The Grim Reaper

Say what you like about the bloody Corona virus, it does have its plus points.

For example, tonight is Halloween, and can you hear that noise? No? That’s because there isn’t any: there has been not one knock at my door from a bunch of kids who’ve made minimal effort with the idea of fancy dress, thrusting open bags out imploring me to furnish them with sweets.

I say this like I ever answer my front door. Of course I don’t: that’s what my downstairs neighbours are for.

The Government even issued advice this week, as the prime minister’s official spokesman, when asked about the prospect of trick or treating being banned this year, clearly read from a card which said: “The rules are those which apply to household mixing in general. And what that means in practice is, if you’re in a ‘Very High’ alert level then you cannot mix with other households indoors or in private outdoor spaces. “If you’re in a ‘High’ COVID alert level then the rule of six applies in private gardens and outdoor spaces but households must not mix indoors. And in terms of the ‘Medium’ alert level, you can meet indoors and outdoors in groups of no more than six people. The rules are there for all circumstances and people will have to use their common sense in ensuring they are following the rules.”

You’ll notice that mention of “common sense”, and we all know what that means. It means: “If Dominic Cummings happens to get photographed knocking on doors and trying to relieve good, honest, hard working, decent British folk of the contents of their last packet of Fangtastic, then that’s perfectly fine, he’s just using his common sense like any parent would.”

But I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, for whilst Halloween and the “tradition” of Trick or Treating really pisses me off, it wasn’t always thus. I spent my first few formative years living in the USA where it was a huge communal event. Remember the Trick or Treating scene from E.T. The Extra Terrestrial? This one:

Well, that’s pretty much how I remember it (although, one can never really be sure if that’s because I’ve seen that movie so many times, or whether I do actually remember it).

When I returned to the UK in the early 70s, I found that Trick or Treating simply wasn’t a thing. Nobody did it over here. Consequently, my excellent Spiderman suit got put in a box and shoved up into the attic, never to to see the light of day again.

I’m not sure precisely when it happened, but over the years, it’s an American tradition which we’ve readily adopted, like Black Friday and disliking immigrants.

Aren’t we sending kids a very mixed message with Trick or Treating though? Every other day of the year, parents teach their kids not to talk to strangers and definitely never take any sweets off them for fear of what might happen if they do, and then for one night of the year, they are encouraged to knock on total strangers’ doors and demand that they be given confectionary, permitted to make threats about what might happen if they don’t. It’s like Deliveroo for paedophiles.

I heard my favourite Halloween/dressing up story on a very old edition of QI. The question was: Why did the Haslemere Home for the Elderly close down? And the answer was this: Because of a series of bizarre endings for its inhabitants…

In September 1960, a male inhabitant of the Haslemere Home for the Elderly in Great Yarmouth died of a cardiac arrest after fellow resident, 81-year-old Gladys Elton, performed a striptease. Five more of the residents were consequently treated for shock.

Hold on, I’m getting to the point.

A year later, there were three more deaths at the same home after one of the patients, 87-year-old Harry Meadows, dressed up as the Grim Reaper and peered through the window brandishing a scythe. This incident closed down the home.

I like the sound of Harry.

Which leads me here. They were a bit late with their advice, to be honest:

More soon.