31 October 2010

Trick or Treat

It's Halloween and already the doorbell has rung three times in the last half hour as avaricious, pig-eyed children demand I fill their bright orange buckets with sweets.

They stand there clad in cheap polyester costumes and shiny plastic hats, hands outstretched in supplication, expecting me to scatter free confectionery upon their tiny pink palms like God distributing manna from Heaven.

You might think that even a hard-hearted curmudgeon like me wouldn't begrudge handing out goodies to rosy-cheeked kids, but you'd be very wrong. I think it's appalling for two very distinct reasons.

First, this is not America.

Americans have seized upon Halloween in a big way and it's now a major holiday for them. Indeed, they are expected to spend $5.8 billion on it this year alone. Yes, that's right, $5.8 BILLION. That's probably more than they spend on feeding homeless people.

It seems to be a particularly American concept, taking a fairly inconsequential occasion and turning it up to 11. Shrove Tuesday, for instance, is a rather forgettable affair here in the UK. A small percentage of the population buys some ready-prepared batter mix and a Jif lemon of pasteurised juice, then spends half an hour in the kitchen rustling up a vast quantity of poor quality pancakes before retiring to the living room, rubbing their groaning bellies, and vowing never to do it again.

In some parts of America, on the other hand, Shrove Tuesday somehow metamorphosed into Mardi Gras. Pancakes are relatively low on the list of Mardi Gras celebrations which tend instead to focus on dancing ladies with big feathery hats, pitchers of beer, and women being photographed with their breasts out. To be fair, I'd happily choose that over a plastic lemon any day.

But we're not American, damn it. We're British. We don't celebrate lavishly, we smile and nod, hands behind our backs, shoes shined and hair parted, careful not to 'go overboard'. Pleasure is a sign of weakness. Stop it at once.

The other reason that I don't like this Trick or Treat nonsense is because I think it's a shocking imposition.

For 364 days of the year, I'm treated like a paedophile. That seems a strong statement, but I can and will justify it.

If I noticed a child lost in a shop, wet of eye and lips a' tremble, and knelt down to ask the child where his parents are, I'd most likely be wrestled to the ground and beaten with handbags until I soiled myself.

Should I desire to sit in a public park and read the newspaper, I have to make sure I'm not overlooking the children's playground lest a telephone call be put in to the local police.

Heaven forfend that a youngster should actually fall over in the street and I stoop to help them up. I'd be kicked to death by a group of angry adults, flecks of spittle flying from their snarling mouths.

In a world where a man is unable to so much as smile at a child without being reported to the authorities, I find it astonishing that once a year parents actually bring their offspring to my door and expect me to dish out treats for them.

My thoughts on this matter are quite succinct: Fuck you. Either I, as a single man, am a threat to your children or I'm not. I refuse to be labelled a potential paedophile one day, then a charity the next.

If you have kids, I hope they enjoy Halloween. I hope they have lots of fun, maybe a party, some costumes and cake. But don't bring them to my front door and demand that I feed them in an act of forced altruism.

Yes, I have sweets. Yes, they're for me. If your kid wants one, I shall fork it over once they've danced like a monkey for my amusement. Otherwise, try next door - the bloke there looks a bit dodgy so I'm sure he's invested in a stock of flumps for just such an occasion.


Cliff said...

Trick or treat? We used to call that the protection racket, in my day.

Piley said...

good to have you back Sir! I wonder what the old girl downstairs makes of it all?!

Not keen on extorsion either. It's vaguely cute when a little group of 4 or 5 year old stand their with an apologising parent standing behind... but its the teenage fuckers out to get money with menace that ticks me off.

My dad is 79, and feels obliged to buy a load of sweets in because he's worried his car or house will get damaged. That aint cute.

Ah well, only 5 days til firework night.... sigh

Cocktails said...

Thank you. As usual you are right.

I generally hate Halloween, but this is mostly because I am mean and have no sense of fun whatsoever. I had never thought of the paedophile angle before and from both sides, it makes the whole 'celebration' even more peculiar. Think of it from the children's side. All your life you learn about 'stranger danger' and the evils of men in parked cars offering you tempting sweeties - then it's all promptly undermined in one sweep of society-approved hype. Hmmmm...

Nice to have you back BTW!

Ishouldbeworking said...

In Trendy Brighton, Halloween has been wrested from the grasp of the kids, into the unstable control of the pissed-up adults. There's a mass Zombie Walk from the station to the seafront just as dusk is falling, and this year there were a good five or six hundred drunken exhibitionists weaving their way through town with fake limbs dropping off and dribbling 'blood'. It seemed to scare most of the nippers into staying indoors. Even the stroppy teenagers knew they were beaten. Hah!

Overall, though, it still seems like American cultural imperialism on the march (I've actually seen a 'Thanksgiving' promotion in the local Waitrose - quite a timid one at this stage, but give it a few years and it'll probably be pumpkin pie all round...)

Good to see you back in action, anyway.

Dan said...

Cliff - Damn straight! This is teaching children to behave like the mafia. I envisage two children with a bag of eggs and some spray paint saying, "Nice front door. It'd be a shame if something happened to it. Course, we can make sure that it stays nice and pristine, if you see what we mean."

Piley - Don't get me started on bonfire night. For a country that's apparently on its arse and going through an age of austerity, people seem to have a lot of disposable income to spend on fireworks. Three weeks now I've heard the bloody things and it'll be another three before it stops. Bah, humbug and humph!

Dan said...

Cocktails - Thank you. I really do feel quite strongly about the matter. I despise the way that the media has whipped up a frenzy about paedophilia and, worse still, many paedophiles seem to be overweight, have beards and live alone. This means that I have 'the paedophile look' which, frankly, isn't much fun. Especially when I answer the door in my pants...

ISBW - I LOVE the zombie walk idea. Truly Brighton is a marvellous forward-looking place. I'd love to do a zombie walk and have actually checked a few out online. Maybe I can arrange a Southend zombie walk. Just me, on my own, shuffling down the high street, scaring children and pensioners. Bliss!

I'm utterly appalled by the Thanksgiving thing though. How preposterous is that!? Words fail me, they really do.

Thanks to you and Cocktails for the kind words. I've been rather busy writing, hence my disappearance from the thriving blogging scene. I hope to return soon...

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It made me laugh but also connected with me. I find it all cringy, in the same way kids now have "prom" cos our gum chewing cousins do too. Luckily this year i was away at my Dad's so missed it but my wife took my little girl out willingly, i'd rather have twigs forcibly shoved up my arse than watch my girl knock on doors begging for sweets. I sit in the dark and ignore the door, like you say fuck you !!!!!. I don't have the dough to feed the 5000. Your peadophile rant killed me but it's so true, you dare not ruffle a kids head these days, i was actually reprimanded for doing just that. My responce ? "Are you being serious?" followed by "fuck off" !!!!. Where will it all end ???


Ishouldbeworking said...

Ooh, what you been writing? Or is that Classified? Bet it's good...