Sunday, October 28, 2007

Neeps N’Such

Pumpkins is it? In my day it was neeps - neeps so hard the Army experimented with them as ordinance, before opting for uranium tipped shells.

At Halloween back then Casualty was full of folk with severed digits. Why? Well you see it was hard enough to spread butter bread in a power cut, never mind carve a frosted neep.

How come the power was off? The power was aye off back in the seventies – I could drone about Ted Heath and OPEC, but the truth is the National Grid generated all our electricity using one asthmatic donkey tethered to a rubber band, and when the donkey refused to do a back shift the power went off - which was generally about every three days.

Now if you were lucky you might just hit on a soft seam in the neep, but more often than not it was more like scouring rough cast concrete with your bare knuckles.

You’d give up after scratching a depression just big enough to fit the stub of the white candle – which you’d half inch from the emergency stash by the fuse box.

Once you’d light the candle, generally from the butt of your single Woodbine, you were ready for the off.

Ah but carrying a lighted tumshie lantern, now that was a pure nightmare.

Use string to make a handle and the candle, which you’d had to leave poking out the top of the neep, due to the fact you’d given up trying to make the hollow any deeper for fear of losing a further finger, would burn through on one side leaving you running around trying to stop the flame and hot wax from dripping down your bare legs. And that was before you’d even got out the close.

Use wire and you got an early physics practical on the amazing heat conducting properties of a base metal, plus a three-degree burn across your palm to match the now throbbing stump of what had once been your pinkie.

The best laugh ever I had was when my brother Neil used Great Aunt Effie’s knicker elastic, for a while there he looked like he was carrying an illuminated yoyo, but then he went and over did it and smacked himself right in the pus.

Then there was the smell; folk were never frightened by us guising because the reek of burning rutabaga, which I believe is what our American cousins cry a neep, preceded us down the road by about half a mile.

Although the low moan of all these weans sporting burnt hands and missing fingers could be a wee a bit scary.

But the good thing about a burnt tumshie lantern was you could add a Groucho moustache to your get up at short notice merely by smearing the lid across your moosh.

You kids these days, you just pull on a bin liner, rap a door and demand cash with menaces. Not us! We put a bit of effort into our costumes and we practised our turns. Which was just as well as you got dragged into every house whose door you chapped to dook for apples whether you wanted to or not.

Dookin’ - Christ that was lethal too. The old village wifies used to give you a tot of their home made ginger wine before you started, “just to warm youse all up,” they’d say.

Do you know you can drown in as little as half an inch of water? Well let me tell you it’s true, especially when you’re only eleven and as pissed as a fart.

Aye Dookin’ for apples was an extreme sport then right enough, a bit like snorkelling without the snorkel or the flippers. You had to try and stop water flooding your lungs, while trying to get your nashers round the only stalk still attached to an apple in a bowl water that was trying to contain a tsu nami.

The trouble with this strategy was that everyone else was going for that one apple, and you all had your half eyes shut, so the odds of a bad head knock, and/or inhaling wee Jimmy’s pea green snot were about ten to one on.

But it was worse if the oldies thought you were too wee for dookin’, because then they’d get you to go forkin’ for apples instead, aye forkin was whit I said.
You stood on a chair, lent over the back and drop a great big fork onto the bowl of apples below, and this was even deadlier than dookin’ because there was no such thing as ADHD in those days – no, no we just had mad, mental wee b’s.

So God help any wean who failed to pick up their apple in double quick time from the plastic bowl beneath the chair because before you could say “Golden Shot” someone else up on the chair had said, “Bernie the bolt! Fire!” and your cranium was sporting a piece of Sheffield’s finest chrome plate to add to the burn on your palm, the severed finger and the hot wax treatment to your lower shins.

Aye right enough, you could indeed say we were early pioneers body piercing. Never thought of it that way before.

And just be glad that treacle scones, hung up on strings, have gone out of fashion. Get molasses in a new wound and I’ll tell you it nips ten times worse than iodine, and it’s even worse when it gets in your eyes. There you are temporarily blinded, both eyes rimmed with what looks like sticky kohl and all Brown Owl can do is roar at you not to be such a sap, and to get back in there and take one for the Kelpies.

Ah but we made our own fun in those days. What do you mean we had to cos there was nothing good on the telly and no computers?! I’ll have you know we invented Dr Who.

Hey come back, where are you going, I’m not done boring you yet………………..