Monday, 31 October 2011


Good for batting practice
Modern Scottish cricketers get it too easy.  Anyone who has attempted to fashion a lantern out of a turnip - neep or tumshie depending on your precise Caledonian location - will recall the aching wrist and the blistered palm associated with hollowing the tough flesh.  The pumpkin was a foreign thing only heard of through its deployment as Cinderella's coach and had never been seen at Scottish cricket grounds. Nowadays pumpkins push their orange orangeness forward from every vegetable rack and turnips are left for the sheep. Even a blunt knife will cut through their orangeness with ease.  Scottish cricketers' wrists are thus weaker and their approach to batting has suffered. 

Invasive species

This is not the only way in which Halloween has changed to the detriment of cricket.  Halloween has at its roots an ancient Celtic festival, sumhain, marking the end of summer, the end of the light half of the year and the start of the dark half.  The word Halloween itself is most definitely of Scottish origin and was first heard in the 16th Century. The carving of lanterns was originally a way of remembering souls held in purgatory.  The Reformation may have got rid of purgatory in Scotland - or did it ensure that life in Scotland was nothing but purgatory?  FB forgets. But the lanterns lived on with many of the traditions of earlier times. 
Guising is central to the Scottish Halloween where children disguised in costume go round neighbours and friends asking for food or coins.  It would seem to derive from the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls' Day.  Guising was used in the USA and the first references to trick or treating are not found until in the later 1920s, but it is a word that is at risk of falling out of the language now.  We are all the poorer as a result.

in modern ODI dress
When FB went guising costumes were hastily improvised - bed sheets were pressed into service as ghostly shrouds, witches' hats were fashioned from old newspapers and black paint and masks were made from Cornflake packets.  Modern cricketers' imaginations and creativity do not stretch beyond purchasing costumes at Tescos and the fancy dress has industrialised into an essential part of the military-industrial economy.  As a result, modern cricketers have to wear fancy dress on many specified occasions including during limited overs matches. 

Neighbours expected a performance of some sort in exchange for their sweets or nuts.  This was alright for kids who could sing, or kids who could remember the beginning, middle and end of a joke in that order.  For Fantasy Bob this was more of a challenge, and he remembers audiences being less than captivated by his attempts to demonstrate the googly making use of his precious dooked apple.   Perhaps it was because of the danger this presented to his neighbours' mantel ornaments, their good china or their TV sets which invariably seemed to be placed on a good length. Perhaps FB's demonstrations were not technically perfect - but the modern cricketer would have no such excuse since he could hone his act on the super-slow- motion reverse angle replays that spill over all TV channels.  In the days that FB was guising, the only super-slow-mo was him getting out of bed in the morning.

Dookin' for aiples
There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. There was dookin' for aiples. Apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and players attempt to lift them with their teeth.  In the days before Health and Safety regulated all our waking and sleeping hours, life-jackets were not provided and many a small child drowned in this otherwise harmless pursuit.  A variant on this game was to kneel on a chair, with fork between the teeth and try to drop the fork to spear an apple.   This reduces the risk of drowning, but small children could be impaled with the fork as they surfaced for the third time.   Nowadays cricketers wear helmets with face grills, and the possibility of them catching an apple in their mouth is much reduced. 

For Fantasy Bob, the highlight of the games on offer was the treacle scone - treacle or syrup-coated scones  were hung up on strings and had to be eaten without using hands.  Blindfolds added to the hilarity.  Fantasy Bob has tried to get this approach deployed in cricket teas.  In vain, for cricketers ae averse to blindfolds although many FB has played with would seem to bat as if wearing them.

Once you had dooked your apple, you would peel it ensuring the peel remained in one long strip.  You would throw it over your shoulder and the letter it formed on landing would be the first letter of your future batting partner's name.  Cricket lost much when skippers abandoned this technique when drawing up batting orders.

So commercialised and over hyped Halloween kicks over the traces of its origins and we are all impoverished.  We forget too easily the souls of those who have gone before.  Fantasy Bob will leave it for you to determine the parallels to draw with cricket.


  1. He who must not be named tells me he agrees wholeheartedly with these sentiments. He also remembers as part of Halloween fare champit tatties with silver threepennies concealed in it. As an aside it may astonish your younger readers to learn that there was once a silver coin with a value of 1 1/4p.

    As for dooking for apples, he suspects that the dropping a fork from a chair variant was an early move by the Health and Safety police (he remembers his mother being concerned about cross infection). In addition, he remembers from more recent times a variant invented by John Byrne - dooking for chips - as in "How did you get that face?"

  2. Silver threepennies at Halloween? This is well heeled folks in the West showing off. In FB's more modest environment this highly effective choking hazard was only deployed in the Christmas pudding.

  3. Wow we are waiting to watch next series. Great cricket is most favourite game.

  4. Many thanks. FB hopes your game wasn't interrupted by guisers or trick or treaters.