Potters Bar birthday balloon found... in Bulgaria

PUBLISHED: 15:19 24 February 2011 | UPDATED: 15:57 24 February 2011

Ex-pat Robert Jones, with Gary Loton's birthday balloon, in his village of San Stefano, Bulgaria

Ex-pat Robert Jones, with Gary Loton's birthday balloon, in his village of San Stefano, Bulgaria


A POTTERS Bar resident got an unexpected birthday greeting from a British expat – who found his party balloon in a remote Bulgarian village.

Gary Loton's birthday balloon

THE village of San Stefano is located a short distance from the town of Karnobat, Bulgaria, just over 30 miles from the Black Sea.

It is the adopted home of British ex-pat Robert Jones, who last week was walking his dog through the village when he found a deflated balloon with the words “Happy 60th Birthday, Gary” written on it.

Attached was a card with a telephone number and a message, in English, reading: “How far did I get?”

The answer, we can reveal, is quite some way.

Gary Loton

When Robert phoned the number, he was put in touch with Gary Loton, a kitchen salesman from Potters Bar, who had celebrated turning 60 a few weeks earlier.

He had released the helium balloon into the sky above his home in Kimptons Mead on February 7, half expecting never to see or hear anymore about it.

But he was shocked last week when he received a message from Robert, saying he’d recovered his balloon, some 1,250 miles away in south east Bulgaria.

“It was just for a laugh,” said Gary.

“I just put a tag on it with my phone number and let it go. I thought it would get down the road and that would be it.

“Then I got a call from a Robert, who of all things is a British ex-pat living near the Turkish Bulgarian border.

“When he said he was overseas I thought maybe Belgium or Holland.

“When he said Bulgaria I couldn’t believe it. I was chuffed to hear it got that far.”

Robert, 55, spent 15 years in Russia working as a security consultant before moving to Bulgaria in 2009.

“I first thought that perhaps somebody from the UK had been visiting Bulgaria and had released the balloon in a neighbouring village, but was intrigued as the telephone number looked like a UK number to me,” he said.

“What are the chances of another Englishman finding his balloon and tracking him down from deepest rural Bulgaria?

“I have no idea what the record is for such a small birthday balloon to fly, but that is some distance to travel – what a lucky find.”

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