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, 20 January 2012

More fun at Dubai Customs

Friday 20th

It was kind of pleasing to see that at 4:15 am when we started to get the gear loaded up to go the airport there was another crew also up and getting things organised at that ungodly hour.

It was the Chinese crew shooting the action movie setting up their camera.

The Chinese crew set up their camera... the Atlantis' lobby.

Thanks to someone from Dubai’s Visitor Information Bureau stumbling across this blog and reading about the hassle we had at the airport when we arrived. One of the bosses had come to see John the producer.

He apologised profusely about the problems and gave us a couple of phone numbers to call at the airport to help make things run more smoothly and quickly when we were departing.

He also said that as a token of their regret for the inconvenience we would each have a small present delivered to our rooms.

So, it wasn’t going to be a Range Rover then, a nice expensive watch perhaps. I know crews that have been given Rolexes worth £3 000 just for shooting a couple of interviews.

It would more realistically be a souvenir model of the Burj Khalifa or maybe just a small box of chocolates.

It must have been very small indeed because none of us could see that anything had been delivered.

The main thing was that should we need it there was a number of a man who could short circuit the customs process that we could imagine taking a long time.

After being given directions to customs we pushed our three laden trollies from where we were dropped off at departures out of the terminal along the road, in through another door, down a lift and along to arrivals.

We attempted to take the trollies through the automatic doors behind which we knew the customs office to be.

A stern but polite security officer told us that we could not go through the door unless we had a copy of our passports signed and stamped by the police.

Nigel and I followed the mans instructions back up and along to the police office,clutching our passports, leaving Simon looking after the trollies.

“Why you have three passports? You are only two.” asked the policeman sporting two broad red chevrons on the sleeve of his sharply ironed green shirt after he had interrogated us about why we needed to go to customs and looking rather disapprovingly at the forms we showed him, shaking his head as he mimed walkie talkies, cupped hand against his cheek, thumb pressing an imaginary press to talk switch.

“He is looking after the equipment.”, I answered.

“I must see him. He must come here!”

I went off to swap places with Simon as the policeman started dealing with Nigel’s and my passports.

As I walked towards Simon and the trollies at the end of the arrivals hall another security officer stopped me and asked where I was going and could I show him my passport.

After a brief but slightly terse conversation with him in which Simon joined in on and him forceful pointing out the we had passed a security check point he let me and Simon swap positions.

As I stood at the trollies waiting for the copying, stamping and signing to finish upstairs I thought that I would try one of the numbers on the sheet of paper from the Visitor’s Information Bureau.

I was not too surprised when it just rang out. It was only around 5:30 am.

Nigel and Simon appeared. We waved our photocopies at the security guard. He did not even look at them simply gesturing us to go through the door.

There was only one of the customs officers in the large office when we went in at a few minutes to 6. He was one of the guys that had dealt with us when we arrived.

That should help speed things up we though. Anyway, we still had four hours before the flight at 10 am.

We smiled and handed him our official bits of paper. He took them showing no recognition and not returning our slightly forced smiles.

The same ritual was re-enacted as when we arrived on Sunday.

He stared at the forms. He read them intently. He shuffled them over. He read them again. He laid them on the desk and silently walked away.

A little later he reappeared and shortly after him another more pleasant looking officer joined him.

This boy in blue gave us a smile and said hello. He picked up the form that related to the equipment that they had not let NIgel take into the country.

Turning to us he said, “NIggel?”

Nigel went over to him.

“Where is letter?”

“What letter?”

“You leave walkie talkie. Where is your letter?”

“What letter?”

“You need letter.”

“I don’t have a letter. You kept my equipment. I just want to get it back to take back to the UK.”

“You leave today?”


“OK. You will need to pay storage for the equipment then you can get it”

“Can we pay with the deposit for the other equipment when we get it back?”

“Of course. No problem.”

He then turned to a computer and began to look at what appeared to be an e-mail inbox.

He looked at that for a while clicked a few times with the mouse and then wandered off, coming back a little while later with a form which he started to fill out.

I thought that it might be an idea to try the other number that we had been given.

This time the phone was answered quickly. I explained who we were and why I was calling.

The voice on the other end asked to speak to the customs officer.

I handed him my iPhone. He took it with a confused look.

After a brief, quiet conversation he handed the phone back to me.

“It is all fine he is just going through the procedure.”

I thanked the nameless voice and cut the call. It was now nearing 7 am.

The rest of the guys would be just about to leave the hotel to come and join us at the airport.

A little while later the officer looked up from his from writing and asked us if we would like a tea or coffee.

He then said something to a man in light blue overalls who was tidying up the already pristine office.

He wandered off returning a little while later with a tray of small paper cups.

The three of us now bored and resigned to the long wait accepted the sweet tea. It was our first drink of the day.

A succession of other customs officers began trooping nonchalantly through the office door shaking hands with the each other, saying “Salaam Alekum”, then pressing their thumbs against a small panel on the wall which emitted a loud beep with each touch.

Our guy, who had been chatting quietly with Nigel as nothing much appeared to be getting done with our other three forms that would hopefully give us back most of the £1500 we had given as the deposit when we arrived got up with the small pouch containing Nigel's radios and sauntered into one of the offices next door.

He came back to tell us that he was going home and we should wait a bit longer.

There was now a lady customs officer behind the counter her long shapeless black dress was topped with shoulder epaulettes that had three gold stripes.

She busied herself at one of the computers and made a few calls on the her IPhone.

Suddenly after quite a long time of her tapping and talking she looked over as if seeing us for the first time.

“What you want?”

“We are here to get our cash deposit and equipment back so that we can go home.”

“Where is letter?”

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders. We had not seen any of our blue forms for quite some time.

“Where is document?”

“We cave them to your colleague ages ago. We don’t know where they are. The equipment is next door.”

She got up and went next door. When she came back we were pleased to see that she had the pouch with Nigel’s kit and the other forms.

At last we thought we are getting somewhere.

Time was ticking on. It was close to 8 am. The rest of the guys had arrived and checked in for the flight and Christina had checked in with us to see how things were progressing.

The lady started writing on the forms and asked us for our mobile numbers and e-mail addresses. She then told us to go to the “gold office” two doors away to collect our money.

A small sharp featured woman with four gold bars on the shoulders of her black dress asked what we wanted.

We told her.

“You won’t get that here. You must go back to the other office.”

Feeling more that a little confused we turned to go back to the office from which we had just arrived.

The small lady followed us and had a conversation with the other lady.

Indeed we had to go back to the gold office where another officer arrived not only with our forms but also the envelopes that had our cash in them.

Individually we had to take the envelope, count the cash and then sign a form which took him a while to fill in.

One of the forms..

..with a vital stamp.

Back in the original office the lady was given the now think sheaf of forms.

She looked at each form, shuffled them about, changed the order, shuffled them about again, picked up a stapler, looked at the forms, put the stapler down, changed the order of the forms, patted them so that they were neat, picked up the stapler again and closed it over the papers with a definite click.

She did this three times for each of our sets of forms.

This was of course after we had paid three sets of administration costs and three sets of costs for something we could not quite understand.

Then another officer appeared, took the forms, had a look at them, had a conversation with the lady pointing to things and then handed them back.

During this the short lady reappeared and asked if anyone had looked at the serial numbers on the equipment. In perfect unison Simon and I nodded our heads and said, “yes. When we arrived”.

I then took a call from Christina to say that there were two airport officials on the way across to try and help.

Another man came through the back door to the office, He was dressed in the traditional white dish dash, head dress secured with the contrasting black band.

The lady handed him the pouch telling us to follow him to check in.

It was 8:45 am. The flight was on time for a10 am departure. We still had to retrieve our passports from the police office, get to the departures part of the terminal and get our twenty two pieces of baggage through the security scanner before checking in.

When we were being given our passports back the two airport officials arrived in their white dish dashes and shades, as Christina said, looking rather like the Dubai Blues Brothers.

Our caravan of trollies now each with a pusher and minder went out of the airport, back in to the airport and along to departures.

It was now nearing 8:55 am. Christina called to say that the Virgin Atlantic check in would close at 9 am.

We were still trekking through the terminal nowhere near security.

A moment later she called back to say that they would keep check in open until we got there.

Things then really sped up.

The check in desk was right next to a quiet security. We got the baggage through as quickly as we could.

Nigel was given his pouch of bits to put in one of his boxes.

The kit was put on the large scales, tagged and we were given our boarding cards.

The kit going on the belt.

Simon paid the excess baggage bill.

Jake and Elwood guided us to an immigration office where our passports were stamped.

Our three helpers at the check-in desk.

They then took us through duty free and the shopping area to the gate where we met up with the rest of the guys a few moments before the gate closed.

It had only taken four and half hours from the time we arrived at the airport until we reached the gate in time for the final final call for the flight.

In a way I was glad that we did not have time to have a look around the shops. I was a bit too skint to be tempted to flash the cash on my credit card.

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