Yes folks, it’s that time of year again… Halloween and Half-Term, and London Poppy Collections. Halloween (today) is on a Friday night this year, which means that the little kiddiewinks can stay up later because it’s not a school night. More time for them to be out “Trick or Treating” or egging your door if you happen to be out or just not answer. Yes, call me Mrs Scrooge if you like, but I find it distinctly off-putting answering my door to something dressed up like an extra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I don’t remember Trick-or-Treating when I was a child, and apparently it didn’t become common in the UK until the 1980s (so I only just missed it then!  ) although it dates back to the Middle Ages when people did something called “souling.” This was when the poor would go house-to-house on Hallowmas (1 November) and in return for food, would pray for the souls of the dead on All Souls Day (2 November). However, Trick-or-Treating was big business in the US and Canada as far back as the 1940s, and good old Walt Disney made a cartoon about it in 1952. (Thanks Walt, now everyone knows about it! She said through gritted teeth.)

Halloween itself, also known as All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve is one of those Christian festivals believed to have Pagan roots. Or not, depending on which expert you choose to believe.

The Pagan bit related to the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. The Christian bit is about obligation for the souls of the departed, and even good old Will referred to it in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. (Sorry, I’m not telling you where, you will have to read it or go and see the play.)

Apparently, the souls of the dead wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, so All Hallows’ Eve was their last chance to get vengeance on their enemies before moving onto the next world. Ah! Now I understand the weird and wonderful costumes that we see. And, apparently people wore masks to conceal their identities. (I’m not convinced that would work with ghosts, but hey, what do I know?)


Yesterday was London Poppy Day, the day when service personnel and other volunteers go to a large number of Central London underground stations and so on to try to collect as much money as possible for the Poppy Appeal.

It’s quite a fun day and you get to meet some lovely people, some really generous people, but yesterday, for me, was the most humbling day of my life. We stop collecting at 7pm and all the collectors were huddled in a corner of the station so that the person in charge could put all the money into sealable bags and we could put all the excess poppies in a safe place until they would be collected the following day.

As we were standing there, a chap came over, someone I have seen about before. He handed over a big bag of coins. I couldn’t see what they all were but I can tell you that they weren’t all 1p pieces, and it was a heavy bag.

“Excuse me, these are from the homeless. I’ve been round and collected if from them.”

I felt like crying. I know that a lot of homeless people are ex-forces, but these are people that don’t have very much, and yet they dug deep to give to our troops. I can tell you right now, I wasn’t the only one who was really touched by what this chap did.

Way to go homeless people, everyone there yesterday was saluting you too!


© Susan Shirley 2014


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