Camera attached to bungee, Franny attached to helicopter

Location Eurostar back from Paris | Mood Lovestruck | Date 13 May 2006
Author (full name): 
Franny Armstrong
Eurostar back from Paris
Significant songs sent back & forth from Israel, on iPod
13 May 2006
Current crisis: 
No non-stinking clothes, going straight to climate change conference
Current silver lining: 
He loves me, yeah yeah yeah

The predicted thunderstorms duly arrived and wiped out our helicopter plans. But managed to get some good shots of skiers trying to ski across a wee lake thing - till a snowboarder crashed right next to me and sent half a lake of icy water right over camera and me. Thought the camera was a goner, but I've learnt a few things since a wave hit while filming sea level rise in the Pacific some years back: get the battery off quick, dry roughly with clothes (hard when all clothes soaking), get the hairdryer (in ski cafe toilet in this case) onto it for half an hour and don't put the battery back for as long as you can bear the suspense. It survived.

Had great fun with hunky Pascal the helicopter pilot trying out the filming position - door off, Franny sitting half in and half out with feet on chopper's feet (fins?), camera attached to bungee in case gets dropped and Franny attached to helicopter in case passes out from altitude sickness. Young people on gap years would spend a long time doing sponsored walks for such an experience. (Young people? Gap years? Sponsored walks? Which century is this again?) But when Pascal mentioned that he can fly within four metres of whatever we want I realised we were missing a trick. Quick discussion on the phone with David The Editor and all plans torn up and redrawn: now we're going to do the aerials in September, when we can get Fernand to take his great-grandkids rock-climbing on some spectacular mountainside, then fly from way way away, right up to them. What a cracking opening scene that will be.

But this trip wasn't wasted as I got to practise both my French and my conflict resolution skills as various members of FP's family have got various issues with the filming we've done so far. Lizzie nipped down to the shops to buy a French dictionary so we could grasp the finer points of the discussion, rather than the general "film good? film bad?" we've managed up to now.

Photograph: Charlotte Rushton


Then I tried to explain to FP why we wanted him to tell the story of his first wife, who was killed by a truck on the road outside their house. He, understandably, wondered what the relevance to climate change was. I stumblingly explained that there's something in his positive attitude in the face of such tragedy - the rebuilding after cataclysmic events, the returning to some kind of equilibrium in which life could continue - which, to me, parallels one potential approach by our species to the upcoming apocalypse. But seeing as I didn't know a single one of those words in French, it didn't really come across. So we agreed that I would film it, edit it and show him when we come back in September. If he doesn't like it, I'll take it out. When he said "But I trust you", that was just another twist of the knife in my treacherous journalist's heart (am reading "The Journalist and The Murderer", classic work on how all filmmakers/journos are evil manipulators sucking their subjects dry for their own fame/career/money. But then they don't even consider the possibility that both subject and filmmaker have the same end in mind - social change - so maybe I’m off the hook).

After all that emotion, and with time ticking by till we had to get the train, I didn't manage to come up with a great set-up for the interview. Now I don't dare watch the tapes back and see if I screwed everything up by filming it unusably.