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TV review: The Restaurant that Makes Mistakes, Inside the Bank of England, and The River: A year in the life of the Tay

12 July 2019

channel 4

Participants in The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes (Channel 4, Wednesdays)

Participants in The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes (Channel 4, Wednesdays)

THE biblical resonances of The Restaurant that Makes Mistakes (Channel 4, Wednesdays) were clear for all to see; but whereas our Lord’s parable of the Great Banquet is all about who is worthy to be a guest, here, the focus was on who deserves to cook and serve the meal.

This four-part documentary chronicled how a pop-up restaurant in Bristol, overseen by a Michelin-starred chef, explored how far people living with dementia might be capable of coping with high-level catering. All those involved felt that their condition had stripped them of playing any part in society, and of any chance of being useful: all of them had lost their jobs.

Here, they were given a severe challenge — more than they thought they could cope with — and found that they could meet it far better than anyone had expected. We saw family videos of the volunteers before they developed the condition: a wide cross-section of backgrounds, types, and professions.

We saw interviews with partners and families, telling the familiar heartbreaking story of how the person had changed, disappeared. And, through learning to cook and serve and manage the restaurant, how they had returned, both to those around them and internally, to themselves: “I’m me a bit more now.” Psychological tests showed that many of the medical symptoms had retreated, and that there was measurable improvement.

Of course, this was a highly specialised, heavily resourced experiment, and the participants had been carefully chosen. The real test is what happens next: does it lead to long-term hope? But the central message holds good: dementia sufferers are real people; they must not be labelled and written off. There could be no theme more central to our faith than preparing and serving a meal; what might we learn from this moving and inspiring programme, as we plan agape and eucharist?

Television offered further gospel parallels with Inside the Bank of England, BBC2’s new two-part documentary (Tuesdays). It is more an OT than an NT concern, and I was surprised by how frequently the Bank’s senior personnel saw their work of ensuring that the value of our currency was not diminished by inflation as a moral and social imperative: people must be able to trust the worth of their coinage (and, back to Jesus, have a safe place to deposit their talents so that they earn a little interest).

It was more compelling than I expected; the effect of, for example, setting the bank rate related again and again quite explicitly to ordinary people’s jobs, wages, and savings.

Helen Macdonald, the author of H Is For Hawk, presented The River: A year in the life of the Tay (BBC4, Wednesday of last week). In this feature-length exploration of the longest river in Scotland, science morphed into meditation, the natural history striking resonant echoes for our own birth, flourishing, and dying.

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