David Whiteley: Safe Travels

PUBLISHED: 10:37 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 15 August 2017

David Whiteley

David Whiteley


In his monthly column for Essex Life, BBC presenter and director David Whiteley shares his insightful view on stories from across the county of Essex

I remember, as a child, we would pop to the Little Chef in Basildon as a treat. It was on the A127. Going from our house in Leigh, it felt like quite the journey. Any journey does when you are a kid. Are we nearly there yet? Yes, we’d even say that to go the few miles up the Arterial, as it was known then. (Hearing someone give directions to the A127 was always a hoot, ‘Carry on up the Arterial’… wasn’t Sid James in that one? I digress.) Anyway, you get the point. When you are young, going anywhere seems a long way.

As a young radio journalist, just driving from Southend to Colchester, seemed a very long way. But, as you get older, one’s perception of distance shortens and certainly now, the world is a very small place.

Recently, I found myself flying to the Caribbean and the US for work. I know, sounds glamorous and exciting. Well, exciting, yes! Not so glamorous, but definitely exciting, and also stressful. I’ve been working on an hour-long documentary for the BBC, in between my other duties, for the past year and half. And this trip was the culmination of a great deal of anxiety, stress and a very ambitious level of documentary filmmaking, well certainly for me anyway! I’ll be able to tell you more about it soon, but right now, it’s under wraps.

But I can tell you about the trip. I’m producing this thing, so the buck stops with me. Everything. Three of us are travelling, me, the cameraman and the director.

Now, before you even leave, all equipment has to be accounted for. The USA is a carnet country, every bit of kit has to be listed, down to where the damn thing was manufactured. Failure to do this results in equipment being confiscated. No camera, no film!

That bit was fine. Thank goodness. But the flights were long! Heathrow to Miami, bounce out to St Maarten then bounce back to Miami and then Los Angeles.

The filming went smoothly. But wow, the jet lag! I never got my body clock in time with the Caribbean and it was even worse when we hit LA. But it was an adventure, and a real privilege to be part of this adventure too.

On the way home, the director and I sat on the plane, toasting the very fact we had got what we needed in the can. But then, right on cue, the fiercest turbulence I have ever experienced hit the plane. It lasted minutes, we rocked, juddered, the passengers were screaming, the cabin crew were on the floor, swearing and clutching their trolleys! It was terrifying. I actually began to pray, thinking, this is it...

But then, we were clear. Through the worst of it. When we landed, I think we all kissed the ground!

But it brings me back to those childhood visits to the Little Chef in Basildon. For a child, the excitement was just the same as I felt during my US adventure, but fortunately I don’t remember.

Hear more from David on Twitter! @david_insideout

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