Halloween horrors

Halloween was largely disregarded in my life as culturally irrelevant, something tacky and commercial that Americans did.

Until my Canadian cousins sent me a parcel of Halloween candy, anyway. The delicious, pumpkin shaped, orange sweeties and liquorice spiders disappeared amazingly quickly and never showed up again in following years — something to do with my mother’s views on children and lollies, I suspect.

Which is not to say I have anything against the people of North or South America or anywhere else enthusiastically celebrating All Hallows Eve or All Souls Day with carnival fervour. It simply didn’t impinge much on my life. Until my younger daughter was about 13.

Suddenly her ambition in life was no longer to be a firefighter or film star, it was to be hostess of a Halloween party, complete with horrible food and awful decorations.

The awful decorations were inadvertent…there is only so much you can do with orange and black crepe paper and a rather small pumpkin. But the food I got right, as I remember, with tomato sauce figuring prominently. I made a big pot of spaghetti bolognaise that I labelled Blood and Guts.

The party was a riot. It involved a lot of screaming and running away from boys who appeared to have all the career prospects of recidivist criminals or triple axe murderers.

The girls were dressed as glamorous ghouls with far too much make-up, even for the walking dead. Nobody went home at the appointed hour, no matter how much I tried to tell them they would be whisked away by witches come midnight.

Time draws a veil, fortunately, but I have a recurrent memory of all the lights being turned off and some screaming child tied to an office chair being whizzed around the front verandah.

But all that was in the past. Then I discovered that the kindergarten was to hold a Halloween party for the preschoolers. All they needed was a costume. Yeah, right.

Normally I pride myself on dressing up with the scraps, discards and utility items of the household to produce spacemen, aliens, bears and princesses on demand.

I once did a sea serpent that was quite a success, although it was constantly mistaken for a Fiji crested iguana that had held its breath and turned blue.

But we had run out of time and ideas, so the day of the party we met the preschooler’s mum at lunchtime in a coffee lounge to examine some hastily purchased props from Raojibhai Patel St. I was ineffectually trying to prevent the children from harassing other coffee drinkers when Mother arrived.

I could only gape and ask what could have possessed her to buy these two a long black stick each, it was trouble just waiting to happen.

They’re not sticks, she said blithely.

“See, you fasten these plastic Devil’s pitchforks on the ends.”

Oh yes, genius idea. At the party, I refrained from pointing out that no other parent had thought to buy them.

Their children had gone as Draculas and witches, also dinosaurs and fairies, none of them with sticks.

Our smallest, the tough two year old, opted to be a pirate although who could tell? He wore his jungle greens, an eyeliner moustache and a scar, considered and rejected a tiger mask, and carried his pitchfork. No pirate could be without one, apparently.

The elder child, aged four, demanded to go as a cat. Not too scary, I thought.

Wrong, it was a Killer Cat, although it didn’t eat yucky mice, it only attacked people. She wore a cat cape with pink silk lined ears and a pink silk bow on the tail, and carried her pitchfork. Cat Woman eat your heart out.

The kindy decorations were amazing, the games were fun, the parents participated and a great time was had by all, especially after the pirate and cat got tired of their pitchforks and I got stuck with holding them.

I note that today is traditionally Guy Fawkes Day, when children throughout the British influenced world light bonfires and let off fireworks to mark the dastardly deed by Mr Fawkes and fellow Gunpowder Plotters to blow up Parliament in 1605. The plot was foiled, hence the celebration.

It is an event that has died away in many places or been overtaken by organised bonfire affairs.

I would have suggested this was excellent news, except my younger daughter (the one who also likes Halloween) has taken me to task for my attitude to crackers, particularly at Diwali.

She points out, quite rightly, that many types of fireworks, including the extremely dangerous, horribly loud explosive sort have already been banned and curfews put in place.

So perhaps it is more a matter of making sure the curbs and controls are made more effective. Please. I’m getting tired of trying to turf a well built canine out from under my bed at the drop of a pop-pop.

? The writer is a regular contributor to this column. Views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper.

More Stories