There had been a few jobs before I had to get my case packed again and head to the airport to do “Downsize in Dubai”, a fitness, mind and diet programme for four of Daybreak’s larger viewers who were lucky enough to be selected to head to the sun.
The most notable was a story about Mutley the 14 year old Ridgeback cross that had survived an operation to remove twenty horse shoe nail tips after he had eaten them.
Gregg with Mutley and his family the Weymouths .
The old nail eater himself.
A very hospitable family plying us their with delicious home made jams on toast.
On Saturday afternoon there was a mixture of pleasure, sadness and dismay after my flight from Edinburgh as I waited in Heathrow for the rest of the crew to arrive.
The pleasure was that I would be working with the lovely Sarah Heaney. It had been almost ten years since I had worked with her and it had always been a hoot. I was hoping that the passing of the years had not dimmed the flame of fun she emitted.
The dismay was that Simon the director with whom I have worked for over 16 years at Daybreak and GMTV was leaving as the ITV breakfast programme entered another era. This would be his last set of live broadcasts from foreign shores as a staff member.
Fingers crossed that we will hear his voice over talkback again as a freelancer.
The sadness was hearing that a much loved member of the GMTV staff, Billy Pond had died suddenly. The larger than life ex-production manager had passed away peacefully in his sleep.
During the meal that we had when the guys arrived we drank a toast to the memory of one of the nicest men in television.
I think we were expected..
..with our Trollies of kit to check-in.
Simon checks his camera.
The Virgin flight was not full. That was good news for most of us. Some, like Simon were upgraded to Upper Class. Some, like Nigel the sound mixer were upgraded to Premium Economy and others like me were not upgraded, but we did get three normal economy seats to stretch out on for the flight.
I’m not sure if anyone actually got much sleep though. A six hour flight really only gives you about three or four hours at best to try and sleep and with an aircraft carrying it’s fair share of babies and toddlers that is not that easy.
We exited Dubai’s passport control with the stamps in our passports and a pleasant “have a good day” from the immigration official dressed in his white dish dash.
Just before the Customs area were two x-ray scanners. We put our bags and the cameras that we were carrying on the belt.
The two customs officers manning the scanners immediately jumped into action when they saw the cameras. Simon and I were asked what we were doing, where were going and did we have a letter for the cameras.
A lady in an official black hijab then appeared, asked for our passports and guided us to as smart clean office where a blue suited Customs Officer told us to get all our equipment and then come back.
He kept our passports on the vast desk.
When we went back we had Nigel with his two trollies of sound kit in tow.
We presented our equipment lists.
He looked at them, looked at our passports, looked at us and shuffled the lists around.
After a few, “What are you doing? How many boxes?", type questions he said that we would need to pay a deposit that we would get back when we leave Dubai.
Whilst we were doing this all the rest of the guys were out on a coach waiting for us to pop out and join them on the bus to the hotel.
Several other Customs Officers similarly clad in crisp clean blue had a look at the lists and passports and shuffled them about.
It was clear pretty quickly that this process which many Customs departments around the world pretty much regard as a formality requiring a few lines in a ledger and a stamp on the list was going to be far from that today.
The rest of the group headed for the hotel after it became plain that this would be no five minute job.
Almost three hours later, £1500 poorer and minus some vital talkback equipment we heaved the remaining kit into a taxi and set off for the hotel.
Eventually the kit, well most of it, going into a Dubai taxi.
First sight on this trip of the Dubai skyline on the way to the hotel.
If things had been running to schedule we should have been well into the first shoot of the day at the Burj Khalifa, instead we were bouncing over the huge speed bumps on Dubai’s Palm at last on the way to our hotel, the very nice Atlantis.
Simon signing in at the exclusive reception area tucked away from the main lobby.
Not a bad view that way from my room..
...the views not so bad the other way either.
We checked in, dumped the kit, Simon shot a quick welcome sequence, grabbed some packed lunch boxes and then went to the Burj Khalifa to do a bit of shooting up at the top.
Director Simon quickly morphs into Cameraman Simon..
..shooting Sarah and the gang being greeted in the hotel lobby.
Emma Kenny and the girls clutching healthy lunch boxes head for the bus...
..senior producer Ali, presenter Sarah and executive producer Karl are not far behind.
First meal on the road this trip for producer Christina.
Heading to Downtown Dubai.
Spectacular buildings all the way..
...few as awe inspiring as the Burj Khalifa.
Walking to the tower (Burj is arabic for tower)
Emma Kenny, the mind expert used being up at the top of the world's largest free standing structure to talk to the “Downsizers” about achieving the heights if their ambitions that they have for their body shapes and sizes. There had been talk of getting them to climb up the one hundred and sixty stories but, that would have been too cruel on day one. later perhaps? Hmm.
We all took the very fast ear popping lift to the viewing area.
The dizzying view from the top.
When that was done there was a bit if a discussion about a piece to camera with Sarah and were it could be done in time to let us shoot the next thing which was a jeep safari out in the desert.
Time was now very much our enemy. It would be dark by 6 pm. Compromises had to be made. I shot the piece to camera with the bright sun, deep blue sky and the spectacular tall building as the backdrop. This was instead of a longish drive to have the sea and a bit of beach in the background.
Then after a bit of a logistical nightmare when the jeep safari people went to the wrong hotel to pick us up we were on our way to the desert with not much daylight left to work with.
After the tyres on the four wheel drive cars were slightly deflated to run better on the soft wind blown dunes we quickly did a piece to camera done to introduce what the “Downsizers” were going to experience and then we were off into the desert.
The endless dunes of the Arabian desert.
The tyres need to be a bit softer on sand than asphalt...
..that's why the tyres are let down a bit.
There was no time to rig our little GoPro camera or do anything fancy. The reaction shots of the guys being thrown around in the car were down to me as Abdul the driver skilfully sped the thing along gravity defying inclines, skidded it down steep slopes and threw it over blind sandy summits.
There was also no time for art or indeed anything other than trying to hold some kind of steady frame as a fought to keep the camera framed as like the “Downsizers” I tried to keep the contents of my stomach in.
Sadiq, one of the drivers throws the car around on the slithering sand.
At the end of that little bit if fun there was a bit of a surprise. Up until then it had been a fun filled day, albeit after having had hardly any sleep on the 6 hour flight and eating on the run.
That was about to change as our fitness expert Elise Lindsay had the guys running up and down a fairly steep sand dune.
It was not an easy task. For the first time this week and certainly not the last sweat was flowing and breaths came in gasps.
The sun setting over the sands.
We came back to the hotel and had a little bit of time to take in the splendour of our rooms and have some good buffet food. Simon, Nigel and I had a quick look at one of the locations that we would be using for one of our days of live broadcasting.
Producers Ali, John and by Karl the executive producer joined editor "Wurzle" in the room set aside as our production office to edit the material that we had shot. Through the night the edited pieces will be sent to Daybreak in London in time to Monday's programme.