Halloween in the Crow Household with Judith Crow #YAMagicalRealism

Halloween in the Crow Household

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to share a blog on A Bewitching Guide to Halloween.

I have always loved Halloween. I remember Halloween from when we were still living in Orkney, so it must have been in 1994 – I would have been four years old. We’ve always done Halloween more than pretty much anyone else I know, although I’ve only actually been trick-or-treating once. In fact, when I did my dissertation for my BA(Hons), I looked at the way Halloween is celebrated in my local area in comparison to other places in the world.

Halloween features at the end of Honour’s Rest in a very incidental way, but it’s a point of great significance – like me, the characters note the thinning of the veil between the world of the living and the world beyond. Also like me, they mark the occasion with a big family meal (although their reasons for doing so are a bit different!).

I’ve picked ten photos here which sum up our Halloweens. Each Halloween is quite similar but all of these photos are taken from 2018-2020.

Picture One: The Witch’s Handbook

This book officially belongs to my brother, Alex, but he would have to prise it from our cold, dead hands if he ever wants it back!

A work of sheer genius, The Witch’s Handbook provides a lot of the recipes we use for our Halloween meal. Here, Virginia and I are making a start on Halloween by getting the book off the shelf!

Picture Two: Dustbread Biscuits

My favourite recipe from The Witch’s Handbook. Dustbread may look a lot like gingerbread, but it always tastes so much better!

These biscuits are two layers deep and have a sweet filling in the middle (jam, chocolate spread or lemon curd). To be honest, they are practically a meal in themselves so are often left until after Halloween to be properly enjoyed. The skulls are the best ones, especially when the chocolate spread is half an inch thick… yum…

Picture Three: Spooky Improv

I think Halloween merchandise has been readily available in the USA for a longer time than in the UK. For a long time, this meant that Halloween things could be difficult to get hold of in the UK, and pretty expensive.

Many years ago, I bought a plastic purple tablecloth and some adhesive googly eyes and created a Halloween tablecloth by putting the two together.

It served us very well for many years, but last year it was just too damaged to put away, so it was retired to our memories!

Picture Four: Winty

Winty is a blow-up ghost. He’s pretty special, to be honest: he was bought for the family by my granny when we used to live nearby. Now, he’s travelled 500 miles north but still comes out every year to “haunt” our house. He is named after a “sweet” little poltergeist in the book, Grandma and the Ghowlies.

Blowing him up is like a demonstration of strength and respiratory prowess. And seeing a deflated Winty on November 1st is always a sign that Christmas is officially on its way!

Picture Five: Shady

A much more recent recruit – possibly our most recent of all our Halloween decorations – Shady is a ghost who sings! He’s named after a ghost in a childhood story written by poet and revolutionary, Joseph Plunkett.

Shady loves to spook people with his maniacal laugh and his excellent rendition of In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg. It’s always a bit of a competition to see who is the last one to make him sing on Halloween night!

On this picture, you can see that Winty is not too impressed with the little usurper.

Picture Six: Miscellaneous Masks

When I was at Secondary School and my little sister was still in Primary, our parents hosted a Halloween Party for us and our friends. I think maybe one or two people turned up from my friends, but they mostly seemed to be Virginia’s or Clemency’s friends.
Anyway, what I really remember is that Mum and Dad went to Doncaster and bought loads of Halloween items. This included a new mask for each of us (the rubbery kind, which were just becoming popular) and lots of little plastic masks for decoration, as well as candles and spooky lanterns. 

Now, we don’t tend to wear masks for Halloween – I’d argue I look scary enough without! – but we use them all as decorations. It can look pretty impressive, as on this very spooky rocking chair, complete with two grinning witch’s faces. The witch mask on the left was the one Mum bought for herself.

Picture Seven: Jack O’Lantern

I know, being in Scotland, we should be carving neeps (swedes) but I tried that once and it’s an absolute nightmare! You know the way that a pumpkin’s insides just scoop right out with a spoon? Yeah, that really doesn’t happen with a neep.

I think this Melting Face Pumpkin is my scariest so far. I always have a contest with Clemency and Virginia to see who has the scariest pumpkin and I like to think I usually win. I’m pretty sure I won with this guy, anyway!

Picture Eight: Spooky Sprocker Spaniel

This is Orlando, our Sprocker Spaniel. He has ruled the roost since we brought him home just before Halloween in 2013.

He’s not usually one for wearing clothes, but he does love his Halloween jumper, and it really suits him!

Unfortunately, he wasn’t a big fan of Halloween in our last house as we got so many trick-or-treaters that the doorbell was ringing the whole time. We had to put very loud music on in the kitchen and shut him in the back with us to block out the sounds! That probably won’t be a problem this year, as we now live in the middle of nowhere!

Picture Nine: Wizard Corvus

This is my dad, all dressed up and ready to meet the trick-or-treaters and hand out sweets.
He was an attraction in his own right and, after a few years of him manning the door, we started getting trick-or-treaters pulling up in cars just so that they could specifically visit “the wizard’s house”, and people stopping us when we were shopping to say how much they enjoyed taking their children/grandchildren to see the wizard.

Last year, we didn’t answer the door to trick-or-treaters, which was the government guidance due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, I think there will be a few disappointed individuals when they realise that the wizard has moved on to pastures new. I’m pretty sure there will be no call for him to answer the door on Halloween here, but I’m hoping he’ll still dress up nonetheless!

Picture Ten: Impromptu Costumes

Eight years ago, I persuaded our local community organization to run a massive Halloween Fair, and I bought a skeleton costume for that. Generally, that’s my go-to Halloween outfit now, given that I don’t get much call to wear it on any other day of the year!

However, during my year of working full-time (hello, money; goodbye, time!) in 2019/2020, I bought two Halloween dresses. Disaster: neither fitted. One of just a little bit too tight, so I gave that one to Clem, and the other one was absolutely tiny! But it did come with a cool collar which, as you can see, I turned into a headdress which makes me look a bit like the ghost of one of Henry VIII’s wives – presumably one of the ones he had beheaded. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse in Crow Halloweens! If you have any questions or comments then just give me a shout!

Honour’s Rest
The Rite Way
Book 1
Judith Crow

Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism
Publisher: Crowvus
Date of Publication:11th October 2021
Number of pages:289
Word Count:84525
Cover Artist: Clemency Crow

Book Description:

“So, it’s – what – like magic?” 

No, according to Pen’s uncle, the Rite is not magic at all. But, if it’s not magic, then how could Pen push the school bully into a pond while he was really studying alone in the library? 

When Pen’s family realise he has the Rite, he is sent to live with his Uncle Napier, who can help him control his ability. 

But Napier has other duties. He is the Rendelf, in charge of the Rite in the UK, and he has gathered many enemies over the years… 

…enemies who would be delighted to use Pen against him.

Amazon     Crowvus

Excerpt Two (815 Words):

Pen wished he would never have to think about the Guardians’ Room again, but it wouldn’t leave his thoughts until he left Honour’s Rest and returned down to England to spend Easter with his parents, who were both relieved and overjoyed to see him again. However, he was irritated when he discovered that Napier had been in touch with Jarvis to make a demand which Pen guessed was punishment for what had happened. It was his mother who told him of Napier’s insistence that Pen went into the school to take full responsibility for what had happened to Justin Murchison a year earlier.

“That hardly seems fair,” Pen had snapped, as he sat on his bed plucking the guitar strings. “Am I supposed to tell him exactly what happened?”

“Your uncle thinks it will do you good to accept responsibility, however you choose to do so,” his mother replied. “You know, Pendragon, I think he’s right. You know it was you, so the only lie you’ll be telling will be that you told a lie in the first place.”

“But that’s just it, isn’t it? I haven’t told any lies so far.”

However, the last day of term found him sitting outside Mr Carling’s office again, this time in casual clothes and with the knowledge that he was working for a greater good which his old headteacher couldn’t even begin to comprehend.

“Pendragon Devon.” Mr Carling beamed as he opened his office door and saw the boy, who got to his feet and smiled. “Well, look at you. You’re a young gentleman now. Your parents must be proud.”

“Thank you, sir,” Pen said with a slight bow of his head. The old-fashioned mannerisms he had picked up from Napier seemed to jar with the surroundings, but his ideas of etiquette had changed while he had been at Honour’s Rest. “Perhaps we could discuss things in your office.”

He indicated to the door, and Mr Carling looked at him strangely for a moment. Pen could hear his thoughts, wondering what could have happened to the boy he had known to make him so altered. There was surprise there, amusement and, much to Pen’s annoyance, an element of pride. Unaware that the boy before him knew exactly what he was thinking, Mr Carling opened the door and led Pen into the office where, a year ago, he had sat crying at the thought of being excluded.

“Your parents tell me you’ve been living in Scotland? With your uncle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And have you enjoyed that? Is he a good teacher? Do you miss people your own age?”

For a moment, Pen wasn’t sure whether the headteacher had spoken or whether he had just heard the questions as they had passed through Mr Carling’s mind. Still, he knew they all needed answering to maintain politeness, so Pen attempted to do so with the fewest possible manipulations of the truth.

“I love it,” he said. “The house is like something out of a novel, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the company of a great friend who is my age. My Uncle Napier isn’t a bad teacher, but he believes in the importance of self-directed study. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel and, well, have adventures.” He felt his thumb rub absent-mindedly along the thin scar on his hand and wondered what the man in front of him would think if he told him exactly what had happened.

“Good, good,” Mr Carling said. “It was a shame about what happened, Pen. You were an excellent student and you’re missed by all the teachers. And most of the pupils as well.”

“That’s kind of you to say,” Pen said with a smile, bowing his head again and this time enjoying the puzzlement on the headteacher’s face and the sheer confusion in his mind. “But there’s one thing in particular that I came here to say.”

“And what’s that?”

“I should apologise for what happened. It was me who pushed Justin.”

“Don’t be silly, Pen,” Mr Carling said, with a nervous laugh. “Haven’t your parents told you? A couple of girls were taking pictures outside the library that day, and you were in the background.

You couldn’t possibly have done it.”

“All the same,” Pen said, trying to hide his annoyance at his mother for not telling him the truth,

“I was responsible.”

It was a great pleasure to know that the tables had been turned so, at the end of the conversation, it was Mr Carling who was nearly reduced to nervous tears, which wasn’t made any better when Pen accidentally answered a question which had not yet been spoken. It was only when he left the school with a smug sense of achievement and satisfaction that it occurred to him why Napier may have made the demand, and it had more to do with affection than punishment.

About the Author:

Judith was born in Orkney, grew up in Lincolnshire and now lives in the far north of Scotland. Her work draws inspiration from folklore, experience and the natural world.

The Backwater, Judith’s debut book, was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2019.
Judith followed this with Dance With Me in 2020 and her next novel, Honour’s Rest, will be published in October 2021.

When she isn’t writing, Judith is a teacher at a primary school in Caithness. She sometimes finds that writing gets usurped by crafting, music, and being a generally doting spaniel owner.



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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for hosting! I loved putting this blog post together!