Well, it’s getting to that time of year when I must decorate my house with pumpkins and witches and pretend to be excited that Halloween is coming. It’s what is expected of English schools in Japan and so I toe the line and join in. I don a costume of minimal effort and I hold small parties with my kids’ classes. They enjoy it and although I know doing it for the kids is admirable and right, I’m still not much of a Halloween fan
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m as fond as any chap of stumbling into a bar in late October to find it populated with some carry-on nurses or scantily clad policewomen threatening to take down my particulars but, all the same, I’d rather not spend a few hours dressed as a pirate in the company only of children and have to pretend I am teaching them culture. For one thing, when I was growing up in Britain we didn’t say ‘trick-or-treat’ and we didn’t even have pumpkins. We carved Jack O’Lanterns from turnips and when we visited houses dressed as ghouls and goblins we typically told a joke, sang a song or did a magic trick in return for our sweets. ‘Guising,’ we called it. Nary a ‘Trick or Treat!’ was heard, although I suppose the end result was the same – people in houses gave you sweets to piss off.
Things have changed. My nephews and nieces say ‘trick-or-treat’ and they carve proper pumpkins. That’s what the kids seem to do these days. But I am not a kid. I am a middle-aged, bald man. When I dress up at Halloween and play various games with children I feel like I am Brian Cant or Jeffrey from Rainbow, but without the television salary. I don’t feel I am introducing foreign culture but still, when each party ends, with a swashbuckling wave of my pirate’s sword I see the students head happily home. Then I sit down and weep with shame at what my life has become. Okay, I don’t really, but I am ever so glad that I have my own school, for at least I don’t have a boss who is going to plaster my Pied Piperesque picture all over a website with captions in colorful comic sans font which may as well say, ‘Look! Our teacher’s an arse!’ As a small consolation, I can spare myself that.
I daren’t look at students’ parents’ facebook pages.