Time was, when folks would start thinking about Hallowe’en the day before.
Yes, you’d have your mask and your candle. No point in letting vengeful spirits trapped between life and death recognise you. But that’s where it ended.
These days the Hallowe’en business is booming. In our local supermarket plastic pumpkins and gummy ghoulish candy have already been in evidence for weeks. Recession bites, and the salesmen get to work haunting our existences with bloodshot eyeballs aimed at our wallets.
I refuse to comply: except that last weekend, I forgot to refuse to comply, and coughed up about one pound for a pair of rather dapper skeleton biscuits.
Perfect for fitting in a child’s palm, they were dark firm gingerbread, overlaid with a white skeleton design of considerable style and panache. One had red eyes, the other white. They grinned, just as skulls have grinned every October in English gloom since at least the sixteenth century.
I bore them home for tea.
Maddie ate hers up, enjoying every last crumb: but Felix is like my brother used to be, one of those infernal hoarders, who always seems to be the one left with the sweetmeat when everyone else has despatched theirs.
He ate half his skeleton biscuit. The one with the red eyes.
And then he wrapped it carefully up, and he left it on the working surface.
Now what you must understand about this working surface, before we go any further, is that it is next to the radio and the random post pile and the bots and bobs. One’s eyes fall naturally there to check for anything to one’s advantage.
It is on the main thoroughfare into the food hall. Even the dog knows that stuff left there is possibly tasty and up for grabs.
And there sat the skeleton, without its legs, but otherwise retaining every ounce of its magnetic sugary charm.
And each of us walked past. Lots of times.
Felix did not finish it on Sunday. Instead he announced that he was going to nibble more of it. Which he did. Gingerbread skeleton was looking more depleted, but there was still much more left.
Like his arms.
I had walked past that skeleton for more than 48 hours when I finally went over the edge. Grabbing the wrapping, I took him out, telling myself, with that irrational voice I always maintain is the voice of my stomach, that Felix would never notice.
A word of advice: your stomach is not a logical organ. It does not have to live in the real world like the rest of you. It will tell you anything to get what it wants.
I gobbled the arms greedily.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Skeleton Gingerbread Men strolled into the kitchen. I broke down before the interrogation began. I ate the arms, your honour, I confessed to a frankly disgusted son.
And still, he did not take the hint. Still, he left those hypnotic red-icing eyes to lure unsuspecting passers-by to their patisserie of doom.
Tonight, Felix pottered over to inspect his skelton and have another nibble. By now, the whole household was a little infuriated.
But nothing prepared us for his findings. For all but that head was vanished without a trace.
Detective work revealed that Felix’s father had been unable to take the skeleton pledge. He had gobbled its rib cage and what I had left of its limbs. Felix was outraged. He was characteristically vocal.
And then it went strangely quiet. Probably because I heard my husband mutter sotto voce: “S’all right, Son. I’ll buy you another one.”
Felix knows when to keep quiet.
And very soon, if my husband has his way, the whole sorry gingerbread pantomime will be upon us again.
I think perhaps this time: we should have a box of the boney gentlemen.
Photo – and the most lovely recipe for gingerbread skeletons which I think I had better now try – at Try It You Might Like It.
Feature picture courtesy of http://hellosweetiebakery.co.uk