Wednesday, 5 September 2012


I am on a train returning from Newcastle. The light bouncing off the fields is remarkable. It’s chrome-like; pure and clean, and highly unusual for this time of year. September fields are often shrouded in a dusty, misty light. Maybe that’s what a rubbish summer does to light! I wonder if autumn will come late this year? I get the feeling that the trees are rather enjoying the first sunshine they’ve seen and are in no hurry to start shedding leaves.

We’ve been looking at early entries for the BBC 100 Faces project today. People have been asked to write in and say – in no more than 12 words – what made 2012 significant for them, and we’ve had some wonderful stories, ranging from the 7-year old who learned to ride her bike without stabilizers this year, to the man in his 30s whose family was destroyed by the closure of a mine. Each person selected will represent the year of their birth from 1912 all the way up to 2012, so the oldest person featured will be 100, which is very cool... if we can find someone that age who wants to take part! The oldest entry we’ve had so far comes from an 86 year-old... so we might have to visit a few retirement homes in the coming weeks!

It was, as ever, wonderful to be back in Newcastle; a city which holds so many special memories for me. I lived there for a number of weeks whilst making the Metro films and I think it’s one of Britain’s greatest and most beautiful cities. I still get a genuine sense of excitement as the train pulls into the station just after crossing the Tyne. The view of those extraordinary bridges never gets old.

It was great to see the gang up there again. The set-up at BBC Newcastle is second to none. The talent base they have there in terms of film makers is extraordinary. Curiously, this has a lot to do with children’s television. They made Byker Grove and Tracy Beaker in the region for many years, so there are gaffers, best boys and dolly ops scattered all over the city and its surrounds. It was particularly great to see cameraman Keith again. He arrived brandishing a special Moleskine notebook especially for storyboarding, which he presented to me as a gift.  He’s gone the colour of David Dickenson following a holiday somewhere fancy. His tan made me look like an orthodox jew! I’m really excited about getting cracking on this project. It’ll be nice to have something to move onto when I finally close the doors on the Requiem after two obsessive years!

On my way up to Newcastle, I was forced to change trains at Doncaster Station. I stood for a while in the queue at the Costa Coffee shop, and as it got to my turn, I took out my wallet and was horrified to see a cascade of coins dropping out onto the floor. The woman behind me in the queue; a sprightly Yorkshire lady, made a joke: “oh dear, someone’s chucking his money away,” she said, smiling endearingly, “must have plenty.” There was no attempt to help me – and when I’d finally picked up the last 2 pence, I realised, she’d used the moment to push in front of me! That’s Yorkshire grit for you!

350 years ago, Pepys spent the morning in various Navy stores in Woolwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe (or Redriffe as it was then known), stopping at one point to watch a rather grand boat race which tested the speed of various vessels. He walked for miles and got himself in a sweat so treated himself to a river taxi. The boat journey scared him, however. It was a very cold and windy morning and the Thames was, no doubt, choppy. Pepys returned to his lodgings to “rub himself clean.” This was in the era of the great unwashed. Believe it or not, Pepys was actually frightened of getting himself wet; fearing water brought illness. As a result, he never washed wit water. Totally gipping.

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