Saturday 16th March
Out of the blue late yesterday afternoon as my wife and I were having a celebratory drink because she had just been offered the job of Head Teacher of Edinburgh's flagship positive action school I got a call from Ant and Dec's Saturday Takeaway team.
Graham, the production manager asked if I could help them out with a bit of directing and coordinating.
There is a part in the programme where one of the studio audience members wins all the products seen in the commercial breaks.
When the audience come into the studio each one has their photograph taken.
These photographs are then put on a loop and shown on a large electronic billboard mounted on a van which is driven around a city.
Towards the end of the programme one of the photographs is randomly selected to win the prizes. It is called "Win The Ads".
So within the madness of the programme there are a couple of shots of the van. The first one shows the van moving past or near an iconic image in the city. The second is van standing statically when the winner is revealed on the screen.
Normally these shots are done live. However, this week for logistical and technical reasons they could not be done live. They would though, need to be done as near to the broadcast times of the slots as possible.
That’s where I came in. It would be my job to get the shots done and then whisk the tape to ITV Tyne Tees in Gateshead to get them down the line to the gallery in the South Bank in London.
The actual job would only take two or three hours.
So, this afternoon I met Lee the cameraman and the guys that drive the billboard van, Ian and Aiden.
|..checking that the screen is working|
I had a plan. Once Ian had received and loaded up the photographs we would get shots of the van going over the Tyne Bridge. It is by far the most iconic structure that says Newcastle.
Then on the Quayside with the bridge as a background we would do the reveal shot.
|Turning the screen round so that it faces in the correct direction to get the shot|
It took a couple of takes of the van going over the bridge before we got it right. On the first take the screen froze on one of the photographs for no apparent reason so we had to go again.
|Lee shooting the van as it crosses the Tyne Bridge|
|View of his monitor showing his shot|
|..it is set up for the reveal shot in the fading light|
|In the short time it was there it attracted a small..|
|..but excited crowd|
There was not much time to get the tape across to Tyne Tees in Gateshead in time for the programme.
I grabbed the tape from Lee once he had done the shot, jumped into the car and drove as fast as I could.
On the way I had a few calls from the gallery in London to check when I would get the material across.
I whisked into the Tyne Tees car park and dumped the car outside the front door where I was met by the technician who would feed the tape.
We dashed into the little room filled with all the technical gubbins. The tape was slotted into the machine. I called Dan the producer to check that he was seeing the shot, which he was.
The absolute deadline for getting the shots to London was 7 pm. We made it with just over ten minutes to spare.
Once I had seen the shots go out on air and was happy that it had worked it was time for dinner.
Newcastle has a reputation as a tough, hard drinking party city that is well deserved.
The Bigg Market might not be as boisterous and unpredictable as it was back in the eighties and nineties but there were still enough police vans around to quell an Athenian anti austerity riot.
Clinging to each other in small noisy groups, the girls universally wearing clothes that was like a second skin revealing all their contours, most much more lumpy than the few that actually looked good in the skimpy dresses.
They appeared to need to hold on to one and other to stay upright as they tottered along on tall thin stilettos trying to maintain an equilibrium that had been upset by their intake of cheap vodka.
Most of the guys roamed around in slightly larger packs than the girls. Although not physically holding on to each other their support system was more through loud manly banter.
There were a few lone wolves out there too. They had obviously taken a little time out of the gym to prepare themselves for the night's promenading.
Their hair was groomed either sightly spiky or smoothly slick, coated in expensive hair products. Tight t-shirts traced the outline of their over built chest and shoulders.
They swaggered without the need to counteract the effects of alcohol they either did not, or were yet to consume.
The whole area was in the process of the transition from slightly drunken lighthearted fun to a full blown post apocalyptic kebab munching, tear stained pavement pizza factory.
The restaurant we chose at random for our Geordie eating experience was just disgorging one of those noisy lager, and now curry fuelled groups of guys as we were taken to our table. A strange eerie calm settled over the restaurant as the echoes of the slurred nonsense coming from the crowd died with the closing of the door.
We chose our meal but, after having a chat with the very friendly waiter we had to try something special.
Unknowingly and without research we had stumbled upon a world renowned restaurant with an entry in the 2004 Guinness Book of Records for the longest curry delivery distance, from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Sydney Australia and the reputation for having the hottest curry.
The waiter brought us a small bowl of redish brown sauce.
The small amount that I scooped up with my little finger and then licked off was enough to numb my whole mouth, bring tears to my eyes and cause a delayed burning to the back of my throat.
The waiter was ready for our collective reaction. He produced a bowl of yogurt that we gratefully dug into.
He told us that very few people had managed to eat a whole meal. Some, self appointed very hot curry aficionados had not even made it to the toilet before succumbing to the sauce.
There was a moment of national pride when he told us that one of the rare times the dish had been defeated and devoured with no apparent difficulty was when a group of Scottish girls had come in, ordered the Chilli Hell, eaten it without demur, asked for the bill, payed up and went out on the town.
|Rupali's deadly, world renowned curry sauce.|