28th February

Had to be in Uxbridge at 8:30 this morning – 3 possible routes – north round M25, south round M25 or straight through central London – joy!

On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning – headshops, moshi monsters and a member of Iron Maiden #radio4ondrugs?

Nightmare journey round the M25 as ever but did make it on time – just! However after nearly two and a half hours of driving when I actually came to film it lasted only two and a half minutes! The rest of the day was spent re-editing the films from last week – mostly to make them shorter!

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Parking space!

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Ready to shoot

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Coke bottles by Jean Paul Gaultier

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Mobile edit suite and office!

After I’d finished I had some lunch and before setting off home I had a quick wizz round the shops in Uxbridge. I ended up buying a book in a charity shop where I was served by the most miserable shop assistant – I think she was annoyed that someone wanted to buy something which was interrupting her texting!! I handed over the book and she looked at it and commented that it didn’t have a price on it!

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“£1.50” she said out of nowhere

“The other books are all £1” – I replied

She tapped on the cover and looking me in the chest said “hard cover”

I pointed out that the other hard backs on the shelf were £1 as well but I could see that I wasn’t going to get anywhere so I handed over my money.

On the way back I was stuck in traffic on the M25 when I noticed there was a missed call on my phone from a work colleague so I called him back. He asked if I was heading back to the office but I said I wasn’t. He needed a video downloading from youtube – for a show tonight!!!!

So I ended up pulling into the next services and taking my PC into the restaurant area to pick up the wifi signal – thankfully there were a few free ones to choose from and I was soon connected. The video he wanted was only available as a flv file so after I’d ripped it I then had to use an online conversion site to turn it into an mp3 before sending it to him via wetransfer. The things you have to do for work.

As I was leaving I passed a young couple who stopped me and explained they were doing a charity hitch and could I take them down the M20 towards Dover. I apologised and said I wasn’t going that way. It was only later that I thought I should have offered to take them to the services on the M2 instead as it is still on the road to Dover and it wouldn’t have been a massive detour out of my way. (In the old days of company petrol I probably would have taken them to Dover!!) – I always fancied doing the charity hitch when I was at Uni but it would have meant missing all the tech work I used to do for Rag week (and of course the bands!). I once did a 55 mile sponsored night hike but ended up having to give up at 35 miles as my feet hurt so much and I was soaked the the skin as it had rained for most of the time!

27th February

A day in the office doing something non Coca Cola related!!

Having said that I now have to go back to Uxbridge again tomorrow and worse still I have to be there at 8:30 in the morning – Sarah’s not pleased as I usually give her a lift to work on a Friday as she starts at 9 rather than 9:30 – a taxi has been mentioned!!

25th February

Today is the third anniversary of my Dad’s death.  I’m not really one for marking the occasion but recognise that others do. So I phone my step mum because I feel that it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it would be nice if she remembered that although he was her husband he was also my dad and it is possible that I might miss him as well.

On Saturday night as we had a meal I sat where I usually sit at the end of the table and Ben sat where my Dad used to sit. Once Ben had finished eating he slipped away from the table to go and watch tv. A few minutes later I glanced to my right and caught a glimpse of the photo Jean keeps on the table next to the laptop.  Just for a brief second it was like he was sitting there! We may not always have seen eye to eye but I miss the old goat more than I ever could have imagined.

24th February

First day in the office for over a week – lots of stuff to catch up on so busy boy all day.

Have to go and get some food in the evening so we pop round to Aldi – I meet Sarah there after she’d dropped Ben at cubs. When we’ve finished our shopping we go to put it in the car and half way across the car park the wheels of the trolley lock up. I notice that inside the trolley there’s a warning about the trolley stopping working if removed from the premises but you’d think you’d be able to make it to the other side of the car park!!

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23rd February

Today was mostly driving home again but we did pop back to the Tesco store I mentioned yesterday. I found it quite amusing that they were playing music quite loud in the clothes department and it was music from the late 70s/early 80s which felt quite fitting after my comments regarding the Mecca!

We got back home about 6:30

22nd February

In Sunderland:

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But despite arriving so late last night I still have to get up early as I’ve arranged to go and collect my Gran’s ashes from the undertaker where they’ve been for the past 3 years! It’s been quite a while since we’ve been to Sunderland and I was meant to be coming up yesterday afternoon from a job in Birmingham but it all changed and the Undertakers have very kindly agreed to open up today so I can pick them up at 10:30.

The first thing I notice is that they appear to be in one of those carrier bags that you give bottles of wine in at Christmas but when I pick them up my thought is “Blimey I’m sure she weighs more now that she did when she was alive!”

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Afterwards Sarah, Ben and I head off  down to the sea front to get him out of the house and into the fresh air! We park up next to Roker park and he has a go on the swings before we wrestle him into a pair of boots and head to the beach. It’s as well we did as he’s straight into the water and within a few minutes the water has gone over the top of his boots! We walk along the beach and end up going for a coffee at the Cat and Dogs stairs. Sarah asks me why they’re called that and I confess that I don’t know except that my Dad used to say that they were as twisty as a dog’s hind leg. However Google turns up a more sinister reason! Depending on which version you believe the name is either because people used to use them to take unwanted pets down to the sea to drown or slightly better that people used to abandon dead animals there – either way  I think I prefer my Dad’s version!

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After the coffee we wander up to the lighthouse that stands on top of the cliff before returning via the beach and park to the car, where we pour water out of Ben’s boots, and then back to the house for lunch.

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After lunch we go to the local Tesco which I have mixed feelings about as it was built on the site of the Mecca nightclub where many a happy youthful night was spent. The venue had seen such acts as led Zeppelin, the Who, Free and the Faces appear there in it’s heyday – sadly before my time but I still saw the likes of Tom Robinson, Wishbone Ash, Budgie and Ian Gillan there. It was also the last place I saw Tony McPhee (until the other weekend!) After buying Ben a pair of Wellies we headed off to South Shields for the afternoon. By now I was wearing one of my dad’s old coats that I’d just been given and despite having a hoody, jacket and the coat (plus scarf and hat) it was still bloody freezing in the park – no idea what happened to the sunshine and warmth of this morning!image

We decided that we’d go indoors so we headed for the amusement arcade where we played on the penny ‘chines. I also had a go on the one armed bandits which were the old type that I remember playing in the arcades at Seaburn with my Nana when I was Ben’s age!

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We were going to get some doughnuts but decided against it and headed back to the car and back to the house. On the way back we stopped off in the car park of Souter Lighthouse and Ben and I went to have a look – sadly we couldn’t go in as it was closed. I remembered sleeping in the huts down at the army camp when I was a cadet and seeing the light from here sweeping regularly around the room while the fog horn blared it’s warning!

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21st February

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Today I’m in Luxembourg, shooting in a café bar. We caught a cab after breakfast at the hotel and arrived around about 9am. We were both quite shocked to find people drinking at that time of the morning, one guy was happily knocking back a bottle of Chimay bleue which is a Trappist Ale and weighs in at 9%! The whole venue was decked out with Coca Cola branding so my worries of there not being enough to fill the video were soon dispelled!

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I had to film some interviews with the two reps called Valerie and Sara (which was spooky because that’s the names of the current and former wives!) and also the bat owner. I also tried to film the girl behind the bar opening a bottle of coke but Chimay man kept interfering so I had to wait till he’d gone and do the shot again. We were made to feel really welcome all day and the staff were really helpful.

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After I’d finished shooting we had lunch which was delicious. It was veal cordon bleu which consisted of veal escalope, cheese and bacon all rolled up. It was washed down with a nice bottle of red wine (which I think I drank most of!). After lunch the client went off to visit another café so I went upstairs and made myself comfy in the corner and started editing the video from the days shoot. I’d pretty much finished it by the time it came to leave so I only have the one from Paris to do as I didn’t get a chance to do that yesterday.

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We headed off to the airport and caught a flight back to London. I’m still such a big kid when it comes to flying – you’d think the novelty would have worn off by now but it hasn’t! I still love that feeling of being forced back in your seat as the plane accelerates down the runway and the anticipation as you wait for the wheels to leave the ground. I love it when you’re flying above the clouds and even more when you get to see the sunset as we did tonight. And of course that moment when you’re coming into land and you’re waiting for the inevitable bump and the scream of the engines as they’re put into reverse thrust to slow you down!  As I sat down the girl on the end of the row asked me if I’d like the aisle seat (which presumably meant she wanted the window seat!) but I politely declined – what I really wanted to say was “Do you think I’m mad!!”

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I thought I was doing quite well as I got through passport control without to much hold up – even had a joke with the man on the counter about my beard! (Incidentally the captain of the aeroplane had a spiffing moustache!) My bags turned up quite quickly on the carousel and the person I phoned at the carpark was very efficient. I thought I’d be on the road just after 7:30. However it then took nearly half an hour for a bus to turn up to take us to the car park. Then it was absolutely packed and took ages to get everyone on board and the journey to the carpark was much longer than the 5 minutes advertised on the bus and website.

When we got there I was even less impressed with Purple Parking as by the time I got off the bus my bags, clearly marked fragile, looked as though they’d just been thrown out of the trailer onto the ground. I also couldn’t find my car. It said row A but I couldn’t see any signs indicating which one that was and had to walk all the way back to the office before I found one. Then my car was right down the other end of the row. I was glad to get in and get out of there! It was now gone 8pm by the time I pulled off.

I had a long drive ahead but I was hoping that once I cleared the busy parts of the journey (M25 and southern part of M1) it’d be ok. However just as I was nearing Sheffield the traffic ground to a halt and we crawled along for nearly 45 minutes before it picked up again. This and the stop for something to eat added nearlt and hour to my journey time meaning I didn’t get to Sunderland till quarter to two in the morning. The last 50 miles or so were such hard work as I was so tired.

20th February

What a weird day!

Woke up early as I’d left the window ajar and there was a bus constantly idling outside from about 6am. The day was overcast and miserable as I admired the splendid view from my window!

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After breakfast we set off to the store where we were going to film. We got there early and it was still closed

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Oddly a queue formed, Le Mans style outside and even odder not one person entered the shop until the shutter was fully raised!
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It was quite apt that we were filming in a Carrefour as I was having to carry four bags around with me!

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So after standing outside for ages we eventually tracked down the local reps and went inside to start filming. However it was obvious from the start that things weren’t good, we kept getting hassled and while we were filming the interviews with the reps we had to stop and one of the reps had to placate somebody from the store.

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Eventually it became apparent that no one from the store was going to agree to be filmed so it was decided to go to another store about 40 minutes drive away. This meant the two reps had to rearrange their cars so one of them could take us. I was stuck in the back with all the bahs and to add insult to injury the battery on my mobile had gone flat so I had nothing to amuse myself with on the journey.

Eventually we arrived and after walking all around the shopping centre we caught up with some more reps who told us they weren’t sure we’d be able to film anyone here either. So we shot some more displays and after much pleading from the client we eventually stopped for lunch at about 2:45! We had a sandwich in a baguette, a piece of cake and a Coke Zero for around €8. Afterwards we headed back to the store and had to hang around for ages till eventually someone finally agreed to be filmed.

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After we shot the interview we got a lift back to the airport and checked in. I was told that I could only check two bags in without being charged so I asked if I could take my bag as hand luggage and they said I could so I took all my toiletries out and put them in the camera bag! Once through security the client and I decided a nice glass of wine was definitely in order.
We sat for ages and then suddenly realised that departure board was showing last call so we dashed to the gate and across the tarmac and onto a small plane. There were two seats on one side of the aisand I had a single seat on the other side. After dashing to the gate we then had to wait for almost an hour for some passengers who were transferring from another flight before we could get airborne.

Once we landed in Luxembourg we tried to get a cab to our hotel but they all refused because it was too close, but too far to walk! We were faced with a half hour wait for the courtesy bus until we came up with a cunning plan. We asked the cab driver to take us to the hotel and then wait while checked in so he could then take us to a restaurant in town. Luckily he was happy to do this.

The restaurant wasn’t as great as we’d been expecting as it had been recommended by the local reps. The food was ok and I think I enjoyed the vegetables more than the steak! Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and went to our rooms. O tried to phone Sarah but the reception wasn’t great and as the room was a bit utilitarian, like a Premier Inn without the frills, I headed to the bar for a nightcap!

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19th February

Up stupidly early to take Sarah and kids to Kings Cross to catch the 6:15 train to Newcastle. I’m always worried about the journey because traffic into London can be so unpredictable at any time of day but luckily we sail through and we’re there with half an hour to spare so we’ve got time to visit platform 9 3/4 for a photo opportunity!

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As we’re walking from the car to the station Sarah said I bet these people think we’re mad catching a train at this time of the morning. Then she looked at me and said no they think you’re mad because you’re wearing shorts!

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Once the train had gone I went back round to the cashpoint to get some money for a coffee and I found myself looking at the new design of the station and reflecting on how much it had changed since we spent the night on the concourse in 1979 aged 17 after the train we came down from Sunderland to see the Who on arrived at King’s Cross in the early hours and we had to wait till the tubes started!

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I got back home at 7:36 exactly 3 hours after we’d set off. I tried to go back to sleep but failed miserably! Spent the rest of the morning getting things ready for my trip. I had to pack for Paris/Luxembourg and then pack another bag for up north. Then I had to sort out all the camera and editing equipment which was still worrying me regarding excess baggage between Paris and Luxembourg. The baggage was covered on two BA flights but Air France wouldn’t let me do it. So I actually got the bathroom scales out and weighed them. It wasn’t as bad as I thought as the camera bag and my bag weighed 17kg so I then took the scales out to the street and weighed the tripod! That was 7kg so worst case scenario was 4kg excess baggage which would be €60 – I might actually be able to eat after all!

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So I set off for the airport and met up with the client at Heathrow. A cheeky G&T on the flight and I was soon in Paris CdeG airport. The client said she’d booked us into an ibis hotel in the terminal which we walked for miles to find eventually getting to the hotel at terminal 3 via a transit like the one at terminal 5. It wss the wrong ibis and to cut a long story short the one we were booked into was a courtesy bus journey away. By the time we got there the restaurant was about to shut but we decided we couldn’t be bothered anyway so we arranged to meet for breakfast and went to our rooms.

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The client was in the next room and the walls were paper thin so I decided to go downstairs to phone Sarah in case I said anything rude about our exploits tonight. That’s when I discovered the bar and that it did food. I had a cheeseburger and a glass of wine but then decided that the beer looked good too so I had one of those as well! There was a guy in the bar with a splendid moustache! After my beer I headed off to bed.

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