Just when you think you ken everything there is to ken about living in Scotland, you get a rude awakening. Last night the doorbell rang and we argued half-heartedly over who would extract themselves from the couch to answer.
“Go on, you get it.”
“No you get it! I know like two people in this town. It’ll be someone for you.”
“But it will be good for you to interact with the locals.”
I stomped off and pressed the intercom button.
“Gggzahhs!!” came a chorus of small, garbled voices.
“WHAT?” I shouted over the screech of static.
I wasn’t going to ask a third time and admit I’d been defeated by another bizarre strain of the Scots accent. So I pressed the Open Door button and let the voices in, hoping if they were axe murderers they’d just bypass our flat and pick on someone upstairs. But they didn’t, I could see their outlines through the frosted glass of our front door.
It was three little costumed kids. A girl with ginger curls springing out from a black witches hat, a boy with a ghost mask, and another wee boy who just seemed to be along for the ride. They all took a shaky breath then started chanting some sort of incomprehensible song with the bored, rushed tones of someone who has performed said song many times before.
Then they stopped and looked up at me expectantly.
I gawked back with great confusion. Were they trying to sell me something? Was it a walk-a-thon? Did they have raffle tickets? “Ummm…”
“Trick or treat!” said the masked one.
“Trick or treat?”
I frowned. “It’s a bit early for Halloween isn’t it?”
“It’s only four days away,”
“Well it’s more like five…”
They kept staring.
“Well, crikey,” I said. “You’ve caught me unprepared! I’m really sorry… I don’t have anything to give you.”
“Oh.” The little one pulled his mask down, his bottom lip coming with it. “That’s alright.”
They slinked back outside into the rain.
“Well you wouldn’t believe that,” I announced to Gareth. “It was kids! Trick or treating! Four days before halloween! I didn’t have anything to give them. How was I to know they were going to spring that on me? They just mumbled some shit at the intercom!”
“Did they say they were guisers?”
“Guisers. Rings a bell. The word did start with a G. But I couldn’t understand…”
“They were guisers! Trick or treaters. They were guising!“
“That’s not a real word!”
“So that’s why they were singing?”
“But! But! I didn’t even know you went Trick or Treating in Scotland!” I spluttered. “I thought only Americans did that on telly! Nobody told me!”
“Well, we do! We go guising!”
“Oh. So in effect, those kids actually did state their purpose at the door.”
“And I let them into the building… so they’d have thought, woohoo, we’re going to get candy!”
“And I stood there and let them sing their little pleading-for-candy song, and then I said, HA HA HA THERE IS NO CANDY!”
“Oh my god! They must think I am the most evil bitch in the world!”
“Nooooooooo! Nooooooooo!” I curled up into a ball and howled while Gareth laughed.
“Shut up!” I thumped his head with a cushion. “This is all your fault! I TOLD you that you should have answered the door! YOU would have known what a guiser was! Now there’s three little kids out there hating my guts!”
“Why don’t you just run after them and give them something?” Gareth joked.
“But I don’t have anything!”
“What about your Finland stash?”
I gasped. Gareth recently went to Finland for work and returned with a generous selection of Finnish chocolates. I became obsessed with Fazer brand chocolate after visiting Helsinki last year. It’s not posh like 70% Valrhona with rare Venezuelan cocoa beans handpicked by monkeys, but for commerical everyday chocolate its craps all over your Galaxy or Hershey bars. I keep the stockpile in the back of a cupboard and carefully ration it, sometimes just getting it out to look at the pretty wrappers with all those crazy Finnish vowels. Precious Finnish chocolates. All for me. Not for grotty little children.
But the guilt was overwhelming. I sprang up from the couch. “We have to go out there find them.”
“Are you serious?”
“They’ll be long gone now!”
“They can’t have gone far. They’re only on little legs!”
“They’re probably at home, greeting* on their mother’s shoulder as she tries to convince them that not all people are as cruel as that mean old lady up the road.”
“Just get your coat!”
It was quiet outside. I scanned the empty streets for pointy hats, feeling the weight of guilt and 200 grams of Geisha bars in my pocket.
Then we heard a faint knocking in the distance.
“Follow that knock!”
I found them huddled in a little alley, gazing plaintively at someone’s unanswered door.
“Hey,” I shrieked. “Little kids!”
They slowly turned and regarded me with their saucer eyes.
“Are you the little kids who knocked on my door just before?”
“Well! You have to let me explain!” I gushed, “You see, I’m Australian! I didn’t even KNOW that you did Halloween over here, I thought it was just the Americans, so you totally caught me off guard, you know what I mean?”
They continued their bewildered stare.
“So I had to track you down and explain that I’m not evil, just ignorant, and here’s some chocolate for you!” I shoved the bars at the Ginger Witch. “I’m really sorry, it’s all I had.**”
“Thank you,” they chorused.
* greeting – it’s Scottish for crying.
** Not strictly true, but I was hardly going to surrender my entire stash. Who knows how long it will be until I or someone I know is in Finland again, or one of the Baltic States where Finnish chocolate is also sold. I bet they didn’t even appreciate the delicate hazelnutty praline goodness of the Geisha bar; they were probably cursing That Weirdo Australian and wishing they’d got some mini Mars Bars. Och well.