We'd take a snagger - what we used to call a turnip or a swede - and we'd hollow it out, carve out a couple of triangular eyes, another triangle for the nose, and a line of square teeth, and stick a candle in it. After dark, a few of us would go from door to door with this vegetable lantern. Any spare pennies for Halloween? We'd be lucky if we got more than a few shillings between us, and a couple of nights later, we'd be out with an old stuffed suit in a go-kart, knocking on the same doors. Have you got a penny for the guy? That's how we spent the first dark nights of autumn - on the streets, begging. No-one really seemed to mind us doing it. If we didn't get any money from a house, it was no big deal, and we wouldn't dream of throwing eggs at their doors, because they knew who we were and they would tell our parents, and our fathers would beat us with their slippers. I can't really remember ever dooking for apples, although some of the posher kids at school would have parties where they played this and other games with a spooky theme. We never got invited.
Now I work in a shop that sells trick-or treat tat, and it's been on the shelves since mid-August. If you want a battery-operated witches hat table display, or muffin cases that glow in the dark, it's the place for you. Halloween used to be about re-connecting with the dead, and a time for remembrance. It reminded us where we were in the great scheme of things, and of our own mortality. Now it's just another money-spinning exercise, and for the retail sector, the third most important period of the year, after Christmas and Easter.
Trick or treat, mister?
Here's an apple with a razor-blade in it.