“Its that wonderful time of the year….”
No, I ain’t talking Christmas. I’m talking that point of Autumn where the crispy leaves and golden sunlight have gone “Bye, bye!” and now all we have in the UK at this part of October is grey skies, damp mulch and that kind of rain that soaks everything. Well, not everyday… but often. I know at least one reader who probably really hates the cold wet that’s arrived… that’s ok, he works outdoors and I’m writing this from the warm safety of my desk. If I was in his position, I probably would be writing a very different post.
And in a strange kind of way, I love it. At least, what I mean is I love the atmosphere and even a sense of what this time of year felt like when I was a kid.
Walking down the hill from school, you could see the grey clouds being oppressive, where even the hills and the motorway in the horizon were kind of grey too, like the mist was coming out of the ground and air and began eating everything in sight. The street lights would start coming on with the dim glow of a freshly burned-out match. You go into the shop to get the bread or milk your Mum asked for and your nostrils take in that sweet aroma of the pick’n’mix stands mixed in with the sharpness of stale cardboard. Then you’d rush back because ITV (Not YTV as it is now) had all the best themed kids shows on.
Yeah, Its nostalgia time!
I used to REALLY, really love Halloween as a kid, I even remember one childhood friend’s reaction at the Halloween costume party in the local Connie Club down the road. I was dressed as a vampire and I was playing that the party was a grand ball and the function room was a gothic court. I greeted my friend with something like; “I’m so glad you could come to the feast…” My enthusiasm was met with a blank look. This was before the time “Can you just work with me here?” was a phrase. Even the Bonfire on All Hallows Eve at St. Thomas’s church (They didn’t do Halloween: “Really? Then what do you call this big fire here!?) had a certain build up and energy to it. I recall taking a crucifix, a pocket bible and a huge metal nail in case there were vampires… there weren’t. At least none who wanted to show what they were.
But I digress. I loved the grey, the skeletal trees, the cold wind, the earthy smell of mud because it all had atmosphere. And it was late October when all the cool cartoons and shows came on. I was usually a BBC watcher, but ITV (and YTV) had the best stuff for after Summer. It appeared that when the dark seasons were arriving so did the monsters. So what got me excited? What got my imagination going?
A lot of my British readers will probably have heard of these shows, maybe even remember them. Any of my readers from other countries? You might have heard of at least one of these, but don’t worry there will be links. One thing I haven’t done is seek them out of YouTube to recapture my childhood… because things are always better when they stay in the past, right? But I have provided the links to the opening credits because that’s as much as I dare look back.
You knew Halloween was coming when you had:
I LOVED this series! I wanted to be Peter Venkman, because he was the funniest. I remember being really shit scared when I saw the first Ghostbuster’s movie, but, hey, I love it even now. And who didn’t want a proton pack? I even got the comic books, action figures and ghost popper toy (Which my Dad and my uncles insisted on borrowing when me and my brother didn’t play with them).
It was funny! Igor cocks up the formula to make the new Count Duckula and produces a vegetarian wimpy ‘vampire’ lord. They lived in a castle that could travel ANYWHERE in the world, although its clock did contain two bat-like things that told really bad puns. I hated that part. Duckula was in fact a spin off character from another TV series by the same makers, Cosgrove Hall Films: Dangermouse! Both leads were even voiced by the same actor, David Jason.
On Saturday mornings, Motormouth was replaced by ‘Ghost Train‘ Which was a Saturday morning entertainment show for children. It had cartoons, music by the latest pop stars and interviews with celebs of the day. Me and my brother even kept the “Ooh Arrrrr” signature that everyone on the show did, because it was all set on… can you guess? a Ghost Train. I didn’t seek out the intro to it.
But! (Ignoring all grammatical errors here) But: I have saved the best until last. This was the real reason I came running home. This is what really got me going when I was younger. It was a show of awesome. It was…
Yeah, proper introduction, not the pansy one from the 1990s! Knightmare was great! It was an adventure-puzzle show in the style of a fantasy world where a team of children were transported and one of them had to be blindfolded (with the Helm of Justice) and guided by his/her friends through a series of room each with its own puzzles, dangers and riddles. If they were lucky and survived (and there weren’t many winners) they got a scroll, the prizes became more elaborate as time went on. Even now I still say “Spellcasting: D-I-S-M-I-S-S”. I actually re-watched the very first episode when someone won the game when I found it on Youtube. Surprisingly, it didn’t ruin it for me at all and I was quite pleased that even the late 1980s effects weren’t that bad.
Yes there were other children’s shows that were a bit spooky or had a fantasy theme (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Dungeons and Dragons), but they were on at different times of the year.
The point to this post was that, somewhere in the back of our minds we recognise the coming dark with its long shadows, grey skies and misty distances, as having something behind it. Samhain wasn’t a celebration of the dead or honouring the ancestors (That came with the Christian concept of respecting the souls of the saints and of those who were in purgatory and those in limbo). Samhain was the festival of preparing for Winter, of culling any excess stock you couldn’t sell and didn’t have enough meal to feed over the cold times, so our ancestors had to kill the surplus, but hey, they got meat, fur, hide even wax and glue out of it. It was also a time of having a feast by the local water source and telling stories of THINGS coming from the water and the fog, because both were seen as gateways to the Otherworld. And what better way to make sure the children didn’t run off into the woods and get lost after dark when the night came earlier than to tell tales of fey queens, cursed birds and magic that made you crazy. So maybe I was right when I was a child, gathering his vampire hunting kit when going to the bonfire at his local church…. there were things in the fog.