Chamber of the Legislative Assembly in Yellowknife.
Then it was off the airport to fly to Calgary.
Departure day weather a bit different from arrival day.
Richard and I were not on the same flight because the flights were full when our bookings were made.
I had a direct flight. Richard had drawn the short straw with a two leg flight via Edmonton.
The first problem popped up when Richard tried to check-in. Sure enough he had a reservation but a seat had not been paid for.
This seemed a tad confusing but, the upshot was that he was not guaranteed a seat on the aircraft and would not find out if he could get on until the flight had closed.
Luck was on his side. When I was heaving my boxes through the outsize scanner I heard his name called over the loudspeakers.
The worry then was that after a last minute boarding and very quick transfer in Edmonton he would get to Calgary but, would his bags?
My flight was full of media. The ITN and Sky News crews joined me along with a few other Canadian and American crews on the little aircraft.
As a result getting the baggage in the hold was not easy. I could see out of my window Hi Vis wearing baggage handlers talking and pointing.
Then the Captain went down for a chat.
I felt that I knew what was now going on. Some of the bags were being dumped. I hoped that none of mine were the chosen ones.
Eventually we got in the air.
Calgary also has less boring baggage belts.
A lot of work and money have obviously gone into them.
Richard had landed not much after me.
My fears, maybe not my worst ones but certainly a little of them were realised when the belt was empty and one of my cases was not there.
Trying to be smart I had split some of the things between the various cases. The one that was missing contained, amongst other things my toilet bag and the battery charger.
I had just been to the baggage office to fill-in the forms and explain that for some reason these flight cases that all travelling TV crews in the world use are not on the baggage recognition chart when Richard appeared bereft of all his bags.
We went back to the office where he went through the same rigmarole. The only difference being that he had regular bags.
Richard reports his missing bags in the baggage office.
With the promise that the bags would be with us by midnight we got a taxi to our hotel.
Again, unlike all our colleagues on this trip we did not head for the media hotel that housed the media centre in the heart of the action our hotel was near the airport.
The good news was that there was not much for us to do because the pictures that the Editors wanted in the morning’s report were already in London.
It was simply a case of getting a location, buying a Stetson for Richard to wear and record a piece to camera.
So not too much battery drain.
The chap wearing a checked shirt and a black stetson at the front desk of the hotel told us the best place locally to get the cowboy headgear that was derigeur for the ten days of the Calgary Stampede.
Whilst we were out spending Daybreak cash on wardrobe attire for Richard our media buddies at the media hotel were busy on twitter talking about the freebie top quality stetsons that were waiting for them in their rooms.
In the middle of the city right where the parade was going to take place we tried to find an inspiring location and Richard sought the same for his piece to camera.
Neither of us were that happy with the location because it did not really look as cowboyish as we would have liked.
We could have been in almost any city in the world. The only thing that would tell it apart would be folk geared up for the Stampede with stetsons on their heads.
Rather surprisingly there were not nearly as many of them around as we had hoped.
However, with a few passing yellow cabs and a couple of people wearing hats we did manage to get the thing done and make it look a little bit atmospheric.
With that done we joined the Ch5 News and Sky News crews at a nearby restaurant where we put the material in the mac and got it sent via the internet whilst we had a late dinner.
I had a bit of time to myself in the early part of the day so I spent a bit of time in the local mall.
My first assignment was to do the pool camera at the airport to record the arrival of the Duke and Duchess by helicopter.
This was a convenient one for me. I did not need to go on the media bus. I took a taxi the short distance from the hotel to the private terminal on the opposite side of the airport from the main passenger terminal.
There were already a hoard of local Canadian media queuing at the gate in the chainlink fence that would give access to the taped off press area on the other side.
Gathering at the gate.
TV crews working, arriving and waiting.
Squeezing through the gate.
Being on the pool along with a small handful of snappers, one Canadian TV cameraman recording and one other broadcasting live I did not feel the need to start jockeying for position at the gate to get the best position in the pen.
After the familiar chat with Terry about what was gong to happen we settled down in the sun to await the sound of the choppers.
Terry again giving us the details of what should happen.
The main media pen.
The pool position like all the media in the sun.
The VIP greeters wait in the shade.
Last minute adjustments for the Mounties.
Miguel sending an e-mail. (Could it be the one with the details of what the Duchess is wearing?)
We were given the standby.
Can't be far away here comes security.
A few moments later from the worst possible direction for shots four Hueys swooped into partial view.
If they had not been making their approach from behind the Prince’s large grey Canadian Air Force plane they would have made a great image as they came in to a soft touch down on the concrete stand.
The royal plane guarded by two motorcycle policemen.
The position we had was not really that much better than the view that the rest of the guys would get from behind the pen.
The shot that everyone wanted was Kate and Wills wearing the stetsons that they were going to be presented with as part of the traditional welcome to Calgary, particularly at stampede time.
We were to be disappointed. When Miguel the press secretary arrived he told us that it would be very unlikely that they would put them on but, they would most definitely be wearing them during their engagements involving the stampede.
The couple being presented with the traditional white stetsons.
The facility was not a complete disaster because a combination of a bit of a breeze blowing that caused Kate to have to control her thin yellow dress from blowing up and a shy little girl called Diamond who was suffering from cancer gave us all usable material.
On the bus on the way back a couple of Canadian photographers went through there shots to see if they had good skirt lifting shots like the iconic Marilyn Monroe grating shot.
The bus took us back to the media centre for a brief stop before heading to the main stampede venue.
On that journey Nathan from Sky copied my arrival shots.
My job at the stampede ground where the Prince and Princess would arrive on a stagecoach and watch some rodeo action was to do a piece to camera with Richard making sure the couple were in the background and likewise for Simon from Channel 5.
Nathan would do the same for Sky and ITN.
That was the plan until we got to the camera platforms. They were already full up with Canadian media that had arrived ahead of time.
There was just no room for even one more TV camera on the rostrums never mind space for a reporter to do a piece to camera.
The packed camera platform.
Richard and I commandeered the sets of steps up to the platforms at both ends and put them together at one end to improvise an ideal stage for the pieces to camera.
My camera on the left on the steps.
Richard in the piece to camera position.
One of the big satellite trucks at the BMO in Calgary.
The Sky News crew in relaxed mood.
At least there was now one usable place. We decided that I would then do all the pieces to camera and Nathan could get some more shots to cover the action.
I had one little technical problem to deal with. One of the locking knobs had come off in my hand when I had been adjusting the height of my tripod at the airport earlier.
Now I was unable to lock off one of the legs.
Nathan gave me the use of his because he did not need to be so high from the position he had taken at the front.
Getting all this organised had taken up a lot of the boring waiting time.
The pool for this one, including CH 5 News' Hedley waiting for the stagecoach.
It was not long before in the distance I could see two figures sitting high up on something moving.
It was the Duke and Duchess on the stagecoach.
The Duke and Duchess on the stagecoach.
As they came in I did a combination of shots of them and pieces to camera with the four correspondents
They had one go each. If they fluffed their lines it was back to the end of the queue to wait for another go.
All four being true professionals they all did them in one take.
They then went round again hoping for a better one.
Richard was the luckiest. I was starting on the couple as they watched the action and zooming out to reveal Richard.
Something must have happened in the ring because Kate’s expression was one of slightly astonished horror as I began to develop the shot and Richard delivered his lines.
The timing was spot on.
ITN’s Time Ewart was the only one of the four who actually did not need to have the Duke and Duchess in shot because of the way he was going to structure his report.
The pair stayed for quite a while so the pressure to get the pieces done quickly eased a little.
All the reporters got what they needed and I got some shots that would hopefully edit with the shots from the other cameras.
Wills and Kate then went into one of the halls where he would make his final speech in Canada.
Adam from ITN was all set up in there to record that.
As soon as they were out of our camera range we began the process of copying our pictures.
It was going to be another tight deadline for us breakfast TV people.
We got back to the media centre as quickly as we could to get cracking with the editing.
We got back before the Prince and Princess left.
Richard at the mac as the Duke and Duchess pass in their car.
The report was back in London via the internet in time for all the bulletins.
I was looking forward to a late meal and a good night’s sleep for the first time in a few days.
During the edit that slipped away when Georgina called to ask if I could do the final pool camera when the Duke and Duchess would be starting the parade.
It would mean another early start after another late finish but, at least I would get to see the Calgary Stampede parade.
With the material safely in the Daybreak computer server Richard and I went in search of food.
Just around the corner we found a restaurant that at 11 pm was still serving very good steaks.
Taxi back to hotel for me to get a few hours precious sleep. Richard would be able to get a bit more time in bed because his flight home via Chicago was in the afternoon. He would forego the early morning trip into the city for the parade.
I had tried to arrange a very late check out from my hotel because my flight to London was not due to leave until 9:30 pm.
Of course it was the start of 10 days of the stampede so there was little chance of that happening.
I did get a short extension until 2 pm at the latest.
That meant that I would have most of my bags packed before going out to the parade at around 6 am to get there before the roads around the media centre were closed.
Another small conspiracy against sleep.
I was up shortly before 5 am to get packed and organise my kit for the shoot.
It was just approaching 7 am when my taxi dropped my off at the traffic lights next to the hotel. The last minute traffic was very busy and the place was already heaving with people getting their positions to see the parade and the Wills and Kate.
They were going to drive the parade route in reverse. The original plan was that they would be in an open top car but, the cautious Calgary police had said no. So it would be in the same car used for the trips in the motorcade around the city.
I had only just entered through the hotel door when I had a feeling that I was missing something.
I did not have my mobile, the case of which doubled as my wallet.
I quickly looked outside but, the taxi had melted away into the distant traffic. I had no idea which way it had gone.
I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. I was out of communication with the rest of the guys because not only had the phone gone it had all the numbers I needed in the contacts.
More worryingly was that I was pretty much out of cash after spending it on taxis. I had been planning to get some out on my credit card.
I would also have a big excess baggage bill for my kit to pay at the airport.
I quelled the rising panic and pulled out the receipt the driver had given me to get the number of Checker Cabs the taxi company.
The good news was that the driver had put his car number on the card.
I called the cab company and they patched me straight through to his number.
It went to voice mail. I left a message.
I still did not know if the phone was safe and had not ended up in the hands of his next passenger who was a bit dodgy and could by now be buying exotic items on the internet.
I called the cab company back at the same time keeping an eye in the media coaches that were filling up and getting ready to leave. We’d been told that the only way to get to the area where the Duke and Duchess would watch the parade from was to go in the buses as they would be driving into a secure area.
Like my earlier call it was answered after one ring but, by a recorded voice that said they were experiencing very high call volumes and I was in a prioritised line.
My feet twitched nervously as I waited on a human voice. The lady that then answered what seemed like ages later could not have been more helpful but, it was not a speedy process.
I could see that the buses were pretty much ready to go with the Calgary media helpers ushering the stragglers onboard and getting a little twitchy about the roads getting closed. When that happened even for our semi official vehicle there would be no way to get past the security lock down.
At last I found myself speaking to the really friendly Indian driver who reassured me that he had found, or rather his next passenger had found my phone sitting on the floor.
He told me that he would drop it off at my hotel sometime before three o’clock.
I relaxed to the point of falling over with relief.
It was time to head to the parade start.
When we arrived the bulk of the media that wanted shots were in a large area opposite the platform where the VIPs would sit.
The main media area.
Once again our little group talked about how we would get the shots we needed with Terry.
This item we also had to think about Polecam and a Steadicams that was being used as part of the live broadcast of the proceedings.
We sorted it out. As this was my last event on the tour I thanked Terry for the help and his good organisation. Apart from the one huge debacle at the hospital in Montreal all things considered the facilities could not have gone much better or more smoothly.
We all then began the routine of waiting.
Big Chief Mounties arriving.
Terry and helpers. With so may horses around you've got to be prepared!
Media group. Sky News' Ed is pointing straight at the camera.
Calgary Policeman in cool cowboy hat uniform.
A great warm up band arrived and started to gee up our little VIP crowd.
In the distance down the road I could see the flashing lights of the motor cycle out riders shimmering through a light heat haze heralding the imminent arrival of the motorcade.
It pulled up exactly where it was planned to pull up and I got some lovely shots of them getting out the car and doing the meet and greet for the umpteenth time on the tour. I would be very surprised if any of these shots made an edit. Archive only I thought.
The shot I needed was them punching the big button to start the event.
When they hit the ceremonial button there would be a salvo from confetti canons.
Our little group got shots of them going up on to the podium.
Then there was a mad dash round from our side on position to the head on button pushing shot.
As I framed up I heard a huge bang and I saw the pair look up.
I had missed the actual push of the button by a fraction of a second.
A fraction of a second or the length of a geological epoch it did not matter, fact was I’d missed the money shot and there was nothing that I could do about it.
They were not going to get all the participants in one of the worlds biggest parade back to first positions because a cameraman had not moved quickly enough to get the shot.
Having said that they did not hang around when they got up on the podium before hitting the red button.
Everything else went off well. I got some shots of the pair chatting to each other, enjoying the parade, applauding the contingent from the Canadian army as they marched past and a shot of a little girl on a small horse blowing the princess a kiss.
The Duke and Duchess watching the parade.
Security also join in with wearing the stetsons.
They royals were not going to be there for the whole parade because they had other places to go to, more hands to shake and smiles to beam.
Kate certainly looked like she was enjoying it.
They left after they had stood up to acknowledge the Calgary Stampede Queen when on here light brown horse she stopped in front of the podium.
The arrangement was then for me to get the shots to ITN who would pass them on to the rest of the guys that were going to LA.
On the way there I saw an unfortunate driver who tried to ignore a police signal to stop and knocked down one of the rear motorcycle outriders.
The driver gets a ticket.....
.....as the motorcycle cop picks up his bike.
Georgina, Time and Adam were busy editing a piece for News at Ten when I arrived at the CTV building on a hill out of he city.
The CTV building....
....with it's great view of the city of Calgary,
and a few satellite dishes in the parking lot.
Adam and Georgina editing.
They did not need any of my stuff for their piece which would contain material broadcast by CTV.
One of their cameramen was lucky enough to be shooting tape at the point on the route when a woman had rushed forward from the crowd and thrown a gift bag at the royal car.
If it had been more sinister than a souvenir tossed by a somewhat silly well wisher it could have been a major problem.
It vindicated the apparently over cautious decision regarding the open top car.
With my material safely on an ITN P2 card for possible use by Sky News in their documentary my job on the Royal Tour of Canada 2011 was finished.
I called my new Indian taxi driver friend to see if he was close enough to come and collect me and take me back to the hotel.
He was and on the journey across town told me that his whole family had come to Canada from the Punjab twenty years ago.
I had to agree wholeheartedly when he said that he thought that Canada was a great place.
My shooting work way have come to an end but my day had hardly begun.
I had a long flight to London to come and then another short hop up to Edinburgh and home.
At Calgary airport I got through all the customs formalities and checking in the kit done efficiently if slightly expensively.
I chose a seat up towards the back of the aircraft.
Calgary from the airport as the clouds roll in now that the Duke and Duchess have gone.
The announcement at the gate before we boarded emphasised that because the flight was full hand luggage would have to be stored carefully.
There was a slight issue when the duty manager noticed in my open bag sitting beside me as I tapped away on my mac that there was a roll of gaffer tape there.
He would have to ask the flight crew if it would be OK for me to take in onboard.
I was given the all clear.
The good news was that I had made a good seating choice. There were only two free seats on the flight and the were beside me in my middle row of three.
So I managed to get stretched out and sleep more comfortably and for longer than I thought I would.
At Heathrow I cleared customs and gave the hired kit to a driver that Michelle from Daybreak had organised for me and got my flight north.
Some cameramen carry a lot more kit than me. There was a cameraman from NBC's London bureau on the same flight as I was and so was Hedley form CH 5 News. Strange how I did not see them in the departure lounge or on the plane.
Not that strange because whilst I was sitting in the main lounge they were in the business lounge and when I was sitting up the back in economy they were up the front.
Having said that with my three seats I did not do too badly.
NBC cameraman, his kit and airport helper.
The end of an enjoyable and interesting job had finally come to a close and with some leave to organise I was looking forward to some time off.