I've always struggled a bit with Halloween.
Rather like an atheist at a christening, I feel a bit awkward around it. I fail to connect. Struggle with the excitement. Lack commitment to the hilarity.
You see Halloween is also my Dad's birthday.
Not only did we rarely partake of the (admittedly very sparse) celebrations for Halloween found in 1970s Britain, we actively avoided them as 31st October was Dad's day. We concentrated on him. His birthday brushed all else aside.
Time spent in America during my twenties provided me with the polar opposite experience.
I was there for two Halloweens. They were fun. Exciting. Yet I still viewed the celebrations as if through an opaque lens. Outwith my experience, I struggled to join in. It just all seemed a bit wrong.
So, now, as the UK increasingly adopts the celebratory style of the US at Halloween, I am left at this time of year with a nostalgic feeling of deja vu.
I view the people standing in fields staring at rows of pumpkins, attempting to find just the right one for their doorstep, with the detachment of the anthropologist viewing the social habits of a previously undiscovered tribe.
I help the children prepare their costumes for whatever local celebrations are planned. Usually a disco for the local children at the village hall. This year both children could attend the School's PTA organised disco, so that made things a little easier too.
Two years ago Dracula (our son) was joined by a pumpkin. She was extraordinarily cute. And hugely embarrassing for our six year old son. His sitting next to his smiling sister as pumpkin, with his head in his hands in despair at being forced to do so, is one of my favourite pictures of them both. It epitomises their relationship perfectly.
Very sensibly our village tends to export the children to trick or treat in our neighbouring community.
There, thanks to the continued existence of the village pub, trick or treating is a thoroughly organised activity. Maps are distributed to the children by the landlord. Older siblings supervise the little ones as they visit only the houses that have signed up to the scheme. Everything is tremendously well organised. Designed to ensure those not partaking are neither bothered nor offended by the celebration.
So, in something akin to scary costumed ethnic cleansing, our children are dropped off at the pub in our neighbouring village to join in the fun. Prey upon our neighbours with their antics Return to us, their pumpkin and cauldron bags brimming with sweets at the cost to our community of a few pennies in petrol and a short drive through the dark autumn evening.
Turning back to those who are both bothered and offended by Halloween celebrations. My father views Halloween celebrations with active hostility.
Grandad grumbles about the Americanisation of the holiday. The commercialisation of the whole process. The increasing disturbance of children in halloween costume circling the neighbourhood.
In his view the whole thing has been invented to distract from his special day.
When my mother was alive my father would turn out their lights and pretend to be out as soon as he heard trick or treaters in the neighbourhood. My mother, being much more community spirited, would have ensured sweets were at hand and would, accidentally, turn on the hall light just as the children reached their part of the road.
if anything my father's antipathy to 31st October, both the bit of it that's his birthday and the part that's Halloween has grown since my mum passed away.
So, it was with a certain degree of shock that Grandad offered to join in with our Halloween celebrations last year.
Visiting earlier in the day our son explained animatedly their plans for trick or treating later that afternoon.
"Why don't you come and trick or treat me?" Asked Grandad.
"That would be great," our son answered.
I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly. "I'm not sure Grandad actually means come and trick or treat here," I intervened, looking at my father incredulously.
"Of course I do," Grandad replied. "I'd like to see them in their costumes."
With some considerable reluctance I agreed to bring the children back before I took them to their trick or treating rendezvous in our neighbouring village.
Later that afternoon I therefore found myself approaching Grandad's door with a well made up ghoul and a Disney princess.
We rang the bell. Prepared to make ghoulish ghostly noises.
There was no reply.
We knocked. We made suitably frightening wailing sounds.
We rang one more time. Just as we did so the letter box flap flipped open.
"Bugger off! Bloody trick or treaters!" Shouted Grandad.
"It's us Grandad," I shouted back.
"Go away!" he shouted back.
"Grandad swored!" Our daughter said, aghast. Our son next to her, snorting with laughter.
Grandad's antipathy to Halloween remained firmly in situ.