31 October, 2006

Schlock factor

Halloween doesn't seem to be such as big a deal now as it was when I was younger. Back then you'd get wall-to-wall scaremongering on the TV and radio, in magazines and papers, and in shops big and small up and down the high street. Of late, and especially this year, it feels like it's almost an incidental event or peculiar pastime with limited appeal and a niche following.

Not that this is an especially bad thing. Given the entire occasion is an American export and trades in the hugely contentious and downright deceitful dichotomy of trick or treat, maybe it's just as well it's losing currency over here.

The whole thing's just asking for trouble anyway. Kids going round houses demanding residents hand over some delicacies or face the consequences? That's par for the course nowadays, mutter the middle class tabloids, regardless of whether it's 31st October or not. Plus isn't it rather dangerous for children to be knocking on the doors of complete strangers and asking if they can give them something?

Well it is and it isn't. It's always been dangerous for a child to knock on a stranger's door just as it's always been dangerous to walk out into a road without checking for cars or it's always been dangerous to smoke cigarettes.

It's just that society's quantification of danger has changed, and its view of people doing what other people have done in previous generations back through time immemorial gets subject to bouts of hysteria brought on by a need to create enemies. It's the power of nightmares. It's one of the few remaining ways the great and the good can keep their citizens in check.

Nobody has come round here trick or treating and nobody will. I can tell. It's that sort of neighbourhood.

Unfortunately it's also the kind of neighbourhood where nobody knocks on each other's door ever, regardless of what day of the year it is. It's also the kind of neighbourhood where children probably last played in the streets in 1955. I haven't seen one Halloween decoration or present in any of the local shops or houses.

Admittedly it did always seem to be more of a big deal in Liverpool. But even then, during the 12 years I lived there, not once did some kids come round on 31st October. Which was just as well, as I never had anything ready to give them by way of a treat. But still, it was eerie to go from a stage in life where Halloween was ostensibly a big deal (school) to it being nothing at all (after school) and not pass through any kind of in-between.

Anyway, in truth isn't it just a load of old hokum? When you think of it, what has Halloween given us? Apart from some classic Simpsons episodes, Sarah Greene being taken over by a poltergeist on BBC1's Ghostwatch, and an outlet for Britain's uncannily burgeoning pumpkin harvest, that is.



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