Halloween slashes Surbiton

Two things are certain about Halloween: one is that many people will get over-excited and deliberately go at themselves with the bread knife to give them a realistic bloodied appearance for the Halloween party, and the other is that many other people will get very annoyed and bad-tempered about the whole thing and doggedly refuse to answer the door to small children dressed as ghouls.

Thus, after a weekend of extensive scientific, social and anthropological research, primarily involving following people round the Pound Shop and eavesdropping on their conversations, I have concluded that Surbiton is severed right down the middle.

No matter what your feelings on this ‘festival’, there’s no getting away from it. Everyone gets on the bandwagon, from pubs to supermarkets, and this influx of evil was obviously a point of contention for one woman who, noticing the themed display in the window of one of the high street’s charity shops, exclaimed heatedly to her toddler ‘Oh for goodness sake, I don’t think charity wants money that’s been spent on this rubbish!’ (I don’t think charity really minds, to be honest.)

Another woman became even angrier in Sainsbury’s when her small son charged up to her wielding a tube of fake blood and yelling ‘Mum, can I have some blood?’, to which Mum responded with ‘No, you absolutely cannot, and if you don’t put it back right now then the cheese strings are going straight back on the shelf’, a dire threat that surely rendered the fake blood the lesser of two evils.

The Black Lion pub put on a sterling Halloween party on Saturday, attended by many grown adults in masks, wigs and bodybags, and it seemed that everyone was having a brilliant time, until I overheard a very irked young man in the garden growling ‘I hate Halloween. Everyone looks like a t**t. I ****ing hate Halloween’. What he perhaps didn’t realise was that his rather guttural snarling together with cigarette smoke curling out of his mouth gave him an aptly menacing appearance, and he actually fitted in very well with the monstrous revelry.

Though I rather enjoyed wearing a vampire collar and backcombing my hair for a night, I myself err on the side of being a little crabby about the whole thing. I didn’t mean, however, to make so miserable the two damp-looking children who knocked on my door early Saturday evening, both dressed as witches and holding out hollowed-out pumpkins full of sweets (which I thought rather cruel of the parent who gave their children whole pumpkins to hold—wouldn’t more lightweight Tupperware have sufficed?). To their pleas of ‘trick or treat’, I apologised profusely and said I literally had nothing in the house—which was true, unless they wanted some flaccid carrots or an Oxo cube—and their already dolorous faces became more bleak, and as they turned to leave one moaned ‘Dad said we’d get people like you’.

So whilst I was branded a Halloween killjoy, many Surbitonians just couldn’t get enough of it. The Pound Shop was the centre for these nefarious merrymakers, which was unsurprising as it boasted the largest collection of themed paraphernalia in Surbiton, if not the world. Masks, costumes, decorations, make-up, sweets, crockery, toys, probably a collection of dead woodland creatures if you looked hard enough, you name it, it was there; and this caused boundless joy in many shoppers.

One boy picked up a plastic goblet studded with skulls and, holding it out to his mum, cried ‘Oh, YES, I can have my apple juice in THIS!!!’ to which Mum agreed, saying ‘That’s good, isn’t it? You’ll enjoy that.’ Of course he will. (My only fear is that, after such an entertaining receptacle, he will never again want to go return to more conventional, yet ultimately mundane, glass, and hence risks a lifetime of mockery and derision from his peers as he will eventually insist on drinking his pints of lager from this wickedly amusing vessel.)

A couple of teenagers—I suspected students—were scrutinising the various spider-based goods and both agreed that ‘These are definitely the best we’ve seen’, as though they had undertaken an intense and exhaustive examination of every single arthropod-inspired product in the Greater London area. These are the sort of merciless standards manufacturers are up against.

Even adults were enthralled by the menacing merchandise: one mother, children clustered round her legs, picked up a packet of ‘Severed Foot’, which, according to the description, is actually a ‘gummy foot with liquid candy’ (I’d rather eat a severed foot), and exclaimed ‘Oh, that is just brilliant! Look, kids. Isn’t that just brilliant?’ This enthusiasm was met with joyful agreement, and several severed feet were placed in the basket, along with some ’Brain Rot’, which is actually ‘78g of fizzy powder filled heads’. Genius.

One excited little boy had obviously been caught up in the malevolent spirit of Halloween, as I overheard the following conversation between him and his somewhat despondent friend:

Boy 1: You going trick or treating tonight?
Boy 2: No, I think I’ve broken my toe.
Boy 1: How d’you do that?
Boy 2: It got run over last night.
Boy 1: By what?
Boy 2: A car.

This evil boy strolled off, hands in pockets, cackling this malicious cackle whilst the poor wounded boy looked after him miserably and kicked at a skull mask on the floor (with, hopefully, his uninjured foot).

Whether you’re still stained with unsightly patches of apparently unwashable fake blood, or you’ve shut the curtains and are holed up in your front room with a sniper gun, you’ve got to admit that Halloween, however evil, does amusingly strange things to people.

(Incidentally, if anyone does know how to get rid of unsightly patches of apparently unwashable fake blood, I’d be grateful for suggestions, as I currently look rather leprous.)


My son arrived home from a heavy night out trick or treating with a huge plastic cauldron overflowing with sweets. I had to laugh when in between the Haribo chews and mini Crunchies I found several sesame seed bars and organic fruit sticks. Only in Surbiton.

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