Saturday, 19 February 2011

An extra octave

I'm sitting in the Bob Trollop, my favourite pub in the North East, looking out across a rain-swept Newcastle. The weather is truly horrible up here tiday. Apparently it's snowing on higher ground, but down here in the city, there’s nothing but murky, miserable mizzle. It’s Saturday, so the stags and hens are back at the Travelodge preparing for a night of heavy drinking and wearing very little. They've been running up and down the corridors all day.

It's 2pm and I've only just woken up. We had our night shoot last night, and I had to force myself to get out of bed after about 6 hours’ sleep, because missing daylight can be the most disorientating thing in the world. I shouted so much that I've lost the top end of my voice, but on the bright side, I’ve gained a lower octave, and I officially sound like Paul Robeson.

All things considered, yesterday’s shoot went astonishingly well. I’m not sure I’m the most popular man in the world with the cast and crew, as I was fairly relentlessly stroppy from about midnight onwards, but I guess when there are 200 people in front of you, none of whom have any experience of performing in front of a camera, and very little time to achieve the remarkable, you’re entitled to huff and blow just a little bit.

There were one or two technical problems with the playback facilities, we missed one opportunity for an incredible shot, a few of the younger kids got tired and emotional, and one or two of the older ones didn’t seem to have a clue what was happening to them! It's one thing to be part of a community project, and not have any experience of performing, but quite something else to turn round and say you don't know what you're meant to be singing, despite having recorded it just over a week ago in the studio! Bless them...

The staff at BBC Newcastle, however, are absolutely second to none. There's a running joke within the rest of the BBC, that you can't go to Newcastle without someone talking about their time on Byker Grove. We may laugh, but the experience of shooting a long running drama has made these guys capable of anything. They took everything in their stride. Cameraman Keith is a true craftsman with a very fine eye indeed, and the crew of jib ops, dolly grips, technical and floor managers did their job so well, I barely noticed they were there. I didn't need to cable bash. If I looked like I was about to trip over, the trip hazard miraculously vanished. On one occasion, I couldn't work out how they were doing a shot that I'd set up! That has to be a good sign!

Our Scrap Yard Location
Anyway, tonight is all about sitting in front of the telly at my Formica desk at the Travelodge. I have a lovely little upright chair to sit on, which has a nice wipe-clan cushion on the seat. If I lean back on it, is buckles rather perilously, which is great fun because I can pretend it’s a rocking chair!

Tuesday 19th February, 1661, and Pepys went to Whitehall, but was very offended not to be called into a meeting with various top dogs including the Duke of York and Sandwich. He consoled himself with the idea that the meeting was about something really “very private,” so very few people could have expected to be invited. Later on, he met one Mr Slingsby, the deputy master at the Royal mint, and was shown the proofs for a new set of coins, which showed the King’s face on them. Unfortunately, according to Pepys, the coins themselves were very disappointing, but he was assured by Slingsby that they’d soon be considered to be the finest in the world.

Pepys went to a pub, and there was more gossip about the King. Talk on the town was that he’d secretly married a (fictitious) Frenchwoman, but these rumours were well and truly scotched by a drinking companion. The weather was bitterly cold; “the first winter day we have yet had this winter.” So Pepys went home and read a play in Latin... As you do...

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