Legend has it that the Flora began with a conflict between St.Michael and the Devil. The book is available from http://www.falpublications.co.uk, and on May 7 I shall be reading and talking about it at Helston Library (see entry for April 18, 'Forthcoming Events').
They met early the next afternoon in Helston's main street. Both blinked in surprise. They had not met for thousands of years.
‘What are you doing here?’ said St Michael.
‘I'm on my holidays,’ said the Devil.
‘No. Winter break.’
The Devil was muffled up in a heavy black coat and Wellington boots, while St Michael wore sandals, blue jeans, and a white tee‑shirt. It was a typical spring day: one moment the sun drenched the grey, granite houses in bright light, the next, clouds plunged them in gloom. There were crowds of people out shopping, buying groceries for the next day, May 8th, Flora Day. Shopkeepers were busy hanging out flags and bunting. St Michael was holding the step‑ladder for the white‑coated chemist to fasten a Union Jack and the Cornish flag over his window filled with cough mixtures and hot water bottles. The chemist thanked him politely.
‘What were you buying?’ said St Michael to the Devil, nodding at the chemist's shop.
‘Beechams Powders,’ said the Devil.
‘Jet lag,’ said the Devil, and his face did look a little green. He shivered inside his coat. ‘Bitter weather,’ he complained. ‘I'm not used to the cold.’
‘Goin' have drop rain, are us?’ asked the chemist cheerfully, stepping down to the pavement and glancing up. St Michael knew that when a Cornishman asks you if there is going to be a drop of rain, it's ready to pelt down. Sure enough, huge drops started to fall, and got thicker by the moment. Shoppers vanished into the doorways. It was more like sleet than rain. ‘Come and have a cup of tea,’ St Michael invited, and took the Devil's arm to lead him at a trot to the nearest cafe.
Now, you may be rather surprised by all this, for two reasons. Angels don't have bodies ‑ at least not like ours ‑ and the Devil, after all, is a fallen angel. And why should St Michael and the Devil, who are deadly enemies, be chatting to each other in such a friendly way?
Well, the answers to both questions are quite simple. If you go on a foreign holiday, you like to live like the natives for a while, it's a part of the fun. You don't walk around in a raincoat eating fish and chips from a newspaper ‑ or at least you shouldn't! Both the Archangel and the Devil were on a sort of foreign holiday, and so they enjoyed putting on flesh and blood for a day or two. The Demon was quite enjoying himself really, in spite of feeling a bit sick and dizzy after his long flight; and cold, even in his thermal underwear, after the fires of Hell.
And they were friendly because ‑ well, they had once been close friends, before the Devil fell from Heaven in disgrace. In the shock of meeting again, after such a long time, the old feelings of friendliness had come to the fore...