Friday 20th April 2007

Friday had come around again, and I realised as I was getting ready in the morning that a week ago at the same time I was on the BMI flight to Edinburgh. Strange how different things can be, just seven days later. Work itself has been busy but I am enjoying all the challenges as they come (thick and fast recently).

I had made a note in my diary for midday, tickets for the full international friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley would go on sale. I logged onto the englandfans web site with ten minutes to go and logged in. Eventually I got in but was placed in a queue with an estimated wait of 23 minutes. However I was placed over 2000 in the queue and there were over 4000 people behind me. I waited, I was confident that I would get through and order my tickets. However, the estimate was a joke, so my colleague Chris tried calling the ticket hotline, the phone just rang and and rang. Ten minutes in constant attempts, someone did answer the phone but within a split second hung up. Great(!). I by this time was minutes away from entering the site but had been waiting for over half an hour. I got in, put in my credentials and placed the order. Fantastic. We had potentially some of the best seats in the house. However as I went to confirm the order, the site crashed and an error had occurred. I had to go back and place an order again. You can appreciate my frustration at this point, so I picked up the phone and called the hotline myself. I was put through to the queuing system and after about ten minutes was put through to an operative. It was only then I realised that the FA were having tickets sold by Ticket Master but only via the englandfans web site and phone number. The guy on the phone was extremely helpful and I explained that I had already placed an order and it had crashed. He then took all the details from me and attempted to place an order but it was rejected as the englandfan numbers had been used already. So I just had to wait. It was touch and go as to whether my order had gone through, because there was no confirmation on their system and I had yet to receive an e-mail. If you are a diehard football fan, you can possibly understand how I felt. I went to my web mail account and kept refreshing the page every few minutes. I let Chris know and his frown spoke volumes. I felt bad but we were victims of the system. I could not place another order online and by then most of the good tickets would have gone. About an hour and a half later, I got the confirmation e-mail and I was over the moon. I went and filled out a holiday form straight away, strange to have a international friendly on a Friday evening but I think it best to make a day off it, rather than dash over from work, even with a half day. So, here I am, about to see Brazil play football in England for the third time. The first time was back in October 2003 when I saw them take on Jamaica at Walkers Stadium. Something so important, I forgot to blog about it, would you believe! The second time was as recently as last September when they played arch rivals Argentina at The Emirates. What more can I say, apart from the fact that 1st June cannot come around soon enough!

One Friday evening, several weeks ago I was wondering why a comedy programme had not reappeared on our screens for a second series. I am of course referring to The IT Crowd. My former manager had been the one to mention it to me in January last year, sending an e-mail and link to the Channel 4 web site around the select group of IT obsessed people in the office. I knew a second series had been commissioned, but surely if it was screened in February last year, they would get it back again for a similar time slot this year? I did some digging and ended up at Wikipedia (perhaps my second favourite resource after BBC News) to discover that they were filming the second series in April and May. More than this alone, I could apply to be in the audience for a showing, so I applied at Standing Room Only web site. I received a confirmation e-mail and was told that I would received a further e-mail if I had been lucky enough to be selected to attend. Last week, late on Wednesday evening, I picked up said e-mail. Fantastic! I invited Chris and my old helpdesk manager and asked around the office. I had four tickets, so potentially someone else could come along to. When I asked our finance colleague, his response was, “I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a pencil!”. Great. I know the show was an acquired taste but it was a comedy and not just for the geeky computer people. In any case, in the end, it was just myself and Chris going. I was really looking forward to it, and after getting our England tickets semi-secured (waiting for them to be posted out) it was a something nice and not stressful to enjoy.

We left work at 5pm and headed over to my house were both changed and then hopped into my car to head down to Iver. I had my TomTom with me to make sure we got to Pinewood Studios but we also had written directions on the e-mail. We made it by ten past six and were quite early in our minds. However after parking the car and being shown to the entrance, there was a queue of at least sixty people ahead of us. Glad we did rush over, rather than stop on the way for a bite to eat. While waiting in the queue, we called Peter. He used to work on the helpdesk with us and would constantly give the line, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” in a strong Irish accent, which has become a catchphrase from the show. He was disappointed that we hadn’t invited him but him being over in Kent was partly to blame. A few minutes later, the audience company representatives came over and checked my name off the list. We explained there were only us two and not four to which the response was, “We don’t care because your both beautiful!”. Now I can understand why people that work in television have inflated egos if the people they work with a constantly coming out with overblown compliments like that. We were given red bands to put on and explained we would be let through shortly. The group behind us were given green bands and told to go right through. Annoying is not the word, particularly as the next forty odd people were all given green bands, then they switched to red bands. About fifteen minutes later we were allowed in. We walked through, looking up across at the rebuilt James Bond Sound stage. We then had to queue for a few minutes outside studio TV One which is also used to record The Weakest Link. On the wall was a noticed that the producer was recording a documentary of the audience participation in the filming of the series and we had waived all our rights for compensation or payment. Great! There was an Irish telephone number at the moment if we had any queries. I expect the documentary to appear on the DVD release by Christmas. We walked around the corner to the studio and were presented with three sets, but in theory only two as one was the chairman’s office and the other basement, with manager’s adjoining office. We were ushered to seats at the back on the far right hand side, directly in front of the desks Moss and Roy sit at. After a few minutes, when the rest of the audience took their seats we were introduced to the floor manager, Rob.

This was my first time at a studio for filming of a television series. A great experience, as we watched the show projected on three big plasma screens above the stage as our views were obstructed by cameraman (I mean camera people) on moving trolleys. There was a considerable delay between takes and many scenes had to be repeated and “picked up”. During pauses we were entertained by a Geordie called Patrick. He was hilarious, taking the mickey out of members of the audience and generally just fooling around. He even convinced a guy in the front row to do some rapping as he had mentioned he was a up and coming MC from Hemel Hempstead. He mentioned his MySpace address but I cannot recall it exactly. His rap or rather contemporary poetry was exceptional, as he talked about leaving his drape sales job.

The show was excellent and I am looking forward to seeing the show on television later this year. We saw a full episode but the filming was split over VT which had been shot on location earlier in the day. Chris enjoyed it too and we were very pleased as we left the studio. Three hundred people had been handpicked but over one thousand people had applied for tickets. There were some diehard fans in the building as they screened to be given signed magazines from the set. Some stayed behind to speak to Noel Fielding after filming. Some lucky people in reserved named seats (green band wearers perhaps?). As we headed back, we were starving so stopped at the Pizza Hut at Wycombe Retail Park for a quick bite to eat. We would have got there sooner but junction 3 exit was closed for Wycombe East, so I had to drive down into town from junction 4. All in all, a great night out and a change from the usual pub or club venue. The best part? It was all free!

My friend Sudhir is running the London Marathon on Sunday. You may notice him on television, he will be in the Spiderman costume! If you want to donate to his nomated charity (Diabeties UK) feel free to do so, he has nearly hit his target! I wish him all the best and I am sure he will stroll down the finish line within the four hour mark.

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