Hot Cross Questions

Baking hot cross buns on Thursday so we could have them at breakfast on Good Friday morning set me thinking about how come, in our house, we eat this  ‘tea-time type’ bun for breakfast … and why, when supermarkets have them on the shelves for months, do we only eat them on Good Friday at home … and whether this was just a quirk of our family.

As with every question today, I was quickly on the internet to research it, however, as you will know, you need to choose your sources carefully. I am indebted to for an excellent rendition of the whys and wherefores of the hot cross bun – from which I have extracted the core information I sought.

To start with, Hot Cross Buns for breakfast is not just a family quirk. (phew) It seems that the practice of eating the Hot Cross bun (also known as Good Friday buns) for breakfast goes back at least until the 1600s, with evidence from Pepys and. later, from Samuel Johnson in ‘The Life Of Samuel Johnson’, by James Boswell, published 1791: “On the 9th of April [1773], being Good Friday, I breakfasted with him on tea and cross-buns … On April 18 [1783], (being Good-Friday) I found him at breakfast, in his usual manner upon that day, drinking tea without milk, and eating a cross bun to prevent faintness”.

As to the history of the bun I am jumping ahead. Like the origins of Easter Eggs, the ‘spiced fruit bun’ probably evolved from the pre-christian celebration of the spring and dawn goddess Eastre where in Anglo-Saxon times ‘a bread dough was studded with dried fruits and baked in small loaves’. As Christianity spread these were ‘marked with a cross’ and linked to the crucifixion on Good Friday and so ‘absorbed or acquired’ by the Christian religion – and as they were within the Lenten season they were a real treat yet eating them was blessed.

Indeed the practice of marking all bread-doughs with a cross was widespread by the Middle-ages – particularly as it was thought that the sign helped ward off evil spirits and prevent the bread going mouldy or stale. However, with the rise of Puritanism, this widespread use of the cross was seen as  ‘superstitious’ and thus ‘Popery’ and was frowned upon and eventually only the sanctioned ‘Hot Cross Bun’ was permitted to have the cross marked on it, and only to be eaten on Good Friday in remembrance of the crucifixion.

By the early 1700s these delicacies were sold on the streets by baker’s boys and coster (barrow) boys and women (with baskets instead of barrows for this day) Their cry of ‘One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns’ is a rhyme that was also brought to mind and sung to myself as I baked our buns and is a popular Nursery Rhyme today.

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny – Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny – Hot cross buns

The superstitions that were prevalent in the Middle-Ages started with the belief that the cross on the dough warded off the evil spirits lingered on. It is said that a hot cross bun all made and baked on Good Friday before sunrise will never go mouldy and if kept in the house will protect it from fire. Which reminds me of the famous pub The Widows Son where they used to hang a new Hot Cross bun from the ceiling each year on Good Friday. The story behind this being that a widow’s son was due home from sea on Good Friday, and she baked him Hot Cross Buns. However, he never made it and was never seen again. Every Good Friday she made him a special bun right until the day she died. Her cottage later became the pub and the tradition began of hanging the ‘widow’s son’s hot cross bun’ from the ceiling. Unfortunately – the ‘protection from fire’ part of the superstition wasn’t working well as part of the pub burned down in the 1980’s. However, they continue the ceremony today with a special bun placed in a net by the youngest of the local Navy Reserves who come to the pub for the occasion.

Who would have thought there was so much to know about a fruit bun! And if you’d like my recipe for Hot Cross Buns – go to the recipe drop-downs.

So – here come the Hot Cross Questions:

When do you eat your Hot Cross Buns? Tea time or Breakfast? Let’s take a poll here!

What do you think about the supermarket practice of having Hot Cross Buns available from before Shrove Tuesday to well after WhitSunday?

Do share your thoughts – you know I love to hear from you!


One in 5.5 percent

This weekend we celebrated an event that it is said only one in 5.5 percent of couples achieve.

It was my parents’ Diamond Anniversary – 60 years married.

We were commenting on how difficult it was to find Diamond Anniversary cards and my husband said that it was no wonder as it seems that only 5.5 percent of all couples that marry get to celebrate their Diamond Anniversary. (And the card manufacturers weren’t going to have a large range for such a small percentage) Anyway – this got me wondering about the other 94.5%.

When you think of the troubled times that many who could have achieved this milestone have lived through then it is, perhaps, not so surprising that so few do.  My parents married in 1953  when my father was 26 and my mother 22. Many, not much older than them, would have met and married during the war – and of those, many men never came home, and quite a few women were killed in air-raids etc. That my generation have not been involved in a war that called up conscripted men and women must have increased the number likely to survive to reach their Diamond in the future.

Health can also take its toll of one or other partner. As a simple example, we are fortunate to live in a time and country where women are less likely to die in childbirth than they were even 60 years ago.  As health care has improved so more people are living longer – making it more likely that  both partners will be around come that 60th married year.

Against this we have to put the larger number of marriage breakdowns. With divorce becoming easier in the time since my parents wed, for better or worse, there are many more splits than there used to be.

And in the future?  Well, the trend for people to marry later in life will mean that those couples will have to achieve an even greater age to reach that Diamond number. Will that affect the percentage?

It’s strange that each of the first 10 years get a ‘material name’ yet when you reach the other end it is ten year gaps. Is any one year worth celebrating more than another?

Do you think that the percentage of people celebrating their Diamond Anniversary will rise or fall over the next twenty five years ( picking a number out of the air)?

So, what do you think ? You know I love to hear from you – do share your thoughts!


The pace of rural life ……

So you have been drumming your fingers on the desk and wondering what exactly was missing …  and then you realised … you hadn’t had your email from the practical hedgehog! And why.. because she’s had one busy weekend – where her fingers have not had time to hit the keys.

Rural life can be exceedingly busy if you throw yourself into local events and organisations. Take this weekend when we had the culmination of the Great Parish History Quiz.

No use just hitting the internet on this quiz –  all answers could be found without a computer – though only some were available online, and then only if you looked hard enough. The questions referred to our parish only, making it very specific. You needed your two weeks to visit places in the parish, to hunt out the interesting bits of information.. like ‘Who has a black memorial slab near the priest’s door in the church, and what is the symbol on it?  answer: Reverend Nicolas Sharsell and the symbol – skull and crossbones. (My boys always thought he must have been a pirate – where in truth he was a solemn minded man of the puritan cloth)

Final answers could be posted in the box up to 11am at the History coffee morning, for which I had spent the whole of Friday baking cakes and putting flowers in vases for the tables, to say nothing of the other times I had spent helping to create the quiz, making and distributing posters, road-side signs and quiz sheets. Not that I was alone, on the day a whole team of wonderful people turned out with cakes, raffle prizes and help to run the event!

And that’s part of what living in a rural village is all about – being part of the community, joining in, helping out, supporting events.  It brings people together and heightens the feeling of belonging. I have lived in a city and belonged to organisations there, but there each remained separate; living in a village is different. When you join in with things in a village you become linked to the whole village.

At eleven the answers were given out and, at the end, I took away the entries to mark. Which I could not do that day, as I had other errands to run, my car to load for a craft-stall the next day and a 60th birthday to attend in the evening.

Cards from prints of Jo Totterdell's botanical paintings (click to view)

Next morning, bright and early, with feet still a little sore from dancing to great 60s hits in high heeled shoes, I set off for an open garden event in aid of Hospice SW. I took with me my annmade slate-ware, local botanical artist Jo Totterdell’s card selection, to sell on her behalf, and the quiz sheets to mark.  I am pleased to take Jo’s work along as I think it is exquisite and so I’m also giving you a chance to look at some more of her lovely paintings here. You won’t find these on the internet anywhere either.

A weekend when different things I am involved in collide and make me over busy is a fairly frequent occurrence… I am told it is my own fault for trying to do too much.  There – that’s my excuses for a late blog – the pace of rural life 🙂

Is your life full of different clubs, groups and societies or do you go for the peaceful life?

Why are some of us, seemingly, programmed to ‘get involved’ while others are happy not to?

And do you feel more relaxed now that you’ve heard from me? 🙂

Do share your thoughts – you know I love to hear from you!



Happy Mothering Sunday – not ‘mother’s day’

Every year it gets more difficult to find a card for my mother which says

‘Happy Mothering Sunday’.

This year I scoured the card shops in our local town and found none – they all said Mother’s Day. (Though my brother (or his wife) – living in a larger town – did manage to find a ‘Mothering Sunday’ card so there are some still made)

Well, what’s the fuss? It just happens that my Mum likes the correct wording to reflect the history behind the day.

Indenture of 'poor child of the parish' John Roberts age 8 years, to learn 'Husbandry' 1797 (click to view)


From the sixteenth century Mothering Sunday used to be the only day that all the family could be together for families with children ‘in service’ as it was the only guaranteed day off.  This would affect  most families from yeoman class down.   Children as young as eight went into service, or went as an apprentice  in another household. Some went as maids of various levels, gardener’s boys, stable lads, and could work their way up through the hierarchy to cook, housekeeper, footmen, head gardener, etc.  Children of the ‘deserving poor’ were also placed in apprenticeships by the Parish Overseer’s of the Poor to learn things like Husbandry (looking after farm animals) or Housewifery (looking after the domestic duties of a farm-house – including things like cheese-making and milking)

Originally a church festival, and falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent, it was the day you returned to your ‘mother church’. Which, in much less mobile times, meant you went back to where your family lived. Along the way children would pick posies of wild flowers to give to their mothers, and some would be sent with a Simnel cake, to take home (if they were lucky)

I have spoken to elderly ladies from this village who remember picking primroses from the hedgerows to bunch and sell in the markets for Mothering Sunday – the money from this would buy them a dress for Easter (or, rather,  the fabric to make them a light-weight dress for Summer) This is a parish abundant in primroses even now.

Back to the history- so what happened to turn this ancient special day into Mother’s Day – was it just a short-hand way of saying it?

Afraid not- and this is why my Mum likes it to be known as Mothering Sunday. Mother’s Day is a different thing – created by an American lady in 1907 called Anna Jarvis in memory of her mother, Ann, a truly wonderful woman who set up Mothers’ Day Working Clubs in five cities to improve sanitary and health conditions. This new Mother’s Day is set on the second Sunday in May (closest to Ann Jarvis’ birthday) and was , later, to become known as International Mother’s Day.

In the UK observance of Mothering Sunday had lapsed by the time of the first world war, but, inspired by the success of Anna Jarvis in  the US, a revival of Mothering Sunday was brought about by Constance Penswick-Smith’s campaign called ‘The Mothering Sunday Movement’.  Businesses soon saw the potential and jumped in by promoting the day with cards and suggestions of gifts.


Our Church's Mothering Sunday posy

After the second world war, what with many Americans over here, and international companies and communications, before long the two traditions got blended together – and now we have Mother’s Day promoted on Mothering Sunday in the UK. I heard on the radio yesterday that Mother’s Day / Mothering Sunday is worth £1.6 billion to UK retailers, so no wonder.

Our village church holds a Mothering Sunday service – at which posies are given to all mothers, or to their children of all ages to give to their mothers – though not primroses from the hedgerows, today they are more likely to be locally grown daffodils.

And how did I sort out my problem of not being able to find an appropriately named card … I chose a beautiful card by a local botanical artist, Jo Totterdell, and applied my own words with a silver pen! (see top pic)  Mum was happy ….

How do you feel about the commercialisation of such days?

Are you a ‘Mothering Sunday’ or a ‘Mother’s Day’ person?

How do you like to celebrate Mothering Sunday?

You know I love to hear from you – do share


Why Do They Do It?

We live in a beautiful part of the world, and I know we are lucky to live here. What I can’t understand is those people who also live in this area (or at least pass through it and so enjoy its beauty) and then spoil it by leaving litter.

As part of our WI, I have been helping to organise a parish-wide litter-pick each in early spring for over ten years. Each year I am once again struck by the thoughtlessness, laziness and dirtiness of people who deliberately discard rubbish as they pass along our roads. I guess that a lot if it is cast from their car windows, though evidence suggests that some of these litter-bugs have a routine, perhaps even parking up to eat / drink / smoke and chuck the rubbish.

This year, in a 500 metre stretch, there were multiple empty Monster energy drink cans and bottles and empty Lambert and Butler cigarette packets. This has to be the same person, over a length of time, deliberately littering and spoiling an area that, as spring comes on, will be decked with daffodils, star-like flowers of ramsons, bluebells, red campion, primrose, stitchwort and foxgloves.


Lazy? Secret smokers? Badly brought-up? No social conscience? Just plain dirty?…….

I just can’t get into the head of the person who throws their rubbish down wherever they are. Are their homes littered with rubbish? Are there cigarette butts (which ARE litter – taking up to 10 years to disappear) and packets on their kitchen floors, empty bottles and cans on every surface or wedged  amongst the house plants, crisp packets in drifts in the corners, newspapers, receipts, water bottles and plastic bags bestrewing their carpets?

And then there are the ‘dumpers’, those people who drive out to a lovely spot and dump a bag of household rubbish, or an old video player, or paint cans …  when they could have driven just as easily to the council dump and left it there – at no cost. Why do they do it? And, yes, these were real examples from yesterday’s litter-pick.

 So, each year a hardy bunch of wonderful people volunteer and, armed with litter-grabbers loaned by Clean Cornwall, help clear our beautiful parish of this detritus – this year sixteen turned up.  Here are  just two of our volunteers that I caught up with, Rob and Sara (or 3, if your count Freya – who went along for the walk) and just a couple of the bags they filled.

I wonder if I found the weirdest thing this year?  A pair of size 9 or 10 thigh-length, lace-up, high-heeled, pointy boots in black imitation leather with the  heels and soles just about broken off, and great cuts through the ‘leather’. These, about 4ft up a steep bank!   Now you know me, well you ought to by now if you’ve been reading this blog, I am a writer. So, how long do you think before the finding of these items started off an idea for a story?  A  murder mystery perhaps, starting with a village litter pick – the victim being ….. well I’ll let you think about that and save my thoughts for another day when I am looking for inspiration!

And here’s the total haul from the roadsides around our beautiful parish.

Twenty-eight bags of rubbish, a video recorder, two wheels, 2 broken cones and some lengths of melamine coated board and plastic fencing.

The sad thing is, by the time you are reading this ( less than 24 hours after our litter-pick), there will be new litter cast down somewhere in our patch.

So, why do you think they do it?

Any ideas on how to teach people not to litter?

Who do you think the ‘murder victim’ might be???

You know I love to hear from you – do share!


Enjoyed this blog? Please share :)