Bloody Balloons!

This morning dawned glorious. The sun rose above the black poplars as I cracked the top off my breakfast boiled egg – rather unusually two of our Cuckoo Marans are still laying this late in the year.  Then, I washed-up and replete, and full of the joys of an English winter’s morning, I went for a stroll in the garden. All was well with the world. But then I saw something out of the corner of my eye, something glittery and red that clashed with the now rather fading berries of a Cockspur bush on the edge of the wood. I walked towards it, knowing full well what I’d find: yet another bloody helium balloon. This one was shaped like a vast letter ‘S’. I don’t know who or what that letter signifies, but as far as I’m concerned, Siegfried, Simon, Sharon or Samantha, you can fry in Hell. And I hope the turkey turns to slithery tripe in your mouth, as you tuck into your Christmas Dinner.

S-balloon on edge of wood

A distant view of the red balloon high in a tree

S-balloon in tree

The red balloon at the top of a field maple tree
S-balloon close-up

The red, S-shaped balloon

So what on earth is going on? Presumably they’re being released from Peterborough, Leicester or Birmingham, the big cities up-wind of the northern Fens. We’ve been finding one or two of these balloons every week since (I’d guess) August. Recently they’ve grown a bit larger – like that garish letter S. God knows how I’ll ever get it out of the field maple: the ground’s far too soft for a ladder, so I suppose I’ll just have to leave it there, looking ever-more faded, tattered and ghastly. But why is it that people in towns can dispatch aerial litter out into the country and not have to pay a fine? In fact it’s perfectly legal. I think these new larger helium balloons will probably claim the lives of several lambs next year, unless the government bans them. But what are the chances of that? This weak, ineffectual government (and that’s saying something after the last bunch of spineless nonentities!) will probably do what they did with ash die-back disease: commission a risk assessment and then sit on their hands. As a friend of mine once said: what a bunch of tossers; they couldn’t run a bath…

Anyhow, I took the photos you can see here, then accompanied my sheepdog Twink on her morning walk along the big drainage dyke that runs along the other side of the wood. And what should I see there? You’ve guessed it: yet another balloon. This time it was silver and shaped a bit like the letter ‘G’, although it had been in the dyke a few days, so was a rather tatty. But again, it was big – well over a metre long. This time it had a label that proclaimed proudly that it was made by Amscan International Ltd., of Milton Keynes, under the brand name Anagram. Well, damn you Amscan: why don’t you come here and clear up your bloody rubbish? I didn’t ask you to dump it on my land.  And would you like me to send you a few dead lambs next March?

The label carried instructions that the balloon is not to be released out-of-doors as it might cause electric ‘power outages’. Yes, and lamb life ‘outages’ too. There’s also a danger of possible ‘entanglement injury’. You bet! Especially on the edges of a flooded dyke… But who in their right mind would release a vast balloon like that indoors? It’s a crazy idea, unless you happen to live in St Paul’s Cathedral or Buckingham Palace… But I suppose the formulaic warnings on that tiny label give useless DEFRA (which currently administers our rural affairs) an excuse to say that it has taken reasonable measures to warn the public.

Silver balloon in dyke

The dyke round the back of our land: a typical Fenland view, but note the shiny balloon in the dyke near the camera

Silver balloon close-up

The silver balloon as I found it

Silver balloon label

The label on the silver balloon

And then, of course, there is the matter of the gas Helium, which is very much a finite resource – and quite rapidly being depleted. So are we doing anything to conserve it? Like Hell we are! This sort of thing makes one realise just how utterly powerless ordinary people are, in a modern world that is run by an uncaring breed of professional, and mostly urban, politicians from the snug sanctuary of the Westminster Village. Come back Guy Fawkes, all is forgiven…

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