Sunday, 20 May 2018

This Week 20th May 2018

I have a problem. I am an intellectual, but at the same time I am not very clever.
Life This Week

The big thing this week was officially finishing as Mayor. It's been such a life changing year - I've always suffered with a lot of social anxiety and wasn't sure how I'd hold up having to go out and meet new people, day after day. It has been hard at times, I can't deny, but I'm so glad to have done it. Especially as it turned out to be the very last chance I would have gotten!

You can read the speech I gave to full council about it on Tuesday HERE. Or watch it via the webcast HERE.

All the nominations made at Labour group last week were accepted and agreed too, which meant I could stop stressing about them. Normally I wouldn't put myself forward for anything, but my family nagged and nagged about how if I never tried I would never know, so I filled out a few application forms and crossed my fingers. I ended up being voted in for Chair of the Learning Communities Scrutiny Committee. It was really hotly contested and it means a lot that my colleagues were willing to let me have a go at it.

The committee chairs were then all put in a ballot for 'presiding member' - the replacement for the Mayor to chair full council - and I won that too. I did suggest that we took it in turns, like on a rota, but there was no appetite for that, hehe.

After council we went to Bob Jones' funeral. Bob was a former Mayor and an active member of Pontnewydd Labour Branch, so I've spent lots of time with him at meetings and events over the years. The church service was really moving and then the crem was so packed it was standing room outside only. Anthony stayed out afterwards with some of the guys from Cwmbran Community Council, where Bob had been serving as Chair, but I was still feeling raw from working myself up over council AGM and my granddad's funeral, so I went home to get Marianna early.

What else did I do this week? Hmm... On Monday I went to a seminar on the pressure on children's social services in the borough. (Constantly growing, probably the same as everywhere else in the country.) Thursday I had Audit and Ethics Committee at Bron Afon - my last one, in fact, because I'm going to switch to staffing & HR which I feel is much more my natural home. (I don't know why I always end up on audit / finance!)

The main point of this week was that it was to be a fresh start. I was off Friday through the rest of the weekend, so the plan was to start sorting out the house. Except Friday morning I was sorting through the understairs cupboard and pulled something in my lower back. What I've actually spent the weekend doing is shuffling about like an old woman and looking at the piles of junk I can't face bending down to sort out.

Ah well, I have loads of free time now. The schedule being pushed back to next week is not the end of the world. :)

Photo of the Week
Me and Hywel Davies
Me and Hywel Davies, the Mayoral chauffeur and support officer. I couldn't have done any of it without him!

On the Blog

I posted a clipping from the South Wales Argus on Monday - our litter pick made the grassroots section. On Wednesday I went with the Top Ten Fandom Blogs, and on Friday I posted my Top Ten Tracks for May.

I also set up my very own TinyLetter this weekend! I used to run a few fandom newsletters so it should be fun to give it another go.

For more like this, please click the image below:
This Week - Weekly Overviews

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Friday, 18 May 2018

What I'm Listening To In May

What I'm Listening To

My Top Ten tracks of the month!

Needle In A Haystack - The Velvelettes (1964)

I went through a bit of a Motown phase at the beginning of the month, but this is the track I kept coming back to.

Founded in 1961, The Velvelettes were signed to Motown in '62 but never really given the star treatment. Their debut album was never completed and this first hit remained their biggest, reaching #45 on the mainstream USA billboard chart. Their only UK hit was in 1971 with the reissue of 1966's These Things Will Keep Me Loving You.

Tainted Love -  Gloria Jones (1964)

Tainted Love is one of my all time favourite songs, in all its many and varied versions. This month I've been mostly listening to the original recording by US singer, Gloria Jones. It was the B-side of a single that failed to chart, later picked up in 1973 by Northern Soul DJ Richard Searling on a trip to the States. Jones re-recorded the track for release in 1976, with the help of boyfriend Marc Bolan of T-Rex, but it again failed to chart.

Bed and Breakfast Man - Madness (1979)

Madness are one of the greatest bands ever, I will accept no argument on that point. Bed and Breakfast Man, a track from their debut album, was only released as a single in Canada - Google doesn't seem to know whether or not it charted. Anyway, when I was YouTubing it I came across this fanvid - possibly the only fanvid ever - for Tucker's Luck, the Grange Hill spin-off following Tucker Jenkins and the rest of the very first cohort after they left school. The song really could have been written for the series two character Creamy Eames!

The Invisible Man (1984)

Also up on YouTube is the song Creamy's band plays in S02:E06 of Tucker's Luck. It's not brilliant by any stretch, but there's something kind of raw and engaging about it. The lyrics are still all too pertinent into the bargain:

I work so hard, every working day. I work so hard, for invisible pay. I've been a toilet cleaner, a dustbin humper, out of school and in the dumper. 
I am the invisible man, you won't see me pay my tax, I'm part of the black economy. 
I work so hard, it's always off the books. I work so hard, all I get is dirty looks. When I'm hurt no compensation. When I'm old no superannuation.

To Be Young, Gifted and Black - Bob & Marcia (1970)

Originally released in 1969 by Nina Simone - it was written in memory of her friend Lorraine Hansbery - various cover versions soon followed. The one that hit the UK charts, peaking at #5 in 1970, was released by Jamaican vocal duo Bob and Marcia.

It's an iconic song but also never fails to make me think of that scene in Men Behaving Badly when Les - the old, ungifted and white barman - claims it's the song that best fits him. When challenged he just shrugs and says plaintively: I never said it was an exact match.

Your Song - Rita Ora (2017)

I have had this on repeat so much this month! Written by Ed Sheeran, this Rita Ora track was always destined for chart success. It peaked at #7 in the UK but reached its highest chart position in Croatia where it made it to #5.

Échame La Culpa - Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato (2017)

'Put The Blame On Me' features a team up of former Disney child star Demi Lovato and Puerto Rican superstar Luis Fonsi, and has been a #1 hit across much of Europe and further afield. So far it has peaked at #46 in the UK, although there is also an (inferior) English remix 'Not On You' doing the rounds. It's a fab summery sounding track though so if you haven't heard it already, give it a go!

Dura - Daddy Yankee (2018)

Another ubiquitous figure in Puerto Rico, Daddy Yankee's latest single topped the charts across South America and broke the top 20 in a few European countries including Sweden, Hungary, and the Netherlands. It's very old-school reggaeton - and performed just as well as the genre has always done in the UK by failing to chart at all.

Lie To Me - Mikolas Josef (2018)

I didn't watch Eurovision live this year - I was still down from the funeral and really wasn't in the mood. I caught up later though and this guy was definitely robbed! My other favourite was Norway's Alexander Rybak with That's How You Write A Song.

The UK's track was naff as usual. I think the last one I actually liked was in 2006 or something...

The Song That's 22 Verses Long - Bernard O'Shea

I loved Republic of Telly and this faux trad tune was one of the best running jokes of the series. :)

For more like this, please click the image below:
What I'm Listening To

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Top Ten Fandom Blogs

Top Ten Fandom Blogs

Pop culture, geek culture, etc, blogs and news outlets are ten a penny these days. My go to is The Mary Sue. Active blogs focusing on transformative fandom - particularly beyond the odd op-ed, cosplay or occasional piece of fanart - are more difficult to find. Here are ten of my favourites... but I'd love to hear your recs for more!

The Rec Center

I'm going to be a rebel to semantics and start with a rec for a newsletter! The Rec Center was set up in 2016 in response to fans asking if there were any regular fandom round-ups. It is collated by fan culture journalists Elizabeth Minkel and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, and includes fandom news, posts of interest on Tumblr and social media, and fanfiction recs.

Check out the archive or sign up for the weekly email updates at tinyletter.

The Learned Fangirl

'The Learned Fangirl analyzes media, technology, and online culture from a critical, academic perspective.'

Posting is irregular and review heavy - but when they do tackle fan culture it always makes for a fascinating read. Just check out this high brow post on why guys are reluctant to admit they are fans of The O.C. It made me pledge not to mock Anthony quite so much for his annual four season re-watch. Or to try, at any rate.

Fanfiction Recommendations

This is a project set up in 2017 by author Gwen Thomas and digital marketer Ronnie Deaver. They post explainers for fandom tropes and memes - where else are you going to find an in-depth starter pack for Omegaverse? - and rec lists on specific themes. It's still early days, but check them out at Fanfiction Recommendations.

Confessions of an Aca Fan

Henry Jenkins is not just any aca-fan, he's probably the best known. Author of the influential 'Textual Poachers', along with many other books, Jenkins is a Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education at USC, as well as being an active fan.

Confessions Of An Aca-Fan is currently running a series on the state of fandom studies in 2018. There is so much interesting work going on right now!

The Daily Fandom

The Daily Fandom describes itself as 'by fans for fans... We talk about fandom, comic, culture, and anime news. We also help promote web series and indie films, comics, and games.' In addition to pop culture posts, they have plenty of regular fannish content in the form of OTP Tuesdays and Fanfic Fridays.

If you like TDF, check out their fannish cohorts The CollectiveKeysmash and Black Girl Nerds too!

Femslash Today

Femslash Today is a weekly round-up newsletter of femslash fanfiction from around the web. It's hosted over on LiveJournal, the same place it began in November 2005. You can read more about its history and the wider 'girlwank' family of journals over on Fanlore.

Although you only tend to hear about LiveJournal in terms of fannish nostalgia these days, there are still active communities over there. Here are a few to get you started:

Fanfic Rants. For complaining about other people's fanfiction. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
☆ ONTD - Oh No They Didn't. Celebrity and pop culture gossip.
 The Rec Room. Get help finding the fic you want.
 Vidding. For fanvid discussion.
☆ There are a few fandom specific newsletters still going strong too, from Dr Who to Pros.

Destination Toast

Destination Toast is the statistical analysis of fic fandom you never knew you needed in your life! Seriously, it's so interesting to see whether the trend assumptions you make about fandom are actually borne out by the numbers.

While you're on Tumblr, here are a couple of other blogs to check out:

 Fanhackers. An OTW project making fan studies more accessible.
 Long Live Feedback. Feeback culture is dead, long live feedback culture!

FanSlashFic Magazine

Fan/Fic Magazine was founded in October 2015, and Malory Beazley took over editing in 2016. It really covers the full gamut of transformative fandom interests, from fic recs to fandom activism to technical articles about how to use google analytics to track your AO3 stats.

Posts have been very thin on the ground this year, but they do accept guest submissions. *hint hint*

Fandom Secrets

Modeled on the popular postsecret community, Fandom Secrets started life on LiveJournal in 2007. Given LJ's increasingly tumultuous relationship with fandom, it made the move to DreamWidth in June 2012. Although nowhere near as active as it was in its heyday, it still attracts about seven secrets and a couple hundred comments a day.

Other active DreamWidth comms to check out include Fancake (fic recs), Access Fandom, and the Fandom Calendar.

This Week In Fandom

The OTW - Organization for Transformative Works - is the umbrella organization behind Fanlore, Archive of Our Own, and other fandom projects. They post a short weekly round-up of fannish happenings. They take a particular interest in legal issues and fandom, reflecting the legal advocacy work of the OTW.

Bonus! Ten dead or all but dead blogs of interest:

 Fandom News.
 Geek Feminism.
☆ Lady Geek Girl.
☆ Metafandom. See also: Meta News.
☆ Ship Manifesto.
 The Fan Meta Reader.
☆ We Geek Girls.
 Worship The Fandom.
☆ The Daily Dot. (Not dead, but switched their fandom stream to a wider pop culture focus after Aja Romano left for Vox.)

For more fandom stuff, please click the image below:
Top Ten Fandom PodcastsFandom - my life as a fan

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Farewell To Office

Mayor's Parlour
Reverend Canon Harald Thomas (Chaplain), Me, Alison Ward (Chief Executive of TCBC), Stuart Evans (Deputy Mayor)

I made it! It's been an amazing year - surreal at times, sure, but something that I know will stay with me forever. I did about 250 official engagements, and have written about some of them that made the local papers in my 'In the Press' series. Below is the speech I gave at council today about my year in office...

Deputy Mayoral Chains
Torfaen Deputy Mayoral Chains

It has been a real honour and a privilege to serve as Mayor this last year. I have met so many inspirational people, seen some of the truly amazing work going on in our community, and attended all kinds of weird and wonderful events. I've officially opened not one but two toilets, embarrassed myself countless times over in the name of charity, and blown the starting whistle at the Men's Roller Derby Associations' world championships.

(If, like me, you didn't even know the sport existed before hearing that, I highly recommend you check it out. It's great fun to watch!)

There has also been a more solemn side to the role. I attended the funerals of two former Mayors during my time in office - Doug Davies and Ann James - and, of course, this afternoon we have the funeral of another former Mayor, Bob Jones. I think that sense of upholding tradition, of being a civic representative, most hit home for me at remembrance events. Remembrance Day was especially moving, and I would like to thank my fantastic Mayoral cadet, Seren Gunningham of Torfaen Sea Cadets, for all her support.

In truth, there are more people I need to thank than I can possibly fit into this short speech. Everybody who invited me to an event, and everyone who supported my charity appeal: the money will be split three ways between Lincoln's Legs, Torfaen Mind, and Cyfannol Women's Aid. I specifically want to thank my Chaplain, Reverend Canon Harald Thomas; my Deputy Mayor, Stuart Evans; my Mini Mayor, Marianna; and my consort, Anthony Bird - who complained about the initial draft of this speech because he wasn't mentioned.

Anthony Bird, Torfaen Mayor's Consort 2017-18

I would also like to thank Chris Slade and everyone in the office for making up for my lack of organisational skills, my mum for babysitting above and beyond the call of duty, and Hywel Davies for everything. I literally would have been lost without him. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Hywel has been a real driving force in the role of the Mayor, and in the two decades he has been in the job he has shown nothing but dedication and professionalism of the highest standard.

I personally can't wait for his memoir!

Because this really is the end of an era. When I was first elected to the council in 2012 I was quite dismissive of the idea of us needing a Mayor. It seemed outdated and unnecessary, and I struggled to see the point. Over the years however I changed my mind - not, sadly, because I was getting paid £50,000 like some people assumed after the budget savings went public, but because I could see that it did matter to people. Actually serving as first Deputy and then Mayor was a real eye opener to how important the office still was to many members of the public, and the positive impact it had on people's lives.

What to you is just an afternoon of shaking hands and handing out certificates can be a really special memory to those involved. I have been incredibly touched to see how much it meant to people that I - or, perhaps more accurately, what I was representing by wearing the chains - attended their event.

Being apolitical for the year was a little lonely at times. You're not at group, and you don't see your colleagues as much as you usually would in committee, or the members' room. But it also gives you a unique ability to represent the authority without all the political baggage you would usually have. When you are elected you become the people's representative to the council, but as Mayor you become the council's representative to the people. I really hope going forward that we work to maintain that civic engagement with our residents and neighbours.

Mayoral Portrait
Sitting for my official Mayoral portrait

It felt very strange handing over the chairship of the council to the new Presiding Member - not least because it was me! The PM has to be chosen from committee chairs, so at Labour group I went through two rounds of voting to be selected as the nomination for chair of the learning communities scrutiny committee and then chair of council.

Today those nominations were accepted and agreed, so I'm looking forward to a whole new challenge!

Monday, 14 May 2018

Litter Picking

South Wales Argus Grassroots

We were in the paper today, in the Grassroots section of the South Wales Argus on page 31. I had forgotten we even did this litter pick already which probably says something about my age... It was really nice of Mary - retired TCBC councillor Mary Barnett - to include us in her write up though!

Mary and Gil have been such a great support at so many of my Mayoral events this year, and at the charity quiz night mentioned they single handedly contributed about a tenth of the total in raffle ticket sales. :)

For more like this, please click the image below:
15 Seconds of Fame - find me in the press

Sunday, 13 May 2018

This Week - May 12th 2018

If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever.
Life This Week

This week has mostly been about winding things up and getting organised. I want to write to all the groups / organisations I visited during my time as Mayor to thank them for the invite and helping to make the year special, so I've been stocking up on note cards, writing paper, and stamps. I feel like I finally have a use for all the stationery I keep buying! It's all ready to go now and I'll start actually writing them out next week.

On Tuesday we went to a 100th birthday party in Blaenavon - there must be something in the water up there - and then I had finance committee and school governors at Maendy. Of course I didn't check my email before going so I had to be like, oh yeah, I totally knew I was chairing today. (I'm the Vice Chair.) It was fine though and we managed to get through the AGM by 7pm.

After that we had a little 'retirement' party for Marianna as she had served her last day as the Mini Mayor! I officially finish at the Council AGM next week but, as I'll be the last Mayor, it's just going to be an ordinary business meeting so there's no point in taking her. Instead we bought her a cake with candles, and the Moana dress she has been asking for. The only problem was that she kept thinking it was her birthday... :)

I went up for pre-council briefing on Friday morning, then went to my granddad's funeral. I didn't think I'd be too bad but I cried floods once it actually started. (In fact, I'm crying a little now, just writing about it.) So on Saturday we all just took it easy and I went through my email inboxes. I have five now for different things - work, blog, comping, etc - and they were all full of junk.

Photo of the Week
Rhys with Nan and Gramp
From the vaults! My brother Rhys with our maternal grandparents.

On the Blog

All I've had all week is SEO people emailing me to try and get me to include their links on my site. I've nothing against this and will sometimes edit a post - if it's relevant. But they've clearly not even given the page a cursory once over before insisting that their new infographic / article / whatever is a perfect fit for my readers. Ads for 1:1 scale furniture on a post about 1:12 scale doll houses? The same link you asked me about last month and I said no? Passive aggressive 'if you want to miss out on this awesome content that's fine' spiels?

No, no, and no.

Is anyone else inundated with this kind of thing? It's so annoying.

In other news, I mostly posted stuff I had saved in drafts because I didn't feel much like writing this week. So there was a review of Commaful, the much hyped flash fiction site, and a guide to the best multifandom fanfiction archives on the web. I also posted a listicle of the top ten patron saints of random causes, and wrote a review / giveaway for Britta Lundin's new fandom-centric YA book, Ship It.

For more like this, please click the image below:
This Week - Weekly Overviews

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Happy 100th Birthday!

100th Birthday of Win Williams in Blaenavon

I had my last official outside engagement as Mayor this week - delivering a card and some flowers to Mrs Winifred Williams, who was celebrating her 100th birthday at Arthur Jenkins Care Home in Blaenavon.

It was a really lively party too, with lots of singing and dancing going on. Marianna must have spun around for three songs straight!

There was a really nice piece in the South Wales Argus about Win and her special day:

A Pontypool woman, who says she still only feels 25, is celebrating her 100th birthday. Winifred Williams is the matriarch to five generations of her family. Since she was born in 1918, she has lived through two World Wars, the Wall Street Crash, the assassination of John F Kennedy, and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, as well as other historic dates. Commonly known as Win, there was a uniquely memorable moment for Mrs Williams as she turned 100 today.  
"I was born in Pontnewynydd," she said. "My father was a miner. I had a brother and sister. I was 21 when I got married and met my husband Jim in Pontypool Park. "I have seen a lot of change." Glancing back, Mrs Williams, who lives in Arthur Jenkins Home, in Blaenavon, said she had a few jobs over the years. "I worked as a domestic and did as a maid as well," she said. "I have also lived in quite a few places."  
On turning 100, Mrs Williams had some advice to share to younger generation and the secret to a long life. "Go on as you want to – that is my advice for people," she said. "I wanted to dance, so I did dance. I have been dancing by whole life. I liked the Charleston dance. I would dance with bands and with my friends. I only feel 25-years-old still." 

Over my two years as Mayor and Deputy Mayor I've attended about six 100th (or over!) birthday parties which I think is just amazing. When you think of the changes that have happened over the last 100 years, all the things these people have seen and done, it kind of blows your mind.

When we got back we had another celebration -  a little retirement party for Marianna as it was her last stint as 'Mini Mayor'. We got her a cake and some candles to blow out, and the Moana dress she has been asking for. It sure beats a mantle clock! ;)

For more like this, please click the image below:
15 Seconds of Fame - find me in the press

Friday, 11 May 2018


John Reeves William Alfred John Reeves Gramp Nan and Gramp1970 Bill Reeves

Thursday, 10 May 2018

(Fan)Fiction with Commaful

I've been trying out Commaful, the hyped new place to share short flash fiction and poetry accompanied by images and gifs. I'd read a few articles about it so figured I'd give it a go myself with a drabble I wrote ages ago for a prompt fest.

(AU: Harry is already a bitter child by the time he goes to school and never trusts Dumbledore.)

I was dubious but it's just as easy as everyone says it is. You just write / paste in your work, then the site automatically divides it into sentence sized chunks to go on each slide. Then you find the perfect image / gif to accompany your words and, voilà, one pretty slide show of a story!

As soon as it's published you're given the option to share across social media, and provided with the embed code for your blog or website. It's all great fun, and even if it's not something you'll use regularly it's worth giving it a go and having a play around with putting your own story together.

The community feel is nice too, and I received likes, comments, and interaction within hours of posting my story. There are contests you can take part in, and badges to earn for reading and commenting on other people's work. I think that's a really nice feature to encourage engagement and help create a supportive community.

What do you think?

via Commaful

My Fiction

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

10 Most Random Patron Saints

10 Patron Saints of the Totally Random

The Catholic church has a patron saint for just about everything. Here are ten of the more random causes!

St Expeditius - patron saint of procrastination

This is the patron saint I need! St. Expeditus, an Armenian born Roman centurion who was martyred for his conversion to Christianity in 303, is commemorated by the Roman Catholic church every April 19th.

He is the patron saint against procrastination, of emergencies, expeditious solutions, merchants, navigators, programmers, hackers, and revolutionaries.

St Ambrose - patron saint of beekeepers

St. Ambrose was one of the four original Doctors of the Church and, so legend has it, as a baby a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle. Instead of stinging him to a My Girl style tragedy, they left a drop of honey behind on his unblemished skin. Ambrose's father saw this as a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue - rightly so, as Ambrose grew to be a successful politician as Governor of Aemilia-Liguria before becoming Bishop of Milan.

Ambrose is considered the patron saint of beekeepers, beggars, learners and Milan, while his brother and sister were also canonized as St. Satyrus of Milan and St. Marcellina, respectively.

St Vitus - patron saint of oversleeping

St. Vitus is said to have been a martyr for his faith in the days of Diocletian. His feast day is celebrated on June 15th in the western calendar, and he is considered the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers, and epileptics. He also protects against lightning strike, animal attacks, and oversleeping, as well as being one of the Fourteen Martyrs who give aid in times of trouble.

He is specifically invoked against chorea - otherwise known as St. Vitus Dance thanks to the symptoms resembling the annual dance around his statues carried out on the continent.

St Isidore of Seville - patron saint of the internet

The last of the Fathers of the Church - the ancient Christian theologians - St. Isidore of Seville came from a holy family. All his siblings are saints too! His older brother, St. Leander, introduced the Nicene Creed at Mass, and his younger brother, St. Fulgentius of Cartagena, was the bishop of Ecija in Andalusia. His sister, St. Florentina, founded a convent in Ecija.

St. Isidore's big claim to fame, however, was his Etymologiae, an encyclopedia that preserved many texts of classical antiquity. It was this desire to collate and present knowledge which lead Pope John Paul II to declare him the patron saint of the internet in 1997.

St Bibiana - patron saint of hangovers

According to tradition, St. Bibiana lived in Rome where she was tortured to death in an attempt to make her renounce her faith. After death her body was left for wild animals who refused to touch it. After her burial 'mysterious and magical' healing herbs were said to grow around her grave.

Today she protects the faithful from hangovers which, while undoubtedly useful, is a somewhat bizarre postscript for a martyr.

St Fiacre - patron saint of STDs

Given the Catholic Church's stance on safe sex, the faithful have had to look elsewhere for protection against sexually transmitted infections and diseases. St. Fiacre of Breuil, a seventh century Irish priest who became a hermit, is about as good it gets. A renowned healer and grower of herbs, Fiacre had a scare when a woman accused him of witchcraft on account of his miraculous abilities.

Thereafter Fiacre prohibited women from his hermitage, and it is this aversion which lead to him being called upon as the patron saint of STDs, particularly VD. He is also recognised as the patron saint of gardeners, taxi drivers, florists, box makers, hosiers, pewterers, tilemakers, the infertile, and those suffering with haemorrhoids - known to our medieval ancestors as 'Saint Fiacre's figs'.


St. Friard was a hermit who lived on the island of Vindomitte in sixth century France. When a group of onlookers tormented him for his piety a swarm of wasps attacked them, only retreating when Friard prayed for them. Unsurprisingly Friard went on to become the patron saint of spheksophobia - the fear of wasps!

St Drogo - patron saint of unattractive people

St. Drogo was born into Flemish nobility but chose a life of poverty as a penitential pilgrim. He was allegedly able to bilocate - be in two places at the same time - but even that couldn't help him when he was stricken with some unnamed affliction that left him so deformed he frightened the townspeople. As a result a cell was built for him attached to the local church where he lived for the next forty years, void of both food and human contact beyond the hand pushing barley, water, and the holy Eucharist through his small cell window...

Canonized after his death in 1186, Drogo became the patron saint of all manner of random things: those whom others find repulsive, unattractive people, bodily ills, broken bones, cattle, coffee house keepers, deafness, dumbness, gall stones, hernias, illness, and insanity.

St Gummarus - patron saint of marital discord

Born into a high ranking Belgian family in 717, the King arranged a marriage for him to Guinmarie, a haughty noblewoman who made his life and those of their household servants a misery. They eventually separated and he became a hermit until his death in 774.

Today he is venerated as the patron saint of childless people, courtiers, cowherds, difficult marriages glove makers, hernia sufferers, separated spouses, and woodcutters. He also has a beer named for him produced by the Cornelissen brewery - he probably could have done with a few pints of it himself!

St Balthazar - patron saint of playing card manufacturers

St. Balthazar was one of the three Magi who visited the baby Jesus; he was the one who brought the myrrh. Legend has it that he lived a full life - he died in January 55 AD aged 112, right in the middle of celebrating Mass.

Like many Catholic saints, Balthazar is a great multitasker. He is considered the patron saint of epilepsy, thunder, motorists, furriers, sawmen, sawyers, travelers, travelling salesmen, Saxony, Cologne, and playing card manufacturers - the latter is based on his tenuous link with Romani showmen as the King of Egypt (and, hence, 'gypsies').

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