The period that stretches from Halloween to Guy Fawkes Night has got to be the worst week of the year if you’re a parent of young children. At the time of writing, I’ve managed to get through one and have one to go.
I vaguely recall attending a few Halloween parties as a youth, but the custom of going door-to-door, threatening innocent householders with a ‘trick’ unless you’re given a ‘treat’, is entirely alien to these shores. Like other ‘traditional festivals’ that my children demand to take part in — Mother’s Day, the school prom — it is an unwelcome American import.
But that’s the least of it. First, you’re forced to buy all sorts of ridiculous costumes so your children can dress up like anti-capitalist protesters. Then there’s the inevitable argument as to which parent is going to be lumbered with the job of accompanying the motley crew on their rounds. After that comes the excruciating embarrassment of knocking on your neighbours’ doors so your children can thrust their plastic cauldrons under their noses. Finally, there’s the sybaritic finale in which the little scallywags gorge themselves on all the goodies they’ve managed to accumulate. That means having to wait an extra hour before you can get them in bed and uncork the first bottle of wine.
If only that were the end of it. Long after mine have gone to bed, there’ll be a knock on the door and some tiny little girl, barely any older than two, will be standing there, holding out her hand. Meanwhile, her mother will be loitering in the background, smoking a fag. It’s enough to make you want to call social services.
The worst part, though, is the teenagers. Every year, gangs of adolescent boys appear on our doorstep, sometimes as late as midnight, demanding treats with menaces.