I’m not much of a one for spine-tinglers, so I was a tiny bit amazed when a fully formed horror story popped into my head a few days ago. In fact a number of things I’ve written recently have turned out to be pretty dark. It’s been a stressful few weeks – perhaps that’s what it is. On the morning of Halloween, our son announced that he’d invited a bunch of friends over for an impromptu sleepover. He’s of an age where he thinks it’s OK to organise such things himself, although it seems not to have occurred to him to mention his plans to his parents. Or perhaps he’s cannier than I’m giving him credit for, and foreseeing a less than wholly enthusiastic response, decided to wait until it was too late to cancel. It’s possible he thought we simply might not notice the extra bodies on his bedroom floor… Anyway, a manic shopping spree ensued, during which egregious quantities of junk food – pizza, nuggets, pick ‘n mix – were acquired in order to placate this alien horde and ward off any other baneful spirits that might decide to come along for the ride. In the event it passed off without too much trauma, although the amiable host turned spookily grumpy the following morning when he realised he had to be up for early football practice.
I’m a bit superstitious about Halloween; I don’t really like it that much. I’m superstitious about other things as well even though I know full well it’s ridiculous. Magpies are the worst – two or more are fine; one makes me anxious until the bad magic has spent itself in some way. Spilling salt or breaking a mirror are to avoided at all costs. Alexander Pushkin was no better, so I’m in good company. Pushkin got worried if he saw the moon on his left side, and if a hare crossed the path of his horse, he’d stay indoors for the rest of the day.
Or maybe it’s because the clocks have gone back, the evenings have drawn in and Christmas is peeking over the horizon. Don’t get me wrong – I like Christmas. Really I do. It’s just we’ve reached that stage of the year when something has be done about it – presents chosen, cards bought, get togethers planned (who’s having Grandma this year?) and invitations tactfully negotiated. The anxiety has started and the expense will soon follow. Whoever decided on St Nicholas as the patron saint of Christmas made a mistake; the real saint of Christmas is almost invariably Mum.
As well as organising the family festivities, I’m also hoping to polish up a screenplay, develop a couple of short scripts for colleagues at the film school and maybe even write something for radio. I like the idea of creating something purely through the medium of sound, not least because it vastly opens up the possibilities with regard to period and setting. If the story you want to tell is a lush period romance set in sixteenth century China, budget-wise it makes no odds if all that’s needed is a cunning confection of sound effects. There are also a lot of drama slots on radio, opening up possibilities for new writers that simply aren’t there in TV, let alone on the big screen. Time to put the kettle on and settle to it.