Is it too late to wish you happy Easter? Probably. Is it too late to have a hot cross bun? I bloody well hope not. Normally it’s my favourite part of the Easter festivities; a buttery, toasted, spicy hot cross bun, with a cuppa. And then probably another one. This year I haven’t managed any so far. Maybe I’ll make some myself this weekend, before it gets far too late. If I do, it’ll be these.
In all other respects, apart from y’know, the whole Jesus-y bit, I had an unusually celebratory Easter. Firstly I went on holiday by mistake. We’d planned a trip to Brighton a long time ago, when the weather was poor and the evenings were dark and fuelled by sloe gin and The Sopranos. We had to change the weekend several times, and it was only later we realised we’d booked an Easter holiday. The second revelation was the weather. It was absolutely beautiful – not a single cloud. It’s disconcerting having a British beach holiday when you don’t need to position yourself in a fortress of windbreaks.
We stayed at The Artist’s Residence, where each room is painted by a different artist in a different style. It’s a really welcoming, friendly and interesting place to stay, although far too many bananas for breakfast for me. More importantly one of the rooms has a Japanese-style plunge bath. You can bath with water up to your neck. Plunge indeed.
On Easter Sunday we took the first bus up to Devil’s Dyke, ready for a 10.45am egg rolling competition. Or not. That’ll teach me to read a website properly. In fact we were a day early.
Luckily we already had a walk around the Dyke planned. I know it’s usual for National Trust walks to guide you, subtly towards their sites, cafes and shops, to encourage a little retail spending. This walk involved a de-tour off the route and to their café. Had the café, set in a small barnyard and barn, not been beautiful, and had they not served me tea and marmite toast, I could have worked myself up to a bit of outrage. However, Saddlescombe Farm comes highly recommended, and the salads and cakes that were brought out looked very tasty. The marmite toast certainly hit the spot, but when doesn’t it?
On Easter Monday, we took the same bus up to Devil’s Dyke, ready for the 10.45am egg rolling competition. Showing an unusual level of preparation, I had hard-boiled the eggs on Friday afternoon; it gave me a good excuse to make a salad nicoise at the same time. On Saturday afternoon we had sat in the Artist’s Residence (aptly) painting our eggs. Prizes at the egg rolling were also awarded for best decorated eggs, so careful painting was required. We had one egg each, and an extra, just in case. Post-painting, they were named Charlie, Mildred and the blue one.
When we got to Devil’s Dyke, we joined a snaking queue of families crossing over and up the Dyke, getting good positions for the egg rolling contest. There were three categories – under 7s, aged 13 and over (otherwise known as adults) and aged 7-13. Apparently the under 7s generally try to run after their eggs after letting them go, and so there were several warnings to stop them bounding down the steep dyke. Periodically a child would accidentally let go of their egg and chase after it, to the cheers and whoops of the crowd above. He’d then begin the arduous climb back up the slope.
For each category, each egg was numbered, and inspected to see if it qualified for the prettiness prize. Then, after three, all eggs would be rolled simultaneously down the slope – picture the Sony advert, but with slighter fewer balls.
Most of them reached the bottom of the slope, and some of those that did continued bouncing along the path for a long way. The winner’s number would be announced, everyone would cheer, and bound down the hill to re-collect their egg.
We had one egg each to roll, so Mildred was spared the ordeal. Charlie and the blue one made it down the hill, and along the path for quite a distance, but unfortunately, not quite far enough.
As a celebratory treat, we took them along to Littlehampton, to sit beside the sea. We left them there to be washed away, but not before a boy spotted them – ‘Mu-um! Look!’ and her response, a suspicious and confused, ‘What are those?’