It’s amazing how quickly things come around. Like Halloween, Bonfire Night and ‘The shortening of the hands of the clock,’ as one student put to me this week.
I’m off on holiday later tonight. A trip to Provence. On Halloween of all nights, with Bonfire Night a mere toffee apple’s throw away. Not that any of this is celebrated here.
Here in France (and in most Western Catholic countries) 1st November (Toussaint) is the big one. We all troop down to the cemetery dressed in our Sunday best armed with a florist shop’s worth of flowers to remember the dead. A stark contrast to the British Toussaint that entails walking down to the pub dressed in ludicrous costumes with the ‘soul’ intent of getting smashed on Halloween editions of cider, beer and vodka. And then walking to work the following morning literally feeling like a ghost.
They tried marketing Halloween here but people didn’t buy it. Difficult to keep a straight face walking to the cemetery with your mournful grandmother, with the thought that only 10 hours ago you were singing along to 80s karaoke hits dressed up as a mummy and sucking up neat vodka through a bendy straw.
As a kid I never got into Halloween and all that trick and treating stuff. I could never really understand what the point was. ‘Why are we dressing up as goblins and ghouls asking for sweets from people who clearly hate children?’
Bonfire Night on the other hand was different. Simply watching the deodorant aerosols that we’d thrown into the fire the night before, explode and contaminate the entire field with the sickly adolescent scent of Old Spice and Brut for Men, beat any Halloween hands down.
The dickhead school masters, moronically trying to light fireworks with their lit cigarettes, looking around for the culprits to no avail. And that was the benefit of Bonfire Night. It was dark. For those few hours each 5th November, we could do as we pleased. Not that there was a lot to do. Steal ourselves the odd drag of a cigarette, a slug of cider, or if we were lucky, a snog and a grope from one of the rough-looking comprehensive school girls who used to gatecrash ‘the snob’s bonfire’, as they called it, because their school couldn’t afford their own.
My long held view is that if we are going to celebrate these silly days, then at least give people the day off for their troubles. If you want people to drink more alcohol to swell the federal coffers, then surely give the people the time off to recover. Like they do here in France. Tomorrow is a holiday and so is Friday. Hence my trip to Provence. Four days in the middle of nowhere. No trick or treat. No bonfires. No fireworks. No people. Just ghosts of the past. Happy Halloween.