Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Horror

I’ve never got the fascination with Halloween. 

When I was growing up, the greatest excitement on October 31st was semi-drowning in a bucket of water while trying to pull an apple out with your teeth. 

That was it. Party over.
It was only when I moved to the US that I realised what I had been missing out on. My local Williams-Sonoma store in Beverly Hills started stocking up on Pumpkin Carving Kits at the end of summer. I’d never before been in contact with a pumpkin, let alone something to turn it into a work of art. It wasn’t that my parents were mean; they were just a bit slow on the uptake when it came to essentials for festivities. 

We were always, for example, the last people Christmas shopping for sprouts at 5pm on Christmas Eve (I still am, by the way). My Jack o’ Lantern was always a turnip, not a pumpkin, because the latter sold out at least a week before we needed them (I recall one year when even the turnips had run out; I think we had to make do with a plump carrot that year).
In Los Angeles, people start turning their lawns into Halloween Festivals round about September 1st. Skeletons, ghouls, fluffy white stuff, pumpkins, candles - everything guaranteed to terrify a small child goes on display, and for what purpose I have never been able to fathom.
A notice came around in my building last week asking whether I wanted to be included in the Trick or Treat festivities carried out by the complex’s little people. Not unless they never want to be reunited with their parents again and eke out their remaining days under my floorboards, I said. Politely.
I put it down to the fact that I was born on November 5th. In the UK, that is the day that celebrates (or commemorates, depending on which side of the political fence you are sitting) Guy Fawkes’s unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. He was a Catholic. That may or may not be relevant - depending on which side of the religious fence you are sitting.
Every year, children came to my birthday party armed with (and I mean this literally) explosives. Sometimes, I got a present, too, but the bigger the box of explosives, the smaller the present. After everyone sang Happy Birthday and I blew out my candles on the cake, everyone retired to the garden to watch the explosives display. 

Except me. 

I always stayed inside, hiding under the dining table or behind a chair until it was all over. I hated fireworks then and, to this day, I still do. They make me cry. To me, it’s the loneliest sound in the world.
I suppose I equate Halloween with that time of year. I’ve never been able to be near anyone wearing a mask; my dislike of beards is probably because I genuinely have a fear of being close to anything with its face covered. I would need to be accompanied by paramedics if I were to attend a masked ball; my mother once had to carry me out of the circus when a clown approached me for a friendly chat. I had hysterics in Paris Disneyland when a mouse came within nibbling distance. 

And I was 43 at the time. 
So, tonight, I am staying in. I’ve just had to turn off Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1 because they are doing a Halloween theme, and I never thought I’d run screaming from BBC presenter Jeremy Vine. 
What’s to like about something that celebrates everything that is horrible? That preys upon our greatest fears about the unknown? That transforms people into hideous incarnations of grossness?
Bizarrely, it is a celebration - the first day of Allhfallowide - that takes place on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. In my book, that’s just a posh way of saying “Another Excuse for Christians to Get Rat-Arsed Day".
Apparently, we’re not supposed to eat meat today, but we’re at liberty to light candles on the graves of the dead. 

Go figure.
So, a very happy Halloween to you all. I’m keeping all my doors locked, eating all the candy I have (sorry, kiddies), and watching back to back Law and Order: SVU (again).
Come November 5th, I might emerge. 

Drinks are on you.


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