Hugh Reilly: Missing Halloween doesn’t frighten me
LAST WEEK, I had to use my de-icer for the first time this year – that I was using it on my bathroom mirror supports my pals’ view that I’m a frugal kinda guy.
Despite reports to the contrary, I do sometimes put on my central heating, usually at the behest of a barking St Bernard dog with a small barrel of whisky hanging from its neck. Tomorrow, to escape the start of the hypothermia season, I’m casting off my two Edinburgh Woollen Mill bargain jumpers, tossing my Tammie in a corner and flying out to Torrevieja for an ill-deserved break.
Sadly, the unfortunate timing of my holiday means that I will miss the Halloween celebrations. Cozied up in my Costa Azul flat, it will feel odd to be sitting on the sofa rather than hiding behind it to fool greedy guisers. Old habits die hard, but I hope I do resist the temptation to take the batteries out of my apartment doorbell. Sure, I’ll miss the comforting sound of eggs smashing on my windows – recently cleaned in 2008 – but I will stoically endeavour to endure the pain of separation.
Over a glass or two of Rioja, I will reminisce about my fond childhood memories of Halloween. Back then, kids made their own costumes. A simple mask was constructed by cutting eyeholes in a piece of cardboard and attaching a spaghetti-thin piece of elastic. Gauging the ideal length of elastic demanded expertise that few children possessed: too long and the mask constantly slipped – too tight and the wearer’s eyeballs were squashed into contorted shapes that impaired his vision to the extent that the disorientated lad had to be led up and down the tenement stairways by his friends.
For the unimaginative, there were three standard disguises: pirate, tramp and ghost. The piratical look was achieved by swirling Mum’s most colourful scarf around one’s head and borrowing an eye patch from the neighbour’s son with the squinty eye. Resembling a tramp needed assistance from the make-up department, that is, a dod of soot smudged on to one’s visage by Mother and a black plastic moustache pinched into one’s septum. A ghostly appearance only required a bedsheet, preferably unsoiled, to be thrown over the masqueradee.
All dressed up with somewhere to go, we’d start out on our treasure hunt. Thanks to intel gathered a few days previously from newspaper boy snitches, properties had been identified where the tenants had been known to distribute hard cash rather than the usual buckled currency of monkey nuts or badly-bruised apples. Employing the sniper approach certainly beat the scatter-gun tactic. By the time the penny dropped on dullards that some householders were doling out money, I was back at my safe house counting the loot. Of course, there had been a heavy price to pay for amassing such wealth; I’d had to sing, dance or tell a joke before any coppers changed hands. My singing ability was much under-appreciated; after just three lines of melodic warbling, I was always enthusiastically ushered out the front door by an audience unsuccessfully feigning enjoyment of my vocal skills.
Like every Halloween pro, age finally caught up with me and I decided to retire from the scene. Being honest, my decision was greatly welcomed by neighbours who had become increasingly uneasy about giving an 18-year-old boy sweets.
So much has changed and not for the better. Paedophilia hysteria means that helicopter parents accompany children up neighbours’ paths; some mums and dads even go so far as driving their children around the estate. Guisers, the vanguard of the something for nothing generation, waste no time in making it clear that they want money and are utterly perplexed when I ask them to entertain me before I give them any of my mother’s Attendance Allowance. Their vulgar materialism appals me – it’s only a matter of time before they come calling with Pin machines for you to enter your credit card details. More appalling, however, is their desire to ditch Britishness and embrace the brash Americanism of “Trick or treat!” And their lazy parents buy Chinese-manufactured ceramic Jack O’Lanterns instead of hollowing out an Asda pumpkin.
Halloween now appears to be geared more for adults. There is one-upmanship to see who has hired the best, most expensive outfit and pubs and clubs host Halloween party events. Halloween is no longer child’s play – and nothing can disguise that fact.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West