Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Buns & Covens

Bill the Baker - a retired expat baker from Tavistock who likes to keep his professional hand in - turned up this afternoon with a seasonal present of a clutch of hot cross buns. Kind soul, he does this every Easter.

Five years ago at Easter time the roof timbers of our new house were complete and ready for tiling. Bill appeared with his usual Easter offering, and, seeing the stage the building had reached, told us about a strange Devonshire custom: fixing a hot cross bun to the highest point of the house both assured protection against evil spirits and also brought good fortune to the household.

Two French builders, both called Alain, did most of the bricks-and-mortar work. The moment was ripe: I asked the senior Alain, Alain Papelou, if he would mind clambering up to the apex of the roof timbers and nailing one of Bill's hot cross buns into the wood. Not the slightest expression of surprise or doubt flitted across his features. He found a 10cm nail, took the hot cross bun and a hammer and swung himself up into the roof trusses.

A little later the tiling, insulation and suspended ceilings were completed. The Alains fitted access traps to the roof space, but no one ever went up there and the hot cross bun was forgotten.

A few weeks ago it seemed that some ventilation trunking in the loft had moved after a violent storm. I fetched ladder and torch and a mask - the spun glass insulation fibres get right into your throat and sinuses - and climbed up and fixed the problem. As an afterthought I shone the torch up to where Alain Papelou had fixed the hot cross bun five years earlier.

It was still there, intact. It was rock-hard, but un-mildewed and unchewed by any passing loft denizen. I can't say we've been much troubled by evil spirits, and these last five years our life has trotted along amiably without any major misfortune, so maybe there's something in the hot cross bun theory.

But I haven't told the insurance company. They'd only reduce the cover. As for me, I'm hoping the hot cross bun cover extends to us whatever we're doing. I'll tell you why: a few days ago we were driving in Devonshire, across Dartmoor on dual carriageway, heading for Blue Catland. Every now and then a black Ford Ka would pull out into the right hand lane, as though to overtake, but would draw level and stay abreast for a minute or so of whatever vehicle lay on its left and then drop right back. This was as annoying as it was dangerous. Eventually it drew level with us, and the occupants may have been surprised to find that the 'driver' apparently had no steering wheel in front of him/her. (Ours is left-hand-drive, of course.)

The Ka had four middle-aged women in it. The woman in the passenger seat held up against the window two sheets of A4 paper, the first with YOU WILL BE written on it and STORED on the second. I found this somewhat cryptic. Someone in the back then held up a human skull and shook it. My first instinct was to echo Philbrick in Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall: 'Crikey, loonies! This is where I shoot!' My second was to take no notice of what seemed to be a coven of witches on their way to - well, who knows? We lost them about Okehampton. Weird things happen on Dartmoor. Clearly Bill the baker knew a thing or two.

So far nothing untoward has happened. Hot cross buneficence?


Geoff said...

Does it work with simnel cake?

I, Like The View said...

I am nailing an hot cross bun to the rafter of dolce far niente as soon as I've typed this comment

Dave said...

Sorry I'm late. Have just got down from loft. No hot cross buns in hosue yet (not until Friday) so I hope a currant scone will suffice.

Z said...

A real skull?

Sarah said...

woooah....nutters if you ask me.

I am not nailing a (or is it an??) hotcross bun to my rafters...The rats will think it's Christmas....clearly French rodents don't know what's good for them.

Dave said...

Sarah: did you not notice the date today? I'm assuming everything anyone writes on a blog this morning is un Poisson d'avril.

zIggI said...

that is so wonderful! Didn't you have anyone aboard with a camera to store them right back? I wonder if just lobbing a bun into the loft space will suffice - I don't want to go up there in case I disturb the guard wasps.

Dave said...

Ziggi, just don't ask your handyman to do it in the summer.

Christopher said...

Geoff: I believe so, as long as the knobs don't fall off.

I/J: Very wise. I just hope it's not too late.

Dave (1): Aren't you adequately protected already?

Z: No. It was a very white plastic one. Life size, though.

Dave (2): I think everyone's safe enough now. Yes, poisson d'avril - you did ask a few days ago and I forgot to do anything about it. Sorry.

Zigs: No camera. J. was driving at the time. Dave despite his natural reticence is a perfect gentleman in every way and will lob to your every desire.

Dave (3): Quite right. Can't have any interruptions to the cricket.

Sarah: Well, on your head be it. I abdicate any responsibility. Don't say you weren't warned.