“Don’t forget, I need a hat for the Halloween parade at school tomorrow,” my ten-year-old daughter reminded me as I tucked her into bed last week.
I had forgotten all about it of course. Downstairs, my husband went running past me on his way to a hot bath and an early night. The other two daughters were sat, trance like, in front of a dreary American comedy.
That left just me and the kitchen and the pressure of creating a Halloween hat before bedtime. Great.
Earlier in the week as I walked past floral designer Dave Clancy’s shop in Killcullen, there in the window stood the most magnificent Halloween display.
It was a table arrangement that used a whole pumpkin as a base. I looked at the large one that I had purchased that day and decided that I too would have to get inventive and make a hat for the school parade out of my pumpkin. I had nothing else in the house.
With a bread knife, I hacked it in half (not easy, it went sliding all over the chopping board like a contestant on Dancing On Ice).
Then the messy business of scooping out the hollow, removing handful after handful of damp, soggy, cold, seedy pumpkin gloop. Nigella would have made a soup with it but I threw it in the bin.
Next stop, the attic where, left over from last Christmas, I retrieved a small piece of oasis.
I am sure that Dave Clancy had a huge lump of the stuff in his arrangement to support all the flowers, but with no other choice, into the pumpkin my little piece went.
In the dark, I gathered leaves from the garden and snapped a few stems of the neighbour’s hedge. I stuck them all into the base. Now it was really taking shape.
Next, from the fruit bowl, not one but six green apples, skewered and stuck firmly into place. I could feel the adrenaline rush. There was no stopping me; in no time at all I was adding the finishing touches.
Short on much else, small cubes of pumpkin were skewered and stuck into my work of art. Finally, little paper ghosts and a few strands of curling ribbon and my work was done.
Just before going to bed, an hour later, I stood back and looked at the Halloween Hat. I really could imagine Grace Jones wearing it.
The next morning I found my family standing around my creation.
“Well?” I was beaming with pride. “How is she going to get that to stay on her head?” “Is that really a hat?” and “Isn’t it a bit heavy?”
That’s the difference between milliner Phillip Tracey and me. He’d have used a toy pumpkin and sewn it all on a sombrero.
In front of the whole family, still refusing to give up on my masterpiece, I opened all the drawers in the kitchen, searching for something that would make a good hat base. Then I found it. “PERFECT!”
I stuck an upturned stainless steel colander on my model, carefully perched the pumpkin on top, taped it to the colander and voila! Finished. As she went into school I reminded her: “Whatever you do, you must not let go of the handles.”
I headed off to see my gynaecologist and left her holding on for dear life, peeking out through the holes of the colander with an enormous pumpkin balanced on top.
That afternoon the children came crashing through the front door.
“Guess what? SHE WON the Halloween Hat competition!” the youngest exclaimed.
Oh, how my bosom swelled with pride. All day I had been secretly planning my trip to Paris fashion week with a whole hat collection made out of vegetables. I’d start with pumpkin and move on to carrots, a sack of potatoes and perhaps a giant marrow.
It would be just a matter of time before Lady Gaga started ringing me up for commissions.
Phillip Tracey would be so jealous that I beat him to the next big thing: Vegetable Hats.
Victoria Beckham would be phoning me any day now wanting me to jazz up her dull dresses with vegetables.
“That was SO EMBARRASSING!” Ireland’s Next Top Pumpkin Hat Model was less than joyous as she came in last through the door, carrying a slightly beaten up Halloween hat precariously in her small arms.
“There’s nothing embarrassing about winning the Halloween Hat competition!” I reassured her, leading into what was intended to be a small speech about what is good about competition but ended up being a lengthy discussion about the Olympic games and Katie Taylor. “Those colouring pens that you won are the Olympic equivalent of a Gold Medal,” I babbled on.
“When the head teacher called me up to collect my prize in front of the whole school, something terrible happened.” I lifted the hat from her arms and onto the counter top, where it landed with a bang. I had forgotten how heavy it really was.
“What? What happened?” I probed. “I went up to the front of the hall to collect my prize, holding onto the handles to my hat as tight as I could, but then she asked to shake my hand.”
I covered my face with my hands. I knew exactly what was coming. The only instructions that I had given her were not to let go of the handles. This was turning out to be, without doubt, the scariest Halloween story ever.
“I had to let go of the handle so that I could shake her hand. The colander slipped. It fell off. Everything fell out. It almost hit her, in front of the whole school.”
From now on I shall leave Halloween hats to professionals. My sense of logic let me down once again.
Our head teacher had narrowly escaped being skewered by an apple or worse still knocked out by a pumpkin. Next year it’s a Dunnes Stores witch’s hat.