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What day is it?

The good folks at Google are marking St Andrew’s Day today with one of their celebrated Doodles.

Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople [wherever that might be!?]

There are some very strange customs that are associated with this day, including:

  • If an unwed girl prays honestly to St Andrew the night before (29th November), she will be granted a good and caring husband
  • At exactly midnight, unwed girls should throw a shoe at the exit of the house.  If the tip of the shoe is pointing towards the exit then she will marry a noble and caring person and will leave her house within one year
  • Unwed girls should also peel an apple in one piece and then throw the peel backwards.  The letter which the peel has formed will be the first letter of the name of her future husband
  • It was traditional to eat a single sheep’s head on St Andrew’s Day
  • In Romania the women don’t just pray for husbands, they put 41 grains of wheat under their pillow.  If they dream someone will steal the grains, it apparently means they’ll get married the following year.

The Scottish flag, the Saltire, has the white diagonal ‘cross of St. Andrew’ on a blue background and is widely flown in Scotland. It would be natural to suppose therefore that Scots would celebrate St Andrew’s Day on November 30th in a big way.   THEY DON’T.   TV and radio mention the fact that it IS St. Andrew’s Day but that is about as far as it goes for most Scots.

However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If November 30 falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although that day is a bank holiday under that act, banks are not required to close (and don’t) and other employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. So it is more of a “voluntary public holiday” rather than a proper bank holiday. So far, few companies have negotiated the day as a staff holiday, though staff in Scottish government departments and a few local government authorities happily get an extra day off.

As every Scot knows, the time to celebrate Scottishness is Burns Night, January 25th. The poet Rabbie Burns holds a place of affection in the minds of Scots all over the world and perhaps this is why St Andrew’s Day passes with relatively little to mark it.

Temper your expectations!

Tonight we watched from behind our sofas as Wayne Rooney marked his England return with the goal that secured a place for England in Euro 2012’s last eight – but it was a rough passage eased by helpings of good fortune and controversy against Ukraine.

Ukraine, however, will complain long and hard about a contentious second-half incident when Marko Devic’s shot clearly crossed the line before it was scrambled away by John Terry, only for the officials to remain unmoved.  The incident immediately revived the debate about goal-line technology, with a final decision on whether it is introduced expected to be taken in Zurich on 5 July.

England will of course regard it as a measure of justice for Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup – but it was also an illustration of how they rode their luck for long periods in front of a predictably partisan home crowd in Kiev tonight.

The Ukrainians immediately demanded a goal and their claims were vindicated as replays showed the ball crossed the line before Terry’s intervention.

Before the game manager Roy Hodgson had said England could dream a little – ahead of the confrontation with Italy in Kiev, they can now afford to dream a little more.

But lets not get too carried away!  We get so above ourselves in these tournaments and the nation as a whole always seems to think that the England team can win the whole thing!  This is quite clearly unlikely to happen while are unable to achieve No.1 status in the FIFA World Rankings.  We are currently No. 6 in the world and No. 4 in Europe, meaning the very best we should perhaps be hoping for in this competition is 4th place and anything better than this is a bonus?

Sorry – you might not like that, but it’s true!

Conspiracy Theory #2795

So England were only able to manage a 1-1 draw against France in their first game of Euro2012 last night.  As always, there has been plenty said in the press about the lack of a win against a French side that, despite being the favourites, had a pretty poor back line that should perhaps have been exploited?

I am of the opinion, however, that more sinister forces are at work!  Last night, for the first time in 16 years, the England Supporters Band were unable to play after their instruments were confiscated at the stadium in Ukraine!

However, while the irritation of hearing The Great Escape theme tune repeatedly grated with many listeners, it was last night found to drown out the various mindless chants that Roy Hodgson’s barmy army indulge in and therefore is clearly the lesser of two evils.

It is not known whether the band will be allowed to play in England’s next game on Friday against Sweden in Kiev.  If they can’t play however, and if the rumours are to believed and Hodgson is planning to start Jordan Henderson, England supporters will be rendered speechless for the entire ninety minutes so that TV audiences can watch the game in muted disbelief.

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