• Pages

  • Categories

  • And another thing…

  • Advertisements

Hallowe’en US style

A few years ago, I hosted a Hallowe’en party for my daughter.  It was easy.  Dress up the ten year olds  (a creepy doctor, two witches, one undefined – perhaps Sherlock Holmes? one ghost, one skeleton).  Send them out to foray for goodies (trail along behind them, knocking on doors for them if said door looks particularly sombre), mind them to target houses with glowing pumpkins somewhere on the premises.  Wait till it gets cold, bring them back, feed them (let them “share” out the spoils), and put on a scary movie.  Back in the mists of time, pumpkin-headed scarecrows of Scooby Do would do for her.

This year, we’ll be hosting once again.  For me it’s an excuse to have the house filled with teens, an exotic species, given to exaggerated moues and whispering, vicious verbal attacks on tv celebrities juxtaposed with real with politeness to us oldies (but not if you try and get down with the kids), and a blizzard of sweet perfume and hair product, loud music and thundering feet.  And most of all I love pumpkin stew and will make my usual seething cauldron of it.

Our house lends itself well to Teen Hallowe’en.  Four hundred years ago, someone built a three storey town house in this little Cotswold market town, and although it’s having a break from further work  done (as am I), there’s enough left to do to create creaks and sighs, collapsing shelves and miscellaneous bumps and groans.

I made the mistake (or was it wanton cruelty?) of telling my daughter of a little boy I had seen upstairs.  Bottle tops had a habit of popping off in the bathroom, and I found my expensive shower gel on the floor on three occasions.  Yes, we have a cat.  And a dog.  But the cat, a very large Maine Coon called Baboushka, far exceeds the size and flexibility of Phoebe, who is a Miniature Dachshund.     She can’t even climb the stairs.  So, of course, as I later told my daughter, Baboushka could have done all of those things, and I was probably having an excess of perimenopausal imagination, and of course, I was sorry, how silly of me to have made up such a thing.   But it was in the middle of the night when my daughter came flying down the stairs, pale as milk, hair standing up on end.  She had heard footsteps.  Something had come into her room and flung the cd remote control from its place and onto the wooden floor.

My account of the ghostly boy came back to haunt me, that’s for sure.  It has taken six months (still not over) of reassuring her that there are no such things as ghosts.  What a fraud I am, because I don’t believe that for one minute.  Let me rephrase; I do believe in ghosts, I do, I do, I do!

Anyway, this is fertile ground for a great teen Hallowe’en.  Last time five of her friends stayed in the summer, one of them woke up yelping that she could her my daughter’s name being called.  Another said someone stroked her hair.  So the stage is set for a creepy gathering.

You must think me cruel.  The thing is, that I’ve seen my share of strange things, enough for me not to be frightened of anything paranormal.  I even had my very own Poltergeist at age twelve, but that’s another story.

Growing up in Manchester to a Sicilian mother who wouldn’t allow us to open the doors of the house on Hallowe’en, in case the Devil strode in.  She’d physically wrench the door knob from our excited fingers and throw a wet tea towel at us.  My father, a Manchester man, had been given to the Fransiscan Seminary at ten years old, as the youngest of eight children, giving one to the priesthood was standard practise.  He left before taking his vows at age nineteen and went off to join the Navy.  I’d love to ask him what happened but I never got the chance because my wonderful father died when I was ten.  Nevertheless, he was a very irreverent Catholic, stupefyingly so, most memorably, on a Sunday.  We’d kick up a fuss at having to go to Mass, and he’d call us “Heathens!” whilst tossing us bodily into the car.  In those days church was always over flowing, and it seemed to me that he tried on purpose to always make us late.  No standing at the back discreetly for us, no, my father would march us up to the front and side of the church like mamma duck and ducklings, where all heads would turn to look at us miscreant late-comers.  But the humiliation wasn’t over.  My father would whistle.  More, he would throw his whistle so that it sounded like it was coming from the roof.  We would stand stony faced, the four of us, in utter mortification.  My father also had a habit of rocking on his heels.  I  used to think it was to help him stay awake, but actually, I think he was laughing.

So it was this almost Catholic priest who would make us ‘witches brew’, on Hallowe’en.  It was his own recipe.  Ribena, lemonade with a plop of vanilla ice cream in the middle.  Set in a tall glass, the drink fizzes and smokes, an innocent thrill for small children, and very delicious.

I don’t go as far as buying Hallowe’en paraphenalila, for what our American cousins do so well, can look a little tawdry, over here (though I have spent many a fabulous Hallowe’en or two living in Arizona and New York).  I actually resent the plethora of products on sale, more every year, and I chunner  away at the the commercialisation of something which is a truly British Pagan festival, resolving more and more to do things in a homespun kind of way.

Including the hand crafting of Hallowe’en cards,  the creating is the important part.  In fact I rarely send them, and the reason why is that the more merry I try to make the theme of my work, the darker it becomes.   I love the colour of pumpkins and the gothic romance of spider webs and medicine bottles.  Each year I try to make my cards more innocent, I use my “Magnolia” stamps to then colour with Manga.  I create a beautiful little cherub, all dressed up for trick or treating, then I dump her in the middle of a spooky forest surrounded by bats.  My cheerful greeting cards now look like Gretel has lost Hansel and the witch is reaching out to steal her into a pot.  Nice.  Still, I can’t help myself.  I can’t think anyone but the most disturbed would like to receive said greeting card, but see for yourself, here’s one I made earlier.

three I made earlier

The teens need no chaperone, so I busy myself crafting. Stirring soup.  All very witch like.  In preparation for our gathering I just recently pulled out a box set Hammer House of Horror, and saw the upper lips of daughter and friends twitch.  “No, don’t be too quick too judge!”, I say to their retreating backs.  They agree to review the films, testing them for Hallowe’en creepiness.  No one could agree which one sounded scarier, so I impatiently left them to it.  Half an hour later, I peer into the gloom of the curtained sitting room to find three teenagers hiding behind cushions and squealing.

The old ones are still the good ones.  Scary films today seem to zip from PG to 18 without blinking.  Even my daughter knows that an 18 is too much for her, not that, to my scant knowledge, she’s ever seen one.  No, it’s the 15s that I have a gripe with.  It’s not that you can guarantee a certificate 15 being more frightening than a 12a (and teens love being scared).  It’s what else is in the movie that gives me pause.  I’m well aware that our teens are more sophisticated than we were at their age, but I really don’t want them to see brutality glorified and made okay.  Or am I being stuffy?

So this year, I’ll let them go to the video shop and choose what they want, standing by for the inevitable phone call to come and okay their choice of a 15 to the sales assistant, and I’ll go, hemming and hawing, and trying not to look too disapproving.

I battle with this because when I was younger than them, I was watching the double bills till midnight.  But in those days it was poor old Lon Chaney struggling with his werewolf self, or Bela Lugosi as Dracula.  That said, I do remember seeing a film that was banned almost as soon as it came out,  “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is as horrific today as it was then, and I saw it when I was twelve.  Ah, me.

If you want a recommendation for a good spooky story with no bad language or brutality, try “The Others” with Nicole Kidman (12).  Failing that, a good box set Hammer House of Horror …

I’ll let you know which film they choose, and whilst they’re watching it, I’ll sneak out and go and light a candle for Daddy.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: