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It has been a year since I wrote about Halloween in the marina. A year later, things have gotten much bigger. Blame our neighbour Mimz for this. She went on a shopping tear last year after Halloween and purchased all things scary at a ridiculously low price. My best friend and I added a few items to the display this year at full price. The results were spectacular.

Halloween is actually the melding of two celebrations, Samhain and All Souls Day both having to do with death. The ancient Celtic day of Samhain (pronounced Sahwin or Savin) which celebrates death and rebirth was, as has been the case with most Pagan celebrations, taken over by Christians to become All Souls Day (1st of November). Put them together and what have you got? Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo….Halloween.

Since those more serious days of celebration, we have turned the whole adventure into a night where kids dress up as anything and go from door to door collecting treats. That began where all commercial things begin….America, the good old USofA. It has, I fear to divulge, become larger here in England now. Every year it gets bigger. The shops are full of Halloween festooning decorations and costumes. I hear people complain that it’s just another reverse colonial move on the part of Americans to commercialize everything. Actually, young mums love it because the kids insist on having it and it can be fun dressing up and filling bags with sweets.

Years ago, I was a Christian. The hardliners (like my folks) hated the celebration because they thought it promoted demonic goings on. Whereas there is always an element who use the night for doing dastardly deeds, most people walk about, going from door-to-door, dressed up in costume and saying ‘Trick or Treat.’ Most kids over here don’t even know what that means. They are still novices in all things Halloween American style.

So, here we were again. Another year and another display. Mimz never does anything in a small way. She invited anyone she met to come along at Halloween for sweets, hot chocolate, hot dogs and adult beverages. They weren’t just coming to see the boats. We had the whole area set up like some haunted graveyard that had been left derelict for years, complete with cobwebs, spiders, gravestones, lighted pumpkins, bats (rubber) and a gateway over our arch that read ‘Keep Out.’ Black cloth hung from the sign, shredded into strips to add that scary entrance quality that completed the effect.

At the end of the jetty between Eddie’s and Mimz’s boat and ours, we have a small fir tree. Over it I put a white sheet with a skeleton face in it that we lit with a torch (flashlight). Such are the lengths we go to raise money for the hospice where Eddie works and Mimz volunteers. We raised over £150 during the weekend leading up to the big day and the money keeps coming in. The weather didn’t cooperate, blowing a gale and scattering some of our decorations hither and yon. But we rallied and fixed the old graveyard each day. Fortunately, Halloween was clam and quite mild.

My werewolf costume scared the little kids half to death. Result. One little girl was so traumatized, my best friend told me to remove my mask and smile at the little creature. I did and she cried. Oh well. Meanwhile, Eddie’s Bose speakers belted out spooky music and Freddy Kruger  scared even more kids. The hot chocolate flowed and the hot dogs were consumed. Sweets disappeared and batteries wore down. Kids showed up in an array of costumes from skeletons and vampires to a devil princess and a pumpkin. Even Harry Potter made an appearance.

At this juncture, I would love to have shown you some amazing photos of the display, the costumes and the night. Alas, the camera I ordered from Amazon didn’t come on time and my mobile phone snaps turned out black….all of them. Spooky.

Nervous Eddie


What could possibly top a Saturday out at the Ricky Canal Festival with my boat neighbour Eddie? I’ll tell you what. A rap on the boat early on Sunday morning by a very aggitated Eddie asking a favour. I’ve said elsewhere that Eddie is many things and one of them is a professional photographer and a damned fine one at that. He calls himself a Digital Artist because he does things to his photos that require an artist’s eye. He also has the equipment to realise it all.

So, the knock comes. Eddie says, “Larry, what have you got planned for the day?” That generally means Eddie has a plan for me. “Uh, nothing really Eddie. Why?” “Well,” says Eddie, “You know that garden party I have to do for my hospice?” Of course I knew. Eddie had been in a state for weeks leading up to this event. He was not only running his own stall full of his digital art. He was also the official photographer of the proceedings. Dual responsibility weighs heavy. Eddie had burned the midnight oil more than once creating enough pieces for his display, cutting out the matting and mounting each photo. So, yes, Eddie, I know about the hospice garden party.

“Would you like to come with us,” says Eddie, “and help set up and, you know, help out a bit?” I look at my best friend and she chimes in, “Sure Eddie. When are you leaving?” Best decision we ever made in my humble opinion. Not only to help out a friend, but to visit one of the most beautiful sights in England, Ashridge House. “Did you see Eddie’s hands shaking, Larry?” asks my best friend when Eddie was gone. “Yes I did,” I said “He must really be nervous.”

This is not unusual for Eddie. He tends to be a bundle of nervous energy most of the time. It’s an energy that must find a task or some activity to assuage it.  One day I was washing the roof of my boat and obviously wasn’t doing it quickly enough. I tend to do things at a turtle’s pace. Anyway, Eddie had obviously been watching me and came over with his power washer and said, “Move aside. It’s painful watching you.” Eddie had the roof done in short order. And he wired our new internet service and plugged a leak in our wood burning stove (long story…all safe). Good thing Eddie’s a certified shaman. It keeps him level-headed I think.

To the manor we went. A huge, sprawling place is Ashridge House that once was home to monks Augustinian, monarchy (Henry VIII and later Elizabeth I) and earls (of Bridgewater, one named Scroop….his son became  Canal Duke after developing the inland waterways for transport, the wealth from which funded the building of the new manor house), but is now a place to train people for managerial positions….in other words, a business school. During the last century, it has been a hospital during two world wars, a school to train Conservative politicians, a finishing school for ladies in 1949 and then the business school. An evolving 5000 acres of some of the prettiest gardens, forests and and scenery anywhere. The great hall can also be hired for weddings and private events. I can’t imagine the cost.


Oak Tree planted by Queen Victoria in 1823


Film companies have used the grounds of Ashridge House in the past. The Dirty Dozen was shot here. The woods were used in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The lawn is so well kept, it could be used as a huge golfing green. Eddie took his shoes off as he strolled about to photograph the event, wearing his pirate bandana headband. It’s the shaman in him I guess. I was tempted myself….to go barefoot that is.

The lawn party was a fundraiser for The Hospice of St. Francis, a care facility for life-limiting illnesses. Eddie is a male nurse there. The man does it all. Apparently, according to the hospice’s website, this was the best attended lawn party yet. No wonder. The weather was great and the stalls displayed some of the finest crafts and goods I have ever seen at any market. Certainly a step up from the day before at the Ricky Canal Festival. Very hoity toity in fact. They even had a Pimms tent. Just Pimms. And a palm court music group playing under a gazebo on the steps of Ashridge House. Oh, swipe me.

When we arrived, there was confusion as to where Eddie was to set up his stall. Once that was established, all the equipment had to be brought to site. Eddie was a man on a mission. He never walks when a task needs doing. Putting up the gazebo was a semi-harrowing experience. Nothing seemed to fit and there were two different colours. Confusing. Eddie gets through it by talking to himself while doing what needs to be done. Best stay out of the way while that is happening. But sometimes things are missed and I quietly fixed this and that. Eddie left the displaying to us. Off he went with his camera, probably glad he didn’t have to think about putting out his photos. Miriam and my best friend worked the booth all day with creativity and efficiency. I went and got the Pimms.


Before the crowds


Hoity Toity Scarecrows


Hospice Booths

Other than the stalls, other attractions included motorcycles, an antique car, kids’ area and beside Eddie’s stall, bee keepers with live bees and honey products. First time I have seen a queen bee. But my favourite stall (other than Eddie’s) was within earshot of us. All after noon we were serenaded by the dulcit tones of a local ukulele band.







The very non PC Punch and Judy. Bless the Rebels.


Eddie flitted about with his cameras, stopping by the stall every so often, mostly distracted. He would not relax until the event was over, everything packed away and we were all home safe. That night 6 of us went to a Thai restaurant in Hemel’s old town. Very chic. Wine was served, Eddie had a big glass of red wine and for the first time that day….Eddie breathed.


Eddie and Miriam at the art stall.