Monday, 31 October 2016

A Message From Pumpkinland

We don't really do Halloween in England, possibly because our farmers don't grow a surplus of pumpkins which they have to get rid of at this time of year! So when I was a child I'd hardly heard mention of  All Hallows' E'en. In more recent times the supermarkets have been only to happy to sell you a witch's outfit, some spooky spiders' web or a zombie mask, all tastefully made in the finest plastic the petro-chemical industry can produce.



But do we like to be scared out of our wits by supernatural happenings? Indeed we do, indeed we do. I spotted this strange weather-vane, suitably backed by a malevolent sky, in a Hertfordshire village. What can it mean? Does a witch dwell within, casting her spells to control the weather? I was too frightened to knock on the door and enquire! I hurried by without, I hope, being noticed.



Meanwhile here's a book that has somehow slipped unnoticed by me for many years. But a friend told me it was good and Penguin publish it under their Modern Classics banner so I thought I'd investigate.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle - Shirley Jackson
The rather Gothic house on the cover, pictured at dusk beneath threatening skies, should be enough to tell you that this is a suitable story to be reading at Halloween. 

There are no zombies, vampires or ghosts stalking these pages: nothing more scary than two young women, their cousin, an old man and some neighbours, in fact. The main characters have a wide range of psychological and mental problems between them and at least one is a mass-murderer, but they are the ones we are persuaded to identify and sympathise with. Meanwhile the neighbours behave as any rational human beings might, i.e. with cruelty, vindictiveness and violence borne of irrational fear. A jolly little party then. 

In this strange alien world - 1950s small town America(!) - things are never quite as they seem; the story has a Fairytales Grimm atmosphere to it, the innocent commit crimes, the crazy speak the most sense, those who try to help cause untold trouble, the wicked help and the reclusive see the world more clearly than those on the outside. It all reads like some elaborate metaphor or fable whose exact meaning is just beyond ones grasp.

The writing is entirely beautiful even if some people find the plot rather lacking in substance. I didn't, though I did find myself suddenly at the end of the book wondering if I'd missed some vital clue. Which of course makes me want to go back and read it again.

Meanwhile back in Pumpkinland....



Even when we do Halloween in England: 
                                                         we don't do it very well!


Take care.




23 comments:

  1. When I was a young lad back in the early 50's in Devon we used to use over large turnips or swedes and carve out the inside with a very sharp knife then cutout odd shapes in the skin. That's what we did but you are too young to know.

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    1. Turnips were originally used by the Irish where the custom started. When the Irish migrants in America couldn't find big enough turnips they used pumpkins that were big and plentiful.

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  2. Pumpkin with very nice cat silhouette *

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  3. A marvellous Halloween post. Thank you! :)

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  4. Pumpkins used to have only faces carved on them with the traditional triangular eyes and nose and teeth, plenty of teeth! But I like the ones they are doing now, animals, witches, even sports teams. Some of them are real art.

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  5. A fantastic Halloween post. I like the weather-vane, never seen one like that before. Those two pumpkins are rather sad looking but made me laugh.

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  6. Hi John - no ... no Halloween for me ... thankfully I never really came across it - waiting for Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night was worth the wait. The kids seem to enjoy their days ... and I know some friends are going to an annual Halloween party - I think the hostess lived in the States and brought her need for a Halloween 'do' over! Cheers Hilary

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  7. Love reading about Halloween there and how different it is here. As with everything else in my country, we go overboard in every way for every holiday. I may have to get that book, it sounds so interesting. Lately we've been watching British mystery dramas on Netflix. Such a difference from the shoot-em-up, one dimensional stuff that gets made here.

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  8. I don't do halloween myself but I do like your pumpkin with the cat carving.

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  9. I don't remember much about All Hallows' Eve either when I was a child, I have memories of carving a swede to make a lantern but remember more Mischevious night and Bonfire Night. I like the cat carving on the pumpkin:)

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  10. Because it also happens to be my birthday we always have two pumpkins - his and hers so to speak. As I write this they are glowing merrily in the garden.

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  11. wow the pumpkins are fantastically curved

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  12. we have hardly any kids in our neighborhood, and so, we turn off the outside lights and lock the gate. Plus, it would drive our dogs made to have the door bell ringing every few moment (if there were kids in the neighborhood). I like Dia de los Muertos, when the dead are mocked, celebrated, and families picnic on the graves of those who have gone before them.

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  13. Oh, I 'specially like the fellow on the top step with the wry grin!

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  14. Love the weather vane. I don't like to celebrate this day. Never did as a child. We get inundated with kids on the night so us meanies go out to the movies to avoid them.

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  15. I've never celebrated Halloween. I suppose it passed me by as a child by as my parents wouldn't have bothered with it and we didn't ever have trick or treaters calling living where we did )or anywhere to go ourselves - not that we would have, I don't really agree with it to be honest). I think it's just a shamefully wasteful day - food waste from the pumpkins that don't even get eaten and all that cheap, plastic halloween tat ending up landfill.

    The book sounds good - I've not read it but saw it mentioned somewhere else recently and was interested. You review makes me think it's worth a read.

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  16. Loved the shots and your comments. Like many of our feasts, it's a mish-mash of ancient and modern, with influences from all over. And getting to be very big business over here - some website or other did a bit about it recently :-). I can't help thinking that some of the imagery is a little inappropriate.

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  17. Looks like you've done it just right to me! Halloween in pumpkin land gets scarier and scarier in early November, especially when the weather is warm.

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  18. The cover of the book looks creepy enough...I always wonder why we like to read stuff like this. I especially wonder about myself and why I like murder mysteries. One thing, since having our grandchild, I can hardly stand to watch or read anything having to do with a child being murdered or abused.

    For more pumpkins, you might totally enjoy this post.

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  19. We don't do Halloween much here either John and I definitely don't do supernatural but can't help loving the witch flying by windvane 😀😀

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  20. Halloween is huge in the States these days, but the idea of trick or trick seems to have gone away. I welcomed more than a hundred kids at my door, and nearly all of them greeted me with a polite smile and "Happy Halloween." Happy? What happened to the mischief?

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