Thursday, 27 September 2012

Storm Bound

What a past few days it has been in Scotland.

Just last week I was enjoying day after day of fantastic autumn weather; cool days, beautiful colours starting to appear and blue skies.

Then on Sunday all that changed.

A storm blew in, fuelled partly by the leftover energy of tropical storm Nadine in the Atlantic sucked in by low pressure in the Bay of Biscay moving north, and dumped a months worth of rain in one day in some places. The wind rattled the windows and ripped the leaves and branches from trees. I spent part of the day mesmerised by the sea, just 20m from my house, as six foot waves tumbled and crashed onto the beach. A fantastic sight and an impressive sound as the sea roared.

The following day the storm was starting to lose its energy but it was still wild. Then all was quiet, and a walk along the beach revealed a rather different landscape from just a few days before. The sea had sculpted the mile and a half long beach into a new shape and decorated the surface with all manner of drift wood material. It reminded me of west coast north American beaches on the edge of the Pacific. Today the beach is still the same but soon I suspect the clean up tractors will start to remove the debris, which is a shame in some ways as it looks great right now.

There has been a lot of people flooded out of their homes in England and it reminded me of the people of Minot that we had met, who had lost everything in a major flood, during the cycle across the US in 2011.

I have to admit that I love the wild weather. Maybe I wouldn't be such a fan if I were to be flooded out of course, but the changes that occur at this time of year are always of great interest. It's the end of nature's life cycle for the year, transitioning through to winter.

In last weeks blog I was out enjoying the autumn changes on my bike, but what a difference a week makes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Free potatoes

Once again we are entering my favourite time of year, Autumn, or for my American friends, the Fall.

There's something quite magical about the change in the air as it turns cooler, but not cold. The first signs of gold are starting to appear on the trees and bushes in my garden, and the sunlight has a sparkle to it like no other time of year, with a little warmth still there in it's rays.

Most days are calm, blue skies with sunrise later in the morning and sunset becoming increasingly earlier in the evenings, shortening the day.

Spring, summer and winter all seem to be increasingly hard to pinpoint these days, with the weather in chaos globally, and it is true that autumn is getting later each year, but it has a distinct smell and colour to it that leaves you in no doubt that change is on the way.

Walks and cycle rides are particularly enjoyable at this time of year. Just a few days ago I was out for a late night walk, on my way home from friends, when something caught my eye as I passed the end of a road leading to the beach.

Just a few yards up was an adult fox with it's distinct red coat, out on its nightly prowl, foraging for free food no doubt. We stood staring at each for what seemed an age, before the fox calmly trotted off in search of some morsel's scent he had picked up on the night air.

Today, on a glorious day, I was out for a couple of hours run on my bicycle locally. As I trundled along, my mind elsewhere, I was marvelling at the sight of farm workers harvesting a field of potatoes. I stopped and watched a while, with memories of childhood flooding back, when I would work in the autumn holidays to help harvest the potato crop. As I watched I noticed that the machinery had already cleared the field nearest to me, and all along the edge where missed potatoes. Not one to let anything go to waste I clambered down and filled my saddle bag.

Just like my foxy friend I too had found a free treat, and I'm sure they will taste all the better for it.

Friday, 14 September 2012


Today the film I've been working on for two years, Sleepless 'til Seattle, was finally finished.

The edit decisions of the film were complete about a week ago and the past seven days have all been about tweaking the technical issues with the film. It very nearly wasn't of course, when the main storage device collapsed last week.

Back in September 2010, having just returned home from cycling the Camino in Northern Spain with Pauline, the idea was first suggested by Pauline that we should cycle across the USA together. This would be just one section of her bigger round the world adventure.

Ideas went back and forth of where to start and whether to go west to east, the accepted direction of travel, or east to west, which would be against the prevailing wind. But there had been a later than usual record snowfall, and some of the passes we would have to cross in the Cascades and the Rockies were not yet open in May and unlikely to be so for many weeks yet, so the decision was made for us.

I came up with the idea of making a film all about it early on, but this would end up presenting challenges not just technically but personally on a daily basis.

So we met up in Plymouth and set off in the direction of Seattle from Plymouth, camera in hand, with no idea what to expect.

Six months later, and the adventure of a lifetime behind me, I was back in the UK to start post production on the film. That was last October, so it's been just a month short of two years in the making.

I am surprised now, all things taken into consideration, just how much this low budget documentary has actually cost. And it isn't over yet. There are many high costs ahead in terms of providing an exhibition quality version plus all the festival entry fees and postage. FedEx to the States for example is £40 each time, on top of the entry fee. It all adds up.

I think had I known how much it would cost at the start I would probably not have done it.

But it is the  emotional cost that has been too high. On reflection I missed so much of the adventure, with my focus on capturing all the footage and interviews most of the time. This had a direct effect on my fellow adventurer too of course, and I marvel now at her high level of patience throughout. I had also decided to make and post video diaries along the way, and this was definitely a mistake. It meant whenever we got a day off I would be working away trying to complete the next instalment, so I never really had a chance to relax.

The frustration of not getting "thee" shot on occasion also led to high stress levels, and at the end of the day it was meant to be a fun and chilled out ride. But despite all this it was an incredible experience, and the people of America that we met along the way will stay in our hearts forever. All said and done we have a great visual record of the adventure.

These things are easy to see on hind sight. I know I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Pauline, and a very big apology. I hope one day to have an opportunity to make it up to her. Hopefully something positive will come from the film for both of us which may in some way make it all worth while.

It is now in the process of being made ready to send on Monday to it's first festival, Sundance.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

When it works

You must be a new reader of my blogs if you don't know the entire past 9  months of my life have been consumed with a feature film project.

I'm about one week away from finishing it completely.

Or was.

I'd been having problems with the project crashing on me, and very recently I was getting issues with the playback of the film on the computer with it constantly freezing on me. I knew there was a problem somewhere but couldn't track it down.

Then two days ago the external drive array holding the entire project files had a drive fail. The whole project went belly up. However, the saving grace is that I use a storage device called a RAID. I wont get into technical details as I hardly understand how it works myself, but apparently all I need to do is replace the faulty drive and it will repair itself.

In principal that's reassuring, but at first attempt I was told it will take weeks to get the new drive, which would be pointless as I need to send the finished project to it's first main festival in 10 days! However, with a bit of pressure from me, the manufacturer's support team have come up trumps.

As I write this blog I am waiting on UPS overnight to deliver a new drive to replace the dead one, then the company will take remote access of the system and attempt to fix the problem, which I find amazing and a little scary at the same time.

It is a fantastic system, superfast, developed by Apple and Intel and made by Promise Technology.

At least it's fantastic when it works.