Halloween in 2009 crept up very slowly and took us all by surprise, especially in this new land and new environment – life in Sydney. As a child Halloween had always been special. Living in Kilmaine in Bangor, Northern Ireland Halloween meant Church Services, Remembrance Day, Harvest, School Plays, Guy Fawkes Night and fun for kids. We used to “duck for apples”, launch fireworks (which were always illegal in Northern Ireland), dress up and sometimes our family would host a wee party on Halloween night.
In my teenage years Halloween became a bit scary and slightly less celebrated at Halloween, mainly due to the terrorist threat. In 1993 the Shankill bombing, North Belfast shootings and Greysteel pub open fire “Trick or Treat” massacre meant Halloween would never be the same again. It took a while before I ever dressed up or partied again at Halloween, but I always went to church for Harvest until the age of 19. In fact until this year, 2009 I never celebrated Halloween or felt the need to dress up or have a scary night out. Sydney was the place to do it.
The hostel we stayed in, Chilli Blue, had organised a massive Halloween party. Everyone staying in the hostel was up for it – there must have been between 50 and 100 people. It was 31st October 2009, and was a Saturday night. The plan was to get our costumes on the day, dress up around 6 pm, meet in the hostel common room around 8 pm and then head to the local pub, O’Malley’s for a Fancy Dress Competition. It was a party atmosphere the entire day, though Daniel and I went trekking around town in search of some fancy dress. We had no idea of what to buy or wear, and I set myself a personal budget of 30 Australian Dollars. These days that represents about £16.
On our walk round town we ended up doing a wee bit more of sightseeing that day, including the Anzac War Memorial and the Opal Museum. A very small, free museum for the opal gemstones, featuring a section on dinosaurs. It certainly wasn’t the most thrilling museum I’ve ever been in, but when something is free, you shouldn’t complain. Nearby was an over priced, but excellent fancy dress shop. They had all sorts of Halloween costumes in there, but all starting at around 40 Dollars. From the museum we ended up at Wynyard Station somehow, which, as luck would have it had an underground shopping centre with a cheapo Chinese shop with a stand full of Halloween stuff. It was all cheap and we browsed and deliberated for a while.
In the end we went for cheap red and black devils capes, some face paint (white and black) and some ridiculously stupid hats saying “Girls on Tour”, we were going to dress as random female wannabe draculas. We were sorted for that and headed back to the hostel. Everyone with any sense of fun in the hostel were dressing up. There were a few boring people who weren’t. We found out the craic for the Halloween party from Mike and Marcel, the 2 organisers. Basically it would only cost A DOLLAR each! For that we got unlimited “Goon” (the famous Australian wine), free “Goon Pong” (basically like beer pong, only with the wine!), free entry into O’Malleys fancy dress, a free beer and a free shot in O’Malleys. The scene was set, and the hostel was buzzing!
“Horror House” it said on the hostel common room doors, spider webs and sppoky designs made the common room look “halloweeny,” while the fellow backpackers were starting to dress up and the atmosphere was starting. Quickly though, Dan and I wanted food, so we went to Coles to grab something to eat (Coles was our local supermarket while in Sydney), and our German mate Simon came with us. He hadn’t his Halloween suit sorted yet, so we quickly headed into the cheap 2 Dollar shop. In there we found these pink and purple silk female dresses, though they were 10 Dollars each. We still went for them and now had the full costume, and Simon would be joining us. A hat trick of female masculine draculas it was to be.
Natalja made little or no effort to dress up – wearing a black witches hat and just dressing as normal, and flirting with a guy called Russell – a real geeky guy, who seemed to think he was too cool to dress up for Halloween. What a twat! He looked out of place in his worn trainers and boring English attire in a common room full of party animals!
Daniel, Simon and I got changed into our costumes and headed into the crowd. There was a total party atmosphere all around. There was Marcel from Switzerland dressed as an Indian, Mike Gent from Canada was a prehistoric style cave man, Toby from England dressed only in a tie and an elephant thong, proclaiming himself “The Chilli Blue Party Boy”, and there were a few others dressed as females including Cris from France and Daniel from Germany. We started drinking the free “Goon” wine and the party began in earnest.
The craic and banter was great, we mingled in the back garden and in the common room, posing for photos, acting like eejits and necking some “Goon.” Even Daniel’s two traveling mates, Charlotte and Hayley had turned up in fancy dress, and I met a lovely Canadian lady called Ashley Young, she was dressed as an “Aussie” wearing Australia flegs and looking sexy.
A German guy Robert had painted his entire body blue, and wore white Y-Fronts and a white towel on his head. He was a smurf, though on first glance he looked black! People had made such an effort. The idea was to leave the hostel at 9.30 pm, all crowd into O’Malleys (God knows how! It was a small wee pub, and there were more than 50 of us…). By this stage much “Goon” had been consumed. We chatted away to the Finnish girls, Karoliina and Sofia, who were dressed as butterfly fairies. We also shed our shorts, meaning under the silken dress we wore only underwear. But this is Australia – and at the end of October in Sydney – it certainly wasn’t cold!
We made our way into O’Malleys, in one massive party group. They had advertised a fancy dress party and we awarding prizes for the winners. Surely those from Chilli Blue would be in with a shout. We took over the bar! Once inside I met the PR girls from Toohey’s New. They were giving out free schooners of Toohey’s New. This is a New South Wales based- Australian beer. Plus the hostel had also organised us to get a free beer on entry – this was a schooner of Toohey’s New as well.
Inside was packed and we kept bumping in to each other and chatting away to everyone. We also got a free Halloween red jelly shot for being guests of Chilli Blue hostel. After this, everyone headed to the front of the bar – basically a dancefloor, but the smallest one youve ever seen. There was a band playing cover versions. Impressively they played REM’s Losing My Religion, Green Day’s Good Riddance and a brace of Oasis tunes.
First up was Wonderwall, followed by Don’t Look Back In Anger. We were up dancing and partying away. Life was fun again, and moments like this made me happy. I found a ledge by the side of the dancefloor and mingled there with my beer. The band that night continued to play good cover versions and brought back many memories for me and made me sentimental and relaxed. When they played Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”, I thought and smiled about the only lady I’ve ever loved – we watched “Pretty Woman” together and I put that song on a compilation I once gave her. I’m still in love with her, and thought of her while everybody was up dancing. The sentiment had to end and the only way I got distracted was when the DJ announced the fancy dress competition was beginning!
Most of the Chilli Blue guys made it into the Top 8! Hardly surprising. We had made such an effort. I seem to recall the following in the top 8:
1. Robert, German (Smurf)
2. Toby, English (Chilli Blue Party Animal)
3. Random Girl (Alison Wonderland)
4. Random Girl (Wick Witch)
5. Simon, German (Random Female Freak)
6. Damien, Republic of Irish (The Bald Skeleton)
7. Mike, Canada (Caveman)
8. Charlie, England (The “Goon Mummy”)
They were all up on stage giving their speeches, but only 3 were called back up for the final. It would be judged on how many cheers each person got. To spice things up, they included Alsion Wonderland in the final 3 – she was a pretty girl and this may have swayed the vote – but not for us – we were all firmly behind the Chilli Blue crew! I cheered for Robert and Charlie, but in the end, Damien won it – by a mile. The cheer was very loud. He had basically just painted his face and skull white, with some black cracks. He described himself as “The Bald Skeleton”, and he did look the most Halloweeny, or scary. He won amid cheers from Hendri and Mike of “CHILLI BLUE, CHILLI BLUE, CHILLI BLUE…” The party was hardly over though…
We stayed for another while in O’Malley’s Hotel (Pub) before heading back to the hostel for the rest of the party. The “Goon” drinking continued long into the night, but I didn’t indulge too much. Daniel had drank too much and had crashed onto the sofa. He also somehow lost our hostel room key, and only Natalja had the other one – and she had disappeared with this “creepy Russell” character so we were locked out. We hung around with everyone and finally Natalja turned up with the room key. We were now in November, the madness of Halloween was over, and it signalled the end of party nights for a while. It had been a lot of fun, thanks to all at O’Malley’s and the Chilli Blue lot.
It didn’t scare the living daylights out of me. The horrors of halloween are firmly locked in the past…
HALLOWEEN NIGHT 2009, CHILLI BLUE HOSTEL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA:
O’MALLEYS HALLOWEEN NIGHT 2009, FANCY DRESS COMPETITION NIGHT, with OASIS – DONT LOOK BACK IN ANGER ON: