St Valentine’s Day

ValentineSt. Valentine’s Day traditionally celebrates Romance and love and takes place annually on 14 February. Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several martyred saints of ancient Rome. The name “Valentine”, derived from valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity. Saint Valentine was martyred and buried on the Via Flaminia north of Rome on February 14. Born April 16, Martyr Valentinus the Presbyter and those with him at Rome” remains in the list of saints proposed for veneration by all Catholics. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Valentine the Presbyter is celebrated on July 6, and Hieromartyr Saint Valentine (Bishop of Interamna, Terni in Italy) is celebrated on July 30. Notwithstanding that, conventionally, members of the Greek Orthodox Church named Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) celebrate their name on February 14.

The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the lives of any of these martyrs. The Saint Valentine that appears in various martyrologies in connection with Feb 14 and is described either as: A priest in Rome, A bishop of In Terrama (modern Terni), or A martyr in the Roman province of Africa. The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493); alongside the woodcut portrait of Valentine, the text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. At first Claudius took rather a liking to Valentinus and gave him a chance to make amends and redeem himself. However he pushed his luck a bit too far when he tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity, whereupon he was condemned to death. First He was beaten with clubs then he was stoned (and not in a good way), then he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate (which was not particularly good for him either). Being beaten up, stoned and beheaded doesn’t sound particularly romantic to me, anyway….

In the Middle Ages, two Roman churches were dedicated to Saint Valentine. One was the tenth-century church Sancti Valentini de Balneo Miccine or de Piscina, which was rededicated by Pope Urban III in 1186. The other, on the Via Flaminia, was the ancient basilica S. Valentini extra Portam founded by Pope Julius I, though not under this dedication. Hagiographical sources also speak of a Roman priest and a bishop of Terni each buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city, with each venerated on February 14th. The basilica appellatur Valentini, “is called Valentine’s” This, the earlier and by far more important of the churches, is dedicated to the less prominent of the two saints, Valentine, presbyter of Rome. There is also the Basilica S. Valentini extra Portam, the “Basilica of Saint Valentine beyond the Gate” which was situated beyond the Porta Flaminia (the Porta del Popolo.

Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love. However there are those who say that the traditions associated with “Valentine’s Day”, documented in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, had no such tradition before Chaucer. In 1836, some remains that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, then near (rather than inside) Rome, were identified with St Valentine; placed in a casket, and transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, to which they were donated by Pope Gregory XVI. To this day Many tourists visit the saintly remains on St. Valentine’s Day, when the casket is carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.

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Dick Francis CBE FRSL

FrancisBritish steeplechase jockey and crime writer, Richard Stanley “Dick” Francis CBE FRSL sadly passed away on 14 February 2010, At his Caribbean home in Grand Cayman. Born 31 October 1920 in Coedcanlas, Pembrokeshire, Wales, He was the son of a jockey and stable manager and grew up in Berkshire, England. He left school at 15 without any qualifications,with the intention of becoming a jockey and became a trainer in 1938. During World War II, Francis volunteered, hoping to join the cavalry. Instead, he served in the Royal Air Force, working as ground crew and later piloting fighter and bomber aircraft, including the Spitfire and Hurricane. He said in an interview that he spent much of his six years in the Air Force in Africa. In October 1945, he met Mary Margaret Brenchley (17 June 1924 – 30 September 2000), at a cousin’s wedding And Dick and Mary were married in June, 1947, in London. She had a degree in English and French from London University at the age of 19, was an assistant stage manager and later worked as a publisher’s reader. She also became a pilot, and her experiences flying contributed to many novels, including Flying Finish, Rat Race, and Second Wind. She contracted polio while pregnant with their first child, a plight dramatized in the novel Forfeit, which Francis called one of his favorites. They had two sons, Merrick and Felix.

imageAfter leaving the RAF in 1946, Francis became a celebrity in the world of British National Hunt racing, winning over 350 races, becoming champion jockey in the 1953–54 season. Shortly after becoming a professional, he was offered the prestige job of first jockey to Vivian Smith, Lord Bicester. From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. His most famous moment came while riding the Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, in the 1956 Grand National when the horse inexplicably fell when close to winning the race. Decades later, Francis considered losing that race his greatest regret and called it “a disaster of massive proportions. Like most jump jockeys, Francis had his share of injuries. He was hospitalized at the age of 12 when a pony fell on him and broke his jaw and nose. Many protagonists in his novels have broken bones and damaged organs . Dick Francis played an important role in 1983, when the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse “stood at the brink of extinction,” So ‘”Britain’s Jockey Club negotiated a $14 million deal to buy the land and save the race forever. by enlisting two prominent racing personalities – Lord Derby and novelist Dick Francis – were selected to raise the money in a worldwide campaign.” Other philanthropists, including Charles C. Fenwick Jr., who rode Ben Nevis to victory in the 1980 Grand National, and Paul Mellon, a breeder and racing enthusiast, also contributed to save the race.

imageAfter retiring from horse racing on the advice of Lord Abergevenny Francis Went onto Write more than 40 international best-sellers. His first book was his autobiography The Sport of Queens (1957), for which he was offered the aid of a ghostwriter, which he spurned. The book’s success led to his becoming the racing correspondent for London’s Sunday Express newspaper, and he remained in the job for 16 years.In 1962, he published his first thriller, Dead Cert, set in the world of racing. Subsequently he regularly produced a novel a year for the next 38 years, missing only 1998 (during which he published a short-story collection). Although all his books were set against a background of horse racing, his male heroes held a variety of jobs including artist (In the Frame and To the Hilt), private investigator (Odds Against, Whip Hand, Come to Grief, Under Orders—all starring injured ex-jockey Sid Halley, investigator who appears in the Jockey Club (The Edge), pilot (Rat Race and Flying Finish), wine merchant (Proof). All the novels are narrated by the hero, who in the course of the story discovers himself to be more resourceful, brave, tricky, than he had thought, and usually finds a certain salvation for himself as well as bestowing it on others. Details of other people’s occupations fascinated Francis, and the reader finds himself or herself immersed in the mechanics of such things as photography, accountancy, the gemstone trade, restaurant service on transcontinental trains—but always in the interests of the plot. Dysfunctional families were a subject which he exploited particularly well (Reflex, a baleful grandmother; Hot Money, a multi-millionaire father and serial ex-husband; Decider, the related co-owners of a racecourse).

His first novel, Dead Cert, was also adapted for film in 1974. Directed by Tony Richardson, it starred Scott Antony, Judi Dench and Michael Williams. It was adapted again as Favorit (a Russian made-for-television movie) in 1977 Francis’s protagonist Sid Halley was featured in six TV movies made for the program The Dick Francis Thriller: The Racing Game(1979-1980), starring Mike Gwilym as Halley and Mick Ford as his partner, Chico Barnes. Three more TV films of 1989 were adaptations of Bloodsport, In the Frame, and Twice Shy, all starring Ian McShane and featuring protagonist David Cleveland, from the novel Slayride.

Francis is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best Novel, winning for Forfeit in 1970,Whip Hand in 1981, and Come To Grief in 1996. Britain’s Crime Writers Association awarded him its Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. he was granted another Lifetime Achievement Award .Tufts University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1991. In 1996 he was given the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, the highest honour bestowed by the MWA. In 2000, he was granted the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1983 and promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000. Francis has been long accustomed to celebrity as a British sports star, but today he is a worldwide phenomenon, having been published in 22 languages. In Australia, he is recognized in restaurants, from his book-jacket picture. He and Mary will see people reading the novels on planes and trains.”Francis was elected in 1999 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature’ . In the 1980s, Francis and his wife moved to Florida; in 1992, they moved to the Cayman Islands, where Mary died of a heart attack in 2000. In 2006, Francis had a heart bypass operation; in 2007 his right leg was amputated.

P.G.Wodehouse

English Novelist, humorist and lyricist, Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE sadly passed away on 14th February 1975. Born 15th October 1881. His work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years and his many writings continue to be widely read. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse’s novels are mainly set in pre- and post-World War I English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education and youthful writing career. An acknowledged master of English prose, Wodehouse has been admired both by contemporaries such as Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Adams, J. K. Rowling, and John Le Carré.

Best known today for the Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories, Wodehouse was also a playwright and lyricist who was part author and writer of 15 plays and of 250 lyrics for some 30 musical comedies, many of them produced in collaboration with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934), wrote the lyrics for the hit song “Bill” in Kern’s Show Boat (1927), wrote lyrics to Sigmund Romberg’s music for the Gershwin – Romberg musical Rosalie (1928) and collaborated with Rudolf Friml on a musical version of The Three Musketeers (1928). He is also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and his work continues to enjoy enormous popular success and is still widely read, and the musical comedies to which he contributed also remain popular to this day.