All Souls is one of our favourite festivals. The autumn is one of our favourite seasons.
I remember bonfire nights with my family and my mother’s treacle toffee, and I remember a time long before we got our hands on anything as glamorous as a pumpkin when swedes and turnips were our sacrificial vegetables when it came to good old Jack o’ Lantern. I remember the smell of the burning flesh of a swede when the tealight burned away, and I remember the soups and stews that were made with the stuff that was excised. I still make those wonderful orange soups, albeit they’re spicier and more sophisticated than my mother’s versions were in the 60s and 70s.
As a family, with our daughters, we developed rituals of our own. We always brought a cauldron to the table and had a family fondue. We didn’t take the children trick or treating, because it seemed like an odd, foreign form of begging that didn’t jibe with us, and it still wasn’t common in the UK when our own children were young enough to enjoy it, but, latterly, we always kept a big bowl of goodies for the neighbours’ kids to dig into when they knocked the door, and we always loved to see their costumes... Still do.
The husband and both of the daughters were born in October, so it’s a special time for us, an indulgent time, and Hallowe’en marks the end of those celebrations, too.
This year is different, though. This year, neither of our daughters is home. This year only the house sitter will be here. There will be no fondue, no pumpkin, not even a cat. This year was going to be terribly sad for me. I was dreading it.
Then, out of the blue, we got a lovely invitation.
The husband has been working with a very clever, very talented artist, who is also a lovely, friendly family man, who happens to live locally to where we need to be for the next few days. He and his wife have invited us to supper tonight, and I am delighted. It will be great to be in good company. It will be splendid to eat home-cooked food for the only time in four or five days, and it will be wonderful to share Hallowe’en.
The husband is always a fantastic guest, and, honestly, I’ll be happy just to sit and soak up the atmosphere. I can’t wait.