There is a charming story told about Pope Saint Gregory the Great (whose Feast Day it was this week). Apparently, he was once strolling through the slave market in Rome, or somewhere similarly Mediterranean, when he spotted some fair-haired boys for sale. Fair hair not being the norm in Italy, Gregory enquired what manner of people these might be. The reply came back that they were Angli – English; whereupon the Saint remarked: “Non Angli, sed Angeli” – not English, but Angels.
No doubt Gregory was indeed Great, but clearly he had never met the youth of Forton, who have decided to bring their summer holiday fun to a thrilling climax by trying to clamber up the side of the Church building. Their activities were discovered by none other than our house-elf, who had himself just finished clambering up the front of the Church building in order to put up the sign for the forthcoming Summer Fayre.
We understand that the Vicar, having made one or two minor improvements to the aforementioned sign, sent our poor house-elf up a ladder in high winds, with utter disregard for his dislike of heights (she shall henceforth be known as Bartimeus Crouch). Back on terra firma, he had hardly stopped shaking when a large crash from somewhere round the back of the building sent him scootling off into the cold night air.
He arrived at the extreme South-East end (liturgically speaking) just in time to witness a young man dangling off one of the parochial drainpipes. Sorry, we should say apparently dangling. Because, as the young man quickly informed the elf, he wasn’t climbing on the roof; it wasn’t him; he never done nuffink, Mush; are you calling the Old Bill?
It’s lucky our elf isn’t the violent type, because he did seem a bit annoyed by the whole escapade (though whether this was because of the crime itself, or being referred to as “Mush,” is a matter of debate). Fortunately, we were on hand (or indeed paw) to calm him down with a little TLC.
That is, until he went into the loo.
You see, back in Italy, they seem to treat their churches with a little more respect. Rather than just using them as climbing frames and free scrap metal stores, the Italians fill them with dead folks. If you’re deemed to be at all holy, the Vatican digs up your body, whisks you off to the lab and varnishes you, then posts you back to your home town, where you get to lie in state forever more.
We thought our downstairs loo could do with a little holiness too, so we’ve started collecting postcards of pickled saints and putting them up for our visitors to enjoy. Apparently the Vicar has quite a collection of such pictures, but they are (like everything else she owns) still languishing in the unpacked boxes upstairs.
Imagine our joy, therefore, when our dear pal the Red Rector announced that he was off to Umbria on his summer hols, and would make it his mission to bring us back some good pics. He emailed today to say that he had been to Arezzo, where resides the preserved body of Blessed Pope Gregory X. Sadly there were no postcards, but the resourceful Rector took a quick snap, which we present here for your edification:
We think you’ll agree, gentle Readers, that the pickled bodies of dead saints are a must-have addition to every home, shrine and worship space. We have been trying hard to persuade the Vicar that she should get a couple for the Parish Church – we’ve even spotted a nice glass coffin in the Serpone’s catalogue – but she is strangely reluctant.