Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Pay For Our Pleasures?

Although not intending to write my next blog so soon after the last one, something in the newspaper today caught my eye - this relating to what I mentioned yesterday.  Hallow'een.

Now - far be it from me to suggest we deprived our children of all the fun they can get from this day (or maybe evening), but it is the cost of it all that worries me.   Remembering the days when I bought a cheap cloak for my grandson, plus hood and mask, and he then had a lovely time knocking on doors for his 'Trick or Treat', really that didn't cost much at all.  Nor did the small handful of sweets, or a toffee apple, or home-made biscuits, flapjack etc given by residents. Now it is all so different.

What was once just this small celebration for children the paper says 'is turning out to be the biggest party night after New Year's Eve, and until the early 'Noughties' (first decade of this century - making it 10 years ago?) Hallow'een was mainly for children....but the event has now been adopted by adults as a great excuse for a party with an annual rise in demand for costumes, masks, and - of course - party food and drink.

Yet we all enjoy a party, so what's wrong with that?  Nothing if we do-it-ourselves, but reading that Britons are expected to part with £350 MILLION on costumes, treats, and pumpkins etc. took my breath away.    Why do we allow ourselves to be ripped off?

It's estimated that Tesco will sell 2 million pumpkins, (these 25% bigger than usual due to the warm summer), and Asda expected to sell 1.4 million.   I shudder when I read that two-thirds of us (and this does not include you or me) will discard the inside of the pumpkins, creating 18,000 tonnes of unnecessary waste.

The newspaper gives a suggestion of how to make easy soup using pumpkin innards:
Roughly chop the flesh and put into a saucepan with chopped onion and a litre of chicken or vegetable stock.  Simmer until the flesh is really soft (around 30 minutes) then add 3 tablespoons of double cream and whizz with a stick blender to a smooth consistency.  Add more stock if too thick - and more cream if you fancy.
Yes, I expect this will work, but no mention has been given to add seasoning, so suggest we find a slightly tastier recipe in a cook book, or maybe a reader can send one in before Halloween erupts.

Along with a few other Hallow'een essentials are mentions of what we could buy - such as Toffee Apples for 75p each (or 2 for a £1).   Far cheaper to make our own (another estimate expects 450,000 toffee apples will be bought.  Even easier would be to play 'apple-bobbing' where apples are floated in a bowl of water and have to be picked up just with the mouth/teeth.   It's been a good year for apples, and if we have been able to grow our own, or buy the smaller, cheaper apples  (small are easier to 'bite' out of the water), then have fun with these (even though 3.2 million apples expected to be bought for bobbing, do we HAVE to buy?).

Am sure there are many readers of 'a certain age' who can remember the leaner years (pre-1960) when treats were few and far between, and parents used to make decorations, presents, and provide a lot of the food for parties held at that time.  We have only to watch the Christmas episode of 'The Good Life' to realise how much fun can be had even when we have barely a penny to spend. 

Same with Bonfire Night with old clothes stuffed with straw or fabric to make Guy Fawkes.  He would be perched on top of the bonfire, and we would stand around (at a safe distance) with simple fireworks such as Catherine Wheels, sparklers, and letting off a few rockets.  Potatoes would be roasted (in their jackets) in the ashes of the bonfire, gingerbread would be handed round, also 'cinder toffee' (aka honeycomb toffee), and hot drinks there for the asking.  The lovely smell of wood smoke plus the 'gunpowder' odour left by the fireworks all added to the atmosphere.

Nowadays we never see children sitting in the streets with their home-made Guy asking for 'a penny for the Guy', and not that many families have fireworks in their own garden.  Usually there are much larger fireworks for the public to watch and very beautiful they are too.  What I really hate are those fireworks that do nothing much more than explode with a huge bang.  Youngsters love to set these off in the streets, often days before Nov. 5th.  These terrify both the elderly, young children, and most cats and dogs (and other animals).   It's not so bad when expected, for we can prepare for the noise on Nov. 5th, but at other times we are caught unawares - fun for those who set them off, but not for everyone else.  Like most things that used to be very enjoyable and cheap with it, now all our celebrations seem to have been taken over by the manufacturers and gone over the top.  It doesn't matter if the fireworks make too much noise (some people like it that way), it doesn't matter if we stuff ourselves with sugary treats (as long as we always buy them),  it is FAR better to throw a party for adults as well as children, then the wine can flow as well - making even more profits for those whose only interest is in what they can persuade us to buy.

Oh dear, don't I sound like a bitter old lady, trying to prevent people having a good time. Not at all.  All I wish is that we could see what is happening - and continuing to happen (especially in this time of recession when we are all supposed to have less to spend - so why encourage us to throw away our cash?).  Have yet to see a prog. on TV (or articles in the papers and mags) on how to make our own Hallow'een without needing to spend, spend, spend.   Nearly as bad at Christmas, although occasionally we are shown how to make decorations, and maybe cook a few treats. 

My feeling is that now our celebrations have become 'commercial', however good it gets, we have lost the true meaning, and forgotten how to enjoy ourselves in the good old fashioned way.  Perhaps too late to do much about it this Hallow'een, but we still have time to bring back the old-style Christmas and am sure that young children (and even older ones) will enjoy this far more than the one they might expect.  
We could begin by suggesting they make their own Christmas presents instead of buying them (pointing out that this would be far cheaper anyway might make them think it's worth doing).

As always, feel a lot better after having a moan, and hope you don't think I'm turning into Mrs. Scrooge.  The way of the world IS different today, but this doesn't mean we continually have to spend money to enjoy ourselves.  It's the manufacturers that are doing the persuading.   We are not sheep, we don't always have to follow what everyone else seems to want to do.   Be different.  Be unusual.  Eventually you will prove that you can have your cake and eat it too.

That's my blog for today - and apologise if I have offended those who see no reason why they shouldn't have a splurge this Friday.  We are all free to make our own decisions, who is to say mine are the right ones?

When we moved here five years ago, for the first 3 years we had several 'Trick or Treaters' calling, think they enjoyed the home-made muffins, cinder toffee, popcorn and biscuits (no bought sweets then).
The next year, for some reason I hadn't baked, so had bought a large tin of sweets for B to offer to the children when they came to the door.  What did he do - tell the first lad off for taking a handful "you can only take one sweet' B said to him (more left in the tin for B to finish off).  Apparently mutterings at the gate after that, and since then no-one has called again.   We have been black-listed as being mean.
Will be making some biscuits etc this year just in case.  Might be really mean and eat them all myself if no-one calls. B can watch me do it.

That's is for this unplanned blog, but better a blog than none at all.  TTFN.

Having said that, it was me that really gave B a telling off when the other year he offered an open tin of Quality Street to a 'Trick/Treater' then admonished him for taking a handful.  'You can only have one sweet' he said to the lad.  Now that IS being mean.  I'm not THAT bad.
B admitted that if he allowed the children to help themselves, there would be none left for him.

In previous years we had loads of children call at the door, and I would have a basket full of home-made biscuits, muffins, and popcorn to give out.