Excellent Women…and post watershed tv

Following my previous post about coffee morning antics, I thought I would mention two very alternative views of the church of England. The first is “Rev.” on BBC 2 (and therefore iplayer). This series, part written by its leading actor, the lovely Tom Hollander, fondly remembered in this house for “The Cambridge Spies”, began high in fruity language and innuendo but now seems to have settled into its more realistic stride.  I just like the truthful depiction of the normal confusion which reigns in the vicarage, with the doorbell going and the undrinkable coffee (sorry everyone that knows me…). My clergy spy has never worked quite so inner city, but the situations that Adam finds himself in are not so far from daily experience. Not sure that the long suffering wife is so accurate, but, there, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

The other view of Anglican life is far away from the days of women bishops, even women priests. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym is a picture of an excellent woman, Mildred, a clergy daughter with a fondness for the vicar in  post war London. Her settled existence of helping with jumble sales and doing good works is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a new couple to share her house and herincreasing involvement with their exotic lives and friends.The arrival of  an attractive widow in the parish means romantic entanglements get even more complicated. All is resolved in the end, but not without some tense moments for all concerned.

This is not a novel to be read for  earth shattering events, of which there are none, but more the funny and fascinating descriptions of people and buildings caught up in a landscape affected by war, shortages and acceptance, but also staging their own demonstrations that they exist and matter. Anthropology, obsessions with killing birds, the influence of strong religion on the previously unquestioning soul all mean that life is so painfully revealed, yet kindly treated. This is a bit of a novel of manners rather than plot, but none the worse for that. After all, quite a few people are mildly interested in every single  word that a certain Miss Austen wrote…

So, two very different views of life in the vicarage…


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