Cycle rage is a well known phenomenon, but normally directed at cyclists by drivers rather than between those on two wheels, writes Andrew Thomas. The pedal-powered traffic on London’s roads is getting ridiculous. Twice in an eleven minute ride – crossing both City and Kings Cross Road – I nearly collide with others on bikes. What’s shocking is that that’s about average.
Into ITN and straight to the basement for a machine-manufactured latte while speed-reading the papers. At 10, up to the More4 office on the Ground Floor. Our morning meeting dovetails with Channel 4's. Today’s agenda? Another African famine is looming. "Yet another" it’s all too tempting to say.
Our task on More4 is to approach the day’s stories from an alternative angle. We discuss a number of approaches and decide to look at the environmental cause of the famine rather than how to cure it: could deforestation in Brazil lead to drought there in decades to come?
After the meeting I get on with planning various long-form pieces – we glamourously call them films - I have in the pipeline. I’ve had an idea about the forthcoming local elections. Is the inevitable apathy due to ignorance about them?
I pitch the idea of a poll to Will, the More4 editor, and he agrees to commission it. Interesting results might even earn us some column inches in the newspapers. I get on to Populus and thrash out five insightful yes/no questions. ‘Do you know the name of your local councillor?’ is one. If 5% do, I’ll be amazed.
As the day goes on, events in Nepal come to ahead. Ian Williams is there for C4 but I suggest for a second voice I try to reach a stringer I met in Kathmandu a couple of years back. "Live?" he says, when I get through on a crackly line. "That’s 2am here. It’s turning into the most frenetic week of my career and I need my sleep. I’ll do it for £200." We settle on £100. Pre-record.
Friday 21st April
To Swindon to interview Laurie Pycroft, the16-year old founder of Pro-Test, the group that’s shaking up the animal-rights debate. At the end of next week I’m flying with him to Miami to film a head-to-head debate between him and the man who runs the website where boasts of attacks on scientists are posted. "The ignorance of these people just makes me so angry" he tells me once we’re underway. He’s proud to be a scientist and proud to be a geek. His bedroom reflects it, strewn with half-dissected computers and spilt coffee growing mould.
As I’m leaving I get a call from London: can I get to a Swindon hairdresser's to interview people about the death of the blue rinse? I’m tight on time so I get what I need – a grab from the owner, three foil-wrapped customers and a few GVs - and go. Three hours to on air. I should be fine.
I’m not. There’s been a crash on the M4: the motorway is closed. For an hour I just sit. When we finally crawl forward to decide to chance my luck, come off at Slough and cut up to the M40. I finally screech up to the ITN pillars at 8.15pm. We’ve been on air for 15 minutes but we’re not off air. I shove the tape into a waiting hand and my ‘blue rinse’ vox pops make it onto the programme by seconds. Thank God I didn’t rush for something trivial, I think.
Monday 24th April
The poll results are in. 39% can name a councillor! I’m astounded. Floored. 70% know which party runs their council. This does not fit my neat theory that apathy equals ignorance. Still, too much money spent to go tail between legs, admit a bad idea and not make a film: it’ll just be a different type of piece. To accompany it, I need to film in a relevant location. Riverside constituency in Liverpool got the lowest turnout in both the 2001 and 2005 elections so it seems as good a place to go as any.
Tuesday 25th April
Euston station can’t be more than 500m from ITN. On my bike – collisions notwithstanding - I could get there in two and half minutes. By car – with all the kit I need – it takes twenty. London!
In Riverside, I bang on doors to quiz residents about the local elections. ‘Make it fun’, were Will’s guiding words as I left the office. I’ve taken with me a printed sheet which asks whether May 4th means more to people as the 77th anniversary of Audrey Hepburn’s birth, the 22nd anniversary of a Liverpool FA Cup win or the date of the local elections. Most go for the local elections: they all know they’re on. As with the poll results, I’m finding apathy isn’t about ignorance. It’s something much more fundamental than that.
Wednesday 26th April
More4 often works with the tightest of teams. Sometimes, teams of one: a reporter, producer and cameraman combined. It means we’re quick on our feet; the reduced cost can often mean more interesting films. Editing too is tight: one dedicated editor per programme is the norm and this morning I find myself fighting for him. I lose to a more pressing on-the-day story.
Instead, I’ll work with a freelance editor on an Avid-enhanced laptop. Local elections need all the jazzing up they can get and I’ve enlisted Sue in graphics to work her wonders with a cartoon-strip sequence and a studio-presentable graphics. Ducking off to oversee those, finalising the flight arrangements for Friday, scooting down for a quick meeting about the Miami trip with the lawyer means I’m only just across the edit. Come 8pm, we’re far from done - so we finish work for the day.
Thursday 27th April
Off to America first thing tomorrow and I’m filming the 16 year-old in an Oxford Union debate tonight. So a rushed pack at home before going into the office to do so many things - I’ve actually written a list. A list! What have I become?
Have laid down a voice for the finished apathy film, made sure all the elements of the piece are there and emailed the Astons (onscreen captions) to Iain? Check. Are Laurie Pycroft and his mother - also travelling with me to Miami - insured? Check. Do I have every telephone number I could ever need? Check. Camera, tripod, lights in bags? Check, check, check.
At 1pm I’m out the door. To Paddington and Oxford where I meet Laurie and the Pro-Test team in a pub to film their committee meeting. Laurie is first speaker in the Oxford Union debate tonight and his fellow organisers of Pro-Test are all trying to help him with his performance. Speech by committee – it’s chaos and I fear for him tonight.
There’s going to be tough opposition. Uri Geller is on the other side...