AT SOME point in the past few years, Hallowe'en stopped being about monkey nuts and trying to drown your sister in a basin of water and became a three-week jamboree of elaborate costumes, decorating the house and eating sweets shaped like severed heads.
Way back at the dawn of time, when I was a lad, all costumes were made out of bin bags and Sellotape. Going as a witch? That's a bin bag. A zombie? Another bin bag and a bit of your mother's make-up. The Bogey Man? Bin bags -- only this time you'll need a knitting needle to make air holes.
I grew up on a ribbon development. If you wanted to go trick or treating, you had to walk half a mile down the main road, your black bin bag flapping in the breeze.
You were taking your life in your hands. The cars couldn't see you because you were dressed in black and you were rustling so loud you couldn't hear them.
One memorable night, my bin bag broke free of the Sellotape and disappeared off over the ditch never to be seen again, leaving me shivering in my vest. But I had gone with my sisters and their bin bags were still intact, so we kept going.
One neighbour opened the door with a can of Harp in one hand. "What the hell are you supposed to be?" he asked me. "Pneumonia?"
These days, it's like every kid gets the services of a wardrobe department before they leave the house. Wigs, feathers, fake blood, fake teeth, terrifying masks. . . not a bin bag in sight.
Last year, Annie went as the Devil. She'd seen a costume in the super- market and a new rig-out every Hallowe'en is now assumed. After we'd bought it, she asked me what the Devil was.
I usually palm off all religious or awkward questions on my wife, but this time round I did my best to explain. The embodiment of all evil, I told her. Presides over the fires of hell and ensures all sinners get their just deserts.
Obviously I made a balls of it, because my explanation pleased her enormously and she wouldn't take the costume off for days.
This year I have got Mike a kind of black hooded thing that I think is supposed to be the grim reaper, but I haven't shown it to him yet. He keeps changing his mind about what he wants to be.
First it was Buzz Lightyear, then a fox, then a fox disguised as Buzz Lightyear... Right now, he wants to go as a 'dead person'. My plan is to whip out the grim reaper gear at the last minute and tell him it's whatever he's decided to go as.
Come to think of it, I shouldn't have bothered buying anything, and just put him in a black bin bag instead.
That's the advantage of having a child who has no truck with reality.