It’s St David’s Day – but who was St David and why is the 1st of March St David’s Day?
Unlike the other British and Irish patron saints, St David was actually Welsh. St Patrick, (17th March) may have been born in the Welsh-speaking Northern Kingdom of Strathclyde; St George (23rd April) is believed to have been a Roman soldier possibly Greek or Turkish, and St Andrew (30th November) was born in Palestine. St David was born around 500AD in Carfai, Pembrokeshire. His father was Sandde, the Prince of Powys and his mother was Saint Non. He was reputed to have been nick-named the water drinker as he ate only vegetables and drank only water. He became the Bishop of Menevia in Pembrokeshire, which is now called St David’s, and is known as the Bishop with the Dove, as he is usually depicted with a dove on his shoulder. This image comes from what is his most well-known miracle. He was preaching to a large number at the Synod of Brefi and the ground where he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a hill on which now stands the village of Llanddewi-Brefi. A white dove was seen to settle on his shoulder. St David is thought to have died on a Tuesday, 1 March around 589 AD, although this was later revised to 601 AD. In 1102 Pope Callixtus officially declared him a saint.
Whilst St David’s official symbol is the dove, most people today wear a daffodil to commemorate St David’s day, but leeks have also been a long-standing symbol of St David. This is because legend has it that David advised Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their hats so that they could be distinguished in battle against the Saxons. Welsh Regiments have been known to eat raw leeks on the 1st March!
As for daffodils, this flower typifies springtime and Lloyd George always wore a daffodil on St David’s Day. In 1911 he encouraged its use at the investiture of the Prince of Wales. The flower offered a more fragrant alternative to wearing leeks whilst still symbolising a distinctive Welsh identity.
Paige and Wesley are a loved-up couple who will probably celebrate St Valentine’s day in style on the 14th of February, as this is the date when St Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, is remembered.
See what they get up to in the broom cupboard in The Green Man’s Dark Secret.
The excitement of receiving an unsigned card from an admirer is perhaps a fond memory for some and a present-day delight for many. Anyone who has never received such a card is still loved, but in a way that may not be tangible or material. You cannot see or touch love; you live it.
But who was St Valentine?
The 14th of February is this particular saint’s day as that is the date he was executed, around 270 AD.
Valentine was a priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II. The emperor needed a strong army, but young men were reluctant to join as they feared the consequences for a wife and family should they die in battle. To overcome this, Claudius decreed that any marriage was illegal. Valentine, however, defied Claudius and married young couples in secret.
Valentine’s actions were discovered and he was arrested, put in prison and tortured for defying Claudius’s law. One of the men who were to judge Valentine was called Asterius; his daughter was blind. It is widely believed that Valentine prayed with Asterius and healed his daughter and as a result, Asterius became Christian.
Not all were as forgiving and Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution, he was beaten, stoned and finally beheaded, all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The sentence was carried out on the 14th February 270 (or thereabouts). Valentine supposedly sent a final letter to Asterius’s daughter and it is his letter that has inspired today’s romantic acts as he signed it: “from your Valentine.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there are at least three St Valentines, all of them martyrs and all recorded on 14th February. One was the priest in Rome, a second was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa and a third was a bishop from Terni in Italy (which was then known as Interamna).
The date of Valentine’s death,14th of February, was also the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. This was when the names of young women were placed in a box and drawn by men, thus sealing their future. Pope Gelasius decided in 496 AD that such actions should cease and that instead the 14th February should celebrate St Valentine, something we still do today.
You can find out what Paige and Wesley get up to here:
In Winter Tales by Ruler’s Wit there’s a cracking story entitled ‘Candlemas’.
Candlemas is a Christian celebration which takes place annually on the 2nd of February and is the last festival in the Christian year that is dated by reference to Christmas (those which follow are with reference to Easter). This is also the period between the December (winter) solstice and March (spring) equinox, so it’s winter’s halfway point while we are all waiting for spring. Before Christianity it was called the Festival of Light, which marked the mid-winter point.
Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of her son (40 days for a boy, 60 for a girl). She could then take part in religious services again. This day also marks the ritual presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem where they were met by Anna and Simeon and Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him a Light to the World.
The reason it is called Candlemas is that this is the day when the Church’s candles are blessed for the year and many people also like to place lighted candles in their windows on Candlemas night.
It has been thought that similar to St Swithin’s Day (some say St Swithun), Candlemas will predict the weather for the rest of winter, as in this traditional rhyme:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight,
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.
Let’s hope Candlemas this year is cloudy and rainy.
Another belief is that any Christmas decorations that haven’t been taken down before twelfth-night, should be left up until Candlemas – just think of all the extra dusting!
Traditional food for Candlemas is crepes (or pancakes as we know them). For La Chandeleur (as the French call it) the tradition is for each member of the family to cook a crepe while holding a coin in their hand. This is supposed to assure happiness and wealth until the next Candlemas celebration.
The school spring term used to be called Candlemas term, and still is in a few educational establishments, especially in Scotland.
Snowdrops (Galanthus) are also known as Candlemas Bells, this is because they bloom early on and some before Candlemas Day even – heralding the spring. There are some old superstitions concerning Snowdrops. One is that if someone brings them into the house on Candlemas Day (some say before Candlemas Day) then it is very bad luck. However, it has also been thought that these beautiful flowers can purify the home. They are also said to be a symbol of hope.
Although observed by many (and perhaps not so many now as it used to be) sadly it isn’t a public holiday in the United Kingdom .
To read ‘Candlemas’ in Winter Tales, just click here.
The Green Man’s Dark Secret is a novel, a collaboration by the four writers of Ruler’s Wit. It was published in December 2020 and is located in Loughborough, featuring many local venues, including the underground Green Man Pub, which closed on the 7th March 1993 and remains just as it was, suspended in time. It is a detective story; a mystery of missing market traders that involves trips to times past, wickedness and intrigue, told with a good dose of humour.
Because there have been pictures of the bar-from-the-past and because many people retain fond memories of the pub, there has been significant interest, radio appearances and newspaper articles covering the publication. Exciting times.
We thoroughly enjoyed writing – lets hope many enjoy the reading!
Right on cue for the summer holidays, Summer Tales is a fantastic ‘beach’ or ‘relaxing in the garden’ read.
This is the third anthology of seasonal short stories from Ruler’s Wit, following on from Winter Tales and Spring Tales.
The fourteen stories all have a summer setting, which brings them together in a united theme, but each one is very different from the others. Some of the characters from Winter Tales and Spring Tales take up new adventures as the seasons change.
The first five stories have a different, well-known saying as their title and the book opens with a dark but hilarious tale, If You Can’t Stand the Heat – you’ll never see Blackpool in the same way again.
At the Going Down of the Sun is set in July 1916 and the Battle of the Somme. It is fact-based fiction written from the unpublished diaries of a nurse and a stretcher-bearer, who both served at the front.
Sign of the Times is a fascinating time-slip story, and is again fact-based fiction set around Salcombe’s South Sands.
In All that Glitters you can find out who Alistair’s group of friends are and what he discovers.
Life on a Silver Spoon shows how manipulative those in debt can be, and tells of one young lady’s plan to embark on life on a silver spoon.
Someone Who Cares will keep you on tenterhooks; it’s dark, it’s disturbing, and only two people can prevent devastation.
Scratchcards, however, is lighter and tells of a hot summer’s night in a village community, with a twist.
A Bloody Good Innings is a beautifully written story that made me cry; I’ll say no more other than ‘it’s been emotional’.
Back to the dark side with Excess Baggage – can relationships from a one-time meeting last? Fasten your seatbelts for take off!
If you have read Spring Tales you will recognise the characters in the fast-paced story that is First Stop Venice. When tragedy strikes, a good friend will be there and take you on a holiday to remember.
More familiar characters continue their escapades in Far From Here (part 2). This Sci-fi adventure will make you smile, but there is a worrying element as to how on earth they are going to get out of this situation.
Cape Reinga is set in New Zealand, blending Maori culture and legend in this fictional tale.
Little Cuts of Film is another story based on accurate facts of the war in Iraq in July 2007.
The last story, He Said What? is about two friends who live in different continents, but care so much for each other that drastic action has to be taken.
The openings of two of the fact-based stories, At the Going Down of the Sun and Little Cuts of Film can be read on this website.
Summer Tales has been written by Ruler’s Wit authors: Stephen Ashurst, Karen Ette, Melinda Ingram Donna Shepherd and K. D. Parker and is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.
The fourth short-story anthology from Ruler’s Wit, Autumn Tales, has an abundance of seasonal stories and is available from Amazon.
To give an idea of the genres, the stories are as follows:
The Bonfire is a tale of moving on. Who would want a Thai bride? Most appropriate for this time of the year.
Pilates, Pumpkins and Prosecco is both funny and heartwarming. It sees the members of a Pilates class preparing to celebrate, but why isn’t one member as popular as she might be?
Dave & Dave and the Halloween Surprise – Are you afraid of spiders? Find out how Dave and Dave cope in this hilarious story set around a night for tricks and treats.
Time For Tea sees strange happenings around a little girl when a new tea shop is being prepared for opening.
Chocolate Makes My Clothes Shrink – Who is eating all the chocolates? Set in and around an MP’s surgery in a town library, the librarian there needs to find out as well as fending off unwanted advances.
Hunting in Plain Sight – A femme fatale finds her intended on the spookiest night of the year, but is she all she appears to be and are her intentions honourable?
Life on a Silver Spoon 2: Part Two – Amber Hawkins returns to continue her quest to marry the Lord of the Manor; will she succeed?
The Child Inside – A special little boy has a strong relationship with his child-minder, so strong that his remarkable talents draw them to a disturbing conclusion.
Lee’s Painted Dragon – When Lee finds out that his life is not all he once thought, his dragon tattoo takes him to a dark place.
Medium Rare – Have you ever had your cards read? This humorous story sees two friends visit a medium to see what their futures might hold.
Retribution – A retired scientist finally perfects the invention that will change his life, but perhaps not in the way he had hoped.
A Hidden Clue – Caitlin Blake and Florence Carter have returned from their summer holiday and it seems that Caitlin’s husband’s death wasn’t without suspicion, and she is threatened as a result.
Some Kind of Sign – The luckless DI Sandbach investigates a gruesome murder without a body to be found. You may not eat bacon sandwiches ever again!
What Alice Left Behind – Based on Alice Through the Looking Glass – the Alice in this story needs to return to the party and asks the mantel clock to help her.
Keeping the Peace – What would have happened if the Armistice hadn’t been signed in 1918? Our time-travellers need to help to keep the peace.
Poppy Day – A moving story of remembrance set in the National Arboretum in Alrewas.
The leaves are beginning to change colour and will soon be falling – Autumn is upon us.
The equinox has passed and nights are longer than the days. Did you see the wonderful harvest moon this year? That’s the full moon closest to the equinox. Apparently, the word ‘autumn’ comes from the Etruscan word “autu”, meaning change of season. So, as the seasons change, curling up with a good book in the evening is a welcome relaxation.
Speaking of good books, Autumn Tales will be published very soon. The Ruler’s Wit authors have finished writing and the anthology is at the editing stage.
There are some wonderful autumn stories to enjoy, encompassing lots of autumnal events and activities.
When you think of autumn, what springs to mind? Well, how about bonfires, Halloween and Remembrance? These are all subjects that the latest anthology draws upon, but not restricted to these – there are more. Quite a few tales are spookily written and many are humorous. There are also some familiar characters from earlier Tales experiencing new adventures. We also think of Harvest at this time of the year and until 1500 autumn was indeed called Harvest.
Did you know that we lose more hair in autumn than summer? Apparently it’s needed in the summer to protect the scalp from the sun. There’s still time to top up the vitamin D too – ideal to do from May to October.
There are lots more interesting autumnal facts on the Radio 4 website.
We have enjoyed writing our Autumn Tales; we hope you will enjoy reading them.
In today’s blog Donna Shepherd gives some insights into being a Guide Dog Puppy Walker.
I’ve always had rescue dogs and when we moved house, with one cat, I assumed that looking for a dog to join our family would follow. My husband, however, had other ideas and reeled out all the negatives of dog ownership. You know, the boring stuff, vet’s fees, food expenses plus the worry about where they go when you have ‘dog free’ days out and holidays.
By this time, I’d added to our cat collection – Tinks and Merlin had joined us, but the children and I were desperate for a dog so I started to look at other options. Volunteering for Guide Dogs seemed to tick all the boxes. We not only got a dog, but all of the worries that hubby had were dispelled. The food and vet’s bills are taken care of, the dog could accompany us on most days out and would be boarded with other puppy walkers while we were away. Job done!
With hindsight, what I hadn’t really considered was that after a year someone would come to the house, taking the dog away, forever.
Most people ask how I can stand to give them up after they’ve spent a year as part of the family. It’s a tough one and I won’t pretend that it is easy, but I learnt a valuable lesson with our first puppy, PJ. After he left, I shed many tears, and decided that if I was going to be able to be a puppy walker I needed to keep some sort of emotional distance.
Amazingly, I managed to keep my promise and kept in mind that Vinny, our second puppy, was simply not ours. He was a wonderful lad, bright, eager to please and always ready to learn something new. His date to go into training was confirmed as the 14th March 2016 and while I did initially panic, it was evident that he was ready for new challenges. Having learnt from PJ’s departure, I didn’t want the agony to be repeated and so with this in mind I contacted Mark, my supervisor to request a cross-over so that the family would have a new pup to focus on. Usually, I am told, the new pup arrives about two weeks before the older one leaves, giving everyone a chance to settle into a new routine.
On Monday, 1st February, Mark called to say that he had a new pup for me, and that if I wanted him he would bring him over on Thursday. This would mean that I would have both dogs for the best part of six weeks. Taking a deep breath, I accepted and Milo has joined our family.
Thursday dawned and after a long walk, Vinny and I met my parents at Dobbies for a late breakfast. As always, Vinny ensured that we visited the small animals before we went to the café. He loved to sniff round the cages before ‘dragging’ me to the treat section where he selected a couple of treats and chose a new toy for the puppy. He then happily trotted to the tills before we went to the restaurant.
Once seated, Vinny knew that a rawhide chew would be magically produced from my handbag and he settled down to munch away, leaving his humans to talk and put the world to rights.
I’ve learned a lot from Vinny. He was a bigger dog than PJ, more confident and very strong-willed. He was an intricate part of my life for a year and I still miss his smiley face. He was my daily companion for walks, at my side for the weekly shop and accompanied me on days out with friends and family. On a more personal level, Vinny was with me for my final year at university; a friend throughout the year and a comfort in times of stress. There is nothing in the world that compared to the feel of the thick fur on his warm neck.
I am immensely proud of the very handsome, intelligent dog that Vinny became and I look forward to following his progress as he starts the next chapter of his life.
I’ll tell you all about new-puppy, Milo next time.
On the 1st July 1916, at 07.28 the Battle of the Somme began and lasted until the 13th November 1916. By the end of the battle, the British Army had suffered 420,000 casualties, including nearly 60,000 on the first day alone.
This short extract is from one of the stories that make up Summer Tales.
Image: Creative Commons
At the Going Down of the Sun
Friday, 30th June 1916
“No, Sister, leave me be, I’m just about fed up with this splinter on me arm, and this leg – me leg’s very painful!’
Paige smiled at the man with splints on his right arm and leg that he insisted on calling splinters. “Come on, Joe, let me change your dressing,” she urged, “you’re going home today.”
“All right, Sister,” Joe submitted, “but make sure you do it right, I’ll be watching you.”
“I promise I shall.” Paige liked Joe. “But I’m not a sister,” she told him.
Above the continuous roar from the guns a tremendous bang rocked the ground and the roof of the tent beat its gigantic wings above them.
“Be careful, will ya,” Joe scolded, “I don’t want to lose my arm like he has.” He pointed to the man in the next bed with nothing but a blood-stained stump where his arm should have been.
“It’s only Grandmother sending another big one over,” a second-lieutenant with a head wound and lying in a bed opposite called over the racket.
“It sounds awfully close,” Paige said, trying to concentrate on Joe’s splinted dressing when she would really rather have been covering her ears.
“It’s a fifteen-inch Howitzer beside the railway line just behind us,” the junior officer told her. After much cursing from Joe, Paige was able to finish his dressings and move on to the next man in need of attention. Her back ached with all the bending and lifting and the tight collar of her uniform irritated her neck. Eventually Sister signalled to the stretcher-bearers, who had been sitting smoking by the tent’s entrance, to come onto the ward and begin taking these wounded soldiers to the hospital trains. As beds became empty, Paige removed soiled sheets and replaced them with cleaner ones. She was leaning over a bed at the end of the ward when she felt strong arms encircle her waist.
“Hello gorgeous,” Wesley whispered in her ear as he nuzzled her neck. “Ooh, you smell of..” He hesitated.
“Yes?” Paige answered, turning to face him.
“Antiseptic and smoke.”
“I wonder why that is! What in God’s name were you thinking, bringing us here?”
“I thought we could make a difference. You look very fetching in your nurse’s uniform.” He raised his eyebrows and kissed her cheek.
“VAD,” Paige corrected him. “You’ll be laughing on the other side of your face if Sister catches us,” she warned.
Another blast shook the Casualty Clearing Station and Paige fell against Wesley.
“Come on, mate,” a young man dressed in khaki with a red cross on his arm, the same as Wesley had, was calling to him.
© Karen Ette
You can find out what happens to Paige and Wesley on the 1st July 1916, in Summer Tales.
Welcome to Ruler’s Wit!
We are a group of post-graduate writers who are working on our own novels as well as coming together to create other publications. Our latest venture is a set of seasonal short-story anthologies, all available from Amazon.
You can read all about us and see our latest publications on the relevant pages.
The blog posts reflect our lives and our writing – we hope you will enjoy reading them.