Creativity: A knotty problem solved

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The Independent Culture
BURST balloons, advises Sylvia Reynolds, may be sewn together to make a patchwork condom. This is developed by Mrs F Rosner who suggests: 'Send for use as a condom to nearest fertility treatment centre.' These suggestions, however, in view of the knots, sound rather kinky.

So for manufacturers of the conventional patchwork condom, we advise pre-processing by Anne Greer, who recommends: 'Trim the excess rubber from around the knots and mount them on a display board for consideration by potential clients for navel restoration to plastic surgery.' The knots also caught the attention of Marcus Taylor, who believes a burst balloon could be a useful labour-saving device to any forgetful person who needs to tie knots in a handkerchief to remember things. The pre- knotted burst balloon would save considerable trouble.

John Browning has an energy-saving, environmentally friendly idea: 'Tie balloons together and attach to buffers of trains leaving Waterloo. Careful measurement will allow the train to reach Dover, where the elasticity would reach its limit and ping the train back to London, thus saving electricity.' He also suggests putting burst balloons over fingers or pens to stop you chewing them.

Heather Gregg points out that yellow balloon scraps are inserted into scrambled egg to give 'that authentic large-scale catering taste and texture', and Steph and Paul, who recommend their use in any colour as everlasting chewing gum. They offer alternative uses in sending to the friendless to create the illusion of having had an explosive party, or to be used in the sport of bungee jumping for pygmy shrews.

Another bestial idea comes from Anthony Savory who, looking for inspiration through his window in Suffolk, began to worry about the possible dangers caused by changes in altitude to jumping hares. His proposal is: 'Flying helmet for mad March hares.'

Tom Gaunt, too late for prophylaxis, suggests that a burst balloon could be used as a 'badge of shame' for any government minister who has accidentally become an extra-marital father. He also suggests their use as a badge for Lloyd's names who have lost money. He does not indicate how we are meant to distinguish between disgraced ministers and Lloyd's names, but perhaps he does not consider it necessary, or even possible.

Other political ideas include stuffing cracks in the economy, smoothing out the basics of Victorian back-to, and being stretched to fit the facts (Sara MacAllen); or as symbolic decoration for the House of Commons - 'a permanent warning to over-inflated egos' (Philip Jaggard).

Burial shrouds for dead budgies, advises Stuart Cockerill, who also suggests their use as clingfilm or emergency bath plugs. His idea may be that if the burst balloon is serving as clingfilm, you could use the dead budgie as a bath plug. His best conceptual idea, however, is the discovery of Safe Chess, which advocates the use of burst balloons as protective covers for the capture of pieces previously handled by your opponent.

Geoffrey Langley recommends that a large post-Christmas quantity of burst balloons could be knotted together, twisted and attached to a huge forked stick to create a catapult powerful enough to launch a flightless Cockerill into orbit. Even more technologically, R M Frederick says they are 'very handy at New Year's Eve parties for slipping into the works of the tape recorder after the fifth playing of Jimmy Shand'.

Also in festive mood, F L Vaux points out that burst balloons shredded into small pieces make excellent waterproof confetti; and post-festively, he recommends hanging them on the front door to indicate that the party is over.

Nicholas James points out that smaller balloons can be made from the burst bits of large balloons, and these, when burst, can be used to make even smaller balloons. Finally, there are not enough rubber molecules left to tie a knot and the balloon implodes under its own gravitational forces.

Fiona and John Earle take an original line by disregarding the fabric and concentrating on the rapidly escaping filling of the balloon. Retrieved from the scene of the accident, the air could be recycled, they say, into a very large spirit-level.

Other ideas include: recycling to original use after mending with bicycle repair kit (Mrs F Rosner); threaded through fine netting, knots uppermost, to make non-slip bath mat (Paul and Steph); used (assuming original was a hot-air or barrage balloon) as a Tiffany skirt for the Statue of Liberty (Geoffrey Langley).

Finally, Heather Gregg believes burst balloons to be a by-product of secret research into an ultimate deterrent based on the damaging psychological effect that screaming children and popping balloons can have on even the the most strong and stable personalities. We can't say any more.

As a foretaste of next week's collection of uses for the humble cactus, we should like to thank all of you who have written to tell us how useful they are in bursting this week's balloons.

Our object for this week is a pair of ice-skates. Anyone watching the Winter Olympics on television may be excused for thinking these have very limited uses - we are confident that our readers will come up with something more creative. Ideas to Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.