Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en story

A colleague of mine yesterday recounted a tale from her youth. I re-recount it here for your benefit.

She and a gaggle of friends were trick-or-treating their way around the estate (not today's nice middle-class 5-year-olds-accompanied-by-mums kind of trick-or-treating, but the old skool intimidating teenager kind).

At one house, known to them to be occupied by a single, oldish gentleman, they were greeted by a handwritten sign pinned to the front door: "Trick or Treaters round the back". An arrow pointed to the side alley leading to the back garden. Hooting and sniggering and feeling safe behind their plastic Hallowe'en masks, the youths scuttled round to the rear of the house... Whereupon a bucket of ice cold water was unexpectedly emptied on their heads from an upstairs window. The trickers had become the tricked. Shrieking and cursing, they ran off, returning shortly after with a quantity of black paint. This they hurled at the man's front door and walls.

Now, some twenty years later, my colleague says, much of that black paint is still visible. The oldish man is now old. He has never attempted to remove or cover the defacement. She passes it on most days as she walks her own children to school.

I draw no particular moral or conclusion from this story; I simply give it to you as it was given to me. Make of it what you will.


  1. Well, frankly, I don't know what shocks me more, the fact that she chose to remain close the estate she grew up on or that she walks her kids to school...

  2. ...of course, I realise there's a possibility she lives in another town and is an obsessive-compulsive hiking freak!

  3. Perhaps he just fancied a paint job on his house and figured this was the cheapest way to go about it.

    Some nasty little runts tried to extort sweets from me one
    Hallowe'en as i was getting out of the Elberrymobile (3rd hand Ford Escort, now defunct). i was so bemused i found myself solemnly blessing them and intoning: "Go in peace, my lovely ones."

    And indeed, they did go in peace. They'd heard about men like me.

  4. Perhaps the paint job actually improved the property's appearance.
    The Geordies, inventive as ever, have a slight variation on trick or treating, called ram raiding

  5. When I was living in France, in a fairly remote village, Halloween took the form of a "choir" led from house to house by a schoolmistress. There they would assemble in a neat row, some with monster masks and some without, and sing beautiful carols. A tray holding cakes, biscuits, sweetmeats, etc., was de rigeur.

    On the other hand, as I was to discover, the village was riven by alcoholism, bitter feuds and the fruits of incest. Suicide was not uncommon and, this being a community of keen chasseurs, life for a cat was both very short and very painful. I'd guess "trick or treat" has little to do with Halloween traditions but it's probably a more honest expression of how we really now live.

  6. Sounds very Darwinian, Brit. The usual generational struggle, acted out in ice water and black paint.

    Today in Philadelphia, we're thinking more about the Phillies parade than Halloween. My son and I are soon to walk a few blocks to the train station (which apparently has an hour long line just to BUY tix) to go downtown for the celebration. We won the World Series! Woohoo!

  7. susan, totally off message I know (apologies to Brit for borrowing his borrowed blog), just picked up Shadow of the this yours?.."Once again I have encountered a book that proves how wonderful it is to become immersed in a rich, long novel....This novel has it all, seduction, danger, revenge and a mystery that the author teases with mastery. Zafon has outdone even the mighty Charles Dickens"
    I can't wait to get to the teasing with mastery bit.

  8. Not me, Malty dear, but sounds like a good novel. My latest review is of John Updike's "Widows of Eastwick," and it hasn't run yet (though it was supposed to afore Halloween). I used to think J.U. a misogynist, but I have reformed my opinion: He is channeling post-menopausal women so well in this novel you'd think he was one!