Halloween

At this time of year my brain starts off on a merry journey into the past.

Halloween was a big thing in our family. No one really knows why, but I have so many distinct memories of going round to Gran and Grandad’s house, with its three reception rooms and separate kitchen (we were all jealous).

That was a massive house. And it was full of intrigue, with its ancient rocking horse that used to sit there in their bedroom. It must have been really old, and it scared the shit out of me. Anyway.

The party used to start with bobbing for apples, which I used to be the official timekeeper of. I’d sit there with my watch and time it to the second, 1 point for an apple, 5 for a chestnut. It was expertly officiated, even if I do say so myself.

There was also “hang apple” – where, blindfolded, you had to bite a swinging apple in front of you. The joke was often that Grandad would come along and put a bar of soap in front of you instead.

Then Nan would come out with a tray of roasted chestnuts. I didn’t understand how anyone could eat something so tough. I still haven’t had one, but I’d like to try it…

There was music and drinking. The adults were usually off their faces. And someone would be the designated supervisor, as the children went off to trick or treat through the neighbourhood. Occasionally, these sort of things ended in anti-social behaviour, the kind that would get you an ASBO these days. Not that they exist any more.

I look back on these things and think – wow, we were a bit strange. I know all families have their quirks, but I remember once relaying this to my friends and none of them said they did anything for Halloween. As a child, I assumed this was just what everyone did.

Now, it seems, we were just ahead of our time. Halloween is a huge thing, and still growing. Every year the effort people go to is crazy. If you have kids I suppose it’s a fun thing. Personally, I now find it scary. I deliberately leave all the lights off and hide in a back room, one you can’t see from the street. I even leave the curtains open so it looks like I just didn’t get home, and it’s better not to bother…

Children bring families together. Our family was somewhat privileged in that all of the adults – my aunties and uncles – all had children of similar ages. So we’d come together and have fun, even if it was a school night. We had a few of these sorts of things throughout the year that brought us together. I have always had more fond memories of my mum’s family as a result. My dad’s family never really bothered. I couldn’t understand why.

My mum tried to do the same with us. She did well, but I fear with the disintegration of society, and the fact that as a result of some of us doing OK we’re now far away from each other… there really now is no event that could possibly bring all of us together. Only one of us is having children (at the moment, anyway), and the age gap is too wide. We’ll never all come together and make the same memories that I had the benefit of enjoying.

We have bred an anti-social society. Children are the centre of the universe, and end up thinking they’re so damn special that they don’t need to be friends or try and get on with others.

He says, as he blocks up the door and fires a lump of coal at the children baying for blood (sweets) outside.

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Smells Like Onions

Onions have never been a staple in my kitchen. In fact, that previous sentence is a nonsense. Nothing has ever been a staple in my kitchen. Kitchens and me have never been a thing. I spend my life either working or resting, and the thought of every evening coming home from work to then spend another half an hour to an hour working even more just to then wolf the food down in 5 mins aggrieves me.

Whilst that is generally still true now, it may have worn away a little over the last couple of years. J is more of a kitchen enjoyer than I am, and, although he’s not that much more culinary than I am, he still does have a bit more ability with a ceramic blade. In fact, until J appeared, I’d never even heard of a ceramic blade. Now I never struggle with cutting tomatoes…

The most surprising discovery to me, though, has been, at my advanced age, I never realised how pervasive the smell of onions was. OK – I knew about it once you’ve eaten it. Everyone knows the smell of a cheese and onion crisp eater. It’s not the cheese that gets you, it’s the onion. But for the person whose eaten raw onions, the taste, whilst good at the time, does tend to linger and get quite irritating for the day afterwards…

But what I didn’t know, having never actually peeled and chopped an onion in my life, was that the smell then gets stuck to your fingernails for nearly a week afterwards. All of last week, every time I blew my nose, there it was again. It took me a 2 or 3 days to realise it wasn’t just repeating on me any more. It had actually gotten into my fingernails. And I’m a religious hand washer… but the smell just stayed there.

You see, J normally chops the onions. It’s just more efficient. When the goal is to be in and out of the kitchen in as little time as possible, so that the rest of the evening can take place, the last thing you want is my cack-handed attempts to make an onion edible…

But last week he couldn’t, thanks to life’s ability to just throw a stupid at you from time to time. Whilst reaching out of the bed to turn off the bedside lamp, he seemed to stretch a little too far and apparently trapped a nerve. For a couple of days afterwards, his right shoulder and arm was basically useless, and I had to do everything. Well, I usually do anyway. He’s actually pretty lazy…

And so, when it came to curry night (which is a more moveable feast than the name implies) there was no choice but for me to face my demons and chop the onion myself. It went better than expected. It is such an impressive fruit. Or is it a vegetable? Better not start that one…

The smell is now gone, and the shoulder is now healed. Normality resumed yesterday when, whilst making the Saturday Pasta Bake (actually on a Saturday for a change) J chopped the onion in a fraction of the time. I did everything else, of course.

Not that it bothers me. Somehow, my attitude towards the waste of time that is cooking is mellowing slightly. Call it age…