Charles Nevin: Shedding light on the evil of trick or treating

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The Independent Online

The Church of England, I notice, is taking on the forces of evil. That unholy alliance of Satan and Mammon, Hallowe'en, is being confronted by the Bishop of Bolton.

The Rt Rev David Gillett is appealing to those Dark Lords of Temptation and Ease, Tesco, Asda et Cetera, to lighten things up a bit and to sell less frightening paranormal paraphernalia. He also wants us to donate our treat to charity rather than to the small dark creatures who play merry hell on your doorbell come that fell night.

You will have your own reactions to this. Some might think that we can do with an annual symbolic reminder of just how tasteless, expensive, noisy and repetitive evil can be. Others will blame the Bishop's predecessors for starting it all by taking an innocent celebration of the turn of the year and bringing religion into it.

For my part, I was struck by the revelation that the market in pumpkins is now thought to be worth £25m annually, which seems a suitably wonderful and mysterious performance, and by the less scary costume on display at the launch of the Bishop's campaign, where a two-year-old was dressed as a chef. A chef? Doesn't the Bishop watch reality television programmes?

More practically, you will want to know how to handle matters on the doorstep. The Bishop suggests you place a poster in the window informing trick-or-treaters that there is little point in calling as their treat has been sent to a better place.

But won't this, I hear you ask, enrage the little people, and possibly even the larger people lurking behind them in the shadows as well? To which I reply: say your prayers.

Nevertheless, the Bishop should be commended for speaking out and tackling the matter head on. Another example of this more muscular Anglicanism is the selection of the Rev Ken Mathers to represent Britain at Laido, a Japanese martial art involving sword play, and a powerful dissuasion against the attacks on clergy seemingly currently fashionable.

Interestingly enough, it is now the Vatican which is displaying signs of the wishy-washy and the touchy-feely. Did you know, for example, that it has just bought a football team? It has: AC Ancona, who are to set an encouraging example of good behaviour. What happened to the red cards of Anathema and Excommunication? Let us pray, too, that they never get drawn against Glasgow Rangers.

And an authorised biography of Pope Benedict XVI has just been published, in which a cat called Chico describes the Pontiff's life. It is for children, but still hardly smacks of the hard-line approach Benedict was to bring to his flock. I don't know if it's a black cat.

Whatever, if the Bishop of Bolton succeeds in his mission it will create a vacancy on the doorstep. I know many of you would like to see a postman, but that will probably take a miracle. There was the prospect of other sorts of disturbing strangers knocking on the door in search of something from you, but the Prime Minister has now finished consulting his entrails and seems to have misplaced his magic glass vial.

In any case, or eventuality, I am reliably informed that a proven method of keeping anything unpleasant away is to sleep with your socks placed in the form of a cross at the end of the bed, which seems based, as with so many of the old ways, in sound practicality as much as in superstition. Good luck.

A touch of animal magic

Concern has been expressed about relaxations on keeping wooly lemurs and other exotic creatures. I favour anything that can give the humdrum a lift. Did you see, for example, that a train was delayed on Thursday outside Stoke because of a llama on the line? Imagine, also, how much more bracing an evening stroll will be in Scotland when they bring wolves back. I see, too, that dormice are refusing to use a specially built "tunnel of love" between a road and two of their colonies in Devon. A wolf on one side would wake them up, surely. And, staying on animal matters, I must mention that Sooty and his rights are up for sale because it allows me to remind you that Harry Corbett, the loveable glove puppet's first owner, kept him in a box with air holes.

* Inspired by our report that foreign visitors consider London's transport system to be the best in the world, I thought I might draw your attention to some other things that could at first sight cause you some amazement.

England are through to the rugby union World Cup semi-finals. Australia and New Zealand are not. I have resisted typing that again. Gordon Brown is a clever, astute politician. It's impossible to lick your elbow. David Cameron is not a spent toff. Herrings communicate by emitting high-pitched sounds from their anuses. Edinburgh is west of Bristol. An eel's blood is toxic enough to kill a dog. The death of Diana, Princess of Wales was an accident. Tommy Steele is on tour. William Webb Ellis was born in Salford. Nearly 800 public bodies now have a right of access to the records of your telephone calls. Rome and Sheffield are both built on seven hills. Tony Benn is accustomed to eating two cheese pizzas every day. Mr Brian Croucher of Bognor is building a Dalek out of 500,000 matchsticks.

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