Life on Pig Row: helter skelter into winter

p22 Oldhams2013
Life on Pig Row: The Oldhams

High on the Saddleworth hills, the Oldham family have created an inspiring kitchen garden which provides a wealth of rich flavours for the kitchen and larder. This column, written by Andrew and Carol, follows their journey throughout the year

For more information, visit their website

WHEN WE were kids there used to be a helter skelter at Scarborough and when you shot out the bottom of the slide you found yourself, burlap sack and all, in an enormous wooden bowl.

As children it was like you were suddenly thrust into the land of the giants, that the slide was your own personal wardrobe to another world, and once there you had found yourself in the centre of a large polished walnut on a kitchen table.

As you reached the centre of the walnut dodging the fingers of the giant, you would spin on your backside and come to rest in a gaggle of kids all screaming for more.

The land of the giants would recede and you would be in an endless summer on the Yorkshire coast.

To us there is no more a fitting metaphor for the ride from spring to autumn than that helter skelter and wooden bowl in Scarborough.

Now we are all circling the edge of the bowl, clutching the burlap sack, waiting for the excitement and excess that comes with Christmas.

Even now the child in you, or the child beside you, is starting to silently bounce on the balls of their feet. Christmas is coming. Winter is near.

In spring we started at the top of that high helter skelter tower, we tucked our feet into the sack, and winter beckoned. This is the month when we try desperately to hold onto the light.

Our pagan ancestors let loose upon the landscape as we reach for wood and flame, raise the dead, burn them, wassail and make offerings as we bob for apples. Bonfires and fireworks echo the colours of the autumn trees, the leaves turning from orange to umber, crisp beneath our feet. Autumn is fire.

We have time yet, before we sink to the bottom of that helter skelter bowl to have fun, to bring light to the dark. The soil hasn’t turned to beaten iron, there is time before the end of the ride to plant our daffodils and tulips deep into the earth for next spring.

Three years ago we planted over four hundred daffodil bulbs in our orchard. In spring, when we climb those helter skelter steps once more, we will see the glory of them in the landscape and feel the growing warmth all around us.


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