Ask most Stratford upon Avon residents what the Great Covid 19 Lock down has given them personally and it’s a sure-fire bet that most citizens would reply, ‘Misery’. Not so Walter Winterbottom (87) Stratford born and bred and living in what he calls, ‘The House of Balloons’. He is in ecstasy.
‘The Great Stratford upon Avon lock down has bought me nothing but great joy owing to the fact I now have the time to follow my hobby of blowing up balloons full-time. At one time, I had to make do with the time I had free from my allotment but now I can’t go there, I’m able to follow my hearts-desire 24/7’.
With clearance from The Health Secretariat the Stratfordian was able to visit Walter at his home and in all honesty was amazed at the sight that greeted him. Walter explains…
‘I’ve finished the upstairs. That is completely full of what I estimate to be 3000 balloons. I’m now concentrating on downstairs. I think it’s going to take me a good month to fill it and that’s only because I haven’t got the ‘puff’ I used to. My wife left me a couple of years ago because she thought I was on a hiding to nothing, but I think I’ve proved her wrong, don’t you?’
Asked if he had any plans for the future Walter told The Stratfordian…
‘To be honest, I think I will retire after I’ve filled the house. I’ll give up the balloon-blowing club of which I’m the President and let someone else have a go. It takes it out of you this balloon blowing lark as the rules state quite clearly that we are not allowed to use pumps or any artificial methods of inflating. Anyway, I hold all of the records within the club. For example, number of red balloons inflated in 24 hours. Number of inscribed balloons inflated for Birthdays and other special occasions.
Of course, the best memory I have of all my years of inflation was the time I was asked to inflate the balloons for the late Queens Mother’s 65th birthday. It was a wonderful honour and the BMA (Balloon Man Award) I received at a ceremony afterwards was something I’ll always treasure even though I wasn’t actually invited to the party’.