At any time in the last few months anyone with any awareness of my uneven working patterns combined with a knowledge of my peripatetic life would have concluded that the likelihood of my being in the house at six thirty on the evening of 31 October would have been remote to say the least.
Six thirty, I should explain seems to be the most active time period around here for youngsters celebrating Hallowe'en, or as it's become, that great annual fun and mischief-fuelled front door extortion racket. Clusters of fresh-faced, theatrically uglified, pocket-sized ghouls ghosties and goblins gathered to celebrate in the only way they know how. Seemingly at six thirty precisely, troupes of whipped up, highly excited children proceeded to hoot and whoop their intrusive way to every front door, entrance and window in the neighborhood: A granny's-chest ransacking of jaggy black gowns, remodeled hats and garish sequins.
This year, forces of randomness, happenstance, coincidence and bad luck conspired and compelled me to be in the house at that precise time. And I was going to have to endure.
Looking like stunted escapees from a cheesy fairground ghost-train or house of horrors, the little tyrants with their luminous skeleton and boggle eyed masks (from out of which peeped angelic though greedy eyes) shrieked, cackled, zombied and annoyed their way into the peaceful lives of everyone else. And then demanded money from anyone foolish enough to open an impatiently knocked door in an effort to show a good-natured, if pained interest. The justification behind the payment for their fun, the fairly recently imported ( 1982 - the film ET has much to answer for) morally dubious convention of "trick or treat." The rules are simple, you either pay or you suffer the consequences. The price of not paying results in a messy hit involving a modern witches brew of eggs, shaving foam and crazy string.
Funny? Well it seems there can be no sympathy for a skinflint. Likely victims either hand out the dosh or run the risk of the tightwad and suffer a rude and unwelcome ' trick.' I paid. With handfuls of pocket wrecking and these days virtually useless coppers placed aside for the purpose. A strategy that seemed to work - the satisfying tinkle-rattle of fistfuls of coinage crashing together in jars, hats and other receptacles was sufficient to keep these mini, demonised entrepreneurs on side. But I still wish I'd been out.