Friday, 19 February 2010

A trifling natter



Last night J. made an immense trifle for our guests, to be drunk with muscat. Flown with this most English of desserts and this sweetest of French fortified wines, the talk at our end of the table turned to holy relics.

My first contribution to this discussion was a distant memory of a car journey in Dorset with my mother when I was about 7. We came through a place called St Peter's Finger*, not a big place, maybe just a hamlet, I don't remember now. My mother, a hapless martyr to her imagination, never slow to invent her version of things, told me the place was so called because in the church there was a relic of St Peter, indeed one of his fingers. I thought this was pretty gruesome. I wondered what it looked like. Was it pink and bleeding? Had it been cut cleanly? What happened to his other fingers?

B., next to me, said that if you made a survey of such things you would probably find that St Peter had at least 30 fingers, if not 30 hands. M. said she'd heard that if you collected all the supposed pieces of the True Cross together, you would have enough wood to build a -

- but we never found out what, because A., a recognised expert in such matters, said Monseigneur So-and-so had once actually weighed all the supposed pieces of the True Cross and the total weight came to 1.87kg, about the same weight as the combined helpings of trifle he'd eaten.

Some talk followed about the Catholic classification of holy relics. Class A: Bodily relics like the Virgin's tears, St Theodosius' hair, not forgetting St Peter's Finger. Class B: Artefacts associated with people worthy of veneration, like the Turin shroud or the mantle of St James the Greater (in Santiago de Compostela). Class C - but we never found out what was in Class C because M. interrupted to ask if there was much of a market for holy relics.

I remarked that the Pardoner, in one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, once required reading for English Literature O Level, did pretty well out of selling his holy relics, which he admitted were no more than 'pigges boones'. B. told M. that if she had holy relics to sell Ebay was the place.

A., ever the expert, said that certain cults venerated the prepuce. No, it wasn't necessarily a Jewish trait, although customarily they buried the prepuce. B. wondered what they might grow into if you planted them. I was imagining (my mother again: you can't hide your genes) what an Ebay ad. might say: 'Prepuce - as new, hardly worn' ?

At this point M. , who had some distance to travel and the hour was late, stood up and said 'Ah! Ça dégénère!' i.e. 'The level's going down', but whether she was referring to the conversation or the trifle or the quality of this post is unclear.


*'St Peter's Finger' is apparently a fish.

20 comments:

Dave said...

'St Peter's Finger' is apparently a fish.

You'll be telling us next that Captain Birdseye invented the fish finger.

patroclus said...

I'd always thought St Peter's Finger was a corruption of 'St Peter ad vincula' (i.e. in chains). I think I read this in a Thomas Hardy novel. I may be wrong on all fronts.

Dave said...

Mayor of Casterbridge, Chapter 36, refers to Peter's Finger, an inn at Lytchett Minster. It is indeed a corruption of St Peter ad vincula, the name of several churches both in this country and in foreign parts:

'The inn called Peter's Finger was the church of Mixen Lane'.

patroclus said...

Blimey, I made it as far as chapter 36? Mind you there wasn't any internet to distract me in them days.

Sarah said...

A firend of mine cut his index finger off in a guillotine (by accident). He put it in a match box and carried it around to scare the girlies. That is until the stench was too much. I wonder if St Peter did the same thing...?

Since when was trifle 'drunk'? Muscat...yummm

I, Like The View said...

yeay! sugar strands on the trifle!

(sorry, I found that so distracting that I couldn't actually take in the rest of the post)(will come back later, when I've gotten over the excitement)

Rog said...

I can see the point of the finger.

St Peter is the Patron Saint of French drivers and now I understand the gesture they gave me when I attempted to hitchhike through their beutiful countryside.

Is that creme anglaise on the trifle?

Z said...

I hold your hand in mine, dear, I press it to my lips,
I take a little bite from your dainty fingertips;
My joy would be complete, dear, if you were only here,
But still I keep your hand as a precious souvenir


Sorry, I was singing. What did you say?

Sarah said...

Me too Z.........*Get your filthy fingers outa my pie* (Florence)


Happy Saturday

Christopher said...

Well you people are absolutely marvellous. Sorry I haven't responded sooner: J. and I have been away overnight for a little celebration. Anyway:

Dave: A mine of information, as always. Some cousins of mine once lived next door to the Birdseye family. None of them was actually a captain and none of them had a beard, and all spoke with a Home Counties accent.

Patroclus: ad vincula. Of course. This may have been the very novel I was urging Dave to write a few days ago. The fish finger misinformation I got from the St Peter's Finger pub website, a site you and yours (especially now that I understand I,LTV is working for you) could do well to take in hand.

Sarah: Well how very gruesome. I had a girl once who carried her adenoids about in a jamjar. Have you read the Sherlock Holmes story The Engineer's Thumb? Maybe they're all related.

And yes, I should have written 'to be eaten with muscat'.

I: Yes, but curiously French vermicelli/sprinkles/100s and 1000s seem always to be coloured as in the photo, pink, green and brown etc. Moreover J. made two trifles, one with alcohol and one without for guests who have nothing against C2H5OH but just don't like it.

Rog: Crème anglaise! It's Bird's Custard, straight from Kazland, smuggled through the Calais customs.

Z: Singing, eh? I could use a decent mezzo...

Sarah (again) I'm afraid I've only driven through Florence, but I have been to nearby Fiesole, where I believe one of your heroes used to live - probably not the chap with the portable finger because he was a great one for 'tactile values'. You may have some expertise in this field.

Z said...

It all depends on what you would want to use her for, of course...but in any case, I am not she. Not a mezzo and certainly anything but decent.

Christopher said...

Don't worry, Z, you're not alone.

zIggI said...

your posts are always too clever for me, but I can say that I know St Peter's Finger very well having lived just down the road for 20 years. The pub there used to do an excellent Sunday lunch but I haven't been there since 2002 so can't really recommend it now.

I did once go into the church (under duress) but there were no spare fingers lying about or even on display.

KAZ said...

That trifle - did it have lots of custard?
And Muscat, oh yes.
The French get most things right.

Christopher said...

Zigs, you're a marvel. Straight from the horses's mouth. Thank you. You can always rely on someone in the know to deliver the goods on this blog. I wonder what drew you into that church against your will? Was it Churching of Women?

Kaz: Indeed yes. Geologists would refer to it as a stratum. Bird's, of course.

Sarah said...

Do you refer to Mino da Fiesole the sculptor? Haven't seen any of his work first hand... tho' I have sat for some time in a Florentine cafe watching the world go by as I waited for the Uffizi to open.

Actualy I was refering to Florence and the machine...(ask Rog, he'll explain)

Christopher said...

I was referring to the art critic Bernard Berenson who as far as I remember lived in Fiesole in a villa he called I Tatti, meaning The Touches. H'm.

Never been to the Uffizi. One day.

I did ask Dave about F. and the machine. He referred me to The Magic Roundabout.

Happy Sunday, what's left of it.

Vicus Scurra said...

I am sorry I missed commenting here earlier - blame the tardy RSS feeds, please.
I have nothing to say, I am just sorry that I said nothing earlier.

Christopher said...

Vicus, there's a great deal to be said for a companionable silence.

I, Like The View said...

I'm working for Pat? is she paying me!