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, 24 June 2012

Gremlin's and Russian's revenge.

Friday 22nd June

Tiffany and I had not had the best night's sleep, mine due to the heat and loud American, Tiffany's mainly to a strong coffee after our late dinner.

With still three days to go until England's quarter final game against Italy here in Kiev there were not that many fans around yet and it was a bit early to get too excited about the game.

The cupola of a shopping mall covered to look like the match ball
So, we did not have too much to do on this warm, slightly overcast morning.

One of the "animals" around to be photographed..
..but not just now
There was one broadcast in the sports section to do followed by a short programme broadcast and one simple live shot. Then it would be breakfast.

Feeling hot and knackered I was pleased with that. There should be little stress and no dashing about. We knew the location and most of the little quirks that the kit throws up at the start of this sort of shoot had been seen, sorted and prepared for.

According to the gremlin code a false sense of security and complacency is the perfect time and place to spring into action. They did.

After I had done a very short live shot we had a simple "stand-upper" live broadcast into the sports bulletin.

Tiffany would delver a few short lines linking into a short recorded interview with Joe Hart the England team's goal keeper. When that interview clip was finished she would then say a little bit more and then it would be back to the studio.

As far as live television goes it is the simplest and least technically demanding of things that we do.

Gavin, in the studio linked to Tiffany and she did her introduction to the interview clip.

It was then after a long time of inactivity the gremlins spring their ambush.

At the exact moment Joe Hart started to speak I saw the audio meter in my viewfinder flash up to the limit. This was accompanied by a very loud fizzing noise and big splat.

Then there was silence. Tiffany's radio mic had died.

Simultaneously I did two things. I motioned and asked Tiffany to get closer to the camera. I flipped down the cover on the side of the camera. Then as fast as my not very nimble fingers could do it I flicked down the two audio switches that would sent the sound from the microphone on the front of the camera to the satellite truck at an automatic level.

I was just putting my eye back in the viewfinder to check the framing when Tiffany started to speak.

To my great relief I saw the audio meter doing the right thing and heard her voice clearly from both my monitoring speaker and coming back down the talkback from the gallery.

It was a bit of a surprise that I could not also hear my heart thumping hard and loud as it did when the sound from the radio mic had disappeared.

We had to wait for a little while before the next slightly longer and much less static programme broadcast. This gave me time to get my flight or fight reflex back to normal.

Bernie Clifton was our guest on that broadcast to talk about the long and difficult journeys that the fans were having to make.

The England band were getting around in a Ford Transit on roads that are not exactly top notch motorways.

Tiffany interviewing Bernie
Bernie is booked to do summer season in Blackpool and needs to be as fit as he can be. So, he, like us had flown to Kiev rather than be bounced around facing backwards in a cramped van again.

He was staying with a family in Kiev who had befriended another little group of fans who were now actually on their way home. He came to the broadcast with one of he daughters from the family.

Bernie with Tiffany and Victoria
Once the broadcasts were finished we were given an early clear and went off to have breakfast at almost breakfast time.

The president's convoy did not disturb us today

The nearest place was round the corner in quite a large hotel. 

After prepaying for the breakfast at reception we were guided to the breakfast room around a dark corner. 

Rounding the corner we were confronted with an airport style security gate. 

Passing through it and having been given the once over by the big bored security guard with a lingering BO problem we found the place for breakfast. 

It was in the bar beside a huge dark empty hall filled with pools of light falling on black jack tables and a huge screen at the end. 

Once we had finished our strange breakfast in a strange place we headed back along the long wide fast road  out of the city to the hotel. 

We might not have been hungry but we were a bit tired and very hot. So when we got to the lifts and discovered that they were not working we were not amused, particularly when after waiting for five minutes or so none of the staff could tell us what was going on.

Lifts out of service

Initially Tiffany had a momentary loss of sense of humour and asked to see the manager. /A short time later my fuse blew and I forcefully reiterated the request.

When Rav joined in a rather sweaty handsome harassed looking Srilankan man appeared wearing a white Ramada branded polo shirt.

He announced himself as the manager of the property.

Led by Rav, we subjected him to a torrent of complaints;  lifts not working, no information, lack of baggage trolleys and porters, things not on the restaurant menu, air con not working.

He was very apologetic. As he began to explain about the problems one of the lifts began working again and with him asking what our room numbers were we jumped into the lift and went to our rooms.

When I got there I called to ask if I could have a laundry list and bag, and if someone could possibly come and have a look at my air conditioning system.

One hour and four increasingly curt phone calls later, repeating the request, there was a knock at my door. I was confronted by two breathless girls, one clutching a sheaf of laundry forms in one hand and a stack of plastic laundry bags in the other. The second one asked for the laundry.

They looked at each other and then at me as they caught their breath. It was clear that they had arrived at my door from opposite sides.

The girl said it would be another half hour before anyone would come to sort my air con. /I took the bag and form, went back inside and began to fill it.

I had just finished when there was another knock at my door. A smaller Srilankan chap in a dark blue polo shirt was smiling at me as I opened the door.

"We have been speaking to your colleague Rav and if it is convenient we would like to upgrade your rooms and take you up to our apartments".

How could I refuse.

In piled a hoard of housekeeping staff who like a line of Sherpas carried all my belongings up to the 20th floor.

On the way up the lady that had taken charge of my laundry told me that I would be the first person to stay in that room.

It transpired that the reason that the lifts  had been stopped was because some local health and safety planning officials had shut them down to be "inspected!".

The "inspection" was completed after the manager had handed over the equivalent of £5000 in a brown envelope to the officials to prevent the shut down continuing.

Ukrainian officials "Inspecting" the lifts

What was behind that was that a Russian company had lost in the bidding to install the lifts. So using their contacts they were trying to exact some kind of revenge.

Along with the used notes the manager had to provide detailed and extensive plans of the lifts translated in to Ukrainian. This had to be done within two weeks or there would be a return visit.

The rest of the day we rested in our nice new rooms with the lovely prospect of no real work to do tomorrow except a bit of checking out possible alternative locations. 

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