That magnificent man and his flying machines

By Lynne Booker

My father served in the RAF at the end of the war, and my brother picked up from him a fascination with aeroplanes and engines. Glenn spent a great deal of time making models of aircraft and, personally, I never saw the point. That is until 77 year old TomBale showed me his pride and joy – a radio controlled helicopter, a flying machine which he had built himself. For me it was like magic.

He then showed me the mini camera which he attaches to his flying machines, and with it he takes excellent aerial photographs. He reasons that if he himself cannot be flying then taking aerial photographs in this way is the next best thing.

The other continuing interest in Tom’s life is drumming. At the age of five, fascinated by the sounds in Tarzan films, Tom had been given a drum for Christmas and he began to tap out rhythms on the drum or any handy piece of furniture.

The way in which I met Tom and his wife Lyndal was by joining his African drumming group, which meets every week at their house near Santo Estêvão.

In the course of his RAF career, he ensured that he won a range ofuniversity level qualifications because he had not discarded his old ambition of teaching mathematics.

After teacher training at Stoke Rochford Hall, he took his first teaching post at Sleaford, but he and Lyndal decided that they did not like Lincolnshire so they packed a tent into the car, put the house up for sale and went to live in Cornwall.

There Tom taught maths at a private school for two years after which it was declared bankrupt. He and Lyndal then started their own business of designing software for office administration, VAT, accounting and seating plans/booking for theatres. They were also involved in producing and printing entry tickets for festivals and theatres.The company they started is still trading.

The inspiration for moving into African drumming in particular was provided by his admiration for Tarzan. Having acquired his first African drum about the time he moved to Cornwall, Tom was developing his drumming talent and added different drum rhythms to those he had learned on his travels, and he and Lyndal continue to attract more fans to their weekly African drumming sessions.

Together they visited Portugal in the winter of 2004/5 and loved it, the Algarve in particular. Again, quick to decide, they sold the yacht, put their Cornish cottage on the market and moved permanently to the Algarve, where Tom has good weather and enough space to fly his models.

He joined an internet forum on remotely controlled aeroplanes and he has become known internationally as a problem solver. Through the internet, he is in contact with an increasing number of enthusiasts all over the world.

For a motto, Tom uses, “When in doubt, hold on to your altitude.No one has ever collided with the sky.” This motto would read just as well with the word attitude! Tom is now perhaps beyond the age at which he could be teaching maths and I am willing to bet that he does not miss it.

|| A message from the other side of the Atlantic

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitudeto Tom for all of his help. Tom has been an invaluable source of knowledge and assistance to me in setting up my radio controlled helicopter, as it is more complicated than the radio controlled airplanes that I’m accustomed to. Tom’s clear, concise instructions have allowed me, finally, to hover my helicopter. His selfless manner had him up well past midnight on more than one occasion imparting procedural knowledge. His willingness to share his extensive expertise in this area is what makes Tom a super guy. Richard, Alberta, Canada


Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association.