Ah Halloween. I’ve always loved doing each and every annual event properly, but Halloween is a bit of a favourite, considering that I’m a bit superstitious and a huge fan of dressing up. At Oxford, there was a fancy dress party of some kind literally every other week, but nowadays, the opportunities for fancy dress are a bit limited, which makes it all the more delightful that I’m currently sat in my kitchen dressed as a black cat (I almost always dress as either a black cat or a witch on Halloween. It’s become a bit of a standalone tradition).
Tonight is pretty quiet and relaxed, but I’ve had any number of more interesting October 31st. Here are two of the best, and the undisputed worst:
Halloween aged 18 – “I think you’ll find it’s actually called Samhain” – During A-levels, I went out with a with an older guy who was a pagan, and partly because I’d always been interested in mystical stuff (but let’s be honest, mainly because I wanted to impress him) I decided that I should become a pagan too. Now I can’t emphasise enough that both the paganism and the boy were a brief teenage affair, but in both cases, whilst it lasted, it was all very exciting. And never more so than when we went to his pagan group’s Halloween Samhain party.There was a roaring bonfire, there was the most delicious mulled cider and wine I’d ever tasted, it was a clear night with a full moon, but most importantly, unlike any Halloween party I’ve ever been to before or since, the guests really believed it was an important night. And that made it feel really special, in the same way that Christmas is more exciting when you’re either young enough to still believe in Santa or (I imagine) a serious, practising Christian. I left out bread and milk for the spirits that night for the first time, and I still do, because I love traditions, whoever they belong to.
Halloween aged 19 – “Oxford is scarier than any demon” – In my last few weeks before Oxford began, I prepared like a woman possessed. It’s a sign of how organised I was that in mid-September, I decided I had better purchase a wonderful Halloween costume. I got a brilliant witch outfit and felt very pleased with myself. You can therefore basically imagine my disappointment when the college didn’t actually hold a Halloween party. It didn’t help that Halloween fell about three weeks into my first term – just long enough for the initial exhilaration to have worn off, but long before any solid friendships or real sense of security had developed. In other words, it was the perfect recipe for the most horrific case of homesickness I ever had. At about eleven PM, I was about to go to bed in frustration, when there was a knock at my door, and one of the boys in my corridor, who I’d only ever spoken to once before, appeared and told me to get into a Halloween costume and meet him in five minutes. I think he was slightly surprised when I actually managed to carry out his request, but once I was dressed as a witch, we wandered the city, went to a friend of his’ Halloween party and ended up sat chatting on a roof. From then on, I felt totally at home at Oxford, and he became one of my absolute best friends (and the main inspiration for one of the character in The Cavaliers – you’re welcome to guess who!).
Halloween aged 21 – “Amusing in retrospect” – by my last year of Oxford, I was basically over the endless fancy dress parties, but I made an exception for Halloween. I dressed as a devil – probably the only time I haven’t dressed as either a cat or a witch – never again. Long story short, after the college party, a couple of friends and I went on to a club . One of my best friends got her drink spiked. I always sort of assumed that spiked drinks just make the victim suddenly drunk, but this was terrifying. She couldn’t stand, was barely in control of her limbs, had no idea who I was. I took her to A and E, where we spent the remainder of the evening, her on a drip, me still in devil outfit and getting very odd looks from all the injured drunks. It was genuinely terrifying in a way Halloween was never meant to be, but as she ended up being totally okay (and today posted a picture of her new baby all dressed up for Halloween) the memory, and the bizarre picture of the two of us, now makes me smile.
It’s no coincidence that I set one of the most dramatic scenes of Oxford Blood on Halloween. As a special treat, I’m putting that chapter up tonight – check it out: Oxford Blood Sample – Halloween