Columnists / Rachel Hawkins

‘The Balloon Fiesta is as synonymous with our great city as a drunken trip to the Cori Tap’

By rachel hawkins, Thursday Aug 8, 2019

A neighbour in her back garden is loudly apologising to nearby residents for her noisy dog in advance of this weekend. “They ain’t gonna hurt you, Arch. Calm down.”

An overexcited child is bouncing off every wall in the house. “Are they up yet, mummy?” are five words I’m going to have to get used to hearing over and over again for the foreseeable.

Facebook and Instagram are awash with the same photo of the sky above Bristol. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

I can’t sunbathe naked in my garden for the next four days. (Not that I would, but you know, I might like to).

A weather forecast that was full of promise last week but as the weekend draws closer all you’re greeted with on the BBC Weather app is rain, rain and rain.

It must be the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

The Balloon Fiesta is iconic! It’s as synonymous with our great city as a drunken trip to the Cori Tap.

If there’s one thing that stands out from my childhood, then it’s balloons. I was obsessed. And it seems the obsession is something that has been passed down, as my son is just as fanatical as me.

Growing up, the Balloon Fiesta was a big thing in our house. We would welcome family friends from outside of the city to come and stay with us and armed with binoculars we’d head up to the highest point in BS15 and wait with bated breath and hoped. If there was a balloon god, we’d be pleading for them to go up.

The problem is, you don’t just have the issue of whether the balloons go up to contend with. Oh no.

Two words: wind direction.

I remember as a kid, hanging out of my mum’s bedroom window trying to work out which way the trees were blowing.

The devastation if those balloons went up but didn’t end up going over our way was PALPABLE. Day ruined.

The house phone would ring later that day and it would be my nan, regaling us with how they went over her way She isn’t even arsed about the balloons. Not like I was. Nobody was as arsed as I was.

The double page spread in the Evening Post used to be a sight to behold, detailing all the new special shapes that we could look forward to seeing.

Would they go up? Oh, the excitement when I saw the ears of the Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny ascend in the distance. Or the very top of the Chubb fire extinguisher. That was always a firm favourite.

Chubb Fire Extinguisher

You might think that with my love of all things balloon-related, I’ve been in one. But I haven’t.

I bought tickets to go in a Virgin balloon a few years ago but stupidly I let those tickets expire. Not before every arranged flight got cancelled because of the weather. Bastards.

Maybe my time will come. Maybe one day I’ll take to the Bristolian skies (you’d probably be able to hear me, there would be a lot of hollering as I headed over Hartcliffe).

But until then I’ll just be a spectator. A spectator who moans about noisy dogs and the wind direction screwing me over.

Read more Rachel Hawkins columns:

‘My unwavering, fit to burst pride for Bristol, our incredible city’

‘Life doesn’t come with a manual. Sometimes I wish it did’

‘Car boot sales are an insight into the best and worst of humanity’

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