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Anyone looking for an antidote to the day of St Valentine – who’s not exactly the patron saint of greetings card companies, vintners and ready meal manufacturers, but might as well be – should look no further than St Cyril, whose feast day also falls on February 14th.

Author Ian Clayton, who confesses that he hasn’t received a Valentine’s card since 1972, will be raising a glass to St Cyril this year. Cyril, a 9th century philosopher, was a great believer in vernacular language; he made it his mission to help people to learn in their own tongue and translated the bible into the Slavic language of Moravia.

Ian Clayton’s latest book, Right Up Your Street, is a celebration of localism in all its eccentric, bewildering and historical glory, putting pride right back into place and the local firmly amongst the global. In a fitting tribute to the lesser known saint, Right Up Your Street will be released on St Cyril’s day, Sunday 14th February. Here’s an extract from the book: Nice one Cyril.

Nice one Cyril

It’s a long time since anybody sent me a Valentine’s card but there was a time when I got two in one year; alright it was a long time ago, forty one years ago to be precise, and I think they both might have been from Aunt Alice.

I did a bit of digging and found out that Saint Valentine lived in the third century and was sentenced to death by Claudius for trying to convert him to Christianity. They threw stones at him to start with, then they hit him with wooden clubs and, when that didn’t work, they cut off his head outside the Flaminian Gate. That was on a Monday, 14th February 209 AD. I also discovered that Saint Valentine, as well as being the patron saint of love and lovers, is also the patron saint of bee keepers, the plague, epilepsy, people who faint, travellers and young people; he’s a busy lad is St Valentine. I wondered why he might be best known for instigating a multi-million pound card business and then I found a romantic little story about when he was in prison awaiting execution. One of his jailors had a blind daughter and Valentine performed his first miracle by laying his hands on the girl’s eyes and restoring her sight. Later he penned a note to the young woman and signed it ‘From your Valentine’.

For such a famous saint, it might surprise you to know that there is not a single church in the whole of England dedicated to him, though there is one in Dublin on Whitefriar Street that has a shrine to him and a little vessel tinged with a small amount of his blood. And, in Rome, there is a church that was built for the athletes’ village in 1960 when they had the Olympics there and that’s called St. Valentine’s.

For those of you who don’t believe in all the romantic malarkey, you’ll be pleased to know that today is also the feast day of that lesser known but, in my mind at least, very important saint. Yes, I refer to Saint Cyril.

Cyril was a philosopher, a man of books and learning, he worked as a missionary in the 9th century and interests me because he believed in vernacular language. He made it his mission to help people to learn in their own tongue and translated most of the bible into the Slavic language of Moravia. Along with his brother Methodius, he became one of the fathers of the literary movement in that part of the world. He was of course punished for his efforts, like all these martyrs tend to be, but he should be remembered.

So, if I don’t get a Valentine’s card today, and I don’t really expect to seeing as I haven’t had one since 1972, I shall console myself by raising a glass to Saint Cyril. Nice one Cyril!

If Valentine and Cyril don’t do it for you, then consider paying homage to the other Saints who have feast days today, there’s plenty to pick from including Saint Abraham, the hermit of Syria; Saint Conran of the Orkney Islands; and Saint Antoninus of Sorrento, who once pulled a child out of a whale’s mouth after the little lad had been swallowed whole!

I thought that while I was doing my saintly research I ought to look up the saints who have their feast day on my birthday. I came across Saint Hermione, a second-century martyr, venerated in the eastern orthodox church, who doesn’t appear to be the patron saint of anything; and Saint Rosalia of Sicily, who in young life was led to a cave by two angels. She then decided to spend the rest of her life there. I learned that academics often quote Rosalia on papers about bio diversity… not the most interesting of saints I have to say but then I discovered that I share my birthday with Beyonce Knowles. Now there’s a woman who I like the idea of blowing a few candles out with. I wonder if she’s free to come and sing at my party later this year?

LAUNCH
A launch event for Right Up Your Street takes place at the Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, on Thursday 18 February at 7:30pm. All welcome.

REVIEW
Read Articulated’s review of Right Up Your Street here.

READ REGIONAL
Ian Clayton has been selected for the 2016 Read Regional campaign to bring writers closer to readers across the north of England. Ian will be reading from Song For My Father at a series of intimate events across the north from from March to June. See here for details on Ian and here to see the calendar of events.

‘Ian Clayton has an unshakeable belief in the power of stories to bring people together, coming as he does from that great tradition of storytellers that includes the likes of Stan Barstow, Alan Sillitoe and, his hero, Barry Hines.’ – Chris Bond, Yorkshire Post

Ian Clayton has been a jobbing writer, storyteller and broadcaster for over 30 years. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. He has written three memoirs: Bringing It All Back Home about his love of music; Our Billie about loss; and Song For My Father about his absent father and a life-long search for a father figure.

Hope you all enjoy 14 February, whichever saint you choose to feast with.

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