Hallowe’en. London being full of foreigners and migrants, it’s not just the kids who get dressed up for Hallowe’en. Grown ups get to play too. Brits don’t normally do this kind of thing, but Australians, Americans and Canadians all seem to have celebrated Hallowe’en with costumes their whole lives. So instead of it being a case of ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’, it seems in London, the Brits do as the Gauls and other Barbarians do and wear silly clothes.
B is the ultimate Canadian.
‘In Canada,’ she began, as she so often begins, ‘you can dress up in whatever you like. It doesn’t have to be scary.’ And to prove the point she showed me a photograph of a kid in her home town dressed up as a Rubik’s Cube. It was fairly disturbing, nevertheless.
My friend PJ had invited me to a Hallowe’en party at his house, so B, RM and I all decided to go. B was running a church anti-Hallowe’en party first. RM came round here to get ready and we chatted about how we were never allowed anything to do with Hallowe’en when we were kids.
‘My mum’, she said, fixing her witch’s hat on her head, ‘answered the door and gave the kids balloons with Bible verses on them instead of sweets. And then she asked them their names and made us pray for them later.’ Growing up Christian in the UK was clearly very different to growing up Christian in Canada. Taking part in Hallowe’en was definitely going to condemn your soul to hell in those days.
This was the first time I’ve ever dressed up for Hallowe’en and I went as Ursula from the Little Mermaid, complete with two socks stuffed with buttons sewn on by RM for eyes to look like her eel companions, Flotsam and Jetsam. I had read an article online talking about how fancy dress costumes for women on Hallowe’en tended to just end up a bit tarty. I didn’t want to look like a tart. But with two stuffed socks pinned to your skirt, it’s virtually impossible to look tarty.
B came home from her ‘saving children from the darkness of Hallowe’en’ party and we headed off out into the darkness of Hallowe’en.
We only knew one person at this party and it was PJ, who I barely recognised as a scary clown. We met lots of people who I’m certain I wouldn’t recognise again without the fangs, white face paint, darkened eyes, knives in their heads, dripping blood or french maid’s aprons.
There were plenty of examples of tarty costumes too. But the amount of flesh exposed paled in comparison to my stuffed socks and B’s homemade-out-of-the-Work-section-of-the-Saturday-Guardian pointy hat.
I spent some time chatting to a guy with a pizza tied to his face. RM chatted to a couple of vampires and a brown ghost. B disappeared into a corner to flirt with the devil. O the irony.