Bernard is my trusted photographer. He works at the advertising agency with me. Here’s a little background information about him which you may find helpful. He helps me out at the agency all the time, and has helped with a great deal of the photographic content of the site.
He’s also helped me write a good deal of the photography tips on this site and on my patreon. Some of them are HERE.
Bernard arrived in Canada sometime in mid the 1970’s. At the time he was working as a camera man making advertisements, and occasional TV shoots. In fact it was this very career that had led to his leaving his English homeland.
Like many an Englishman before him he choose to pursue a career overseas in one of the countries so graciously under the benevolent rule of Her Majesty. Basically, if they have our queen on their money there’s a good chance one could make a career there, in those days. And indeed Canada did have such a distinction.
Yet, Bernard’s exit from Britain was far from planned. In fact, Bernard left Britain under something of a cloud. Which is better than leaving under a sack of sand. I shall explain. It is a story thick with mythical creatures, foreign spies and adventure. Well, up to a point anyway.
It was early in Bernard’s career, and at the time he was a young camera man working on short movies and television series. One day he found himself working on a shoot on Wimbledon Common, on a lovely summers day. The shoot was a segment for a TV show at the time called The Wombles. It did become very popular, but whenever the word is mentioned, Bernard’s face clouds over and he retreats into that 1000 yard stare you may have heard of some victims of PTSD employing. Doubtless Bernard had his reasons, and one has to respect boundaries. Yet, his refusal to talk about ‘The Wombles’ incident did pique my curiosity.
Through discrete enquiries I learned that there had been some sort of incident while filming, that left Bernard scarred psychologically for life. Now, to be fair, it seems like Bernard has been getting scarred for life on a fairly regular basis. You may perhaps remember the carrot incident, or the tazering at O’Hare.
As best I can figure out it happened something like this. Bernard was working on a television series called The Wombles, in 1972. One particular part of this was shooting footage for their musical scenes. The were fun and very creative and Bernard was pleased to work on the shoots. After the scenes on Wimbledon Common were completed for one particular video the crew took to the air to shoot a couple of air to air segments. This was a little unusual, being shots of a balloon in British union jack colours, full of wombles playing their instruments. The actors in the Womble costumes were flying in a balloon, while Bernard and a pilot made passes in a Piper PA-28 to get the best shots of the beautiful balloon. If you check out the video you’ll see some of the best shots of the balloon take place in what is clearly the end of the day evening light, by which time the balloon was being blown gradually further south west.
What few people realise is that as the day progressed the filming was going well, but Bernard wanted to get some more footage and time was moving along. Everyone had already had a long day when Bernard asked to do one last set of shots. By this time the balloon had been flying for quite a lot longer than the pilot had anticipated. reviewing his position the balloon pilot found he was running low on gas. He decided it was safe to jettison some of his ballast, and decided to drop a few sacks of sand to prolong the flight.
The balloon had strayed into some military airspace inadvertently, over Salisbury plain, an area of the south of England where the military often conduct exercises. On this particular day it was a NATO training exercise that was going on. To be fair, there was no way that the balloon pilot could have known that the small sack of ballast sand that he released from the balloon would fall from 1000 feet onto the roof of a heavily camouflaged vehicle far below in which a group of French Military observers were travelling. Well, needless to say dropping a 25 lbs sack of sand from 1000 feet directly onto the roof of a Renault 4X4 leaves a very dull impression. Regrettably the French delegation came to the conclusion that they were under attack from airborne terrorists and instructed member of the French force to open fire on both Piper and balloon.
The ensuing action is one of the few examples of French military success against… well, against a balloon full of British wombles. This was hardly something that would redress the balance of Agincourt, Waterloo or Trafalgar. While notable in it’s way, it was hardly an episode anyone wanted written into the military record.
The crash landing of half a dozen terrified wombles in the middle of Salisbury Plain, their balloon shot down by the French paratroopers was not something the BBC felt would serve the recently launched TV series well. Deposited roughly on the wasteland of a battlefield in the middle of a live fire exercise, the sight of six wombles running terrified looking for cover though shell bursts and drifting smoke must have been disturbing at several levels. The incident was swiftly hushed up, with the co-operation of the Home office, and a lot of apologies to the French delegation. This was hardly the impression that the producers of the television series wanted to convey to their young viewers, as it was felt this might be rather unnecessarily traumatic for their tender young minds. At the time it is rumoured that the Director General of the BBC was heard to say that it was a pity that it wasn’t a 250 lbs sack of cement that fell from the sky. They might not be so quick to whine like a bunch of cowardly French washerwomen, but this is unconfirmed. Needless to say when casting around for someone to blame, the powers that be could hardly blame ‘Uncle Bulgaria’ or any of the wombles, and one way or another Bernard seemed to be the right sap in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was the last time he worked for the BBC, and the incident was hurriedly forgotten.
Wishing to put the whole ugly incident behind him, Bernard soon left England for Canada where he worked for a time as a freelance camera man on wildlife filming in British Columbia before finding his true calling working in advertising. He enjoys sailing his boat in the BC coast, and fishing. He’s always happy to bring home a crab or two for his friends, and of course he catches a good amount of salmon.
He tells me he’ll be adding some fishing tips for my members soon. I think this might be a little off topic, but I have to admit I do like to fish from time to time, and I think I can assume that some of my members do too. Bernard recently asked if I’d like to put my rod in his ice hole. I told him I didn’t think it appropriate, and then he explained that he wanted to take me ice fishing. That’s not something I think I’m ready for just yet.