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Today is St Georges Day, both here and in the UK. St George is England’s patron Saint although you would not know it, he is also Catalonia’s Saint and this is where the difference can be seen.  In England the 23rd of March usually passes without a notice let alone a mention of tv, which basically says a lot about the Church of England and Government.

The Church of England for what ever reason does not actively encourage the people to remember their own Saint. Perhaps they are more concerned with offending others, why I cannot say but there is no big mention like there is on St Davids day.  As for the Government well, we could have a National Saints Day if only to prove we are English and England is our country, but I doubt if any of them are THAT patriotic.

However here St George is celebrated in true style.  Today is the day when the men give the women they love a red rose and the women give the men a book.  It actually says quite a lot about tradition and pride in your country. The rose which was blooming and white was drenched in the dragons blood when George gave it to the fair maiden he had saved hence the red rose.  The book for St George was, I presume, a token of gratitude which like the book and in all true traditions became a token of love.  There is also a tradition of giving a yellow rose to friends so it is possible for everyone to get a rose.

As for me well my wife has her garden of roses she writes poems and I write books.  Our hallway has a book case and I don’t want another book but I expect I will buy her another rose.  We have the red rose of love, the yellow rose of friendship, the white rose of purity and several shades in between.  I have what I want we have been married for 49 years this year ups and downs like everyone else  so I think the rose garden covers everything oh yes and there is a Peace rose in there I can tell it by its perfume and colour they were bought to celebrate peace.

Happy Saint Georges Day Everyone

© Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

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This is a time for fairy stories, magical things and happiness.  For the children it’s all about Disney, Farther Christmas – here it’s also the Three Kings – distributing their gifts and generally enjoying themselves.  But this story is purely for the grown up’s who love wine. So with the children tucked up in bed, it’s time to turn off the television, stoke the fire  pour yourself a drink,  settle into a comfy chair and I’ll begin.

Once upon a time long long ago was a secret valley surrounded by mystical mountains.  This valley had gently rolling fields in which were dotted little farm houses, surrounded by grape vines.  Each house was charged with growing grapes for the local monastery who made ordinary wine for their services and the monks but a ‘magic’ sparkling wine for special visitors.  For many many years the farmers had grown the grapes taken them to the monastery so the monks could make their wine, but no matter what the quantity the farmers produced there was never enough grapes left over for their own wine. So they devised a plan. Each farmer would grow one row of grapes for himself and after they had taken the others to the monastery they would pick these to make their wine.  To keep this plan secret from the monks they would not mention the extra row as the monks would demand all the grapes, so they decided they would take turns to make their wine so that if a monk saw anything he would not know what was really happening.  But as usual the monks got to hear about all of this and demanded all the grapes, so it was that the glum farmers took all their harvest to the monastery.

Now everyone has a patron saint. There is one for travellers, children, fishermen and, of course, farmers and this little valley was no exception. The monks had been telling stories of Saint Galdric and how he was the patron Saint of farmers, and how they were the only people who could talk to him and that was why they needed all the grapes. But the poor men who worked the fields could not believe that a Saint would allow the monks to take everything from them in his name. Then one day when an old farmer was sitting alone on his finca he was approached by a strange-looking man. The man came quietly along the field and stopped in front of the farmer and asked if he could have a piece of bread and something to drink.  The old man said he was welcome to share his food but he could only offer him water as the greedy monks had taken all the grapes and he had none to make wine any more.  The stranger sat and talked with him for a while then rose to leave saying that soon the monks would not be needing grapes and the old man and his friends would have plenty of grapes.  True enough after a few years when their wine had gone bad and could not be drunk the monks closed the monastery and moved further down the country, unfortunately they took the secret of their ‘magic’ wine with them, well they thought they had.

About a year after all this happened, a young man came out of the mountains and walked around the valley.  He finally found someone who knew a little of wine making and began to instruct him in the art of making the ‘magic’ wine, only he could not get it to form the ‘Golden Crown’. This was the magic of the monks wine but try as he might he could not get it to appear.  So for many years the farmers just kept making their wine and hoping the ‘Golden Crown’ would appear in their wine. Through war and pestilence peace and faming they tried but although the wine was good and the sparkling wine sparkled the ‘Golden Crown’ remained elusive. This situation carried on over the years, and the sparkling wine was given the name Cava after the valley it came from, until one day….

On a quiet sunny afternoon in autumn after the grapes had been harvested, a strange old man was seen wandering around the valley. He was dressed in a rough tunic his legs bound with cloth and sandles on his feet.  He had a beard and fine head of hair streaked with grey, with a quite and peaceful countenance. He walked with a long staff and where he trod the tired earth was renewed.  All day he would walk amongst the vineyards talking to the farmers, at night he would knock on a door and ask for shelter, to those who made him welcome he gave a blessing and told them how to make their wine more drinkable.  To those who turned him away he would sadly shake his head saying he was sorry they had a bad harvest. These farmers laughed and said they had had a super harvest but the old man was not talking about the one just gone he was talking about the next harvest. True enough the following year those who had been kind to him had bumper crops with enough grapes to make plenty of wine.  However, those who had been unkind barely had enough for a few bottles and it was not that nice to drink.

This was the second time St. Galdric had visited the valley but he was not to be seen again until the early 1900’s when a disease killed the vines.  As the poor farmers struggled with this disaster, he wandered amongst them giving advice and solace.  If they used vines grafted on stock from the America’s they would be able to grow grapes again and make wine.  Some of the farmers listened to him and took his advice. They planted vines which began to grow producing some special grapes which were used to make the Cava.  One day a young boy was sitting in the autumn sun by the side of a vineyard where his father and grandfather were busy working, he was thinking of how it would feel when he was grown up and could make his own wine.  He wanted to make Cava, not any Cava but the stuff the monks of old had made, all his life he had heard the stories and he believed.

As he sat there dreaming and looking across the valley into the late evening sun his vision seemed to waver, was that a man approaching? He rubbed his eyes and looked again, no there was no mistake a man was walking towards him.  The young boy watched his approach, saw the soft even tread that made no noise nor left a footprint. When he was level with the boy the man stopped and looked at him.  He asked the boy why he looked so sad. “My father and grandfather work so hard to grow grapes but it is even harder to make wine like the monks made, I wish I was older and could do so.”  the boy looked sad.   “Walk with me” the man said and with the boy went in search of his father, they found him pruning the vines.  Looking up his father saw walking towards him an old man surrounded by a shimmering light.  The boy ran towards him “Father this old man wants to speak with you”.  His father stopped work and straightened up still watching the old man, there was something about him he recognised. But before he could speak the boy’s grandfather drew a deep breath “Saint Galdric… Saint Galdric” he whispered.  The old man smiled and a warm gentle glow spread over the other three.

Turning to the boy’s father he said “Your son tells me you want to make wine as good as the monks made a long time ago”  all the boy’s father could do was nod.  Taking up the knife that the man had dropped the Saint began to show how to prune the vines to encourage better growth.  Then as the sun was beginning to set and it was dinner time they invited him to join them and whilst they ate Saint Goldric told them the secret of how to make wine as good as the monks of old. When it was time for St. Galdric to leave he beckoned the boy to walk with him, as they walked he said “One day I will return and teach you how to make the ‘Golden Crown’.”

Time passed and when St Galdric returned, it was not the boy he instructed, but his son.  As the years had passed the boy had grown and founded his own celler and learnt how to make Cava like the monks, so had many other farmers, but try as they might they could not make the ‘Golden Crown’.  When St Galdric returned the ‘boy’ was pleased to see him telling him of his life and introducing his sons who worked with their father as he proudly showed the Saint his Celler.  “We have managed to produce the “magic” wine the monks made we still call it Cava.”  When he heard this St Galdric nodded slowly, “does anyone help you?” he asked “Only my sons”.  “ahhhh” murmured the Saint.

After he had left the ‘boy’ he headed back to where they had first met.  As he walked along the road St Galdric spied the person he was looking for.  There sitting in the same place as his father had all those years ago was a young man.  St Galdric stopped in front of the young man and asked what was wrong.  The young man sighed then looking at the Saint he said “I have been hearing about the ‘Golden Crown’ ever since I can remember but neither my father nor any of the other producers can achieve it, I would so like to do so.”  he sighed again and the Saint saw his father sitting there and heard the same words but looking at this young man he could see the passion in those eyes, feel his longing, his love for the wines he made.  So the Saint sat down next to the young man and told him the story of how he met his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, of the monks and their wine making but that only a truly passionate wine maker who really cared about his Cava could create the ‘Golden Crown’.

“May I give you some advice” the Saint asked. “Yes please” the young man eagerly replied.  “You must study hard, learn about wine making then when you are ready return here to your great-grandfathers old home and create a Celler with your own hands.  When you have achieved this I will return and show you how to make the ‘Golden Crown’.”  The young man looked at the Saint who seemed to be fading in the evening light. It took about 2 seconds for him to promised and as he watched Saint Galdric gently faded away.  As the young man sat watching the spot where the Saint had stood he drifted off into a different realm.  Here he found himself watching a friar making his ‘magic’ wine. He noted how yeast was added to the wine, when fermentation was stopped and how to bottle it, how long to leave  it before gently turning the bottles to stop the sediment from dropping to the bottom.  But most important how and when to turn the bottles on their heads and remove this sediment.

The young man came back to earth with a start as he heard his name being called, looking up he saw running towards him the love of his life, a young pretty girl who had stolen his heart one day he would marry her but first he had to make wine. She reached him a smile on her face excitement in her eyes and slightly out of breath she said “St Galdric was here he was at your father’s Celler everyone is talking about it.” She stopped for breath then looked slightly puzzled. “You are not interested?” she asked ‘Oh I am but I have just been talking with him, I will make the ‘Golden Crown’, at least that is what he told me.” he finished.  The girl stared at him “How? Who will help you? Your brothers?” “No” he said slowly, “You will!”  “Me!” she replied a little taken aback “Yes, if you will marry me” was his answer not the one she had expected but the one question she had hoped to hear…..

After they had married the young man worked even harder at learning his trade, but something was missing, then he remembered his promise to St Galdric.  Going to his father he asked for his grandfathers old Celler and house so he could make the ‘Golden Crown’.  At first his father was a little reluctant but eventually he agreed and the young couple moved their little family out of the large house and Celler of his father and into their very own home and Celler.   The work was hard, and backbreaking, long hours clearing and cleaning the caves, next building the Celler and whilst all this was going on there were the vines and fields to tend.  The young man worked very hard preserving his grandfathers machinery to show how it was done all those years ago. They worked hard together and one day when the young man had things as he wanted Saint Galdric appeared.  He wandered over the Celler looked in the caves and gave his seal of approval, then he asked to taste the first bottle of Cava the young man had produced.  This was fetched and placed on the table in front of the Saint who picked it up turned it towards the light and sighed, this was perfect.  Handing it back he asked the young man to open the bottle and pour two glasses.  As this was being done the young man’s son and wife arrived just in time to see forming at the top of the glasses the Golden Crown of Cava.  All his dreams hopes and longing had become reality he had made the Golden Crown.  Tears of joy and pride ran down his face he did not need to speak St Galdric could see the gratitude in his very being.  The old Saint smiled and prepared to leave all I ask is that you guard the secret well.

The young man never forgot and at Christmas at a table laid for Christmas dinner with family and friends the young man would raise his glass and drink his Cava to St Galdric and watch as the Golden Crown glowed at the top is their glasses.  What he did not see was the happy contented smiling face of the Saint peering in at the window before he turned to wander in search of others he could help.  However, one Christmas this changed slightly, the young man was older now his son was grown up as was his daughter. He was crossing the garden from the Celler when he saw standing by the gate Saint Galdric.  The saint watched him as he approached and asked the Saint  how he was before inviting him in to join his family for Christmas dinner.  “Thank you but no, my work here is done. But there is one thing I need from you.” “Anything St Galdric what can I do?”  “Tell me your name. I cannot keep calling you young man” the Saint smiled.  “It’s Josep”  Josep said.  The Saint nodded then said “Thank you Josep for keeping the faith and the ‘Golden Crown’. Your Cava will become well-known and your hard work rewarded. Do not worry about the future your son has your passion and will continue.”  As he said these words St Galdric slowly began to fade away the last thing Josep saw was the gentle smile.

He walked back into the house but at the door he turned Merry Christmas St Galdric you are welcome here anytime.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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