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Back In The Swing

Some people like to ease back into life after the holidays. Me, I just cannonball right in. Fieldwork, parties, book revisions . . . life certainly isn't boring at the moment!

I went to London yesterday for a singing workshop with a lady I'd met in DC back in June at a conference. It was a great workshop and it gave me some useful field information, but it was also just fun to do a quick in-and-out day trip to London. I love that I can do that now. Just . . . decide to go to London for the day. How cool is that?

I've also discovered absolutely the most appropriate mystery series to start reading. James Runcie's Grantchester Mysteries, featuring Canon Sidney Chambers, Church of England vicar and amateur sleuth. They're set in the mid-1950s, and weird murders and crimes happen, and Sidney gets drawn into detectoring because he's a priest and people like to talk to him, and his cop friend Inspector Geordie Keating takes that information and actually arrests the criminals.

The thing that makes these books so perfect is that they're set right in Cambridge and the surrounding towns. Sidney lives and works in Grantchester, a tiny village suburb of Cambridge a few miles down the road. I actually biked down there the day before I discovered the series, so I'd been past his church and I'd had a drink in the pub where everyone in the village goes for the wake after the funeral that opens the first story. But wait! It gets better. Sidney is also a Cambridge graduate, and he's a part-time academic, teaching theology, and he's based at . . . wait for it . . . Corpus Christi College! My college! And he meets Geordie at The Eagle, the pub right across the street from Corpus, and he bikes past St. Bene't Church, up Downing Street to the police station on St. Andrew's Street, and he also goes to London on the train, and his friend Hildegard lives on Eltisley Avenue, and and and.

This is so cool. I literally don't have to picture these stories in my head, because I can just go and trace Sidney's steps all around town. It's a little bit like the feeling I had watching The Theory of Everything and recognizing places where I've walked and biked. (Even better was catching a ride out to an event with the wife of the master of Stephen Hawking's college, who was telling me all about him and his reaction to the movie and how puzzled she was that the college seems to have refused the film-makers permission to film there and that they did this without even letting the master know that the request had been made in the first place. This is why St. John's College, where Hawking was a student, appears in the film, and Gonville and Caius, where he worked, does not.)

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
perelleth
Jan. 15th, 2015 10:46 am (UTC)
Sounds like you're having a great time, and not too cold, or windy or rainy.

I haven't yet got to see The Theory of Everything, but it sure must be funny to be walking around the same places... it's always a boost to recognize familiar places in movies.
frenchpony
Jan. 15th, 2015 01:29 pm (UTC)
Well, there has been rain. This is England, after all, and England will do what England is famous for doing. The difference is that my English colleagues see rain in January and go "bloody hell, rain!" I see it and go "hey, it's not snowing!"
dawtheminstrel
Jan. 15th, 2015 12:17 pm (UTC)
That sounds like so much fun! I hadn't heard about the college refusing the movie maker's request to film. That's so English. American universities would be falling over themselves to appear in a movie. Free publicity.
frenchpony
Jan. 15th, 2015 01:31 pm (UTC)
I hadn't heard about Caius refusing filming permission until the master's wife told me. She had no idea why they refused. I think that, if the issue had been brought to the master, he would have been in favor of having them film there. I can only guess that whoever the Caius decision-makers were, they thought that it would be too disruptive to the students to have a film crew clomping around in one of the central colleges.

Which, I observe, didn't deter Johns in the slightest, so there you go.
elliska
Jan. 16th, 2015 12:06 am (UTC)
So jealous! Sounds like you are having fun! Good for you!
frenchpony
Jan. 16th, 2015 08:47 am (UTC)
I am having fun! I also see that a dusting of snow is expected on Sunday, and I have to admit, I'm interested to see what Cambridge might look like with snow. The latest Sidney Chambers mystery described Cambridge all covered in snow, but I don't think we're going to get that much, if any.
fafojoy
Jan. 16th, 2015 04:24 pm (UTC)
That is so exciting, being able to see the actual places. I felt that way in Israel, not only from the Bible, but from series of books set during WWII, the British Mandate and the war of Independence.

I saw that Masterpiece is doing a series on Grantchester. I didn't know what it was about, so thank you for the overview.
frenchpony
Jan. 16th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC)
When Little Sister Pony and I were in Jerusalem, many of our conversations went along the "is that really the [famous site]?" "Yes. Yes, it is." route. It's pretty damn cool to be in places that have seen so much!

If the Grantchester that Masterpiece is showing is this one, then, yes, it's based on just that series of books. And they did even film some of it in Cambridge! There's clear shots of Trumpington Street and Kings College that were shot on location. The little snippet that starts at about 1:40 of this video takes place right inside Kings, on a path that I sometimes use to avoid the weekend tourist crowd (because I can use my University ID card to get into any of the colleges for free, even when they're charging money to tourists. If downtown Cambridge is too packed and you want to get over the Cam and out to the West Side without shoving people off the Silver Street Bridge, going through Kings is a neat little shortcut to Queens Road.)
dot_o_choillmor
Jan. 18th, 2015 09:18 am (UTC)
Are the books good? I watched a bit of the series but didn't see much of it. I love detective programmes but it must have clashed with something else.
frenchpony
Jan. 18th, 2015 11:50 am (UTC)
I've been enjoying the books. They're not so much mystery novels as collections of shortish stories -- each "chapter" is its own self-contained story, so it's really easy to see how a TV adaptation was tempting. I like that the main character is an actual person with a history, life, and conflicts of his own, and that the stories are as much about him struggling with the ideals of being a vicar as they are about solving the case of the moment.

And the fact that they're set right where I live. That's always a plus.
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