Sunday, 4 April 2021

Happy Easter!

 For the first time ever, I made Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday. 

They may look a bit wonky, but everyone liked them, I'm glad to say, so I'm going to make them again.  I don't do much yeast cookery but if you have the time to let the dough rise and time to knead it, I've realised, it's somehow very satisfying. 

I've had my second vaccination and feeling good about that, too.  I didn't get any of the threatened side effects from the Pfizer vaccine, although I felt a little limp and tired today.  But I just sat and read a book my younger daughter had lent me - Francis Spufford's new novel "Light Perpetual."

 The first few paragraphs of this review in the TLS tell you the idea behind of the book. Even though it's behind a paywall. I've linked to it because of the striking photograph.  Thank God those prams are not all full of babies. 

  The story tells of the might-have-been lives of five people who were killed as infants in an air raid during the second world war. The air raid was real, but Spufford's characters are not based on any of those who passed away. He has created them entirely from his head, and also created the premise that the raid did not, in fact happen.  And yet the book is so convincingly written and so true to life, that I ended up believing these five people simply must have existed, and also mourning the death of those tragic real children who never had a chance to live.  

His earlier book, "Golden Hill" about pre-Revolutionary New York, had this quality of almost painful realism, all the little details about daily life seemed to transport the reader right back to that unfamiliar (for me) time and place.  This is the cover of "Golden Hill", and if you spot it, I can only suggest you take a look and see what you think.  

He is a non-preachy Christian, so obviously he looks towards the light after death rather than the darkness, even though there is no explicit religious message in the books and even though his characters suffer terribly at times.   After the stress and strain of the last year, I'm glad to have an engaging, positive book to read, and I'd love to hear your views if you have read it too.  

Last week, England's lockdown relaxed just a bit, and we're now allowed to meet up to six people who aren't in the same household, so long as we are outside. So we went for a walk with S. who is in his first year of university studies ... except that he's at home doing university on Zoom when he ought to be 400 miles away at a real place with real people.   There's nothing he or any of his friends can do about it but I know it is a bit hard on them all.    

Anyway, we began on the South bank of the Thames, and he took T and me northwards for a mile or two to see the London home of the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, perhaps Agatha Christie's most famous creation.  

Poirot is one of S's favourite fictional characters, and he is one of mine too. David Suchet seems synonymous with Poirot, and I love everything about his long-running BBC series, from the brilliant 1930s style titles, to the acting, the settings, the wonderful costumes, and ... well just everything.   

In the BBC series, Poirot lives in an art deco block of flats which would have been the latest thing in the 1930s.   You can see the block at about 2.20 on this episode.... I found myself watching the rest of the episode, too!

It was surprisingly exciting to see it in real life, and find that it is in Charterhouse Square, a corner of London when many really old buildings survive.  (One of the things I am going to do when London reopens, is actually go round The Charterhouse, which I have never done.)     

So here is the block of flats. 

As S. pointed out, the cameramen in the Poirot series had to be rather careful with the camera angles so as to avoid the Brutalist concrete blocks of nearby Barbican.   It would never do for Poirot to have the backdrop of the architectural masterpiece on the right, which was begun in 1960 and not finished till the 1980s.  

After ambling around the eerily deserted Charterhouse precincts, we continued onwards through Smithfield, the old meat market, which is scheduled to become home to the re-built Museum of London. This looks like a great project.(here).

As of now, though, Smithfield's interesting in its brightly painted, semi-derelict glory, with a good selection of red phone boxes - I hadn't realised they came in different designs, but as you see, they do.

On our cycle ride home, we passed through a little back street near London Bridge, called Roupell Street. It was built about 1830 and I thought that 50 years ago would have been illustrating newspaper articles about slum clearance. Because it's exactly the kind of place which was knocked down all over Britain from the 1940s to the 1980s, Nobody wanted to modernise the little houses, and it was felt, quite rightly, really, that the impoverished people who lived in these dark, old little places (often infested with bugs and rats and without indoor sanitation) were entitled to something a bit better.  

Interesting that these little houses, indifferently modernised, are now sold for about one and a quarter million pounds.  If you look at the link, you'll see that the estate agent's particulars include a photograph in which you can see a railway arch, and it is extraordinary to think that Gustav Doré's famous picture of the slums of London is thought to have been based on the district directly adjacent to Roupell Street. 

In Doré's time, of course, it's certain that Roupell Street did not boast a fancy cake emporium in that little corner shop shown in my photo.  

T and I have been watching an episode of Grayson's Art Club every evening.   Grayson Perry is such a good ambassador for the power of art, which he believes helps us become more ourselves and deal better with whatever life throws at us.   (Here's a post I wrote about him in 2012. Gracious! Nine years ago!)    He's prodigiously original and talented, and is also probably now very rich, but he has humility, and appears kind and approachable, and he does not mind if his guests are famous or not  We also like that the programme offers glimpses of him working, as he does, in so many different media and shows how his ideas spill out of him.

 And, as always, I am happy it is Spring.  I am enjoying my Spring bulbs on the balcony this year, and so I should. I managed to put in two orders of bulbs with the supplier, and so have more blooms than can really fit on the balcony, although I have put some in the front garden and on the front steps.   It cost a fortune. I don't know if it was worth the money, but it is done now,  and I am very happy to make the most of it.   

 These are this year's favourite narcissi.  Behind them is a very large cherry tree at present covered in bright white blossoms. When the sun is on it, it looks as if there has been a snowfall.  Even the twins were impressed, and both of them gazed at it for a while.

Now I'm hoping that the freezing cold weather here in London will warm up a bit tomorrow so we can have a picnic with K, F and the twins in their garden.  We are not yet allowed to meet anyone else indoors, though it seems rather silly to me, if people have been fully vaccinated. Still, I'm going to stick to the rule for a while yet, and see how the infection rates go. 

Have a happy Easter Day, everyone! 


  1. A lovely post, wishing you and yours a happy Easter Day.

    All the best Jan

  2. Happy Easter, Jenny! What a lovely outing you had. By coincidence, I was having a (virtual) poke about the Charterhouse Great Chamber only in the last fortnight. It's looking very luxe.

    Poirot is Essential here. If you carefully watch the David Suchet Poirot's, there are only a handful of exterior shots that recycle through the many series, so it must have been quite a challenge to crop out the neighbours. And both he and Hugh Fraser (who does a pitch-perfect David Suchet impersonation) are excellent company and readers in the Poirot audiobook department.

  3. A wonderful final picture of narcissi, my most favorite harbinger of spring.

    1. Early spring flowers are my favourite garden flowers of all.

  4. Wow - you actually got to see the art deco flat of Hercule Poirot! I've always wondered where that building was located. I have been watching the entire BBC Poirot series, and like it so much that I've seen numerous episodes twice. David Suchet is a treasure. And as you said - the acting, costumes, and sets are perfect.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter. Those Hot Cross Buns look delicious!

    1. I'm glad to find a fellow fan of the sheer artistry and professionalism of that series. Happy Easter to you, Jon!

  5. London is such a magical place, and I love your investigations, Jenny. Everything is fascinating - the Art Deco building is beautiful, and now I have to watch some old episodes and try to spot it. Roupell Street is so interesting as we have nothing similar to that here. At that time, Brisbane had lots of little 'workers cottages' close together but free-standing. Only a few survive now. The renovated house in Roupell street looks very charming, and I do hope they are all maintained and live on into the future. Your white flowers are stunning; no wonder the twins were transfixed. So was I :) Cold climate Spring is the best ever. Happy Eater Day.

    1. Thank you Patricia, and happy Easter to you too! I should imagine that survivals from the 1830s in Brisbane must be very rare and treasured. Wow.

  6. It was terrible losing the red phone boxes which were such an important part of our lives until mobile phones arrived in the 1990s. I DID realise they came in different designs, depending on the generation in which they were designed and made. But thank goodness Smithfield has kept a good selection of the old treasures... my grandchildren don't even know what I am talking about.

  7. Hello Jenny, The horrors that have been committed in the name of urban reclamation! Even somewhat dirty and broken, I don't see how streets like Roupell St. could have been so bad that people felt the need for immediate demolition. Although the exteriors have been restored, I am sure that at over a million pounds, the interiors are something the original inhabitants could not even have imagined. I am equally sure that considering what they do today, in most instances, I would have liked the original architecture better!

  8. Congratulations on making your own hotcross buns Jenny, and Happy Easter.
    Goodness me! it is no wonder that people are said to moving away from London in droves. Selling one of the small terrace houses in Roupell Street would yield a lovely spacious property surrounded by wonderful grounds in many areas of the countryside.

  9. An enjoyable read. Thank you Jenny. When I am out and about again in London I will take a look at Roupell Street. Norwich nearly lost streets and streets of terraced houses in the 1960s but by a stroke of luck somebody listened (I'm not sure to whom) and the houses were saved. Happy Easter,

    1. Looks as if John Betjeman, the poet and conservationist, was behind saving a lot of London's gems. The sixties in particular was a dreadful time for destroying our heritage.

  10. I've had classics on my book list but havent started. I love your bike and walking tour descriptions.

  11. I really liked the Poirot reference. So appropriate for him to live in a contemporary apartment. But I think the corners and symmetry of the Brutalist building would have pleased him better. He hated curves.

    Lovely post and happy Easter to you.
    One last comment: I was amused at your comment that people like me, born just before ww2, so small children during air raids, would be dead anyway by now! Don't rush us..

    1. Happy Easter and thank you for your nice comment, Boud. But oh dear, I didn't mean it that way about being dead anyway by now! I did not make the point that the readers are invited to imagine that the bomb never fell, even though it actually did. The poor children who really did die in that air raid never had their chance at life, poor little things, but for reasons of respect and compassion, I imagine, Spufford did not use any of their names or details and created his characters entirely from his own head. Think I had better look at that section of my post again and see if I can rephrase it.

  12. Ooh those hot cross buns look lovely! I've only made them once, but it was fun to try. I don't do much yeasty baking.

  13. Well done on the hot cross buns, they look delish.
    The BBC book at bedtime a few weeks back was the light perpetual.... I loved it!
    Hope you had a lovely day.

  14. Your Hot Cross buns look delicious, Jenny. Good for you for making them! I bet they didn't last for long! :)

    I shan't be walking anywhere today...staying indoors (as I've done for most of the Easter weekend)...heavy rain is predicted for today and tomorrow. We've had rain on and off since Saturday. It's a good time for a good book or addition to some bingeing, not only on chocolate, but on a couple of series via streaming...while the rain is streaming down.

    Thank you for your as always interesting post...take good care. :)

  15. As usual, you post is so full of so many things my head spins.

    May you have a blessed and beautiful Easter and a good time at your picnic.

  16. Always so much I want to comment on your well written posts! How I long to see London again. I love it as much as I do David Suchet playing Hercule Poirot!Take care! Happy Easter!

  17. Gentrification. From slums to high rents. Of course, the opposite often happens, too.

    I don't currently have cable, but I used to watch Poirot on the A&E network. Love Suchet's acting, and that theme music.

    Happy Easter.

  18. I wish I had your Hot cross buns for breakfast!
    Poirots house! Lovely building, but I would expect to pay well over a million and a bit for a flat today. Very exclusive.
    Roupell Street look lovely little houses, I expect their Victorian dwellers would be amazed at the interiors today.
    What history in one small street.
    Gentrification has its good side, but where did the people go?
    Those Barbican flats were supposed to be for Council folk but the Tory LCC (if called that) sold them off.
    When I delivered there, if we could find the way, many were housing MPs and the like.
    From the door the flats appeared rather small but the view fantastic!
    Smithfield phone boxes: I got a picture of them somewhere, they just stand out from the crowd making you take the pic.
    No idea where the meat market is now but making use of the space for a museum sounds grand. Huge place!
    S looks like being a good tour guide like yourself. Summer job there?
    I hope you managed a picnic, there will n ot be one Easter Monday, already the wind is howling through the window.
    Enjoy the bulbs!

  19. I have just returned to my blog 'The life of an eccentric English Booklady' and I am so glad to find you are still here and blogging beautifully! This is just a quick note to say hello and also to be very glad to hear that your vaccine went well, Best wishes, Jane

  20. I always like watching Poirot (David Suchet) and now when you showed this house I even wanted to see this episode in Russian of course. It's awesome, the costumes, the vibe of London, old cars etc.
    Your Easter buns look very tasty! I'll make the Easter cake for Orthodox Easter on May 2, Jenny.

  21. Well the weather on Easter Sunday was lovely and we were able to do an Easter Egg with our Granddaughter in the garden, but today we have light snow flurries. That's the UK weather for you!

    Those hot cross buns look good. I'm glad you've had your second jab.

  22. I have seen a couple of the Pirot episodes with that actor and have wanted to go back and watch them all chronologically. You remind me to do that. :)
    Lovely buns! I never knew the red phone booths were not all identical.
    I am going to check out the Art series.
    What a profusion of blossoms! Enjoy your picnic when it is warm enough. Have a wonderful week! :)

  23. My Mum and I love the Poirot series and watch the re-runs even if we know the cases by heart! They are an example of really well made TV. How nice to see the building that is so familiar from the series!
    Baking with yeast is wonderful - the scent, the texture on the hands when making the dough, the texture and taste of the finished baked goods.
    I am glad you are fully vaccined now!

  24. Oh Jenny, that last photo, with the tremendous cherry and those gorgeous narcissus -- it takes one's breath away. The bulbs may have been expensive but you'll be able to replant them for years to come, so I think you'll get more than your money's worth from them. As always, I loved and learned things from your post and now I have many links to check. I'm not familiar with that author but he sounds very interesting.The buns looks fabulous -- I've never made them. And how fun to see Poirot's flats! I love that series too, and you're right -- Suchet is the best! I'm glad your restrictions are loosening a little bit. Every encounter seems to help.

  25. I didn't know the Museum of London was going to move to much grander premises. Must get to visit when it finally reopens in its new location. I find Grayson Perry a bit off-putting in person - rather loud and theatrical - but his art is fabulous, especially the pottery.

  26. I am starting from the bottom of your post. The window photo is magnificent! The money you spent on the bulbs were well worth it.

    I have not had hot cross buns in years, but you have me thinking of baking some.

    Both of those books look very interesting. I did watch an episode of Poirot on Public TV and enjoyed it. Everybody that I know loves Masterpiece Theater and all the British shows. The trouble for me is that I am able to get Public TV from three different stations and the programs all run at different times. It is hard to remember where or when. We have way too many channels of TV here, and yet, there is little I want to watch. However, I love my Brit shows when I find them.

  27. A lovely post Jenny thank you.

    Poirot is a fabulous series. The settings are always wonderful. One of my favourites is the Triangle at Rhodes, part of it is set in Kalithea Springs which is a lovely place. It has been renovated so the original old building is now used for weddings and other celebrations. It is lovely but sad to see the original building changed so much. Obviously different regulations for restoration of historical buildings in Greece to ours in the UK. The location was also used for the film Escape to Athena starring Roger Moore, Stephanie Powers and Telly Savalas, I like this a lot.
    Well done with the Hot Cross Buns, I might have a go at making them as I find the ones available in shops now are really spicy.
    Loved your trip through London. Betjeman was a great chap, thanks to him St Pancras railway station was saved, an absolute treasure of architecture. So many of our beautiful buildings have been lost and replaced by temporary trash. You just wonder what planet these planners are on. Rant over!!!

  28. Did I comment on here?
    My frazzled brain says I did but I fear I forgot?

  29. Congratulations on your hot-cross buns. I've yet to ever make any but I expect anyone would be thrilled with about anything bread-related hot from the oven. Perpetual Light sounds interesting. I've added it to my Amazon list (I never buy from Amazon, but they are a convenient place to park a list. I love Poirot as well - Bill and I both love most everything inter-war. I bought him Chip Cannon's diaries for his birthday. I'd no idea it was such an enormous book! I think the sheer weight intimidates Bill a bit. I'm trying to decide how long it would be decent to wait until I pick it up and read it! It is still pretty chilly up here in the North, though we had a couple of sunny days a few weeks ago. Still, it looks lovely out the windows. I'll not be fully vaccinated until 18 Jun - 2 weeks after my second vaccination. I've been so careful the past year or so I think it will be quite a change to get out and about among others again. I've missed my WI meetings, craft groups, pilates and racquetball, but it may take me a while to get back into the swing of things. Happy Spring! and thanks for visiting my blog.

  30. I hope you are enjoying warm and sunny days now. Have a nice weekend.

  31. Dear Jennie - First of all, good for you and the people of Britain, the drastic decrease in the number of COVID infection and death. The world of yours looks to be brightened up in nature and mentally. I love the last photo; the white blossoms like snowflakes standout in the backdrop of the brick building. I love BBC series Poirot, actually I saw all the episodes twice so far. David Suchet is perfect for Poirot. I’ve enjoyed immensely not only the stories and the characters but also British landscape, countryside, and architectures. It was also like seeing a period drama set in 1930s. I love mysteries. Oxford Mystery (Lewis and Hathaway) is another favorite of mine. Enjoy more freedom, and take care.



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