Tuesday, 14 February 2012

St Valentine

Cricketers this morning will rise expectantly and wait for the post to be delivered with keener than usual anticipation.   On other days the pile of junk mail is leavened only by credit card statements and council tax demands.  Not the kind of material to excite the cricketer.  Once again that kit that was ordered many months ago has failed to be delivered despite several increasingly acrimonious communications with the dispatch company which appears to be located on another planet.

But on 14 February the cricketer is expectant - there will be anonymous tributes from secret admirers that will quicken the pulse and give them a warm feeling in the googlies. There may even be some heart shaped chocolates and other tokens, although Fantasy Bob laments that the heart shaped empire biscuit remains a business opportunity for some enterprising baker to grasp.  And the thing about those anonymous messages is that it is clear exactly who they are from.

No goat's blood please
There is a suggestion that all this St Valentine stuff was thought up by the early Christians to replace the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia which really got the Ancient Romans going at this time of the year.  Its rituals included the sacrificing of a goat. The priests would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. This was meant to assist fertility.

FB tried this one year with Mrs FB.  It has to be said that she did not take kindly to the gentle slap of blood-soaked goat's hide as she came down for breakfast, failing to interpret it as a gesture of his undying love.  Additional jewellery had to be purchased to compensate and FB has not ventured outwith the conventional territory of heart and rose decorated cards and champagne ever since.

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the first in literature to make formal reference to Valentine tributes passing between admirers. Cricketers will also know Chaucer for the Canterbury Tales contains one of the first uses of the word cricke - meaning a stick - the word from which cricket is thought by some to derive. Having made that bright start however the rest of the Canterbury Tales is pretty light on cricketing interest and occasionally lapses into 15th Century bawdiness of a sort that is inappropriate to share with the younger members of FB's All Star Fourth XI.
on his way to crease

But what got Chaucer going on the Valentine thing?  Who was this Saint Valentine? Your guess is as good as anyones.  Soaked with goat's blood as they were, the Romans evidently had a thing about the name Valentine for they martyred 14 of them.  So there are alternative candidates for whose day it is that inspires all this anonymous card sending.

Fourteen Valentines - that's enough martyrs for a full cricket team, 12th man scorer and umpire. Readers may think it unlikely that a same named team could be possible, but there is a documented instance of 2 teams turning out to play each other in Bradford in which all 22 players were named Patel.   FB has been unable to establish whether they got 22 Valentine cards, or just one.

That scorecard - next fixture v Valentines XI

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