Haunted By Davids

Haunted by Davids

I observed fairly early on that the names of everyday boys and men, and those of the men in the romantic short stories in Nan’s old Woman’s Realms belonged to two different subsets of men’s names. Boys in my class, for instance, tended to be called John, James, Robert, William, Michael, David, Richard, Thomas, Charles or Gary. I remember one Andrew – but he was quite exotic – and one Paul – but of course he was Polish. What we didn’t have were any Dirks, Aidens, Bryces, Calebs, Dantes or Micahs.

I guessed, correctly, that a plain big lumpy girl like me was never going to snare herself a Micah. But I was haunted by Davids, for some reason. Everywhere I went, throughout my life there a David would “happen to be”. For some reason all Davids seemed to like me, whereas no other-named kind of man did.

I didn’t even like Davids, at least not in a marrying way. Davids sounded as if they ought to be round-shouldered and work in shoe shops, bringing out boxes of shoes to shoehorn onto your ungrateful feet; or perhaps behind the desk at the library, pathetically eager to help you locate obscure non-fictions in the card-index system or to point you in the direction of French dictionaries.

And so I married a man with another ordinary-ish man’s name. I didn’t particularly like it, but it was attached to him so I married it. Over the next twenty-two years or so I came to feel that I might have been better off with a David after all. Coincidentally, Devon Aunt chose to name all her rescue cats David. One stray, furry David after another, for thirty years or so.

Apple Peel and Cherry Pips

Halloween used to be a good time to find out the name of your future mate. At Halloween, it was said, a girl might see his face reflected dimly in a mirror – maybe standing behind you. I wonder if clothed or unclothed… Then there was the game with the apple core. You peeled an apple, being sure to keep the peel in a single piece, and tossed the peel over your shoulder, where it would – or might – form the initial of your husband to be.

Alternatively you could line up hazelnuts along a hot grate, giving each hazelnut the name of a prospective husband. Then you would recite:

If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die!

A variation – such of the nuts as cracked would be the fickle suitors.

Or you could place your shoes in the form of a letter ‘T’ (representing Thor’s hammer) and say

Hoping this night my true love to see, I place my shoes in the form of a “T”.

And then there were the cherry stones, which you placed around the rim of your plate as you ate them. My Nan actually taught me this one:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief.

Nan preserved cherries in the summer from the cherry tree in the garden and we ate them in the winter, from thick glass jars arrayed on shelves around the top of the living room, just underneath the ceiling. But what I couldn’t understand was how one Sunday I was going to marry a Thief and the next a Rich Man, and so ad infinitum, all winter long. And if I didn’t like what appeared I could always eat another cherry.

Apparently there was also Silk, Satin, Muslin, Rags. That was what you would be married in. But Nan didn’t teach me that.

The Green Oil Lamp

I have only ever been to a fortune teller twice in my life. The second one asked me if I was married to a long-distance lorry driver, as she sensed my husband seemed to be absent a lot. I wanted to tell her that you didn’t need a long-distance lorry to seem to be absent a lot. A shed at the bottom of the garden would do just as well.

The first fortune teller had been the vicar’s wife, in a small but elaborate tent, masquerading as Gypsy Rose Something Or Other. I was quite young, and it was at a fête in the grounds of the local “big house”. I remember I had just failed to get the metal ring along yards of wiggly electrified loops, and was looking for something else to do. And thinking back – yes, I was dressed as Florence Nightingale in a longish skirt and a white apron, and clutching a green oil lamp.

I had been in for the fancy dress competition because Mum told me I must, and I hadn’t had any more success with that than the metal ring and the electrified snake. The green oil lamp occupied one entire small hand, and it was greasy and smelled of paraffin. I wanted to put it down somewhere and forget about it but I couldn’t, because Mum had told me I mustn’t.

The vicar’s wife looked at me despairingly from beneath her curtain-ring fringed headscarf. Then she waved her hands about and around her crystal ball. You will have four children and, um, an operation when you are forty, she pronounced, and snatched my penny or tuppence from the hand that wasn’t holding the oil lamp.

I waited for those four children with an odd superstitious confidence, considering I knew it was only the vicar’s wife; and I felt quite aggrieved when not only did the promised four offspring not arrive, but none did. And I do believe I rather dreaded that operation, which also did not happen – or at least not when it was supposed to.

I’m a little weary of eerie

Bah, humbug – or halloweenbug – or whatever!

By the way, the picture above should not be taken as meaning that I approve of the boiling of lobsters, or even the eating of fish, or that I believe cats should be wrestled into Halloween costumes when they have no idea of the significance of Halloween and hate having to wear stuff. Cats are cool with wearing the same furry outfit every day, and think how much simpler their lives are: this idea even appears to be catching on with a few free-thinking humans.

I hate Halloween. Well, I hate most things including Christmas, Easter and birthdays. Here are half a dozen reasons why I hate Halloween:

  1. I hate the very thought of fancy dress. I have only ever worn fancy dress once in my life. Many years ago, Ex and I were invited to a posh party, except that we didn’t know it was posh and made our own costumes instead of hiring them. We didn’t understand about hiring – life had moved on since our childhood. I forget what Ex’s costume was but it was probably passable, since he was an artist. I went as a Tree, complete with leafy apples. I don’t remember why. I made the costume on my ancient Singer sewing machine out of brown and green bedsheets. I looked like a twerp. A conspicuous twerp. Furthermore, I couldn’t sit down all evening.
  2. I hate children. Well, that’s not absolutely true. I’ve nothing against infants in principle and no doubt would speak kindly to a child if ever a child came within fifty feet of me. But they don’t. They stare at me. Spooky! Babies smile at me, in supermarket queues, but then babies smile at anything. It’s probably wind. Or the spectacles. I am advised that they are fascinated by these strange mirror-things some people balance on their noses. Cats are the same, actually – take a swipe if worn, chew if not.
  3. I hate people knocking at my door after dark. I particularly hate it if they are wearing masks and ghoulish costumes. I hate it even more if they are six feet tall male adolescents, and sniggering. It frightens me. No one ever knocks on my door and sniggers normally. If they can’t be bothered to knock on my door and snigger for three hundred and sixty-four days of the year why should I buy huge tins of sweeties or a mountain of salt and vinegar crisps to dole out to them for the privilege of being terrified on the three hundred and sixty-fifth?
  4. I hate pumpkins. They are obscenely big and too orange (hate orange, so common!) and silly-looking. Can you even eat a pumpkin? What is the point of them? I once mentioned to a girl I happened to be sitting next to in the call centre that I had never tried to carve a face in a pumpkin and had no idea how to do it. She gave me that look that people always tend to give me and issued detailed instructions for pumpkin-carving. I still haven’t carved one.
  5. I hate anything designed mainly to extract money from people – by making them feel they need to buy a whole lot of useless plastic, net, tinsel and paper stuff or a greetings card. That includes Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day…
  6. I hate e-cards and Halloween is yet another occasion for people to send them. I hate the unwanted spam-type email they come in, the instructions to click Here when you don’t want to click Anywhere, the lengthy semi-animated cartoon-thing you are forced to sit through when, inevitably, you do click. I hate the thought that I am not worth going out and buying a card for, not worth a second-class stamp or a trip to the post box, not worth a human signature and a row of wobbly ‘X’s.

However, the world’s in such a perilous and spooky state at the moment, any little problem I may have simply pale into insignificance. So I’ll make sure to lock the doors early this evening. I’ll barricade myself in the living room and shut the curtains so they can’t see the television. I’ll turn the sound right down. I’ll stand on one leg and try not to breathe till they’ve gone away, I’ll… And I dare say I shall survive yet another Halloween.

I dare say we all will.