Hallowe’en, when I was a child, was all about bobbing for apples and telling ghost stories. Very low key. We didn’t do trick-or-treat, as we had never heard of it: in fact, if we dressed up at all, it was only as witches, certainly no ghoulies or ghosties though some of us made pretty good long-leggetty beasties, but that was just because we were growing. We had never seen a pumpkin, though we may have hollowed out a turnip and stuck a candle in it. Our attention was actually more focused on the upcoming Bonfire Night, preparing a Guy Fawkes and wheeling him around in an old pram begging passers-by for “a penny for the guy” to be spent on fireworks.
Now trick-or-treat has spread from America throughout most of Europe, along with pumpkins, monsters and whatever horror fantasy is currently trending, hotly marketed by all and sundry in almost every branch of retail. You can be a curmudgeon, switching off your lights and refusing to answer the door on this unhallowed evening, but that really doesn’t appeal to me. My inner six-year-old is still very much alive and kicking, so I happily purchased some nauseating-looking little cakes and sweeties in the form of eyeballs ready to drop into the buckets of anyone who appeared on the doorstep in some form of fancy dress. Plus a very fetching purple witch’s hat with shiny red spots, that fell into my shopping trolley all by itself.
As I haven’t been to the hairdresser for more than 3 years, I don’t need a wig: in the old films, the mousy heroine would remove her spectacles, let down her hair, and the hero would murmur, “But Miss Smith, you are beautiful!” and the two of them would live happily ever after. Since my cataract op, I no longer need specs, but when I let down my hair the effect is, “Bl**dy hell, you’re scary!” So all I needed to do was don a black sweater and pants, pop the hat on, and say “BOO!” with a big grin as I opened the door.
Three skeletons jumped out of the skin they didn’t have, a werewolf leapt a foot backwards, a tiny princess had to be reassured that I wasn’t going to eat her, and a twelve-year-old zombie simply raised her shaggy eyebrows pityingly. On the whole, as group after group came threatening us with mayhem, my surprise effect was extremely successful: they were glad to escape with nothing worse than the shock. Mothers standing back on the pavement in the dark giggled helplessly, and nobody went away truly traumatised. I was left with three pumpkin-coloured cupcakes decorated with bats and spiders, and one eyeball, so I reckon I had calculated my treats quite well.
I think next year, I might actually look for some kids to go trick-or-treating with: I need to get some wear out of that hat.