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The Field No 8 - Halloween, at last something sweet to eat

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 2 March 2017

Having been deprived of chocolate and sweets for most of the year, late October until November 5th, at Butterwell Farm Byfield provided some greatly appreciated treats.

It was in late October that my mother would start making home made sweets for Guy Fawkes Night - brown and black. The lightish brown was fudge, the dark brown to black was toffee. Tray after tray of the two were produced, cooked in the Aga and then the fudge was cut up into rough squares, the toffee broken up with a wooden hammer for it was very hard indeed. The two were mixed and put into large tins for November 5. Maybe a few bits of toffee and fudge did not make it all the way into the tins.

Before the bonfire came Halloween. In the 1970s Trick or Treat had not colonised these shores from North America and with her dislike of modernity I cannot think that my mother would have tolerated it anyway. Instead she would make great black witches hats from card and paper and black gowns from old clothes or sheets which she would dye in a way that would have done Blue Peter proud.

In those days we had also not imported the idea of using pumpkins as lanterns from the US. And so my mother would hollow out Swedes  from our own fields. I started doing the same thing 40 years later when living in the Isle of Man where Hop-tu-naa is celebrated with what they call a turnip but what looked like a Swede to me, rather than Halloween with pumpkins. I still use Swedes to this day as you can see HERE. But I guess across England in the 70s the Swede was still dominant and my mother would carve them precisely showing jagged teeth so they looked very fierce. These would then be dotted around the house.

Of course Ted Heath's three day week meant that we were used to living in the dark but around Halloween lights would be turned off and the ghoulish faces would be all the more frightening. And rather than pestering neighbours we might have a few friends round for games such as bobbing the apple ( trying to grab apples with your teeth from a pot of water). The game is harder than you think and you end up just soaking wet. But there were other apples - home made toffee apples. For once we were eating sweets. Better yet was to come on November 5

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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