Good Friday always used to be the most difficult day of the year for me. When I was little it was the beginning of the most boring long weekend of the year. Friday was a bank holiday – there was absolutely nowhere to go, nothing to do, all the shops were shut, it was usually cold, the food you ate was little and awful ( I really did not like fish as a child) and the only alternative very occasionally was going to church to stand in interminable queues to kiss the cross. Excruciating. Perhaps that is what it was meant to be.
I exaggerate a little because not always absolutely was it like that. I remember when I was about ten going to Wales to stay with my mother’s friends and their two girls, Ewa and Monika (who has recently died, sadly) and there the Easter preparations would start on Good Friday. White eggs were blown or hardboiled, the paintboxes would come out, the onion skins prepared and the eggs would be stained and painted by the whole family. . Janusz, the father, also painted designs in wax before the eggs were stained. Then the wax was removed and the stencilled designs were very delicate. I think he used a cocktail stick or a sharpened matchstick to lay the wax. I remember one year when the priest came in the afternoon and fashioned a lamb out of the butter. I had never come across such family creativity before. He came back on the Saturday to bless the Easter table and the feasting would start properly on the Sunday morning, after Mass. Memorable times.
But my family in London was not at the time very inventive or artistic or religious. So for four days solid we stayed at home, desultorily watching tv (my parents ) or reading (me.)
Wehn I was at University the shops were still shut and there was still little to do, but I had by then made some very good friends, in particular a young man who has since become a Franciscan Friar, a priest, a hermit and a leader of his own little congregation. He invited me to spend Easter weekend with him in Aldeburgh several years in a row and that was wonderful. His mother, Naomi, had a lovely little cottage verty near the sea, and she and her three sons were fabulous cooks. Good Friday there, though kept within the letter of Catholic canon law, was a veritable sensory feast. The food was delicious, and although the alcohol did not flow on the Friday as this was Naomi’s Lenten sacrifice, we spent the day aniticipating its return with her. Midnight was a joyous moment when she could have her gin! ( I didn’t drink much at the time so I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. I’m a bit more sympathetic now!) I loved going there, I must say. We also watched Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth. he was the perfect representation as far as I am concerned. No one else has bettered that performance. Trouble is I can’t look at the actor now without thinking of Jesus.
But that is all in the past. Today my husband and I went shopping for fish in our local shopping street and it all came back to me- the deadness of London streets in the sixties – and although it is over forty years since the shops are open on Bank Holidays I still can’t get my head round that fact. I still feel slightly guilty for buying a dress on Good Friday about thirty years ago. My husband had persuaded me- for him, brought up in communist Poland, it wasn’t a problem at all. Good Friday there was a normal working day. If you were religious you attended church, but otherwise you carried on as normal. Render unto Caesar etc etc.
So my plans for today were to paint some Easter Eggs ready for Sunday. I managed to track down some white ones yesterday and hard boiled them and brought them with me here to Cookham. But I forgot to bring the paints and brushes! Will have to search for some tomorrow!
This article has somehow written itself. I was going to write about the artist Ivan Mestrovics and his Crucifixion bas reliefs, but I got completely sidetracked by my reminiscences!
I hope you all have a wonderful Easter, and enjoy the spring holiday- here we have wonderful weather, and you can see why it is one of the most ancient and joyous festivals of all.