Take a look at some of the work produced by our learners during their online courses.
Hot Air Balloons by John
I remember during the war seeing a mini forest of tethered barrage balloons, bobbing and weaving at different heights in order to thwart enemy bombers. I also recall seeing a barrage balloon on the ground: a writhing silver amorphous mass awaiting its launch. Sometimes we would see an escaped balloon roaming the sky like some rogue elephant awaiting capture.
All this is a far cry from today’s hot air balloons. They now come in many shapes and sizes: from Disney characters to superheroes to company logos. But for me the traditional spherical shape is by far the most appealing with its multitude of colours and patterns.
Do I have ambitions to fly in one? Not really. It is not that I am afraid of heights or that I am prone to airsickness it is just that on this occasion I like to be a spectator. I like it when the balloon lies helpless on the ground and the crew are milling around ensuring that all is airworthy before there is a sudden roar as a burst of gas heated air starts to inflate the envelope and with its passengers aboard like a flower it begins to blossom into a beautiful teardrop shape before it majestically ascends into the air.
I can imagine the silence that the passengers experience: interrupted only by an occasional creak of the basket and the need to re-ignite the gas burner. I can picture the view from the basket of houses of all shapes and sizes, of cars scurrying like busy ants and an occasional train snaking its way along a ribbon of track. I can envisage the gradual transition to the multi-coloured patchwork of fields and the multi-hued canopy of woodland.
I have read that the collective term for hot air balloons is a ‘celebration’. What an apt description? To see an airborne flight of balloons at different heights drifting slowly towards the setting sun is indeed a celebration of perfection.
Alone by John
It was nearly Christmas. He stood outside the revolving door that lead to his place of work. People were heading for home. Office workers, their days work behind them mingled with Christmas shoppers who glowed with satisfaction at their purchases.
He felt desolate, unwanted and bitter. He had just been made redundant.
It was nearly going home time when he was asked to go to his boss’s office. Seated next to his boss was a faceless bureaucrat from HR. He guessed what was coming. He had sensed for some time that there were changes afoot and he suspected that his job could be on the line.
His boss went into a long preamble about the need for the business to realign itself to meet current demands. He could sense that his boss was nervous and at that point the faceless one from HR, as if to get the matter over and done with, interrupted to say that although the company had considered other employment options he would, as a result of the changes to the business, be made redundant. He went on to explain that he need not return to work since he would be paid in lieu of notice and in view of his length of service he would receive a very generous severance payment as well as his statutory redundancy pay. He was handed a letter of confirmation and they arranged for him to call-in the following week to discuss his pension options and to clear his desk. So after a few pleasantries it was over. That was it. He was dumbstruck.
As he walked back to his office he felt faint and stopped to lean against the wall. His mind was in a turmoil: thirty years of loyalty and commitment dismissed in a matter of minutes. He slapped the wall in frustration but the sharp pain did nothing to assuage his anger. He felt emasculated. He felt as if his whole world had suddenly collapsed. Work was his raison d’être.
He boarded his bus home. He used a bus these days instead of his car, it was his token concession to global warming. He sat there staring blindly ahead oblivious of the other passengers and the myriad of Christmas lights that for so many heralded joyous times to come. For him there was no joy! His mind raced from one thought to another. What would he do? What would his friends and neighbours think? He never planned to end his career in this way; he wanted to bow out gracefully on his own terms and in his own time. In his book redundancy was synonymous with failure.
He could stand the banter and bonhomie of the bus no longer – he had to get off. He started walking. He lived on his own and had done so for the past ten years since his mother died. He was happy in his own company but on this occasion, he regretted the fact that there was no one to console him, no one in whom he could confide. He felt alone, truly alone and he was frightened.
A piece by Debra
I look out to sea, to catch the last glimpse of the ship that carries my family to what should be a safe place. A place where there is hope. A place where there is freedom. A place without death.
This day is one that I will remember. The day I said goodbye to the most precious people in my life, in the hope of a better life. I shall remember how the crisp sea air smelt and how Jodie said that it smelt of fish and I chuckled at her words. I will remember how the cool sea breeze made Trevor’s cheeks go a deep shade of crimson and how the air carried my wife’s perfume. I will remember this day.
Hours turn to days, days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months. Three agonising months have passed since I have seen my loving and precious family. But I have finally been told that the deadly virus is dying out like an endangered species. It is safe to bring my family home.
I immediately send word to family and now look out at sea for the ship that once carried my family to safety, to bring my family back home.
As I stare out to sea in my light blue jeans and dark blue hoodie, I see a ship in the distance. Words cannot describe the relief that I feel knowing that the ship has survived the rough sea currents. I rush to the docks to be one of the first in line to meet their loved ones.
I wait patiently and begin to think of all the things that we can do together as a family, the bike rides, the picnics and the games we can play. The time that I have lost I cannot replace, but the future can be so much brighter with work taking a back step and my family being my main priority.
Suddenly, I see a small little boy with light blonde hair and bright green eyes like sapphire diamonds, next to him is a taller little girl with long dark blonde hair with brown eyes and then my eyes catch onto the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her long blonde hair, ocean blue eyes and smile that is more valuable than gold.
My family have returned. They are safe. We are together.