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September 24th 2009

Davy (Tom Burke) “That could have been bad” 

Today the crew are assembled to film a tricky leg of the boy’s journey. In the story, having found the going a bit slow, they decide to cut out what may be a day’s walking at their current pace, by lowering themselves and the fully laden cart, down the cliff face on ropes. So we are in the quarry near Barafundle Bay, which has a vertical cliff face that’s used for teaching rock climbing, and a mains power source in a hut that also has plumbing.

The Face-pullers – JJ, Benedict, Adam and Tom – are milling around in costume in a clearing at the top of the cliff. There’s a qualified team of rock climbers playing with bits of rope that will lower them down. I don’t know exactly what they’re doing with the rope but they’re experts and they seem cheerful. There’s our jolly paramedic standing by for this, our biggest ‘stunt’, with his seventh cuppa of the morning, served from the giant kitchen truck, which is within feet of us for the first time in two weeks. And the rest of the trucks are here too and parked on concrete not sand or cow shit. And there’s a real loo! It flushes and everything!

And so – sure – the rope-fiddling seems to be taking a tiny bit longer than normal – but today is already shaping up to be a good day.

No cows. No sea birds. No tide coming in. No boats moored in frame. No walkers sitting in shot painting infantile keepsakes, before going home, having pissed me off on purpose, to eat boil-in-the-bag-cod in front of Songs of Praise! Anyway.  You get the picture – TODAY – is a GOOD day.

I go about my business, making sure we are ready for various other things that are coming up. I have a chat with our new Key Grip, the theatrically named, Warwick Drucker, about laying track (that man can LAY –TRACK – by the way. Neat van too.  Brilliant. I make a mental note.)

Oh – did I mention the sun is still shining?

So then I go up to the top of the cliff for a gentle investigation into the time. The Face-pullers are still relaxed. And there is some amusement amongst the Rope-pullers. One of them wants to tell me something. He’s a local guy, part-time fireman. Typically handy looking. He has concerns about the paramedic.

“The paramedic?” I say.

“Yes.”

“But he’s great, he’s been really helpful… and he loaned us a quad bike.”

“Well he’s not a paramedic.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. He treated one of the crew a few days ago when his hand was sliced open!”

“Well he’s not a paramedic.”

“But… he’s got a uniform and an ambulance!”

“Well he’s not a paramedic.”

I look down that the tubby and affable ‘Paremedic’. The rose tinted view fades and I see that his uniform is a tatty green fleece with a badge sewn on. His ambulance is an old Vauxhall Carlton with the word ‘Ambulance’ stuck on the side, and the whole thing looks like it’s been carrying fish bait for a bit too long. It turns out that this is because it’s been carrying fish bait for a bit too long.

I turn back to the fireman-Rope-puller. “….But…But he… What?”

The fireman tells me that the ‘Paramedic’ is well known to the local emergency crews. He allegedly has his own radio scanner and listens-in to emergency calls. He then likes to turn up first to accidents, especially those involving pregnant women, to lend a hand… He also runs a sex shop on the side… Apparantly the BBC made a documentary about him.

“Sorry. Could you say all of that again?”

The colour drains from my face. Behind the fireman-Rope-puller his colleagues are tying Benedict Cumberbatch to a rope that looks thinner than ever and they are about to dangle him of a cliff edge that is suddenly higher and steeper. I tell them to hold on a moment and go for a chat with the ‘Paramedic’.

I ask him if he is qualified as a Paramdic. He tells me he is not, but he IS qualified as an Special Emergency First Aid Assistant or some balls…. I ask if he is insured. He says he is. I ask if he can prove that. Now. He says the paperwork would take some time to find… I ask if he has ANY kind of credential on him. He takes out his wallet. It looks like it has been used to shovel the fishing bait into the ‘ambulance’. Inside it he finds a business card of considerable age and usage. It has the name of a private medical training company and a phone number so old that its London dialling code places it at least two decades back into history. He asks if someone has said something… I don’t answer.

I take it away and race to the office. We phone the number – it doesn’t exist. We look into how we found him. He had added himself to the Welsh Screen Commision database. We took this as a credential enough it seems. We were wrong. I ask Kelly Broad to find a new medic because the current one is going to need medical assistance himself in about five minutes.

I go back to set. He is still there though a little sheepish now.

“If this is a company that provides medical training that you paid for I should be able to call them.”

He thinks about this rather too long and says. “See, they aren’t so much a company, but an… organisation I started in order to-“

GET OFF MY SET. NOW.

I am shaking with rage. He drives away quietly. I get a bit shaky. I realise rage has been joined by fear. Fear of what happened there, because of what nearly happened – because of what could so easily have happened.

At the office the amazing Ms. Broad has been on the phone.

35 minutes later Adam Robertson is tied to Benedict. They are half way down the cliff because the new paramedic has arrived. He is tall and clean shaven. He is quiet. He has a big shiny Ambulance and a fluorescent uniform. He has an oxygen tank and foil blankets. He has the benign expression of a man who has just washed his hands and can resuscitate a dying woman without getting an erection. He has more qualifications to be there watching no one get hurt than I will ever have for running the whole shebang.

But he doesn’t have a quad bike he can lend us.

But hey – the sun is shining on the Face-Pullers, Rope-Pullers and on Warwick’s track. The smells of cooking from the kitchen fill the quarry and maybe… just maybe we’ll catch up the hour we lost. Maybe.

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4 responses

  1. I remember this story from the Phoenix Q&A. I’m surprised you kept your cool, I’d have slathered him in his own fish-bait and found a tank of Phiranas to fling him in. Imagine the trouble you’d have been in if you let Sherlock fall down a cliff… Reichenbach isn’t supposed to air until next year.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

  2. Emma Sammy

    Oh wow. I admire your patience. Really glad they said something.

    August 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm

  3. What was this filming for?

    August 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm

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