The Boy Balloon    Mike Swanson


The Toy Balloon.

It was half past eight on Monday morning as the children of Greenbank Boys House lined up ready to start the daily morning walk to school. The walk usually took them about twenty minutes and the route was along the main street through the small shopping area and then through the park. As they passed the shops the children looked into the shop windows especially that of Baxter's Store. Baxter’s Store was the largest and had two large windows facing onto the road. The little children would look through the window of the large shop as they made they made their way to school and back to Greenbank House or as they called it the place we dream.

Each day they would wonder at the display in the shop, would it be the same or would the window have been changed.

The main reason they wondered was that this was how they were able to tell the time of year, because the window display gave a vision of the time of year. There was a calendar in the home but nobody could remember it being changed or anything being written in the little spaces for notes. This particular day as the children walked past the window all the children looked and inside felt a rise of anticipation, one of the windows had been screened to stop people from looking in. This meant only one thing the window display was being changed and the screens stopped the display being seen before it was finished. As they made their way back that night the anticipation reached its height, the window was uncovered and the new display was finished. As they passed all of the children slowed their pace to look into the window. One of the older boy's named Tommy slowed his pace as much as he dared to more than the others. This was to allow him to study the display for as long as he could to soak up as much detail of the display as possible.

That evening after supper Tommy gathered all the children who slept in the dormitory together around the small table to tell them the story he had about the window.

First of all Tommy questioned the children about what they had seen in the window to find out what they could remember, all responded by raising a hand as Tommy had instructed them to do on previous occasions. One at a time Tommy picked the children to answer what they had seen. All of them said toy trains, planes, cars, boats, prams and all manner of toys in the window. When the children had told Tommy all that they could remember he looked around at their faces and after a short pause he said you all missed the most exciting toy of all the small toy balloon at the top at the back. So if you all sit down I shall tell you of the travels of “The Toy Balloon”.

So Tommy started to tell of the balloon that travelled to the land that was a place over the mountains that they could see as they walked to the school each day. The Balloon was made of sections of fabric of two different colours, the top part of the balloon was alternating sections of Golden Yellow and Red and the bottom was also of the same two colours but we're they met in the middle it joined Red to Yellow. Below the balloon was the little basket which hung on ropes that tied it firmly to the balloon. Around the basket hung bags full of sand that was used to keep the balloon on the ground and dropped to let it rise into the air. The two children in the basket slowly let out some sand to make the balloon rise into the sky.

As the balloon rose higher and higher into the sky the children could see the large Forrest of Green trees, Tommy knew that many of the children had only seen trees in books as was the case for himself other than the neatly trimmed hedges of the park.

As the balloon rose higher into the sky a gentle breeze pushed against the large round balloon and pushed it over the mountains to a land that was full of many wonderful things and places. The first place that the children saw as they looked down from the basket was a large park with swings, slides and roundabouts painted in all the colours of the rainbow filled with many boys and girls of all ages all playing together. The laughter and squeals of the children playing rose up to the children in the basket filling their eyes and ears with the joy below. They could also smell the aroma of a burning wood stove from the fire of the man selling fresh roast chestnuts and they heard him shout loudly “Hot Freshly Roasted Chestnuts For Sale”.

The children in the park looked up and waved at the balloon as the shadow of the crossed the park blown by the gentle breeze.

The next place the balloon arrived at was above a small village that was next to the sea with a little harbour in which many colourful little fishing boats bobbed up and down as the waves gently rocked the boats. The fishermen waited for the tide to change and they could take the boats out to the fishing grounds to haul in the nets full of many different types of fish. Tommy could not name them as he did not know the names himself. Air around the balloon was full of the screeching of the seagulls that swooped and dived at the balloon. The salty smell of the sea and the smell of fish rose into the air to the balloon filled the eyes and ears of the children.

As the balloon floated above the small fishing village the wind started to blow harder and the little Balloon was pushed towards a high cliff face, the children in the basket released more sand from the bags and the balloon rose higher as it approached the cliff face. The balloon rose as it neared the cliff face, pushed upwards by the wind hitting the cliff face. But as it passed over the top the basket was not far enough above the treetops of the Forrest that stood at the top of the cliff face and was caught by the tallest tree that started the balloon spinning round and round like the small spinning top in the playroom of Greenbank House.

The children all waited to hear what happened to the balloon and Tommy did not keep them waiting long, he continued the story of the balloon. As the balloon spun it slowly dropped to the ground and landed in the garden of a large house in the Forrest. In the house lived a family with children who played in the garden and when they went out to play next they found the small balloon of Golden Yellow and Red sections and took it into the houses. They took it into the playroom and with help from their Nanny  cleaned, painted and polished it to make look like new. They then fixed it to a hook that was in the large window of the playroom that overlooked the garden of the house in the Forrest.

The children gathered around Tommy begged to know what happened next to the balloon on its travels but Tommy said “that would be for another day” and ushered all the children off to bed before matron made her rounds for the night.

(c) 2018 Mike Swanson