Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Countdown To 1,000 - 3 : St Gothard And The Gatepost

Continuing my progress towards the big 1,000, today the random number generator has chosen a post with a certain mystical flavour. In May 2008 I directed my attention to the gatepost and equally to my coming 60th birthday. I regret to announce that my intention to "restore churches, establish schools, and build a hospice or two" is still in the planning phase : I must check to find out how long St Gothard continued his labours before settling down and concentrating on his blog.

News From Nowhere : Tuesday 13th May 2008
Saints Alive, It's A Miracle

I'm normally a fairly sceptical type of a chap, not given to seeing signs or visions. Miraculous Revelations don't normally play much part in my daily life : I would rate them on a reliability index only just above Daily Mail editorials. It might therefore come as a bit of a surprise to followers of this blog, when I reveal that I have received a message from on high. And what's more, the message was hand-delivered by a saint.

Over the last few days Cousin Dave - assisted by his apprentice, the Divine Jennifer - have been repairing and repainting our front wall. Whilst painting a fiddly bit, the Divine J accidentally knocked the wooden nameplate off the front gate. The nameplate proclaims that the house is called Inglewood, a name which I have always considered so ridiculous I have never used it. But when the wooden nameplate fell to the ground it revealed the original name of the house carved into the stone of the gatepost : St. Gothard.

Now even though I'm a bit of a sceptic, I am as keen as the next man to follow up on a passing augury (only last week I was occupied in mapping the pigeon droppings on the bonnet of my car in case they provided a clue to the meaning of life). So off I went to try and discover who on earth St Gothard was and what he did, other than possibly building a tunnel through the Alps. As it turns out the only connection between Gothard (or Godehard as he preferred to be called) and the tunnel was that someone built a church dedicated to him on the top of the pass. Gothard was a German and his main claim to fame was as Bishop of Hildesheim, in Germany. He was nominated Bishop in 1022 by the Emperor Henry, but tried to turn the post down on the basis of his age - he was just 60 at the time. The Emperor would have none of it and insisted that Gothard should undertake the task irrespective of his age. Butler's Lives of the Saints takes the story up : "He threw himself into the work of his diocese with the zest and energy of a young man. He built and restored churches he did much to foster education, especially in the cathedral school ; he established such strict order in his chapter that it resembled a monastery , and, on a swampy piece of land which he reclaimed on the outskirts of Hildesheim, he built a hospice where the sick and poor were tenderly cared for".

I have been thinking a lot over recent weeks about my approaching sixtieth birthday, wondering what life has in store for me as I slowly limp downhill towards old age. I have been a bit rudderless. Searching for a sign. And there it is : carved in Times Roman on the stone of our gatepost. Starting tomorrow I will restore churches, establish schools and build a hospice or two. I will be the St Gothard of the twenty-first century.

Before searching back through the archives to discover which particular post the fickle finger of the random number generator was pointing to, I had completely forgotten about St Gothard and the gatepost. Which just goes to underline another benefit of blogging - you get quite an interesting life-journal as a by-product. Not the "got up, washed my face, walked the dog" kind of thing, but a gentle reminder of what occupied your thoughts, what made you angry and what made you smile. Hopefully, over the 1,000 posts, there have been more smiles than outbursts of anger.


  1. I always loved stories of the saints, and I used to tell them in assembly when I was a headteacher. Some of them led quite celebrity lifestyles and weren’t quite as ascetic as they would have us believe!

    So, did you change the name of the house back to that carved in stone? Wasn’t there a Squire Inglewood in a novel of old?

    Just googled it: Rob Roy by Walter Scott. So I wonder if there’s a story behind that.

  2. Nell : I can never get my head around house names so it remains plain old No. 3. Thanks for the tip about Inglewood. I will check him out. If he turns out to be the old type squire with a curly mustache and a bottle of Madeira I might be tempted to use that name after all.

  3. Interesting. To those of us on the other side of The Pond, a named house seems very posh; the only named houses here tend to belong to the ultra-rich (Tess's Willow Manor is an exception, of course!).

  4. Roy : Most of the houses around here seem to have names carved on the gate posts. I feel a blog post coming on ...

  5. Mmmmm.... Well, you know me, I look everywhere for signs and wonders, and perhaps this is a sign, in more ways than one. To what end, we shall see.... You have my curiosity piqued, that's certain.

    Great post(s).

  6. So - how many hospices have you founded in the last three and a half years, then? Not a bad retirement project IMHO, although there's also something to be said for a less energetic hobby - carving house name plaques out of recycled polystyrene for instance.

    The unanswered question is why the house was called after St. Gothard in the first place.

    And thanks for visiting my blog!

  7. Oh what a great sign it is indeed in so many ways! ha ha ...I have always wanted a name for where I live, and still think of creating one and posting it...and lucky you to have two! I did a brief check on both names and wow there are some serious connections with both names....not everything that shines is gold!

  8. You never see house names over here, think I've seen one in all my days.

  9. The way things are going, we'll all be praying for St Gothard's return. Perhaps that's another sign from someone almost in touch with unreality, telling you to start your building programme.

    You are a great story writer.

  10. Alan ~ our birthdays must be close together as mine is approaching, too! Just a decade behind you!

    I love the idea of a named house. More people should do it!

  11. I sincerely hope you in fact got up washed the dog and walked your face. St Gothard would've. Sorry , You know what I mean.

  12. What a great idea to go randomly back in time. I often wander through my archives because it makes me feel, I don't know, comfortable.

    Your work makes me feel comfortable, too. Love your outlook on life.

  13. Love the name -- I'd use it instead of number 3.

  14. Strange to name a house after a person, and a saint too. Is your house built on an old religious commune?

  15. Perhaps the previous owners got stuck in the tunnel and thereby had some kind of nice memories of it.. My parents called their house after the village where they honeymooned.


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