Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Happy Hallowe'en.

When I was a little girl, Hallowe'en was certainly celebrated (I rather think it was a Scottish thing more than an English one?) but it was far, far simpler than now - when there are Hallowe'en decorations and elaborate costumes. Indeed it was still simple in my children's childhood. Costumes were just anything from the dressing up box. And children did go round the doors, but it wasn't trick-or-treating, it was guising (from disguising) and children sang a song or told a joke in exchange for sweets, apples or nuts or (by my children's time) small amounts of money. This guising is still what happens in Scotland, though I think it may be slightly more commercial now, and the costumes are certainly fancier - and bought.

And at home we dooked for apples (ducked our heads into bowls of water with apples and nuts floating in them) and tried for the jeely piece - a jam or treacle sandwich suspended on a string - you took it in turns to try to bite this with your hands behind your back. My brother and I used to go to my granny's to do the dooking and jeely piece. Our grandchildren did the same thing at a party just the other day.

I had lunch with school friends today - the five of us have known each other since we were five years old. We reminisced as usual. One of them, Kay, had quite a sad childhood - her mother died when Kay was born, her father remarried someone who wasn't very kind and then the stepmother left when my friend was eleven. Our teacher, Miss Rattray, asked Kay to stay behind after class one day and asked her gently how things were now that the stepmother was no longer around. (Kay was actually quite pleased that she'd left.) Then Miss Rattray gave her some household hints - presumably thinking that Kay would be doing more housework now - and the main one, or at least the one that Kay remembers, was how to iron lace. (On the wrong side, apparently.)

Was this in 1800, one wonders? No: 1962.

Changing times... .


  1. I was taught how to iron lace when I worked at the Mansion House in Newport, South Wales; I even had to use the irons that were heated on the range.

  2. I've never even owned lace! Nor do I know how to iron, although I could do it in an emergency. :) Halloween used to be more about bobbing for apples, and parties where you had to identify squishy things you couldn't see. Now it's very commercialized, it seems.