28 August. I went to church with a knife in my bag. A serrated one. Sometimes such things are necessary.
27th of August is the feast day of Saint Fanourios. He is the Saint to whom you pray to reveal lost things. That’s what his name means. Revealer. Tradition is that the evening before his feast day you bake a special cake called a Fanouropita and take it to church to be blessed. Together with my aunt Βικτωρια Δαμδουνη we went to church with our Fanouropites. Most worshippers were wearing masks and there was at least an attempt at social distancing.
We placed our cakes on the left side of the church along with all the other cakes and found places to sit to enjoy the service. It was a bakefest. Women prided themselves on their recipes and decoration.
After the blessing of the cakes there was a non-social distancing rush to retrieve our cakes and take them home for our families to enjoy. The younger female members especially look forward to this because it said if you place a piece of fanouropita under your pillow that night you will dream of the man you’ll marry.
Before we left the church, it happened. I had to use my knife. Other women approached us for a piece of our cake. It’s what you do apparently. You try other people‘s cakes. So, I sliced away and shared our cakes. You don’t have to be a believer it’s just a beautiful tradition to be enjoyed by everyone.
Until this week the daily casualties from the virus did not strike home. Now however we have experienced two deaths. One was the mother of my son in law who died in hospital in Scotland after a serious operation; the other was the brother of my son’s godmother, who caught Covid 19 (as did his wife) and died later in hospital in Guildford, mourned by many of the staff, as he was a governor of the trust.
My son in law’s experience in arranging a funeral must be common for many. First of course a church service was impossible, so he hunted around in Scotland for a crematorium that would take family and mourners at the service. Finally he settled on Perth which allows up to 10 people. Near me in Yorkshire both York and Leeds councils do not allow any family at all at their crematoria and grieving relatives must go to Halifax.
This afternoon a short half hour service was streamed live from the Perth crematorium and 58 people including us tuned in to watch. A wonderful clergyman (a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland) with a soft Scottish voice led the service, while family members read a psalm and a lesson and my son in law gave a moving tribute to his mother. Recorded music from a choir and a Royal Marines band provided the start and finish of proceedings. The whole experience was very moving and as close to the real thing as could be done – a triumph for technology – for a change!
Having finished watching the service I strolled in the lovely sunlight along our village green to our 12th century late Norman church a hundred yards away. Sitting there inside in the cool with sunlight shafting through the stained glass windows was a fitting coda to the afternoon. For 870 years this lovely church has given comfort to villagers at times of plague, civil war and pestilence. Now the church authorities or Magisterium have decreed no-one can enter. How lucky I am that, as church treasurer, I have a key that allows me to break this crazy rule.