. . . the next Big Day is almost upon us, as today’s picture suggests! We love spiders and have a couple of really large black ones in the front room: one lives behind the bookcase and comes out to check the fire occasionally; the other’s home is the waste paper basket, where it lives in peace. Every now and again we see these members of the household, poottling about when their fancies take them – despite our fondness for them, it’s always a bit alarming, though, when they spring into our world. This purple species, seen here embracing dear and very patient Barnaby, is of course just a silly one – part of the Hallowe’en-iana, now down from the loft, with which we’re decorating the place. We hope the real spiders feel at home and enjoy the fun as much as we will. Newman’s role is at the front door to greet the Trick or Treaters when they call by; they know we are expecting them because the terracota pumpkin outside will be alight with candles and across the windows pumpkins and cobwebs aplenty will be flickering in anticipation. Newman’s good at excitement and seeming rather frightening, because he is big and bouncy and driven mad by the smell of the sweets (or indeed anything remotely edible), though everyone who calls here knows he’s as harmless and sweet as Bobo near whom I sleep and around whom Newman wraps. From what I hear, most cultures and their religions find expression for the ideas behind this festival in their folklore and practices; for a little spaniel like me the numinous is very real and, as one who is afraid of very little but looks for the meaning in everything, I embrace tomorrow’s fun, so long as it is gentle and silly: let the more plangent possibilities speak for themselves, I say! Uncle Jonny shows us that the veil between this world and the next is thin anyway, and even more than usual at this time of year, standing as we do upon the threshold of life and death, summer and autumn, wondering what to do for the best. Newman and Jonny told me about the time in Nunhead Cemetery when they were looking at the primroses flowering in December and approaching footsteps on the gravel were distinctly heard by them all when nobody was there. Nobody else at all: just the distinct sound of someone being there. Newman himself often saw beings unseen to others and wouldn’t walk up paths, stopping resolutely and digging in his paws. Nunhead is a beautiful Victorian place and the boys went there everyday without fail; there was nothing horrid about it, nothing at all, but it still held secrets among its quarter of a million buried souls, including a mysterious old man in an outdated pin-striped suit with distinctive buttonholes, who was one minute scrutinising an abandoned grave and the next gone without trace. Outside on Jonny’s grave the flowers are dying at last – something which makes perfect sense. From beneath what remains of them, however, reaches up a real presence whose power is funny, wise and strong, though dead two years. Glee made a living thing!