With Cambridge, both corporate and academic, (p)fizzing at the possibility of stratospheric investment on the back of an American takeover — an experiment which promises further, unprecedented investment in the life sciences golden triangle with Oxford and London — I found myself tripping on the name of the pharmaceutical prey. From Virgil to Vauxhall, Astra resonates (and perhaps, given the scale of things, it's a more appropriate appellation in this instance than it was for a small car), but Zeneca? As suspected, it means nothing, a trisyllabic neologism coined just over 20 years ago to be phonetically memorable and — no surprise here — inoffensive in any language. With A-Z neatness, it strikes me as pretty effective, if the intention was to label the complicated and lucrative business of pharmaceutical research, development and production with something both attractive and yet inscrutable.
The knowledge that we're not being given the whole story undermines so much of what we actually glean from media that most of us here in the Cambridge crucible must just wait, in ignorance, for this life-changing, place-changing deal. Or not. From the sublime endeavour of finding cures for cancer to the ridiculous, I couldn't help feeling short changed at the conclusion of the recent, second series of 'Endeavour', ITV's prequel to 'Morse' (which I've refrained from referring to for at least a year). With an all-important cameo in each episode from Morse's author Colin Dexter conferring his creative blessing on the, well, endeavour, these new programmes delivered on most fronts, even for an out and proud box-set aficionado like me. The Oxford I know and love can co-exist in perfect synergy with the imagined Oxford of that cerebral, if flawed, fictional detective in his maturity. There are books to prove it. But young Morse now languishes in prison with only a screenplay to cling to and there's no news of any future series being commissioned.
My anguish is tempered, though, by the prospect of Cambridge's answer to soporific, Sunday evening, sofa sleuthing. To considerable local interest, the city has just played host to cast and crew of the first screen adaptation of James Runcie's recently published 'Grantchester Mysteries', featuring clerical detective Canon Sidney Chambers. Due for transmission in the autumn, filming took place during April, giving several locations across Cambridge and nearby Grantchester the equivalent of a 1950s short back-and-sides and bobby socks (a favourite tree which overhangs the river in Grantchester Meadows received a brutal lopping whilst the long established café in King's Parade was treated to some striking new lino'). Due diligence means I have, of course, read the books so I can report that Oxonian in Cambridge is unlikely to switch allegiance and restyle herself as quondam Morsonic, neo Chambered any time soon. Sidney's personality may well develop over the next, three projected volumes but, three down, he could as well be cracking crime in Canterbury or Corby, even Oxford, as Cambridge (despite his Police sidekick's assertion that 'this town contains nothing but madmen').
Mindful of the Shavian truth (which ivory towers can seem to amplify) that those that can tend to get on with it, whilst those that can't sit and sharpen their arrows, I'm loathe to criticize some entertaining storytelling, but Runcie's freshly minted nostalgia won't, I predict, do for Cambridge what Morse has, save to the irredeemably cynical, done for Oxford. That we must leave to the art of science.
Image by Jamie under Creative Commons license.