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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Home Safely

Sheena brought us all the gear to blow up balloons today. A box of balloons with an Etc label, a large helium canister and detailed instructions on how to release the helium into the balloon.

It rained today. And it rained. Very few people wandered around the show. This was the Danson Show in Bexleyheath, Kent.

We gave most early balloons to little ones. The small children had them tied to their arms and to their prams. There were lots of smiles and thank yous. Occasionally there was a loud shout and people pointed to the sky. The balloons had floated away. We were revisited on three occasions by families with tearful children who wanted another balloon.

There were big smiles from one mother and her son. She’d popped in to say thank you. Her son you, see was in the top 180 children in Bexley. This authority published the names of the top 180 children. This makes for very proud parents and children. Mum left with a balloon and a hug.

Around 5.30, as the show was starting to settle for the evening, a laughing, smiling group of about nine youngsters arrived at our stand. Two girls, around thirteen, smiled and asked for two balloons. On of the boys tore a balloon from the display on the stand, pulled the valve out, and started sniffing the helium in the balloon.

We asked the children to leave and explained that it was not a good idea to sniff helium under any circumstances. One boy, a good head and shoulders above the other children, said that he wanted a balloon for his little brother. The other children stopped drifting away and came back to listen.

I told him that I did not want to give him a balloon for his brother and that I would prefer if he, and his friends, left. He then told me that I was not listening and that he wanted a balloon for his brother. The other children stopped smiling and laughing and gathered around – and crept closer and closer.

He was then told, in my best teacher’s voice, to leave immediately and that neither he nor his brother was to have a balloon.

The mood had changed in seconds from smiles to attempted intimidation. The big boy, around the thirteen year old mark, did not want to back down in front of his friends. We did not want provide him with any helium.

We all know that sniffing helium makes the voice go funny. It may be that this group of pleasant looking children were after no more than a bit of fun, nevertheless rapid sniffing of helium from a balloon can, in a very few cases, cause problems.

But what was interesting was the way the mood of the group changed from laughter to attempted intimidation in seconds. Their mood changed yet again as I started on the `inhalant drug lecture’. The group dispersed and ran off in high spirits – they lost their scowls and `attitude’ within two strides.

I wrote yesterday about how sorry I felt for the family of the boy who had been stabbed in Beckenham.

Today’s youngsters were no more than a group of high spirited children. In spite of their posturing there was very little real menace. I just hope that they got home safely.

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