Do you like Hallowe’en?

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.  

34 thoughts on “Do you like Hallowe’en?

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Al, even eighteen years since he lost his battle to cancer, I can still remember those hands on my shoulders. We had twenty wonderful years together.

  1. Mike Goad

    An especially good reason for liking Halloween. Wonderful story.

    I have no special interest in Halloween. Living in the country, we’ll likely have but one trick-or-treater visit — our daughter will be bringing by her husband’s great-niece.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Halloween these days is very quiet, with no children to call at the door. I will light the fire and raise a glass to the love of my life.

  2. katechiconi

    It’s a wonderful story, Marie, and how lovely to start your life together with leisure to get to know each other properly. I met my husband when I’d quite abandoned hope of finding the hands that belonged on *my* shoulders. Now, our greatest regret is that although we’ll grow old together, we didn’t get a chance to grow UP together. Never mind, better late than never!

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Kate, I was twenty nine back then with no thoughts of marriage in my head, I grew up in the the middle of four brothers with gangly knees and elbows… men were hard work so why would I want another of them??? We did have an age gap so knew that every day was important and we made the most of every minute.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Sally, it was a very special time and totally unexpected for both of us, but we did have a wonderful like for the twenty years we were given.

  3. nick

    A wonderful story about a fateful holiday. How lucky that you decided on the spur of the moment to book a Spanish holiday. And how lucky that Jack was staying at the same hotel. I like the idea that as soon as you felt his hands on his shoulder, you “knew they belonged there”.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Nick, I never lost that feeling, even in his final years of illness. Now I have Elly to remind me of him.

  4. Anne Wheaton

    What a lovely story. You must surely believe in fate after that.

    I hate the whole Halloween thing; it’s grown so far away from a few spooky stories told in the dark of my childhood.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Anne, I do indeed believe in fate. We too had the spooky stories round the fire and simple games, plus the search for the ring in the brack. Mammy made the brack and added the ring wrapped in baking paper. The only year she forgot to put the ring in was the time I met Jack!

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Your rain has just arrived here, I am just finished my dinner and enjoying my glass of wine.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Fifty six years. John you are indeed fortunate, we were only given twenty years… but II still remember the twinkle in his eye and the touch of his hand.

  5. heretherebespiders

    Wonderful! How a last minute holiday you normally would eschew let you find ‘oh, there you are.’ I’ve heard of people having that reaction before, and they all stayed together for life. Happy Hallowe’en!

  6. Lisa@IntoTheGlade

    A beautiful post, we met in 1987 on the 31st October too and always mark the day. I was 16, he was 19 and we married in July 1990, we were so young but have never regretted our decision. It must be a lucky date. Best wishes to you xx

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Lisa, until now, I have never come across another Halloween love match. May you have a long and special life together.


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