We had journeyed to Falmer because E. F. Benson used it as a setting in his novel The Blotting Book. We had arrived on this day, and at this time, to make a day of it by attending the midweek worship service. Yet we arrived to find the church door closed, and a different service time posted on the noticeboard.
Oh well. It was a nice day. The sun was shining. We could at least wander around the churchyard. St. Laurence in Falmer might not be mentioned in E. F. Benson's novel, but according to online sources, it had been used in an episode of "Waiting For God." The TV series was set in Bournemouth, but apparently much of the location shooting was conducted in and around Brighton. While I couldn't immediately link St. Laurence with a particular episode, it did look familiar.
"Waiting For God" was a favorite TV series of mine when it came out in the late 1980s and early '90s, and occasionally I'll dig out my DVDs and watch it again. The series starred the energetic and irrepressible Graham Crowden (who was approached once to play the Doctor in "Doctor Who," but turned the role down), and that embodiment of strength and fortitude, Stephanie Cole. The show was created and written by Michael Aitkens, and produced by Gareth Gwenlan, the latter of whom would go on to serve as the Head Of Comedy for the BBC. So the characters were strong, the stories interesting, and the series beautifully filmed.
"Waiting For God" still makes me laugh. But more important than the comedic aspects of the series (which sometimes drifted off into farce) were its underlying themes. While the series poked fun at all aspects of modern culture, it also served as a platform for meditating upon the proper role of faith and belief versus science and reason in an individual's life, as well as the role religion contributed (or failed to contribute) to society. So St. Laurence Church reminded me of how Michael Aitkens' show had contributed to my life.
I wondered about this grave marker. If I pushed aside the top, would I find an embalmed body inside? Perhaps it occasionally performed double-duty as an altar-table for outdoor services. The priest would have quite a view as he led the service.
There: the uncluttered hillsides E. F. Benson described in The Blotting Book!
In any case, the visit was hardly a write-off. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and the birds were frolicking on the village pond.
I could sit down and sketch for awhile, then enjoy the picnic lunch we had purchased at the train station back in Brighton.
During my meanderings around the churchyard, I heard someone bustle up, turn the lock, and open the door. By the time I reached it, the door was shut again. I squeezed the handle, and the door opened. Well, even if I had missed the service, there couldn't be any harm in having a little peek inside the church, could there?