Monday, 23 July 2012

Weavers, winegrowers and wanderers

Of the list: weavers, winegrowers and wanderers, I am, despite my ambitions, most certainly a member of the last group. I have never had a chance at a loom, I drink well enough, but I have never made wine. I have, however, wandered. Indeed, wandering is part of who I am; it is part of my identity. I wandered to Santiago de Compostela twice, just to see where my thoughts would travel (but more on that later in the week); I wandered away from teaching, a solid and fruitful career, just to see what academia might bring, and, when disappointed by the academe of Oxford, I wandered away, back to my home in the classroom, teaching other people to always be brave enough to wander. It is only in wandering, it seems to me, that people find out anything about themselves.

I missed the feast of St Ulrich of Augsburg on 4th July. I am very sorry about this. He was the Patron I picked this year, with the help of electronic magic. He has been added to the intercessors I call upon, and I was sad to have missed his feast. Mea culpa.

Ulrich was born in 890AD. He was unsure of whether he should become a priest, serving the people in the diocese, or a monk, serving the people through the religious life. He was consecrated to the priesthood in 909, by his uncle, Bishop of Augsburg. Later, after the death of his uncle, he would become Bishop of Augsburg himself. He was said to be strict but gentle in his role as bishop, and he spent much of his time trying to improve the moral standards of the clergy.

Ulrich was the first saint ever canonized by a Pope, just twenty years after his death in 973, Pope John XV declared him to be in the company of the saints. It is said that pregnant women who drink from his chalice had easy deliveries, and thus he has been in charge of 'easy births' ever since. The touch of his pastoral cross is said to heal people bitten by rabid dogs. Earth from his grave is reported to repel rodents, and over the centuries, much has been carried away for that purpose. But, most of all, he is charged with bringing people a good death. Ulrich prepared for his death, he strew ashes on the ground in the form of a cross, blessed them with holy water, and died laying upon them on July 4th, 973. He was buried in the Church of Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg.

Now, all of that might seem irrelevant to me, but I would love to weave, do anything to have the opportunity to make wine, and hope one day to have an 'easy birth' or two, or three, or four..... Eventually, with a tribe of family around me, I hope to die a good death, around the age of 99 or so...

Ulrich is my Patron for this year, and I ask his intercession, and in his honour, belated as it might be, I offer a simple supper, the meal I had with my flatmate this evening.

We had baked camembert on toast, with asparagus. I know it sounds simple and expensive, but it was delicious. I cut a small piece out of the centre of the cheese and filled it with white wine before baking it. The asparagus I just blanched in salted water, and served on buttered brown bread toast. We covered the lot with melted cheese, and a little red currant jelly, drank the remainder of the wine and experienced a little taste of heaven.

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