TODAY is the feast day of Saint Adjutor, Norman nobleman who, in 1095, set off for the Holy Land with the First Crusade. Adjutor was captured by the Muslims and thrown into prison but, one night, Saint Mary Magdalene appeared to him in his cell, helped him to break free of his chains, and carried him back to France. He took with him some holy water, however, and on his return sprinkled it on a dangerous whirlpool in the River Seine, rendering it safe for boatmen. For this miracle he is patron saint of swimmers and all who fear drowning at sea.
30 April 1883: Jaroslav Hasek, the Czech writer, boozer, revolutionary and practical joker, was born. Growing up in Prague under the Habsburgs, he formed a cod political party called the "Party for Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law" which had an anthem and a pub and attracted quite a few votes. Hasek earned beer-money as a satirist and writer, including a spell on a dog breeders' newspaper, until he was fired for printing a small-ad in which a Titled Lady sought good home for two werewolf puppies. Called up in the First World War, Hasek was drafted to the eastern front and defected to the Russian side where, to the amazement of his friends, he became an ardent and ruthless Bolshevik. This did not prevent him, on his return to Prague, from using his war memories to write his immortal tales about the Good Soldier Schweik (above) which gave the world its stereotype for the Czech character: stolid, sardonic, anti-heroic. Hasek remained loyal to his own chaotic version of Communism, but drank himself to death at the age of only 39.