"It's a St Christopher," says Palmer. "It's dead old."
St Christopher medal
Public DomainSt Christopher medal

The boy Palmer is wearing a St Christopher medal in the swimming baths, in the belief that it will protect him from drowning. St Christopher is known as the patron saint of travellers, fruit dealers, epileptics and surfers.

Along with many other saints, the Vatican officially removed Christopher from the universal calendar in 1969, as his story derives mostly from legend. But many churches still celebrate St Christopher's feast day on July 25th.

Little is known about his life, but one of the most popular legends describes him as being twelve to eighteen feet tall and making a living by carrying people across a river. One day a child passenger on his back became heavier and heavier, until Christopher feared they would both drown. The child then revealed that he was Christ carrying the weight of the whole world. The name Christopher means 'Christ-bearer', and he is often depicted as carrying a child while leaning on his staff.

Despite his virtual 'decanonisation', St Christopher remains a popular figure among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Legend had it that anyone who saw an image of Christopher would not die that day. Surfers often wear the medal as a good luck charm to protect them. Drivers sometimes suspend a St Christopher medal in their cars, bearing the inscription Behold St. Christopher, and go thy way in safety.