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

Big boy's toys


Saturday 23rd June
Kiev

We all had a proper good night's sleep for the first time in a while. Then it was a relaxing for us all.

Tiffany went off to get her toe nails painted.

The result of Tiffany's day
Rav and I went to check out some possible alternative Kiev locations for our live broadcasts and found a bit of culture...

...boy's culture. Defence of the Motherland statue
Hind helicopter gunship..
ICBM launcher

MIG 23
Missile under the wing
Cockpit
T34 tank
More massive war monuments


Gremlin's and Russian's revenge.


Friday 22nd June
Kiev

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. 

Back to the city, well outskirts, of Kiev


Thursday 21st 
Donetsk and Kiev

At around 5 am I was roused from a deep sleep. I don't think I'd moved position since I switched my bedside light at 10 pm.

When I had worked out where I was I answered the unfamiliar ring tone coming from my local mobile. It was Rav with great news.

The news and programme editors of Daybreak back in London had decided that we were not needed for this morning's programme.

Very happily I switched off my alarm that was just about to go off and rolled back for another three hours solid uninterrupted sleep.

For the three of us it was like being reborn. We felt refreshed and reinvigorated.

It looked like a nice easy stress free day, just a flight to Kiev in the late afternoon.

Having the small hire car meant that we needed another vehicle to transport our luggage to the airport. So we asked for something big enough to take our ten bags. Once more the driver was a little bit confused when we put all the bags and boxes on board and then jumped into a car.

Just for our bags and kit!

The wheels started to come off the rails a little when we arrived at the airport.

As now knowledgeable and well versed in travelling from Donetsk to Kiev we went straight to the old terminal and heaved our kit out of the hire car and up the steps.

Tiffany went in first and was told that the flights now left from the new terminal. 

Nor sure if the policeman would have helped me carry the boxes!

When we got there we saw a sign on the door. 

Might have been better to put this at the old terminal

At least this building was air conditioned which helped cool down our sweaty bodies and the check in procedure was fairly efficient. We only had to put each bit the kit on to the scales twice to be weighed and tagged. 

We did encounter a bit of fuss at the security area. 

Kevin Miles from the England Fans Federation and his little entourage were on the same flight. They were in the security line just in front of us. 

One of the ladies, who is diabetic had a pack with insulin syringes in her carry on bag. Like us they had done quite a few flights following the tournament. She had not encountered any issues at any of the other airport security checks.  

She did have a letter from her doctor to say that she needed the insulin. However, because she'd not been asked for it anywhere else it was now packed in her hold bag which was now on its way to the aircraft.

On this occasion the eagle eyed boys and girls with their shiny new x ray kit,  hand held and body scanners spotted the sealed boxes.

There was no way that they were going to let them go through. There was no rudeness or disrespect, just a very firm immovable polite refusal.

Rav had a word with the security  lady who spoke perfect English. She was pleasant and well meaning yet as immovable as her stature implied. 

Ever resourceful and connected Kevin got straight on to the phone to the British Embassy to see if they could help.

Someone from there spoke at great length with the head of security from the airport. At the end of that conversation it was quite clear that rules were rules and there could be no deviating from them. They were quite clear and unbending that if anything like the syringes were found with no official medical documentation they could not be taken on to the aircraft. 

However, what would happen if they were carefully concealed in a person's hand luggage and were not spotted by security? 

It was then suggested by the lovely but, never the less slightly intimidating security lady, that Kevin's friend might want to take her box of insulin, put it back in her bag, possibly right at the bottom and join the end of the security line.

The next time we saw them was when we were waiting to collect our bags and kit in Kiev.

It was after, or in fact during the wait at the domestic baggage belt that the hiccups in the plan started again.Rav had gone to get the hire car in the hope to speed our departure from the airport whilst Tiffany and I loaded the gear onto trolleys.

Rav encountered the same problem that we had in Donetsk. The car was too small for us and the kit. 

There was no Maria to let loose on the staff from Avis this time but, Rav and learnt well from the expert and in no time had persuaded them that they should come up with the sort of car that we needed and had in fact ordered. 

One was found. After a bit of a wait Rav appeared at the terminal in a big black Mitsubishi four wheel drive tank. 

The one thing that Rav's powers of persuasion had not managed to achieve was getting a sat' nav' for the car. 

So, with me driving and Rav trying to navigate using a combination of a map which was only in Cyrillic script, a very dodgy Internet modem signal and an equally unreliable Blackberry map we set off towards our hotel which we knew was not anywhere near the city centre. 

It's all Cyrillic to Rav..

..so, let's try technology

Using a combination of skill, judgement, luck and following the setting sun we ended up at our hotel after only a couple of minor detours around the grim, grey, soviet style housing blocks in the  rather less affluent areas of the city. 

We had been warned by a few fans that had been going to stay at the Ramada Encore that it was not quite finished and not exactly located for a quick wander to anywhere never mind the city centre. 

The huge smoked glass towered above everything that was nothing all around the motorway junction.  

The words of caution from the fans who had just turned around and looked for somewhere else to say were spot on. 


Ramada Encore..

..tallest building for miles.
Part hotel part building site..

..it's going to be the hotel's business centre

I had the choice of almost all the spaces in the vast multi-storey car park or any of the spaces out front. After carefully choosing we unloaded the car and asked for a porter to help with the bags. 

The deserted multi storey car park

The car park at the front of the hotel
There was no one apart from two big necked, surly looking security men who showed as much intention of helping as giving up steroids. 

There was a similar lack of baggage trolleys. 

When we were checking in one of the reception staff offered to help. It was the first time this trip where a tip had actually been earned. Between us we manhandled the eight bags and boxes from the front of the hotel up to my room. 

The city? way in the distance 

We went straight for dinner. A number of the dishes on the menu were unavailable. 

Not sure if the dinning room is finished yet

Then my personal stress ramped up as a result of a text and phone call from my wife. 

Having been away from home for a while Rav and I had organised to get some flowers sent to our wives. 

The flowers had been delivered but, in my case the delivery man had decided to leave them in the garage. In the process he had managed to open but not close the door. 

My wife had come home, not to a lovely bouquet of flowers but, a gaping garage door hanging off it's runners at a weird angle. 

There was the potential for a lot of things to be simply lifted out of the garage without any trouble. 

My gesture had somewhat backfired. Rather than having a happy and pleased wife I know had one that was perfectly understandably angry and worried about the security of the contents of the garage. 

Picture my wife sent me of the gaping garage door

I came to my at around 11 pm hoping for about 5 hours sleep.

Kiev was having a bit of a heat wave and I was feeling it in my room. The air conditioning was not working.

I thought about calling reception to try and get it sorted but, given how things had gone so far I decided to see if I could cope without the disruption of someone coming to the room to check it out and then a possible relocation to another room when I had unpacked all my stuff.

I did manage to just about get to sleep when a rather loud American in one of the rooms next to me decided that he should call home and had a long reverberating conversation which kept me awake for at least another hour or so.

Just to complete my discomfort somebody in the room above started to do some sort to dance practice, at least that is what it sounded like, on the laminate flooring above my head.

To say that I was not a happy bunny would be putting it mildly.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Back to the camp


Wednesday 20th June
Donetsk

When we met at the hotel reception for the drive to this morning's location, the campsite on the outskirts of the city from which we had done our broadcasts before we were not quite as awake as we would have liked.

Rav had managed an hour or so of sleep after dealing with the needs of the programme and news desk at Daybreak in London, and getting the report edited. Tiffany had suffered the same consequence as me from having drunk so much coffee so late. Both of us had perhaps managed two hours of near unconsciousness.

We heaved our weary selves into the car and I drove us to firstly pick up Maria, who looked a tad fresher than us and was sensibly sporting a nice Euro 2012 baseball cap, it was gong to be a hot one, then going to meet Keith with the satellite truck for the drive in convoy to the campsite.


Coming to open the gate to the camp

No stress getting in this time. Maria had obviously left a lasting impression. They were not going to temp inducing her wrath again.


Chillin' after last night's celebrations 
The morning was nicely evenly paced with broadcasts into the news bulletin, a sports one, one little tease, one short programme one and a bit into Lorraine's programme just to round the morning off.

The stupid satellite system could not find itself again so Keith had to give it a bit of a technical kicking again to get it going.


The ITN truck with Keith doing his thing
The techie stuff that Keith gets to play with..
.. the back. Dish of the day; Spaghetti 
It had become almost a routine proceedure now. We were all ready to go with all the technical things in place well before we went on air which was a real relief  none of us were in the mood for dealing with any stress.

Rav and Tiffany go through the scripts
Time alone to memorise the lines
The rest of the day had the possibility of shaping up to be a bit of a pain in the ass that would deprive us of catching up on any of the sleep we'd lost over the last couple of days.

We had to go to another hotel. The Prague would be full tonight.

Emily in London had sorted us a couple of nights in another hotel in the centre of the city for another couple of nights.

Before we left the campsite tentative plans were in place for the next part of the tournament.

The England and France teams had obviously decided not to fall in with the plans of most of the fans and media. If they had France would have beaten Sweden and England would have drawn with Ukraine or at least beaten them by less than France should have beaten Sweden.

Then England would have come second in the group as was hoped for at best. The result being the next game being played here on Donetsk.

Most of the media and a large number of the fans had arrangements in place to deal with that. Hotels had been booked and tickets to the quarter final game.

We would now only have one night in our nice hotel in Donetsk before having to head to Kiev after doing some live broadcasts in the morning.

When we got to the Park Inn it was such a relief, a new, very clean, efficient place with spacious rooms and good air conditioning.

There was no requirement to do any shooting, sorting out any locations or finding guests for the limited broadcasting that was planed for us in the morning.

It was the first time that we would have a few hours of free time and did not need to be together.

Tiffany and Rav opted to retreat to their respective rooms, indulge in a bit of room service and hit the hay early.

I on the other hand decided to go for the restaurant option in the hotel and then get an early night.

I think we we were all tucked up and asleep by at the latest 10 pm

That would give us almost a full eight hours before having to be up to head to the stadium for our live broadcasts.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Mini Flash Mob and England v Ukraine


Tuesday 19th June 
Donetsk


As expected this morning was indeed busy. 

Edit van and sat' truck in the Broadcast compound
A sticker or two on this Ukrainian TV truck
We had some fans from both England and Ukraine, Henry Winter, a small "Flash Mob" and the man in charge of the English police operation here in Donetsk. One other thing that made this morning more difficult was that it was match day. 


Consequently security had increased. Instead of just wandering to the broadcast compound, where the satellite truck needed to be parked, to get kit and sort out any problems, we had to go through a security gate and take a much longer route to the truck. 


So, it was a relief that there were no glitches that required a mad dash to the truck. The only slight panic was from the sound department in London when a few seconds before our long programme broadcast there was a bit of break up on the radio mic. When the broadcast started the mic behaved perfectly. 



The early guests arrive

Henry Winter and Rav before he goes on air

Rav and Maria with our tiny Flash Mob 

Doing their thing


Between broadcast we did an interview with Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt which was not live but, recorded to be used by ITN.



ACC Andy Holt does a radio phono after our recorded interview

Someone on the Standard news desk in London must have been watching the programme because one of their photographers working out here on the Euros came over to get some pictures of the fans that we had featured in our broadcasts.



The London Standard's photographer gets his shots


A huge advertising poster now over the building beside the Liverpool hotel.

Not the biggest or tidiest room at the Prague

We had a bit of a break before the crunch game Engald v Ukraine.  Once again we were faced with the logistical dilema of where we could keep the camera so that it would be close enough to easy get after the game for our shots and interviews with the fans leaving the stadium. 


I managed to get our hire car parked quite close to the ground. Rav went off to do some shots of any fans watching the game on TV away from the ground. 


Wayne Rooney nearly gets a second

Andy Cole has a go

There were about ten minutes to go to the end of the game with England leading one nil and the Ukrainians having had a goal disallowed when Tiffany and I left the ground to collect the camera kit. 


We got back as the fans started spilling out. 


We got the piece to camera and vox pops done. It was already quite late because the game had not kicked off until 9:45 local time. Rav had not seen many England fans who had not gone to the game. We met up with him and returned to the hotel. 


The night dragged on until the early hours before we got the full details of what was wanted in the report and what we would be doing in the morning.


Then we recorded the voice over in Rav's room.


It was after 1 am when Tiffany and I retreated to our bedrooms to get a few hours sleep before having to be up at around 5 am in order to get ready to return to the campsite on the outskirts of the city for the morning's broadcasts.


It was then that the folly of having two cups of espresso during the game and a cappuccino back at the hotel whilst we worked out the script became apparent.


There was now a busy party in my head and no amount of counting sheep, concentrating on my eyelids or trying to induce a hypnotic trance could calm it down and get me to sleep.


I probably did get maybe two hours if I was lucky.


There was also now a nightmare logistical scenario for Emily, the sports producer back at Daybreak in London. 


With England winning the group against all expectations the next game would be in Kiev on Sunday.


Back at Daybreak and ITN in London they would have to work out how and where all our broadcasts would come from up until the game.


It looked like we would be on the move again even though Daybreak does not have any programmes on at the weekend.


It was good news for me. I would now be reunited with my hat!