All I ask is a tall balloon

Hey, where did everybody go?

Better late than never. Toby’s third birthday was actually a month ago, but we had to postpone his party because of the January snow. Rescheduled, it finally took place at the weekend and Toby was no less happy after the four-week delay. When you have the run of a soft-play facility, party food and a room full of helium balloons, what more could you possibly want? (And that was just me.)

This was my favourite photo from the party, taken towards the end. It sums up the day perfectly for me.

Hey, where did everybody go?
Hey, where did everybody go?

It’s a very Toby sort of picture. Whereas an equivalent picture of Isaac would have him surrounded by a gang of friends (the majority of them girls, most likely), Toby has always been – like his father – a more solitary soul, happy on his own with only his thoughts for company. That’s not to say he didn’t have fun playing with his friends and his brother – he did – but Toby does not crave social interaction the way his more extroverted brother does.

And he adores his giant 3-shaped balloon, which was only two inches shorter than him. He and it were inseparable for the rest of the day, and even now it’s still airborne and stuck to the ceiling of our living room in a rather spooky way, like a cross between a giant Numberjack (fellow CBeebies parents will know what I mean) and Spider-Man. I keep imagining it’s about to drop on my head like the proverbial lead balloon.

Anyhow. regular readers will know that I do like to throw in a random pop culture reference here and there, and the more literary among you may have spotted – and been suitably offended by – my mangling of the John Masefield poem ‘Sea Fever’, whose signature line I have so frivolously mangled:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the poem, you may recognise it from a number of mentions in TV and film. Willy Wonka quotes it early on during (the original) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, just before the psychedelic boat trip. And, of course, no piece of literature can be considered truly heavyweight until it has been name-checked in one of the Star Trek incarnations, in this case the original series:

Such things make me happy. Just as a simple giant balloon made my boy happy.