Posts Tagged ‘One of our Balloons is Missing’

Cover Story

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

I’ve recently been using social media not just to market my various Kindle books, but to showcase some of my photography. It all started by some innocent playing about with the “Vanishing Point” tool in Photoshop, and it’s been fun seeing just where I can make my book covers part of a picture.

This is the boat that played the part of the Andrea Gail in the 2000 hit movie “The Perfect Storm,” tracked down a year later in her home port of Gloucester, Massachusetts. You can see where her movie name has been painted out and the original restored. The rest of the boat received a digital colouring job in the movie – cheaper than painting the whole thing. Note the oil drum on the foredeck bearing the initials “AG”. Discovered on a tour of the eastern seaboard of the USA in the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff prior to setting the New York to Lizard Point transatlantic world record. All this and much more in “Confronting Poseidon.”

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! View from the flight deck of an RAF C130 Hercules coming in to land at Lydd Airport. I’d watched the RAF Falcons parachute display team departing (rather quickly) the aircraft midflight, and taken part in a low-level flypast at Eastbourne Airshow. Not actually featured in One of our Balloons is Missing, but it does rather reflect the book’s spirit of my 30 years of adventures.

How’s this for a tasteful wall decoration in the cabin of a beautifully restored traditional Broads cruiser? It was taken on a day when HRH The Princess Royal visited one of the big Broads hire cruiser companies! The Broads – A unique National Park

That sinking feeling…

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

The recent news about the Swedish navy searching for an unidentified but presumed Russian submarine in its waters takes me back to the one and only time I took a ride in a submersible to the uncharted bottom of Windermere, in the English Lake District. While the submersible, the Mergo, had dived at locations all over the world, it had spent the previous summer in Loch Ness (guess what they were looking for!), and they decided to bring her to Windermere.

Apart from offering people the thrill of going where no man has gone before, they knew that some Sunderland flying boats had been sunk intact in the lake at the end of World War Two, and the hope was that we might find one of them. So it was that I found myself in a multi-tasking role on board – commissioned to write a feature and take photographs for the Express on Sunday, while also recording a radio feature for “Travelscene”, the local radio travel programme I produced in partnership with Ed Lacy.

It was a fascinating ride 100 feet into the Stygian blackness at the bottom of the lake, and while we didn’t see anything, the moment where we got stuck as the submersible settled into several feet of mud was quite entertaining. At the end of the trip, my film was packaged up and put on a train to London. Unfortunately none of my photographs appeared in the paper. I’d exposed the film a couple of stops above the nominal in order to be able to shoot in the low light inside the Mergo’s cabin, but despite putting a note to that effect with the film, the darkroom boys at the Express processed the film at its normal ISO rating and ruined all the shots!

The radio feature came together well – you can listen to it here. The Express feature appeared the following weekend after my trip (minus photos). It’s one of the many entertaining travel stories in my Kindle book “One of our Balloons is Missing”.

That floating feeling

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I blogged some while ago about my forthcoming hot air balloon ride – cancelled twice last year because the weather conditions weren’t right. Well, this week I did it, and the conditions were perfect! I’d hoped to take off from Earlham Park next door to the University of East Anglia, as I really wanted to get a bird’s eye view of my home city of Norwich. But with the wind blowing from the west, balloon pilot Robert Keron said we wouldn’t get so long in the air, and it would be difficult retrieving the balloon if it landed in Cantley Marshes.

Inside the balloon as it's inflated by cold air fansSo we took off instead from the backup launch site at Old Buckenham airfield, some 14 miles south-west of Norwich. The sun was just peeking over the horizon as I arrived, and already there were skylarks up above. I tried to imagine what it must have been like here between 1943 and 1945, when Old Buckenham was home to the B24 Liberators of the US 8th Air Force’s 453rd Bombardment Group. Hollywood movie stars James Stewart and Walter Matthau both flew on bombing raids over Germany from here.

I’ve done a few balloon flights before, but the most recent was in 1990, when I took part in the first ever hot air balloon meeting in what was still Soviet Russia. It made for some interesting and amusing experiences, recounted in my latest book One of our Balloons is Missing. More to the point, it was fascinating to see how the technology of what is still essentially a Nylon bag and a laundry basket had improved over the years.

Turning on the burnersBack then, I had to take off my shoes to avoid damaging the fabric of the envelope in order to get a dramatic photograph taken from inside a partially inflated balloon, looking outwards. This week, there was no question that my walking with shoes still on might damage the modern siliconised Nylon fabric. The basket was a good deal bigger than ones I’d flown in before, taking 16 passengers and the pilot. The passengers were grouped four to each of four compartments, equipped with a soft bench and padding to make the landings a little less lumpy. Luxury indeed!

Balloon shadowOnce the cold air fans had partially inflated the balloon, the burners did the rest, and in no time we were clambering aboard. As we floated aloft, we quickly appreciated the way the wind picked up as we climbed – the result of something called a nocturnal jet, where cold air inversion layers had very little wind at ground level, but moving more quickly just a few hundred feet up.

When the burners weren’t roaring, you could really appreciate the quiet, drifting serenely across the countryside. We saw hares, deer and a fox, all oblivious to us as we passed overhead. While Norwich was hiding tantalisingly in a distant haze, we could make out the two towers of Wymondham Abbey, and ahead of us, we could see the sun reflecting off the North Sea. We could even make out the distinct outline of Sizewell power station on the coast some 25 miles away.

All too soon, it seemed, our pilot was spying out a landing site. He did a magnificent job of parking it in the corner of a field right next to a junction of small roads just south of the village of Hardwick. In total, we covered some 10 miles in an hour of flying. Passengers helped the crew roll the vast red envelope back into its storage bag, and then we enjoyed a celebratory glass of champagne. And I suppose as I was standing on the public highway whilst quaffing my bubbly, I might have been ever so slightly breaking the law…

A hot air balloon flight makes a brilliant gift for someone, or a means of celebrating something special. Virgin Balloons fly from locations all over the UK. More info at

Having a Kindle Christmas

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

As sales of download books have this year for the first time outstripped those of the printed word, and with the all-new Kindle likely to find its way into many a Christmas stocking, I should perhaps add another little plug for the Kindle edition of my e-book “One of our Balloons is Missing”, advertised on my home page.

It’s a compilation of some of my more outlandish travel stories over three decades, starting off with one of the earliest, from a 300 mile backpack across the Scottish Highlands from Ardnamurchan Point to Buchan Ness, concentrating on the night I slept in a haunted bothy! But things become a little more adventurous with my 90mph ride in a four-man bobsleigh down the Olympic Bob Run in St Moritz, not to mention descending 100ft to the very muddy bottom of Windermere in the English Lake District in a high-tech submersible. Even at that depth, it’s pitch dark, and all the more exciting when the sub sank into the mud, becoming momentarily stuck when it tried to blow the tanks to surface!

The title story is all about my participation in the first ever hot air balloon meeting in Soviet Russia. Apart from the excitement of flying in a balloon in the kind of conditions which would have been deemed illegal anywhere else, I also had the fun of giving my KGB minder the slip. Maybe I should have been a spy!

Clive Tully’s “One of our Balloons is Missing” is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store priced £3.16 (North America and European stores priced separately).

Windy let-down

Monday, September 12th, 2011

September 12th seems to be “one of those dates” for me when it comes to travelling. Today I was supposed to take a hot air balloon flight with my daughter. We would have launched from Earlham Park, next to the University of East Anglia, on the outskirts of Norwich. It was to be an evening flight, so the hope was to rise into skies tinged with the rosy glow of a setting sun, with the city of Norwich spread out before us, and the Broads in the distance. Magical.

It would have been my daughter’s first flight, and while I’ve flown several times, my most recent was 21 years ago in Soviet Russia, which produced the entertaining story which gave the title to my latest book “One of our Balloons is Missing”. Unfortunately, the tail end of Hurricane Katia had different plans, with 25 mph winds sweeping across Norfolk, gusting up to 48 mph – well beyond the safe limit for ballooning.

On September 12th, 10 years ago, I was due to take a morning flight from Stansted to Frankfurt. It was of course the day after the attacks in the USA, and I arrived at the terminal building to a scene of utter chaos. The CAA had immediately banned all passengers from carrying any hand baggage whatsoever. So instead of the usual queues of people waiting to check in, virtually all the floor space was taken up with people struggling with open suitcases, hurriedly packing everything they’d expected to carry in the cabin into their checked-in luggage.

There was a brief flutter as I wondered whether my laptop computer and camera would survive the journey, but of course there was nothing I could do about it anyway. They made it to Germany OK, and by the time I flew back three or four days later, they’d relaxed the total ban on hand baggage, although the security was a lot more stringent.

As for the balloon, I suppose you could say that what should have gone up turned into a bit of a let-down. But it is just a postponement, and we’ll get to do it sooner or later.

Hit parade

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

One of our Balloons is Missing - 30 years of travel writing, by Clive TullyA couple of days ago, my ebook “One of our Balloons is Missing” hit #87 in the travelogue section of Amazon’s Kindle store. You only get listed if you appear in the top 100, and it stayed there for a couple of hours before slipping back to #97, then disappearing again. Of course, unlike traditional book and music best-seller lists which remain static for a week at a time, Amazon’s rankings are dynamic, affected every time someone makes a purchase.

Even so, it was rather gratifying to see myself climb into the hit parade, albeit just for a few hours. Hopefully next time it happens I might stay a little longer.

“One of our Balloons is Missing” is an anthology of some of my more colourful stories taken from 30 years of travel writing. Amongst the tales you can read how I became the first journalist to fly in a hot air balloon in Soviet Russia (which gave the book its title), how I rode at 90mph in a four-man bobsleigh down the Olympic Bob Run in St Moritz, and you’ll find out what it’s like to descend 100 feet to the bottom of Windermere in the English Lake District in a high-tech submersible. There’s even a ghost story thrown in for good measure!

“One of our Balloons is Missing” is available from the Amazon Kindle store, price £3.16

Boot on the other foot department

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Years ago, when the late great Brian Redhead was one of the anchor presenters of BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today Programme”, I got to interview him. I met him in the foyer of Broadcasting House just after he finished at 9am, and we went into an adjacent hotel where he bought me breakfast. He was rubbing his hands together with glee because he’d just interviewed Norman Tebbit and “really stuck the knife in!”

But 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 that often. Most of my journalistic career has been the same, but I do very occasionally get to be interviewed myself. Of course, I have a new book “One of our Balloons is Missing” to shout about at the moment, not to mention my participation in another attempt at smashing the round the world powerboat record later this year – that will undoubtedly see me doing numerous interviews.

But in the meantime, if you’d like to see what I had to say to travel clothing company Rohan through their social networking site Rohantime, click here.

One of our Balloons is Missing

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Readers of my recent blog postings might be forgiven for thinking that all I do is powerboating, which couldn’t be further from the truth. True, I did many thousands of miles around the world and on a number of other trips some years ago on Spirit of Cardiff. True, I also have another circumnavigation record attempt coming up later this year. But most of my career as a journalist has been spent travelling the world engaging in all manner of activities in pursuit of a good story.

One of our Balloons is Missing

One of our Balloons is Missing

“One of our Balloons is Missing” is an anthology of some of my more colourful stories, published at the moment purely in an electronic edition. In it you can read how I became the first journalist to fly in a hot air balloon in Soviet Russia (which gave the book its title), how I rode at 90mph in a four-man bobsleigh down the Olympic Bob Run in St Moritz, and you’ll find out what it’s like to descend 100 feet to the bottom of Windermere in the English Lake District in a high-tech submersible.

My 14th book, nearly 30 years in the writing, but less than a week from conception to Amazon’s Kindle store. Now that’s progress!

“One of our Balloons is Missing” is available from the Amazon Kindle store, price £3.16