I think I may be a reincarnated Benedictine Monk.
And not just any reincarnated Benedictine monk, either. A gyrovague. Oh, yes.
Several synods of the Catholic church-notably in 451 and 787- became increasingly exasperated with gyrovagues.
They didn’t have to be Benedictine but they did have to be cloisterless. They would not settle in a monastery, but travelled from place to place. And as a man they acquired the worst reputation possible. They sold confessions, and fake relics, and spent their ill-gotten gains on gluttony and the passions.
Recognise the type? He swaggers though the Canterbury Tales: here’s a rough translation of our introduction to the portly rogue:
“The rule of Maurice or Saint Benedict,
By reason it was old and somewhat strict,
This said monk let such old things slowly pace
And followed new-world manners in their place.
He cared not for that text a clean-plucked hen
Which holds that hunters are not holy men
Nor that a monk, when he is cloisterless,
Is like unto a fish that’s waterless;
That is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
But this same text he held not worth an oyster.”
The average monk, a three-year-study of Mediaeval monks found, would eat 6,000 calories on a good day. 4,500 a day when they were fasting. Which gyrovagues didn’t.
It is the whole gluttony business which convinces me I have carried my attitude to food from a past life. I do not need to by hungry to eat: I eat for pure pleasure. I arrived at for an evening restaurant meal with friends recently and confessed artlessly that I had helped the children with their chicken nuggets and chips before I came out.
My hor d’oeuvres had not the slightest effect upon my main meal.
Monks did not wear trousers. This is an important facet of knowing when enough is enough. When your trousers get tight to the point that you get cross with them, it is time to do something.
So while in another life my robes just got increasingly voluminous, in this one Marks and Spencer’s formed a strict governor greater than all the powers of Holy Mother Church.
My trousers began to enrage me.
So, with a sigh, my husband and I resolved to do something about it. And it appears that after manymanymany years of spartan diets there is one for past-life gluttonous Benedictine gyrovagues.
It is called the 2 in 7 diet, and I expect some of you are on it too. Only we never do things by halves, and we went for 4 in 7: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we eat, drink and be merry.
So Monday is generally manageable because we’re still working off Sunday’s excesses.
By Tuesday I am thinking: “Are we nearly there yet?” and the next two days stretch out like a yawning chasm, a wasteland. Dinner seems woefully inadequate, but I am ravenous, and every mouthful achieves incredible significance.
By Wednesday, Eating has become a deeply spiritual occupation. I commune with my food. This Wednesday I got to the bottom of my chicken soup and spoke to the void. “Bye bye, soup. You were really lovely. Let’s do this again very soon.”
My daughter rolled her eyes. “Good grief, Mum’s talking to her dinner now,” she observed to the deeply attentive cat who, for the record, may also be a past-life Benedictine gyrovague because he eats everything available all of the time.
Thursday. Life is monochrome: melon has lost any charm it had at the beginning of the week. Thank God for work away from the kitchen cupboards. I send up a silent prayer of thanks to he whom I must have been petitioning for a thousand years if my reckoning is right.
Today I went out to the shops and bought bacon. And I shall wake tomorrow, and grill Phil and I a deeply irreligious bacon sandwich. No, two. No, make that four.
It’s tough being a former gyrovague.