Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Who Remembers Stingray?

Today is the Feast of St Marina the Monk, an 8th century cross dresser who wore monk's robes and lived as a man for many years. After the death of her mother her father cared for her (obviously a man who accepted his responsibilities and loved his child, unlike yesterday's dysfunctional family). But as she grew older he wanted to live in a monastery and devote his life to God,  so he found a suitable man for her to marry.

Marina, however, had other ideas: she didn't want a husband - she wanted to live in the monastery with her father, and worship God. Now this obviously posed a problem, since she was a woman and the monks were men, but showing great ingenuity she cut her hair off, donned monkish robes, and off they went. There, according to the Catholic Online site, she served God with great fervour. Personally, I’m all in favour of fervour. We all need more fervour into our lives.
St Marina the Monk
Anyway, she was humble and meek and patient and all went well until she and some of the other brethren were sent out into the world on monastery business. Along the way they stopped at an inn, where another traveller forced his attentions upon the landlord's daughter, and told her to say Marina the Monk was responsible... 

The angry inn-keeper complained to the abbot, who chastised her - but although she wept and begged forgiveness she never explained she could not have done it because she was a woman, and she was cast out of the religious community.  The inn-keeper's daughter's son was handed to her, and she gave him to some shepherds because they had milk for the baby. Years later the abbot relented and Marina was allowed back to the monastery, where the boy eventually became a monk, and she did the cooking and cleaning and other household tasks (by the way, at this point everyone still thought she was a man). It was only when she died and the monks came to change her clothes ready for the funeral that they finally discovered she a was woman, and she was buried with honour. 

I must admit, I'm not sure how accurate any of this information is, since accounts of her life vary, and there are other Saints called Marina (who all seem to be referred to by several different names). At any rate, this particular Marina lived in the area we now now refer to as Turkey. Or possibly the Lebanon, Or north of Lebanon. Or even Syria. See what I mean? The Catholic Online site talks about her dressing as a monk, and mentions a red cloak - and most images seem to show her wearing this type of garment. But there are no details about the way she lived, or the landlord's daughter, or the child. On the other hand it explains how her relics were moved to Venice in the 13th century, where her fast is celebrated on July 17th, or maybe the 18th, which may go some way towards accounting for discrepancies in the date of her feast day (I've come across it listed as June and July). 

Basically, she is my choice for the day because as soon as I saw her name the Stingray theme tune 'Aqua Marina' popped into my head and has been rattling around ever since, and I wanted to listen again. For those of you who have never come across Stingray (in which case you are either much older or much younger than me) it was an amazing TV puppet series in the mid-60s. Stingray was the most important submarine in a fleet of underwater craft operated by the World Aquanaut Security Control(WASP for short). The craft ass piloted by Captain Troy Tempest, who was besotted by Marina, a mute slave girl who could breathe underwater and was, allegedly, modelled on screen sex goddess Brigitte Bardot. She joined the crew after saving them from danger, but her master, the tyrannical ruler Triton, vows vengeance on her and Stingray...

It all sounds very silly, but you have no idea how enjoyable it was, with tales of adventure as the forces of good battle to overcome evil, in a futuristic underwater world. The series was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who were also responsible for Capain Scarlett, and the icononic Thunderbirds.   By modern standards I guess the programmes are all a bit creaky and clunky, but at the time they broke new ground, and for many of us they still retain an indefinable magical quality which turns them into enduring classics. 

So here’s a link to YouTube, as a tribute to St Marina the Monk, and to Marina the slavegirl, and the cew of Stingray, and Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who created the most amazing TV puppet shows. The song was sung by Gary Miller, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD96RQ1-wnY


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