A Rather British Halloween: 2013 365 Challenge #305

Pumpkins 1& 2

Pumpkins 1& 2

So today is Halloween. It’s not a big holiday in the UK like it is in the States. It’s becoming more celebrated every year, slowly taking over from the one I remember most growing up; Bonfire Night on 5th November (which commemorates the anniversary of the date a man called Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament).

We don’t really do Halloween in our house yet, though I’m sure we will as the children grow older. Hubbie and I say things like, “We weren’t allowed to go trick or treating when we were kids” and other such stuff which excuses our lack of enthusiasm.

We always carve pumpkins, because there’s something satisfying about hacking away at a giant orange vegetable and being creative with it. Same goes for all the fab Halloween craft that the local attractions lay on because it’s also half term. The children have made witches’ hats, spooky spiders, ghosts and masks and I didn’t have to do anything more than aim the glue.

Today's efforts

Today’s efforts

I did buy a bag of chocolate so that we would be ready for any trick or treaters who might come to our door. Only then I ate most of it, so we decided not to put the pumpkins out: the secret signal by which children know it’s safe to knock (so very British).

This evening, though, while I walked the dog round the block after hubbie got home from work, I felt rather sad that I had been so rubbish as to eat all our offerings. There were several families out in fancy dress, on a chilly night in an almost pitch black village (where they’ve switched off most of the street lighting to save money).

I could see it was almost a game, to spot the houses with pumpkins lit outside. “Friend or foe?” I heard one husband say to his wife, as they stumbled past in the dark towards the faint glow of pumpkins up a driveway.

Our inviting window display

Our inviting window display

In total I counted about eight houses in our village displaying pumpkins. Poor reward for anyone brave enough to venture out with their little ones in the dark.

So, when I got back, we lit the pumpkins and put them in the front window, and raided the cupboards for sufficient treats to offer. Unfortunately by then most children had gone home for their tea. We did get one brave soul come to the door and retreat with a bag of cookies. I’ve since made inroads into the hanging tub of treats. Oops.

So, on this very British Halloween, we have a plastic pumpkin tub full of chocolate lurking at the bottom of the stairs and the faint odour of burning pumpkin in our lounge. Happy Halloween to you all.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire came back to awareness like someone rising from the bottom of the ocean. Slowly she became conscious of the car door pressing into her back and Conor’s hip crushing her against the metal. She felt his hands tangled in her hair and the light stubble on his chin grazing her skin. The tingling in her lips seemed to be hardwired to every nerve in her body and she knew it was entirely possible that she would crumple to the floor if her boss was not holding her up.

With effort she pulled away from the kiss and ducked under Conor’s arms, cursing as the movement tugged at her hair. Ignoring the pulsing sensation making demands she had no intention of honouring, she fumbled to get her key in the lock. Before Conor could move or speak, she was in her seat and pulling the door closed behind her. Her only thought was to escape.

It took three attempts to get the key in the ignition and find a gear. Out the corner of her eye she could feel Conor watching her through the window. She let her hair fall in a curtain, obscuring her view, and revved the engine. Without checking to see if he had moved away, she reversed out the parking space and onto the street, forcing herself not to look in the rear view mirror as she left.

Her hands shook as she switched on the Sat Nav, trying to keep her scattered thoughts on the road ahead. The screen shone brightly in the dark before settling into night mode, and Claire blinked away the dazzling spots dancing in her sight. Soon her destination was programmed in and she was able to concentrate on getting there in one piece.

Driving in the dark left too much time to think. All the stunning scenery lay hidden behind the veil of night and Claire’s eyes watered as she concentrated on the yellow beams leading her to her bed. She had no idea what time it was, and hoped the hostel would still be open when she got there.

She was half way back to Salcombe before her heart rate returned to normal. Her hands felt slippery on the wheel and she smoothed them down her trousers, fearing she might lose her grip on the tight switchbacks up to the hostel.

What was he thinking?

The words echoed continuously through her mind. What is it with blokes and their inappropriate behaviour?

As the tingling subsided the fury began to take hold. Like history repeating, she remembered Josh’s advances only weeks before. All her irritation at him for betraying his wife and putting her in an impossible situation amplified her anger at Conor for breaching the boss-employee trust.

Other sensations wove through her thoughts. She could still feel the pressure of his kiss on her lips, the feeling of his hands wrapped in her hair. The look on his face as he’d made his move – the wide-eyed vulnerability – fixed in her mind like a poster tacked up on the wall of her skull.

Don’t fall for it, woman. You knew the first time you met him he was a charmer. The fact that he made a move on his employee makes him a sleaze. Either resign or pretend it never happened; there is no other outcome.

She knew it made sense; she knew the moral high ground was the only path to follow. So why did it leave a cavernous hole in her heart?


Pumpkin Carving: 2013 365 Challenge #301

Getting stuck into the pumpkin

Getting stuck into the pumpkin

Today was hubbie’s ‘day off” so, after taking an hour in the morning to write my post, I took the children to the Farm for some Hallowe’en half term fun.

Our local farm always has some great activities on during the school holidays. This time they had a room full of craft (great, considering a huge storm is about to hit the UK, so indoor activities are essential) as well as the spooky house tour and pumpkin carving.

We skipped the spooky house tour – I think I’d like an extra parent with me before attempting that with under fives – but the craft room was empty when we got there, so we had great fun making paper spiders and cobwebs, Hallowe’en masks and origami cats. We played spot the difference and did spooky word searches and Mummy had lots of fun doing colouring in! 🙂

After that we ventured outside into the sunshine and wind, to see the animals. The larger beasts all look a bit sorry for themselves, covered in mud and sheltering from the incoming winter. We were lucky though – apart from a wind strong enough to blow us away, the weather was lovely. It was so nice to be able to get outside for the first time in weeks.

Which face is more scary?

Which face is more scary?

The kids made sand castles, fed goats and ducks, and stroked the horses. We went to see the baby quail chicks – oh my goodness but they’re tiny (I didn’t have a camera, unfortunately): they’re a week old and still only about half the size of a kiwi fruit (you have no idea how long it took to come up with a size comparison that made sense either side of the Atlantic!)

Then came the pumpkin carving. This is the first year either of the children has been able to actually do any of the carving, although I noticed the delightful job of scooping out sticky seeds still came to Mummy. My son wanted to recreate his own face on his pumpkin, while daughter went for a cat. I have to say, they did a pretty good job! (Shame about the photos, but you get the idea).

After a lunch of chips and ice cream (The clocks went back last night, so they’d already had a decent brunch, thankfully!) we had one more trip round the animals before heading off to the supermarket. An hour of shopping and all three of us were exhausted. Unfortunately, I still had bath time to tackle when I got home. Poor daughter is ripping up her neck itching after her unwelcome visitors, so we took some Twitter advice and washed their hair in tea tree shampoo, (to much chorusing of “it stinks!” Hopefully the crawlers think so too).

An hour of Daddy tiring time and then to bed. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I appear to have picked up a cold, so tonight’s post is a bit lacking in glamour. As it’s half term tomorrow and I get no childcare for a week, all the posts might be a little under par. I’ll do my best! 🙂 I’m off for a dinner of pumpkin soup now (shop bought, I confess) as I don’t have the energy to cook anything else and hubbie doesn’t really do cooking!


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire had no idea what time it was as she swung the car into the hotel car park. Her twenty-year old banger didn’t have a dashboard clock and the black rectangle of her phone had as much life as a house brick.

I really ought to invest in a watch.

Smoothing down her trousers, Claire locked the car and headed into the hotel. As she walked, she let her heavy hair fall over her face. It wasn’t going to pass close scrutiny, but she could live without the curious stares of strangers as they tried to work out if she was injured or deformed.

The hotel lobby echoed with the clipping sound of her heels as she paced to the reception desk. When she spoke to the woman behind the counter she was surprised to hear a wobble in her voice.

“Hi, I’m meeting someone for dinner. I doubt he will have made reservations, is there somewhere I can wait?”

“Are you Miss Carleton?”

Claire’s face grew hotter, and she gave a minute nod.

“I’m so glad. Mr O’Keefe said he tried to call you, to inform you that he was running late, but was unable to contact you. Please wait in the lounge, and he’ll come and find you when he arrives.”

Damn, damn, damn.

Claire nodded her acquiescence at the receptionist and followed her directions to the lounge.

I can’t believe he tried to ring me when my phone was flat. Now he really is going to think I’m incompetent.

Claire ordered a latte and chose a seat in the dark shadows at the corner of the room. She wished she’d brought a book, and vowed to replace her much-missed tablet with her first pay cheque, assuming one actually arrived and Conor didn’t sack her for ineptitude in her first week.

For want of something to do, she pulled out the notes she’d made at the library, and tried to cram the information into her beleaguered brain. The facts and figures refused to stick. Her mind buzzed with concern at her boss’s imminent arrival and her body yelled in pain every time she shifted in her seat.

She had taken to counting the bottles behind the bar by the time she heard a familiar voice calling her name.

“I’m over here,” she replied, raising a hand, and making sure her hair still hung low over her face.

“Claire, hi, I’m so sorry I’m late. Last minute hiccup. I tried to call you.” Conor strode over to where she sat, wheeling a small case behind him and carrying a suit bag over his shoulder.

“Sorry, my battery died while I was out walking today and I didn’t get a chance to charge it. You know smart phones; they only stay charged for about ten minutes.” She kept her voice light and hoped that honesty was the best policy.

“Beautiful day for a hike. Where did you go? No, wait, let me just run these things up to my room. Why don’t you go through to the restaurant and I’ll meet you there?” He waited only for her to signal her agreement, and then he was gone.

Claire felt strangely flat, as she watched him weave his way through the tables and back out towards the lifts. As he disappeared out of sight, she had to remind herself this wasn’t a date, it was business.