It was Hallowe’en and Carrie’s children were hyper-excited. Tiger-Lily was in
charge of her siblings. She had dressed as a witch and her brother, Ferdy, was
carrying a plastic trident and sported horns. Ming had a black plastic cape and
his smile was rather disconcerting as he had managed to retain plastic fangs
from a Christmas cracker in his mouth, in spite of the additional dental
obstruction of a brace. The whole effect was akin to Frankenweenie. Bill was
a white-faced zombie with fake blood dripping down his jaw. Edward’s face
was green and he had a screw sticking out of his neck. Rollo was a Ghostbuster.
All carried pumpkin lanterns and empty, be-ribboned mini-trugs, for the reception of
Now be polite, children, and only visit the houses on High Street. Ring the doorbells
once only and say thank you if anyone gives you fruit. You mustn’t accept money…
Edward looked disappointed. I’ll wait round the corner in The Peal O’ Bells with the
other mummies. Stay together and when you’ve finished, knock on the window.
Let’s go to Grandma’s first, said Ferdy. She won’t be scared of us.
Yes, let’s get it over with, said Tiger.
They rang the doorbell and stepped back politely.
Suddenly a white-sheeted figure with two black holes for eyes opened
the door and shouted: Boo!
Little Edward was terrified. He seized his sister’s hand and dropped his trug.
It’s only Grandma, silly, said Tiger, annoyed at the naughty nonagenarian.
Trick or treat, Grandma?
Ginevra pulled the sheet off and smoothed her hair.
We’re not having that American nonsense here, she lectured. When your daddy
was small he had to do guising properly. We’re a traditional family. So, who’s
going to do the first turn?
Turn? quailed Rollo.
Yes. A recitation, dance or song. You don’t get owt for nowt as they used to
What’s a recitation? asked Ming.
Come in. I’ll show you, said Ginevra enthusiastically. Ola! Have you put the
apples in the basin of water?
But Ola wasn’t there. She had run off to Bric-a-Brac with Jean-Paul, the
widower from the twinning visit. Ginevra had forgotten the new carer’s
Sorry. Magda, then.
They all trooped into the sitting room and Ginevra moved her case of Dewlap
Gin off the sofa, so that they could sit down.
She took a deep, somewhat juniper-scented breath and launched forth:
Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the world and all our woe…
Sing, Heavenly Muse!…
Two hours later Tiger had to shake Edward awake as her grandmother
uttered the final words:
..through Eden took their solitary way.
Ginevra bowed with a huge flourish and pronounced:
Paradise Lost: now that’s poetry!
She then proceeded to help herself to a bag of Mars bars which Magda
had been instructed to purchase for the children.
Grandma, we’ve got to go. It’s past Edward’s bed-time, said Tiger-Lily firmly.
Oh, what a pity. We didn’t get round to ducking for apples, said Ginevra,
There’s always next year, replied Tiger, scarcely banishing a rather un-
grand-daughterly thought: If the old bag is still around.
Carrie was frantic: Where have you been all this time?
Blame Grandma, said Tiger. Give her any opportunity or a platform and you’ll
be there all night.
You should have taken the crucifix and the garlic, like I told you, said Carrie,
bundling them into the 4×4. She’s always been a monster.
Even to Daddy? asked an exhausted Ming.
Especially to Daddy. Never mind. We’ll have good fun at Clammie
and Tristram’s Guy Fawkes Party.