St. David’s Day

As an Englishman I am supposed to do something mean to a Welshman today, perhaps “by hanging out all kinds of scarecrows with leaks on their heads” in order to humiliate his patron saint. A few taunts of “Taffey” should also be in order.

Such were the antics reported by William Schellinks on his visit to England in 1662.  While the good-natured intra-national teasing which bounces around these islands is part of British life, to be boorishly anti-Welsh today would be both silly and rude.

It would also make no sense, given my own Glamorgan ancestors and my love of Wales, especially Dewi’s own Pembrokeshire, the lovely cathedral of which we visited (again) last summer, and which I would like to feature as a proper pilgrimage destination soon.

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Avoiding evil at St. David’s Cathedral

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Dunkery Beacon, Somerset

Our first county top for ages, but a real winner. On our way to north Devon we drove through Exmoor. Dunkery Beacon (520m) sits just above the road between Wheddon Cross and Porlock on the Somerset side of the moor. The walk is very easy, barely a mile from the road, but the wind was blowing icy rain into our faces as we followed a stone path between the bogs.

It was then on to Devon. Not sure I have ever been to north Devon before. Note to future self: Morthoe-Woolacombe-Croyde-Braunton is a lovely corner of the world. We particularly enjoyed Damien Hirst’s Verity at Ilfracombe.

May Day

It turns out that dancing around the maypole is a Merrie England tradition, i.e. a Victorian invention of something from an old English idyll. Just as well we didn’t do it. You can understand why the beginning of May brings out such levity, though. Summer is approaching, winter dead . . . although given the deluge we have recently endured, you wouldn’t know it.

The first Monday in May is a “bank holiday” in the UK, a day off. Its proximity to International Labour Day has had conservatives bleating from time to time, but that’s all rather silly. A long weekend was just what we needed and we spent the Monday enjoying, despite the rain, a fete organised by the school. Malvern has also joined Derbyshire in dressing its wells at this time of year. It’s a lovely tradition and we know of one undressed well that we are going to adopt next year. Pictures courtesy of Rebecca:

Clock Tower

Inside

Great Malvern

Worcestershire Beacon

Other English Year observances since I last posted: Easter (I was in Utah), the Queen’s birthday, and St. George’s Day (the children participated in a Scout parade to Great Malvern Priory).

English Year Update

We have marked the English Year several times since my last post.

  • St. Valentine’s Day: one of the few traditional holidays whose popularity has increased in recent years, probably due to its secular and commercial appeal. Thanks, B, for the Love Hearts!
  • Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day: a day of gluttony before Lent. Pancakes, of course, and also my last helping of meat for school lunch until Easter. (At my school, lunch can be a lavish affair.) I committed myself to flexitarianism a while back — I do not think that eating meat is mala in se, but I do think the factory production of meat is immoral and would be curbed if we would dial down our appetites for cheap meat (“eat meat sparingly” as one Mormon text puts it). Lent is a good re-commitment.
  • Ash Wednesday: marked by a Lenten service in Worcester Cathedral. We are giving up the following for Lent: evening internet (me), evening iPod (Becky), fizzy drinks (W), chocolate (M), and non-fiction books for bedtime reading (J).
  • Leap Year Day: this is also the Feast of St. Oswald, the Saxon Bishop of Worcester. I listened to sung Eucharist.
  • Despite my part Welsh ancestry, I simply cannot bring myself to celebrate St. David. Don’t expect anything for St. Patrick or St. Andrew either. As for me and my house, we will honour St. George!

Candlemas

Not being a particularly Marianist family it wouldn’t normally have occurred to us to mark Candlemas, but this being our English Year, the calendar demands it.

I like that Candlemas is one of those holidays heavy with the patina of time and tradition. Ostensibly it marks the purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus, and his own presentation in the temple. From ideas of consecration and purification came the tradition of  the blessing of candles in church. Then came the lighting of candles in house windows, a tradition which we duly followed tonight.

It also typically marked the time of year when candles were no longer necessary for indoor day labourers as it was light until around five. With this eye on the season and thus also the weather, tradition also dictated that whatever the weather today, the year ahead would be the dominated by the opposite. This is good news as it was bally cold today, although my sons decided there wasn’t much scientific reason to believe such a thing. We did decide, however, that sometimes it’s fun to believe things you know aren’t true, if only for a moment.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

St. Wulfstan’s Day

This is the view from work:

The tower is of Worcester Cathedral, a building that began to take on its present glory during the bishopric of St. Wulfstan (died 1095), the last surviving pre-Norman conquest bishop. Wulfstan was once a popular saint and his tomb (wrecked during the Reformation) made Worcester a pilgrimage site. Now long forgotten, the 19th January is St. Wulfstan’s Day. Jacob and I enjoyed the peal of bells, grateful to work in the shadow of such a magnificent building.

Lord God,
who raised up Wulfstan to be a bishop among your people
and a leader of your Church:
help us, after his example,
to live simply,
to work diligently,
and to make your kingdom known;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.