Cracks in the Edifice
Being here in French Polynesia, aka Paradise, takes some beating. There’s the emerald mountains, the boundless ocean, the oodles of tropical fish swimming around, and the perfect sunsets. Not to mention the men who carry you on and off catamarans and dive twelve feet when your knickers blow out of the boat and into the water. Which all means that being here makes me feel a bit like Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon. And yet… travelling around the world with four children while trying to create six documentaries en route is actually a rather trying recipe. Sometimes the cracks in the entire precious edifice threaten to open up and become giant crevasses. Only today I was asked by our Adonis-like guide to wade with him around a small inlet and burst into tears. Alright, the inlet was being pounded by some giant ocean waves, and I was carrying a) a child who cannot swim and b) a camera, but even so. This trip, I now realise, is a ‘grande projet’ in human stamina as well as geography.
Take the notion of treats. Yesterday Gabriel (9), was leaning rather foolishly across a rope having a look at some green turtles which are nurtured and returned to the wild in the deluxe Meridien hotel in Bora Bora. Beneath him, a four foot drop onto a sharp coral bank leading to a pool. Involved in examining the swimming techniques of a giant turtle, Gabriel leant over too far, and he did a perfect tumble turn over the rope burning his neck on the rope and scraping his arms and legs badly on the coral. As the French say, he was thoroughly ‘gratinee’.
The hotel could not have been more apologetic, giving my weeping child special treatment from their in-house paramedic, and then giving him BOTH a cuddly turtle and a special Turtle Adoption Certificate for his own particular reptile. While such a response is obviously delightful, and charming, I knew what the subsequent response from the three siblings would be. ‘Its not fair’, ‘What’s my present?’, and so on and so forth. Driven half demented by repeated demands for turtles, adoption cerfificates, T shirts and the like, and in a fit of rage, I actually threw the entire contents of the suitcase of one child into a nearby hedge. Then, feeling rather like President Clinton in Primary Colours when he throws his mobile out of the car window, and then has to spend the next 30 minutes finding it, I had to shamefacedly climb into the hedge toretrieve all his stuff.
Basically, the demands of this 90-day shoot combined with the ‘trip of a lifetime’ around the world mean that slowly but surely I have metamorphosed into a sunburnt, insect-ravaged woman who spends her life packing and unpacking, swearing and threatening dire retribution and the denial of the next fizzy drink if Good Behaviour is not instantly forthcoming.
And if working with your children is tricky, working with a husband is no bed of roses, either. Mr Millard is being a brick, lugging a damned heavy camera and tripod everywhere and never stinting on his directing duties. But I have found that being directed by your spouse is a nightmare, not least because Mr Millard has put his foot on the control freak pedal and let rip. Being in charge of the camera has means he now feels he has carte blanche to extend his power over all sorts of domestic terrain, viz packing, unpacking, driving, map-reading, menu-perusing, deciding whether room service should be called upon or not, and whether I should log onto the Internet on my PC or his Apple. “You are a complete control freak” I yell at him from time to time. “I only try to help” is his meek response. Yeah, right.
Plus, whenever I want some R and R and relax, albeit pompously, with Book Seven of Dance to the Music of Time, he gets out his camera, which I have come to detest, and issues one of two dreaded phrases. These come in one of two kinds, either “do you have any big thoughts here?” or “We really must have a piece to camera here, do you realise I have NO SEQUENCES. Do you know anything about Polynesian lava.” Well, apart from the fact that it is called Aa, which is jolly useful in Scrabble, no. Sequences, I should point out, are a big deal in this show. As are Big Thoughts, of which I usually have none.
Frankly, the only place I am doing any R&R at all is on airplane flights, which is good because we have 32 of these babies to endure, and you can’t film on them. Only today, thanks to the children doing some form of Arts and Crafts project with sickbags and headrests, I was too busy placating the stewardesses and tidying up, to spend more than 2 minutes in private commune with Mr Powell’s great work. And then, guess what? I leave bloody Book Seven on the plane. You should have heard the effing and jeffing. It quite horrified the French couple who run our ocean-side pension, where we are all six sleeping in a single, airless, mosquito-infested sweatbox. Paradise? Only intermittently, folks.