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Celeb Life: OGoing from Holby to Ghana changed my lifeO; Holby City star Patricia Potter, 29, talks about her unique experience in Ghana to film a one-off episode as part of the BBC Africa Live season...

Byline: Louise Burke.

OWhen the producers of Holby City invited me to Ghana to film a special episode, I felt honoured. The story only involves me and Hugh Quarshie, who plays Ric Griffin, from the regular cast, so it was a privilege. I was excited, then the nerves followed. Not only was I unhappy about leaving my family, friends and boyfriend at home for four weeks, I was also worried about the heat in Ghana. I have a pale complexion and turn pink in the sun I and I was concerned I wouldnOt be able to work in the heat. But as soon as I arrived, any fears vanished.

When we stepped off the plane, it was night-time, but we were still greeted by 30-C heat. I thought the heat was coming from the planeOs engines, though after our four-hour drive to the location, I realised it was always hot.

We stayed in a tiny village called Elmina, near Cape Coast. There was practically nothing there except the huts the families lived in. Their homes were made out of mud and palm leaves I it was incredible. At the side of the road, they had small shacks selling produce, but they had names such as, OBlood of Jesus fast foodO and my favourite, OImmaculate Conception Latex FoamO I it was all so foreign to me.

The local women amazed me I they all carried huge baskets on their heads. I tried it once, but I had absolutely no balance, or strength! I watched them one day carrying sand up from the beach on their heads and couldnOt believe how graceful they looked. The school children all looked immaculate in their school uniform. You have to pay for education in Ghana, so the children who attend school are very proud I not like some kids in the UK.

The local people are so resourceful I after each day of filming, the children would swipe our empty water bottles. I couldnOt understand it at first, but theyOd use the empty bottles as containers or cups in the home.

We lived off fish, chicken and rice, three meals a day, every day. I thought IOd come back emaciated, but I actually put on weight because of all the stodgy rice.

Fortunately, I was never ill, but some members of the crew were. We all had the recommended jabs before leaving the UK I I was like a human pin cushion. But one of the crew was struck down with malaria and three others were rushed to hospital with dehydration, diarrhoea and heat exhaustion Ixsome days, it was 41-C in the shade.

The local scenery was lovely I the sea looked inviting, until we realised the villagers go to the toilet on the beach and then the sea washes it away. ItOs sensible really, but it does create a horrible smell.

The days filming werenOt too long, but the heat didnOt help. It also made it hard for me to remember my lines. IOd get on set for about 5.45am and go into hair and make-up. WeOd only break for half an hour at lunch I partly because there was nothing to do, but also because sitting around in the heat was unbearable. We preferred to keep working, then finish early I although it didnOt always go to plan. We employed some local actors for some scenes I the producers were keen to put something back into the community. What we didnOt realise was locals work on OGhana timeO which is much slower than our schedule. But they were really enthusiastic, which was good to see.

WeOd finish around 4pm and return to the hotel for a shower and dinner I although that was over by 9pm and weOd go to bed. We used to joke and say, OWhat happens in Ghana stays in GhanaO. Meaning no one was to know how boring we were going to bed early every night.

The one thing that astounded me about Ghana was the sense of community in the villages I something which is rare in our country. The elders are respected. There was no sense of fear of getting old as your family will always look after you, and youOll never be alone.

During my last week of filming, I didnOt want it to end. But as the crew slowly made their way back home, it reached a natural end and I looked forward to seeing my family and boyfriend again. I flew home on Friday and was back in the studio on the Monday. I still havenOt had time to really take the whole experience in. But one thing I remember is realising how privileged I am. IOll try and hold onto that thought.O

Holby City In Ghana is on BBC1, Tuesday 5 July, 8pm

CAPTION(S):

Patricia with the children of Elmina near Cape Coast, Ghana; Patricia with Hugh Quarshie, who plays Ric Griffin in Holby; Patricia and Hugh film a scene in Ghana
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 3, 2005
Words:832
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