Life before the pandemic: toadstools, pumpkins and the real Hallowe’en

This is the first of a series of posts that I wrote but never got round to posting. So strange to read them now with everything that’s happened over the last year! However, as I want to get back into writing regularly again, I thought it would be better to post than lose them. This was written in autumn 2019, when life was still kind of normal….

How do you find autumn? I love the warmth and light of summer so always feel a touch of dread at the coming of the darker half of the year. Set against that, however, is that every year I forget how beautiful autumn can be. Walking through the local park on my way to the station in the morning light with mist rising from the river is really magical. And while the flowers may be waning, the toadstools in the woods this damp year have been spectacular.

We found some wonderful ones on an October walk in Norfolk while enjoying a weekend away with our friends and it was like a treasure hunt for the boys as they discovered ‘shrooms of every hue. We tried to ID them with a handy app (Shroomify) but either we were terrible at it or toadstools are really hard!

Hallowe’en was also a surprising highlight this year. Normally I’m not such a fan – pumpkin carving is fun but I don’t love all the ghoulish tat that goes with the celebrations. This year, though was quite different. The Fairyland Trust run two excellent family festivals connecting children with nature through magic and storytelling – the Fairy Fair in the summer (which is amazing) and Real Hallowe’en which we tried out for the first time this year at the end of our weekend in Norfolk. We arrived suitably dressed up, and were greeted warmly by the organisers at a beautiful festival site on the edge of some woods.

After a wander around some whimsical little stalls we settled ourselves by a huge log fire. While I painted the boys’ faces, Dom sought out toffee apples for the boys and two big mugs of mulled cider for us. Suitably warmed and watered, we headed for Wizard Training where the boys learned  knowledge of trees, birds and animal noises to equip them on the path to wizardry.

We had a bit of time to grab a cup of tea and decorate lantern jars before it was time to gather in the big performance tent to hear the story of Real Halloween. By now the sun had set and as the storytellers built up to their grand finale, lanterns were being lit and people were gathering for a lantern procession.

With lanterns held high, we wound our way through the woods along little paths lit with candles, to a genuinely thrilling conclusion. Drummers and fire acrobats stunned us with their flame-stick tossing and whirling – including two children fire jugglers who couldn’t have been older than nine or ten. As the finale wound to an end, we grabbed some supper round the fire again then put the kids to bed in the car and headed home – it had been a brilliant day.

The celebrations continued into half term with a fab Halloween party with my littlest’s new best friend (he’s recently started school) including marshmallow toasting around a tiny fire in the garden the boys helped construct. And sparklers – I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow sparklers!

Our final Halloween celebration was the annual Triangle Community Garden Halloween which involves a pumpkin lantern parade around the recreation ground following samba drummers, through the community garden itself, all decorated with lanterns and ghosts, before coming back to a specially decorated room in the little Pavilion building for spooky poems and stories round the cauldron with some finely attired witches, including guess who 😊

Although the days are darkening still, it’s been good to embrace the autumn celebrations a bit more wholeheartedly this year – maybe next year I’ll be a bit less of a Halloween Scrooge!