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, 13 November 2011

Time to relax and unwind. Not now though, idiot!

Saturday 12th

I was in a relaxed mood when I got up and started to get my packing done.

Chantal and Greg had already gone, taking flights to other parts of Australia to have holidays now that the work was done.

Nick was doing the same.

Christina was going to stay around the Perth area with a friend for a few days.

Michelle’s husband had flown in to join her. They also had a tour of the vast country planned.

Sarah was going to meet a backpacking pal she had not seen for a few years and visit places they had missed out on.

It was only Kate, Simon and I that were heading back home.

Kate had gone out and done her present shopping for her kids Darcy and Billy.

Simon had packed his kit.

At just before twelve we gathered to say good bye to Kate and Simon who were catching their Qantas flight at around 15:30.

I was wondering what I could do for the rest of the day as my flight was not leaving until after eleven at night. Would I just stroll around Fremantle? Did I need to do any shopping? How about a trip back to Cottesloe and spend a few hours soaking up the sun on the beach? What about having some fun with my new hobby and have a look for some Geocaches?

We were saying our good byes. Simon and Kate’s taxi had arrived.

My iPhone was in my hand. Something prompted me to check my flight time again. I opened up e-mail with the itinerary containing the details of most of my 14 flights and 10 hotels over the month I’d been criss-crossing Australia.

I scrolled down to the last set of three flights. There was the time of departure as I knew it would be, 23:20.

At first I could not quite believe what I was looking at as my eyes fell on the the details a couple of lines below the time. It said departing Singapore.

Flicking my thumb over the screen I revealed another time and another departure. My blood ran cold.

Coincidentally at that moment Simon asked the most innocent of questions, “What time do you fly?”

I looked at him with a face drained of colour and said, “In twenty minutes.”

I had been looking at the wrong flight. It was the leg from Singapore to London that would leave at 23:20. I was due to leave Perth International airport, a forty minute drive away at 12:20. It was now almost dead on midday.

I received the reaction I expected from those in our little group.

Visions of an extra expensive night in Fremantle, an even more expensive flight home and a lot of trying to explain away my stupidity flashed before me.

I composed myself and got on phone to Qantas who for once over the recent days actually answered the phone without me being on hold for literally hours and gave me a bit of good news. There was a flight that I could get which would still get me in to Singapore to be on time to connect with the flight to London.

The only thing was that they could not do anything about getting me booked on the flight because it was a British Airways booking. I would need to contact BA.

All at once I ordered my hire car to be brought round, my eleven bags and boxes to be brought out of the porter’s store and the phone number of BA.

“You’ll be lucky if you can get an answer from them though”, said the Head Concierge as he handed me the number, “they never answer when I call them,” he continued, half laughing.

Ian, Michelle’s husband helped me throw my baggage into the car.

I waved a rushed farewell and drove away setting the sat nav as a was pulling out of the car parking area.

I shoved the hands free kit in my ear and called the BA number. The advice was correct, well partially.

There was a reply, very quickly, by a recorded asian accented voice telling me that the British Airways office was only open from Monday to Friday.

I thought that I might get on better with the UK. So I checked the numbers on the website.

That was no good either because it was getting on for half past four in the morning back home and all the numbers were pretty much nine to five on weekdays. I could not and still can’t quite believe that there is not a twenty four hour help line for twits like me that need to get something sorted out in a time zone other than gmt or bst.

I did have better luck with American Express. A slightly sleepy voice answered their emergency number. He got straight on to the case and had my booking up on his screen instantly.

There was, as the Qantas guy had said availability on the flight that I was hoping to catch but, he could not change the booking, It had been closed out for booking and opened up for check in.

I would only be able to see if I could get on at the airport.

The rental car return, I was relieved to see was not too far from the terminal building and more importantly there were trollies nearby.

As fast as I could I loaded up my two trollies and pushed them piled with my eleven bags and boxes in a relay towards the check in desk.

There were a few amused faces looking at me as weaved my bulky towers through the waiting crowd in the arrivals area of the terminal.

Sweating I got there and saw Kate and Simon checking in for their flight which I discovered would now be my flight all going well.

I had made it in enough time for Rod at the ticket desk to get over a few problems that would not let him transfer my booking to the new flight even though thankfully the class of ticket would allow it and there was a seat available.

There was also enough time for the Australian customs officer to complete my carnets in slow time because not only had he not done one for a while he was training a young officer.

At last all I needed to do was to run to the rental car desk and chuck the keys and sat nav at them. It was even easier than that because there was no one at the desk, just a couple of slots marked “key return” and “GPS return”.

I met Simon and Kate in the lounge and even had time to throw down a cup of coffee. There was also enough time for a very distinguished gent and his wife to come up to Kate, confirm that she was who they thought she was, get their photograph taken with her and then go on to tell us how much they disliked Daybreak compared to GMTV, which was slightly embarrassing.

This leg of the flight was a five hour hop to Singapore with the long thirteen hour slog after that.

When we got to Singapore I had a couple of hours to wait for my BA flight to the UK. Kate and Simon should have had a similar wait for their Qantas flight but, as soon as we arrived Qantas staff at the top of the air pier were handing out meal vouchers to passengers who would be getting on that flight.

The flight was delayed by three hours.

I said my last good bye to the pair as they settled in for a long wait after organising the change in time to the cars that would meet them at the airport in the morning.

Just another twelve hours to London and another short hour's flight for me then I'd be home too in a slightly chilly Edinburgh.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Kids and cute kangaroos on 11-11-11.

Friday 11th

Christina the producer and I joined the Western Australia and Margaret River group on a walk around the beautiful King’s Park in Perth.

The shots would be used in today’s programme when we would be doing our live broadcasts from Perth’s most famous beach a little way up the coast from our base in Fremantle.

We would need to work quite quickly to both get the shots done and get back to get them fed to London and be ready to do the broadcasts.

We arrived at the park as lots of people were coming to gather at the War Memorial in the park for a service of remembrance and observe a minutes silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day eleventh month on this eleventh year of the twenty first century.

The lives that had been given in conflicts throughout the years was in even more sharp relief this time because over the last couple of weeks Australia has been hit hard by a number of deaths in Afghanistan.

Our group and we, all wearing little red Australian poppies, were taken on a tour of the gardens by a very knowledgeable and engaging guide called Greig.

Great views over to the city form the King's Park.

Greig doing his chat to the guys.

He showed us leaves from a tree that when rubbed and crushed between hands would produce an aroma and oil that could serve the same purpose as Vicks in easing a cold if rubbed on the chest.

He demonstrated how to quickly produce fire by rubbing sticks together.

I filmed the group listening and watching in the green surroundings of the park, A few of he men had a go at making fire, with of course mixed results.

Before the remembrance service started it was time for us to head back to the hotel in the hire car.

Then with no time to spare we were back in the car for the short journey up the cost from “Freo” to Cottesloe.

On the way to Cottesloe.

Greg's turn to edit on the move in the car.

Graham had already had the satellite truck parked up. He and Trevor were busy munching on a couple of very tasty looking pies.

Gathered at the truck.

There was no repeat of the multiple problems of yesterday when we came to send the material to Daybreak in London.

One of the problems had been narrowed down by Graham when he got home. it was a switch that had been stuck on which was causing the signal not to be sent to the correct part of the satellite equipment in his truck.

Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club.

Chantal, the producer of this morning’s segments had organised all the elements for a good series of broadcasts. Nature played it’s part by providing the clear deep blue sky and bright sun. It also allowed Trevor to exercise his skills as a sound recordist by whipping up a bit of wind, enough to make it more difficult to capture clean audio.

There were kids, crowds, hunks in trunks and cute little kangaroos.

The beautiful Cottesloe beach.

Time for some fish and chips between broadcasts.

Producer Christina with her new pal Joey.

The Joey in his pouch for travelling.

They really are just so cute.

Simon gathering the winners together for the live broadcast.

About to go in air.

More press coverage. Kate being interviewed by a local journalist.

It all went pretty much according to plan. Kate was even able to get in some banter with Dan in the studio and a surprise reunion with two cousins who had not seen each other for forty years in a short space of time.

At the end we got two of he life guards to throw Kate into the sea. It was a fun way to end.

Kate gets carried away.

All smiles after her dip in the sea.

Then it was officially a “wrap”.

We went back to the hotel, had a quick shower and once more went over to the the Little Creatures Brewery only this time it was not water in the bottles.

The nights winding down did not go on too late because we were all pretty tired. However, it was late enough for some dancing to be done and for Kate and Sarah to witness a streaker doing his thing with his thing!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Me Drunk? Never! and an evening afloat.

Thursday 10th

For the first time in what seemed like ages I had a full night’s sleep, disturbed by only a couple of mistimed test messages that pinged during the night.

Simon, Kate, Michelle and Sarah arrived after their early flight from Adelaide. Immediately Simon was at work getting the little pieces to camera he had shot at the airport in Adelaide ready to send to London.

Simon editing over breakfast.

Then we all nipped over the road to have a look at the location for the live broadcasts and meet Graham the satellite engineer along with Trevor the sound recordist.

The location was on a boardwalk around part of Fremantle harbour where a lot of the racing yachts would be assembling soon for the ISAF Sailing World Championships which will be held here from the 3rd to 18th of December.

Right beside this boardwalk is a famous Fremantle institution, the Little Creatures Brewery and it’s very good restaurant.

The Little Creatures Brewery tanks behind the bar.

As well as the main broadcasts we also had a few short pieces to do to tell viewers what would be coming up, called teases.

We wanted to do at least one of these teases in the brewery with it’s great view over the harbour and marina.

Kate had an idea that involved me. She would say that the brewery being so handy was great for the crew (ie me!). There would then be a shot of me glass or bottle in hand.

This little scenario became a quick two camera shoot. I did the main camera and at the point when Kate talked about the crew she would take a beer bottle from me there would be a cut to the camera that Simon would operate to see her doing it. She would then talk about things being out of focus and becoming. When the camera cut back to my shot it would be very out of focus and I would make the picture sharp on cue.

So at around twenty to seven I was about to appear, albeit briefly on screen as an inebriated camera operator.

We shot it and along with the stuff Simon had done we got ready to send them to London.

Simon getting the material ready to send from the truck.

The truck beside the brewery.

The gremlins then decided that they had been for too absent recently and came out to play.

The satellite was up and all was going well, for a few seconds that is.

Then Doug the technical director said that the pictures were not very good.

We could see the down link in the truck and the pictures looked fine.

There appeared to be a problem somewhere in London. Doug would chase that but, he was getting very busy because the Daybreak programme was about to go on air.

Graham called the earth station in Sydney to check it was all OK at their end.

It wasn’t.

There was a problem there too.

There was a lot of checking and rechecking of encoder numbers and symbol rates and frequencies along with, “can you see us now?” being asked repeatedly.

We were a bit baffled because we could see our signal on the trucks satellite receiver and it looked fine.

Then that seemed to disappear as well.

So now we, or rather Graham, Sydney and London were dealing with three separate problems.

More button pressing and phone calls were going on when eventually the picture seemed to be getting through.

Graham pressing buttons and checking numbers.

Simon, Chantal the producer and I were getting slightly twitchy because it was getting close to transmission time.

Things were looking good to go when the power in the truck died,

Graham switched to the generator bypassing the mains power that he was using and got things going again.

At last the short pieces got through to Daybreak and we could get on with doing the live broadcasts.

Michelle pins a poppy on Kate because it is almost Remembrance Day.

A rehearsal before doing it for real.

The first one went off without a hitch and so did the second one. The gremlins’ fun was over for the day.

Between broadcasts Michelle acts as photographer..

..with a camera or eleven!

On the second broadcast Kate did an interview with triple Olympic Gold Medalist yachtsman Ben Ainslie. He was very popular with the ladies in the production and tourism teams.

Ben and Kate. (I don't know what all the fuss is about. Just cos he's won gold medals and is a bit hunky)

It felt a bit like a nine to five normal hours job when the broadcasts were over and we had tidied up all the kit. This was because the time difference between us in Fremantle and the UK is eight hours.
Our broadcasting time finished at 4:30 pm.

Of course that was not the end of the working day, not by a long way.

After a little time to grab a bit to eat we would be all at sea.

I had some of the really good freshly caught and cooked fish and chips from one of the nearby fish restaurants before Michelle, Sarah and I joined some of the more adventurous competition winners onboard three yachts for an evening’s sail.

Really good fish and chips in paper.

One of the yachts we boarded from the Perth Royal Yacht Club.

The sun set sail.

Even at sea the work still goes on. Michelle and her Blackberry.

No such stress for the time being for Tourism Australia's Sarah.

The impressive Perth skyline at dusk form the water of the Swan River.

Even better as the darkness creeps in.

When we came back after the sail the material needed to be put into the computer so that Greg the editor could get on and do his job of editing.

In theory that should have been an easy job.

This time apart form one little computer crash it was.

A scary moment when the Blue Screen of Death popped up.

At least the computer restarted without another glitch.

Job done at around 9 pm. At least it was for me. Greg and Chantal still had to edit the material.