The place is littered with bits of paper, old envelopes folded over, small notepads, even postit notes… these are what we write to each other on.
Today is Halloween. Without even thinking, I was wearing a loose black skirt decorated with beads. Kind of witchy. Mum came home from somewhere, and made me turn round. She plucked a yellow postit note off my skirt — it said, ‘The eve of all hallows.’
Thanks for the memo….
Hope you have all enjoyed your day. We paid Halloween more attention than usual… decorated a little bit, wore something colourful (but not spooky or dressy), and had a family Halloween dinner. We have a ceramic pumpkin from Aldi’s, in which we burned cinnamon and orange tealights. We had no guisers and are having to eat all the sweets ourselves. That’s why I suggested Mum get monkey nuts and apples, but it went in one ear and out the other.
TV was kind of boring… Harry Potter was on, but it was the dull, dark one where the Ministry of Magic takes over Hogwarts. Hermione in the book is one thing, but I never liked the one in the film. Mum said she’s never been keen on either her or Harry, but we both like Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). While watching, I kept considering the words of a friend who has noticed a particular trend in books and films… people get what is considered their just deserts, no matter who else is hurt along the way.
If we take Harry Potter…. we don’t want Voldemort to win, but, as far as I could make out from the film (not having read the book), Harry is supposed to have looked into his mind and understands something about the way Voldemort thinks. And, I suppose, he’s strong enough to reject Voldemort’s way of thinking, otherwise he would become like Voldemort himself. At one point he tells Voldemort something like: “You will never have any friends or love. And I feel sorry for you.”
I’ve seen that kind of comment before, coming from the good guy and directed at the bad one… but it has never struck me as “I really am sorry for you”… but more as “you’re a bad guy to think that way, and you deserve to be lonely. We will leave you to your misery, and be happy that things have worked out better for us.”
When I was younger, I was totally on board with evil getting his just deserts, but I’m increasingly uncomfortable with these stories… both old and new. I don’t want evil to win, or the (relatively) innocent to lose, but in some stories it seems that even marginally weak characters end up with some quite nasty things happening to them. “Well, he wasn’t worth that much to us; it doesn’t matter if the dinosaur eats him! Serves him right for spilling Hero’s coffee and then giving him the wrong change.”
Of course, it’s the story itself that is ruthless. Probably Hero stands helplessly out of reach, watching with sadness… and then he shrugs, and turns away, and gets on with saving the people he actually cares about, including some cross and outspoken female. But it still means the audience is supposed to take satisfaction from the fact that Mean Coffee Man is getting paid back for having got out of the wrong side of bed that morning.
Another thing I’ve observed is that strong and decisive qualities triumph in films, whereas gentler, more anxious souls tend to be treated with contempt. Particularly so in women. Even nicer women turn out to have a soul of steel or a black belt in judo! Or they’re being heralded as some mother protecting her children, in the face of whose fury any childless person (male or female) is as nothing.
Hmm… me not relating, right at the moment.
Was looking at a rack of Halloween costumes today, and found:
Luscious Lady Bug
Fairy Tale Princess
Eh?? Strange Halloween selection, but it all points at the fact that it’s an evolving holiday.
It seems to be on our minds a lot… Mum pointed out some shiny black curtains, and I said “Halloween curtains!” Then we went into another shop and found some plain black gift paper and Mum said “Halloween paper!” Then we went to Starbucks and had cold mocha and cold cappuccinos (they weren’t supposed to be cold).
Anyway, the thing that made me sit up today: Wooster (in ‘Jeeves and Wooster’) proclaiming “The bally balliness of life makes everything so bally bally.”
I have to confess the reason I started thinking more closely about what makes a Halloween scene or image was that I made a desktop wallpaper for the Halloween part of a site — it was promptly booted out into a more general category.
Oooops. Part of me really hates that…. being wrong, and having to be corrected. It hurts my pride. But it got me thinking about the traditional and not so traditional elements of Halloween.
I’ve been looking in the shops at Halloween window displays, and at the Halloween paraphernalia they have on sale. In previous years I didn’t care two hoots… but last year I looked at the desktop wallpapers on deviantArt after Halloween was already over, and got angry with myself for missing the whole thing! I always rather wanted to make a Halloween wallpaper, and there were some good and imaginative ones.
Anyway, the following were in the Halloween displays of local shops in the UK:
Strictly traditional elements:
Witches, broomsticks, witches’ hats, cauldrons, black cats;
Ghosts, ghouls, ectoplasm;
Tombs, tombstones, fangs;
Bats, full moons, spooky trees, haunted houses;
Traditional but less common:
Carved turnips… actually none of these were in local shop displays.
Acceptable but slightly less traditional elements:
Owls, rats, toads, cockroaches, toadstools;
Zombies, mummies, monsters in general, gibbets.
Elements I’ve seen included, but not especially traditional:
Poison bottles, old bottles with melted wax;
Snakes, crocodiles, dinosaurs, scorpions;
Aliens, Chewbacca, gremlins, Furbies.
Uncarved pumpkins, autumn foliage and flowers, conkers.
Not quite sure how to categorize the following! Probably ‘daring’?:
Weaponry, shackles and irons, dungeon signs, torture implements;
Body parts, blood, eyeballs, violent maniacs;
Pirates, highway men, mad scientists.
Things you would think would be included but weren’t (perhaps out of some basic Scottish unease):
Horned devils, dragons.
Presumably body parts and suchlike are there to symbolize those who have died violently… who are now wandering spirits having their last night of fun. But I was disturbed by the presence of a masked maniac who had costumes in some of the local shops. Who is Freddie with the boiler room? Do I really want to know?
Spiders aren’t ghosts, so why are they so traditional? Why are they more Halloweeny than snakes? Actually, I had this question answered only yesterday, when Mum said it’s a good job she’s not afraid of spiders. There she was, driving along, and a spider suddenly jumped on her. Then tonight I opened the kitchen door and looked out, and there were silvery spider webs on both corners, with the black night sky as their backdrop. This is a very spidery time of year, I guess… whereas presumably snakes are a bit past their best! (I don’t actually know that; it’s a stab in the dark!)
Anyway…. would you say a row of living, glowing test tubes was suitable Halloween fodder, or a bit borderline? It occurred to me to type in ‘Halloween test tubes’ and a surprising number of hits showed up. They’re all tied in with the mad scientist idea. I was saying to Mum “look at the glow sticks; they’re like my test tubes,” and today I found somebody out there asking if you could put the contents of glow sticks into test tubes for Halloween decorations, or would that be dangerous? (Answer: very probably).
And perhaps the real answer is that Halloween is still evolving in people’s minds.
Trying to figure this out… what Halloween is about? Is it always pumpkins, witches, bats and ghouls, or is there something more? Can it be about anything surreal or spooky? Provided there’s a big moon in an image, or a black cat, is it Halloween? If there’s no big moon, does it stop being Halloween?
I’ve been looking around the internet, and so far I’ve seen the following perceptions:
If it’s a scary face on anything except a pumpkin, it’s not Halloween.
It’s a holiday of the imagination.
It’s a bridge between the spiritual and the physical world.
It’s about dressing up and having fun.
It’s about ghosts having a last-night fling.
It’s about stealing sweets from kids.
It’s about everything negative, scary and evil.
I think I’m going for a lie-down — I’ve had too much coffee. 🙂
Happy Halloween! This is a bear Mum got me the other day – she’s a Ty Attic Treasure. The bear, that is.
It’s the last day I see Mum on this side of Halloween, so I set her Mac to randomly show a folder of Halloween desktop pictures which I accumulated secretly. I had just finished, and was sneaking away, when she appeared in the doorway and stared at the Mac.
She burst out laughing.
“Where did you get THAT?”
‘THAT’ was Midnight Trooper, the free Halloween picture from Digital Blasphemy. The Mac just so happened to choose it first.
“It’s from a computer art site. It says down here in the corner – Digital Blasphemy,” I said
I had finished walking the dog, and the day was already getting dim around the edges. “I better go home before it gets dark,” I said. “I don’t want to be caught when the ghosties and ghouls come out. Especially as there’s no Jolly the Trolley to protect me.”
“In that case,” said Mum, “he would probably get home before you.”