The closest I ever got to witnessing any form of diabolistic activities growing up in Balham in the ‘60s was during a full moon.
My nan and my great aunt would take me (I always feared I was about to be offered as a sacrifice up to some pagan god who lived in the River Wandle) into the gardens of our block of flats, with their purses, and “turn their money over” (or in my great aunt’s case, rearrange her collection of Embassy cigarette coupons).
Animals weren’t allowed in our flats, so there was little chance of having your path crossed by a black cat and because the flats reached the height of eight storeys, you rarely saw any ladders to inadvertently walk under. So, my chances of become superstitious (like my aged relatives) were limited; we were too poor to have mirrors.
There were receptacles for putting in eyes of newts, toes of frogs and wools of bats, but these were meant to be for rubbish – people tended to use them for discarding old copies of the TV Times and Reveille rather than dismembered reptiles. Again, little evidence of witches.
Every November there would be a big fire in the garages where we lived. After the release of the 1973 film, The Wicker Man, came out, and after all the coin-churning, I’d half expected Edward Woodward to suddenly appear round the back of a Ford Cortina.
I’m not allowed matches, so it wasn’t me.