A little walk down a few canal paths took me from the hotel in which I was staying to the hotel where the 'Medical Day' talk was taking place. Along the way I took a few pictures of swans and boats and the like. I am such a tourist.
There were around thirty writers/producers there and we were to listen to a number of talkers, myself being one of them.
The first talker was presenting a piece of BBC research, it was the distillation of a number of focus groups about what the people of the UK were most worried about. Some interesting views that were obviously media led, but in my experience have little basis in reality.
The second talk was from a Bristol psychiatric liaison nurse explaining his role. For those that are familiar with Casualty, this is the role taken by the character 'Abs'. It was a very entertaining and useful talk, and would be something that I'd like the local hospitals in London to be able to see. He highlighted a lot of the problems that psychiatric services have with A&E departments and wasn't afraid to criticise others when warranted.
Then it was time for my chat – while the others had Powerpoint presentations for their talks, I had a scrap of paper – I have a distinct dislike of Powerpoint unless it is full of pictures of flying dogs and kittens in chocolate boxes. The session was a bit of a two-way conversation between myself and the audience, which was something I was hoping for. For the writers to get the most out of the session I thought it important that they could ask the questions that they wanted answering, while at the same time I could bring new aspects of ambulance care to their attention.
Then lunch where I had a very enjoyable chat with a high-up producer and some writers. While aware that they are producing a drama, rather than a purely accurate recreation of life in A&E, I told them about some of the things that make us people who do it in real life groan. It was a good chat because I learnt a little about how the TV programme is written and produced, and how it differs from the American way of doing things. All very interesting and I appreciated them taking the time to explain things to me. Then I was given a stack of my books to sign, the department had bought twenty copies of my book. My bank manager thanks all you TV license payers.
Then a taxi to the Casualty studios which is situated in an industrial estate and doesn't look at all how you would expect it from the outside. Taken under the wing of a lovely PA, I had a period of disconnect when I walked in and saw the extras sitting around. Here were large numbers of people dressed as nurses and paramedics, but they were all actors! The costumes, hair and similar were all extremely convincing, even the two police officer leading someone off in cuffs during the scene had the same tired look as all the real police I know. I felt like I wanted to talk to the paramedics sitting at the table to ask them what the work was like in Bristol…
The set itself is superb, it really does look real. The ceiling tiles are the same, the equipment is the same and there is even the little bits of detritus that gather in real A&E departments. The trollies (probably disused trollies taken from a real A&E) were, while old, the exact trollies I used to use. They were also bashed around in the same way that real trollies are. The only real difference is that the fake department has more blankets and pillows than a real A&E.
Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take any pictures… perhaps if they were to invite me back in an 'official blogger' role (hint, hint)…
I sat quietly while they rehearsed and shot a scene several times from different angles. It was interesting to see all the work that goes into a section of filming that will only last two minutes on screen. They make 48 episodes a year, which means they work much harder than I do.. Filming the scene were the actors James Redmond and Janine Mellor who play the parts of 'Abs' and 'Kelsey'. I don't think I could do their jobs, to much standing around and then repeating yourself… There was also an actor who has been in loads of programmes, but whose name I don't know. Again the costumes and the way they carried themselves reminded me of people whom I have worked with in the past.
After leaving (with the fun goodie pack pictured above) I had a meal in a local pub and then caught the train home (where I wrote this post).
Now to sleep before work tomorrow. Seven evening shifts – my favourites…
The video thing yesterday was purely a bit of fun. It's in Quicktime .mov format for those that had trouble viewing it. If I ever do it again, I don't think it'll be on this blog. It was my attempt to do a 'ze Frank' when I had a spare hour. It only took two takes and I think that speaks for itself. It is also viewble on Youtube.