IT is at Hallowe'en that I almost wish I had children. Although many decades have passed since I last went guising, I can't help but feel a shiver of excitement as October 31 approaches.

Firstly, there's the costumes. Growing up, the planning usually began in August as I hummed and hawed, agonising in excruciating detail over what to dress up as. Witches tended to be a favoured choice, involving a bin bag or two, my mother's old nursing cape and the kitchen brush.

Then there was the time I went as Peter Pan in a homespun outfit made from green felt salvaged after the snooker tables at the hospital social club were relined. It retained a distinctive whiff of beer, cigar smoke and industrial-strength disinfectant no matter how many times it was washed.

Talk about versatile. It was subsequently used to depict Robin Hood, the Jolly Green Giant and Kermit the Frog. If it was still around now, no doubt it would have been pressed into action as a Pokemon or Game of Thrones dragon.

On another occasion I dressed as Madonna circa mid-1980s, complete with fingerless lace gloves, peach leggings and layered faux pearls. Quite what the neighbours made of my tuneless rendition of Like A Virgin as I danced about living rooms the length of our street is anyone's guess.

In hindsight, it wasn't my best effort. Although it certainly wasn't the worst.

That honour goes to the year that it was decreed that a gang of friends and I would dress up as mischievous St Trinian's schoolgirls (this was aeons before the days of sexy Hallowe'en costumes, so wash out those dirty minds with carbolic soap pronto).

To be fair, I wasn't on board with the idea from the outset. Weren't we just donning the same boring old uniform that we wore day in, day out?

We made hockey sticks from cardboard that were, for some inexplicable reason, wrapped in tinfoil giving them an odd, futuristic look. Cartoonish freckles were applied using an eyebrow pencil sneaked from the make-up bag of someone's mother and long hair tied was into high bunches.

In a nutshell? It looked rubbish. At the eleventh hour, a bin bag, the old nursing cape and kitchen brush – aka the Scary Witch Starter Kit – were pressed into action.

Nothing will surpass the time I went guising as a cat. I had been delighted to find a mask in our local Safeway – the cheap plastic variety with a thin string of elastic to hold it in place – that bore the image of a toothy-grinned moggy.

This was teamed with a collar pinched from the porcelain Siamese cat in the living room, my father's grey woolly gloves and a fur coat (a family heirloom long since mothballed for ethical reasons) with matching hat.

I was rather proud of the overall ensemble. Or feline good as they might say.

What I hadn't bargained on was how hot wearing it would become. The heavy fur coat coupled with my abject embarrassment at performing "a turn" – singing, dancing, telling a joke – soon took its toll.

After guising at less than a handful of houses, I had an inkling that my insides were melting. My tactic was to attempt to loiter surreptitiously on doorsteps, waving away invitations to cross the threshold into the searing furnace-like interiors that contrasted sharply with the frosty October night air.

Even after a heat exhaustion-related dizzy turn where I ended up flopped on a bean bag, I refused to break character and unbutton the coat. Nor would I relinquish the gloves and hat. Behind the mask, sweat was streaming into both eyes, blurring my vision.

The rest is a tad hazy as I staggered round the remaining doors. By the time I got home the fur coat was pretty much soaked through. I had also lost one of my father's gloves. But it was worth it.

Which brings me to the second thrill of Hallowe'en: the swag. Fun-sized Smarties, handfuls of monkey nuts, satsumas, toffee apples, maybe a coin or two. Is there a more sublime joy?

Pumpkins versus turnips

FOR many Scots of a certain age nothing says Hallowe'en like the pungent aroma of burning turnip. The now ubiquitous pumpkin lantern remains a fairly recent phenomenon, only arriving across the Atlantic in the Trojan horse of American movies and TV shows in the past decade or so.

While I love pumpkins, there is an abiding fondness in my black coal heart for the good old tumshie/neep lantern. Even if for the rest of my life I will have one bicep slightly larger than the other, sculpted like an iron girder by hours of graft carving the inside of a turnip.

I don't recall the hard flesh of the scooped-out turnip ever going to waste. It was either eaten as I went along or ended up in the soup pot.

Not so the fate of modern-day pumpkins. The UK will dump eight million pumpkins after Hallowe'en – the equivalent of enough pumpkin pie to feed the entire nation. A study has found that almost three-fifths (58 per cent) of consumers buy pumpkins to hollow out and carve.

Only a third bother to cook the leftover but edible innards, according to the annual #PumpkinRescue campaign. More than half (51 per cent) will bin the flesh, adding to the UK's food waste mountain rather than cooking or composting it.

Turnips 1. Pumpkins 0.

Scary haunts

SCOTLAND'S Ghost Trail was unveiled last week aimed at inspiring a spot of fright-seeing. The VisitScotland guide includes a list of locations reputedly home to spooks that include two green ladies, a phantom dog, screaming hags and a headless drummer.

It's a brilliant idea but one can't help but think they are missing a trick. There are plenty of scary spots not featured. Such as the last train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, any Scottish chippy queue after midnight or Costco on payday Friday.