My gang of spookily dressed children knocked on the neighbour’s door. He opened up. “Trick or treat” they shouted. He spoke very little English. Feeling embarrassed, I explained to him that they were expecting some sweets. He looked bemused and brought a packet of biscuits to the door. The children set upon him like a pack of dogs and squabbled over the loot. I broke up the fight and left apologetically. After an old-fashioned reminder of their manners, the little ghouls greeted the next neighbour with ‘please may we have a trick or a treat’ followed by ‘thank you’ and ‘happy Halloween’. Perhaps it is because trick-or-treating is not a part of my cultural heritage, I just don’t quite get it. The dressing up is fun and the knocking on doors. But would someone please advise me on the correct social interaction on the doorstep? It feels very awkward and empty.

Whereas US-Style Halloween makes me ill at ease, that is nothing compared to the total outsider feeling I have at Bonfire in Lewes. Now, Guy Fawkes Night is familiar, but the way it is celebrated here is not. There were no Bonfire Societies in Camberwell. There were no parades where two hundred Tudor Ladies followed two hundred Native Indians in South London. Fireworks and bonfires, yes; but pope-burning and crucifixes, no. I hope that this year I won’t have the ‘am I in Pamplona?’ feeling that I have had previously. But, the truth is, that unless I face the Feeling Excluded problem head-on, then I will. The only possible way forward is to put on a Zulu costume and jump over a barrel of burning tar. See you there.


Bonfire Night: it ain’t like this down SE5 way. Pic by Peter Schueler