Walking the swede. Little ‘s’

Do you ever start talking about something from your childhood, and realise that not only does the person you’re talking to not have any idea what you’re on about, but thinks you’re having them on because it sounds so absurd? No? Yes? Tell us more?
Ok, welcome along to the debacle of, ‘Walking the swede’. Little ‘s’, not capital. We didn’t do weird things with foreign exchange students, not in this particular story anyway (sorry Pacco).
No, this was the Ellis family Hallowe’en tradition of, instead of carving a pumpkin, hollowing out a swede. Which is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, and in no way related to a pumpkin (I don’t think).
And then, not displaying it in a window or decorating the front door step. Oh no. But threading string through the sides at the top and creating a bucket-like handle. And then, wait for it, taking it for a walk. I kid you not.
It did have a candle in, in case that’s something you’re concerned about. We’re not completely mad. But it was a ‘proper’ tall, thin one, not a tealight. So you had to further gouge a hole in the bottom of the swede to get it to stand up. I seem to remember walking backwards in front of it when we went out, both to see the carved face, but also to (frequently) tell my brother or sister that the candle had either gone out, fallen over, or a combination of the two. What with it being October and pissing down.
One of the best bits of this particular tale is that we weren’t even trick or treating. That was deemed begging, and as such not allowed. So the three of us literally went out in the dark and walked a swede up the street and back. I can still remember the roasted smell of it as one or other of us lifted the blackened lid to relight the f*cking candle for the 100th time.
My friend then asked if we were at least dressed up. Fair question. To which I had to admit I did remember fashioning a costume out of a bin bag. So, at least I was waterproof…

As with most of the absurdities of my family life, I attribute this snippet firmly to my mother. What I find more bizarre however, is that we all went along with it. Not only that, but I didn’t even question it until years later.
As a sidenote: Mumma was nowhere to be found on these ridiculous Hallowe’en wanderings, and as my brother would point out, the ‘no begging’ edict does not extend, as adults, to not sending us out collecting Christian Aid envelopes when she’s signed up do it and then gone on holiday. Ahem…
My beautiful Mumma would (and has) defend this weirdness with the idea that pumpkins back then were both ‘expensive’ and ‘American’. Sounds plausible. And yet. I cannot find a single peer of mine who spent October 31st hollowing out a swede.
But this is one of the things I adore about my Mum. There will have been a reason, and it will have made perfect sense to her at the time. There’s no artifice to her, what you see is what you get.
She’s the Mum who loudly asks you what the doctor said about your rash (is it fungal?) in a packed waiting room of bored and therefore attentive/captive people. She’s also the one who waits the 3 hours with you to see the doctor so you’re not on your own.
She’s the one who goes to lipreading classes with Dad (for a truly sweet reason) but cannot understand your blatant semaphoring to stop her going down a blind alley of conversational suicide in the middle of the pub.
The one who can go from cocooned doormouse-like slumber to 100% selfless joy in a matter of seconds when woken with long awaited news from her boomerang child.
I hope I can someday be like that with my own kids. One things for sure, if I’m lucky enough to have any, they’ll be walking a swede at some point. It’s tradition.



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