Friday, 6 April 2012

Wagner And Simnel Cake

Richard Wagner's Good Friday Music from Parsifal

The video is brief clip of a 1951 live concert by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler.

I was five when it was recorded and it was the year I started school. There was no school holiday then and Good Friday was just like any other school day.

The shops weren't overflowing with pricey Easter eggs either, because sugar was still rationed and chocolate was a birthday or Christmas treat. My brother and myself dyed hard boiled eggs and my father would help us draw on them. None of my family was good at drawing, but with the help of one of Dad's old fountain pens filled with Quink permanent ink, we managed to make our eggs identifiable.

Each Easter Sunday the family had lunch at my grandmother's and magically, without fail, she produced a Simnel cake.  To this day I have a fondness for marzipan, so much so that when I worked in Switzerland, I undertook a course in marzipan modelling. (My own photographs are tucked away in the attic somewhere).

My grandmother was much like Leggy's - confectionery of any kind was usually involved in any visit to her home. She had two lodgers, a brother and sister and she provided them with full board all the years they lived with her. The sister, the headmistress at a local primary, died when I was about eight but her brother, the editor of a local evening paper, stayed with my grandmother until she too died. Every meal is her house was an occasion, whether it was an everyday breakfast or someone's birthday.

My grandmother believed in God. Every day she would rise at 5.30am and sit reading her Bible until 6am when she would start peeling the vegetables for the day's meals.  One of her loves was music and when she acquired a gramophone - courtesy of one of her lodgers - the first record she bought was a part recording of Wagner's Tannhäuser. It was played regularly for years. She would have enjoyed the Parsifal.


footdee said...

Your grandmother sounds like she was a very remarkable lady,

I remember using tea in the pot to dye eggs ,where all eggs white at that time?

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Definitely one of the better blog titles I've seen this week!

JRB said...

Thank You, Subrosa.

In your post, you have managed to evoke memories of my own childhood.
Memories not forgotten but merely filed away in the archives that are my past.

Much of what you describe has a warm familiar ring – several generations of the family all together in celebration – simple honest home-made fare – the innocent fun and amusement that a simple hard boiled egg could produce, from painting to rolling.

I do so hope these are not just the memories of an ‘older’ generation, but that today’s young still enjoy such family celebrations.

And by coincidence, my mother was a confectioner to trade, and marzipan fruits and flowers, all hand coloured, decorated much of her home baking. Father loved his music, and his choice for Easter was always Cavalleria Rusticana –

subrosa said...

No footdee, eggs were a mix of brown and white then. The reason I remember that is because my brother sometimes couldn't be bothered dyeing his so picked a couple of brown ones.

subrosa said...

Thank you JRB for the wonderful video. Absolutely delightful.

I don't know if families these days do the traditional egg rolling etc. Back then local parks in Dundee were jam packed with them doing exactly that. Even if it was raining.

Ah, I'm envious of your mother's trade as I found working with marzipan both exciting and relaxing.

subrosa said...

Why, thank you Weekend Yachtsman.

Brian said...


"Back then local parks in Dundee were jam packed"

A groanworthy pun in a very enjoyable blogpost - I can taste marzipan now and wish I had some handy - I'll have to make do with a sniff of almond essence.
What good memories of the present day will our grandchildren treasure?

subrosa said...

Brian, only you picked that one up. Am I becoming too subtle? :)

Now there's a post for the future. What memories will they have.

Brian said...


"Brian, only you picked that one up. Am I becoming too subtle? :)"

Of course not, it's because I over-indulge in crosswords and subconsciously look out for odd words (4,3,5,2), but a verbal Easter Egg Hunt is a Dandy idea, don't jute agree? ;)

subrosa said...

I do indeed Brian, as long as it's People's Friendly and there's a Courier around to collect the unfound eggs.

It could well turn out to be a Beano feast for chocolate lovers. :)

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