I don’t know who Haley is but I’ve got two of her chuffing balloons.

I’ve just been checking a batch of dry cows. They’re enjoying a well-earned rest in late pregnancy, slouching about in the sun, eating the grass and generally not doing a lot. But as I walked to see them, I caught a glimpse of something black out of the corner of my eye. Think ‘Bin bag’ black if you would. So after checking them I walked across to see what it was. After all the last thing we want is the cows eating it out of curiosity.

It wasn’t a bin bag, it was a balloon with the name Haley written on it. Walking across the field I found another, also obviously designed for a small girl’s party. I’ve just looked on google, you get 5 balloons for £15 or £45 if you have them prefilled.

There’s a shortage of Helium, and yet we use 10% of output on party balloons


I confess I have trouble with this. What parent asks their child, “Should we celebrate your birthday by littering the place with plastic and releasing inert gasses into the atmosphere?”

“Oh yes please Mummy.”

There again, I was in the paper shop the other morning getting a paper. The lass behind the counter, harassed as ever, was frantically trying to get the magazines sorted out. Her problem was with the magazines aimed at children. A thin magazine as made several times thicker by the plastic tat, ponies, and stuff, fastened to the front using a plastic wrapper. One comment made was that, as it’s a promotion and the majority won’t sell, they’ll just be returned to be pulped. If we’re bringing up people inured to assume life is decorated with large quantities of expendable cheap plastic tat, no wonder they don’t have a problem with sending off helium balloons at random.

Look, I realise that a lot of people live in pretty grim areas, robbed of hope and aspiration by generations of planners who have obviously plotted to ensure that the areas are as dire as possible. But just because they want to destroy the environment, it doesn’t mean you have to sell them the stuff to do it with.

Then there are sky lanterns. Yes I know they’re ancient and cultural, they may have been invented about 2000 years ago by a Chinese general for battlefield signalling. But just because the Chinese invented it doesn’t make it a good idea. They invented female foot-binding as well.

Stop and think about the conversation.

“How are you going to celebrate your wedding?”
“Well I thought we’d spew burning lanterns over the countryside.”

“Cool, well I suppose that nowadays dragon fire is completely out of budget. I’m glad you’ve decided to start your married life as you mean to go on.”

But the problem is that we seem to have an urban population who contain a considerable number who largely don’t seem to care. I remember this time last year, the Nation Park commented that in 2020 they’d been swamped with people. The Park staff normally collect 10 bin bags of litter per week. (Obviously this does not include the litter people have very correctly deposited in bins.)

Yet after the late May bank holiday weekend in 2020 they collected 138 bags of litter, picked up off the ground.

Similarly Park staff normally dispose of around 3 pieces of human waste from their car parks in the average month. In this one weekend they disposed over 100 pieces of human waste. Many of these in car parks where there was a toilet that was open.

But then the great British Public have a bad attitude to sewage. The Environment Agency will allow the various water firms to discharge raw sewage into rivers during storms. They do this because it cuts down on the pressure on the sewers. This means that there is a lesser risk of waste backing up, possibly flooding homes and communities. The trouble is, nobody is quite sure what the level of rainfall is before they’re allowed to do this. Volunteers monitoring the River Wharfe recorded 136 spills from one of Ilkley’s sewage-treatment works on 77 days last year.

Let’s put this in proportion, if this had been a family dairy farm with a slurry pit leaking, they’d have been sued into bankruptcy long ago, but nobody is quite sure when things will improve with water companies and sewage discharges.

Now let us be blunt here. Whose sewage is it? I thought we were supposed to be working towards a ‘polluter pays’ situation. Surely if the inhabitants of an area are polluting that area with their sewage, they ought to pay to have a proper system put in?

Oh and does Haley want her balloons back?


There again, what do I know? Go to the experts.

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As a reviewer commented, “Brilliant. Short, easy, amusing read, but with so much depth and heart. I read it all in one sitting, and learnt a lot with great pleasure.”

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48 thoughts on “I don’t know who Haley is but I’ve got two of her chuffing balloons.

  1. rootsandroutes2012 June 5, 2021 at 4:28 am Reply

    We’re always picking up ‘chuffing balloons’ on the coast road, so I shudder to think what a routine part of your life this must become. We don’t really see very many Chinese lanterns, but I thought you dealt with them with enormous restraint – not a mention of wire anywhere, nor yet of what happens when discarded wires and bovine digestive tracts meet.

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 4:41 am Reply

      We’ve picked up a couple of the lanterns over the years but we’re not downwind of any big wedding venues, and to be fair to the folk of Barrow i think they’ve got more sense.
      But yes those with a wire frame are even more dangerous than those that just burn

  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 5, 2021 at 5:03 am Reply

    Party planners give people what they think the people want, at a price they want – and that never involves any common sense, or picking up ALL the debris.

    And the amount of garbage that cannot be decomposed is unbelievable.

    We actually get our dinner in plastic bags required to decompose within a month – or paper bags. Unless it comes in containers made of impermeable, indestructible plastic. Previous generations dumped mercury waste or whatever was left from manufacturing. Asbestos is all over.

    It will be thus until they invent the plasma torch and break everything down into ions and electrons and a few neutrons. At a reasonable cost, of course. Wouldn’t want the taxpayer to have to pay for taking care of their own waste – because it isn’t fair, and we get no choice of what things come wrapped in.

    There are no easy solutions, but the politicians make it worse, and you’ve already seen what government regulation does to your farming.

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 5:52 am Reply

      The only real way of changing is for people to change their minds and their behaviour at the ground level
      Nobody responds well to pious lectures

  3. robbiesinspiration June 5, 2021 at 5:43 am Reply

    This is a very good article, Jim. The attitude of people is very ignorant, but I do believe they genuinely don’t care as they implications of this pollution and global warming are not yet hitting them hard enough in their pockets. It will come though, it is already coming.

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 5:51 am Reply

      In this country some of it has already arrived in that energy prices are higher now because of the cost of subsidising green energy
      Given that there is going to be a ban on anything but electric cars I think it’s going to be felt pretty soon

      • robbiesinspiration June 5, 2021 at 5:54 pm

        Yes, in that way the impact is more short term in nature, but I was thinking more about the cost of not changing and the massive longer term costs of floods, heatwaves, fires, and coldwaves as well as the impact on food and water security. There is also the impact on human health. So many terrible things in the pipeline if we don’t change, and change fast.

      • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 6:26 pm

        I suspect for a lot of people it’s too far in the future. And they live lived so divorced from the natural world they don’t see cause and effect 😦
        In the UK a lot of people have no idea where their food comes from, (vegetables flown in from around the world etc).
        Somebody was boasting about being environmentally conscious because he was eating chickpeas and was stunned when I asked him whether they came from India, Australia, Pakistan, Turkey or Myanmar.

  4. Books & Bonsai June 5, 2021 at 6:44 am Reply

    It seems to be a downwards slope, Jim. Nothing makes sense anymore…

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 9:01 am Reply

      People don’t seem to be able to see past their own immediate gratification 😦

  5. Doug June 5, 2021 at 7:10 am Reply

    I loathe balloons, but I’m convinced the bigger problem with litter/waste is that a lot of people just don’t care about their surroundings. Maybe it’s the attitude of ‘it doesn’t belong to me, why should I care?’

    I’ve seen it when people sit in their parked cars at the riverfront and toss their fast food containers out the car window when there is a bin literally two steps away.

    Philosophically you could argue it’s about parallels between personal self respect and respect for your surroundings, or psychology about a tiny minority owning everything.

    All I do know is the UK is a nation of litter louts.

  6. M T McGuire June 5, 2021 at 7:12 am Reply

    It’s depressing isn’t it? Sky lanterns are just as shit in towns. One flew over if the other year. Just as it was above out house it went out. Well … almost. I could see this feeble red glow sinking towards our roof. It’s an old three story house so the roof is 60ft up. We say there praying it didnt land there. At the time it was hot and dry and neither of us ancied the possibility of it igniting something up there and burning us all in our beds, or the alternative, which was to climb up there in the dark in our pyjamas to try and find the fucking thing. To our relief it missed us, scraped over the houses across the road and landed in the allotments behind them.

    I have never understood how it is that we end up eating one of the earth’s rarest resources, rarer than gold, into balloons. A couple of years ago someone told me that if I wanted to invest in something helium was a good bet. I believe there is a natural source somewhere out near Amarillo in Texas and that’s all. The USA had a lot in storage but the Obama administration sold it off. When that silly runs out I believe it will make a lot of things very expensive, cat scanners included.

    So much of value is about perception. And so much of that perception seems to be skewed the wrong way. We need to change it if we’re going to get anywhere.

    • M T McGuire June 5, 2021 at 7:14 am Reply

      That has been extensively ‘corrected’ by my phone but i hope you got the gist. Sorry

      • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 9:00 am

        I love other people’s autocorrect 🙂

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 9:00 am Reply


  7. CarolCooks2 June 5, 2021 at 7:33 am Reply

    Excellent post, Jim…people just don’t care though it seems ..Adele shared a post last week from a lady who lived in one of Scotlands beauty spots and the behaviour of visitors who flocked there was appalling the rubbish and the fact they were just defecating on the beaches would they do that in their own backyard?… I’m not sure what is going on here with people …

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 8:59 am Reply

      Yes, I remember Adele’s post, I tried to find it again to link to with this blog post but couldn’t

      • CarolCooks2 June 5, 2021 at 9:16 am

        Its on her FB page Jim 2nd post down easy to find I have just looked would have shared to yours but I not on your Fb that’s if you have one 🙂

      • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 10:23 am

        I’ve shared it on my fb page thanks now I’ve found it

  8. […] I don’t know who Haley is but I’ve got two of her chuffing balloons. […]

  9. alexcraigie June 5, 2021 at 8:45 am Reply

    The commonsense in this superby argued piece is undeniable. I do have to believe that the majority of people are decent citizens and want to do their bit for the planet and each other. It’s the selfish minority who do what they want regardless of its impact on others. As someone else has said, once they’re hit by the consequences of this behaviour they’ll make an effort. Sadly, the damage is already being done.

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 9:04 am Reply

      I don’t think people are used to following through the consequences of their actions.
      After all, all these people desperate to fly away on holiday. So they can watch the world burn?
      I can understand people wanting to catch up with family and friends abroad but otherwise, just why? 😦

  10. alexcraigie June 5, 2021 at 9:27 am Reply

    Some people only do what suits them. Students at our granddaughter’s university mingled freely during lockdown and then didn’t take a test when they had Covid symptoms because it would have meant isolating for ten days. Look at our cousins over the pond supporting someone they must have known was a cheating, lying vainglorious fool. Actually, now that I think about it…

  11. Doug Jacquier June 5, 2021 at 11:38 am Reply

    A vintage rant, Jim. A libertarian at heart, I nonetheless support government programs here in Australia that make supermarket bags compulsorily biodegradable, have container deposit legislation to encourage correct disposal and a number of similar measures. From there it would be a small step to ban the use of helium in party balloons, the launching of sky lanterns etc in much the same way that fireworks have been banned. Next would be compulsory DNA testing and fingerprinting before you can enter a national park, thus allowing the precise identity of the shitters and litterers, the naming and shaming of offenders and the imposition of community service orders for recalcitrants. Phew, glad I got all that off my chest. 🙂

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 12:02 pm Reply

      When are you running for office, you got my vote without even kissing the baby or giving me a cigar 🙂

      • Doug Jacquier June 5, 2021 at 12:13 pm

        Jim, the powers-that-be would shoot us long before either of us got to wear a rosette. 😉

      • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 12:20 pm

        If you got an honest man in high office, that would be the end of civilisation as we know it 🙂

    • rootsandroutes2012 June 5, 2021 at 2:09 pm Reply

      I think you might need to redefine ‘libertarian’ Doug.

  12. Cathy Cade June 5, 2021 at 12:33 pm Reply

    I think the consequences of helium balloons and sky lanterns haven’t been publicised enough.
    A few items on TV news wouldn’t go amiss, since we’re all fed up to the back teeth with will-we-won’t-we get out of lockdown (several times a day) will we-won’t-we be able to go abroad this year (who would want to in the present circumstances other than unfortunates, like me, who have family abroad), and who paid for Boris’s wallpaper (or whatever the latest accusation is).
    A bit more publicity, and the companies selling and promoting such things might find themselves at the wrong end of enough prospective customers’ comparisons to think again about their offer.

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 1:17 pm Reply

      It’s surprising how quickly some of these opinions can shift, especially if people can save money by leaping on the new bandwagon 🙂

  13. Julie Collings June 5, 2021 at 12:46 pm Reply

    An excellent article. I’ve been banging on against balloons, lanterns and fireworks for years. I totally agree with the other points raised.

  14. V.M.Sang June 5, 2021 at 3:15 pm Reply

    I can’t understand why, as you put it, people want to release burning lanterns. It’s obvious to me that it’s a dangerous practice. Suppose one landed on your hay?
    As for releasing balloons, there is a lot of publicity recently about plastic waste. How can’t people see that this is just another form of disposing of plastic?
    Oh, yes! I forgot. There’s not just pandemic of Covid-19, but a more serious one of terminal stupidity.

    • rootsandroutes2012 June 5, 2021 at 3:23 pm Reply

      Oh dear, oh dear. That hadn’t really occurred me – plastic items which exist *solely* for the purpose of being disposed of 😦

      • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 4:17 pm

        The one use is throwing them away!

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 4:17 pm Reply

      As a Chinese peasant wedding custom, using all bamboo and paper and sending them out over flooded paddy fields, the lanterns probably aren’t any real risk, but it’s just total stupidity to try it here

  15. floridaborne June 5, 2021 at 7:14 pm Reply

    I love his spot-on sarcasm.

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 8:50 pm Reply

      I can do irony as well 😉

      • floridaborne June 6, 2021 at 4:18 am

        It was supposed to be “this” — not “his.”

        What a difference one letter can make.

      • jwebster2 June 6, 2021 at 4:34 am


  16. OIKOS™-Editorial June 5, 2021 at 7:49 pm Reply

    Thank you for making this so clear, Jim! We got really bad habits. After China no longer takes plastic waste from Europe, it gives you a little thought. But I doubt that it will be enough. I wish you a nice weekend! Michael

    • jwebster2 June 5, 2021 at 8:50 pm Reply

      Yes have a good weekend Michael. We all feel better for a good rant 🙂

  17. Jane Sturgeon June 8, 2021 at 8:28 am Reply

    You rant eloquently, Jim. Common sense is not common, unfortunately, and lanterns and helium balloons will have to be banned before folk sit up and take note. Xx

    • jwebster2 June 8, 2021 at 8:55 am Reply

      Yes, people just don’t see the effects

  18. Eddy Winko June 9, 2021 at 11:35 am Reply

    I blame the parents! Or should that be parents of the parents as well?
    Having taught our 7 year old about not leaving rubbish and always keeping it in your pocket if there isn’t a bin available, she now accompanies me on dog walks with a bag to pick up various items of litter we find on the walk. This was her idea.
    It seems that the use of a belt to instill this value in her has worked well (joke) 🙂

    • jwebster2 June 9, 2021 at 12:04 pm Reply

      ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’ was the old saying 🙂
      If children are brought up properly they have a chance of behaving properly

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