So, it’s the 31st October and the temporary signs are up in the local Co-op: ‘No eggs / flour sold to anyone under 16’ while at the same time the shelves are crammed full of tacky over-priced crap which is only valid for use one night a year. What’s that all about? Back in my day (oh, here we go…) we just draped old sheets with cut-out eyeholes over ourselves then ate baked potatoes before a game of Murder In The Dark (which I never really understood how to play, to be honest). We didn’t dare venture outside (for fear of too many real ghosts).
Today I will venture outside, in fact I am daring to venture down to London, to meet a stranger in a strange place (all in the name of work, you understand) just as dusk falls on the city and its streets no doubt fill with people rushing home from their jobs, perhaps to change into Hallowe’en costumes bought from Tesco. I just hope I don’t encounter too many of them on the train home. There’s something special about central London after dark for me, though: ghosts of a different kind. I still find the city exciting, it's full of nuanced memories and part of me will wish I could extend my visit to have a few drinks and go to see a band maybe, before flopping down on an unfamiliar bed in a high-up hotel room, a parallel world away from my quiet rural existence - but I can't!
Anyway, as a mere nod to the date and hopefully as an antedote to all the crass commercialism surrounding it, here’s a little snippet from one of my favourite old films, Dead Of Night (1945). If you've never seen it, it's a classy portmanteau style horror comprising five disparate stories, all linked through being experiences or tales told at a gathering by each guest in turn. And there's a twist ending, of course. It’s exquisitely English, exquisitely 1940s and exquisitely chilling in the most perfect, understated way.
Don't be a dummy