Thursday, 29 October 2009

Moon and Moan over Amble

"You've been scaring people … and now I'm going to scare you! Boo!"
Mrs. F. Zuill. Headmistress, Bermuda High School for Girls.

THE HIGH STREET BECOMES THE WYND and straight ahead is the graveyard. Overhead there's a waxing moon. Mists come in off the North Sea. Bare trees claw at the sky. A dog barks somewhere under the moon, and Cailean responds loudly, but pulls on the leash to go back inside our flat.

We are having unusually mild weather; it was actually snowing last year in late October. However, the weatherman on the BBC has been suggesting that Saturday night, Halloween, will be a wash-out, with gale force winds and heavy rain, sweeping across from the west. Whether it will be as bad this side of the Pennines as in Cumbria and the Western Isles remains to be seen.

The Halloween items appeared in the Co-op at the top of Queen Street over a month ago. They've almost vanished two days before the big- or non-event. No telling if they sold or not. Who can afford sweeties at Amble prices? The costumes one might want and get would be better bought at ASDA, down in Ashington. Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse masks. A nice change from Bin Laden beards and Abu Hamza hooks, if somewhat scarier.

I have a little story that I've been meaning to use, and I believe I'll inject it here. A fortnight ago, on a Saturday, I was watching James Martin's cookery programme on the telly and there was suddenly a loud knock at my kitchen door. Cailean knows the various knocks of my neighbours, friends and family members, and Cailean was not happy with this one. Clearly he didn't recognise it. I went to the door and opened it. Grouped in front of me were five females. There was an older lady with inappropriate (I thought, for her age) long, blonde hair, she might have been 70. There were two middle-aged women who looked like each other, and like the older woman, right down to the long, blonde hair. Then, to complete the hand, there was a pair of what must surely have been identical twins, perhaps twelve-years-old, daughters of one of the middle-aged women. Long, blonde hair. All were dressed unfortunately in jeans and sweaters and hoodies, everything pale blue, grey or off-white. The women were pale, wore no make-up that seemed obvious, and were not what I'd call attractive.

The oldest woman responded to my "Hello there…" by saying "Good morning! Isn't the world a terrible place?" and shoving a Watchtower pamphlet at me. "Wait a minute!" I replied, "I don't want this…" I shoved it back, and started to close the door. The woman, I described her as a 'vile cow' to a friend a bit later, stuck her foot in the door. I pushed. "I'm just not interested!" "Don't you want to hear what Jehovah has promised?" "No." I pushed the door harder and the woman's foot slid out. Slam!

I returned to James Martin and his guest, Jo Brand. Jo would have known how to deal with my callers. I got thinking; I should have told the old woman that I was a registered sex-offender, and if she didn't mind that, could she send the little girls in, I could do Jehovah's business with them.

I've not had any Halloween callers in the last three years. There are no children living near me, and I don't put a pumpkin in the window, or leave the lights on. I very much doubt that I could get anything scarier than the Gang of Five that turned up early wandering in my neighbourhood.

A week from now, we'll have Guy Fawkes Day, the Fifth of November, Bonfire Night. We've had rain for that each year that I've been in Amble, and the fireworks and bonfires have been set off whenever there was a break in the bad weather. Last year, Cailean's first Guy Fawkes, the pup was scared by the explosions and flashes in the sky. Aleks was also scared of fireworks. You'll know that we burn images of Guy Fawkes to celebrate his failed attempt to massacre James I and the Government in 1605, though Fawkes was actually hanged, drawn and quartered. That might be too gruesome to re-enact.

And then Christmas is looming. The rather restrained public illuminations are up here in Amble already, but will not be switched on for another month. We have strands of lights very simply strung above Queen Street. Queen Street is our shopping district. A very few shops (butcher, greengrocer, baker, fishmonger, post office, minimart, four take-outs), most of which close early in the winter and roll ugly metal shutters down to protect their windows and doors from the yobs. The Christmas lights sparkle over a couple of pizza take-aways. I'd spend the lighting budget on doing something in the Town Square, which is left in the dark. It doesn't have to be a laser-light show. It doesn't have to be religious or denominational. Perhaps just save those unused sky rockets and damp squibs that we couldn't get off on the Fifth of November for Christmas Eve.

Many years ago, some friends of mine who attended the Bermuda High School for Girls told me that they'd been jumping out and terrifying the youngsters at the school. And why not? Then, one day, a couple of my friends walked past a doorway and the Headmistress, Mrs Frances Zuill, leapt out at them, explained herself, and yelled "Boo!" An Amy Winehouse face mask, tattoos and titties would have been a nice touch, but Amy hadn't been born then. We could but dream.

1 comment:

suz said...

how i adore you, bolphie! mrs zuill was there when i was, just barely, and i remember 'old mrs zuill' who i think was her mother living at that huge old house not far from somerville. she had a pony named prince. i always remember the important details. after mrs zuill we had miss fairy. she wasn't nearly as fun.
i meant to celebrate guy fawkes this year, but in honor of alice's journey through the looking glass which took place on the same day (6 months from her descent into the underworld.) but i'm crazy busy right now and forgot. next year i must. i didn't know he was hanged drawn and quartered! maybe i should incorporate that.........
;) khairete