A collage of photos shows costumed performers for the Halloween Horror Party held at Movie Park Germany, an amusement park in Bottrop-Kirchhellen, earlier this month. The event was staged to generate publicity for activities in the park during the Halloween season from October 3 to November 3. Picture: REUTERS

IT’S HALLOWEEN – the day of the year when spookiness is supposed to reign, when all kinds of ghosts and evil spirits are supposed walk the earth and when the most frightful girls in Gothic outfits certainly do haunt Halloween parties.

Halloween has never been a very big deal in South Africa. But from what one can tell there has been a spate of Halloween parties in Durban during the run-up, and no doubt there will be more tonight.

In Ireland, parts of Scotland and America it’s a very big deal. In America especially there’s the trick or treat tradition – groups of kids in costume go around knocking on neighbourhood doors to be rewarded with sweets and other goodies – as well as the carving of pumpkins into candle-lit horror masks.

The origin of the word is Christian – All Hallows Even – but the more distant origin is almost certainly pagan, probably the Celtic festival of Samhain (“summer’s end”).

Many think this is all superstitious nonsense. But you can never be too sure.

When the wind howls and the shadows dance on your bedroom wall, there’s always the old Scottish prayer:

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!


GORDON Bailey, of Port Shepstone, says he was listening on the car radio to a political analyst who said of the looming leadership election in the ANC that because of the lack of potential among the opposing candidates, it might be necessary to shoo President Zuma through for a second term.

“When I heard this I was reminded of the beauty contest they had in Ladysmith many years back where nobody won. I wonder if this is the same problem that the ANC now finds itself with?”

A fair point. I recall the Ladysmith beauty contest very well. It was reported by my distant predecessor, Jack Shepherd-Smith, and it almost caused civil war in the province.

The Ladysmith town council met and passed a resolution condemning The Mercury and the Idler. A group of Ladysmith roughs tried to kidnap Jack. Then somebody threw fat on the fire by claiming they’d held a “Miss Lucky Legs” contest in Ladysmith and it was won by the grand piano in the town hall. Resentment still simmers in the siege town. I hope the ANC conference in Mangaung generates less heat than this.

Just curious

OVERHEARD at the Street Shelter for the Over-40s: “I think my husband’s having an affair so I’ve hired a private detective. Not to find out who this other woman is – just to find out what the heck she sees in him.”

Riotous absurdity

I’M NOT sure whether to take this as a compliment. Mary Ann Grafetsberger, of South Beach, says when she read last week’s news item about dung beetles and why they sit on their “poo balls” – to keep their feet warm – she thought at first that I’d written it.

“The article was well placed amid stories of toe nail clippings being sent to the Chinese Embassy (everyone should do that); a king caught for speeding; fraud and corruption; a king with a very large food bill; botched prison escapes; succession battles; taxable lap dances; and people stuffing sheep into the boots of their Mercs.”

(Yes, Mary Ann, I’m afraid the news pages often do contain items that are riotously absurd. You have to turn to the Idler’s column for something sober and reflective.)

She says she knows quite a bit about cats and monkeys but has never given much thought before to dung beetles.

I’m with you there, Mary Ann. Dung beetles have never kept me awake at night either. My specialities are bats, tarantulas, Beluga whales and such creatures. People say I can become quite a bore about them so I’d better leave it at that.


A LITTLE boy is playing in the garden with a bat and ball. “I’m the greatest cricketer in the world,” he says as he tosses the ball in the air, swings and misses. He does it again: “I’m the greatest cricketer in the world – then he swings and misses.

Then again: “I’m the greatest cricketer in the world.” He swings and misses.

“Wow! What a bowler!”

Last word

Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything in life. – Isaac Bashevis Singer