Friday, 25 March 2016
A Good Friday tradition: The Widow's Son
Nine years ago, I heard about a pub in the East End that kept a wonderful tradition every Good Friday. A hot cross bun would be added to a collection of hot cross buns that had grown each year. This tradition started after a woman, whose son had left home to be a sailor, baked a hot cross bun in preparation for his return. He never returned home, but she never lost hope, and continued to bake a bun for him each year.
So my friends and their six-month-old baby went to The Widow's Son in Bromley-by-Bow, and sat in the beer garden on a Good Friday as beautiful and sunny as today's. When it was time for a sailor to add a new bun to the net of old buns (most of which, heartbreakingly, had been destroyed in a fire), we went over but found it hard to get decent photos, being so far back. So here's one, which I took before we left. And the sign outside the pub.
There's a lovely post here, with some much better photos - the blogger spoke to some of the people who have been involved in the tradition.
As for me, I just love the continuing bond of the mother and her son, which is still being honoured now, long after both have died. I think it's beautiful testament to the strength of love, and the need to express sadness and hope and all of the other feelings that come up weeks, months, years, decades after a bereavement.
Looking at the photos now reminds me of a couple of things I saw in Liverpool last October: an exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool on women and poppies, which included a talk about white poppies. These were originally worn by women whose sons had died in the war. However, they were criticised for wearing white poppies instead of red, even though they were expressing their own, very personal loss.
It also made me think of Tracey Emin's neon artwork which hangs in the gothic cathedral on Liverpool's Hope Street. I first saw it there when I visited Liverpool in 2010, and I was relieved to see it was still there last year. It could be read in so many different ways, and I think that's one of the loveliest things about art: that very personal, emotional connection we might have with some pieces.