Thursday, 9 February 2012

Countdown for a Countess.

So it's the middle of winter, and i find myself in a cold car park, gently shivering, waiting for a minor member of the British Royal Family to open a new medical center on the outskirts of Bracknell, Berkshire. Now i'm not moaning, this is quite a normal part of the working news cameraman's day. The waiting in the cold part, that is, without any lunch. We wait in the cold a lot.

But i wasn't alone, the great and the good of the local parish had arrived in force and patiently shivered alongside me. Local Mayors, distinguished guests, Senior Medical staff and associated bean counters were all given the once over by the Royal protection officers of Her Majesties Constabulary, who glanced a beady eye over the serfs as frost gathered on our eyebrows. I thought about taking a picture of them but thought better of it, preferring not to have a 9mm automatic pistol inserted up my left nostril.

The Bracknell Entry for Britain's Got Talent.
The meet and greet was inside though, and having gratefully moved into the warm, i started to drip nose fluid as the others practiced how to bow, tug forelocks, and smile like a loon. I knew Royalty was close when the sturdy men with armpit bulges started talking into their sleeves and double checking the dripping, sniffing cameraman with suspicion. I knew that they would rather the press were not there. Dodgy looking blokes with shifty eyes and a knack for getting in the way are not a close protection officers favourite, so i flashed a winning smile, and hefted my camera onto my shoulder, ignoring the rumble from my stomach as hunger kicked in.

Now, whatever your view of the Royal Family, there is no doubt in my mind about the work that they do. Yes, they are privileged, rich and feted the world over, but on a day like today i saw Sophie, The Countess Of Wessex, arrive at her third local visit of the day. She must have shook hands with hundreds of people, made small talk, smiled constantly and pulled the cord on a great many opening curtains. Oh... and been followed, filmed and snapped at all of them by guys like me. Living life in a fish bowl doesn't come close to describing it.

Sophie, The Countess Of Wessex, with patriotic clutch bag containing hairbrush, lippy, picture of the hubby and possibly a Walther PPK.
So, as she lives her life in a fish bowl, i trained my lens on the Countess and followed her around, just to make her feel at home you understand. I filmed the shaking of hands, the small talk and the pulling of the cord on the opening curtain. Sophie... for we were on first name terms by now, wafted serenely around the new facility like she had done it a hundred times before. Which she has. And when it was time for her to leave, the great and the good waved and cheered her goodbye as i, ever the professional, piled into the sandwiches, sausage rolls, cake and cups of tea, before the plague of locusts descended, leaving bugger all for the working man.

So i tip my hat to you, your Royalness, for another job well done and for providing a very hungry cameraman with a free lunch.  

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.