Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I get very grumbly indeed about Halloween. Nonsense commercial farrago, sent to us, naughtily, by our American cousins. America has sent us many wonderful things: Dorothy Parker, Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, jazz. But Halloween in the costumed, trick or treating, sugary incarnation is not a good one.
So when I go into the Co-Op and see all the awful, hideous Halloween cupcakes and nylon witches’ hats, I get very, very cross. Except for today, when it was suggested that the great-nieces and nephew might come and pay me a trick or treat visit. Suddenly, it was the most joyous, wonderful, giddy festival, and I should push out that boat.
I swung into action. There would be special Halloween tea. Rather than get everything with spiders and worms and in orange, which seems to be a thing, I decided to cook. I based my menu on memories of bonfire night from when I was little. I remembered always loving tomato soup in cups, so that was what I made. I was running late, so I did a complete cheat, simply simmering some fat tomatoes and two garlic cloves in Marigold bouillon and then liquidising with a gloop of olive oil, and some passata for extra oomph. That was it. (If you were doing it for grown-ups, I would add some chilli and perhaps some marjoram.) It went down a storm. I made cheese straws with a thin line of Gentlemen’s Relish running through them for a little anchovy kick, a huge pot of popcorn with Maldon Salt, and a chocolate fridge cake.
Two small witches and a pumpkin arrived at four-thirty. They cast spells, patted the dog, shrieked ghoulish shrieks, and ate all the popcorn. I got a lot of special Halloween hugs, which is the thing I like the best. It was an absolute riot. I take it all back. I absolutely adore Halloween, and I hope you are having a happy one, wherever you are.
Sadly, there are no photographs of the momentous afternoon, on account of me being too dim to work out how the flash works on my camera, but here are some beech symphonies instead, from earlier in the day:
I can't quite believe this picture of the avenue is real. It looks almost like a painting:
See how flat and white the sky is? Even in a dull light, these great old beeches are flaming scarlet:
The lovely beech hedge:
And opposite it, on some rough ground, a line of young beech trees has been planted, like an echo:
My favourite of the young beeches. This one is about five years old:
Very happy Pigeon:
And in more contemplative, faraway mood: