The longest day of our trip. Literally. This day will last 32 hours (because
London is 8 hours ahead of Seattle time).
We awake in London. There's an entire tea set in our room, but of course
there's only a tube of instant coffee. Apparently, the English think it's
funny to put instant coffee into tubes.
We are not amused.
We're in England for one morning, so there's time to see only one thing. What
shall it be? Buckingham Palace? Tea with the Queen? Church services at the
Elementary, my dear Watson.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum! Woohoo!
We're on the "tube" to downtown London. Robert's reading a Sunday Express. The
Sunday Express is one of the London newspapers, although "tabloid" is a better
description because it's printed on tabloid-size paper, and hoo boy, is this
baby full of slant!
Why it's called "the tube"
The front page says that Al Qaeda will probably try to blow up Heathrow
Airport or shoot down an airplane today or tomorrow. But the BIG news is that
Beckham now has corn rows! Really! He gets two full pages of coverage with
photos. (If you don't know who Beckham is, go see the movie "Bend it Like
Beckham." Shoot, even if you do know who he is, go see it. It's a good movie.)
Seriously, though, news like that (the Al Qaeda thing) takes on a little more
reality when you're riding on a bus headed towards Heathrow. Particularly
because Heathrow has been attacked by the IRA in the past. The locals all seem
pretty inured to it though, and just continue on about their business.
Ever wonder what happened to Boy George (Karma Chameleon)? Well, he's now
got a column in the Express. This is a strange newspaper. About half of it is
gossip about celebrities and the royal family (Princess Anne's husband has
apparently moved out!).
The other half purports to be news, but is full of opinion. Also, it's pretty
much only news that they feel like covering. The biggest story is that Clare
Short has resigned from the Cabinet. Various news stories are accompanied by
photographs from movies. (Robert says the American equivalent would be showing
a photo of Arnold from Predator next to a story about the US invading Iraq,
with the caption, "Does Bush think he's Schwarzenegger?")
The game's afoot! We alight from the tube on Baker street and promptly head
for 221B which is where the museum is (of course!).
Hmmm, could this be the correct stop?
Laura points to where we're headed
Outside, there's a guy dressed as a Victorian Bobby. When Robert poses in
front of the museum sign, he produces a deerstalker cap and pipe for so we can
take a proper picture.
"I say, old Chap, I do believe we've found it!"
"Quit messing around!"
The deal with the museum is that for many years (from the mid-1800s), it was a
boarding house. In the 1990s, some Holmes fanatics (and baby, you ain't seen
fanatic till you've seen a Holmes fanatic) got a hold of it and turned the
first two floors into an exact replica of Watson and Holmes’s digs.
They read through all the stories, and carefully put everything where it was
supposed to be when mentioned in the stories. In one corner sits Holmes'
violin, just below his chemistry set. The walls have pictures, and there's
various souvenirs from various cases.
Our main impression is how tiny the rooms are. Each one is maybe 10 feet by 10
feet and cluttered with all manner of things. But this is how people lived
The top two floors are taken up with wax mannequins posed to re-enact various
scenes from the stories.
If you've ever read Sherlock Holmes (and we both have), this is just about the
coolest damn thing in London.
Afterwards, we show our appreciation by dropping 40 pounds (20 kilos) in the
gift shop. Laura gets an oven mitt that say "You're getting warmer."
The following quotes from Sherlock Holmes stories were taken from
which has all the stories on-line (they're all Public Domain).
Laura stands ready to visit the world's most famous "Consulting
The boy had reappeared in the room with a card upon a
tray. Holmes glanced at it with raised eyebrows and an amused smile.
Sherlock's living room
Well, what do you make of it, Holmes?
It appears to be...yes, I believe it is..a hat!
It is one of these cases-but, hello, here is Lestrade!
Good-afternoon, Lestrade! You will find an extra tumbler upon the
sideboard, and there are cigars in the box."
He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched
myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air- his own, no
doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have a vague
remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his earnest face and the rise and fall of
his bow. Then I seemed to be floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of
sound until I found myself in dreamland, with the sweet face of Mary
Morstan looking down upon me.
Sign of Four
Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his
dressing-gown and working hard over a chemical investigation. A large
curved retort was boiling furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen
burner, and the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre measure.
As I entered I saw, it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but
the old landmarks were all in their place. There were the chemical corner
and the acid-stained, deal-topped table.
But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who
keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a
Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a
jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin
to give myself virtuous airs.
Laura stands in awe in the living room
Sherlock Holmes' bedroom
A traveling case for the Consulting Detective--everything from
handcuffs to hairbrushes
Sherlock's disguise kit
Then, unable to settle down to reading, I walked slowly
round the room, examining the pictures of celebrated criminals with which
every wall was adorned.
"I will be at your service in an instant, Watson. You will
find tobacco in the Persian slipper."
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with his
finger-tips still pressed together, his legs stretched out in front of
him, and his gaze directed upward to the ceiling. Then he took down from
the rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to him as a counsellor,
and, having lit it, he leaned back in his chair, with the thick blue
cloud-wreaths spinning up from him, and a look of infinite languor in his
Case of Identity
Holmes's calculation was fulfilled within a very few
minutes by the appearance of Billy, the page, with the very letter which
we were expecting.
A bust of Sherlock stands in one corner
There's a book full of letters written to Sherlock Holmes, most of
them from school kids. This one is from the British Revenue service, who
want to make sure that the fictional detective has paid taxes on his
Voodoo fetish from the house of Mr. Garcia found murdered on Oxshott
He held up his candle before an extraordinary object which
stood at the back of the dresser. It was so wrinkled and shrunken and
withered that it was difficult to say what it might have been. One could
but say that it was black and leathery and that it bore some resemblance
to a dwarfish, human figure. At first, as I examined it, I thought that
it was a mummified negro baby, and then it seemed a very twisted and
ancient monkey. Finally I was left in doubt as to whether it was animal
or human. A double band of white shells was strung round the centre of
A collection of weapons from various cases
Laura marvels at the memento case
Severed ears mailed to the wrong person!
He took out the two ears as he spoke, and laying a board
across his knee he examined them minutely, while Lestrade and I, bending
forward on each side of him, glanced alternately at these dreadful relics
and at the thoughtful, eager face of our companion. Finally he returned
them to the box once more and sat for a while in deep meditation.
An engineer's thumb
He unwound the handkerchief and held out his hand. It gave
even my hardened nerves a shudder to look at it. There were four
protruding fingers and a horrid red, spongy surface where the thumb
should have been. It had been hacked or torn right out from the roots.
He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest and
brought up a small wooden box with a sliding lid such as children's toys
are kept in. From within he produced a crumpled piece of paper, an
old-fashioned brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string attached to
it, and three rusty old discs of metal.
When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock Holmes's
movements were such as to rivet our attention. He began by taking a clean
white cloth from a drawer and laying it over the table. Then he placed
his newly acquired bust in the centre of the cloth. Finally, he picked up
his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a shard blow on the top of the head.
The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the
shattered remains. Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he held up
one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a
"Gentlemen," he cried, "let me introduce you to the famous
black pearl of the Borgias."
"You will ruin no more lives as you have ruined mine. You
will wring no more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the world of a
poisonous thing. Take that, you hound- and that!- and that!- and that!"
She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and emptied
barrel after barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within two feet of
his shirt front. He shrank away and then fell forward upon the table,
coughing furiously and clawing among the papers. Then he staggered to his
feet, received another shot, and rolled upon the floor. "You've done me,"
he cried, and lay still. The woman looked at him intently, and ground her
heel into his upturned face. She looked again, but there was no sound or
movement. I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the heated
room, and the avenger was gone.
Charles Augustus Milverton
It was a singular sight which met our eyes. On the table
stood a dark-lantern with the shutter half open, throwing a brilliant
beam of light upon the iron safe, the door of which was ajar. Beside this
table, on the wooden chair, sat Dr. Grimesby Roylott, clad in a long gray
dressing-gown, his bare ankles protruding beneath, and his feet thrust
into red heelless Turkish slippers. Across his lap lay the short stock
with the long lash which we had noticed during the day. His chin was
cocked upward and his eyes were fixed in a dreadful, rigid stare at the
corner of the ceiling. Round his brow he had a peculiar yellow band, with
brownish speckles, which seemed to be bound tightly round his head. As we
entered he made neither sound nor motion.
"The band! The speckled band!" whispered Holmes.
I took a step forward. In an instant his strange headgear
began to move, and there reared itself from among his hair the squat
diamond-shaped head and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent.
"It is a swamp adder!" cried Holmes; "the deadliest snake
in India. He has died within ten seconds of being bitten. Violence does,
in truth, recoil upon the violent and the schemer falls into the pit
which he digs for another. Let us thrust this creature back into its den,
and we can then remove Miss Stoner to some place of shelter and let the
county police know what has happened."
I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window.
As my eyes fell upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind
was down, and a strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of a man
who was seated in a chair within was thrown in hard, black outline upon
the luminous screen of the window. There was no mistaking the poise of
the head, the squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the features.
The face was turned half-round, and the effect was that of one of those
black silhouettes which our grandparents loved to frame. It was a perfect
reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out my hand to make
sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He was quivering with
"Well?" said he.
"Good heavens!" I cried. "It is marvellous."
"I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my
infinite variety," said he, and I recognized in his voice the joy and
pride which the artist takes in his own
creation. "It really is rather like me, is it not?"
"I should be prepared to swear that it was you."
"The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar
Meunier, of Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a
bust in wax. The rest I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street
The man who entered was young, some two-and-twenty at the
outside, well groomed and trimly clad, with something of refinement and
delicacy in his bearing. The streaming umbrella which he held in his
hand, and his long shining waterproof told of the fierce weather through
which he had come. He looked about him anxiously in the glare of the
lamp, and I could see that his face was pale and his eyes heavy, like
those of a man who is weighed down with some great anxiety.
"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his golden
pince-nez to his eyes. "I trust that I am not intruding. I fear that I
have brought some traces of the storm and
rain into your snug chamber."
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes. "They may
rest here on the hook and will be dry presently. You have come up from
the south-west, I see."
Five Orange Pips
The authority in Holmes's voice had its effect upon the
bearers. Peters had suddenly vanished into the house, and they obeyed
these new orders. "Quick, Watson, quick! Here is a screw-driver!" he
shouted as the coffin was replaced upon the table. "Here's one for you,
my man! A sovereign if the lid comes off in a minute! Ask no questions-
work away! That's good! Another! And another! Now pull all together! It's
giving! It's giving! Ah, that does it at last."
With a united effort we tore off the coffin-lid. As we did
so there came from the inside a stupefying and overpowering smell of
chloroform. A body lay within, its head ill wreathed in cotton-wool,
which had been soaked in the narcotic. Holmes plucked it off and
disclosed the statuesque face of a handsome and spiritual woman of middle
age. In an instant he had passed his arm round the figure and raised her
to a sitting position.
Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
The King of Bohemia and Irene Adler. She holds the tell-tale photograph in "A Scandal
Professor Moriarty, destined to meet his end in "The Final Problem"
Mr. Neville St. Clair, "The Man With the Twisted Lip"
From the "Adventure of The Beryl Coronet"
Mr. Jabez Wilson "The Red-Headed League"
A sign--we don't think it has anything to do with Sherlock
Holmes & Musgrave peer down upon the figure of Brunton, the Butler ("The Musgrave
Mr. Godfrey Staunten, founding grieving at the bedside of his young wife ("The Missing
Jack Prendergast, from the "Adventure of the Gloria Scott"
Woah--Sherlock Holmes would have peed here!
Sherlock Holmes's attic
Laura is stunned
Okay, now we know where we're going the next time we're in London!
We've taken the tube back to the airport and had to find a cab driver to take
us back to our hotel so we can grab our bags and then take us back to the
airport. Turns out they're not allowed to do that (it's two pick-ups, which is
against the rules for some reason), but we find a ruddy bloke who's willing to
bend the rules a bit.
Laura is very glad that we can carry on this entire negotiation in English.
Travel by Taxi
We step up to the British Airways ticket counter, where they ask for our
passports. Robert reaches to get his out of his zippered pants pocket where he
keeps it nice and safe.
But the zipper is stuck and he can't get it open. Laura starts yanking on it,
to no avail (these are REI hiking pants, so they're very well made and damn
near invulnerable). The ticket agent is standing there looking at us, while we
try to get the pocket unzipped.
We offer to have Robert take off his pants, and they can just run them through
the scanner, but the ticket agent says that they actually need to see the
And, of course, all our sharp implements are carefully packed away. We
struggle for about five minutes with it, while a long line of people are
looking at us, clearly thinking that this is an extremely annoying delay to
their getting checked in. We have visions of not being able to get out of the
country because Robert's passport is stuck in his pants. ("Would our Travel
Insurance cover Acts of Stupidity?")
Laura remembers where she stashed her Swiss Army knife, so she digs that out
of her luggage and with the prompting of the giggling ticket agent ("Just
stick it in the end and twist it") we finally get at Robert's passport.
We're finally on the plane, which is very full.
Every place we've been in Europe, the locals have complained that tourism is
down. But every flight we've been on has been packed to the gills. If they got
any more tourists, where the heck would they put them?
By the clock, it's only taken an hour an a half to fly from London to
Subjectively, it's been about nine years (actually about nine and half hours).
Robert really (really) wants to get one of the little sleeper seats in the
first class section next time (they're cool, you can stretch out, and you
probably get better food and drink, too).
We are standing in line, waiting to pass through customs. We're trying to
remember if we have receipts for all the stuff we bought, and we're a bit
worried about Robert's new kilt ("You expect us to believe you bought this
kilt in the US?").
We have got to quit watching movies. In the movies, customs is always very
rigorous, with guys pawing through your luggage, and carefully inspecting
everything. They look at your watch and quiz you about where you got it, and
how much you paid, and then drag you off for a body cavity search.
In real life, customs involves a guy glancing at your customs form (which
says, "Did you buy more than $800 worth of stuff?"). He asks, "Are you
bringing in any food?" (Robert says, "Yes, some crackers, and a brownie from
the plane, and..." But Laura interrupts him and says, "They don't care about
that!" "But you can't lie to them!" Because of this argument, Laura forgets to
mention the pistachio nuts she bought in Greece, so she is now officially a
That's it. Nobody even looked at our luggage. No pawing. No cavity searches.
Nobody asked if we were bringing in drugs or rocket-propelled grenades or
We stagger in the front door of our home at last! The boat didn't sink, nobody
blew up the airplane, and we didn't get arrested, so we beat the jinx! Yay!
Our friend Elizabeth (who's son Craig has been feeding the cats and watering
the plants and shoveling the mail) has put some food in the fridge and a
thermos of decaf tea on the counter! Which is good, because we have just about
enough energy left to open our mouths and shovel something in (our bodies
think it's about two in the morning).
We survey the mound of mail and the stack of newspapers and the cats
studiously ignoring us ("You left?").
And we collapse into our very own bed, with our very own pillows. Aaaahhhh!
Europe is fun, but home is better.
Home at last
Robert & Laura