Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Respect to Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont

I never knew Ghislaine Dupont but from the tributes flowing from all quarters, she was a top reporter.

However I did know Claude. To use Jamie Redknapp's vernacular, he was a top, top, top sound technician.

It seems apt to employ an ex-footballer's flourish as Claude helped me out during my first foreign assignment for RFI in Germany during the 2006 world cup.

He explained the joys of obtaining sound bites from all extremities of the country by sliding them from one central pod to my personal cache on my computer.

It worked a treat. But then so did many other things that he turned his hand to. There have been far more heroic stories of Claude's ingenuity, like how he set up satellite links on the top of a house in Pakistan or how he built a studio out of bits and bobs brought in by a mate from across a distant African border.

His experience and exploits went before him and informed the young generation to give of their best. Debutant sound technicians at the Africa Cup of Nations toiled tirelessly because they knew what legendary standards they had to rival.

Claude was a whirl of a man with dreamy, faraway eyes that belied an intense professionalism. I was never with him in the combat zones, we only trod the milder pastures of insulated press centres where the communications are more or less assured.

But even in such sanitized conditions, he found adventure. Barely arrived in Beijing in 2008 to cover the Olympics for the English service, I was still acquainting myself with the ice station zebra that doubled as the International Broadcast Centre. I was about to head out from the RFI press room to go and get some coffee. As there were only a few people around I asked if anyone else fancied a cup.

Claude piped up but said he had a tip to show me. I followed thinking he knew a short cut. Instead I was swept along into a labyrinth. The cafe certainly didn't seem to be getting any nearer and when I asked about the detour. The response? 'The Italians.'

We arrived at the Latin quarter and - to inhabit a cliche - it was buzzing. Actually it was brewing.

The coffee machines had arrived from back home and the mirth was tangible. Claude in his travels across the continents had learned that there was one thing Italian journalists would not forswear in their pursuit of a tale.

And a foreigner who could commune with this was treated like a local. We took our espressos and I took note.

We didn't take a coffee together in London during the last Olympics as he didn't cover them and though it seems somewhat counterintuitive should I get the Olympic assignment in Brazil - I will seek out the Italians in the Rio press centre to salute such a generous colleague.

A few days into the blog I was writing for RFI from Beijing, the website editor said a picture was needed, Claude offered to take the snap. He came and found me on the terrace of the press centre cafe having a cup of tea.

I struck a pose or two or three and by the time I returned to the RFI office, a dozen or so suggestions were awaiting my approval on the computer.

There was doubtless an array of self-preening quips to parry a flurry of jibes but we both knew I looked good in all of them. It was the photographer. Claude chose the picture. It was the one of me with the faraway eyes. It's been on my Facebook page ever since. I guess only old age will see it removed.

Monday, 29 July 2013


There's a scene in a James Bond film, I think it's Goldfinger, when Sean Connery is in the Aston Martin and he sees a pretty girl in a fast car and he wants to chase her with his throbbing torque. "Dishipline, 007, dishipline," he intones.

I have been far from disciplined with the blog. But I've got no one to blame. I am a weak and venal seed.

But I did take my mum out for supper and then ended up buying her some lotion that she decided she had to have. It was from some rip off shop at St Pancras International. I didn't have enough fight to say: "There is a mugs mark up."

What kind of son does that? So I indulged her impulse buy. She'd been into the shop before she met me after I finished work. It's true that if I'd bought the lotion before supper, I probably wouldn't have had the second glass of wine.

But I've been in a celebratory mood. There's been a floor plan rearrangement at the Guardian. My locker was shunted along a couple of feet and while this was being done, it was opened and all the stuff was taken out and put in a box.

I was not told about this and when I went to look for a pullover - for it is stored in the locked - the locker door was open and there was nothing inside.

All gone. Tennis racquet, tennis shoes, magazines, everything. I was peeved to say the least as the jumper was one of the things I salvaged from my dad's wardrobe after he died.

It is a polyester extravaganza and it is like the type made famous in Scandi police series.

Everything was eventually recovered. The box was placed on the other side of the room and a kind rearrangement supervisor ushered me to where it was.

She thanked me for not being angry or aggressive.

But it did strike me as a poor way to treat the employee. Not even a note on the locker door to say the stuff had been removed ...contact Jonny or Jemima X on this number.

So for the best part of Sunday and until around 1.30pm on Monday I had no idea whether the stuff had been stolen or lost.

I said to my mum at supper time I should sue for mental cruelty. I'd have a strong case especially with some of the stories I have to edit.

I read and re-read and then wait for five minutes to wake up again and read again. They often don't make any sense. No thread.

No discipline.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Not so Late Shift

It's not as late as it has been but it is still late.Must stop this. Now in Nelspruit pronounced as far as I can tell Nelsprayt.

Got picked up at the airport by chance by the assistant manager of the hotel.

She was there collecting someobdy else and we simply tacked outrselves in. Just as well, the hotel is up in the hills. I have started taking my malaria tables as it is a possibility.

Quite honestly if mosquitoes want to come out in this sodden weather, they're idiots.

Have gone throught two days of spectacular absent mindedness; First in Johannesburg on Saturday I failed to pick up my Orange freebie handout bag which had recording equipment in it. I didn't think I'd put the stuff in there because my normal bag (the bag I'd set out with that morning) still felt so heavy.

Oddly, there was an Orange freebie bag right where I was sitting and I thought that was mine rather than the one plopped on a seat nearby.

Odd thing is the back stayed there until someone realised it was in need of an owner. I luckily got an honest person and it found its way back to me.

Left my glasses case at a press conference this afternoon. Had to go back and get that.

The conference was held in the chapel of the hotel. So I guess that dissuaded any would-be thieves.

I assume these lapses are to do with lack of sleep.

Stupidity sets in. So on that note I will finish. Though my feeble state could generate oodles of incidents over the coming days.

Not a good idea.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Late Shift Idiocy

It is so late that it is too late. This is a shame as it has been a very interesting day.

The press conference was fascinating. The chief executive of the local organising committee lost his rag. Really went up in flap. Some idiot journalist asked him if he was disappointed that they'd only sold 563,000 tickets out of 850,000.

"We said our target was 500,000 which takes you above two thirds," he boomed. "We've gone beyond that but you're getting these questions. I really don't know what will satisfy the media."

And then he went on about other things like the Olympics and the Euros not being sell outs.

He has a point but clearly someone had been getting at him long before I asked for a breakdown of sales at the venues.

On the subject of idiocy. I feel rather bad about being up so late. But I'll doubtless be out late after the two matches on Saturday. The second one starts at 9pm. That means that I won't be out of the mixed zone until midnight.

I'm leaving for Nelspruit on Sunday. The plane leaves at 1110. And there'll doubtless be queueing.

At least there's no queue to get into bed.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Flight

Arrived in Johannesburg in one piece. But at what cost to my equilibrium? Not the greatest of air flyers, me.. And each time the atrocity seems to be worse. Must be old age.

Queue to check in at Charles de Gaulle. Queue to get the passport checked. Not so much of a queue to see if I had anything dodgy in my bag.

Queue at Johannesburg airport for passport. Queue near Sandton Library to get my accreditation.

All in all it is time to retire.

The flight consisted of a meal at 1am … really used to eating hoki and mashed potato at that time.

Strangely I had the coffee and then wondered why I managed to watch so much of the Dark Knight Rises.

Compelling rendition of the genre. I thought I’d grown out of my Anne Hathaway thing. But I still have my Anne Hathaway thing and that probably explains why I couldn’t go to sleep.

Men in Black 3 did the trick though. And I was thoroughly resurgent watching Back to the Future.

I couldn’t resist it. The chance of seeing Brucie Willis in Looper or Michael J Fox in Back to the Future. Well nostalgia wins out.

It is such a good film or is it the conceit or the memory of the time when I saw it for the first time?

Probably the latter. But it meant that I gave scant consideration to being 40,000 feet up.

Now firmly back on the ground and stirringly adorned with my accreditation necklace, I prepare for the tournament.

There is a press conference at 1pm on Friday involving the local organising committee and the Confederation of African Football, the overlords of the shindig.

 I will go along and learn. This makes sense really since I have come all this way.

But if I have to queue to get in …..

Sunday, 13 January 2013

On the Way

It is a shame that there's no controversy. I'd like to write: 'This is the blog that dared to tell it like it is'. But I can't.

Off in a few days to South Africa to watch the Africa Cup of Nations. Will have to do lots of work while I'm out there.

But since that is the reason for being sent, it would be churlish not to chip in.

Once ago I wrote blogs for the radio station website. While I had fun composing them, the editor of the website was less enthusiastic. And since he's the head honcho, he calls the shots.

Since that kind of rebuff, I've taken to writing in a more limited form. "Five things we learned from yesterday"; and I've gone on to recount the highs and lows of the previous day's football action.

This has got lots of hits. And that's what it's all about.

I'm hoping that my month away in the South African sun will also help my football. Of late it hasn't been brilliant.

Worst thing was playing five a side game a couple of weeks back and injuring a calf muscle. During my absence the team won. Played yesterday and the team lost.

Perhaps in the interests of team progress, it is best to be away for a month. When I return perhaps the boys will be soaring at the top of the table and I can help them descend to mid-table obscurity.

Last season there was more than a flirtation with relegation to division 3. That was avoided thanks to a iconic 7-2 victory in Bagneux on the southern outskirts of Paris.

I dragged the entire family to that one. They were all piled into the hire car and I played while the rest of them went off for coffee and cakes.

And then off we went to the Loire.

This season's league form has ensured that there shouldn't be any repetition of last season's travails.

There probably won't be any danger at all until I start playing again.