Friday, October 9, 2009

Oh Happy Day

Well the magic £10 has finally been spent; Waterstone’s came through with an example of customer service nothing short of epic and dug out a freshly delivered copy of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ from a pile of about a hundred boxes – I would have fobbed me off until things where calmer, but they were far to conscientious, so conscientious that I didn’t even mind paying full price.

I discovered Shirley Jackson via an Elaine Showalter article where ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ was highly recommended, after some internet searching I tracked down a copy and loved it. I suppose it’s sort of a horror story – horrible things certainly happen, and it’s to be found in the horror section, but the genre tag doesn’t do Jackson any favours, certainly not where ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is concerned. Stuck in a book has done an excellent review so I won’t repeat him, but I will say that Dickens ghost stories are in the classics section which is where I became aware of them, I hope they’re in horror as well. Jackson deserves cross over with literary fiction, she has an audience there that might well miss her snuggled up to Stephen King (although that’s cool company to be in too).

I stayed up as late as I could, desperate to start reading ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, fortunately for my night’s sleep that was only about 10.30 and it hasn’t started to get creepy yet, I’m only 20 pages in (it was a case of go to sleep then, or read until 2am and be very sorry for it today) but already the tension is building, Jackson is really very good at showing the mean and petty side of people; all the small frustrations that build up to create despair, vulnerability and desperation, all the things in short that make small town life so unpleasant even without spooky goings on in the big house.

It was also a happy day because the reality of being offered a full time job has sunk in leaving me with a tremendous sense of relief. I have about 10 days of part time employment left in which I can fully enjoy the pleasures of free ish time. The last half hour of yesterday spent with an excellent and long anticipated book, cup of tea and very good sticky bun was particularly satisfying. Bun making being a drawn out stop start process I imagine these ones will be the last I make for a while, but if anybody feels inclined to make them here’s the recipe. (It comes highly recommended and appreciated)


12 bun muffin tin
500g bread flour
50g castor sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
7g (1 sachet) easy blend yeast
150g unsalted butter
150ml milk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
Mix the flour, 50g of castor sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl, melt 75g of the butter into the milk and add to the dry ingredients with the 2 eggs. Either need by hand for 10 mins or use a dough hook for 5 until springy and satiny to touch. Form into a ball and put in an oiled bowl covered in cling film to rise until doubled in size (45 mins to an hour+).

Mix the rest of the butter with ½ the brown sugar, the maple syrup and the golden syrup into a gloopy mess, spoon into the bottoms of the muffin tray.

When the dough has risen knock it back and form into a large rectangle, spread it with the remaining brown sugar, cinnamon and caster sugar, role into a sausage and cut into 12 rounds, place in the muffin tray

Heat the oven to 180/ gas 4 whilst the dough has a final prove in the tin (for about 20 mins) bake for 20-25 mins placing a baking sheet under the muffin tin to catch the syrup which will erupt in the manner of molten lava from under the buns and try and weld itself to the bottom of the oven.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out, a spoon to get left over syrup out of the tins is handy, and eat as soon as possible.


  1. I had pre-ordered the new Penguin editions of both We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House and read the former last weekend and loved it; I'm now looking forward to curling up with the latter but may leave it for Hallowe'en.

    Great customer service from Waterstone's!

  2. Those cinnamon buns look so good! I'll have to try them.