Usually a scriptwriter sits alone in his draughty garret, bent over his word processor, churning out a script that will send the production team to exotic locations – while his own most exotic location is the chippy at the bottom of the road…

I exaggerate, of course. But generally speaking scriptwriters don’t get to travel much. It’ll be – with luck – one visit to a factory (or more likely an office), a couple of hours to take the brief, and back home to get a treatment prepared.

But this job was different.

Once again I was working with First Creative, and the team had been out to China several times already to film work on a new coal-fired power plant on the Pearl River for GEC Alsthom. (We did a lot of work for them!) I’d already seen some of the early footage, including a spectacularly hair-raising sequence showing the boiler being craned across to a barge – which was crowded with Chinese workers, any of whom might well have been crushed in the process. My director also told me about an incident on the site itself, when he’d been climbing the outside staircase on the plant’s tall chimney to get a shot of the whole site – and was passed by a Chinese worker coming down the fast and fatal way…

Another company – ABB – was also working on site, and they’d seen some of the footage we’d shot for GEC. They decided they’d like a show of their own.

And could the scriptwriter come out as well…?

Yes he could. Even if it meant he’d have to buy a new Toshiba laptop to do the job…

We arrived in Hong Kong via the somewhat hair-raising flight path into the old airport, with buildings a tad close for comfort and an incredible 90-degree turn in to the runway. Once there our hotel offered the opportunity to enjoy a superb Pan-Asian buffet – which my director and cameraman ignored in favour of the Hong Kong Hard Rock Cafe. (Rosemary has never forgiven them. I’m still working on it…) They compounded the offence by trying to persuade me that the water wasn’t safe to drink (after establishing that I’d already had some). It definitely wasn’t safe to drink at our final destination – a wannabe Holiday Inn a few miles from the site over the straits on the Chinese mainland.

A few other things looked pretty unsafe as well, including the rather dodgy ladies hovering round the reception area, and the electrics. (My director popped his key card into the slot on the wall, and all the lights on the whole floor went out…) I later noticed that the mains power went offline at 7.00pm – to be replaced by power from the not-entirely-reliable hotel generators…

The next morning my colleagues had to wake me up, both looking bleary-eyed and irritable in the breakfast area. The dodgy ladies had been calling them. All night. Whereas I’d slept like a baby. (Because, as it turned out, the previous occupant of my room had unplugged the phone.) True to form, they ordered something that supposedly passed for an English breakfast, waited a very long time, and got something barely edible. I ordered a very tasty Chinese breakfast and got it at once.

The town itself was a study in contrasts. Rolls Royces with gold-plated bumpers shared the street with entire families precariously perched on converted lawnmowers. There was one traffic light, which everyone ignored, and one roundabout, which drivers went around in any direction they found convenient. On the outskirts new buildings were going up at a rate of knots, but apparently with little or no infrastructure to support them. And at the gates of the plant a scattering of booths had been set up, including one selling possibly the best noodles I’ve ever eaten – run by a seven-year-old boy and his sister.

Eating out in town was interesting. Unsurprisingly, the food in the local restaurants bore no relation at all to anything you would expect to find in a Chinese restaurant in the UK. They offered simple, straightforward, no-frills cooking based around rice and meat. I suspected it would probably be wise not to ask precisely what meat we were eating…

Our time on site was not without incident. We were there, for example, on the day the first shipment of coal arrived at the quayside. This was the opportunity for GEC Engineering (also a client) to test the conveyor they’d built to carry it up to the furnaces. The belt ran smoothly for about half an hour – and then seized up completely. (Much to the amusement of the ABB team…) It turned out that no one had seen a sample of the ‘coal’ that would be delivered – which was at least 50% clay on arrival. The clay had dropped through the mesh on the belt and totally gummed up the drive mechanism…

In the event the show was done and dusted with no trouble, and I got paid. Eventually…

I was beginning to think I needed a more reliable source of income. And I was already working with Lucia Bird