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Mike Bullivant's diary: Arrival

Updated Monday, 28th January 2008

Mike Bullivant's diary of arriving as a castaway, from the BBC/OU series Rough Science 2

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Departure and Arrival

Mmmmm ... I don't know about you, but travelling tires me out. It's such a pity because I love travelling and when it's at someone else's expense, well, that doubles the pleasure. But getting up at 5am to catch the 6.30am train to Gatwick kind of takes the edge off things, don't you think?

For some reason, I was the last member of the Rough Science team to arrive at the check-in desk - I guess the reason was that I couldn't have caught an earlier train even if I'd wanted to (not without sleeping in an airport terminal anyway).

And I really enjoy the two hours between checking in and departure. What'll it be? Gin or brandy in the duty-free? Then there's the documentary equivalent of 'did I turn the gas off before I left?' - you know what it's like - 'have I got my credit card and passport (even though I must have checked that I have at least 10 times by now)?'

Twelve hours later ... and we're in Carriacou and what a magical place it is: a small, beautiful, tropical island to the north of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. My girlfriend, Cherry, had been here before when she was doing the volcanic field work for her PhD and she'd promised me I'd find it paradise. She was right. But it's very hot - so hot that life takes on (has to take on) a much slower rhythm, a different pace. You have no choice. We have 6 programmes to make - in this heat! Mmm! I like hot weather but - and that's when Kylie came to me - I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky!

I'm anxious about how things are going to go with the filming but at the same time I'm so excited to be with such a vibrant group of people. I'm also feeling a little fraudulent that I'm here, if the truth be told. What makes me so different that I've been chosen for this great adventure in the Caribbean?

Time for a little unsettling self-doubt - the side of me that I dislike: the 'unconfident me'. I'm missing Cherry (but then she'll be coming out to join me for the 10-day break in filming in a few weeks' time). Yes, Cherry would tell me "Don't be silly". She'd convince me that the programmes were going to be wonderful and that I shouldn't worry.

I can't wait to get going on the challenges but I want some time to chill out before starting work - we've been talking about this series for so many months, I just want to get on with it now. And that's part of the problem. We've all got a lot riding on it, not to mention the money that the Science Faculty back at the OU have put up to fund the project.

What if it all goes horribly wrong? Not that I'm frightened of failing. That's what most science is about - an unsuccessful experiment here, a false piece of logic there. Sure, we're going to fail. Of course we will, somewhere along the way, whatever the challenges are. I just don't want to fail too early on in the series. The words 'faces', 'of', 'lots', 'egg' and 'on' go round and round in my mind. I feel strangely unsettled. Weird.

Anyway, we've two days to relax and prepare and then a comparatively easy first day of filming the intro to Programme 1 and some general views. Who could fail to be happy with that?

First filming day

So here we are, having completed that first day. A light breakfast then into the van to take us up to the place where we'll be doing the filming - and what a place it is: a disused lime factory (citrus fruits, not the cement variety). Some thought and hard work has gone into preparing this location for us. Thanks to whoever was involved. It's going to be perfect. Set right on the beach, the lime factory's a beautiful site/sight.

This is to be our Rough Science laboratory for the next seven weeks. And there are cows and donkeys in the field behind us and bats in the roof - could be a useful source of chemicals their droppings! What a place!

We're being directed today - the two directors, David and Sarah, have been planning this for months and it's important we go along with what they want. After all, they have to take control of the opening sequences, in which there's no science.

We can't just leave it to chance and freeform in the way that the remaining 18 days of filming will allow. We have to place ourselves in David and Sarah's hands - even if it does mean 20 takes filming our entry to the lime factory while Kate (Humble) opens the programme in the foreground of the shot. This is the one day when their professionalism has to be permitted to interfere with what we're doing. For the rest of the shoot it'll be down to us... I'm grateful that today they're in the driving seat - tomorrow things will be very, very different.




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