Friday, 18 March 2011

Ghostly Reminder from Mrs Pumphrey

Ooops! In my excitement to dispense with the myth of St Patrick and the snakes and the cakes yesterday, I omitted to mention that 17th March is also St Withburga's Day, and she's been on the Phone of the Ethereal Connection (sponsored by Virgin Media) voicing her displeasure at being over-looked by the Irish Saint. Her exact words were, 'Just because he's got a shelaylee, doesn't mean he's all that.'

Now, I have no idea what a shelaylee is, or even if I've spelled it correctly. I asked Tango Pete. He said, 'You want to know what a shelaylee is? I've got a shelaylee you can have a gander at...hurr, hurr, hurr...' and then he passed out in a pool of Guinness with half a slice of soda bread stuck to his cheek. So he was no help.

Anyway, I have returned to regale the story of St Withburga even though she has nothing whatsoever to do with cake, because she has threatened to haunt me if I don't and even though I have trained at the Madame Arcati School of Paranormal and Psychic Activity and the spirit world holds no fear for me, I need to keep up my beauty sleep and an irate ghost is not a good bedfellow.

Ahem... presenting the story of St Withburga (but Without Cake...ahahahahahahaa!!)

In Norfolk, in the 7th century, St Withburga saved the locals from a drought by magicking up a couple of deer to give an endless supply of milk to her nuns. I think these were the nuns belonging to St Withburga, and not the nuns belonging to the deer. One day, a hunter with mush for brains chased after the deer, fancying a haunch of venison for his dinner, I expect, and God smite...smote...smoted...smit....him dead with a bolt of lightning.

St Withburga's unique party trick is her ability to manifest as a dead ghost. Pretty clever, eh? A dead ghost appearing as dead. Actually, this is evidence that she was a bit of a one trick pony. No wonder she comes second to St Patrick on the 'let's-name-a-day-after-a-Saint' malarkey. In Ely, Cambridgeshire, her ghostly corpse can be seen being carried by monks in an open coffin. The monks themselves are doing penance for the Bishop of Ely who stole St Withburga's body in order to bring honour and pilgrims to his church. Quite frankly I can think of better, less smelly ways to draw the crowds. A nice tea room, maybe. Selling homemade cakes. Maybe a gift shop, too.

And why wasn't the Bishop of Ely doing his own penanace, that's what I want to know. That's typical of people in authority - getting the lesser minions to do their dirty work. Still, all was well, literally, because St Withburga's original grave turned into a healing well, thereby ensuring that the town where she lived and did the deer-with-the-milk thing remained forever her shrine. The well is inscribed with the story of the opportunistic aka lazy Bishop of Ely and his body-snatching monks. It's a bit of a dull story. Not much plot development and barely character driven at all.

I hope this enough to appease St Withburga. I don't want to have to get out my smudge stick, incense and bell just to get a good night's sleep. Personally, I'm looking forward to 20th March and St Cuthbert's Day. There's shrieking goblins in St Cuthbert's story. And I bet if I look hard enough, I can find a cake reference, too.

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