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.

Monday, 17 June 2013

A week on Dads Day Off with Gethin Jones

Monday 10th June

I was filled with dread in the taxi on the way to Edinburgh airport to catch my Flybe flight to Manchester this morning.

All my previous flights had cost the company far too much in excess baggage charges and had been a general nightmare.

This time proved to be very different because I was only taking minimum kit along with the camera.

Before I knew it I was sitting comfortably waiting to take off having had no stress at all with my two check-in bags and the two pieces of hand luggage which included the camera.

In the afternoon, at the location for tomorrow’s live broadcasts I met Christina the producer and Ray the rigger, they had driven up form London.

We would be doing a bit of a tour of the country with Gethin Jones. He would be surprising some dads who had been nominated by their family as being rather special.

Tomorrow we would be bursting in on a meeting at an architects office to surprise Martin. He had helped his little girl Darcie exceed the professional's gloomy prognosis on how her Cerebral Palsy would affect her life.

It took us a wee while to sort out the logistics of where we could park the satellite truck out of sight and how much cable Ray would have to manage.

Once that was done we could set our minds to much more important matters, where to have dinner.

When in the Manchester area with time it has to be the Curry Mile on Rusholme's Wilmslow Road. 

We decided on a restaurant but on what proved to be sound advice from our Asian taxi driver we ended up in a restaurant called Lal Qila. The meal was excellent.

When the poppadoms came there was the usual tray of dips. On the tray was a rather vivid green spicy chutney. It was certainly one of the best things I have ever tasted. I was so impressed with it and asked what it was made of.

The manager was slightly cagey about the full ingredients. What he did tell us was that it consisted of green peppers, green chillies, mango chutney, mint and coriander.

At the end of the meal he produced a takeaway dish full of the amazing stuff.

Tuesday 11th June
Greater Manchester

The satellite truck was parked in front of the Toll Point Bar around the corner from the office.
The truck outside the pub

Sound recordist Pete gets briefed by Christina
Handy when a 24hr McD's is not far for a bite of brekkie
We did a couple of short teases with Gethin and some of Martin's family obviously including little Darcie, and friends that had turned up to enjoy the surprise.
Christina telling our little crowd what would happen
Gethin has a chat with little Darcie
Gethin and the ladies

On the cue from the studio we went, along with the friends and family to the office and managing to avoid stumbling over some wheelie bins burst in on a meeting that had been set up as a rouse to get Martin into the most accessible office for us. 

It was the usual madness as we piled into the room without much room to manoeuvre.  Gethin then introduced the little film that had been shot detailing how supportive he had been of little Darcie, raising over £45K for an operation for her. 

I got Martin framed up so that the shot could be put in a little box which was inserted on the screen as the vt was playing.

His reaction was not extreme but emotional enough to make good television.

When the excitement was over, we had taken a few photos and said our goodbyes we were out almost as quickly as we had gone in.
After the broadcast. Martin's beside Darcie
It had gone well the feedback from the office in London was good. One down three to go.

The rest of the day was taken up with the drive to the next location near Ascot, stopping off at a motorway services Waitrose to collect lunch and then doing a bit of a recce of tomorrow's location.
Only day one and already it's all too much for Gethin
Christina there's a strange Welsh guy behind you
My travelling lunch..
..featuring the dip that we were given last night

Wednesday 12th June

The truck parked up..
Sat' engineer Simon and Ray pulling out the camera cable
Simon, sound recordist for the rest of the week
Gethin hiding in the crew bus putting his earpiece on
This morning's surprise was on Mimo. Last year he had been in a really bad motorcycle accident from which he was very lucky to survive.

His two daughters had nominated him. His treat was to get a Lamborgini to drive around in for the day.

Family and friends checking out the car
Doing one of the short teases
Posing with Gethin 
Once again everything went without a hitch, well except ray almost falling over some other wheelie bins.

Mimo's reaction was exactly what we wanted. The little film moved him to tears.

The car's now in the drive
Time for more...
This morning we had time to hang around for a cup of tea and chat with the family and have a bit of a laugh.

Even more inside..
..a bit wacky, that's Mimo in top
The ladies doing the important job!
Then we were off to Portsmouth which was only a relatively short drive away.

It was pity that the weather was so rubbish because we had time to have a look around the old dock area after we had been to have a look at tomorrow's location and worked out where the truck would be parked.

HMS Warrior brought back memories for me. I remember doing a lot of filming on board her when she was being restored in Hartlepool.

The whole area and HMS Victory in particular brought back lots of memories for Simon the sound recordist and Falkland's veteran. His ship was sunk during the war. 

He was based in this area during his time in the navy.

When he came back to Blighty after the sinking he spent time as a guide on Nelson's flagship.

Simon back on familiar seas
HMS Victory

Thursday 13th June

It was a long, but straight cable run from the truck to the house where we would spring the surprise.

Jamie was Tia's surrogate dad. She had nominated him because her father, Tony, had died of pancreatic cancer four years ago. Before he died he had asked best friend Jamie to take care of his precious daughter. 

Jamie had been true to his mate and aided by his parter Jodie, helped Katrina, Tony's wife, look after Tia.
Doing one of the teases in the truck
Screenshot of a screenshot of a photo Gethin took of me at work
What you looking at Ray?
Hiding in the bushes for one of the teases
Rigger Ray ready for action.. the tension builds before the surprise
Once more everything went according to plan. Jamie told us it had been the best day of his life. His surprise had been a message from Ian Wright, a signed Arsenal football and tickets to a game.
Another pose on the doorstep
Tia and Jamie
We did not have time to enjoy this morning's hospitality. I sad goodbye to my partially eaten doughnut and half drunk coffee.

Gethin needed a lift to the station to catch a train to London. He had to go for a medical in preparation for a trip to Afghanistan later in the year.

Dumping him at the station we set course of Coventry.

It was a short trip to just inside the M25.

Friday 14th June

Sometimes a recce is sort of unnecessary because things like cable runs and the place to park the truck are obvious.

Yesterday's was vital because there was nowhere to park the tuck that was not private land.

The ideal place for the truck was the car park of an old people's home.

Christina, using her undoubted Scottish charm got permission form the estate manager to use the car park.

So, this morning when we turned up it was all sorted. What we did do, or rather didn't do, was to fire up the generator that powers the truck until the last moment because we were right outside a few of the rooms and did not want to disturb the residents.

Danielle, now a mum herself had nominated her dad Neil because when she was eight he had rushed her into hospital, his fathers intuition telling him something was seriously wrong. 

It turned out that he was right. Danielle had Meningitis. Acting on his gut feeling had effectively saved Danielle's life.

It was a busy morning for Dad's Day Off on Daybreak because not only were we doing our bit in Ewell near Croydon there was a crew at Weston-super-Mare with Laura Hamilton springing another surprise.

Also we had a guest with us to help with rugby fan Neil's surprise. James Haskell one of the England players had come along to present Neil with a couple of tickets to an England game.
James arriving

Being a rugby man himself Gethin immediately got on with the banter. I'm not sure if James thought it was a stitch up being confronted with a Welsh presenter, Scottish cameraman and producer.

Just seen a ghost Gethin?

Sat' engineer Simon puts them in the spotlight

James and Gethin

In our satellite truck we watched Laura do her thing. The look of total bemusement on the Dad's face was superb. So far every reaction had been at least as good as we had wanted. None of them had any idea it was going to happen.

We did a few more little teases this morning than we had previously, making the most of our large guest.
Ready to go on the final tease
On the way to spring the surprise

We were probably more nervous about this surprise than any of the others this week. If anything is going to go wrong it often happens on the last day.
Final briefing from Christina

Almost ready to go
We need not have worried it all went off well. It was a little bit messy from my point of view but I did not miss any reactions and the shot of Neil holding his grandson's hand when the little film was being played was lovely.
Another happy family

James did have a friendly go at me after we had watched it back in the truck.

"I need to have a word with you about your camera angles." he said. "You make me look like a giant."

"But you are!" I replied looking up at him.

"Fair doos".

No time for anymore small talk or accepting hospitality this morning. As soon as we had finished packing up I was whisked straight off to Gatwick airport to get my flight north.
Flight home lining up on Gatwick's runway 26 Left for take off

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