Thursday, 21 October 2010

Trick or Treat or Stand and Deliver?

Oh, crap. It’s Halloween again.

Living on an estate of three-bed semi’s (my God, when did my life become such a cliché?) we don’t just get a handful of trick or treaters. Oh no. Last year I counted over fifty of the little blighters. And each and every one of them requires a small packet of sweets or a miniature chocolate bar.

This doesn’t come cheap. Totting up the potential damage in Tesco’s yesterday, I estimated that I would have to spend a minimum of £10 to ensure I have enough tooth rotting fodder to meet my blackmailers demands – for what else is ‘Trick or Treat’ but an apparently socially accepted command to feed Other People’s Children sweets, or spend the next fortnight washing eggs off your car?

They don’t even bother waiting for the 31st October either. Last year we had two fat kids in plastic masks ring the doorbell the day before. “Trick or Treat?” They grunted.

“Erm, it’s not Halloween yet.” I said, wishing to get the lardy lads off my doorstep as quick as possible so that I could return to Eastenders.

“Yeah, but we’re going to a party tomorrow, so we won’t be able to come round.”

I should have sent them away with a flea in their ear and a lecture on the perils of being overweight, but to my eternal shame I trotted dutifully into my kitchen and ferreted around until I found them a couple of ancient Penguins. (That’s a type of chocolate biscuit by the way - lest my American friends be wondering why I happened to have two very old, aquatic flightless birds living in my larder cupboard.)

You see I take the ‘trick’ threat quite seriously. Up until recently I had a rather nice car on the drive and I didn’t fancy replacing its windscreen wipers.

The parents that escort the droves of children around (and by the way, the costumes get more rubbish by the year too. If you all buy the same things from Tesco, it all becomes a bit pointless. Use some imagination and make something) stand at the entrance to the drive with vapid grins whilst their children order me to hand over goodies or they’ll damage my property. “Say thank you, Kai!” They chirrup, giving me a conspiratorial wink.

“Thank you and f**k off” I mutter.

“What?” A vampire who looks rather too old to be doing this kind of thing gives me a sharp look.

“Er, I said that’s a nasty cough.”

“Oh” He trudges off, plastic pumpkin bucket groaning with junk.

I don’t think people give much thought to the elderly, either. For an eighty-six year old, heaving yourself off the sofa every five minutes to hand over sweets to an unsmiling monosyllabic oik in a skeleton suit can’t be much fun. I’m sure as hell not laughing and I don’t have arthritis.

As much as I would like to blame the Americans for this tawdry yearly horror, the practice does actually have its foundations in a British tradition. ‘Souling’ in England and ‘Guising’ in Scotland and Ireland appear to be the precursors, with poor children being allowed for one night only to embark upon ritual begging for food and cash. This custom was transferred to the States by the 19th Century immigrants and by 1930 had become the ghastly institution that we know now.

Of course, the key word in that paragraph was ‘poor’. Nowadays any child of any background is sent off to pester grown-ups for food they most certainly do not need. And is taking food from strangers really such a good idea? I do not understand why parents, who have spent the other 364 days of the year warning their children not to take sweets from strangers, suddenly find this idea acceptable. It can only be a matter of time before some nutter hands out Mars Bars with hypodermic needles shoved into them.

And yes. I will be saying ‘I told you so.’


  1. Ha! A kindred spirit. Hilarious!
    I'm totally following you.

  2. couldn't agree more
    by the way excellent book, best I have read this year

  3. couldn't agree more. Maybe we are growing to be grumpy old women together. In my case I'm already pretty old, but you're catching up. ha ha xx

  4. Great post! All our traditions seem to be in direct conflict with modern values: Fireworks night - 'here, buy some lethal weapons. Xmas - 'tonight a strange old man will come down the chimney'. And Halloween - 'go and get sweets off strangers'. Gotta love it x

  5. I really enjoyed this post. Maybe that's because I'm a Grumpy Old Bag.

    The supermarket chains are trying their damndest to make Halloween into something in Australia. To our credit, it hasn't happened yet. We played along for a couple of years with neighbour's tots. They gave us the sweets to hand over. But I, for one, will NOT be making a habit of it.