Rock at the Railway

I finally did a gig over in Vancouver! Barely a month before we’re due to leave.  I’ve played the jam afternoons at the Yale blues club but this was a proper show.

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One louder

It was at a great little club called the Railway in town, a place where Nich and I had been on one of our first days in the city back in January. I’ve been playing for a band called ‘Sora’ who are fronted by one-time John Lawton guitarist Erol Sora. I met Erol after Chris Dale of Sack Trick mentioned that he had a mate in Vancouver. The two of them had met whilst Erol was a London resident a few years back and Chris was playing for Bruce Dickinson in the Skunkworks era. It was great to get back into it, and everything worked out really well. I managed to scrape together a keyboard, stand and use the Mac as a synth (Native Instruments B3 plugin!).  It may turn out to be a one off but if I get the chance to play another that’ll be great. Here’s a little clip from the show…

Check out Erol’s stuff at www.erolsora.com. He has two albums, both released in Europe and Japan.
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Blackpool on acid

Road trips cost about $1000 per week.  That’s about ??600. You can do it a lot cheaper than that but you have to start thinking about camping/sleeping in the car/spending days doing nothing. 

With that in mind, we had been planning a monster journey from Vancouver, down the Oregon coast to San Francisco, Yosemite Park, Los Angeles, San Diego and finally Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.  Would have taken in about 10,000km of road along the way and taken in the region of 3-4 weeks.  As we started planning out the days however, it dawned on us that we would spend quite a lot of time in the car and not that much time actually doing anything. The journey from Vancouver down to San Francisco is about 17 hours straight, but if you get off the motorway and take the coast road, you’re looking at a 3 day trip.  On top of the time constraints, a year of sporadic work and lots of ‘holidays’ have left us a little bit short of money and that’s before you include the 1 planned and 2 unplanned trips back to the UK we’ve made this year.

So we postponed the big journey and instead opted to take a cheap flight from Bellingham in northern Washington state to Las Vegas, and then drive to the Grand Canyon. The trip started badly on the journey from Vancouver to Bellingham, with the ever unreliable Greyhound bus breaking down barely 30 minutes in.  We scrambled across the border only to find our flight delayed by over 4 hours so it was with some relief (and whoops of joy from a large section of passengers on the flight) that we finally arrived in Sin City.

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Vegas. Only 14 lanes of traffic needed here.

In short, Las Vegas is very much like Blackpool would be if you gave everyone in the North West a ??100,000 gambling budget every year and figured out a way to make it summer for 11 months of the year.  I had heard all the stories, seen all the movies and STILL I was quite shocked by the scale of it all. We’d booked to stay at the Excalibur, which, you guessed it, is a massive freakin’ castle. There are thousands of rooms, and as a result thousands of people there. In fact, a bit of research revealed to me that 8 of the top 10 largest hotels in the world are here, and these alone have in excess of 39,000 rooms between them. Bear in mind that the largest hotel in the UK has only 1,058 rooms and is the only hotel in the top 100 (The Hilton Metropole in Paddington).

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The vast ‘Excalibur’ hotel, Las Vegas

The casino litters the ground floor and people are all over it, piling cash into slot machines and onto roulette tables. Everyone who gambles gets free drinks and there are no windows or clocks.  Our delayed arrival at gone midnight seemed like the most natural thing in the world. 

Next day we checked out the pool then decided to go on a good old Vegas ‘bender’. Got dressed up at 2 in the afternoon and went for an all-you-can-eat buffet followed by a few drinks and a traipse around the hotels. 

Despite having their own unique character on the outside, they are all very similar on the interior.  Ground floor mega-casinos with the odd added attraction tucked in the corners.  For example, the MGM grand has lions. Yes, lions.

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Mrs. Lion apparently can’t hear or smell anything through the glass. She can definitely see the little kid at the font though. Mmm, dinner.

Most of the interesting attractions are away from the casino halls however.  Luxor has a massive light which can, according to the hotel, be seen from space.

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Luxor. Although all this is actually in Giza.

Stratosphere has a bunch of rides which dangle you precariously over the side of an 800 foot tower. And yes, I had a go on one of them. It was THE most terrifying ride I’d ever been on by a country mile.

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Stratosphere tower. That ride is aptly called ‘Insanity’

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Wouldn’t recommend this to my mum

The Bellagio has a great water fountain display which we observed from the patio of former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar’s bar “Cabo Wabo”.

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The Bellagio’s fountains. As seen on screen

And Paris has, you guessed it, a ‘model’ Eiffel Tower which you can ride up and down. A woman on the flight back to Bellingham asked the woman next to her if she’d been to ‘Paris’. They were chatting about it for a good 10 minutes before I realised they were talking about this hotel. 

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Ride the Eiffel Tower before seeing Barry Manilow

Drink was consumed and wagers were placed and we came out of the night 20 dollars up and happy to take off on our trip
out to the Grand Canyon.

On our return, we’d decided to take in old Vegas. Downtown Vegas. Where it all started. The Fremont street are has been spruced up recently and now boasts such attractions as the worlds largest TV screen.

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The screen is 3 blocks long. That’s about 3 football pitches I suppose.

Its hotels have also been revamped somewhat, none more so than the Golden Nugget where we were staying.  The original attraction, the ‘world’s largest’ (are you detecting a theme here?) gold nugget is still on display…

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Found by a man with a metal detector in 1 foot of earth.

…but they’ve now added a $30 million shark-tank-water-slide attraction which is so ‘Austen Powers’ that I had to book into this place.  It is awesome. 

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‘The Tank’ at the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

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Me sliding through the frikkin’ shark tank

The old town is much more like I expected Vegas to be. Less corporate, more down to earth, seedy, rough and ready. I suppose it did really remind me of British seaside towns like Blackpool in a way. Just with more high-rolling poker tables than 2p drops.  In a way, I much preferred this, and so did Nich. In fact I was so inspired, I went out for one last play at the oldest casino in town, the Golden Gate, circa 1906. 10 minutes later I was $40 down and penniless. I skulked off back to the hotel.  The house always wins in the end.

2 Weddings and a Funeral

October has been quite a hectic month. As we landed back in Vancouver on Halloween, exhausted, I realised that, if everything turns out like you expect, then we would have no stories to tell and memories to remember.

The month started as planned. We returned to the UK on a flight into Manchester a few days before my sister, Mel’s, wedding. If you didn’t know already, I am one of six children, three boys and three girls, and Melanie was the last of my sisters to tie the knot.  How could we miss it? We had already returned for my best friend’s wedding – at which I was best man –  back in April. 

While Nich baked cakes and went to dress fittings, I spent a few days in Hull.  Spent time with my little brothers, Jonathan and Alex. I was proud to find that, having tried for years to inspire them to start playing instruments, at age 15 it had finally hit home and they were learning the drums and guitar respectively.  

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Jonathan practicing the drums (note the Gideon Retch signed drum skin hanging on his wall)

I also visited my Grandma, Win Sharman. Our family is all from a very small area in Hull and Win, my mum’s mum, has always lived just around the corner. She lost her husband George a few years ago and so has been living alone since.  However, she got a dog, Freddy, and not a day went by when she wasn’t busy. Visiting my mum or her son, walking the dog, taking her neighbours to the shops, driving all over the place.  She was, at 82, as fit as a fiddle.  We chatted about the wedding over a cup of tea and i showed her some pictures of our recent exploits in Canada.  

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My Mum and Grandma with Freddy the dog

We also talked about her poems, which I had been attempting to compile into a collection for her.  As we left I noticed a large spider had strung a web across her front garden.  I started taking close up pictures of it with my camera and she laughed with her neighbours. “Look” she said, “There’s a BBC cameraman in my front garden filming a wildlife documentary!”

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Mum and Grandma look on as I photograph the spider in the front garden

On leaving Hull I met up with Nich in York, where we first met.  We went to visit our friends who have just had a baby. I accidentally mentioned that young Emily Potter resembled a rugby player but luckily her mum and dad, Alice and Ned, have a sense of humour.  On reflection, she’s actually very cute.

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Ned and Emily Potter

So, on to the wedding. The date was 10/10/10 and all went magnificently. We made the cakes, Nich was a bridesmaid, I filmed a little documentary video for the happy couple and got massively drunk and danced to Michael Jackson.

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Nich and I ice the cakes

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The finished product!

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Bride and bridesmaids (L-R) Sarah (sister), Ruth, Mel (sister), Steph (sister), Nich (wife)

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Two of these people went to dance class as children

Post wedding, there was even time for a quick trip to Nottingham to catch up with some good friends…

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Our friends Sarah, Abi and Paul at the Broadway in Nottingham

And even a meeting with our favourite dog Mavis! 

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Me, Jane, Sara, Nich and Mavis the Dog! Monsal Head in Derby
shire

We flew back to Vancouver with plans to take off around the USA for the rest of the month and most of November.   Everything was planned and off we went, taking in Washington state and some of Oregon.  I was standing in Portland, at the Saturday market having just ordered a Phillie steak and cheese sandwich.  A call came through from the UK, it was my sister Stephanie. Grandma had had a heart attack whilst out walking Freddy and was in a serious condition.  We dropped our plans and started to arrange to fly back to the UK.  By the time we had looked into it, Win was dead.  It was, and still is, a complete shock. No matter how many people how since said to me that she “looked ill’ at the wedding or “was old”, as far as I was concerned I left her perfectly healthy with a big grin on her face.

We made it back for the funeral, something i’m really glad we both did. With the help of the siblings, I made up a book of her poems and had them distributed to all the guests at her funeral. They were really rather good poems, from an intelligent lady with razor sharp observational wit. Here are a couple so judge for yourself.

Poem by Win Sharman

Why can it be you???re always wrong in subjects we discuss?

And won???t admit that I am right unless I make a fuss,

And then your lapse of silence, and remaining taciturn,

Endorses what I???ve always thought,

You just don???t want to learn.

——–

The Age of Chivalry by Win Sharman

Now years ago someone said,

The age of Chivalry was dead,

Since then it???s sometimes been exhumed,

But not for long as it was doomed,

Ever since a woman dared,

To air her views ???til she was heard.

We now have sex equality,

A dirty phrase if you???re a HE,

It started with the Women???s Lib,

And this is why the men all crib,

They do not want us in the pub,

And we???re not welcome in their club,

We???re loathed if we???re the boss at work,

Only they???re allowed to shirk,

We???re frowned at if we play their games,

They could be beaten by the dames,

We may prove better mountaineers,

Or not get stoned on seven beers,

Or we may score a hole-in-one,

Or drive the car and do a ton.

But there is one thing they???ll let us share,

Then chivalry they???ve lots to spare,

Need it even once be said?

They???ll welcome you to share their bed!

In memory of Grandma, 1928-2010.

The Canadian Rockies: Part 3

The final leg of the trip started in Jasper. After a trip to the glorious, postcard friendly Maligne Lake, the recent lack of showers – and running water in general – led to us taking a much needed trip to Miette Hot Springs on the edge of the park. 

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Maligne Lake boathouse

What a great idea it was. A few dollars to get in and you get to sit in two naturally heated outdoor pools, get a shower and bask in the late evening sunshine.  We even had the pleasure of watching a black bear and her two cubs meandering down the mountainside towards us. 

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Nich enjoying Miette Hot Springs

On the way back into town we encountered an elk strolling across the road.  I hadn’t read the signs warning you to stay in your vehicle at that point, so I hopped out to get a quick shot and noticed that the large bull had a section of his horns missing.  

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A bull elk crosses the road just outside Jasper

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His horn had been torn off in a fight

A few hundred yards further down the road we realised why.  It was rutting season, and the rutting was in full flow. A large male was defending his harem against numerous other males, who were also fighting for the chance to fight the boss.  It was like the WWF… both translations of the acronym! 

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The dominant male fights off a challenger

It was amazing to see, and as a result we weren’t alone. In fact, there was a paparazzi-style gathering of wildlife photographers with massive lenses all desperately trying to get that postcard shot of the elk clashing horns. Some were getting way too close. I had now read the sign which states that elk frequently charge cars and cause thousands of dollars of damage every year.

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Wildlife paparazzi at work

The next day we decided to head out of the park via the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson. It was another great day hike up to a crystal clear lake, with plenty of sights along the way. Autumn had really set in and the colours were fantastic.

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Nich on the trail towards Berg Lake at Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 4,663 m (15,299 ft)

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As usual, the hike was worth it!

We even found a celebrity squirrel who seemed a bit peeved at being photographed when he spotted me.

Celebrity Squirrel caught by paparazzi

So finally our trip around the Rockies came to and end. On the way back to Vancouver we made a stop at Adams River to see spawning sockeye salmon. The fish swim thousands of miles up to their spawning grounds after 4 years out in the Pacific Ocean. Many of them don’t make it, but thousands appear in a small section of the river during a short period in October, their scales turning a bright red colour as they reach their final destination. At some points the river is bright red with fish. They fight against the strong current and we saw dozens of fish give up and die whilst in the last few yards of their journey, their scales instantly losing the red colouring as the current sweeps them back towards the lake downstream.

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The Adams River – bright red with thousands of spawning sockeye salmon

I managed to get in with them and do some underwater filming which shows how hard they have to battle just to maintain their position in the water. It’s really an amazing thing to see them fighting each other off to reach the best spawning grounds. The males are somewhat uglier and more fierce looking than the females but they all do their fair share of biting and chasing.

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Getting my hands dirty to film the salmon with the GOPRO in an underwater housing

The resulting footage shows the fish fighting each other

Whilst filming I met up with a few colleagues from Global television in Vancouver who were up doing the same thing I was. ‘Small world’ I thought, that was until I met Susan Watts, a former colleague and the Science Editor of BBC Newsnight in the queue for a piece of pumpkin pie at a food stall near the river. She was there reporting on declining fish stocks. Small world indeed. Susan’s film can be seen here.

We finally followed the Fraser River back from whence the salmon had swum to the Pacific Ocean and Vancouver. Next up was a trip back home for my sister Melanie’s wedding. After 5 months away it will seem very strange to be back but we’re both really looking forward to it.

The Canadian Rockies: Part 2

I left my last post having arrived in Calgary, or ‘Cowtown’ as it’s known.  If there was ever any doubt that this is Canada’s cowboy country, you just have to look at the signs telling people where to walk to in the winter when it’s too cold to stay out on the streets.

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Too cold? This way Mr Cowboy

We only spent one night in the city, where we sampled the nightlife by sitting on a patio in a bar facing the street watching an NFL game.  The bar had parked a massive van equipped with plasma TVs right outside so you could still see the game if you wanted to sit on the patio. Only in Alberta.

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If I didn’t know that some poor mammal was being made extinct by this sort of extravagance, then I’d think it was a well good idea!

As we left the city we decided to stop at a local landmark which was a huge part of both our childhoods. No, not Disneyland or a film set but the ski jump from the 1988 Winter Olympics. Yes, it was here that Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards soared into last place and single handedly changed the rules for Olympic qualification.  There was some rumour that he was afraid of heights but I think that was all rubbish. Ski jumps are absolutely massive and I wouldn’t like to try it – especially in a pair of jam-jar-bottom specs.

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Nich doing her best Eddie Edwards impression in front of the 1988 Olympic Ski Jump

So, onward, back into the monolithic mountain range we travelled. It’s a truly stunning drive from Calgary to Canmore and it was made all the better by some really great weather. However that was all to change the next day. 

Now we were sans companions, we decided that we were going to rough it a bit and stay in Hosteling International’s network of wilderness hostels for the rest of the trip. The first night was spent in Mosquito Creek, which has the bonus of having a very rustic sauna. After dinner, as night fell, we decided that it would be a great idea to sample it, since there are no showers in wilderness hostels. Of course, you have to build the fire yourself and get the heat up before you can hop in, and then there’s the ‘swimming pool’, which is the Athabasca River. Straight off the glaciers, you’re looking at a water temperature of 5 or 6 degrees Celsius, so more like a cold plunge pool. It was a great experience. scurrying between the river and the sauna in the dark, especially when the heavens opened. We were later joined by one of the other two hostel guests, a German IT consultant who, being German, thought it best to whip off his pants and do it properly. Needless to say Nich turned off her head-torch at this point.

The next day, the rain held which made for a disappointing drive through fogged peaks up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper. Luckily though, as we climbed we got a break in the weather and made it out onto the Athabasca Glacier.  A combination of warm temperatures and rain meant that there was a huge torrent of water gushing from the toe of the glacier. We chatted with a few nutters who were walking up with skis and tents to spent the night among the crevasses before skiing down the next day. There were also various mountaineering courses being conducted on the ice. 

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Trainee mountaineers prepare for their day at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier

We spent that night as the lone occupants of the hostel at Mount Edith Cavell and were treated to a cosy night with a fire in our bedroom and one of the most amazing night time views I’ve ever seen.

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Mount Edith Cavell at night. As seen from the wilderness hostel at it’s base

A great days hike up to Cavell Meadows followed (including more sightings of our new favourite animal, the Pika) before we made it to Jasper and Maligne Canyon hostel. By the previous nights’ standards, it was packed and we were given a room with 4 other guests. Not great, but, after finding out that the German-born hostel manager was in fact a massive English football (and Arsenal) fan, I managed to bribe him to open up a new dorm room, just for us, with a viewing of the latest edition of Match of the Day on my Mac. He loved it, despite watching his beloved Gunners go down 3-2 at home to West Brom.

Between a Rock and Hard Face

So much has happened since my last blog post, it’s going to take a while to catch up. However, onward we go.

Much of our time in Canada has been spent with one eye on a trip out to the Rocky Mountains. I had been lucky enough to get there for a couple of days in August, but that had only been a taste.  At that time – and in fact for most of our time in Canada – Nich (the wife) had been poring through every mountaineering/climbing/exploring book she could lay her hands on. Her membership of VPL (the often misinterpreted acronym of the Vancouver Public Library) had become invaluable to get hold of the various works of Sid Marty amongst others. So as the summer started to wind up, we planned our trip and plotted our route.

A few days before, I had been online booking some flights and noticed that there were some amazing prices, so I rang around the family and managed to persuade the notoriously difficult to please, David Cheeseman Sr (my dad) to come out for part of the trip. 

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David Cheeseman Sr. That tea was from a flask he’d brought with him from ‘ull

He had never been this far away from East Yorkshire in his life so it was great that he was able to get the time to come. He brought along his girlfriend, Vicky, and so our party was made up. Four people to be crammed into a Toyota Matrix (Auris to your Europeans) for the 1300km journey from Vancouver to Calgary via the Okanagan Valley. 

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Dad and Nich beside the rental car

A long, rainy first day driving was briefly interrupted by trips to Harrison Hot Springs and a few waterfalls before we arrived in Osoyoos, a town right on the border with the USA and at the base of Canada’s wine-growing mecca, the Okanagan Valley.  I had never thought very much of Canadian wine and it rarely appears over in the UK so was a bit wary of what this leg of the trip would be like. Thanks to some great recommendations, we found that it really is worth the visit. Great wine and even better scenery.

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Lunch on the patio at the Burrowing Owl winery in the Okanagan Valley.

Of course, being Canada they have some unusual problems. For example, at the Burrowing Owl winery we found out that, in 1996, almost 50 tonnes of grapes were lost to just 6 black bears. 

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Grapes at Quinta Ferreira winery

We moved on through the valley and onwards up to the Kootenay Mountains, which are absolutely stunning. I could try and write a great deal about the stunning scenery you encounter in Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks but it’s easier to just put a couple of photos in. 

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A freight train makes its way through the mountains. The trains are miles long, literally.

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The view from the top of Mount Revelstoke

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Sunset over Glacier National Park

We then spent a couple of days staying at the Kicking Horse mountain resort in Golden. The resort was completely empty but meant that we could easily get around, have a game of golf (I played my best ever round!) and see the Grizzly Bear refuge.  The resort created a sanctuary for two orphaned Grizzlies a few years ago, but only one remains (the other died of natural causes during hibernation).  The bear, Boo, is huge, and luckily for us lives behind an electric fence in his 7.5 acre pen. The thing about electric fences is that it does allow you to get extraordinarily close to one of the most dangerous animals in the world. Boo is now the subject of his keeper’s Masters’ degree in Grizzly bear behaviour and, despite the obvious drawbacks of being in a glorified zoo, seems very happy.  Dad loved seeing the bear and spent the rest of the trip staring intently out of the car window hoping to spot one browsing in the forest.

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You wouldn’t want to meet him in the wild, believe me

So then it was the turn of the Rockies to test the lower
gears of the rental car. If I found it tricky to describe how beautiful the Kootenays are, then I stand no chance with the Rockies. Everything around you is stunning. Huge peaks tear towards the sky topped with snow, the wide valleys and rivers allow the mountains to stand back and display the vastness, water gushes down from glaciers, it takes all your effort to avoid crashing the car as you’re drawn to gawp at it all.  

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A canoe on Emerald Lake. This was a toilet stop. Unbelievable

We drove to Lake Louise and went on a 9 mile hike up to a lookout point called the ‘Big Beehive’ which, surprisingly, looks like a beehive.  The world-famous lake is stunning and even better from the lookout point. 

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Lake Louise as seen from the top of ‘Big Beehive’. That’s the famous Fairmont hotel ‘Chateau Lake Louise’ at the head of the lake

On the way up we traversed the edge of Lake Agnes and stopped when we heard a little ‘Eeep’ sound. Thanks to David Attenborough’s ‘The Life of Mammals’,  Nich and I recognised this as the distinctive cries of a Pika.  These little things would definitely be high on the shortlist of ‘World’s Cutest living Thing (Ever)’.  They live in the rocky moraine piles which lie in the immediate aftermath of a melted glacier. We stopped and observed them for a while as they scrambled around collecting greenery before the onset of winter.  Nich even had the good fortune of a close encounter.

Nich meets a Pika

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A Pika… please watch the video link…it is awesome.

Meanwhile, my dad ventured further up the trail and had a close encounter with a ‘polar bear’ which, on later examination of the photograph he managed to take was revealed to be a mountain goat.

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‘Dad, what did you see?’…’It was a goat in a polar bear suit, I swear’

Following a day in Banff and a night in one of Hosteling International’s excellent wilderness hostels, it was time to drop the old man and Vicky off at Calgary airport and continue the expedition with just the two of us.  Mr Cheeseman Sr had had a thoroughly good time and went home with lots of stories (the one about the golf ball he found which had been chewed by a bear is a classic if you are ever down the pub with him). So it was back through Banff and Lake Louise and up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and beyond.

Off the road and on again

I’m writing this latest post whilst sitting outside the Vancouver Supreme Court, waiting for a jury to  come to a decision. A past time of many news camera operators, court is THE most boring job. Luckily for me, there’s so much free wi-fi in Vancouver, I’ve not only been able to write this, but this morning I also watched a live stream of my beloved Hull City drag out a thoroughly dull 0-0 draw against Nottingham Forest.  90 minutes well spent considering the situation.

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The internet is a wonderful thing

My Dad turned up yesterday. Yes, all the way from Hull. We spotted a cheap flight and, credit to him, he cancelled all plans and got over here.  So, on Monday I finish my little spell of work and hit the road to the Rockies. We’re travelling up through the Okanagan Valley via some wineries and golf courses, to Lake Louise and Banff, and then onto Calgary. Should be amazing.

Guided tour of a Canadian road crew vehicle

For all you news camera geeks out there. Here’s my truck. Nissan Xterra Offroad. It’s a beast.

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God knows what size the engine is, at least 5 litre

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Not driven on a logging road in it yet though

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Gear storage in the back is really good. 

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Ranger partslider drawers

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Sony DSR450 camera with crappy Fuji 4 by 3 lens. Miller tripod (pretty good actually)

…and here’s some pics of the gear in action!

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Set up for a live hit at the Olympic Torch

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Attractive earpiece. About to do a down the line interview with the Premier of British Columbia

Working for the anchorman

Having jollied around Canada for the months of May, June and July, the wife and I were running low on money. So, we got our heads down and dedicated August as ‘make money month’. I’d had a bit of trouble getting into the inner circles of British Columbia’s news media, but after one lucky break, I managed to get a few shifts as a cameraman at Global Television (http://www.globaltvbc.com/).  I also got a two and half week gig at the CBC in Edmonton, Alberta.

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Working for Global TV has is perks

 
I’d always wondered how working in news over here would be compared to the BBC in the UK. The first thing you notice is how commercial the whole operation is. Viewers mean advertising revenues obviously, but the networks use the US model of tying advertising into news seamlessly. It’s sometimes difficult to know if you’re watching a news broadcast or an advert, as many advertisers cunningly use the news bulletin format as the basis for their commercials. Product placement and on air plugs are commonplace to the point of leading the agenda in some cases.

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Me and the weather girl (and a pink stuffed gorilla). Broadcasting from a house which is the main attraction in a Global TV sponsored prize draw.

 
Another notable difference is the use of emergency services radio scanners.  They are commonplace across all news networks here.  Of course, news hacks in the UK would just call it ‘Ambulance chasing’ and they’d be right. However, as a colleague who frequently beats fire trucks to blazes told me, it makes for compelling visual story telling.  Not only that, the viewers get to see the emergency services, on which they spend their taxes, doing their jobs and often doing them very well.  When did you last see a policeman arrest someone on the news in Britain? Perhaps there would be more sympathy if we saw that side of the police than just the aftermath when something goes wrong?
 
The two networks I have had the fortune to work for couldn’t be more different. Global TV in British Columbia is broadcast from Burnaby (next to Vancouver) and gets in region of 1 million viewers. It’s the highest watched local news programme in Canada, akin to the BBC’s spotlight in the south west of England. CBC in Edmonton, however, is the polar opposite. The bulletins get between 5,000 and 10,000 viewers which is around 2% of the audience share. Bear in mind that the CBC is part funded by the taxpayer, you’d think that they would have the remit and resources to improve their share.

 
I have some theories as to why this is the case!  If you don’t work in news feel free to skip this bit!
 
News in Canada is very much personality-led.  The ‘anchors’ get their face everywhere and are used as much as the company logo to brand the station. Global TV seems to get the better anchors and, crucially, holds on to them. There’s nothing more off-putting for a viewer than to have a different face reading your news every few months, and this has been happening at CBC Edmonton.

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Golfing with CBC Edmonton’s main anchor David Gerow (check out the teeth). Will he be there in 2 months? 
 
Another theory is that the standards of production are higher at Global than CBC.  The equipment at CBC is actually more expensive and higher spec (they were usin
g Betacam SX and Avid) than Global (Grassvalley, DVCAM), but the way that the stations use the kit differs wildly.  For example, I was told on my first day at CBC Edmonton not to bother getting lights out for interviews indoors!  Apparently, this is because there isn’t enough time. And the reason there isn’t enough time is because reporters routinely travel with cameraman, meaning that cameramen have to wait around for reporters to leave base to go to jobs, hence reducing setup time to zero. It is insane how inefficient this is, and more insane how easily solved it is.  

 
In editing, the CBC use an Avid Unity server system which allows their reporters to view and prepare material from their desks. However, some take this process too far and NEVER go into the edit suite, not even to view a finished piece.  This is mainly because they are required to ‘top and tail’ their report every day from the newsroom camera.  Another pointless and inefficient use of a reporter’s time in my opinion.  

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Waiting for reporter to come down to the car park again. Yawn.

 
Global aren’t without their faults.  The editing standards are low (a cut on a move is standard practice and don’t talk to me about audio) and they are still hanging on to 4:3 broadcast, 10 years after the rest of the planet switched to widescreen TVs. However, the fact that they routinely review their standards and have a healthy desire to achieve quality has definitely helped them remain the leaders in local news over here.
 
One thing working over here has given me is a different view of how the working processes at the BBC compare, and it is mostly favourably. Journalism is better, story count is better, camerawork is better and editing is better.  I suppose that this is why Auntie is held in such high regard on this side of the Atlantic.

Anyway… judge for yourself. Here are some links to examples of the stories I’ve shot (not edited, I must add!)

Water gets tainted by pigeon poo. Locals get kettles out.

Power outage for an hour, people can’t get coffee. Outrage.

Fish appear in sea. Shock.

Paedos are everywhere, even in Canada!

As September rolls on and the bank balance edges up, our plans are being hatched for a trip through the Rocky Mountains and then back over to the UK another Cheeseman wedding (4 down, 2 to go). I imagine by November I’ll be back trying to earn the dollars again to keep our lavish world traveller lifestyle intact. Probably not for CBC if they read this mind you.