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Squirrels, lumberjacks and kneecaps... - By Rebecca Wicks

Ask an American what they�re doing for Halloween and they�ll always have an answer. Even if it�s June. One special year, not too long ago, I was living in New York and was invited to a party in a little bar, somewhere in Brooklyn. None of my friends wanted to go � something bigger and better was going on elsewhere, but having a mad crush on a guy at the time, I donned my Little Red Riding Hood costume with glee and tottered through the streets completely solo, seeking the end to my romantic fairy story.

As I passed groups of Barney the Dinosaurs, Scooby Doos and �Scream� phantoms on their way to various parties, I clutched my wicker basket close and pictured him there, this guy who made my heart skip a beat; beaming like the wolf about to blow way more than my house down. He�d welcome me, walking in alone; my wolf and my Prince Charming, all in one.

When I got there, he was dressed as a lumberjuck. At least I thought that�s what he was supposed to be. He used to wear checked shirts a lot. Come to think of it, he used to wear ragged t-shirts all the time and never really shaved. On reflection, I suppose, every day was Halloween and he was the eternal lumberjack, but all I saw were his handsome, rugged looks and that rough and ready charm. He�d put a pair of plastic rimmed glasses on his face, for no apparent reason, and had a friend with him who was dressed as a tree. He was my everything.

I met lots of people that night. A guy arrived dressed as a squirrel and having made the outfit himself from a set of old, grey cushions, every time he swung around, a random zip would catch on something. He knocked three pints over with his tail and broke a branch off the guy dressed as a tree. By the end of the night we had bonded over being �creatures of the forest� and the lumberjack took photos of us eating giant mushrooms, after we all snuck into the bar�s kitchen, scavenging for nuts. It was undoubtedly, your average American party. But to me, it was amazing. One of those nights you never forget. Not least because of what happened next.

The end of the party rolled around and I found myself at the lumberjack�s house for a bit of an after-party. Little did Little Red know, however, that the lumberjack�s kneecap wasn�t willing to stay up as long as we were. To put it bluntly, the fairytale ended with an ambulance crew arriving to the screams of my hero, coiled on the floor, clutching his leg. As the very first sunbeam crept through his apartment window, Little Red, in very little, was left to scurry round, collecting items that he might be needing for the hospital, as a comatose squirrel lay sprawled on the sofa, oblivious to it all. Shards of mushroom, woven into his manmade fur and covered in beer, glistened in the sunlight as my lumberjack, not looking as ready as he did rough, was lifted onto a stretcher. And I thought � this isn�t how the story is supposed to end, is it?

In spite of the tragedy, I discovered that year, that going to parties on your own is the best way to go, and tonight I�m going to another � an annual affair at a villa on Al Wasl. Apparently it�s the last one because they�re knocking it down next year, which is nice. I�m not entirely sure Dubai does Halloween like Brooklyn. The thought of walking down the street in lacy stockings and a blonde wig would likely find me far more trouble than a lumberjack with a dodgy kneecap, but still, Little Red Riding Hood can play it safe until she gets there. I don�t know many people going, really, apart from my Lebanese colleagues, which means I�ll probably spend all night nodding along to Arabic, but who knows, after a few drinks I might start to understand it � the way I understood Americans on that one, very special night, on my way to grandmother�s house.

Posted: 30 October 2008

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