Sunday 16 September 2018

Thames TV

I am not sure to this day why I left the BBC, it was a wonderful job with a future but I felt that my big mistake at the folk festival would for ever have been a blot on my CV. I guess also I was bored. I had completed a period at TV Centre as part of my training to be a sound supervisor. I worked on many live programmes and nothing quite beats the countdown to being on air, the flashing lights. No going back. I think a common nightmare of sound men is that the lights start flashing but you haven’t actually rigged any microphones. Many programmes are recorded now but previously, the technology was not available. Early programmes were recorded by effectively pointing a TV camera at a film in a device called tele-recorder. By the time I was at Thames, TV programmes were recorded on 2 inch magnetic tape on monster machines but it was still very expensive to edit a programme and many programmes were recorded “as live” - no stopping, we can’t afford to cut the tape!!

But I guess I felt something was missing in my life so I took the bold (or stupid) step to work for myself. Much of what I did was freelance so I was still working in TV but I was starting to design electronic products, crude for two reasons: one is that I was still learning and the other was that the technology was very different to 2016 when I am writing this.. 

I worked for Thames TV in Teddington and worked on some of the very big shows of that time, Callan, Man at the Top. Also I worked on Opportunity Knock and tedious day-long recording sessions with Benny Hill. But, after four years, I was getting very fed up with all the hanging around and I was constantly at risk of being fired anyway as I was for ever dabbling in electronics and would abandon my post during boring rehearsals to order components on the green room phone. No internet in those days, of course. Inevitably, the scene would move rapidly to the part of the set which was covered by my boom and I was nowhere to be found! Oops! I think that I was not very popular with my colleagues, for this reason and also because I had come from outside the company when some of them had been hoping for an internal promotion. I arrived at the same time as two sound supervisors from the BBC and they were probably also resented for the same reason. And neither of them was a particularly fun person.

I built a disastrous device called the Digitometer for Hughie Green’s production company for his programme, Opportunity Knocks but it never worked properly and I was hauled up before my boss at Thames and nearly got the sack for dealing with the company. For those of a certain age, you will remember Opportunity Knocks, an amateur talent show where the audience voted for their favourite act by applauding enthusiastically but, as dear Hughie said every week, “it’s your vote at home that counts”. That let me off the hook a little because at least my device wasn’t choosing the successful act!

At about this time I was married and later divorced - no children. I still see my ex-wife when I go to the UK, she commissioned a painting of a kitchen still life from me in 2015.

I will gloss over my relationships with girls (and most were girls as opposed to women because it was a long time ago) for reasons of confidentiality. There are two reasons really, my exes will read this book and it’s not really of interest to the casual reader in any case. But they will agree that much of the history of my relationships with the opposite sex is about my not wanting to make a commitment. Later in my life when I decided to recognise the female part in me, I began to think that this was part of the reason I had little success with my relationships. Who knows?