Yes I do, but not for the overblown festival it has become today.
I do have a very special reason…
I have told this story before, but it was in the early days of my blogging life. Just as with life’s seasons, readers/followers can be blown away by the winds of work, play or new interests. In recent years those empty places have been filled with new and interesting people.
So for you, I will repeat the story of a Halloween forty years ago:
Back in 1976 I was happily working away in Dublin for a computer company known to most of you by its initials. The days were busy but the toy boys were fun to work with. The summer holiday season came and went and I worked on. Since I managed to suffer sun-stroke at least three times in Ireland, the thoughts of heading to warmer climes for annual leave during high season were not my priority. In late September I began to think of taking a holiday, but a situation at work had all of us in our department under pressure so the holiday was put on the long finger.
While crunching through the autumn leaves along the Grand Canal during a late October Friday lunchtime, a sudden gust of cool air woke me from my day-dreaming. Immediately I longed for some warm sunshine on my back. ‘Warm Sunshine’! What was I thinking about, we were at the end of October and I had not taken my summer holidays! If I didn’t get my act together quickly, I would lose the holiday entitlement at the close of the year.
I quickened my step and headed back towards Baggot St. On the way I passed a Travel Agent. I went inside to make a few enquiries.
“Do you have anything going out tomorrow” I asked?
“For how many people” enquired the young sales lady?
“Just me” I replied cheerfully.
Fifteen minutes later I left the building holding my tickets for a two week holiday in Sunny Spain leaving the next day, Saturday 30th October. I had visited most of Mainland Europe over the years, but this was to be a first visit to Spain. Back then we did not have Credit Cards so my next stop was the bank to purchase some travellers Cheques and some pesetas. With the business done I skipped my way back to the office, mentally packing a case.
Back at the office I had to announce my plans. Fortunately nobody else in the department was booked for leave and there were several people available to provide cover for me. Next I phoned my mother to tell her.
“Do you need clothes washed” she asked?
“I have no idea what I want, so wait until I get home and I‘ll sort it out.” I said.
The first step was to check that my Passport was in order (I knew it would be) and the evening passed selecting and sorting my clothes. The only thing missing was a swimsuit! Never mind I could always pick one up in Spain.
It was to be my first holiday alone so I packed three books and some writing materials to keep me amused. I also had a pack of cards so I could play patience. It would be a very quiet holiday with plenty of walking, resting and reading!
I arrived at my hotel in the early hours of 31st and decided to head straight to bed, catch a few hours sleep and set out to explore my surroundings after an early breakfast.
The sun was shining when I awoke around 7am and I quickly showered and dressed not wanting to waste any time indoors. I headed out and walked the length of the prom to a small harbour at the next village. I sat and watched the birds calling to each other. Being a Sunday morning there were very few people about. My return journey was along the beach and I enjoyed listening to the lapping of the water as I paddled at the water’s edge, arriving back in time for breakfast.
After breakfast armed with a sunhat and scarf for my shoulders, sun cream and a book I headed out once more taking the other direction this time. The outside world had come to life and there were plenty of people about walking in groups of twos and threes. Most of them were travelling in the direction that I had taken and I soon became aware of a church bell ringing. On impulse I followed the sound of the bell and joined the congregation in a very small church for the celebration of Mass. We were mainly holidaymakers and at a guess English speakers. The priest was assisted by a lady in her mid to late fifties. When the time came she passed a silver collection plate around the congregation.
Unlike a Mr Paisley collection ( It was said that he provided metal buckets for the collection, I wonder if it was to discourage coinage in favour of notes?), it was rather noisy mainly consisting of coinage. The Lady assistant carried the plate from the back of the congregation to the Chancel while the celebrant continued with the service. As she climbed the first step she tripped and the coins rolled loudly across the terrazzo floor before spinning for what seemed like an eternity. Alas the solemnity of the mass was lost in the almost suppressed titters around the church.
Suddenly feeling hungry I headed back to the hotel restaurant for lunch. After a short wait to be seated, I was guided to a table with three other young ladies. We introduced ourselves and I discovered that they were all from Belfast. Like me they arrived the previous night. Their journey had the added hassle of a delay before take-off. Our chatter covered the journey, our resort and expectations for the holiday ahead. Their holiday was for one week, while mine was for two.
The meal was simple, tasty and satisfying but we succumbed to, and lingered over dessert. Two gentlemen from a nearby table stopped on their way out from lunch. They were known to the girls as they had all travelled out to Spain on the same aircraft. One of the men stood behind my chair. I was introduced and immediately he said he had noticed me in the church. The men entertained the girls with the story of the collection plate.
At one point the man behind me called Jack, wanted to tell me something so he placed his hands on my shoulders to tilt me in his direction. I do not remember the story he told but I do remember his laughter, the twinkle in his eyes and the touch of his hands. Later that night he danced with me and for the remainder of the week he sought me out when planning his activities for the day.
I discovered that Jack, like me, had reason to make changes with holiday plans. He wanted to have a week away earlier in October, but there were no places available. The only week free was leaving Belfast on 30th October.
As the week went on we spent more time discovering shared interests, our likes and dislikes of food and music, the type of work we each did and the stories of our lives so far. All too soon the first week was over and Jack returned to Co Antrim and a town I had never heard of before in my life. The second week seemed dull without him and I spent my days travelling about the countryside and reading.
For some reason on Hallowe’en morning when I first felt those hands on my shoulders I knew they belonged there and without looking I had found the final piece of my life’s jigsaw that I never realised was missing. We made contact with each other by phone when I returned and met again at Christmastime. From then we travelled up and down the road every couple of weeks. We became
Engaged in February and married in July.
For many years Jack dined out on the fact that we met at Hallowe’en. He told everyone that he thought I was wearing a mask, but by the time he discovered it didn’t come off, I had my hooks in him! This was all said as he winked at me and gave me a gentle squeeze.
I have often said to young folk who are on their own that you can’t go looking for love, and you certainly can’t buy it. Love bites, when you are least expecting it and even sometimes when you don’t want it. If you are lucky enough to find love, CHERISH it.