Posts Tagged ‘Clive Tully’

Happy Birthday Today!

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

As BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today” programme celebrates its 60th anniversary, I’m reminded of the time nearly 30 years ago when I got to interview its then star presenter – Brian Redhead. I had been commissioned to put together a lavishly produced 24 page brochure for an art exhibition called “Artists in National Parks,” staged at the Victoria and Albert Museum (otherwise known as the V&A) in London. The artists chosen to depict Britain’s National Parks included Anthony Eyton, Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy, and apart from interviews with each (all telephone), I amassed a collection of quotes from celebs of the day, including “Last of the Summer Wine’s” Bill Owen, David Bellamy, “Treasure Hunt” presenter Anneka Rice, TV journalist Julian Pettifer and royal photographer Lord Lichfield.

But my main full-page interview was with the president of the Council for National Parks – Brian Redhead. As this was going to be a bit more in depth, he agreed to be interviewed in London. And so it was that we met in the foyer of Broadcasting House just after he finished the programme at 9 am, and we went into an adjacent hotel where he very kindly bought me breakfast. He was rubbing his hands together with glee because he’d just interviewed Norman Tebbit and “really stuck the knife in!”

I was nursing a broken wrist at the time, and he was most sympathetic, particularly as I had to tape the interview without making notes. It occurred to me then that while his stock in trade was interviewing people (and making politicians very uncomfortable), he probably didn’t actually get to be the subject of an interview himself that often. We enjoyed a very leisurely meal while he waxed lyrical about the National Parks, and how he hoped this high profile art exhibition might help raise their profile. He also had some deliciously waspish things to say about his co-presenters Sue MacGregor and John Humphrys, but that’s maybe something for my memoirs!

Telly Tully

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Back in the mid-1990s, when I was equipment editor of two walking magazines, and regular outdoors contributor to the Daily Telegraph, I went through a period of guesting on a number of TV shows – a lot of them daytime TV, but one or two prime time jobs as well. It always struck me as somewhat ironic, as a TV producer putting together an outdoors series for Channel 4 had previously told me more or less that I had a great face for radio! The clips from these shows have been languishing for years on VHS cassettes, and I finally got around to digitising them. At some point I’ll put them on their own page on my website, but in the meantime, here’s a small selection in all their glory – and yes, these were the days when I still had hair!


It’s not everyone who gets to be called a girl guide by TV star Nick Knowles! This was something I did on a travel programme called “The Great Escape” on BBC1. The studio part of the programme was live, while the outdoor segment with the tents was recorded earlier, but it was recorded “as live” – so no rehearsals, and no retakes. Considering I had no advance warning that I was expected to do what they call in the trade a PTC (piece to camera), and I’d never done one before, I thought I did pretty well. But the “as live” filming proved to be a slight problem when I came to putting up my previously reliable fast-pitch tent, when one of the pole joints pulled apart.


This one was for the BBC2 programme “Tracks,” with a nice dash of Jean-Michel Jarre in the soundtrack. It was shot on a roasting hot summer’s day, and one sequence which didn’t make the final edit was the cameraman’s bright idea of simulating night-time in the tent by draping a large blanket over it to black it out. We spent about half an hour inside doing things like sleeping bags and lanterns, but it was like a sauna! Something else that didn’t make the final cut was my closing quip as Nick Fisher and I walk off. He wishes survival guru Ray Mears was here, and I ask why. “He’d know what to do,” replies Nick. My parting “Nah” was edited out.


A BBC researcher rang me up asking me to do a telly spot on BBC2’s “The Leisure Hour” talking about camping. My speciality is lightweight camping rather than the family stuff, and yet still they wanted me! Former Eurovision winner Cheryl Baker did a brilliant job whizzing us around the studio, and at the end of it all, there was a post-shoot meal where I got to dine with Cheryl and her co-presenter, former “Tomorrow’s World” man Howard Stableford.

Trending theme

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Over the last few months, Team Britannia has been putting out press releases every so often for individual members of the crew, targeting them at publications in their own locality, as well as in Portsmouth, the home of the project. It’s a great way of keeping the publicity ticking over, even when there isn’t much else to report.

The middle of May finally saw my turn. and it’s been interesting following it up to see who decided to run with the story. Not surprisingly, my local newspapers the Eastern Daily Press and Eastern Evening News ran it, along with Teamlocals and The News in Portsmouth.

It also featured in the marine press, including All About Shipping, and sporting publication The Sport Feed. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of it all was to find that the phrase “Clive’s skills and experience” had popped up as a trending theme on Team Britannia’s word cloud, which highlights the most often used words or phrases in our current media coverage.

Having an ice time

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

July 2003: Round the world powerboat Spirit of Cardiff south of Cape Farewell, Greenland. We’re hove to, deciding on our best course of action – the wind is blowing Force 11, and we’ve seen growlers in the water. These chunks of clear ice, some of them the size of cars, are very difficult to spot until you’re virtually on top of them. Having one come through the windscreen would definitely have spoiled our day. While we’re sloshing about in the swell, I nip outside with the camera and narrowly avoid taking a swim. In the end we retreat to our refuelling point at Nanortalik and wait two days for the storm to pass. Even so, we still set an unofficial record for the fastest transatlantic in a RIB.

Read all about it in Memoirs of a Record-Breaker: Ocean adventures on the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff 1999 – 2003.

Panto season

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few comments on my spectacles, mostly making some comparison with John Lennon. Throughout the 1980s I went for efficiency, with aviator-style glasses providing maximum coverage. But since then, I’ve been wearing Savile Row Panto, indeed, a model once worn by John Lennon.

In fact, there’s a long list of famous people who’ve had their faces graced by Savile Row Pantos – Johnny Depp in “The Ninth Gate,” Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in the Indiana Jones movies, not to mention Captain Mainwaring in “Dad’s Army,” the original TV series and recent movie. The classic round Panto design dates back to the early 1930s, and the frames are all hand-made to order from 18 karat rolled gold.

I’ve never been a slave to fashion, and while my Savile Rows have a timeless charm, I look upon them as an investment. Your average mass-produced frames don’t take much before they fall apart. I have two pairs of Pantos, both around 20 years old, and still going strong. I’m sure they’ll outlast me!

Onboard video

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

This rather handsome beastie supplied by Wex Photographic in Norwich is going to be my main camera on board Team Britannia‘s superboat when we circumnavigate the world next year. It has a number of features which make it my perfect choice, including enhanced focus and aperture control, dual-codec recording, fantastic low light performance, very good built-in image stabilisation, and abilty to transfer files direct to a USB drive without using a host computer.

Rather than filming a typical “point and shoot” adventure documentary, what I have in mind will be somewhat more cinematic in style, which I suppose may come down to the fact that I’ve been an avid movie-watcher my entire life!

Spreading the word

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Team Britannia has been getting some amazing stats from press coverage recently – the stories have been going out fairly regularly concerning different partnership deals, including the latest with GAC Superyacht Services, who will be providing all of our logistical support at every refuelling stop around the world.

But it’s nice too. to get the message out on a more personal basis. So it was a great pleasure for me to do a short presentation to the Round Table Lunch Club Norwich last week in the wonderful surroundings of the Library Restaurant, a historic building formerly home to the UK’s first public subscription library.

After a drink and some lunch, I gave the 50 or so attendees a lightning history of the world record attempts of Spirit of Cardiff, and then introduced Team Britannia, along with our programme for wounded ex-military crew members, and the enormous advantages of Clean Fuel which the circumnavigation world record run will showcase. It was short and sweet, but I’m pleased to say my audience was extremely attentive, and many came up to me afterwards with questions and good wishes.

I was there at the end of a war!

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

It’s part and parcel of freelancing for newspapers to be told when your masterpiece is being published, only for the appointed day to arrive, and no sign of it. As far as travel features are concerned, this usually comes down to the paper getting an advertisement in at the last minute, and their having to cut some editorial space somewhere to fit it in – and the travel pages of most newspapers are generally fair game for that. I became so used to this that I got to the point when told a particular piece would appear, I no longer bothered to get too excited or to pass on the information to anyone who might be interested – I’d ended up looking silly too many times before. But there was one time 30 years ago this month where I accidentally found myself covering the end of a war, and my story was gazumped by something even more important!

It was early in my travel writing career, but I had managed to successfully get my feet under the table with the Sunday Express right from the start. My commission for them was to travel to the Scillies to do a story about the birdwatching on offer there. Pretty innoccuous, you might think. It involved a sleeper train ride to Penzance, and then a short hop in a helicopter over to St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. As we approached the islands, I was aware of a BBC news crew onboard. They were shooting video from one of the windows, and the helicopter pilot obligingly did a circuit around the islands for their benefit before landing.

Of course I had to find out why they were here – was anything going on? It turned out that they were covering an event taking place in St Mary’s that evening, something which had come about when a local had discovered that the Scillies had been at war with the Netherlands for 335 years. It was an alleged theoretical state of war which existed, with never a shot having been fired. The Isles of Scilly Council decided to hold an official signing of a peace treaty to declare the war over – of course it was a great wheeze for publicity. While visiting the islands to go birdwatching, I couldn’t resist the chance to blag my way into the ceremony. I phoned the news desk at the Daily Express, and they were up for the story.

So I was there at the moment peace was declared to end the longest war in history, and I heard the Dutch Ambassador, specially flown in from London, joke to the gathered throng that it must have been harrowing to the Scillians “to know we could have attacked at any moment.” This was back in the days pre-laptop computers and email, so I bashed out my copy in longhand, and then dictated it over the phone to a copy-taker on the Express night news desk.

The next day I searched for my first real news story in vain. The Express was full of wall-to-wall coverage of the news that a Jordanian terrorist called Nezar Hindawi had planted a bomb in the carry-on luggage of his pregnant fiancé before she boarded an El Al jet to Tel Aviv at Heathrow. Fortunately the device was found when she passed through security, and Hindawi was arrested.

Having covered the end of a war, I was gazumped by what could have been one of the world’s most deadly terrorist outrages. I’m not even sure why I rang the Express newsdesk, since it was hardly their fault that events had conspired against me, but they were very apologetic. “It wouldn’t have mattered even if the Queen Mother had given birth to quads,” I was told, “the story still wouldn’t have got in!”

Team Britannia in the press

Monday, April 18th, 2016

There was a little flurry of Team Britannia press activity over the weekend, including Alan Priddy’s appearance on BBC South Today. It’s all down to the fact that we have at long last pushed that magical green button to start building our round the world superboat. It’s been a long time coming – over seven years since the first drawing was produced, and for Alan Priddy, Jan Falkowski and me, the dream itself dating back to the end of the last millennium. Since then we have had numerous false dawns, including a first boat which came close to completion before an arson attack saw it cut up for scrap.

But this time there’s nothing to hold us back. The funding is in place, and once the aluminium has been laser cut, the boatyard on Hayling Island will assemble it. All being well, we should have a boat in the water by the middle to end of August, giving us enough time to run sea trials before transferring her to Gibraltar ready to set off on the circumnavigation record attempt on the 23rd October.

It has also been confirmed that we will have support from The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund. On each of the seven legs of the voyage around the world, we will have up to four crew members who are wounded ex-servicemen and women. An extensive selection process will take place over the next two to three months, overseen by former army Captain and Team Britannia crew member Stuart Croxford.

A lot has to happen between now and our departure from Gibraltar on the world record attempt – I’ll continue to update with further news as it’s released.

Climb every mountain…

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Every now and then I take a little wander down memory lane, and it’s quite possible I may do it more than once this year, looking at what I managed to pack into 1996. As Technical Editor of Country Walking and Trail magazines, I could have had my hands full just writing about outdoors equipment, but after several years of ad hoc contributions to the Daily Telegraph, they gave me my own column “Talking Walking” in the Telegraph Weekend section. And then I was producing a monthly syndicated radio travel programme, which nicely synced with my many trips abroad doing travel features for national newspapers.

This month 20 years ago saw me doing one of my more strenuous trips – guest leading a Trail magazine reader offer holiday to climb Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. At just under 7,000 metres, it’s the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalaya, and while the “tourist” route to the top is a long non-technical slog, the effects of altitude are exacerbated by the latitude. Air pressure at the summit is just 40% of that at sea level, and people die as a result. Most worryingly, while at base camp at 4,370 metres, my group heard of someone who had previously climbed Everest dying of a pulmonary oedema at Confluencia, a camp site below us on the trek in at 3,380 metres. Then there was the guy who was blown off the mountain not far from the summit. I saw his body being recovered by a National Park ranger a couple of days later, the victim’s arms frozen outstretched, making for a somewhat ungainly package strapped to the side of a mule.

But for all that, our trek organisers were good. Everybody reacted to the altitude in varying degrees. Two of our group didn’t even manage to acclimatise to base camp, and were sent back down to enjoy an unscheduled week across the border in nearby Santiago in Chile. For the rest of us, it was ferrying stores up to a couple of camps, then coming down again before starting the climb in earnest. We’d been sleeping two to a reasonably spacious dome tent on the trek in and at base camp, but to save weight, we switched to three to a tent on the climb. This proved to be my undoing. I found myself sleeping in the middle of an established pair, getting elbows and knees in me from both sides.

By the time we got to the mid-camp at Nido de Cóndores, at 5,570 metres, the altitude was getting to me. You never sleep well anyway, and with cramped and restless sleeping conditions I ended up with two nights of zero sleep. I was getting splitting headaches, and I got out of breath just lacing up my boots. There is a plus side to all these hardships, of course, and that is seeing the incredible beauty of the mountains, even if it does come with a price tag. Climbing groups normally spend just one night at Nido before going up to the last camp at Berlin Huts at 5,940 metres, but bad weather had kept us an extra night. It was really windy, and incredibly cold. I remember standing outside with a mug of tea in my hand, and without my hand moving an inch, a gust of wind emptied the mug. It was as though the tea simply vapourised!

Even at this altitude, your body starts to deteriorate, and our guide had to make a decision the next morning – we had to either go up or down. Staying put another night wasn’t an option. The weather had improved, so he chose to push on, but I was so exhausted I decided to bail out at this point, thinking I would just make myself a problem for others if I struggled on.

My solo descent turned into an epic in its own right. I managed to lose the path, and ended up descending a very steep and icy gully strewn with gravelly stones which added a ball-bearing effect to what was already dangerous enough. I nearly managed to wipe myself out in full view of base camp, but somehow managed to get down with just a few rips in my trousers! Back at base camp, they had some hot soup waiting for me, along with the depressing news that the IRA had set off a truck bomb in London’s docklands.

The next day, some of our group made it to the summit, and I was able to speak to them on the radio while they were there. They sounded exhilarated – when they returned two days later, they looked as though they’d aged 10 years! Before we headed home, we had a day or so in Buenos Aires, where I managed to spend a couple of hours celebrating my birthday at a milonga in a genuine tango hall. Here I managed to prove I had two left feet, but at least I wasn’t wearing crampons at the time!