Sunday, April 08, 2007


Did anyone else learn this little rhyme when they were young? I was told that it was to emulate the New York accent of those who were born and raised in the Bronx - I don't know if that is true, but today is a beautiful sunny Easter Sunday and the rhyme just popped into into my mind.


A tale of murder and intrigue set in the Canadian wilderness in the year 1867, The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney is partly narrated by Mrs Ross who finds the body of Laurent Jammet in a cabin on the edge of the small isolated settlement of Dove River. When her missing adopted son of 17 is suspected of being the murderer she sets off to try and find him despite the fact that the winter is beginning to take its grip on the land. She is fortunate to have the assistance of a half-breed Native American trapper to assist her through the harsh environment. Together they overcome the difficult situations that arise, and manage to find Francis Ross and eventually track down the real killer.

The novel has various other sub-plots, involving harsh religious communities who have settled in the wild, the ruthless monopoly on fur-trading held by the Hudson Bay Company, and the problems between immigrants and the native Americans, with racism and homophobia thrown in for good measure.

I must admit I found myself plodding through this book, and it left me cold – not surprising really when there are pages of descriptions of snowy wastes, frozen lakes and wild blizzards. The female characters all seemed to be rather too modern in their manner and behaviour for the time the story was set, and I can’t say I warmed to them or any of the other characters particularly. In the end it didn’t seem too important who had killed the victim, and the story just seemed to fizzle out.

I know many readers have absolutely loved the book, and it won the Costa Award for best First Novel this year, but on reading it I felt that it had been hyped up by the publicity; and I’m not sure why the book has the title it does – other than the fact it is quite a catchy phrase for a title per se – as wolves, tender or otherwise, hardly feature in the book at all.

Maybe you will enjoy it more than I did
Rated 3*

Our political masters must be using a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 as their guide to government because their latest mad concept is straight out of the totalitarian hell depicted by him. Talking CCTV cameras in public places. I kid you not.
The plan is to recruit children* to harangue citizens who are observed breaching any minor bye-law. If for example you are out walking in the local High Street with your doddery old auntie and she drops a tissue by mistake , a voice will shout out over the area from the CCTV camera calling her a litter lout and ordering her to pick it up.
Who will decide what situations are worthy of intervention by the voice of authority?
Do we really want to live in a surveillance society?

Apparently a pilot scheme using this latest whiz-bang piece of technology has been tried out in Middlesborough - and now they want it all over the country and are prepared to spend half a million on it. If people want public spaces to feel safer, then a talking camera is no substitute for the presence of a real life policeman or policewoman.

* I am totally opposed to this scheme however they implement it, but to suggest using children to tell people off is truly ghastly. It reminds me of the scenes during Mao's Cultural Revolution in China where school children and other young people harangued and tormented their elders for supposed infractions of thought, word and deed.

Within walking distance of one of the courts I sit at as a magistrate there is a pub called The Widow's Son. The story behind the name of this pub is that many years ago there was a
widow living in Bromley-by-Bow who had a sailor son. He was due home from sea for Easter and his mother made some Hot Cross Buns for him. When he did not arrive she hung the buns from the beams of the pub to await his return. The following year she did the same thing....sad to say he never did return, but every year another Hot Cross Bun was added to those hanging from the beams, this has continued for over 150 years and the tradition continues to this day. Every Good Friday there is a short service in the pub and a sailor adds a new bun to the collection.

I know that these days you can buy Hot Cross Buns in every supermarket and corner shop all year round, but they are really much nicer if you make them yourself and not difficult at all. This is the recipe I use, I like my buns to have quite a bit of spice, you might prefer less.


(makes 8)

250g strong white or wholemeal flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

A good pinch of salt

5 tablespoons caster sugar
2½ teaspoons easy bake dried yeast (I always use Allinsons)
60g currants
60g chopped mixed peel
260ml milk
60 ml melted butter

For the crosses:
2 tablespoons white flour, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon cooking oil

To glaze the buns:
2 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon caster sugar mixed together until the sugar has dissolved.

Put the flour, sugar, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl; stir in the currants, peel and dried yeast. Mix to a soft dough with the milk and butter, then turn onto a floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces, shape each piece into a flattish round bun and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover with a clean tea towel.

Leave in a warm place to prove until the buns have doubled in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°

While the dough is proving mix together the white flour, water and a cooking oil (not olive oil) to form a smooth paste. Using a piping bag, pipe a cross onto each bun.

Brush the buns with the milk and water glaze.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

Yup, I also learned that rhyme as a kid and I repeat it often at this time of year! Although I only learned the first bit - the bit about boids on the wing I only learned later. And yes - it really does only work in a Bronx accent!

And I'm with you on the surveillance society. I'm sick to death of being monitored in everything I do, despite being the most boringly law-abiding person on the planet. No wonder identity fraud is on the rise - there is a database to record out every activity! My small gesture of protest is to have an unregistered Oyster card ;-)