Trick or treat in the big society

Like many people, I imagine, I spent lot of yesterday evening answering the door to children in a variety of hideous costumes squealing ‘”trick or treat?” Unlike in previous years, I had anticipated it and spent a fiver at the local shops on an assortment of tooth-rotting gunge to hand out as insurance against getting the front door splattered with raw egg, or worse.

Halloween came this year the day after the government had floated the idea that people who volunteer or take part in other big society activities should be able to call in the favour later in life. A bit odd, as Sir Stuart Etherington sagely described it in a TV interview, but there you are: that’s the kind of thing they’re putting out these days. And if the government’s regular citizenship survey counts giving someone directions or posting a neighbour’s letter as volunteering, why not answering the door to trick-or-treaters?

So as I admired the fake-bloodied faces, evinced great terror at the witch masks and handed out the Smarties, I couldn’t help imagining a different kind of dialogue.

“Trick or treat?”

“Well, you look so scary and so horrible that I’m going to treat you. And I don’t want the front door messed up. But before you get the sweets, you have to sign in this little book that you’ll come back in a few years time when I’m in my bath chair and wheel me down the shops or weed my flowerbed.”

“You what?”

“That’s the deal. It’s the big society.”

“Er, I won’t bother, then.”

Result! And I get to eat the Smarties…