In the year of our lord one thousand nine hundred eighty-seven, the blogger’s father and six of his cronies (otherwise known as the magnificent seven) founded a club. It was a prestigious village club for gentlemen. They called themselves NOT the “Merry Men of the Lower Wet Field”, which not only sounds wonderfully picturesque, but also has the redeeming quality of being the authoress’s own suggestion. Unfortunately, this was before her time, so the local “sires” couldn’t profit from her wise advice. Instead, they decided upon MMC, which is short for The Marriage Martyr Club (and sounds faintly misogynic).
The main purpose of this club was to enjoy hiking in good company. Although my private opinion is that men sought an excuse to go blow off steam for a couple of days and possibly to explore the contents of the regional wine cellars. Who is to tell? Primarily, this society was reserved for married individuals of the masculine gender – how utterly unexpected. However, since my father hadn’t yet met the women of his dreams (my charming mother), he as one of the Founding Fathers added a clause that all unmarried men above the age of 27 were also permitted to join the club. As chance would have it, my illustrious father was 27 at the time (a funny coincidence that has earned him many a chaffing throughout the years).
Of course, even the lucky individuals that meet the two requirements, have to go through a long selective process. As my sources tell me, one must hand in a written application complete with signatures of any two current members who consequently become the youngster’s mentors. The time of apprenticeship lasts for a year and after the appointed time, the apprentice needs only to successfully undergo the initiation ceremony (also known as the Martyr Fest) and he is in.
These proceedings are conducted under the strict auspices of secrecy. However, your brave reporter eyeballed one of the members for a long while, became his confidante and managed to bring you this exclusive information. My source who wishes to remain anonymous says that to pass the test, the apprentice must devour the so called “Martyr’s Tidbit”, which I suppose has some vague reference to the Last Supper. In any case, the scrumptious meal consists of a loaf of bread and a huge kielbasa (a delicacy in our part of the world), which he washes down with two pints of regional wine. If the candidate complies with the rules satisfactorily, he is given a new name and becomes a true-blue martyr. However, if the candidate should fail, he becomes the joke of the community and must leave the country. I’m kidding, he just has to go through one more year of apprenticeship.
Now, as I have mentioned, each member is given quite a specific sobriquet. The names are indeed somewhat peculiar and make one think of the deranged progeny of Santa’s beloved reindeers. Here are the monikers of some the pinnacles of the community: the Fat One, the Old One, Digger, Hurdler, John the Baptist, Amigo and The Grand K, just to give you a flavour. The members enjoy a high reputation in the county. One of its members is the former principle of our primary school (I know!).
The club wouldn’t be complete without its elders – the highest authority in the club. Each year the council members elect a new leader (so that he wouldn’t get drunk with power). He’s called the big Kahuna. Besides giving justice to their wives’s cuisines, the members regularly engage in recreational events. In their younger years, they went hiking pretty regularly, but these days many of them have started manifesting signs of rheumatism, so they go skiing to Austria instead (because they can reach the summit with cable cars).
As it is a real club, its members must perform their duties regularly. For example, if a certain member is unable to climb Triglav (our highest mountain) or some other two-thousander, his membership is suspended automatically. Also, each member must regularly attend council meetings, otherwise he will pay fines.
One of the events the club organizes is the traditional carol singing on the Eve of the Epiphany. Since the author was able to personally “participate” in this event, she will take a dab at trying to describe it. The throng, meaning its 19 actual members, came to our doorstep dressed in their ceremonial attire – suspenders (not the cool ones they wear in Mad Men though), woollen socks, a red hat and what I can only assume is a shirt from the Urkel foundation. Then they sang the five stanzas of a song written for them by a celebrated poet from our parts (you might want to take the word “celebrated” with a pinch of salt). The last stanza goes like this:
The original Slovene version (in dialect):
Zdaj pa prosۥmo za en majhen dar,
kruha, vinca, alۥ pa denar,
če pa ne boste nič dar ۥvalۥ,
vam bomo pa dekleta (gospodarja) ukralۥ.
My stab at a translation :
Now we for a trifle pray,
Bread, a glass of wine or some pay
If thou givest nothing,
The (blushing) maiden we’ll take without bluffing.
The blushing maiden was my cue to get outside with a tray of bilberry brandy. When I performed my duties of a hostess (I could have given Martha Stewart a run for her money), I stood aside to watch one of the members write the initials of the three Magi above the door frame : G+M+B (standing for Gaspar, Matthew and Balthasar respectively). Then everyone gave me a hearty handshake and wished me a happy new year. I find that awfully sweet. I think that in the future, I shall force people to be nice to me more.
What about you? Do you also want to become one of the Marriage Martyrs when you grow up? Even if you are absent in body, you can celebrate with the merry brotherhood in spirit on March 10, the “international” Martyr’s Day. Apparently, it was on that day many moons ago that 40 soldiers died for their religious beliefs. In honour of that, the number of members must never exceed 40, otherwise they will suffer the same fate. I say risk it.