I have early memories of my parents dressing up in fancy dress for parties in the 1970s: there's a particularly strong image of my mum in a rather disturbing Miss Havisham outfit, a tattered wedding dress with veils of cobwebs; I remember waiting with the babysitter to kiss goodnight to transformed beings, seeing my parents in a new guise. When I was about six, I was fascinated by a polaroid picture of my uncle Leo's then girlfriend, who, to add to her glamour, had to have a kitchen knife confiscated from her by my granny as she tried to creep into the bathroom with it, and later threw herself under a train. She was dressed in black, and was slathered in witchy green eye make-up. I took the photograph to school and showed it to my teacher, Mrs Osborne, much to her bemusement.
Although I loved dressing up - and my brother and sister and I used to parade around in our finery at every opportunity, making up plays for our parents' visitors, and donning cloaks and scarves for Guy Fawkes' Night - fancy dress, and even the name's still enough to make me cringe, was never of much interest to me as I got older, and became more protective of my dignity. Until I came to Hong Kong I would dress up in the most half-hearted way - as long as I could still look like me. But Hong Kong, for some reason, is a fancy dress paradise: there's an entire street (Pottinger) stuffed with shops selling cheap tat: swords, bats, masks and wigs, and the vendors astutely stock for themes. As always in Hong Kong, you can also do this on the cheap and extremely easily. Accordingly, I confess to having succumbed on a few occasions now, and have discovered the liberating power of the wig; the value of not taking yourself too seriously; and the sheer fun of arriving incognito, everyone peering under the veil, through the mask or over the bandages to try to work out who these strangers are.
Perhaps I just hadn't noticed this before, or perhaps this has suddenly happened: when did Halloween get so huge? Pottinger Street, a narrow, precipitous, awkwardly paved slope, was a riot of eager shoppers at lunchtime yesterday, clutching cloaks and pumpkins and bargaining half-heartedly. On the way to a Halloween birthday party last night, the streets around Lan Kwai Fong were packed with nurses and mummies and draculas and devils and tarty policewomen and schoolgirls and angels and Spanish senoritas and Harvey Dent lookalikes unabashedly drinking and waving their plastic tridents and broomsticks in the air like they just didn't care.
I was attempting to look like a witch, with long purple hair, dramatic green eye make up that aged me by about 30 years, a pointy hat and a rather fine cloak with a statement collar. It was hotter than hell under that hat and most of the accessories were gradually discarded as the evening wore on and we danced to defiantly 1980s tunes in a sweaty basement nightclub (I wish to inform you that girls they wanna - wanna have fun - girls, wanna have fun - oh girls, girls just wanna have fun). I was wearing vertiginous heels and kicked myself in the foot several times, drawing blood.
Stumbling out for a taxi later on, the street scenes were even more Bacchanalian with people spilling out of pubs onto the streets, traffic completely gridlocked, a tumult of voices and the bawling of drunken conversations. It would be trite to conclude, although I'm going to do so anyway (hence the naff title of this post) that the current uncertainty hovering over the world's financial markets is making it more compelling for the expats of Hong Kong to dress up in cheap tat and party like it was 1999.