Reverend Ellery Crisp

This was part 2 of the tutor marked assignment.  We were asked to, in 500 words, write a mini portrait of a character, in either past or present tense.

I chose to revisit a character I developed a couple of years ago for my novel Gap Year and to whom I warmed hugely.

The old speedboat on St Matthew’s vicarage driveway was an oft commented-upon curiosity among Lower Bratchley residents who visited to book weddings or Christenings.

When they learned it had seen no water since the Reverend Ellery Crisp won it on the game show Bullseye twenty years ago, they wondered why he had never sold the rusting craft.

‘It’s sort of emblematic,’ he would explain, his eyes sprightly behind his giant spectacles, ‘that I’m living proof of the cliché about the Bullseye speedboat, the top prize, always being won by West Midlands contestants.  I can’t exactly race it up the canal, but I just love the idea of having an exhibit from TV history in the village.  It’s such a talking point.’

In his snug lounge to which he ushered parishioners, framed shots of Ellery with the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Dale Winton nestled amid the more holy paraphernalia and imagery.

‘Yes, I won a fortnight in St Lucia on The Price is Right ten years ago,’ he liked to regale, unprompted.

This Black Country village, known colloquially as ‘Lower B,’ had been Ellery’s parish for the majority of his long ministry.  The thousand residents, who all knew each other, be it by heart, sight or reputation, were the family he never had.  A great many had known Ellery Crisp right from when he put a Last Supper dot-to-dot in front of them at Sunday school, and were protectively proud of their ‘celebrity’ cleric.

He in turn embraced their idiosyncrasies and warmth.  When Gertrude the goose was stolen from old Mr Shorthouse’s garden, Ellery offered a hefty reward for the beloved poultry pet’s return.  He adored the fact not an eyelid batted when the neighbourhood transvestite ‘Gracie’ – previously Graham – attended every evensong in Ethel Austin pastels and full make-up.

While ubiquitous on quiz programmes and in the press, Ellery remained solidly a community figure.  Thus, besides being dear to his congregation, he was warmed to by even the more secular of Lower B’s population.  He walked everywhere, though his distinctive gliding gait made some question whether there were actually castors beneath his cassock rather than feet.  He possessed no evident neck either, so his perfectly ball-shaped face, which was invariably covered in a hearty smile, appeared to be dolloped on top of his dog collar.

His glides to the newsagents in quest of Sudoku Monthly or Test Your Knowledge frequently took all day.
‘Still trying for Millionaire,’ he would tap his quiz book cover while pausing to natter in the shop, outside a retirement bungalow or on the canal bridge, ‘that’s the big goal.  Just have to keep phoning, and swotting.  Been ten years now.  By the law of averages, I have to make it on there someday.’

Ellery had already earmarked his fantasy Who Wants to be a Millionaire winnings to the St Matthew’s Primary School fund, a holiday, Christian Aid and that perennial favourite, the church roof appeal.

The speedboat, meanwhile, would be staying put.

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