Halloween past n present…

Autumn’s here and it is my favourite time of year – I love crunching through the crispy leaves, collecting conkers with the boys and most of all, Halloween.

Just before the long winter evenings set in, Halloween is a welcome distraction from the chilly mornings and the imminent hustle n bustle of Christmas time.


The celebration doesn’t have to cost much either – costumes can be cheap n cheerful and we’ve often had the most fun making our own at home. Having said that, I’m not the most artistic mum and most of my creations rely on a steady supply of bin bags, safety pins and a gallon of fake blood.

Every year, as we’re busy designing costumes and writing shopping lists involving newts eyes and plastic spiders, it always makes me think back to Halloween past, when my sister Lisa and I were kids.

As youngsters we never went without and were always well fed, clean and nicely turned out. Money was tight, as it was for many in the 80’s, but Halloween was something we always looked forward to as it was one of the many times of  year when we would get together with our cousins to celebrate in style.

We often combined Halloween with bonfire night and always took our pumpkin with us to my Aunts house, where we would have a party complete with fireworks and apple bobbing.


I have very fond memories of watching my Uncle Kev race around the garden being chased by a Catherine Wheel that hadn’t been nailed to the fence properly while drinking sneaky snowballs with my cousin when the grown-ups weren’t looking. Apple bobbing was great fun, until I reached about 11 and realised that for years we had actually been dipping in and out of a big bowl of spit as ‘the little ones’ were allowed to go first. One year I bobbed for an apple and came out with a mouth full of dummy – true story.

Costumes were of the homemade variety, sometimes with a shop-bought mask added if Mum was feeling flush. I can still remember the hot and sweaty plastic on my face as I tried to see out of an eyehole more suited to Cyclops. One year I was a Mummy, rocking two whole rolls of toilet paper but my favourite by far was the year I was a punk.

Mum made me a bin bag dress complete with dog chain belt and big, hooped earrings. I felt so sophisticated that I considered adopting the look full time…..until Mum said a stern “No”.

I  love the smell of autumn, but on Halloween it’s especially special. Cold, crisp air mixed with the earthy smell of leaves and toffee apples. I do not, however like trick or treaters.

Let me explain; We were never allowed to go trick or treating, Mum always said it was dangerous to knock on strangers doors, whatever the date may be. As a youngster I thought this was the meanest thing ever and every year I would ask again, get the same answer and then sulk.

One year, when I was about 12-years-old I told Mum I was going to my friends for tea and we went trick or treating instead. It was one of the most exciting evenings of my life as we set off with a carrier bag each and a pocket full of eggs for anyone preferring a trick.

We collected loads of goodies from the neighbours and it was only as my bag filled that I realized I couldn’t take them home with me without mum finding out.

My friend and I sat in the local park and, with spooky masks now removed, we ate all the sweets we had collected. Staggering home feeling rather sick and shaky due to sugar rush, this was not the last time I would greet November with a tummy ache. I’m sure Mum knew exactly what we had been up to anyway, we didn’t have the sense to travel further afield, instead calling at the other houses on our street!

My children have inherited a love of all things spooky wooky and they’re looking forward to the Halloween my Mum and Dad throw every year.

For one night only their house is transformed into Spooky Towers – a place not for the weak hearted and where nothing is quite as it seems.

Both my parents are creative and put this to good use as they rig the house and put on a delicious spooky spread.




Dad has even created a pulley system that he connects to a skeleton strategically sat in the corner of the room – as the kids walk by one of us tug the invisible thread and the said kid never fails to jump, scream and run crying in terror. Fantastic family fun if you ask me.






Talking of scaring the kids, Halloween is the perfect time to watch some spooky movies. Tim Burton is a firm favourite in our house, Jack Pumpkin Head is slightly chilling but more fun than scary. Personally I like Coraline – released in 2009 it tells the tale of an adventurous girl who finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has some very sinister secrets.

The reason I like it so much is because, although it is an animated children’s film, it is really dark and my 10-year-old son finds it really scary. Meany mummy.

So, Halloween is almost here and our preparations are well under way. We have a pumpkin fresh from my parents allotment and cant wait to get carving – I find it somewhat therapeutic, so much so that last year I carved faces in all sorts from grapes to butternut squash. The kids were totally spun out when I served them dinner surrounded by an array of spooky vegetables with faces staring at them.


Well, I’m off to find some bat blood before the shops shut – What’s your thoughts on trick or treating? Tweet and let me know @taaliah76

This article featured in the autumn edition of Within magazine…



Parents fundraise to give baby head start

DEDICATED Manchester parents Rebecca Drane and Anthony Leathley are holding a sponsored walk to raise money for HeadStart4Babies, after their youngest son, Ethan was diagnosed with plagiocephaly at just four months old.

Ethan teacup - use this one

Plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome is a condition characterised by an asymmetrical distortion (flattening of one side) of the skull. The condition will sometimes improve as the baby grows, but in many cases, treatment can significantly improve the shape of the baby’s head.


Treatment for plagiocephaly is a cranial helmet – not available on the NHS and at a cost of £1,950.

Anthony, 29 said: ” Babies should be a priority in the NHS regardless of what the condition is and how it affects them.

“The NHS class this as a cosmetic issue, but what is having bigger breasts or a straighter nose?”

Worn for 23 hours-per-day, for between three to six months, the helmet is made to measure by a company called Technology in Motion. Lightweight and adjustable, the helmet works by gently reshaping the baby’s head bones as they grow, allowing it to return to a more natural shape.

Rebecca and Anthony are keen to raise the money as soon as possible so that Ethan can begin the treatment they say dramatically helped his brother, Mason who was also diagnosed with plagiocephaly as a baby.

As a baby, Mason’s condition meant that his head was mis-alligned by 18mm, classed as severe in plagiocephaly terms. Fundraising for treatment, Rebecca organised a social night at Sacred Heart Parish Centre and the couple also received a generous donation from HeadStart4Babies.

Mason was fitted for a cranial helmet and, over time, the mis-allignment of his head has been reduced to a barely noticeable 3mm.


Fundraising for Ethan to be fitted for a helmet is underway and the proud parents have organised a sponsored walk.

On October 19, 2013, they will meet at Wythenshawe Hall at 10.30am and plan to walk to Manchester Airport, raising both much needed funds and awareness. All are welcome and the couple are hoping to reach their target of £1950, the cost of a cranial helmet.

If Ethan doesn’t have the treatment he needs he may develop further disfigurement to his face and this can also lead to learning difficulties later in life.

Rebecca, 24 said: ” It is awful that the NHS don’t help children like Ethan with their treatment as it’s very difficult for families like us to raise this amount of money.

“We are determined that Ethan will get the treatment he needs. I couldn’t live with myself if his condition was left untreated and got worse, and then had to be corrected when he is too old for a helmet. This would mean him having an operation, which if we can avoid, we will no matter what it costs.

“Ethan is such a happy baby and he always has a smile on his face.”

For more information on plagiocephaly and the support offered by HeadStart4Babies visit the website at headstart4babies.org

To help with Ethan’s treatment please go to Rebecca’s JustGiving page, every donation appreciated.

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