Watts Happening

Witham Under Water
03rd May 2012
Well burst my banks, I've never seen anything like it (in Witham.) The river is usually about two feet deep and three metres wide. Not today, oh no. The ducks have spread their wings, they're cruising the fields, the bowling green and generally hanging out where people usually stroll to feed them.

Mill Lane Lawn Bowls Club, bring your snorkel.

Water feature inside and surrounding the house.

Friends making the most it.

Granted, it's not on the scale of the Queensland floods that washed away houses, bridges and people. It's big news though. Thinking about it, the UK's in drought too, so Witham is like Australia. Hmmm, why on earth would I consider living anywhere else?!
What happened to November?
01st December 2011
Not really sure what happened to November, it just disappeared in a flurry of feathers, photos and friends. Specifically, Sue and her amazing family of owls. I was in raptures about these raptors (still am in fact) and can't wait to photograph them again.

There are more images in the Ladies Who... Are Wild gallery. Enjoy!
Ladies Who... Sing
16th October 2011
Between filming men and women who have a penchant for lycra, I've been lucky enough to hear the Welsh songstress, Jodie Marie perform in London and Wales recently. She never fails to move her audience with her beautiful voice and poignant lyrics.

Men Who... Run
16th October 2011
The gold trail continued this week, with 1992 Olympic Gold medallist Linford Christie sharing his memories of life in the fast lane. He's still giving the youngsters a run for their money, as he coaches British medal hopefuls MLF and Laura Turner for London 2012.

You can view shots of Linford and Mark Lewis-Francis in the new Men Who... Run gallery. Enjoy!
A Gold Medal Winning Week
07th October 2011
It's been a golden week in the world of Watts Where, with late summer rays glinting on numerous Olympic gold medals. I'm filming a series for ESPN and it's with the elite of British sport: Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winners.

I first filmed James De Gale in the run up to the Beijing Olympics. Then, he was one of eight boxers preparing to take on the world. He's the only one that came home with gold.

James turned professional after Beijing and is preparing for a fight on the 15th October, under the watchful eye of Jim his trainer. *Latest news... James won his fight and is now European Super-Middleweight Champion.*

Rower, Greg Searle won his gold in Barcelona in 1992. With the support of his wife (who allows him to row in front of the TV) and his children, he's now preparing for his 4th Olympic Games, 20 years after first being crowned Champion.

Sarah Storey also won her first Gold medal in 1992, she was a swimmer back then. She switched to cycling six years ago and has continued her winning ways. London 2012 will be Sarah's 6th Paralympic Games.

Jody Cundy also started life as a swimmer, winning golds in two Paralympic Games before switching to cycling. He's the fastest solo paralympian on a bike.

I also filmed Adrian Moorhouse who won gold in 1988, Sydney 2000's Modern Pentathlon Champion, Stephanie Cook and Athens' 800m champion Danny Crates this week, but was too busy working to get any photos. (I hate it when that happens!) It's a real privilege that these champions share their stories and motivational too. Best of all, they're all lovely people who are just cool to hang out with for a day!
Shed Guru Barbecue Lesson
25th August 2011
This trip to Colorado has been a masterclass in all things Shed for Kieran The Shed Apprentice. Travelling is about learning and he’s taken every opportunity to tap into the expertise of the Shed Guru, from vehicles to toy planes and milkshakes to barbecues, he’s hung on every word.

Keen to share more of his knowledge and satisfied that his apprentice was ready for the next step, the Shed Guru unveiled his prize possession, his Honda ST1300 (prospective students note: colour coordinated vehicles are a must for all Shed Wannabes.) Gary started her up and let her purr gently, oblivious to the fumes while discussing RPM, Torque and shiny paint.

Not to be outdone, Patsy the Quilt Queen (patchworking as opposed to putting duvet covers on uncooperative duvets) got her hands on Kieran for an afternoon and revealed the secrets of button sewing. Kieran’s neither left nor right handed, he is in fact, cack-handed.

Unperturbed Patsy persevered with the needle threading, knot tying and the science of sewing up through one hole and down through another. You’ll be pleased to hear, the button’s now safely attached.

How better to reward that hard work than with a Shed Guru barbecue lesson?

Step 1: Get your wife to marinate the steak (in this case, a 12oz T-Bone) and place on the hot grill.

Step 2: Turn regularly

Step 3: Ensure your attire matches your wheelbarrow (as previously mentioned, colour coordination is crucial to reach the peak of your Shed Man potential.)

Step 4: Remember that whilst you’re the Shed Man in charge of your domain, there’s another force at work and she needs to be kept informed so the rest of the food can be served when the steak is ready. Note: This is one of the occasions that Shed Man has to tell The Force Indoors what he’s actually doing outside.

Step 5: When your steak is “as tender as a woman’s heart” serve and enjoy.
Ride 'Em Cowboy
24th August 2011
Rodeo has to be one of the craziest ways that I've witnessed to make a living. Even if you've seen it in the movies, nothing prepares you for the madness of it all.

These cowboys ride 8 seconds (at most) on a bucking bronco or bull. The animals are bred for rodeo, so they're not 'broken' plus they buck to get the straps you see around the back of the horse or bull off them.

As soon as the cowboy is despatched, the outriders release the strap and the horse bolts for the gate as the cowboy stumbles his way out of the arena. This is rodeo reality. It's a lifestyle and runs through the generations. There are 5 year old kids on horseback without... shock, horror... riding hats, showing off their riding skills in the barrel races. For me, the closest I'll get to being a Cowgirl is these:

There are more photos of the rodeo in the Men Who... and People and Places Galleries.
Shed Envy
19th August 2011
If you’re a man and you crave a big shed, a haven from the house, a place to organize your tools, listen to music, polish your vehicles, then I have to warn you that this Watts Happening may upset you. It may even lead to Shed Envy.

When it comes to sheds (or garages), Gary seems to be living the American Dream. He has everything he needs here: a fridge with soda (I know beer would be preferable for some of you, but the infrastructure’s in place,) Western music playing on the stereo, cars, motorbikes and boy stuff to admire, stroke or tinker with. This is it. The ultimate. He could run master classes and become the Shed Guru.

While Gary’s in his shed, Patsy looks after the home; she makes amazing patchwork quilts, cooks fab food and knocks up the tastiest milkshakes in America (possibly the world.) Her particular specialty seems to be Rocky Road milkshakes. They should really be called Slippery Slope milkshakes; just one will get you hooked and then nothing will save your waistline.

MFN seems to have merged both worlds remarkably well in the short time he’s been here. Gary will have a milkshake if Kieran’s having one, so, of course, it would be rude of Kieran not to.

Here he is, tucking into his RRM while taking lessons from the Shed Guru as the sun goes down over Denver.
Cheese Puffs, Cars and Cowboys
18th August 2011
Our cultural tour of Colorado started where any quality tour starts, Walmart. Our mission: to obtain a fishing license for MFN, in preparation for his trip to the mountains (and river) on Sunday. Having handed over his 9 dollars and pocketed his day pass, we had a wander around what is, a very big store. And then we saw them, the first highlight of my trip. Orange and proud, a stack of jars at least 18 inches tall, and 12 inches wide, the Cheese Puffs. Not any old cheese puffs you understand. These are cheese puffs that could take over the world if they all escaped from their jars at the same time. Kieran and I debated how we’d transport a jar home, but thought they might break out in the hold and the first we’d know about it is when the luggage came out on the carousel at Heathrow, covered in orange puff.

The sky is bigger out here and everywhere we drive we can see the Rocky mountains. The space is calming, the houses are huge but some of the older buildings remain, with ambivalent dog in doorway.

On the way home we stopped at the car yard to find MFN a motor. It’s a shame that most vehicles now don’t have the character that the classic cars have. Look at them, just think how much fun I could have with a Ladies Who… shoot and these cars. Kieran has a favourite, which one do you think?

As if that isn’t enough fun for one day, Patsy and Gary have taken their brief to find me a cowboy very seriously and organized a night at the Flying W ranch in Colorado Springs. By the time we hit the road, the thunderstorms and lightning had changed the colour of the landscape, but that didn’t stop us scaling the dizzy heights for this view.

The Flying W dinner is based on traditional cowboy fayre: amazing barbecue beef or chicken, jacket potatoes, apple sauce and beans. Not just any old beans you understand, if these beans teamed up with the cheese puffs, there’d be no stopping them.

After dinner, clad in denim, boots and Stetsons, the cowboys entertained with their fiddling, strumming and singing. They were actually really good and according to Patsy ‘the one in the black hat’ was real cute and had dimples when he smiled. Thanks Ben, your gorgeous voice was the second highlight of my day.
Fun In The Rain
25th June 2011
“Carol says we’ll be unlucky if we get caught in a shower” Dennis tells me on the phone.
“Ok, well I’m going to pack my waterproof anyway” I inform her.
“I’ll bring a golf brolly, just in case.”
“I won’t, because I haven’t got one.”

The Carol Dennis is referring to is the Carol who does the weather on the BBC. So, a reliable source then. Fast forward 24 hours and you’ll find Dennis and I standing in Hyde Park, waterproofs on, hats up and sheltering under a brolly.

We weren’t just standing in the middle of Hyde Park for no reason, you understand. We were there to see The Killers who were headlining at the Hard Rock Calling festival. The added bonus for us was the news that James were playing. Their Best Of album was one of our soundtracks when we were travelling Europe with the MotoGP, so we were very excited. As James told us all to Sit Down, the hoods went up and a light shower ensued.

It didn’t last long, so on Carol’s scale of luck; I guess we were a 1 or 2. We didn’t dwell on it and managed to jig, sing-a-long and admire Tim Booth’s dancing for the rest of James' set without any weather incidents.

It didn't stay rain free for long though, oh no. It appears that the earlier shower, was just the warm up act. The real rain started as we were sitting on our plastic bags waiting for the Kaiser Chiefs and it didn’t stop. We couldn’t shelter under the brolly because of the abuse we were getting from fellow festival goers, so we had to make do with our hoods and the hope that taller people would soak up the rain before it got to us.

They didn't.

Even though we’d definitely score a 10 on Carol’s unlucky chart, our pre-gig planning paid dividends. We stayed dry (thanks to Berghaus) and warm (thanks to North Face) and The Killers were far from a washout. They looked and sounded fantastic. We sang along, oohed at the fireworks (you can’t beat a good firework) and were generally amazed at how much fun you can have standing in the rain in Hyde Park for 3 hours.

All in all it was a great day. It started with a rendez-vous in Selfridges where I browsed the photography books, and moved onto Ping Pong for Dennis to refuel on dumplings and dim sum before hitting Hyde Park. Plans are now afoot for Glastonbury in 2013.
Please switch off your…
19th June 2011
In this day and age, you’d expect the next word to be mobile followed by phones. Especially given the context: the O2 arena for a performance of the Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, the PA did make that announcement, along with the “flash photography is prohibited” (which of course, was ignored by numerous people and is a separate rant.)

Twenty minutes into the first act, I had (in my head) altered the phrase to: Please switch off your babies. Yes. Really. Someone in their wisdom thought it was a good idea to take a babe in arms to the Royal Ballet. In the baby’s defence, it didn’t scream, but it did have a cold so couldn’t breathe easily and sounded like a little pig snuffling, grunting and whimpering about two feet from my head.

It added a new dimension to Prokofiev’s score, percussion of a piggy kind that had probably never been heard before in its 76 years. However, I wouldn’t recommend it. By the time Romeo had set eyes on Juliet after gatecrashing the Capulet’s house, I’d scanned available seating for a move at the end of the act. As Juliet fell in love with Romeo, I’d located my seat for the post interval performance.

As the lights went down for Act II, the orchestra whisked me away, piggy free and powerful. The lack of intimacy at the O2 diluted the visual impact massively, but it was still a great production and I’ll never cease to be amazed at the ability of top ballet dancers. Perhaps the snuffling baby will grow up to be one after its early exposure to dance, or maybe it should have been at home with a babysitter.
Sunday Morning
17th February 2011
How did you sleep? Asked Anita as I bumbled my way up the stairs from the guest quarters to the family home.

"Ok", I replied. "Not bad."

I'd woken up a couple of times but got back to sleep fairly quickly and, overall, was very happy with my night's rest. Anita obviously wasn't. "So you didn't hear Chilli barking at the stray dog wandering up and down the street?" Nope.

"What about Asher, did you hear him when he woke up at 1.30 and 4?" Well, vague recollections of child crying, but not my problem so rolled over and went back to sleep, so nope.

"And the possum, did you hear the chaos that ensued when the possum was on the verandah?" Nope, definitely didn't hear the possum. Now I'm starting to feel like I missed out.

"Well Kai woke up at 5.30, that didn't bother you either?" No, it really didn't. Hmmm, maybe this is what it's like to be a man, you know, that "not my problem I'll just zone out and let someone else deal with it" attitude. Possibly.

To make up for my good night's sleep I embarked upon playtime in Kai's room, camera in hand. There's something special about family time: the laughter, tears, violence and death defying antics all add up for a wonderful photography session. This is Real Life, none of your groomed, clean children, wearing white, shot against white, false and angelic.

This is reality, snot and all.

After what seemed like hours of fun and frolics I retired to the sofa, looked at my watch, then at Anita in horror: "It's only 9.15" I exclaimed. She grinned in a maniacal way, and in that brief second I got the message: this is payback, welcome to my world!
Ahoy! Shipmates
09th February 2011
I enjoyed the most glamorous pick up ever on Sunday. I got the bus into Sydney Central, travelled on the top deck of the double decker train to Hawkesbury river and then wandered to the pontoon and waited.

Five minutes later my lift emerged from around the headland and there was Dennis waving and calling “Watts!” In response I waved my thongs (flip flops), one in each hand, above my head and grinned.

It always feels more special when I meet up with friends from home somewhere else in the world. Sunday was even better than that, as I clambered aboard the good ship Cox and cruised up the Hawkesbury river to a restaurant that was only accessible by boat: Peat’s Bite.

We had an afternoon of tasty food and good company. The evening entertainment is detailed in 'the boat that rocks', but it began with Dennis and I watching the diners who’d consumed too much alcohol, trying to board their vessels home. Much to our disappointment, no-one fell in.
The Boat That Rocks
09th February 2011
Replete from an afternoon of grazing on good food, Dennis and I accompanied Dick back to the boat for an evening of musical entertainment. N.B. I use the term musical in the loosest sense of the word, when it refers to my singing.

We warmed up with a song and dance extravaganza that basically entailed us two jumping up and down and singing into ‘microphones’ of nivea sunscreen and lime cordial. Dick was very kind and asked where we learnt our routine.

Worn out with the wayward flinging of limbs we sat down and entered the music phase. Dennis is a whizz on the guitar and carries with her a bundle of music and lyrics.

What I didn’t know is that Dick had a keyboard stowed away in his bunkroom and is the master of the improvised percussion instruments. With my vitamin C maracas we were rocking into the night.
Bling and Chips
02nd January 2011
The biggest surprise of the year so far is The Codfather in Sudbury, Suffolk. It's a diner style chippy with booths boasting brown leatherette bling, fancy lighting and moody pictures on the wall. If that's not enough, our fish and chip lunch was pretty good too and an added bonus: it doesn't smell of fat. Karen's a tough cook to impress, but she'll definitely be eating there again, she even wanted their takeaway menu.

When are shorts too short?
25th November 2010
I'm convinced this man last went on holiday in 1980 and when he was preparing for this trip, he just packed all of the clothes he wore the last time he was somewhere sunny. Whatever the reason for wearing these shorts, it will never be good enough.

I have received a number of amusing 'shorts' from the watts where faithful:

Drop a pound and watch him pick it up. (Joy)

"She just took a picture of me! Thank God I waxed!" (Lee)

Could be the Cheeky Girl's dad (Dad)

Mind the crack! (Anne)

The 80's have long gone. Wot a bummer (Karen)

But the one that made me laugh the most was Paul's Brief Encounter. Hence, from this day forth, that is how this image shall be known.
Meet the Mangan Chespys
24th November 2010
I won't deny it, I was quite disturbed when Anita and Adrian uprooted their lives and moved their brood to the 'burbs earlier this year. They left Drummoyne and off they went to a place called Thornleigh.

I ventured up there for a few days and can now say that I'm thoroughly happy with their choice. They have a pool, a naughty chocolate labrador puppy and lots of room for house guests.

Life Down Under
15th November 2010
I’ve been in Australia a week, it feels like longer than that because I’ve jammed a lot in: some filming, a photographic shoot with the Australian ballet and lots of laughs with friends.

Mostly, Sydney’s been beautiful apart from the storms and torrential rain that closed the airport last week and a day of non-stop rain yesterday. Rain is good, the drought is officially over and it meant I got to spend a day in my PJs and catch up with stuff and discover the Sopranos. I thought I ought to, as one of my friends seems to watch it all the time. I like it.

The photographic shoot with the Australian ballet was brilliant; I’ll upload photos when I have permission from the artistic director to do so. They have to approve my images before publication, so hopefully that’ll happen soon.

Sunday, I was in the Rocks with Dave from Delhi. We wandered round the streets admiring the old and gorgeous empty houses with amazing views of the harbour. Oh, to have the millions needed to own one of those. Hey ho, Number 29 has views of Morrisons.

So, in answer to the enquiries, yes I’m enjoying being here. It was the right thing to do, how can you beat sunshine and smiles? I spent Saturday afternoon with friends watching 4 guitarists playing songs of the 70’s in The Welcome hotel. It was when they played “Here Comes The Sun” and announced that it was a hit in 1970 that I remembered that this trip is part of my 40th birthday celebrations. I know it’s a bit late, but it’s perfect.
The Coathanger
15th November 2010
I'm sure I've said it before, but whilst the Opera House is beautiful, it's the Harbour Bridge that does it for me. I suppose they're the perfect combo really, you see the bridge from pretty much everywhere and then the 'toast rack' pops up beneath it. It's a fab place to be.
Post Delhi Blues
23rd October 2010
I’ve been back from Delhi a week and I’m missing it. Yes, really.

I was working with a fantastic and fun bunch of people who faced Indian adversity head on and got on with the job in hand in spite of Delhi’s challenges.

All of the SIS Live crew and production mixed with each other – not something that always happens - which made for laughs every day and great fun in the pool with the frizbee.

The staff at our hotel – The Grand – contributed to the feelgood factor massively too. Without doubt, they provided the best service I’ve ever received in a hotel, so if you’re planning a trip to Delhi, make sure you stop off at The Grand and dine in the luxury of Siddharth’s restaurant.

Most of all I miss the fact that there’s always someone around to hang out with whether at the pool, in the dining room or just watching TV.