Posted 5 months ago ago
(Ava with her personalised luggage - credit Helen Bligh)
Written by: Ava (and owner Helen Bligh via Susan Griffin, PA)
She might be the star of a primetime TV show but Ava, the Irish Wolfhound, known to millions now as Neil Morrissey’s adored sidekick in BBC One’s The Syndicate has agreed to share her experiences on set with excerpts from the diary she kept during filming.
Although widely recognised within the canine community following her Crufts category win in 2019, The Syndicate marks Ava’s acting debut.
There was plenty for her to see and sniff for the first time, alongside owner Helen Bligh, during their exciting journey that took them all the way from northern England to the French Riviera.
Ava’s first impressions
There are people everywhere. There is scaffolding and big lights and men with cameras on small railway tracks. Mum says they’re called ;The Crew;. There are people shouting words like “quiet everyone”, “standby”, “rolling”, “action” and “cut”.
Everyone has a mask on their face. Mum has started doing that lately too. Humans are always copying what each other does. They also took Mum’s temperature. I hope they don’t take mine. I’m not so keen on that to be honest.
Boss lady Kay
(Ava with writer Kay Mellor and actress Katherine Rose Morley (Keeley) during filming. Credit BBC Rollem Productions)
We’re at a new place and it is called a boarding kennel. All The Crew are here. Excellent - here is Boss Lady [Kay Mellor] and she immediately gives me biscuits and I haven’t even done anything yet.
Today is going to be a good day. The sun is shining and there are people I haven’t seen before. I meet some new young ones and they go nuts when they see me. They fling their arms out and scream and want ‘selfies’ with me. It’s like I am famous or something. There is one who has a lovely friendly face and she says that when we go to Monaco she will be with me a lot. Don’t know where Monaco is. Wonder if Mum does?
My new pal Neil
(Neil Morrissey with Ava - Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC and Rollem Productions)
I meet a man who I understand is very important and he is called Neil [Morrissey]. He seems pleased to see me and asks Mum if she thinks I will like him and Mum says she thinks I will but, to make sure, it will be better if he has sausages to give me.
Neil takes a sausage from Mum’s bag and gives it to me. He puts some more in his pocket. I think I am going to like him. Neil is friendly. Then I spot Boss Lady. Excellent! She sees me and heads over and she has biscuits. Looks like I am going to have a good day.
Food, glorious food
The day is getting even better as I spy cake on the table. Mum has put a blanket on the floor next to the table, so I don’t get too cold sat on the floor. Neil and the lady practice saying words and Boss Lady says it’s good and then they start pointing the cameras and saying “action”.
This could be the moment for me to grab the cake. I always get cake at home because I live with eight other dogs and we all live in the house with Mum and Dad and we have loads of birthday parties and we have loads of cake. I make a try for the cake, but Neil is too quick and stops me. Damn it. I decide to try again in a while. “Cut”.
Some of the people are laughing and Neil tells Mum I nearly got the cake. She looks surprised but I know that she isn’t surprised at all. Ha ha.
(Helen with Ava in Monaco - Credit Helen Bligh)
‘It’s funny being asked to do the same thing over and over. It’s good I can see Mum. She has the sausage bag. “Standby”. They want me to look interested in what’s going on I think, and I sniff the cake which has been moved to the edge of the table again, somehow. Actually, it’s Rocky Road. It’s not the best. I prefer a good thick slice of Victoria Sponge. Swiss Roll is good too. Oh, and Fairy Cakes. “Action”.
Oh, my goodness what’s that? One of the men has a huge furry toy on the end of a long pole and it’s right above my head. I wonder if it squeaks. I stare at it while it lurks there under the umbrella. If it moves fast, I am definitely going to grab it. This could get messy as it is above the table now with all the cups and saucers, plates and cake. I’ll risk it if I need to. It won’t be the first time I have jumped on a table. “Cut”. Boss Lady is very pleased and thinks we are done.’
Quick dip in the lake
(Co-star Katherine Rose Morley with Ava on location - Credit Ben Blackall/BBC and Rollem Productions)
Mum hands me over to Katherine [Rose Morley] and the young man, Jake [Kieran Urquhart] has Doodles. We practice walking along the edge of the lake while they say things to each other. Every time we walk along, they say exactly the same words. Odd. Anyway, there is a man with a camera there who is sat on a giant pram thing and other men wheel him along. They are all seriously bonkers.
We go back to the start position and someone shouts “Action”. Doodles is mucking about and lunging at the trees and sniffing. “Cut”. Boss Lady tells someone to show the young man how to get Doodles to behave. Ha ha.
“Action”. Off we go again. Actually, I’m a bit thirsty and come to think of it I wouldn’t mind a swim. I head for the lake. Mum always lets me go in the water. Katherine has my lead, and she seems to be coming with me so that’s OK. Hold on a minute she’s sort of yelling. Now Steve and Craig are here, as if by magic, and they grab Katherine and my lead and spoil everything. “Cut”.
Joining the jet set
(Credit Helen Bligh)
We’re in a place called Monaco that I’ve been hearing a lot about. It all seems very fancy. There are lots of other small pups around, but I can’t work out what they mean. Mum laughs and says it’s because they’re speaking in French. It’s my first time away from my pack back home and I do miss them, but Mum and I are having a lovely time together.
I have a huge bed, and I got given my own suitcase and bedsheet with my face on it, so it all feels very exciting. I’ve also tried something called steak now. I do love my food, but I’d never tried this before, so when I first saw it I sniffed it, picked it up and then dropped it back down again. Boss Lady and everyone were laughing. I just thought ‘it doesn’t quite smell like sausages’. But I tried it again, and it was delicious. I could get used to that.
The Syndicate is on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC One