Hard on the heels of our perverse, spirit-lowering and depressing (for me anyway) custom of turning the clocks back, comes another ‘event’ that I dread at this gloomy time of year.

I’m reluctant to own up to it.  I’m aware that I’ll be a target. 

Accusations of being a miserable, misanthropic, mean-spirited old curmudgeon will be hurled in my direction – and that’s just my own family.

But ‘Life in Laytonia’ is my platform.  It’s there for me to express my opinions.  Vent my feelings.  Get it out of my system. 

Indeed, it was my wife, Moya, who encouraged me to write this column/blog – so that she didn’t have to be subjected to my incessant rantings.

So here goes ((hoping Moya doesn’t read it this week):

I DO NOT LIKE TRICK OR TREAT!  I DON’T LIKE HALLOWEEN!!

‘Hiss, boo, miserable old git’!  I can hear you.  I don’t care.  I don’t like it.

I don’t mind Halloween per se.  Who can possibly object to the tradition of carving out a pumpkin, sticking a candle inside and putting it in your window to ward off evil spirits?

Traditionally Halloween, steeped in magic and folk-lore, goes back to the 8th or 9th century. 

Trick or Treat on the other hand is a relatively recent import from the USA.  It crept its way over here in the 1980’s.  Not so much a tradition, more a blatant commercial bonanza grafted on to our own centuries-old Halloween.

I find the whole door-bell ringing, Haribo-begging, dog-barking night of pausing whatever we are trying to watch on TV, as I to & fro from the settee to the front door, nauseating!

I’m not so much of a hard-hearted Ebenezer that I am not disarmed by excited, wide-eyed little innocents dressed up by Mummy or Daddy. 

But when I open the door to a group of Trick or Treating pubescents, whose only concession to dressing up is a single eye drawn on the forehead of their leader, I don’t get much of our own Halloween ‘magic and folk-lore’.

Even the words ‘Trick or Treat’ are a misnomer.

Pubescents: Trick or Treat?

George: Erm…Trick, please.

Pubescents: What?

George: You said Trick or Treat.  I’m going for the Trick!

They clearly think this old geezer is an idiot and knowing that the trick they would come up with, would be either a brick through the window or a key dragged along the side of my car, I laugh and hold out the tin of sickly Celebrations which personally, I wouldn’t thank you for. 

They laugh and off they go thinking the old geezer might be an idiot, but he’s a generous idiot.

Risking hypocrite being added to the ‘miserable, misanthropic, mean-spirited old curmudgeon’ accusations that could be leveled at me, there is something I must own up to.

‘Oop North, where I grew up, there was an annual tradition which young Northern scallywags like myself looked forward with almost as much eager anticipation as Bonfire Night and Christmas.

Mischief Night!!

On the 4th November each year, license was granted to street urchins like myself, to roam the streets playing pranks on locals and generally creating havoc.  It was a one night a year tradition

‘Tradition’ being the key word.

Unlike its young whippersnapper American ‘Trick or Treating’ cousin, Mischief Night goes back to the 4th of November1605, when Guy Fawkes and his gunpowder plot mates were discovered in the cellars of Parliament. 

And forget any binary choice.  There was no ‘Treat’ option with us Yorkshire tykes.  Tricks were what we were into in 1950’s Bradford.

Among the milder ‘tricks’ was ringing doorbells and running away, rubbing soap on windows and windscreens, throwing eggs at cars and houses and hanging toilet paper from trees. 

Upping the Mischief Night stakes a little, adjacent front door handles would be tied tightly together.  So tightly, that when each householder responded to the doorbell or knocker, they couldn’t be opened. 

Gates were taken of their hinges and hidden.  Jam or treacle was smeared on door handles.

All good traditional harmless pranks that locals saw as youthful high-spirited fun – I don’t think!

Fireworks regrettably played a part in this traditional night of mayhem, bordering on vandalism. 

Lit bangers and jumping jacks were thrown through letter-boxes.  Not by me of course – I was a Grammar School lad!

Now is the time that I must add a rider to what I have so far written about Trick or Treat.

All the above antipathy towards Trick or Treating must be qualified by:

In my opinion. 

I have to tread carefully here. 

The reason I am hoping Moya doesn’t log on to read this week’s ‘L in L’ musings is because she LOVES Halloween.

She has always embraced Halloween with a childlike gusto and enthusiasm that I find endearing and exasperating at the same time. 

With grandchildren now on the scene, the build-up to Trick or Treat and all the commercial claptrap that comes with Halloween, is positively manic.

Trick or Treat goodies, spooky novelties, scary masks, petrifying popping candy jelly brain, cobweb decoration, creepy cup cake kits, spooky make-up and other van-loads, have been Amazoning their way to Halloween Central for weeks. 

I reckon Halloween should be renamed Jeff Bezos Night!

And like Easter, it’s starting earlier and earlier!

No sooner have the last plastic Christmas tree and solitary gaudy bauble been removed from supermarket shelves and they are instantaneously replaced with rows and rows of Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, cuddly chicks.

Okay, I realise that I must be coming over as the Halloween Grinch.  A cynical old kill-joy. 

The F.P.O. (Fun Prevention Officer) of Laytonia.  

Nothing could be further from the truth!  The Layton clan will find any excuse for a family celebration.  Birthdays, anniversaries, the kids passing an exam, a new grandchild!  We love any excuse to get together and party.

Getting together is of course verboten with Tier 2.

Stop press:  As I am writing this, the Second Coming has been announced.  The coming of the inevitable Lockdown 2. Starts Thursday…

You might think that this has tempered Moya’s Trick or Treat/Halloween aspirations. Not a bit of it.  Halloween is full steam ahead in Laytonia. 

Treats, toys, dressing-up outfits galore, are being ferried to the grandchildren by yours truly at a speed that would put Amazon to shame.

And employing current Covid 19 courier etiquette, I leave every package on the doorstep and ring the bell.

You might well ask at this point, why am I such a wimp?  Why do I put up with this Halloween mania?  Why don’t I put my foot down and say, ‘Moya – enough is enough’!?!

I can’t.  I am caught between a rock and a hard place.

Odd expression that.  We all know what it means, being faced with a dilemma that is a choice between two unpleasant alternatives.  But what does it actually mean? 

‘Caught between a rock and a hard place’.   Where does it come from?

Caught between a rock and a hard place

Can be found in ancient Greek mythology. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus must pass between Charybdis, a treacherous whirlpool, and Scylla, a horrid man-eating, cliff-dwelling monster.

Hmm, interesting…

Caught between a rock and a hard place:

The phrase originated in America in the early 1900s to describe a dispute between copper miners and the mining companies in Arizona.  The miners demanded better working conditions, which the companies refused to agree to.   

That left the miners with two unpleasant choices: continue to mine in the same terrible conditions (a rock), or face unemployment and poverty (a hard place). 

Yes, I like that one…

Anyway, I digress. 

The are reasons why I am such a wimp.  Why I don’t say: ‘Moya – enough is enough’!  Why I put up with Moya’s Halloween mania.

Halloween, the 31st of October is – Moya’s birthday. 

That’s why I am caught between a rock and a hard place.

On her birthday, my darling wife can do what hell she likes!