Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Things Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes and I have been friends a very long time.  I was about 12, I believe, when Mother recommended I order a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles from Scholastic Books.  (Remember back in the day when you could order wonderful books from Scholastic through your school?  I still have a number of those books in my collection, old favorites I met through their mail order services.)

I was a big fan from the first page I read.  It wasn't long before I persuaded Mother to order a 2-volume Complete Sherlock Holmes from her membership in the Doubleday Book Club and I probably read the entire canon over the next year.  I've always felt an affinity with Sherlock Holmes.  He walked a bit out of step with the rest of the world, was something of a loner, noticed things nobody else did and had hobbies everyone else thought peculiar.  Added to that, the Holmes/Watson dynamic has to be the all-time greatest literary friendship and I've always been a sucker for a good bromance.

I've read and devoured the canon several times now, plus read dozens of pastiches (novels and stories by later writers using the characters and hoping to recapture the magic).  I've watched many, many Sherlock Holmes movies (not a big fan of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, but they are still worth watching) and I was glued to the tv on Sunday nights when PBS was showing the Granada series starring Jeremy Brett back in the 1980s.  That series really stands out because not only were they attempting to dramatize every story in the canon, it was the first time I had ever seen Watson portrayed as I envisioned him in my mind, instead of portraying him as the bumbling sidekick.

When the new series Sherlock came along in 2010, I was initially resistant to the idea of bringing the characters into the present, but I was quickly hooked and became a diehard fan.   Even more so than the 1980s series, I felt they really capture Dr. Watson perfectly.  I always saw him as an equal to Sherlock, not a subordinate, and this series does an excellent job of putting them on even footing.

The Sherlock fandom is a thriving community online and I keep plugged into the fringes of it so I can keep track of what's going on with the production of new episodes.  One site, Sherlockology, has a lot of background on the filming locations used in the series and while I knew I wanted to definitely visit the Gower Street location, I was hopeful that I would get to see other places that figure in the episodes.  I turned out to be more successful in that than I had expected to be.  A couple of places we saw by stumbling over them and a couple of places I did not even realize were filming locations until I got back home and was indulging in a full re-watch of the episodes.

At the Sherlock Holmes Museum, me and my literary hero

One of the accidental visits occurred near Buckingham Palace.  Buckingham Palace itself figured prominently in the episode "A Scandal in Belgravia" and we actually got to tour the Palace while we were in London.  Karen wouldn't let me recreate the experience of heading to the Palace dressed only in a white sheet, but oh well.  The day before we toured Buckingham, we walked from our hotel to Westminster Abbey (to be covered in another post).  We had to walk right past the Palace on our way to the Abbey and as we were running a little bit early, we made a slight detour through St. James's Park.  About half-way through the park, a bridge crosses the lake and we strolled across and took pictures.  As I was re-watching "The Sign of Three", I suddenly realized that Sherlock and John were walking across that same bridge.   Accidental location visit number 1.

Screen capture from Sherlock, The Sign of Three

Looking toward the Eye from the bridge across the lake in St. James Park

Accidental location visit number 2 occurred in conjunction with the high tea we enjoyed after our tour of Buckingham Palace.  Just around the corner from the hotel where we had tea, was New Scotland Yard.  Before we hailed a cab home, I insisted we walk back around the corner and get a few photos.

New Scotland Yard
Accidental location visit number 3 had also slipped under my radar until I was watching "The Blind Banker" and realized that Sherlock and John were striding across one of the Golden Jubilee footbridges near Victoria Embankment.  I took this photo as we were walking across that same bridge, crossing the River Thames on our way to ride the Eye.

The Golden Jubilee footbridge 

To be covered in the next London post (pictures will be included there), we also visited Trafalgar Square, another filming location for "The Blind Banker".  Sherlock and John walk briskly across the square and bound up the steps of the National Gallery.  On one of our taxicab rides, we  passed through Piccadilly Circus (it figures in the opening montage) and on the way to and from the airport we passed the old Battersea Power Station (site of an important sequence in "A Scandal in Belgravia"). I also realized after we returned home that I had walked right past the Wellington Barracks from "The Sign of Three" where the guard was on duty who almost died from the "invisible knife" wound.  It didn't catch my eye for a picture, unfortunately.

I almost got to see Irene Adler's residence from "A Scandal in Belgravia" and we did see many houses of a similar style.   That street was just a short distance from the Lime Tree Hotel, and when we initially arrived at the end of the bus ride to our hotel,  we turned the wrong way and came to within a block or two before we realized our mistake.  Unfortunately we never got the chance to go back and see the actual location.   We also never passed St. Bart's hospital on any of our sojourns around town and we only saw St. Paul's Cathedral from a distance.  Next time I'm in London, I'll have to go see both.

We actually visited a site connected to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on our last night in London when we had drinks at The Old Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet Street.  Doyle was known to frequent the pub.  And Fleet Street turns into The Strand a short ways from the pub and The Strand gave its name to the magazine that first published many of the Holmes stories.

Later on, after we joined the tour, we would visit Dartmoor (more on that later) which was the setting of The Hound of the Baskervilles and we saw the former lodge where Doyle stayed while he did his research and absorbed the atmosphere for that novel.

So even though I only deliberately planned two places to visit in honor of my love of Sherlock Holmes, we ended up seeing quite a few other places that are tied to some incarnation of the character.

At the Sherlock Holmes Museum, I did add a few items to my Sherlock Collection, which now inhabits a large barrister bookcase in my living room (and threatening to spill over into a second one).  I picked up a T-shirt, a couple of booklets and a small statue of Holmes.  It was that day at the museum that I made up my mind that when I got back home, I would order a pendant offered through the Sherlocklogy website as my big souvenir of the trip.   I had had my eye on it for a long time and kept denying myself, but once I had stood on the doorstep I decided I had earned it.

Sherlock souvenirs

The pendant is a custom made piece by Honeybourne Jewellery (who specialize in bespoke jewelry) and can only be ordered through the Sherlockology website.  What I didn't know at the time is that the website acts as a liaison to the jewelry store and it was produced for me on order at the Honeybourne facilities on the Isle of Wight.  I received an email from the designer herself on September 15th that it was on the way and it finally arrived today (October 4th).  It spent about 3 weeks sitting in Chicago, apparently creeping its way through customs, so be warned if you dabble in international mail order.  Patience will be necessary.

I love the pendant.  It's a replica of the door at 187 North Gower Street and has gold plated accents. It's heavy and a good size (Yvette agreed to model the Sherlockology T-shirt and the pendant so you would have a good idea).  I'm delighted to finally have it in hand.

221B Door Pendant by
When I got back home, I began checking eBay for some books that I spotted in the bookshelves at the Sherlock Holmes Museum and that I had not ever seen.  I stumbled across a guy offering a dozen volumes as a set and the surprising part was that none of the twelve volumes was yet in my collection.  So, I quickly added another 12 to my collection.

A dozen new additions to the Sherlock Collection
Another seller was offering an antique book of Scottish songs and happened to highlight one entry in the book entitled "Sherlock Holmes", so since I also collect antique music, I indulged again.

Vintage sheet music
My Sherlock Collection is now bulging at the seams.  I have about 150 volumes that include various editions of the original stories, some children's editions, some miniature editions, a few stories in Gregg and Pitman shorthand, some plays, reference books, audiobooks and numerous pastiches.  I have all of the Granada tv series and Sherlock on DVD, plus a Russian tv series (with English subtitles) and several early British series, the Basil Rathbone movies, numerous other movies (including the Robert Downey movies that I am not too crazy about), and the Elementary series all on DVD.  I'm never at a loss for something to read or watch when prime time tv has nothing to offer.

The bulk of the Sherlock Collection
Add to that the assorted figurines, bookends, dolls, ornaments, and other unique items and I think you can tell that I'm a serious Sherlock fan.  Plus, there's that roombox of the Sherlock sitting room that is in development in my craft room upstairs that I hope to get moving on this winter.

When I say I like Sherlock Holmes, I'm not just talking through my deerstalker.


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