Saturday 11 April 2020

One a penny, two a penny

It's Holy Saturday, and the UK is still under lockdown. I shall continue my self-appointed task of distracting you with my blogging. Good morning.

Virus or no virus, it's a four day holiday for still-employed me. Yesterday I leapt out of bed before seven, did the dishes and got to work on my hot cross buns. They take just over 3.5 hours to make because they prove three times, they're baked, and then they're painted with cinnamon-infused simple syrup. 

We ate buns for our mid-day collation, and then we went to queue up outside Tesco for essentials. Once again, it was a long but relatively fast-moving line. 

My computer speaker has gone fuzzy, so B.A. deemed a remote speaker an essential. We looked at the backs of all the plastic packages of speakers to find one not made in China. Believe it or not, there was one: Made in Vietnam. 

The famous zakwas.
Then we moved on to the vegetables,  tinned tomatoes, fish, eggs, red wine, dark chocolate and other staples of our gastronomic lives. 

I was a bit worried for my subsequent Easter baking when I saw that there was still no flour in the baking aisle. None. I rejected the Betty Crocker instant cake mixes (£2.50 a box) and then went to the Polish section. Ah ha ha ha! Whole wheat bun flour, bread/pierogi flour, AND cake flour. Two 500g bags of Polish cake flour went into the cart--clever, clever me. Incidentally, one thing the supermarket always has in abundance is bread. Not great bread, but bread none the less. Top tip: British flour should be used only for British recipes anyway. 

We went home and I hung up the laundry outside while B.A. set up the living-room chapel. My depredations on the dandelions had to wait until after the Good Friday service, however, as my help was needed in pairing the new Vietnamese speaker to my assembled-in-China computer and printing the Whyte Sheete. 

There was an altar party of ten in Warrington. How is it that there are 10 men in the FSSP residence in Warrington? Or if not, who are those guys? Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful they're there. But since we seen them every Sunday and Holy Day now, I'm wondering who they are. They're ecclesiastical internet stars whether they like it or not, so we might as well see profiles. 

My feet hurt during the Passion, just like at every other Good Friday liturgy I've attended in my life. I have to admit that, although not being physically at Mass is terrible, you can really enter into an online service if you sit, stand and kneel, say the responses, and concentrate. The prayerful atmosphere even survives your nipping into the kitchen to make sure the water's boiling.

A mazurek missing only an Easter message.
The water boiled around a can of condensed milk for three hours because I made our Easter Sunday mazurek two days in advance, as the recipe suggested. On Sunday I will ice the "A-word" as B.A. and his fellow liturgy fans call it onto the pastry, as the word is basically verboten amongst them in Lent.  When I turned the heat off, I went back outside and resumed war on the dandelions again with my daisy grubber. 

I was visited by birds, worms and two black cats. The cats have ceased to fear me, so I hope they still fear the spikes in my vegetable garden. 

B.A. called me in for supper, and we then tried to find some suitable Good Friday fare to watch online. He was hoping for Ben Hur or The Passion of the Christ. I thought there was at least a small chance of Changing Lanes or Raining Stones. But in the end, the best I could find was a Good Friday themed show about gardens on BBC i-Player. It began with Pluscarden Abbey and it ended with my infancy stomping-ground, the Cambridge University Botantical Gardens, so it was more interesting to us than it sounds. 

 The must-have trend for 2020.
Then I covered the mazurek in melted chocolate, finished cleaning the kitchen, chatted to my parents,  read about gardening, and went to bed. Here by the way, are the lovely masks my mother made for us on her sewing machine. The outer fabric is denim, so they look very retro-chic. I don't actually wear jeans anymore, but if I did, these would match. 

How odd, by the way, that denim now seems retro instead of the uniform of almost all. Among women it has been supplanted by skin-tight leggings. Yesterday I contemplated  the shoppers before me: a rail-thin woman of 70 or so in blue jeans, her obese grand-daughter in black leggings, and her fat 3 year old great-grand-daughter sitting in the shopping trolley, eating a snack. The thin old lady in blue jeans seemed to personify the late 20th century, whereas her grand-daughter was most definitely of the 21st.

That said, I basically go about in rags these days, as when I am not at the computer, I am in the garden. This will change when we are allowed to travel further than a half hour's run from our homes. Perhaps when we are all allowed to go downtown again, we will return to the earlier custom of dressing up for downtown. I certainly will. 

Now I shall feed my nostalgia by trying to find accounts or photographs of our last Easter in the Historical House, which was in 2017. I have a horrible suspicion, though, that I was simply to busy to write anything down. But if memory alone serves,  Polish Pretend Sonspent at least part of the long weekend with us, and we had a glorious Easter brunch that included eye-watering Polish horseradish sauces in two colours.

Update: Yes, PPS did, and so did my brother Quadrophonic. We all went to a wedding on Easter Monday. Here is the funniest incident I recorded: "Both my Polish Pretend Children and my Franco-Polish Pretend Son-in-Law were here, so Easter meals have been all very entertaining, with Polish Pretend Daughter insulting Polish Pretend Son at intervals by telling him that he is actually German."

Update 2: Another amusing snippet: It really was a splendid Easter. My brother Quadrophonic arrived, dog-tired, on Holy Wednesday night, and I put him in the best guest room. On Holy Thursday, I brought Quadrophonic along to Tesco to help carry bags of ingredients home, and in the evening we all went to Mass. Afterwards Benedict Ambrose reminisced about the Holy Thursday curries of his youth, and so Quadrophonic treated us to a splendid curry feast at the nearest snazzy sit-down. In deference to B.A.'s recent surgery, we took a taxi home. 

After that, it was cook, cook, wash, wash, clean, clean, bake, bake, rush off to church and welcome another guest or two. Occasionally I would leave B.A. in my brother's or Polish Pretend Son's charge with the instruction that he wasn't allowed to do any work. It cut me to the quick to prevent B.A. from washing the dishes, but my top priority was conserving his energy for church and, ultimately, our friend's Easter Monday wedding banquet. 

With all the baking and cooking to do (self-imposed, I know), my life was a round of going to bed very late and getting up rather early, and by Easter Wednesday I was beginning to lose things and leave them behind.

Update 3: And here is PPS consoling me on my lack of children: At Monday's wedding , Polish Pretend Son argued that he was much better than any real child could ever possibly be, but despite his manifold perfections I was not entirely convinced. 

TRIGGER WARNING: If you're tender-hearted, don't click around The Historical House to read about the rest of our 2017/2018. This pandemic is a waking nightmare for many people, but as for our experience of it, we have been through worse. 2017/2018 was our worse. 


  1. Thanks for your lockdown updates during this very strange Lent. Your hot cross buns look delicious! As a fellow Canadian living in Scotland, I'm always disappointed that the hot cross buns you buy here have crosses made with dough, rather than frosting, which was the norm growing up in Nova Scotia. I've had an ongoing Facebook thread about this today, which began when my sister in Toronto commented that the frosted ones are hard to find there too. Do you have any insights? At any rate, your post is inspiring me to try to make my own, although it's a bit too late this year. A very happy Easter to you and your husband when it comes.


    1. Chatelaine's "Adventures in Cooking" hot cross bun recipe offers that the crosses may be filled with icing sugar.
      Aged P

    2. Kathleen, when I was in Boston, I was disappointed to discover that the hot cross buns had icing crosses that came off in their brown paper bag. I was astonished, as all my life before hot cross buns had had dough crosses. Thus, I strongly suspect that icing crosses are an East Coast phenomenon native to the Atlantic provinces and the easternmost of the 13 Colonies.

    3. Interesting! That would make sense as aside from some of the obviously Highland Scottish-influenced cuisine we grew up with, like oatcakes and an a deep-seated parental aversion to sauces or spices, much of our local dishes are New England-ish, with chowders, baked beans and "boiled dinners" featuring prominently. Oh, and our family's cooking and baking reference was "The All New Purity Cookbook," given to my mother as a wedding present in 1970. I will have to keep an eye out for "Adventures in Cooking." Happy Easter!

    4. Happy Easter! That all sounds so delicious. Our cookbooks were "Chatelaine's Adventures in Cooking (1969)", "Betty Crocker New Picture Cook Book (1961), and the Milk Calendar. And the blue book. Not sure what the blue book is called. My mother permanently borrowed the BCNPCB (1961) from my dad, just as I have permanently borrowed "Great British Puddings" (Smith, 1997) from B.A.!