Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When the ghosts walk and the pumpkins are nervous

Here we go again. The shops are full of orange, black and purple tat, grocers are cancelling their regular orders for flour and eggs, and frightened householders are stocking up on Haribo Fangtastics.

Yes, folks, it’s nearly Halloween, when ghosts will walk, and Mrs D’s pumpkins are getting justifiably nervous.

Once upon a time, believe it or not, Halloween was quite fun. There was apple bobbing. (Try that on a PS3.) There was sticky toffee. There were genteel games of wink murder. There was the sure and certain knowledge that the real fun started a few days later, on Bonfire Night.

Although truth be told, given the laxity of the firework-selling regulations in those golden years, eight-year-olds could buy a ready supply of bangers from about the middle of October, and would be pretty much fed up with explosives-related mayhem by the time the real thing came along.

Then things tightened up. Firecrackers became damp squibs, you could only buy Fairy Fountain roman candles three days before November 5, and then with an obligatory certificate of pyrotechnic competence from your friendly local chief constable. Trick or treating became a much more viable option for early autumnal thrill-seekers.

But now things are starting to get extra silly. The accustomed domestic bliss chez Dixon has been shattered by one half of the family’s insistence on nightly three-hour sessions of Most Haunted, a TV show which features psychic non-entities scaring themselves silly by walking round darkened houses whispering under monochrome green lighting.

It’s one of life’s little ironies that this turgid stream of dross about dead people should go out on a channel called Living.

The other half of the family either take themselves off to bed or cower behind a book with the iPod on full, happy in the knowledge that at least their brains won’t be ready- softened for the impending zombie attack.

It’s all the Americans’ fault, of course. They commercialised Halloween, and they had a hand taking the fun out of fireworks.

Witness NASA’s first attempt to launch their whizzy new Ares I-X rocket earlier this week: a bit too much of a breeze and the whole shebang gets postponed. For heaven’s sake, there weren’t even any astronauts in it. What could possibly have gone wrong?

Back in the day they just strapped Tom Hanks to the top of a Saturn V. Crossed their fingers. Lit the blue touch paper. And retired.

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