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Scare stories show we're taking Halloween a little too seriously


Gory theme: various Cecil the Lion costumes are causing controversy

Gory theme: various Cecil the Lion costumes are causing controversy


Gory theme: various Cecil the Lion costumes are causing controversy

Like anyone else who enjoys any excuse for a party, I've no problem with the idea of celebrating Halloween. I just think we're starting to take it all a bit too seriously. Take the story about this year's "shortage" of pumpkins which has been given surprisingly extensive coverage in the national media.

This, despite the fact, that a shortfall in the gourd harvest is not exactly a state of emergency. And anyway, the shops are full of the things. Even new pimply ones.

Was this story dreamt up by pumpkin suppliers in hopes of launching a gourd rush? Like those "reports" which are leaked in the run-up to Christmas by toy manufacturers aiming to spark demand for their stock of over-priced plastic.

You know what? We can get by without pumpkins. We can even get by without the traditional pumpkin alternative, the humble oul' turnip which is cited in all these anguished reports (one newspaper even talks about "Halloween Chaos") as a potential replacement.

Have any of these people ever tried to hollow out a turnip? A turnip is harder than the roads. Unless you want additional blood and gore on your Halloween outfit, steer clear.

But then are blood and gore even permissible on the Halloween outfit any more? The Halloween outfit is now subject to such stringent scrutiny for potential offence that you'd be worried about going out even in a witch's hat and broomstick for fear of upsetting the Wicca community.

High on the list of controversial costumes this year are various permutations on the Cecil the Lion theme. You can see why the one with a lion on the shoulder sinking his teeth into a bloodstained dentist's outfit might unsettle some on the grounds of gore and, possibly even, factual inaccuracy. (Poor Cecil never got a chance to bite back at his driller killer).

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But the Sexy Cecil outfit? Any call?

The "crushed velvet romper with long sleeves, a zip-up front, attached lion tail, a cheeky cut back and a deluxe, faux fur trimmed hood with lion ears" is cleverly marketed as a means of "showing your support for all wildlife".

And, indeed, for the profit margins of the costume manufacturers.

However, critics on social media are not highly impressed. There is talk about how the sexualisation of Cecil has besmirched the good name of the noble beast.

Seriously ...

On the plus side the Sexy Cecil outfit could pass for just about any old lion. To avoid controversy maybe go with a witch. And a wardrobe.

Meanwhile, in Japan (you wouldn't think they'd have Halloween in Japan) this year a couple of big parties have had to be cancelled. The party poopers are the party organisers - the local Japanese crime syndicate, the Yakuza. Apparently there have been recent ructions within the killer gang ranks leading to fears that things could turn genuinely nasty at the bashes where they traditionally hand out gifts and sweeties to small children.

There is a bit of dark irony in gangsters organising kids' Halloween parties as a form of community outreach. And then having to cancel them for fear of violence.

But since they also hold an annual rice-cake making event (Mary Berry meets the Mafia) all is not lost.

A Japanese police officer sees an upside to the Halloween cancellation. "It's a very cost-efficient form of PR for them (The Yakuza). The candy is cheap and they don't even need to spend money on costumes. Most of them have faces so scary already that they look like monsters without doing anything at all."

Even more monstrous is the gang's trademark, a missing finger cut off to atone for breaking the Yakuza code of conduct.

For those closer to home turning to turnip carving on the back of all that hype about pumpkin shortage that one's worth bearing in mind. Should the worst happen, at least when you've been patched up in A&E, you could still go to the party as a Yakuza ...

I'm not laid back about airline yobs

Debate rages about whether or not heavier people (I don't like to use the word fat - it offends some) should have to pay more for airline seats.

Larger passengers are not the real menace on planes. The real menace are those obnoxious, rude yobs who from the moment the plane takes off shunt their seat into recline position on top of the hapless person sitting behind them.

Which for some reason is usually me. Never mind charging extra any passenger who overspills the seat a wee bit.

Anybody who puts their seat into recline, outside of a night time flight, should be made to pay double.

Bus lanes driving me to distraction

Are the new bus lane signs a road traffic hazard?

Driving through Belfast city centre late on a rainy, windy night when pedestrians eager for shelter suddenly dart across the road, and you're also trying to keep your concentration on other traffic, it's almost impossible to read all those multiple bus lane signs and work out which does and which doesn't indicate a 24-hour one.

In difficult driving conditions you've got a choice.

Keep your eye out for the signs. Or keep your eyes on the road. The former approach will save you 45 quid. The latter could save a life.

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