Daily Archives: June 5, 2010

6 Days to Go : Collating things

A week today and it will be the opening ceremony. It will be Africa’s day – more about that next week.

Today I drive to Merry Hill to get some last minute things. My journey is held up by tractors cutting grass verges. Its starts me off my hayfever allergy and I start sneezing. I want it to be winter again – from Monday in my little world anyway it will be!


I let in a Policeman pulling out of a road near Bridgnorth on my way to Stourbridge – once home of the Wonderstuff – Miles now lives quite close to me – my philosophy is that they won’t catch you speeding when they are in front of you. My TomTom takes me to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. I think the last time I was there was in 1991. I think I remember the way but upon getting closer instinct and memory take over and I get there OK.


After a brief shop – no faffing today – I head back. I encounter more tractors making the Shropshire roads more beautiful with idiots over taking on double white lines. Where is that Policeman now? The sun has brought out the crazy people or are country roads always like this nowadays as most of my travels are on motorways? FOUR times I have to break sharply. Once again I’m thankful of my Advanced Driving skills. People driving too close unable to break in time on the sharp corners.


Today is the wrong day to get the car smashed. I get home in one piece and then head back out to Telford to get some more hard drives. Motorways are heaven, although they are not the Autobahn I feel more comfortable in my surroundings until a little Doris in a NIssan Micra undercuts me and a black Mercedes causing us to both swerve and break. Am I on a deathwish run today? The driver does not even flinch as we blast horns driving past again. She is in her own little world.

My Guardian Angles shadow me home and being as though we fly out Sunday, 6pm Friday night I start collating things. Not technically packing but throwing things into corners of the room that I need to take.

I used to often wonder if it was me or them, but going around to other people’s houses I would often see suitcases sprawled across bedroom floors with clothes piled high. Questions on when and where is the holiday would often be answered by beaches in the sun and 4-5 months time. FOUR TO FIVE MONTHS!?


Perhaps it is just me, perhaps I travel too much, perhaps I know how to survive in 2 t-shirts for a week but quite often in the past I would spend 8 minutes packing before heading out of the door, driving to Heathrow and off to somewhere like Bolivia.

Although most of my life direction has been quite literally been making things up as I go along – I don’t do planning – but foundation work and considering logistics are important. This trip to the World Cup has indeed taken a LOT of logistical planning. Too much.

We now have 17 photographers travelling and staying with or near us in the soon to take place epic adventure. Normally I like to travel alone but with the simple fact that I don’t feel comfortable having a puncture at 3am in the morning driving back from Pretoria, photographers need to travel around in packs.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA Sports Photo Agency

South Africa is one of the greatest countries on earth. I’m not just saying that, for me it is.

I have been there I think 5 times.

People say it is dangerous, but everywhere there is danger.

It is quite astonishing what South African’s think of people from the UK. Our hosts in South Africa are over joyed we are not a bunch of football hooligans or indeed a group of youngsters who will drink and smash up the residence.

However it is fair to say that it is not as safe as Toyko and people just need to be sensible.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA Sports Photo Agency

I laugh when people comment that South Africans have security fences everywhere as it is simply a cultural difference.

But there are lots of car hi-jackings and we do need to be careful.

However most of the victims are the vulnerable and travel alone.

Last summer (or winter in SA) myself and 2 colleagues spent 3 weeks researching places to stay for the World Cup. Covering the FIFA Confederations Cup was only half our mission. Now sometimes when photographers go away for a few weeks we like to party in our spare time and make the most of a new city. However on this trip we worked hard. Boy did we work hard.

Every opportunity we had we spoke to locals, looked at maps and did our home work. I returned last December to shoot all the stadiums when the World Cup draw took place and I think I have made the correct decision for our needs to stay in Randburg. It is out of the main loop but near the motorway. It’s kind of like Guildford or Chester. A big place but away from the fans and the hullabaloo.

South Africa is one of the cheapest places on earth – however the tourist dollar has increased prices to spectacular rates.


For the FIFA World Cup draw in Cape Town, myself and my Japanese counterpart stayed in a 4 star apartment hotel – so big you could play 5-a-side football for 43 UK Pounds a night. For the World Cup the prices were increased to an incredible £835!

We could have quite easily gone on the official trips and spent £30,000 per photographer. We could have spent a fortune on local hotels but normal monthly rates of £540 for ex-pats working in local banks had been increased to £4500 for the world cup worker!

© Matthew Ashton / AMA Sports Photo Agency

In December I went to Wellington. Being a Shropshire lad I was intrigued – I had been to Shrewsbury in MA, USA before and found it to be a fun place. Wellington, Shropshire is on the A5 in between Shrewsbury and Telford. The South Africa version was a stark contrast.

The amazing rolling hills littered with vineyards would make even the most unappreciative of landscapes go wow. Cape Town and the surrounding area is simply stunning.

Tourists can rent little lodges to say in around the vineyards for £21 a night. It is the kind of place back packers spend three weeks in. However for the World Cup, ‘special’ rates of £5000 for three weeks!

Normally travelling around SA is cheap. Fuel is or was 50p – apparently there is now some sort of World Cup fuel tax. Not being a jet setter or having the bank account of a rock star, countless times I travelled from city to city by air. In England now it is £70 to fill up my car, for £35 I could fly to Cape Town from the capital Johannesburg. Since the start of the year prices have been £335 for June and July. Admittedly some have now fallen but coupled with the dangerous persona that South Africa has, the prices the airlines, hotels and South Africans themselves are charging have put off thousands of fans who will watch the games back home instead.

I think this is a shame. I know people who still go to the USA, Italy and Japan because they fell in love with those places after going to previous World Cups. Making a fast buck does not always work.


Hire cars will be a premium too. With airlines increasing prices to crazy levels, cars are the next best thing. We eventually got ours after weeks of investigating from a company in Kenya – paying Kenya rates. Everyone in our group has worked hard to ensure we do this trip at reasonable prices. Newspaper rates are dropping like Sheffield Wednesday and we all need to be sensible in not to bankrupt us for the following season.

So with all that groundwork covered I can now hopefully be a free spirit and not worry about anything – except what to take.

So far AMA will take – 6 cameras, 11 lenses, 2 computers, 3 hard drives containing 3 TB, about 14 compact flash cards (our digital film), 4 walkie talkies, spare leads, adapters and back ups for back ups. Even if you are not a photographer in this seemingly amazing digital age – BACK THINGS UP! Hard drives eventually break down. Thats one of the reasons I prefer Macs and Linux computers to PCs. Operating systems are so easy to replace and restore not if, but when things go wrong. This season I have got through five MacBook Pros. Our computers and cameras are not museum pieces, they are working tools. 2 bad EasyJet landings in 2 weeks wrote off 2 computers – I now never put computers in the overhead lockers on 737s.


Then we have to think about clothes. I’m no fashion model as most will vouch! But another aspect of this World Cup is that is is the WINTER in South Africa. The day time temperatures may be nice, but when the sun drops out of the sky at 5pm it gets cold. Very cold. Only about -3 but considering the day time temperatures are high you feel the difference.

After one night at Ellis Park last year, first task of the day was to purchase gloves and I am not one for normally wearing gloves in my job.

Luckily we are going with British Airways who have an amazing offer of for a one off price we can take another 20 kg.

After witnessing Rugby Union fans returning home from the British Lions tour last year, grown men in tears after having to pay over £1,000 in XS luggage fees, British Airways are a no brainer.


So I am all set – well not really – tomorrow I have decided to cover Ghana v Latvia in Milton Keynes.

Saturday afternoons are for football.

I should be seeing friends, relaxing and having fun. A life long friend is moving to Sydney – perhaps I should go and see her tomorrow? One of my best mates who I took on a tour to Japan has been taking some great pictures recently. I want to run some ideas past him. I have not seen my old friend from school for about a year. She was left handed, I was right handed, it was not until we were 35 we understood why we used to annoy each other so much in Geography lessons – we should have sat the other way around to stop our pens knocking into each other. I have not seen my family for ages.


Am I glad that I’m going away for 6 weeks? Well not when the lead singer of my favorite band is sending messages saying how lovely it is in France as they embark on a summer festival tour. Last week in Austria I saw a poster advertising the reforming of Faith No More. In my 20’s I would have thought nothing about getting in my car and driving up and down mountains to see them in the summer.

Mike Patton or Lionel Messi? It’s actually a tough question for me! Mike Patton.

Football fans will be drinking lager in England, wine in France and I guess the odd Saki will be toasted with a “Kampai” with every goal scored whilst watching the World Cup on TV. I will be there though. Chatting to my TV cameramen buddies whose eyes will be responsible for what the globe sees before the start of each game. It’s a strange concept when understanding what Chris will be filming pitch side will be seen by almost EVERYONE on the planet

Perhaps I will never get across that this is just what I do. It’s my life and my choice. As I have said in previous posts, this is my fourth World Cup. The other three were great and I fondly remember them, but I want to write this blog for me as much as anything. Looking back on it will be fun.


Wanting to kill 2 Russians steaming on vodka at 4am in the morning when I have not slept quite literally for 2 days is a distant memory from 2008. I just about recall going through French Toll booths with Stupid Girl by Garbage blaring out as our soundtrack for that tournament in 1998 and an ever lasting picture of 80 Japanese girls all wearing Argentina kits on a Tokyo Subway train I hopefully will never forget.

Let’s see what happens eh!


The phone rings, another special person in my life calls me, but he is a photographer too, from Holland. We concoct plans to feature Shrewsbury Town’s Dutchman in the prestigious Voetball International next season and go through our World Cup plans. He asks to go on Skype and talk well into the night, but I must get some sleep before the Ghana game tomorrow. If we leave at 2 – 3am it will be another night without any sleep!

Catch us if you can.