What is there to talk about with a man who twists balloons, apart from, perhaps balloons?

But Dr Balloonman, aka Norman Benezra, isn’t just any old balloon sculptor. These innocuous pieces of latex not only give him a living, they entertain, they heal, they engage, they are therapy and they’ve taught him a great deal about human beings.

The ‘Doctor’ from Bournemouth is so busy he twists up to 2,500 of them a week – that’s a whopping 130,000 different balloons a year.

One minute he could be fashioning a dainty ladybird for a child’s wrist, the next he’s getting deft and dextrous with dozens of balloons to sculpt a huge gorilla or aeroplane.

Surprisingly, only about 20 per cent of his work is spent entertaining children. The other 80 per cent is for the grown-ups. You might well have seen him working at one of his regular haunts such as AFC Bournemouth, Aruba or Cocoloco, or creating his magical masterpieces at a private function. But wherever he goes, he never fails to mesmerise his audience.

Dr Balloonman classes himself as a freestyle balloonist and claims there’s nothing he can’t make.

Though if you’re wanting a simple sausage dog or sword, this man isn’t for you. His customers have walked off (and extremely proudly) wearing full-sized Batmobiles with lights, huge crocodile heads and massive Carmen Miranda hats.

Norm’s obsession with balloons started around six years ago and it’s all thanks to his wife Ally, an entertainer.

He said: “She was prepping things for a birthday party and asked me if I could just blow up a few balloons.

“Not only did I find them easy to blow them up without a pump, but I was in a high-pressured sales job at the time and I found the act of filling them with air an instant stress reliever.

“I started making wearable stuff for people and in a very short time I became a business.”

Watching him is soporific as he twists and turns and chats and sculpts. He can often out-perform magicians in terms of reaction when he makes a crazy creation out of nothing, Neither does he evoke that maddening ‘how does he do it?’ response as, simply, there are no smoke and mirrors.

“It’s the show, the build-up and the performance,” he explained.

“Also, I mouth-inflate balloons. There’s a real knack to it and I’ve destroyed my cheek muscles in the process!

“I know it sounds daft but in this way I know how much air I’m putting in it. It’s nice warm air. I don’t like using pumps – too much poppage!”

The technique also enables this particular balloon artist to do such things as wrapping a balloon around his finger to make it into a spiral shape.

Hard to believe that he was a very ill child with such chronic asthma he was on steroids and needed a nebuliser.

“Blowing up balloons has cured my asthma completely and my lungs are so strong now!” he enthused.

Dr Balloonman has four distinct arms to his business – adults, children, the restaurant work and also balloon gifts, which are delivered for special occasions.

He’s so busy he’s now recruiting ‘trainee doctors’ to help him cope with demand.

When it comes to making things for adults, he doesn’t usually take requests, rather figures out what a person might like.

“I try to make my own designs, and just when people think I can’t do any more to something, I add a bit more.”

Dr B, who has two daughters aged eight and 18 months, can ‘read’ a room to see the people who best to start with, but he’s sometimes surprised. “Once, some very aloof, very made-up girls who I didn’t think would be at all interested in a balloon came up to me and asked when it was going to be their turn!”

So what is the appeal of all this this colourful inflated rubber? Norm has an immediate answer: “Adults are all big children but they are forced into losing the notion that everything is possible and everything is believable. I take people on a journey – back to a nostalgic time of their lives when they were young and free.”

He twists for people from all walks of life, from the very rich (he’s entertained celebs but contractually isn’t able to talk about exactly who) to those with ‘not the best demographical profile’.

“It brings a moment of happiness, however brief.”

Such is the effect that Dr Balloonman regularly visits care homes and sees how well people with dementia respond to his work. “It’s very, very rewarding and very, very special. It’s made me appreciate that all we have is now.”

One person not particularly appreciative of his work was Norman’s father – at first. “Initially he was disappointed and upset when I gave up my sales career for this. But as soon as he saw me working something just clicked and he said: ‘I get it’.”

Not that this particular Doctor would be put off by naysayers. Wild gorillas couldn’t drag him away from his passion.

“Even when I’m not working, I’m blowing up balloons. It’s all about practice practice practice. I’m constantly evolving and making sure I’m on top of my game.

“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of a new design and I have to get up and make it.

“I think I’m a little bit obsessed!”

normallyentertainment.co.uk, 07855 545 693