(Best before midnight)
On the gate of a house just down the road from my primary school was a sign which read, ‘No Hawkers or Circulars’. I knew what a hawk was so I could guess what a hawker did and perhaps understood why you wouldn’t welcome one in a suburban street. And wasn’t that a circular saw in that scary Fay Wray film where she was strapped to a moving bench? But I still felt uneasy about the unwelcoming nature of the sign and gradually resolved that, if I ever had a door, it would be open to all.
It’s the thirty-first of October, 2015, and two young lads knock on my door. I’m ready for the trick or treat but instead I get,
“We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry…..”
“Whoa there, it’s not even November; we haven’t had Guy Fawkes day yet.”
“Yeah but we’re away at Christmas. We wish you a…”
“No, you don’t sing carols in October.”
“But…..my mum’s got to have an operation.”
And so it went on until I gave them a box of Bat Eggs and they gave up. These ‘eggs’ were, in fact, yoghurt-coated peanuts from the health food shop. In an attempt to take a more creatively active role in the Halloween celebrations, I’d made a few nest-type boxes and filled them with these ‘eggs’ which I thought would delight the little witches and warlocks who came calling. Because my treats didn’t have a brand name I suspect they went straight to the bin. The nearest I got to positive feedback was when one ghoul said he “…. thought bats were mammals.”
Henry Double was my favourite young caller. Every fortnight Henry came with his bicycle and trailer to collect empty bottles for recycling, charging five pence a bottle. Apart from having a splendid name he had a clear and virtuous plan to use the money raised. Henry’s money was going to help fund a school trip to a third world country, where he would work on a community project and learn to scuba dive. He is now at university and sold the business – along with the trailer – to the current owner, Solo. I’ll leave you to delight in the cute coincidence of the move from Double to Solo, but will save you the trouble of wondering if the next entrepreneur might be a Nun.
Solo was not initially as agreeable as Henry: less socially adept and shy of my over-friendly dog. Not only that, he seemed to have lived up to his name and appeared only once, leaving his second visit until a month later. Happily I’ve warmed to him, partly because, like Henry, he keeps me in the loop with little printed slips of information. The latest gave details of his Christmas holiday commitments and led to our first proper conversation and the utterance that means he’s welcome to knock on my door any time.
“So, you’re missing Saturday 19th?”
“Yes, I’m going to see the new Star Wars film.”
“Great, so you’re a Star Wars fan.”
“Yep, hence the name Solo.”
Not only was his dad so taken with Harrison Ford’s character in the original film that he immortalised him by naming his son Solo, this thirteen year old boy from the wilds of East Anglia used the word ‘hence’. My years of despairing of successive Secretaries of State for Education are over: the National Curriculum works.
I live in a cul-de-sac and I think it’s beginning to show.