Message in a Balloon?

You ever wonder how things happen to make you notice something that you otherwise may not have done? I am very grateful for life and its little inconveniences, especially when it provides me with good blogging material.

I’m on the way to Manchester for a long weekend, so this morning, I had my little suitcase with me. I can get a bus from the end of my road to Ealing Broadway tube station, but usually I don’t bother because at the time I normally leave for work, the bus goes flying down the road then hits all the traffic as you approach the centre. It is quicker to just walk the ten minutes. This morning I was running very late and since the traffic would have calmed, it made sense to take the bus. I checked my app, which told me there was a bus due in four minutes. Plenty of time to walk round the corner from my house to the bus stop.

I arrived at the bus stop, and waited. The four minutes had passed and no sign of the bus. I consulted the app again. It said the next bus was due in fourteen minutes.

I could not believe it. I also could not afford to wait fourteen minutes for the next bus. So, after grumbling at my app, I pulled my suitcase and started to walk. Of course, a minute later another bus went past. I grumbled a bit more but continued on my walk, on the opposite side of the road to what I normally walk on.

A little further down the road, and I spotted it.

First I walked past it. But ten seconds later I had to turn around, walk back and take a photo. I knew this blog was coming.


It made my heart ache. Why would a balloon with the words ‘I Love You’ printed on it be out of air? On the ground. By the side of the road. In the gutter.

The sight of a balloon floating away has always captured me. I will watch and watch for as long as I can, until it finally goes out of sight. I remember once letting go of two giant silver balloons in the shape of numbers, left over from a big birthday bash. We watched as they floated up towards the heavens, the sun catching them and making them shine in the sky. I watched for an hour until they finally disappeared from sight. There is something about a balloon floating away, to freedom. It is a romantic gesture. (And yes I have the same awe of hot air balloons).

So back to the I Love You balloon. Maybe a guy proposed to his girlfriend with the balloon and a ring, and in their excitement of her saying yes, the balloon floated away?

Objection, your honour. Exhibit A shows the balloon’s red heart-shaped weight clearly still attached.

I am reminded of my favourite (and most people’s favourite) Banksy painting, The Girl with the Red Balloon. As the wind sweeps her hair away from her face and her heart-shaped balloon away from her hand, the girl reaches out. She stares as it floats away, her arm reached out as though willing it back to her. Scribbled on the wall behind her are the words, “THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE”. The girl, aged around seven, has no idea that in the future, when her heart is swept away, it will not come back. It will be gone for good. Will there always be hope? Maybe that is the problem.

But perhaps that is me being cynical. I read another story this week, about a teenage boy who threw a message in a bottle into the ocean three years ago in Long Island, New York. The bottle washed up this week in The Bahamas. You can read the full story here: Message in a Bottle

A message in a bottle is another one of those fairy tale type stories. You occasionally hear about the fact that a bottle has been found and it does warm the cockles, because, like a princess finding her prince, the unlikely story has come true.

I will never know what happened to the I Love You balloon for it to end up on the side of the road, almost out of air, in Ealing on that cold but sunny morning. I cannot see any way of someone accidentally letting it go. Which means it was abandoned.

Had I spied the balloon floating away through the sky, I know I would have written a very different blog. It would have been a blog, I know, about THERE ALWAYS BEING HOPE.

But instead I’m left with the aftermath, the consequences. The piece of litter.

I woke up this morning with this song in my head. Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas stood aside from the microphone on this one to let lead guitarist Kyle Cook sing, and my verdict is that Kyle should do it more often. Anyway, this song is about letting go. Sometimes you can’t let go. But like the girl with the red balloon, life will force you to.

The Way – Matchbox Twenty (from the album North, 2012)


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