Wednesday, 10 June 2009


In the autumn of 1991 I had been a television floor manager for approximately eight months. I knew very little....fuck all you could say.
I had next to no experience, a year at a music channel (most of that as a rigger/driver), and Middle Eastern Broadcasting Ltd (MBC), a brand new, Saudi owned Arabic language channel, had kindly employed me.
After only going on air that October, the news end of the channel decided to send an O.B. (outside broadcast) to Madrid in Spain to cover the launching of the Middle East Peace Process. They decided this about seven days before it was due to start. For five of those days they believed they wouldn't be needing a floor manager. 39 other people, ENG crews (that's the two person teams of camera and sound that cover all the roving stuff), technical and production teams were all confirmed and, two days before the off, I was the 40th and final person to be asked to go. I was told there was a going date - but no coming back date. It could be weeks, maybe a month.
I had done some O.B.s before, to floor manage they're generally harder logistically than studio work, well, I had given Pat Sharp a visual cue and a finger count to stop talking as he skied past me on an artificial slope introducing 'I've Got The Power' by Snap. Simple stuff.
Anyway, I went, and, in Madrid, I learned more about my job in those eight days than I had in the previous eight months.
When I returned I felt like the Buffy The Vampire Slayer of Floor Managers.

DFR 10/06/2009.

Contact :

Roll Call

Lee - ENG Sound.
Geoff - ENG Camera.
Graham - Engineer.
Raeff - ENG Camera.
Dom T - Picture Editor.
Omar - O.B. Sound.
Dom R - O.B. Floor Manager.
Simon - O.B. Director.
Estrella - Translator.
Jo - Studio Director (London).
Marney - Head Of News MBC.
Sean Something Smith - News Editor.
Nidal - Presenter.
Tony - Presenter.
Maha - Reporter.
Alloy - Mini Bus Driver.
Carlos - Mini Bus Driver.
Jazelle - Something To Do With Production.
Dave (Klunk) - Engineer.
Mudslide - Vodka, Tia Maria & Bailey's.

Day One

Monday 28th October 1991.

Flew out the previous night, scum class, drinking Mudslides pretty much all the way and arrived fairly caned.
Loads of shit getting thirty-seven items of technical gear plus three big boxes of MBC sweatshirts through customs. A mere £1,700 short, which we had to pay. Luckily I have no credit card, so it was Geoff and Graham who had to pay the biscuit.
More shit at the Spanish end, but we finally got through without being shot or anything, spirits waning until we reached the hotel.
Turned up well late and got smashed while we listened to the good old 'pep talk'. Onwards to Dom T's room for more Mudslides without the Tia Maria and big, big hangovers. The shower in my room nearly killed me, it was like being gunned down. Flooded the bathroom floor. Haven't tried chucking the telly out the window yet. Bed at three forty-five. Ish.

Monday at breakfast I felt like shit on a stick, head full of cotton wool and major problems with balance as I navigated the breakfast room. The guy with the coffee kept ignoring us - fucking Englanders with attitude. Recognized the Frosties and the croissants, everything else looked weird. The scrambled eggs looked like someone had thrown up in there. No toast.
Packed into the mini-buses, turned south and headed for The Shit, otherwise known as The Press Centre. There were guns and sour-faced soldiers everywhere. The Spanish cops put the Americans to shame, all leather and mirror shades and big guns in low-slung holsters. You need a pass to get your pass. Everything gets x-rayed. Unloaded our shit-sized pile of techno gear, only to be told to take it around the back way. Of course, after loading it all back up it turned out there was no back way, so we sodded about, like you do, for an hour or so, before we got sent back to the front door. Unloaded it all again and finally got it through, then spent the rest of the day sitting around in the MBC room waiting for shit to happen.

Found a bar and drank some gin. The measures are huge, they just fill up the glass and there's barely any room for a mixer. Which is just fine. We got back to the hotel around ten, knackered from doing nothing on a long day, after Nidal insisted the bus driver took the scenic route back, to groans from the rest of us who badly needed the bar. I wanted to mention to him that he was a fucking twat, but thought better of it. After all, the presenter's always right.

Got there in the end. Big measures of bourbon at the bar. Hit the bed and blacked out.

Day Two

Tuesday 29th October 1991.

Up early, could have slept a lot longer. Last day before the peace conference actually starts, and security is heavier than ever. We have to take our passports everywhere. Not a great deal seems to be going on, it's looking like another fifteen hour lunch break.
It turns into a slow day with hectic intervals. Radio talkback on OBs is usually crap, but this is uber-chronic. Simon sounds like an imp talking to me from Greenland with a hanker-chief over his mouth. Dave the engineer wanted me to relay some info to Graham over talkback, but he talks in techno-speak, kind of like Clunk from Dastardly & Muttley so I just handed him my cans and shrugged at him. I swear, nobody except Graham understands a fucking word that guy says.

Some Jordanian big cheeses showed up amidst a press-bang that could rival a small war. Thought the walls were going to come down on us. There were camera men standing on each others heads trying to get a look into our room. After that it kind of went quiet again and the press centre looked like somebody had been chucking grenades around in it.

Met Estrella, the translator. Very Nice. But Dom T was hanging around her like a nasty rash with his tongue hanging down to his chest, so I moved on. She has nice eyes.

Got back to the hotel early, about twenty-three hundred, and proceeded to get smashed on Four Roses bourbon whilst swallowing ham and cheese toasties - the only available food.

Slept like somebody had killed me and buried me.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Day Three

Wednesday 30th October 1991.

The nightmare begins.
Jesus F Christ when shit happens it really does happen. In my mind I don't have a fucking clue what I'm doing.
On cans virtually all day, heaps upon heaps of techno fear. Talkback going down, mikes not working properly. Spanish camera ops who don't have any idea what we're talking about. Actually nobody seemed to know who was saying what to whom. Simon remains frighteningly calm.
On an empty stomach and no coffee, all cigarettes and Pepsi Cola. I was wasted by lunchtime but still upright with ten hours to go. All day I was running around getting feared off by the presenters - Nidal, who looks like a terrorist Peter Sellers, and Tony, who's really nice until the shit hits the fan. 'Fix my earpiece'...'I need water'...'No warm water'..'Where's my scripts?'.....'There Are No Scripts Now Fuck OFF.'
Things were quiet and winding down when the eleven o'clock bulletin goes horribly wrong and as I give Tony a signal he wraps it up like ten minutes early. They have to throw back to London early and all I could hear on my cans was Jo freaking out in London and screaming at the crew there.
They did try to pin it on me but I wasn't having any of it.

MacDonald's was just shutting up when we pulled up outside, so now I understand the massacres that happen in those places. Back to the hotel bar. More fucking toasties. More bourbon and coke. Madrid measures. Then champagne in Dom T's room. Dom T's ranting about leaving his wife for Estrella. Get a fucking grip.

Hit the bed very late, went out like a light and dreamed about Estrella, the Spanish translator. Estrella Diez..which means Star Ten. How fucking cool is that?
Goodnight Madrid, I imagine the shit piles higher tomorrow.

PS : I moved onto a stronger brand of cigarettes today.

Day Four

Thursday 31st October 1991.

Yes, indeed, escalating shit. On air non-stop all morning, no breakfast, an extra fifteen minutes in bed seemed more important. Shot and coming down. All hot with the sweats, missed the crucial shower this morning.

Got into the early evening with a heavily deteriorating brain, dying on the vine when all Hell breaks loose and some big, fuck off Israeli delegate shows up and does this exclusive press thing. As all the allowed reporters and crews burst in Geoff's camera (set up in the best position possible) drops off its tripod and goes down. He shakes it and it rattles - that can't be good. I have never seen an expression on anybodys face quite like that. Instead of crying, Geoff just says to me 'Why didn't you catch it?'
Still, the money him and Lee are making off flogging MBC sweatshirts should see him through the bad times.

Things slow down again and we get to drink in between bulletins until it all stops and then we're back at the hotel bar drinking more Four Roses, getting depressed about the accelerating shit tomorrow and talking about the cool things we had done that had gotten us through the day.

Two of the cool things being:
A/ Graham fixing London's vision mixing desk over talk-back, which is a bit like telling a stewardess how to land a 747 over the phone.
B/ The coolest thing I've ever done. There's five microphones on the news set, all hard-wired to a particular chair. Four of these are in use during a live broadcast, only as I got the four people on so quick I've put the wrong mikes on them. So the mike for the fifth chair is all the way over by chair one. If you see what I mean.
Whilst the live interview drags on , Marney tells me a fifth guy is turning up and needs to be slipped on while they're all still on air. And, as I said, the mike is all the way around the other side of the fucking set.
So I've crouched down, tugging at all the wires, which are like an unkempt rain forest, until I see the far away mike moving. Just out of shot, I pulled that fucking mike all the way around the back of the set, in and out of chair legs, up and over the branch of a fucking palm tree that's there to make the flat beige backdrop look interesting. It didn't catch on anything. Lee's watching me with this 'What the fuck are you doing?' look, and, when I've finally got the thing in my hand, Marney comes up and tells me the guest is a no-show.
Miserable fucker. I hope his country gets a good bombing off someone.

Drank solidly in the bar until it closed, punctuating the Four Roses with an occasional toastie, thinking about the 6am start tomorrow. That doesn't sound good.

Day Five

Friday 1st November 1991.

Up at 5.30am...Shit. Hysteria sets in in in a big fucking way.

Went on the air at five to eight in the morning without an off air time. God, my brains weren't working and the thing went on for hours. And hours. Speech after speech. Every time a speaker finished it was a scramble for the studio lights. Nidal and Tony droned on looking like ghosts. Everything just went on and on. With no break. Long shit.
The whole day was a haze on air. I wore my sunglasses for the first couple of hours, waiting for my eyes to come back from wherever they had spent the previous night. At some unspecified point somebody actually did give me a break. I ate some cold MacDonalds, slept it out and dived back in. Everybody was getting screwed up and weird by the afternoon. Got a fifteen quid meal on the house, sat down with Geoff, Lee, Omar and Raeff, but we couldn't eat so we just drank the wine.
A few hours later we found out that the meal wasn't on Marney but Graham had paid for it. What a fucking dude.

The bulletins started around 7pm, and by that point I really was beginning to lose it. Got to the bar and began to rant like a lunatic, including an unfortunate comment regarding the size of Jezelle's arse ('Nice girl...but she's got a gigantic ass'), while she was still in earshot. Geoff and Lee cracked up and dived under the table. I really did feel much the twat.

Finally made it to the last bulletin and everybody was going crazy. Made it through without a hitch and at the end Marney tells us we've got tomorrow off.

Back at the hotel we all go completely batshit at the bar, just after being told that due to MBC cash flow problems we'll all have to pay our own room bills. Oh Shit. Dom T's going to be fucked due to his unrestrained mini-bar hospitality.

We draw straws and it's Omar's room that gets the trash treatment. I believe this might be us 'letting off steam'. Shorts, shades and hats, total tourist shite that needs to be packed into the next 24 hours. Everybody's bananas by this point, smashed to pieces and doing ludicrous things on film that I think should be left to the reader's imagination. Jezelle actually complained about us to hotel reception.

Here comes the day off.....Shit Imminent indeed.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Day Six

Saturday 2nd November 1991.

Lie the fuck in.

The information for today's entry is slightly blurred, sketchy at best, I could get the order wrong, so bear that in mind if the following account is in any way chronologically unsound.

Got up late and went to to town. Sort of hung around some big, fuck off shopping centre with Geoff, Lee, Omar, Graham, Raeff. Couldn't get our heads around the place so we went to some weird bar with a pool table downstairs. Smashed pretty much everybody off the table once we'd set up a tournament for hard cash, though the final was debatable because I didn't nominate on the black when I beat Geoff. Fucker never told me. In my world only pussies nominate a pocket on the black.

Asked Raeff how come he was so good at pool and he just said he'd played a lot when he was hanging out in Iraqi bomb shelters during the Gulf War. Nice.

Got back to the hotel and relaxed before the storm hit. Met up with Dom T and Estrella at a bar with the guys, had a few Jacks then we took off with Carlos and Alloy the drivers to some surreal Argentinian restaurant.
Already we're getting into a frenzy. Woof, woof, two of Estrella's flatmates turned up and by the time we were out of there a shed load of Carlos' mates were there. Got to some lowlife club in the centre of Madrid, the hysteria taking off. Estrella taught me and Geoff the Lambada while Dom T looked on like he was chewing bees. I kind of got the hang of it, it's, like incredibly sexual. I haven't been that close to a woman's crotch in years.

Things spiralled more out of control, drinking the beer dead fast because of the heat. Finally we left the place at 3am, only to be dragged kicking and screaming to another club, a sort of rave place, if that's the correct terminology. Lee and Raeff were half coked to oblivion. Lee was doing some kind of trancey drug dance up on the stage. God help us.
I just drank and danced some more. The strobe lights were good. Almost finished. Death by dancing.

The drive home was virtually suicidal, Alloy was more pissed than us. He droppped the girls off after reversing full pelt the wrong way up their one way street and wanted to take us all off somewhere to get laid. We persuade him to let us live instead and he got us back to the hotel in one piece. I think.

Drop dead on contact with the bed.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Day Seven.

Sunday 3rd November 1991.

Not a great deal of sleep. Virtually none. In fact it was hardly worth the bother of taking off my clothes and getting into bed. A hangover from Hell greeted me at 9am, and I lay there, waiting to die. I didn't die, so I managed to get up and dip my face in a sinkful of cold water. It didn't help, I still couldn't find my eyes.
Got to the breakfast room without falling over or projectile vomiting and everybody is in much the same state, those who had made it down, anyway. We all had to do it.
Maha, MBC's somewhat sinister 'senior reporter', is in the lounge as we trudge through, demanding the sacking of a waiter for spilling a drink on Raeff's camera. Maha is a kind of deranged lunatic who always leans into his shots like some kind of evil Sesame Street puppet. He is shouting 'WATER IS THE ENEMY OF THE CAMERA' to anyone who'll listen. We move on.
Get to The Press Centre and it's quiet and dead as though everybody left during the night. It's like the shopping centre in 'Dawn Of The Dead' after they've locked out the zombies. Only we got back in. We all just sat around. Apparently Lee and Raeff got pulling out of bed at 6am to go on some waste of time shoot. We all only went to bed about half past fucking five. They had some ruck with the hotel staff before being dragged off to some 'really important' talks. Poor fuckers.
The day went really slow, just sitting around drinking coffee and smoking, waiting for shit to happen.
It only went crazy twice. The second time it went nuts I was half cut in the bar with Lee and Geoff. I got the call, swallowed my drink and was on set miking up two guests and giving Nidal his cue 45 seconds later. It was ten to eleven in the evening and we had all thought it was over then some politician called Baker decides to make a speech. Inconsiderate fucking twat.
Estrella came up to me afterwards and said 'that was amazing'. Cool. Suck on that, Dom T.
We got through it, got drunker. Estrella came to the hotel for a beer and everyone was too tired for a serious session, just toasties and a couple of big bourbons. She hugged and kissed me before I went off to bed. Dom T was lurking around like some miserable vampire which kind of took the edge off my moment. I think I could fall for a girl like that. Good eyes, Spanish eyes.
It looks very much like I'm out of here tomorrow.

Day Eight

Monday 4th November 1991.

Estrella rang me just after I got up and my mouth doesn't work too good. I'll write her.
Meet the guys in the bar and everyone's fucked - except Dom T - who's being annoyingly happy. Did he? He says not. Fucked if I know.
Shake hands with the guys, they're staying and I'm flying home. It feels bad to go.
At the airport I get upgraded by Sean Something Smith to business class despite trying to take a hand-grenade lighter through customs. That didn't go down too well.

Lee, Geoff, Omar, Graham, Dom T, Raeff, me....we came through, so to speak.

Goodnight, Madrid.

DFR - Madrid, 1991.