The Sherlock Holmes Post

The game’s afoot!

If you’ve ever been here, you know it’s all about Agatha Christie on Some Photoblog. In the five years I’ve run it, I’ve not made a single mention of Sherlock Holmes. He’s been lurking in the background, I guess, waiting for his time. And as I’ve just rediscovered my love for Sherlockian stories, this time is now.

There will be no spoilers in this post, apart from The Final Problem, which is widely known anyway.

Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), a writer and by profession a medical doctor, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now, I feel kind of bad because I always try to promote lesser known works by authors (e.g. Agatha Christie’s books without Poirot or Marple that are not And Then There Were None and non-Anne of Green Gables works by LM Montgomery) but this time around I’m going for the most obvious choice. It’s also a well known fact that the author ended up hating his most famous creation and had wished his other writings received similar attention. (Sorry, Sir Arthur!) I have read other works by him; a couple of Professor Challenger books and a short story collection Tales of Terror and Mystery and the guy does deserve to be known for his non-Sherlock writings–he was quite prolific and wrote sci-fi, historical fiction, non-fiction. I remember a few years ago a commenter on ACD’s official Facebook page post said “I didn’t know he wrote stories other than Sherlock Holmes” and I thought, how stupid can you get? Please. And any of you bloggers reading this, if you blog about Sir Arthur and have covered his non-Sherlock work (or even Sherlock only, let’s be friends), please drop a comment and I’ll check out your posts.

Anyway… today, I’m basic.

Sherlock Holmes is without a doubt the most popular fictional detective in the world and this is unlikely to change, in our lifetimes or perhaps ever. What is it that makes him so appealing, more than a century after his first appearance?

I don’t know the answer. He just is. An eccentric character, with brilliant mind, skilled in detection, what’s not to love? (Yes, I know he took cocaine. But this was legal in his time.) Mystery is a popular genre anyway, people love their detectives. And Sherlock Holmes is a classic. I think there is certain appeal in Victorian and Edwardian era London as well.

Sherlock Holmes first came to life in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. Altogether he features in four novels (the other three being The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear) and 56 short stories, majority of them written by his sidekick Dr John Watson. The character is inspired by Dr Joseph Bell (1837-1911), a surgeon and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, for whom ACD served as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Dr Bell used observation to carry out a diagnosis and was a pioneer of what we now call forensic science. He also served as a personal surgeon to Queen Victoria when she visited Scotland.

“My friend and colleague, Dr Watson.”

I am lost without my Boswell.

Sherlock Holmes on Dr Watson (A Scandal in Bohemia)

[Note: This is a reference to James Boswell, who was a biographer of the writer Samuel Johnson.]

The lifelong partnership–or whatever else you might want to call it, I’m not going to argue–was born in A Study in Scarlet. Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes by an old acquaintance Stamford as someone to potentially share a place with, as he’s in a precarious financial situation. Stamford knows Sherlock from the hospital, where he, Stamford, works as a dresser and Sherlock likes to dabble with chemicals at the lab.

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford, introducing us.

from A Study in Scarlet

Sherlock already knows of a suitable lodgings to rent, 221b Baker Street. The next day they meet and go view the place, Watson decides it’s suitable, and they move in.

Also can we raise a glass for Mr Stamford, without whom this iconic duo would never have existed?

Watson at first has no clue about Sherlock’s profession and for some reason is afraid to ask. Because he really has nothing else to do, he studies his flatmate and even makes a list of his skills and abilities. I made a graphic of this list, which I posted on my Tumblr and which remains my most popular post of all time on that platform. Now I’m posting it here:

Yes, there is a typo. It is what it is.

Watson is also shocked at Sherlock’s total ignorance of the Solar System. Of course, now it seems funny, because you’re thinking, haha he’s obsessed. He admits as such right there, in the text. He has nothing else to occupy his mind, has no close friends and his health is not in the best condition. This is what, on my recent re-read, made me come up with a theory–I think meeting Sherlock Holmes saved Dr Watson’s life. Hear me out.

So, as we know from Watson’s narrative, he qualified as medical doctor, joined the army and served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, where he was wounded during the Battle of Maiwand. His injury healed, but then he contracted enteric fever (which a quick Google search informs me is the same as typhoid fever). Afterwards, his health was so poor, he was discharged and sent back to England to recuperate. Having no living relatives in England, he arrived in London and booked himself a room in a hotel. His description of the capital city is amusing: that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. (You wouldn’t think it of him, but our doctor does have some good burns.) His army pension was eleven shillings and sixpence a day (another quick Google search informs me this should have been quite a comfortable income). He describes this period of his life as a “meaningless existence” and confesses to spending too much money. Hence the aforementioned precarious financial situation. He realised that he needed to change his lifestyle and having just made the decision to look for cheaper living, he bumped into Stamford.

What I wonder about–what was he spending his money on? Drinking? Women? Gambling? It was at a bar where he came across Stamford, so draw your own conclusions. (Also in The Sign of Four, we learn that Watson had an older brother with a drink problem.) Stamford comments that Watson is very thin and very brown (suntan from Afghanistan, presumably). It’s not unreasonable to conclude that he suffered from PTSD. And the “meaningless existence”–could that be… depression? When he moved in with Sherlock, he got his life and finances in order and his mind was revived from idleness by this intriguing new friend of his. Then, when Sherlock finally reveals to Watson what his profession is–a consulting detective–he invites him to come along to view a dead body. The rest is history.

Watson is at first sceptical of Sherlock’s science of deduction, but soon learns that yes, it really does work. It seems to me that Sherlock, whether intentionally or not, pulled Watson back into life. That’s how the BBC Sherlock series pretty much plays it.

In the next book, The Sign of Four, a new client named Mary Morstan enters the scene and she and Watson fall in love and get married. I always thought it happened way too fast. They knew each other only for days. But it seems to have worked for them, so I guess that’s good. ACD needed to marry off Watson, so he did. *shrug* Sherlock remained in Baker Street, as Watson says in A Scandal in Bohemia, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. In other words, he missed his friend. (The Guy Ritchie movies with Robert Downey Jr showcase this well.)

Screenshot of Sherlock Holmes, The Definitive Audio Collection from my Audible app. The complete works, all for one single credit, (not bad!), read by Stephen Fry, who played Mycroft in Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows movie. Speaking of which:

Brother Mycroft

All men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.

Sherlock Holmes on his brother Mycroft (The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans)

Sherlock Holmes has a brother called Mycroft, seven years his senior. We first meet him in the story The Greek Interpreter; he also features in one of my personal favourites, The Bruce-Partington Plans. Mycroft possesses even greater ability for deduction and observation than his younger brother, only he can’t be bothered to do any actual detective work out in the field. No ambition and no energy. (I can relate.) He rarely ventures beyond his circle of home, workplace and the Diogenes Club. In The Bruce-Partington Plans Sherlock nearly falls off a chair when he receives telegram from Mycroft informing him of his upcoming visit to Baker Street. It must be something really serious to drag his brother away from his usual territory!

Mycroft’s skills enabled him to create his own position in the Government–this is what Sherlock means about omniscience. He makes himself indispensable, that’s why Sherlock says Mycroft is the Government itself. But my favourite part about the older Holmes is the Diogenes Club. A gentlemen’s club set up for those who hated company, whether it was due to shyness or misanthropy, but who still liked comfortable chairs and newspapers. Talking is not permitted, except for Stranger’s Room and three offences will get you expelled from the club. Mycroft was one of the founding members.

We don’t know what Mycroft’s politics is. From Sherlock’s description, he certainly can make any regime work for him, but I like to think he was at least somewhat progressive. There is nothing in the canon to say he wasn’t.

According to Sherlock, both of them may have inherited their talents from their grandmother, a sister to French artist Vernet. Vernet was a real artist that really existed, in fact there were three of them: grandfather, father and son:

  • Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789)
  • Antoine Charles Horace Vernet, known as Carle Vernet (1758-1836)
  • Émile Jean-Horace Vernet, known as Horace Vernet (1789-1863)

ACD doesn’t specify which one of them it was, but based on the timeline, the youngest one is the most likely one. Horace Vernet mostly painted battle scenes and enjoyed patronage from, among others, King Louis-Philippe. He also took photographs by daguerreotype process, the first publicly available photography technique.

Check out his self-portrait:

image credit: Wikipedia

It looks very Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t it?

Aside from this, Sherlock never mentions any other family. He says his ancestors were country squires, but offers no further details. In The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, after Sherlock returns from the dead, Watson moves back with him to Baker Street and sells his practice to a young doctor named Verner. Years later he finds out that this Verner was a distant relation of Sherlock and it was really Sherlock who provided the money for the practice, which was sold at the highest price. Verner, Vernet, sounds very similar, also R and T are next to each other on the keyboard. Most likely a coincidence, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The Best and Finest Man I Have Ever Known

So, Sherlock believed his talent for observation and deduction came from his artist great uncle. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms, he says in The Greek Interpreter. Sherlock is the logical, scientific type. He also plays the violin and is fond of music. I think we can safely say that in the mind of our great detective, science and art combine.

Message Watson receives in The Creeping Man and me trying out some old-fashioned looking font

Watson’s list of Sherlock’s skills is not entirely accurate for the rest of the series. In The Sign of Four, for example, Watson notes that “[Holmes] spoke on a quick succession of subjects,—on miracle-plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the war-ships of the future,—handling each as though he had made a special study of it.” Yet none of those subjects are mentioned on the list in A Study in Scarlet. Quite the opposite–any facts he considers irrelevant must be forgotten at once, as to not clutter his mind. When ACD came up with the character of Sherlock Holmes, he couldn’t have known he would still write about him decades later (he didn’t even want to!). With time, he developed his character more, realising that, when you work as a detective, no knowledge is useless. This can be easily explained by Watson not knowing Sherlock that well in their early days yet. There is also another inconsistency. Watson’s wound was in the shoulder in A Study in Scarlet, but in The Sign of Four, he tells us it’s in the leg. Not that it matters much, in any case he could have sustained more than one injury in the war. BBC Sherlock got round it by making Watson’s leg pain psychosomatic–quite clever, I think.

I drew this. It wasn’t hard.

This is a popular outline of Sherlock’s profile, thanks to illustrations by Sidney Paget. It is Paget that gave Sherlock the iconic deerstalker hat, never mentioned in the actual writing. Paget’s illustrations accompanied ACD’s Sherlock stories in The Strand Magazine, where they were published. (Random fact: Agatha Christie also published her Poirot short stories in this magazine.) ACD himself requested Paget to continue illustrating in The Strand when he resurrected Sherlock. Sidney Paget definitely deserves some credit for contributing to the famous detective’s image.

The Birth of a Fandom

ACD killed off Sherlock in 1893 in The Final Problem, hoping this would help him concentrate on the more serious fiction and non-fiction he wanted to work on. Sherlock faces his ultimate antagonist, Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime as he calls him. Interestingly, Moriarty is also a man of science, a mathematical genius. During their last showdown at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they both plunge to their deaths.

Or not.

The reaction of fans to this move was like nothing else ever experienced before. Angry letters poured into ACD’s mailbox, people wore black armbands, The Strand Magazine suffered 20,000 cancellations. These days you’d shrug your shoulder, just another Tuesday in the fandom. But then, it was new. ACD eventually brought the beloved sleuth back; he needed the money and people wanted their Sherlock. Luckily the way he wrote Sherlock’s end enabled him to explain it away with “actually he didn’t fall into his death, only Moriarty did” and “he quickly realised that faking his death would help him break Moriarty’s criminal network and protect his dear Watson”. ACD though killed another character, Mrs Mary Watson, off page, so that he could reinstate Watson back into 221b Baker Street. (It’s kinda shitty if you think about it, but I understand why it had to be that way, besides, readers likely didn’t care about her. Apart from all the other qualities of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, I like that their Watson remained unmarried and Mary Morstan exited at the end of The Sign of Four episode.)

And so the adventures continued.

Sherlockians, or Holmesians if you want, were the first modern fandom. (Ahhh, fandoms, yes, fandoms, that’s a discussion I’d rather not have today.)

Aside from the books written by ACD, Sherlock appears in numerous books by other authors–this is called pastiche. Most of ACD’s works are in public domain now–and you know that means you can get them free as eBooks. Project Gutenberg is the best place for this.

I truly hope that if ACD can see from beyond how loved the character he grew to hate is, and how much Sherlock Holmes means to people, he is not too angry. After all, Sherlock, and all the related adaptations and pastiches, bring many of us joy and in the end, that is what really matters.

My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.

from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

And how about you, readers? Any fans of Sherlock Holmes there? Tell me in the comments!


Note: Apart from the tiny mentions, I don’t touch on any of the adaptations, as the post was already long enough. In the future, I might dedicate a separate post for these.

Alone But Not Lonely

See this bench in the grove?

I think it would go well with this quote from LM Montgomery book Emily’s Quest.

I was alone but not lonely. I was a queen in halls of fancy. I held a series of conversations with imaginary comrades and thought out so many epigrams that I was agreeably surprised at myself.

Remind you of something? Yes, LMM used this almost exact quote in in Anne of Windy Poplars. Windy Poplars was released in 1936 and Emily’s Quest in 1927, so Emily’s quote came earlier. (Note: Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside were written much later than the rest of Anne books.)

Compare the two books, though. Emily books are much darker than Anne books (there is also altogether more darkness in Montgomery’s work than people realise, but that’s another topic). Windy Poplars covers the three years in Anne’s life when she teaches school at Summerside, while Gilbert is working towards his medical degree. Large chunk of the book is comprised of her letters to Gilbert and that line is from one of them. They are apart for now, but they write to each other and look forward to the time they finally get married and start their life together. So, all is good. Emily’s Quest, on the other hand, is quite a different story. While her friends leave home to pursue their dreams, Emily stays and tries to become a writer. She and her love interest, Teddy, can’t seem to get together because they have communication issues. Emily gets ill, suffers from, what we call now, depression, agrees to marry a man she doesn’t love, and it takes years for her to finally find the happiness she deserves. It’s–bleak. Definitely not one for the children’s books section. Or even Young Adult section. Like one reviewer on Goodreads put it “Montgomery’s work is constantly under-estimated, and the way the books are marketed doesn’t help (the flowery script, the swoony illustrations).” I’ve been saying that for years.

Anne and Emily are both orphans with different journeys, but I think both of them would have loved that little bench under the trees.

Put Us On The Map

Now you can’t say I haven’t done it.

The piece of blue tack is larger than the country on the map.

On another note, about this question I get:

Where are you from?

Yes, I know I have an accent. Believe me, nobody hates that accent more than me. It is not possible for you to be the one who hates that accent more than I do myself. If I could somehow not have that accent, I would not have it. If I could have three wishes from a genie in a bottle, one of them would be to speak like a native English speaker.

Just… please.

Try to have at least one full conversation with a person who has that accent. At least try to find out their name. It’s bad enough feeling insecure about one’s English without you pointing it out. I can’t be the only one thinking that redirecting the topic to one’s country of origin is kinda rude. It’s like interrupting someone–which of course certain demographics are Olympic champions at, don’t we know that.

And btw nobody cares that you once had a friend from somewhere-near-where-the-person-with-an-accent-is-from. Well, I don’t. By all means keep talking about the weather or whatever, it’s more interesting.

So I did find Anne of Green Gables in print… and it’s pink

I’ve never seen Anne of Green Gables series in printed format, she said.

She was looking in the wrong section.

The other day I was in Waterstones, an incredibly wonderful UK bookstore, which also sells stationery and other cool silly stuff. While I was paying at the till, for one reason or another (I don’t know where I get the urge to talk to people these days, I never used to be like that), I asked the checkout guy if they ever had Anne of Green Gables in stock. He searched the database and confirmed they did have it–in the children’s 9-12 years section.

You know how much Anne means to me. So yesterday when I was in Waterstones again, I went to check the said section and indeed, there it was. I picked the hardback, because when it comes to physical books, I prefer them to paperbacks.

This is the treasure.

Actually… a few days before I bought it, I was in Paperchase (a mega cool stationery shop) just browsing around and I saw this same edition. They don’t normally sell books, so I thought it was some hipster thing and didn’t pick it up and open it. So when I saw it at Waterstones, I was like, OMG it’s real!

Can I just say… okay, I know nothing about categorising books, but it doesn’t seem right to me to have the Anne series in the children’s section. Little Women gets to be with the classics, yet has a similar theme. Anne is also far more fun, far less patronising, has better characters and the right people end up coupled at the end; as opposed to wrong people marrying the wrong people in Little Women. Maybe I shouldn’t be bothered about it, because after all, there is nothing wrong with children’s books, but why can’t it be in both sections at once? I spent ages desperately looking for Anne when I came to UK, in libraries and bookshops. When I couldn’t find any LM Montgomery books here, I concluded that she wasn’t as popular here as in Slovakia (where her books certainly aren’t in the children’s section). I know you think I could have just asked the staff in library or a bookshop, but well, I didn’t. I have social anxiety for one and I hate asking for help and then, I used to feel stupid about liking certain things. Like, nobody cared about Anne anymore after they’d finished all the books and I was the only one who did. Also, I could not have been sure what the book was called in English. Green Gables is translated into “green house” in my language. I don’t think we even have a word for “gable”, Anne’s room in east gable is translated as “east attic room”. Different countries, different architecture styles.

For the inside the book shot, I chose this unforgettable chapter, in which Anne and her friends Diana, Jane and Ruby decide to play out Elaine (I believe it’s the poem The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Tennyson) in real life and Anne nearly drowns in a pond. After this, she makes a sensible decision to not be romantic again. “It was probably easy enough in towered Camelot hundreds of years ago, but romance is not appreciated now,” she says to Marilla. This however saddens Matthew and he tells her:

Don’t give up all your romance, Anne. A little of it is a good thing–not too much, of course–but keep a little of it, Anne, keep a little of it.

Dear, dear Matthew Cuthbert. We need more like him.

Forget-me-nots

I went for a walk on Easter Monday afternoon and came back with some nice pics. Like this one. I liked it so much I wanted to share it with you.

They were growing from the crack between someone’s house and the pavement. You don’t always have to travel miles away to gardens or woods to get some nice flora shots. I often joke that while other bloggers post about their amazing adventures in far-away, exciting places, I take pictures of trees from my window.

But then, why not? What if you can find beauty in the same space you live and work every day?

Agatha Christie

This is the post that was always meant to be. I have never specially planned it but I was always conscious of its existence outside Some Photoblog’s space-time continuum. Now, the time has come to publish it.

World, welcome to my most favourite author ever.

Some call her the Queen of Crime and even if you’ve never read any of her books, you know who she is.

I have mentioned Agatha Christie once or twice on this blog, most notably in the Yggdrasil entry, but never made a post about her. I’ve blogged more about LM Montgomery, who is my second most favourite author (sorry LM!) That’s understandable; when you photograph nature it’s easier to quote Montgomery, as anyone who ever read even one of her books will know, because of those beautiful descriptions.

I got into Agatha Christie sometime in my mid-teens; my first book was Murder of Roger Ackroyd, an Hercule Poirot mystery, which also happens to be one of the best. It could hardly have been a better start. But her best selling (and indeed the best selling mystery novel of all) is And Then There Were None. I think all of us who have read And Then There Were None can agree that this is absolutely justified.

(Yes, it’s the-one-that-one-that-used-to-have-that-racist-title, but this was taken from a children’s rhyme, which is not Agatha’s creation. In newer editions, the racial slur in the rhyme is replaced with “soldier”.)

Hercule Poirot, the private detective from Belgium and Miss Marple, an old lady who has lived all of her life in a little village of St Mary Mead are Agatha Christie’s most famous characters. But she’s much more than that. There are Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the couple that first appear in The Secret Adversary as young adventurers and who unlike Poirot and Marple actually get older with each subsequent book. Then we have short stories featuring Mr Parker Pyne, who is an unusual type of detective, if he can be called that. Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne, runs his advertisement in the newspaper. His speciality appears to be the matters of heart (as in, love, not heart surgery). And then there is the most mysterious character Agatha ever created, Mr Harley Quin (not to be confused with Harley Quinn, the DC comics character). He appears and disappears again just at the right time, with no explanation, and we never get to find out anything about him. The short stories featuring him are written from the point of view of Mr Satterthwaite, a middle aged socialite, who–not in a malicious way–enjoys other people’s drama. Harley Quin short stories have this spooky atmosphere, almost touching on supernatural.

Apart from the above, Agatha Christie’s work includes numerous mystery novels without any regular detective; a few with Superintendent Battle, who also appeared alongside Poirot in Cards on the Table. And so on and so on.

I don’t know how many people are aware of the fact that she didn’t just write mystery/crime fiction. She wrote six novels under the name Mary Westmacott. I’ve seen them boxed under “romantic novel” genre, though I’m unsure how correct this would be. I’ve only read Giant’s Bread so far and I would not class it as romance/romantic fiction. I’m not that good at labelling things, but if Giant’s Bread got a movie adaptation, I’d call it drama or period drama.

And that’s not all. She was also a playwright. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in UK. I have seen it performed here in Manchester on their 60th anniversary tour. (As you can see from the top picture, I kept the ticket, for all of six and a half years!)

What’s interesting also is that, though she wrote a few plays and even turned her own books into plays (e.g. there is a stage version of And Then There Were None with a different ending; Witness for the Prosecution was a short story before it was a play), her stories are still adapted for stage by other writers. For example, Love from a Stranger is a play based on the short story Philomel Cottage. You can find Philomel Cottage in the Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories collection (maybe in other collections too) or on its own in digital format. It’s a tense story about a newly married woman experiencing sudden anxiety, which she cannot identify. I like to think of it as a predecessor to modern domestic thrillers, though it’s probably not, because I can’t imagine many people/writers know of it. But it has exactly the same feel. I went to see Love from a Stranger last year in July.

Speaking of adaptations, it would be an unpardonable crime not to mention this guy.

David Suchet played Poirot on screen for 24 years and will probably always be the best, the most ultimate Poirot of all time. Not that other actors shouldn’t play him or that they won’t be good as good Poirots; I mean that no one will be the truer Poirot as Suchet. He is so much associated with the little Belgian detective that he wrote a book about it!

Currently he is played by Kenneth Branagh, who has done Murder on the Orient Express and is preparing Death on the Nile next. Branagh’s Poirot is more of a 21st century hero, with a more diverse cast. And that moustache is a legend!

I relate to Poirot in a way that he’s a Continental European living in England and people keep getting his nationality wrong.

My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.

Hercule Poirot, The Mystery of the Blue Train

The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.

Hercule Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express

Human nature is much the same everywhere and, of course, one has opportunities of observing it at close quarters in a village.

Miss Marple, The Thumb Mark of St Peters (short story)

This above quote is the most typical of Miss Marple. She usually cracks the mystery because someone reminds her of someone else. I think in this way, her village serves as a microcosm of the world. She observes life closely, which then helps her solve crimes that baffle even experienced Scotland Yard officers.

Some of my collection:

In fact most of the physical books I own are Agatha Christies. I bought them before eBooks were a thing.

So, as you can see, I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I know she’s not literally acclaimed–some male author apparently wrote an essay titled Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (who cares about you, more like)–but so what. There is nothing like curling up with a blanket, nice cup of hot drink and a good old fashioned mystery. Does not mean you can’t appreciate Shakespeare as well. Actually Agatha sometimes quotes Shakespeare–the novel Taken at the Flood is titled after a line in Julius Caesar. And I want to add another thing, the thing I think about often and which appears in her books quite a lot and is my favourite element of her entire work.

Whenever there is a crime committed, the perpetrator must be found. But the most important thing is not to punish the perpetrator. It’s to clear the people that didn’t do it. I first came across this in Miss Marple short story The Four Suspects. Miss Marple and her companions discuss an unsolved case presented to them by Sir Henry Clithering, a retired Scotland Yard Commissioner. Miss Marple, as is her fashion, comes to the correct conclusion without much trouble. Sir Henry is outraged by the fact that the guilty party got away with it, but Miss Marple points out that it was not the case–the murderer got in with such a bad lot that their end will be inevitable. But she urges Sir Henry to let the other parties know that they’re innocent. Well, she means particularly one party, the one she believes would suffer most from having that suspicion hanging over their head.

One mustn’t waste thought on the guilty–it’s the innocent who matter.

Miss Marple, The Four Suspects (short story)

This is also the whole premise of Ordeal by Innocence. Dr Calgary approaches a family claiming that he can provide an alibi for their son who got charged with murder. It’s too late for the son, who died in prison but he thinks he can at least clear his name. But this causes distress to the family–if it wasn’t him, then who was it? And immediately they start suspecting each other again and their nightmare is back. Dr Calgary then decides to find the culprit–which he does in the end.

It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent. It’s we who matter. Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?

Hester, Ordeal by Innocence

And that is why Ordeal by Innocence is such a good book and a rare late one. (To be perfectly honest, the later works of Agatha Christie are not as good, though there are still some gems.) It is also why the latest adaptation on BBC got it so wrong. It’s not so much that they changed the murderer, it’s that they completely misunderstood the story. You can change a lot of things in an adaptation and still keep the spirit of the book. Remember what I said about the new Netflix Anne of Green Gables series, Anne with an E? It differs from the books a lot, adds new characters and plots, but it still keeps the same spirit. The same aesthetics. All the characters are what they are in the books; Anne, the Cuthberts, Diana, Gilbert, Mrs Lynde. The setting, which is crucial, is still the same Prince Edward Island. Sure, it’s dark, but it’s not like that darkness was completely made up by the screenwriter. It was always there, between the lines. The screenwriters knew their stuff. Kenneth Baranagh also knew his stuff when he made the Murder on the Orient Express. Unfortunately the BBC adaptations do not know their stuff. Not. At. All. The last two made me so angry I will not watch them again.

I will end with a quote from the epilogue of Agatha’s autobiography.

I have done what I wanted to do. I have been on a journey. Not so much a journey back through the past, as a journey forward–starting again at the beginning of it all–going back to the Me who was to embark on that journey forward through time. I have not been bounded by time or space. I have been able to linger where I wanted, jump backwards and forwards as I wished.

Ooh she really does float outside the space-time continuum!

Over to you now, readers. Any Agatha Christie fans? Any of you have blogged about her? Come and tell!

Throwback – Polaroid 2004

I keep this photograph among my important possessions.

I’ve never personally used an instant camera–never even held one in my hand. The shot is from an event in my home town of Bratislava, organised by Kia, the car manufacturers, when they opened their first plant in Slovakia.

It was in one of the squares in city centre, where they set up a stage for traditional Korean performances (I remember we watched some cool drummers). Among the promotional material they were giving away, like key rings and stickers and bags, that sort of stuff, I don’t really recall exactly, they did Polaroid shots for people.

As you can observe, there is a Kia car in the picture and those two people in front of it are myself and my younger brother! I was 23 and he was 12. I had already left for UK by then, but was back for a visit.

So, the year was 2004. An interesting year, because that was when Slovakia (with 9 other countries) joined the EU. Here in UK, you bet they had a lot to say about that and not in a good way. But on one news program they also said that with Kia now establishing themselves in Slovakia, potential other car manufacturers will follow and the country might one day become a second Detroit. Amazingly, to this day, it was the only positive thing I heard about my country on British TV ever. Now fifteen years later, we have Brexit and car manufacturers are leaving Britain.

And that thing with second Detroit became true.

Obviously I wasn’t the one who took this pic, but I was the one who took the pic of the pic, so is it my pic or is it not my pic?

Anne of Green Gables Photoshoot

If you’ve ever visited my blog, you might have noticed that I’m a fan of Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery. So it only made sense to dedicate a little photoshoot to the red-headed orphan that lived on Prince Edward Island.

I don’t own any of the books in physical format. As I said in my Kindle eBooks post, I have never seen them in print and downloaded them all from Gutenberg. (All of LM Montgomery’s work is in public domain, apart from The Blythes Are Quoted, which was released quite recenly–and which I very much recommend, it will surprise you!)

Well, apart from this very old falling-apart paperback copy that I found in a charity shop.

So for the photoshoot I used the doll of Anne that I got from Etsy and the book Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson.

This book is such a delight! It is sort of a companion to the Anne books with lovely illustrations. It describes things from Anne’s time, such as tea parties, handwork, fashion and gardening, plus the timeline. I found out about the book thanks to Pinterest–someone pinned the cover image from a blog post of a reviewer. (Don’t ever tell me Pinterest isn’t useful.)

It wasn’t until I started thinking about it many years later that I realised what a great heroine Anne is. She constantly works to improve herself, she’s a good student and is always there for her friends. Despite being mistreated as an orphaned child, she remains kind (this she has in common with other popular fictional heroes, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter). She finds joy in everything around her and of course, has that famous unbeatable imagination. And not only does she find love with Marilla and Matthew, they learn from her too.

The adaptation with Megan Follows is a classic, but there is a new series on Netflix that started in 2017. I know not everyone likes that one, because it’s so dark, but in my opinion they got it exactly right. If you think about it, there is a lot of darkness in Montgomery’s work. See this excerpt from Anne of Green Gables Chapter 5Anne’s History, in which Anne narrates to Marilla how she was taken in by Mrs Thomas after the deaths of her parents and later lived with Mrs Hammond:

“Were those women—Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond—good to you?” asked Marilla, looking at Anne out of the corner of her eye.

“O-o-o-h,” faltered Anne. Her sensitive little face suddenly flushed scarlet and embarrassment sat on her brow. “Oh, they meant to be—I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite—always. They had a good deal to worry them, you know. It’s a very trying to have a drunken husband, you see; and it must be very trying to have twins three times in succession, don’t you think? But I feel sure they meant to be good to me.”

Marilla asked no more questions. Anne gave herself up to a silent rapture over the shore road and Marilla guided the sorrel abstractedly while she pondered deeply. Pity was suddenly stirring in her heart for the child. What a starved, unloved life she had had—a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect; for Marilla was shrewd enough to read between the lines of Anne’s history and divine the truth. No wonder she had been so delighted at the prospect of a real home. It was a pity she had to be sent back. What if she, Marilla, should indulge Matthew’s unaccountable whim and let her stay? He was set on it; and the child seemed a nice, teachable little thing.

In other words, it seems that some kind of child abuse happened. And that is just one example. At the end of Anne of Green Gables, Matthews dies and all their money is lost in a bank crash. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Not to mention people dying from tuberculosis and similar. And not many opportunities for women either.

I read about Lucy Maud’s life and apparently her husband suffered from mental illness and she wasn’t always that well herself. She had a child that was stillborn. I think the showrunners got the look and feel right. And because it’s the current year, they threw in extra LGBT representation and a bit of colour. (Though from what I read, it appears that Prince Edward Island really is that Scottish and that Presbyterian.) Also, the acting is absolute top and the series is worth watching for the scenery alone.

Now, I feel bad for talking about Anne so much when I enjoyed almost everything else LM wrote. Emily of New Moon series is just as good as Anne but my favourite book is The Blue Castle. I wonder if we ever get an adaptation of that one, but I’m not optimistic. It’s a bit like with Arthur Conan Doyle, there has been so many Sherlock Holmeses that people don’t even realise he wrote other books. Sigh

There is something I have to mention when talking about Montgomery’s work, which I think is important. She was, to put it bluntly, kinda racist. There is a short story in Further Chronicles of Avonlea collection titled Tannis of the Flats and it’s awful. Not because of the story–the story is great–but the prejudice, oh dear. It concerns Native Americans and it’s just… bad. That’s all. Yes, I know she lived in a different time and all that, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be acknowledged. So there.

Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.

The Not Christmas Post

Yeah, I had to go there.

But at least I’m doing this on the 23rd, not on any of the Christmas days. Reality is… well, reality, even at this time of year.

So first of all, I had to make a Brexmas card, because of course.

brexmas card1

Open it!

brexmas card2

UK seems like it’s very sick and needs some good care. Just check this out.

uk not xmas card

It also looks like an England flag, which was not my intention–just a coincidence. Moving on to:

You know how the word snowflake has gained a completely different meaning to what it actually is. Used by people who can’t get over the fact that the world is changing to describe mostly liberals and/or socially conscious (aka woke) people. Snowflake? I give you snowflake.

snowflake card

Bonus – a not Christmas throwback

I found this anti-Christmas card I forgot I had among my Christmas drawings and cards (I have this thing I call the Christmas Book, where I’ve been drawing Christmas scenery and stuff since I was very young and in the last few years been saving cards in it, but that’s not what I want to talk about now). I should say I’m not the artist of this brilliant piece–it was done by a coworker. It’s from 2014 and I think it’s hilarious:

not xmas card

The point is, some people just hate Christmas, or can’t handle it. And that’s okay. It’s not an easy time for everyone, whether it’s for mental health issues, having lost a loved one or working in retail, you are all valid. One can also enjoy some aspects of Christmas and not the others. So maybe you like the food but are not thrilled about having to spend time with annoying relatives. I get that.

I have received shit from someone earlier this year when I said Santa Claus wasn’t real. I said it by mistake. (I think I meant to say something else but my communication skills are so poor I’m glad I can express myself on most days, also remember please that I’m not speaking my native language.) But as a result, I ended up hating that figure. Pass me those anti-Santa rockets, by all means.

Let’s just be good to each other, not just at Christmas, but all year round.

Unless you’re a bigot or a horrible person. Then you don’t deserve to be treated nice.

Merry Christmas.

Or not.

Blogging Or What?

Ooh, it’s looks like it’s been a while since I last posted. Though, in fairness, this time last year it was much dryer here.

Here is a picture that I named “The Autumn Days Of Yore”. I don’t know why exactly. It sounds nice, it was taken in autumn and it was in the past (like two weeks ago) and that is all the reasons I can come up with.

So, this is it:

daysofyore

Sooo, it’s November. Which means we’re closer to the end of the year, which is where I do that “where has the year gone?” thing.

So, really, where has the year gone?