Escapes 4Some of the benefits of writing a regular blog have been quite pleasantly unexpected… such as a new television series in the works.

One recent development on these pages is that I’ve been joined by cruise writer and long time friend David Moorcroft, who is adding depth to Gentleman’s Portion with his experiences to the benefit of those interested in seeing the world by ship. In future, I’m hoping I can convince others to write in this space too.

Unlike many people who regard putting pen to paper (or more likely these days, putting fingers to keyboard) a chore, I’ve always enjoyed writing. With this, my 125th (or so) posting on Gentleman’s Portion, I have to admit it’s been great fun writing about whatever I wanted. Although my deadline of a new posting or two every week has been an entirely self-imposed one, I have managed to keep up without any real pain. Just when I can’t think of anything to say, an idea will pop into my consciousness, presumably from my sub-consciousness where it has been mulling around all on its own, until it slides into the frontal cortex almost fully formed. All I have to do is keyboard and edit it.

Title sequence from Escapes with Nigel

Title sequence from Escapes with Nigel

Years ago, when I was writing a full length novel, I found myself doing most of my writing in my head while walking the family dog, a lovely great big Malamute-husky-something-cross named Luke. Back in my study with a cup of hot black coffee, all that remained was to type out the latest scene that had played out in my mind. The outcome was that after several years I finished a 100 thousand word murder mystery — which was turned down by every single one of the 15 Canadian publishers who existed in those days. It was called Dreaming of Murder. Perhaps I should have called it Daydreaming of Royalties.

Even though it failed to find a publisher, and probably deserved to go back into the filing cabinet, it was great fun to write, great fun to create characters and knock them off, put them through jeopardy and pull them out of the fire, let them fall in and out of love, and very satisfying to have a good twist at the end when all was resolved and revealed. Finishing 100 thousand words seemed like a mountain when I started that novel, but in the past year I’ve written tons more than 100 thousand words or so without any stress at all.

At the St Lawrence Market with Mario

At the St Lawrence Market with Mario

Week after week I’ve written about food, good living, travel, and whisky, with occasional walks down memory lane thrown in for a change of pace. Over one hundred articles at more than a thousand words apiece. More than one hundred thousand words. Whew. And you, my 4,004 lovely readers, have sent me notes of encouragement, and some compliments, but mostly just by checking in to see what I’ve written week after week, you have kept me enthused and writing.

On top of the weekly blog, I’ve also had some small success with other forms of writing. Social media is still a mystery to me, but with the guiding hand of more youthful helpers, I’ve connected with these media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and the results from all these connections have been astonishing. On Trip Advisor, where I use the Gentleman’s Portion pseudonym, my 170 reviews of 24 hotels, 108 restaurants, 38 attractions in 66 cities have had 77,643 readers and have garnered 86 helpful votes. Of my readers 32 per cent are from the UK and 52 per cent from North America. On Twitter it appears I have an astounding number of followers, in the thousands, and on Facebook hundreds of likes. Thank you all so much for making writing these stories so worthwhile.

Market 2

Shooting at a farmers’ market in East Gwillimbury

One unexpected outcome of all this writing was getting a call from Bell Media’s new Bell Fibe TV1 video-on-demand channel, which launched in the fall of 2013 as Bell Local. They suggested, on the strength of my blogs, that I put in a pitch to write and host a program. In went the proposal. I was frankly astounded when I got the call to say it had been given the green light.

As a result I hosted a short first series of six programs called Escapes with Nigel. The concept was to help people escape to the countryside around Toronto and find interesting things to do and see. Imagine my delight a few months later when the head honcho called me and commissioned a second series of eight more episodes.

It was another fun life experience and I enjoyed it enormously. It was quite an extraordinary challenge for someone who has spent their entire career behind the camera, as a producer, director and writer, to creep out from that anonymity into the public view. Of course, over the years I’ve had to step in front of the camera quite a few times, and have done hundreds of interviews with business types during years in corporate video production, and more recently many interviews with actors, as an unseen interviewer and field producer on those behind-the-scenes clips you see on DVDs and elsewhere.

Escapes Sept 2007

With cameraman Doug Munro and an Olympian

I’m was also delighted that I was able to work with my very dear friend Doug Munro, of HDTV Productions, who served as cameraman. He is a top Director of Photography and a CSC, or member of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers, and we have worked together many times since our first assignment during the Calgary Winter Olympics (OMG, was that really 27 years ago?) Doug subsequently worked on three more Winter Olympics, in Nagano, Lillehammer and Albertville, so I went into the first winter shoot knowing he’d be better able than I to cope with the cold … and it was cold in January 2014. The next summer was really hot and so of course there we were again shooting the second series, mostly exteriors, sweating like pigs and trying to look cool. Those shows are all wrapped up and in the Fibe TV1 video-on-demand store for the next three years, and also on our own Escapes with Nigel website. Check them out.

With Chef Randy of The Farmhouse in Barrie

With Chef Randy Feltis of The Farmhouse in Barrie

Now the folks at Bell Fibe TV1 have reached out to me again and we are developing a new six-part series called Market to Table. Partly because we had such a good reaction to our shows shot at the Barrie and East Gwillimbury farmers’ markets, along with the fun we had with chefs and bakers at The Spirit Tree, Deerfields and The Farmhouse, the idea evolved combining the two concepts.

In part one, I’ll venture out into a local market, such as the St Lawrence Market or the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market, and pick up fresh or local produce, stuff that’s interesting and unusual. In part two I’ll be in the kitchen putting a feast together with a well-known chef, different on every show. And in part three we’ll plate the food and scarf it down with a glass of wine. It won’t be on the air until the spring of 2016, but we start shooting in a couple of weeks. I’ll keep you in touch with all our behind the scenes adventures as well as letting you in on the inside scoop on lots of fabulous new recipes. Stay tuned!

This article was originally published on January 9, 2014 and edited, updated and re-posted on October 19, 2015.

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