Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Grantchester Mysteries

Mary and I rather enjoy a good murder mystery, a bit of escapism and admiration for the fictional sleuths of books and film.  As a churchman, I am also rather enjoying the new series 'Grantchester', set in Cambridgeshire in 1953.  The back story to the books/TV series is appealing: the author, James Runcie, is the son of Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury. The chief character, Sidney Chambers, is a thinly veiled biography of Lord Runcie (former Scots Guards officer from the war etc. etc. - maybe not the incipient war-memory-numbing alcoholism...), the murders feel rather Agatha Christie: a poisoning here, a whack on the head with a blunt object there. Even Robson Green as a rather tired Geordie cop who enjoys backgammon and beer is appealing. The slightly thin reasoning for the involvement of a young cleric in investigating a spate of murders is no thinner than the fictional murder rate in Midsomer. So enjoyable and thoroughly recommended for an idle hour per week.

Some reflections from a church perspective? A rather striking couple of episodes, as Sidney scythes the graveyard, then has to repair the broken tap for the flower lady (who is subsequently murdered) - a vicar is portrayed as getting his hands dirty with everything, down to the maintenance tasks of the parish. Plus ca change!  Even the suggestion that he needs a curate, made when he has been doing the grass, should be countered with the line, 'He needs a gardener/plumber/whatever'.  His housekeeper does challenge his curate to be unlike Sidney: 'No murders, women or drinking.' Sounds much like my own pre-ordination charge.

Sidney also has the rather gentle professional smile as he listens to whatever issue there may be with whatever parishioner may turn up, from unsuitable marriages to fears of murder to dying begonias - a useful tool for the vagaries of ministry and some good method acting.

Final one: not much mention of Jesus, even in the snippets of sermon we've heard so far. I'm sure they are notionally edited highlights, but the 'God presence' in this vicar's life is largely limited to the jokes about 'him upstairs' or well meant platitudes about murder victims 'going to be with God.'

So, this is not 'Father Brown', it is not 'Rev', it is not 'The Name of the Rose', it's definitely not 'All Gas and Gaiters' - but I'm happy to have set up the Sky Box for a Monday night.