Saturday, 1 December 2018

Tattoos...why I hate them.

For a woman to tattoo her body is like taking a beautiful Ming Dynasty vase and hitting it with a hammer to make it crack...Ladies you are flawless...having some meaningless Oriental motto or saying running across your back will not make you more will make you look like an idiot.
On  recent film shoot in a city just north of London I saw about six tattoo shops along the main street..they were busy..all of them..the odd thing was that most of the clientele were very overweight females having some decal permanently slashed across whatever part of her anatomy she dared to reveal in public..When they  went into the salon they were very obese..when they left they were still obese, quite a lot poorer and wearing a tattoo..they were not any more attractive or alluring, most of the other clientele seemed to be composed of young men who thought they were being made more manly and attractive by having their usually scrawny arms covered in fearsome looking didnt work..they were still scrawny young men with a problem and perhaps only attractive to the obese women..

Keep this crap off your simply do not need it.

On a recent film shoot a very attractive young actress turned up at the readthrough , then later turned up on the film set to deliver her lines..then off to wardrobe..where her career came to a shuddering halt..Her character required her to wear short sleeves and a low cut top, plus a short skirt..She was lathered in tattoos..arms ,legs, chest. back..She was replaced immediately with the director yelling at her that actors must be a well kept and empty vessel..not a fucking art gallery..Never seen her since.

Don't be classed as a low life idiot..keep- the tattoo crap away,dont be a walking graffiti wall for some badly trained and talentless artist.

And would the NHS kindly stop spending my tax money on paid to have it put on so pay to have it money can be better spent elsewhere on people with real illnesses.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

View from the as seen by a total guttersnipe.

This is a new line of blog from me..views of life from my unique situation..which is complex.It will be an occasional series and dependent on what irks or pleases me at the time.  Stand by for a short list of bio facts;
Born at the outbreak of WW2,
Raised in a vermin and cockroach infested slum.Shared a room with my sister until I was 21 and she was 8...appalling time for her no doubt..
Dreaful education at the local Catholic School..I knew all about a young mans travels, speeches and eventual demise in the Holy Lands..but sod all about what I needed, small things like English, Maths, History etc etc.
I left this temple of religious nuttery and total lack of preparation for the world at the tender age of 14...yep..14..totally uneducated and woefully ignorant about the world and what I could make of it.
Total poverty was the name of the game..Dad worked in the steelworks, liked a drink and a smoke, mum was a cleaning lady, she also shared dads leisure habits but she inadvertently gave me an opportunity like no other and probably saved me from an appalling life.
When I was about ten years old , mum had a job cleaning at a mansion house owned by two brothers and two sisters..none had married, no children, nice people, very wealthy, mum would take me along with her and park me in wonderland...the now very old family had kept their play room and...YAHOO...their library completely intact and they were very happy for me to play with their old toys and read their books..nirvanha
Incidentally I was top in every school subject when I left but I knew instinctively that more of that education stuff was needed..I read everything I could lay may hands on..voracious springs to mind.
No TV..cos no electricity, gas light only, I travelled the world every evening, flying through massive tomes from the mansion.
Then I discovered the Cinema.Five theatres in my town, I could visit all of them twice a week when the show changed but I needed money to finance this extravagance so I took a paper round and indulged my cinematic fantasies.
Thwe school did not approve of my financial endeavours as it meant I missed out on after school religious lessons which were compulsory.Every morning for two years the Headmaster gave me six swipes of the cane on each hand, the pain was so bad that it was impossible to hold a pen for the first two lessons...but I got to see the movies...worth it
OK  that is a part bio, more next time...but let me tell you what my pet hate and subject will be.
See you soon

feeding the Royal Family

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Feeding the Royal Family

You may wonder why I have raised this point in an article on a Film Makers site.
I have filmed the British Royal Family on many occasions.. one never gets really close, mainly for security reasons.
I have filmed various members of the family at functions and have been allowed to follow them into state banquets and other dining functions, but I have never been allowed to film them eating.
The Security , Special Branch Officers , always give you the order of the boot, as in “Get Out”
Do members of the most elite family in the UK have eating disorders.
Were they not taught basic table manners?
Were they never taught how to handle cutlery?
Do they eat with their fingers, or push their faces into the food and slurp it up?
Have you ever seen any member of this family eating, on newsreels or any other media outlet.
They must be the most photographed family group in the world and yet no-one has ever seen food pass into their mouths.
There may be some old Hollywood version of someone like Henry VIII chomping on a chicken leg or a leg of lamb, before throwing the remnants over his shoulder for the peasants or hounds to leap upon, but none of the modern royals ever do that.
In the “Kings Speech” I cannot recall one eating scene.
No wonder the newest arrival is bone thin…they never eat.
Are they aliens, as some prominent conspiracy theorists would have you believe or are they just a little sloppy at the table.
We may never know.
A fortune in royalties (Pardon the pun) awaits the first news man/woman to grab a few seconds of the royal chomp…keep your eyes open out there.

Friday, 26 October 2018


I have just written a piece about sunken treasure in the waters off that island paradise called the Seychelles.
Then a couple of days ago, on the news, there is a report of man who was snorkeling just twenty meters from the beach being taken by a shark, and there is another report of a French tourist being taken just two weeks prior to this latest incident.
A belated word of warning , if you go looking for that treasure…BEWARE OF THE SHARKS.
I spent a lot of time swimming offshore in the Seychelles and often got a scare when a clump of seaweed on the ocean floor some twenty /thirty feet down, would seem to move. It does put one off a little.
All of the diving instructors that I worked with assured me that the sharks were not a problem, one or two hammerheads, well out at sea, but nothing in the bays.
I do not for a moment think they were lying but maybe they should have a re-think and install some nets on the popular beaches. It would be a great shame but it keeps the tourist trade happy. No one wants to go on holiday and finish up as shark shit.
No one can blame the sharks. It is their environment and they are hungry, humans are just a snack to them.
Humans do not move too well in the water, no matter how graceful we think our freestyle crawl is. The hungry shark sees a slow moving target with few signs of danger, in it goes.
I often think sharks have no taste buds because most of their human targets must taste of polystyrene or latex rubber, but it must be worth it , humans do not put up much of a struggle after the first hit and then its easy to consume.
I must admit that I am a pool person after seeing “Jaws”. The only way I want to go underwater these days is in a submarine, preferably a nuclear one.
The most vivid example I have seen of the capacity of sharks to consume huge chunks of matter was on Norfolk Island. Another island paradise, this one in the Pacific , but a paradise for entirely different reasons.
Not many beach umbrellas and sandy floored bars there, mainly because there is only a tiny beach and the shark population residing just offshore puts off any swimming adventures. Not that we knew that when my crew went for a swim when we filmed there.
I won’t do a tourist brochure thing here, you can Google the place, but it is a small rocky Island about 1000 miles out in the ocean from mainland OZ, the most direct route is from Sydney.
It was at one time a notorious penal colony, anyone of the bad lads sentenced to go there never left, that was it.
At a certain time of the day, when the sun is very low the outline of a circular prison compound is revealed. The prisoners were kept in underground cages that formed a huge circle. Nice place
Today the Island attracts what would at one time been considered a Hippy crowd, easy come, easy go, and they have developed their own tourist industry. Well worth a visit.
When I was there we filmed the islands refuse department, yes they do have one, with a very smart truck. They collect the garbage from all of the little settlements in the hills and take it to the refuse tip. In this case, the Pacific Ocean
Yep, they actually tip all of the assorted rubbish into the sea. The tipping place is high on a cliff , about thirty metres above the water, the truck tips up and all of the white, council provided, rubbish sacks drop into the sea, slowly fill with water and then begin to sink.
I was naturally outraged at this appalling pollution of one of the worlds most beautiful areas, and voiced my opinion.
The Foreman Refuse Collector calmed my fears…’Just watch this mate” he said ”this stuff never reaches the ocean floor”
He was right.. As the sacks descended through the clear water, large dark shapes approached at lightning speed and ate them, yep, these critters would take a full sack of rubbish, tins, bottles, garbage, all in one bite…There were hundreds of them.
The Norfolk Island Refuse Disposal Unit, Marine Dept. (TNIRDUMD). Trash snacks a speciality.
That would look good on a T shirt.
Want some advice…never go swimming where you are considered to be the main course for a BIG fishes dinner.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

This is a short tale, but it sticks in my memory so maybe you will also enjoy it….
A day out on the ‘USS NIMITZ’ you will see from the picture this is one Mother of a ship…one of the biggest tonnage vessels in the USA Navy.
I was sent down to Naples in Italy with a crew to do a short documentary on this naval titan as it set off on a patrol around the Gulf of Libya…in those days the Libyan state, controlled by Col Ghaddafi, who was not considered to be a friend of the Western world and it was constantly monitored by Allied navies.

After an eventful night in Naples..(Another story) we were picked up at the dockside and transferred to the Nimitz which was moored out in the bay.

Once on board we were shown to our quarters and invited to the Officers mess to meet our press liaison Officer. We all enjoyed our welcoming drink of a cola.

Yep.. all USA Navy vessels are dry. .no alcohol whatsoever, ever, nada, zilch.. this was a three day trip but it already stretched out ahead of my near alcoholic crew like a lifetimes sentence.

OK, So, parched, alcohol free and already showing anxiety levels akin to those who go cold turkey on any addiction we set off on a filmic tour of this leviathan of the waves.


A one point I was able to stand at what can only be described as a crossroad of gangways, one in each direction. they all dwindled off into the distance for what seemed like hundreds of bulkhead doors.

Then there was the storage and engineering deck.

 This is immediately below the flight deck, its like several football fields joined together and it is stuffed full of aircraft, of all shapes and sizes but mainly fighter attack planes as one would expect, but the thing that really amazed me was the number of engineers who live down there, it seemed like thousands of them, all beavering away on engines and broken bits.

When we talked to some of these men they all said they had never been on the flight deck, they were on board for the two year mission and their aim was to work, pump iron in the vast gymnasium, eat, pass exams, eat some more, pump more iron and SAVE MONEY…these were serious people..and they had a lot to be serious about.

On our mission there had been a dog fight with a couple of Ghaddafi’s Migs out over the Gulf and both of them had been brought down.

Time for a modest celebration in the Officers mess, modest it certainly was as we downed copious amounts of Coca Cola, but for these steely eyed Top Gun boys it could have been the best champagne or beer in the world.

The operation of Jets taking off and landing seemed to be a 24/7 task as jet after jet catapulted off the flight deck and the incoming hit the deck with a thump and were then taken down to the maintenance deck for a mechanics rub down.

We met and interviewed the Captain of the vessel, this man was a USA Hero going back to the Vietnam war, it was reputed that he had been shot down on two occasions behind enemy lines and fought his way back with just a small hand gun, a tough cookie indeed, if it were me then one time being shot down would have sufficed.

The interview was arranged to be filmed on the flight control deck, the Captains Bridge, that’s the tall spiky tower in the pic.

  All was set up, the skipper arrived and we began, except we couldn’t..

Every time we started the interview the sound man would shout “Cut”…he had a problem with his recording machine, in those days it was a Nagra, A state of the art recorder and a reel to reel ,very reliable, but this one would only turn round in short bursts of a couple of seconds. It didn’t take long to work out that the signal from the large rotating radar dish, just above our heads was sending out such a strong magnetic field that it actually stopped the recorder from working.

We quickly found another venue for our chat but it did give me food for thought that if the signal was that strong it could stop the recorder …what was it doing to the personnel who spent hours working on that deck every day…just a thought.. They all seemed quite normal..

OK..we did the usual documentary stuff for a few days , nice pics of the aircraft taking off and landing, some little escapades and near accidents but it all went relatively smoothly.

And then came the day of our departure.

The ship can stay at sea for over two years without re-fuelling and personnel rarely got to go on shore leave but for those in an emergency they can be flown off.

Not many volunteered.

At the appointed hour my crew assembled at the detailed departure point on the flight deck.

All equipment boxes securely fastened and stacked neatly, Navy style.. Then I looked around the deck. It was completely stuffed with fighter planes, row upon row of them, dozens of them, it was all you could see..

What I couldn’t see was a flight deck for my plane to trundle along to take off.

And where was our transport plane. .nowhere in sight.

Then a huge hole in the flight deck opened up and like the Phoenix from the ashes our twin prop driven aircraft arose. Its wings were folded up like a broken bird. They were soon flattened out and now it looked as though it was capable of flight…except.. there was no runway.

Then it dawned on me.

These lunatics were actually going to catapult us off the deck.

And we were lunatics for agreeing to it…not that we were ever asked.

They were really going to sling us off the very short flight deck on a catapult..

Most people today have flown, the plane taxis to the end of a VERY LONG RUNWAY..

They then run up the engines to high revs and start rolling down several hundred yards of concrete runway. .at a certain speed lift is achieved and the aircraft powers serenely into the blue yonder..

As aircraft went, ours was quite small, but it was much larger than any of the fighter planes that we had filmed taking off, these massively powerful war planes had been hooked up to the sling. Run their engines up to max power permitted, held back on their brakes and when ready the deck man would give a signal to both pilot and the catapult man and the combined forces of engine and catapult would throw the plane into the sky, an awesome operation.

Best seen from afar as a spectator.

Like sheep unto the slaughter my crew were herded across the deck and quickly kitted out in flight survival jackets, flight helmets, goggles.

Then we were boarded on the rear of the plane, the seats were all facing the tailgate ..we were told to take a brace position on take off and we did. The gear was stowed. The door was locked and now there was no escape.

The plane was trundled over to the end of the catapult section and attached.

 Looking out of the very small window I noticed we had attracted quite a crowd of onlookers.

Dozens of Navy folk were standing around peering at us, thumbs up signs etc were in abundance. I had the feeling that I had suddenly been invited to go into a big stone circular ring with some hungry lions licking heir lips at the other end.

I watched through the small window at the deck control man who I had filmed many times over the last few days giving his usual signals to the pilot, it normally consisted of spinning his index finger at ever growing speeds.

 This digital movement was copied on board the plane by the engines being revved to ear splitting level, the plane was threatening to tear itself apart as the engines reached maximum revs and then came the executioners moment.

The deckman stopped his murderous spinning and pointed forward with what I thought was a flamboyant gesture .At that moment I hated that man.

But I had no time to dwell on how I wanted to kill him as I was being propelled into the air at a limb wrenching speed ..and suddenly we were airborne, we soared away from the deck which I could see rapidly dwindling in the small window..

Brilliant…no doubt this was an exhilarating moment.

And then we stopped flying…

Apparently this is normal. .But I didn’t know it.

As we went rapidly down towards the ocean the aircraft made a valiant attempt to reach airspeed, it transpired that the catapult actually throws the plane off the deck at a much higher speed than the plane can fly at and it really just starts to fall into the sea.

The screeching from the engines was now overwhelming and the plane appeared to resemble a million rivets flying in loose formation.

The glistening ocean was fast approaching and I made all of my prayers, in Urdu, Hebrew, Christian , Rastafarian and all of the rest…this was it, the end. The Big End…it was just a few hundred feet away and arriving quickly.

 Bye Bye life, Sex, Boozing, Watching Footie, and then as we were about to impact we started to lift.. we were actually flying… we seemed to just skim over the top before we began a stately ascent to a safer altitude.

Now it became clear to me why all those big body building, gluttonous, money saving mechanics never left the ship on its two year cruise.

 This was the only way off.

They should all retire as rich men..

Two short footnotes to this story.

The Cargo master who had flown with us told me they had lost two of these aircraft recently and it always drew a good audience of ghouls on the Nimitz to see if we could make it. He happily confessed that he had a death wish… Thanks fellas.

We were landed at an airbase on an Italian island, Sicily I think, and we were transported to our hotel by a Navy driver who had a big blue bus.

 On the way into the town, in the local rush hour we were struck a number of times by other vehicles.

 Our driver seemed completely unfazed, I asked him why. He said “Its always like this, none of these guys have ever learned how to drive, they have been driving like this FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS and aint got the hang of the motor car yet”

I guess he didn’t graduate with a major in history from his high school..

Still, as usual was a pleasure to have completed another little adventure with the American Forces.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Some time in the eighties I was working in California and shooting a documentary on suicides from The Golden Gate Bridge which crosses the bay at the entrance to San Francisco Harbour
The bridge is a massive structure, A beautiful elegant design .The broad, sixlane, roadway across is supported by thick metal wires which are held at either end by steel towers. The bridge is one of the most photographed man made constructions in the world. It is also very high off the surface of the water.
If you jump off this bridge then the chances of survival are extremely slim. If the fall into the water doesn’t kill you then the damage sustained by the body will render you incapable of swimming in the strong currents and then there are the sharks.
Alcatraz, the infamous high security prison is built on an island in the bay and was selected because of the high risk escape procedure..basically..after you evade the heavy duty guard system and then make it out of your cell block, climb the prison wall and then get down the other side ..all you had to do was swim to freedom. I am unaware of anyone escaping from Alcatraz and sending a post card back from anywhere in the world to announce their new found liberty.
That is why the bridge is a magnet to would be suicides; there are so many attempts that the bridge authorities have a “Jumper” watch situated at either end of the span. These people scan the pedestrians on the bridge constantly and are quick off the mark to foil an attempt when they see a likely customer. Apparently there are tell tale signs that someone is about to take the short flight to oblivion..
And that is why I was there.
Except on this particular day I wasn’t walking across the bridge, I was about a hundred or so metres off it dangling outside a new Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.
The presenter of the programme was supposed to walk along the bridge, in a casual manner, the way presenters do, and talk to the camera, giving as many relevant facts as possible in a conversational way, as they do.
The cue for the presenter to start talking was when a distinctive coloured car, driven by a production team member, drove past him, he would look up to the chopper and begin the spiel as he continued to stroll along .
These plans always work brilliantly on paper.
For the logistics enthusiasts out there this is how it was planned
My camera team would drive from the centre of San Francisco to the International airport about twenty miles or so east of he bridge where we would rig the camera onto a Tyler Mount fitted to the helicopter.
The Tyler mount is a rig that is fitted inside the aircraft and it works on a balance system. A series of weights are moved along a large metal arm that curves over the cameraman and the camera is used as a counterweight .This system allows for any size camera to be fItted. I am sure they are infinitely more sophisticated these days but the gyro or steadying system was not too clever and the cameraman had to put a lot of physical effort into keeping the camera steady during a take.
The mount takes up a lot of space and the rear seats have to come out plus the passenger door comes off. In effect the cameraman has to sit almost outside of the aircraft
The security harness for the cameraman is standard five pin fitting into a centre locking device. The restraining straps are one over each shoulder, two around the waist and one from the floor up between the legs The lock pins can all be released by one quick twist of the centre lock. More on this later.
Radio comms are fitted , one for me to the pilot and an extra one for communication to the bridge team.
Are you still with me…good.  keep going.
The presenter is fitted with a radio mike. The director/producer is fitted with a radio mike..the sound recordist is dressed to look like a tourist with a back pack and a funny hat to hide his headphones .These three will be posing as sightseers near the presenter and within range of his transmitter.
The car driver is fitted with a radio. The “Jumper” teams are brought in a and briefed.. We have the permission of the bridge authorities, the radio frequencies have been cleared with the various authorities. We all know what we are doing and when.
Ok, climb aboard the chopper, a brand new Bell Jet Ranger, very nice. And off we zoom, a low swoop over Alcatraz and then to position on the west/seaward side of the bridge.
The brief is for me to follow our marked car, a white one, along the bridge and as it gets to the presenter he will start talking and we slowly hover and crab across until he is finished, then we pull back on the lens and the chopper moves higher and further away to reveal the truly stunning sight of the Golden Gate Bridge with SF in the background.
What could go wrong?..
Everybody is in position, all the sound checks are done, its “Go Go” time
Nobody briefed Mother Nature, or the ten or twelve owners of  white cars who all decide to cross the bridge at the same time.Or the twenty or so Japanese tourists who seemed attracted to a strange man, our presenter, who seemed to be having a chat with a man in a helicopter and then they seemed to be obliged to wave at.
Take two.
This meant that the white car had to go across the bridge, off at the next turnoff and then back across the bridge through the one way approach system and take up  position again.This took about twenty minutes.
Stay with it
The bridge is so large that it creates its own micro weather situation. No matter how calm it appears there is always a strong wind roaring around the towers. This makes a hovering helicopter a very unsteady filming platform.
Take two: The presenter fluffs his lines.
Take three: A strong gust of wind blows the chopper badly.
Take four: I follow the wrong white car.
And so it goes on and every take is twenty minutes to set up again.
We began to run out of fuel and the pilot decided to go and refill, at the airport. In  the light of what was to happen it was a  divine and inspired  decision. The trips and refuelling would take an hour or so. Off we went.
After the refuel we were ready to get airborne again. The pilot checked with the control tower and we were given permission to overfly the very end of the runway between passenger jets landing
This is at The San Francisco International Airport, there are a lot of jets landing there all the time, they seemed to be precisely stacked up in the sky, exactly the same distance apart and all lined up on the approach beacons. The end of the runway juts out into the bay. Very busy place and very impressive.
A jet lands and off we go from our hover position, we have just a short space of time to clear the approach.
And then it happens.
At about two hundred feet above the threshold lines the Gyro Assist went AWOL.It broke.
In the space of a couple of seconds and from my perch on the side of the chopper I saw the sky, runway, bay water, spinning horizon and then went through it all again.
In my ear the pilot was yelling instructions to the tower or his God, and we were plummeting towards the concrete.
Which we hit..very hard.
Bits were flying in all directions and I was aware of pushing the Tyler mount off my chest where it had rammed on impact and flicking the release button on the harness. One last push at the Tyler and I leapt onto the tarmac.
 The chopper was on its side, the rotor had screamed to a halt and I legged it to the side to jump down into the jumble of massive concrete blocks that form the base for the runway.
The pilot was there before me..You cant beat military training..
The conversation was a little stilted for a few moments as we took stock of our new situation
We were both unharmed but in a slight state of shock.
The chopper seemed to be seriously damaged and on its side.
All of the neatly lined up aircraft with hundreds of passenger on board were now on their way somewhere else, they were peeling off for destinations unplanned.
My radio went off, it was the Producer..”Where the fuck are you?”
I quickly briefed him on our new situation.
He never asked if we were ok, all he said was “Get another chopper and get back out here”…Honestly..
What is it about producers?
I relayed his request to the pilot who simply said “When God tells you to sit on the ground you sit on the fucking ground”
It occurred to me that if we had not done so many takes then the chopper might have been over open water and I don’t think we would have survived the drop from the much greater height that we were filming from. An inspired decision by the pilot to refuel when he did, just a minute or so either side and ..hey ..who knows..
Ok we had survived the crash, screwed up the filming and also screwed up the travel plans of hundreds of airline passengers and now we were waiting for the rescue wagons to appear.  We talked, just to calm our nerves
I asked the pilot who was approximately my age how he got into the flying business, it had always appeared attractive to me as an alternative career.
His story had me mesmerised.
During the Vietnam War he had been conscripted into the Military, being a bright lad he had been sent onto a flying course and finished up training to fly helicopters.
 (For a book on this subject read “Chickenhawks” by Robert Mason)..
Completed training and off he went to war.
They gave him a gunship. Probably an AH1 Cobra, fitted with twin Cannons. A flying killing machine.
“I was God” he said.
“At twenty one I had the power of life and death. This was Apocalypse Now for real”
He went on to describe how he and his Squadron of Cobras would set off on raids that completely destroyed hundreds of villages, shot up fishing boats, blasted anything that moved on the ground that could conceivably be considered to be the enemy.
It was a fantastic feeling. The Vietcong were virtually defenceless against these airborne attacks and so the young pilots felt all powerful and not in a great deal of danger.
“It was a great life, full of excitement, I had this huge powerful beast that could rip up a village in seconds, two passes with the cannons on full blast and it was no more, wonderful”
Until one day.
He was on patrol as usual and he came across a very small village, he decided to take a closer look and as he approached a group of villagers dashed out of one of the flimsy grass huts and began to run along a jungle path.. He followed them, assessed the situation as much as he could through the jungle canopy as he whizzed past, and decided they were not good people. Why would they be running etc.. He gave them a burst of cannon, Damn, missed, He went round again, another burst of cannon, he destroyed a number of trees and a couple of bamboo thickets but missed the runners, he went round again.
There they were, still on the path through the jungle but they had stopped and were looking at him as he approached for the kill. They could not run any further, dense bamboo and forest on all sides, all five of them were exhausted.. Mum, Dad, and their three little kids.
“It was like a bolt of lightning, I suddenly realised what I was doing. I was a killer of innocents and enjoying it”
He disengaged his attack, flew straight back to his base and refused to fly gunships any more.
They put him on Medivac duties…and that’s another story..