Halloween - now a date ringed in (blood) red on the family social calendar.
Sorry to be the spectre at the feast, but a treat for kids, is just an Americanised, commercialised trick for parents. Less than two months off Christmas and you’re having to fork out on shop-bought outfits and frightening food at a scary price.
We didn’t have outfits in my childhood. We didn’t even have Halloween. Our autumnal highlight was Mischievous Night on November 4, a night to carry out what Cor and Whizzer and Chips called ‘wizard japes and pranks’
It was all very tame - we’d sneak down drives, knock on doors and rattle letterboxes, then hide behind the hawthorn.
Least, that’s how I remember it. My younger brother tells me he also threw eggs and tomatoes at windows. How come I wasn’t in on that? And more intriguingly, how the heck did he manage to raid our fridge without our mother finding out? She knew what was in there down to the last ounce of Woolies grated cheddar (mixed).
He also remembers chucking bangers. The daredevil. I was 49 years old before I lit a firework, and even then I had to be chivvied into it, whining: “But my dad told me to never, ever go within ten feet of lighted touchpaper...”
Halloween rode into Britain on its broomstick when my lad was about 10. But back in 1999 there were no fancily-priced paranormal paraphernalia to buy.
It was all very Blue Peter. You wrapped your kids up in the grubby old crepe bandages that lurk in every bathroom cabinet and added dabs of scarlet lipstick. You cut up binbags and your threadbare sheets and made Frankenstein’s monster masks out of giant-sized Rice Crispie boxes. I tried it with a Persil box once, but it made him sneeze.
All of this was done last-minute in our house; I was a single working mum. And I’d not had the common sense, early October-time, to start dating a junior school teacher adept with scissors and sticky-back plastic.
Boy’s pals, similarly hastily dressed, would come to tea. I made them mummy’s fingers by baking sausages wrapped in strips of Mother’s Pride and black spaghetti topped with sick. The spaghetti was hugely expensive squid ink pasta I’d got in a posh Christmas hamper and hadn’t known what to do with. The sauce was Dolmio carbonara with diced carrots added for authenticity rather than vitamins. There are ALWAYS carrots in sick, regardless of when you last ate them.
We’d sit in the dark around a hacked-about pumpkin. I’d tell them ghost stories then watch from the door as they wailed up and down the street, to their dismay collecting more sweets than requests for tricks.
Ah, the good old days, says she, all cobwebbed nostalgia. Kids don’t seem to want either now. Last year, money-minded little monsters scornfully threw the handful of sweets my mother had given them in the garden.
If we’re going to carry on with the charade, let’s keep it British; cheap and as raggy round the edges as them old bandages.