The year is ending, it’s time for another recap post.
Let me get this out of the way first: this is a personal post on a personal blog. This is not a current events blog. There’s been a lot of bad stuff this year. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, most of all, the cost of living crisis, the absolutely insane weather brought on by climate change. But for me, on purely personal basis, it has been a good year.
My mum said the other day when we spoke on the phone, that things happen that we have no control over and can’t do anything about. So what is left but to live one’s life? I’m devastated at the state of the world… I hope it gets better and wish I could do something… I hope Putin’s head explodes… I want a better world, for everyone. I want the Star Trek future to be real, not just a fantasy. But to want something is just that.
So, the recap.
I have made 106 posts on Some Photoblog. That’s not just a record, that’s outstanding. I thought last year’s 89 was an achievement. (Note, these numbers are correct at the time of writing, I sometimes delete old posts, sometimes without a trace, sometimes I republish them later, keeping the original text and adding new pictures, or keeping the pictures and changing the original text.) Over on my writing blog it was 13 posts, also a record. Although not all of them are technically stories, writing is writing.
And in 2022, I’ve had my share of nice things.
Well, it can hardly get any better than meeting one’s favourite actor and travelling to one’s home country after seven years of not travelling to one’s home country, like the proverbial prodigal daughter.
Meeting Sam Claflin was without question a highlight of the year (and one of the highlights of my life), not only because of how nice he was, and how magical the experience felt, and how his smile is really like that, but also because the whole trip to London for the convention (by coach, because one can’t rely on trains anymore in this kingdom united, meaning I had to leave the day before and spend a night at a hotel) thrust me out of the familiarity of my comfort zone straight into the uncharted waters of the big wide ocean. For someone who never goes anywhere and sticks to the same places and activities, my stress levels reached the stratosphere. I knew once I got through it, I’d be able to do anything.
At the convention, aside from meeting Sam Claflin, I also got an autograph of Ben Barnes. He, too, was very nice–and chatty! (Sam seems more quiet.) His eyes are really that dark.
Another favourite I saw was the band Bastille live in concert. They were my most streamed artist on Spotify wrapped.
Taylor Swift released her album Midnights. But I still keep listening to Evermore.
And it was a good year for an Agatha Christie fan. Death on the Nile was finally released in the cinemas, after numerous delays (and a scandal involving one of the actors), with Kenneth Branagh directing and playing the role of Hercule Poirot. Then there was the film that directly honoured the queen of crime: See How They Run. A murder is committed in the theatre that hosts her play The Mousetrap and Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan of the London police force team up to solve it. It takes place a year after the play opened, 1953. The film very meta–and the character of Agatha herself appears too. And finally just in time for Christmas, Glass Onion came out on Netflix. After the success of Knives Out, Rian Johnson gives us another case for detective Benoit Blanc, played (with much fun) by Daniel Craig. Rian once again brilliantly combines Agatha Christie-like tropes with current issues and lots of humour. If you hate Elon Musk, you’re gonna love this movie.
I’ve seen a few articles talking about how murder mysteries are back, but I think people have always liked them.
The above mentioned Mousetrap celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2022 and I went to see it when they came to Manchester as part of the anniversary tour.
It was so good to see my home town of Bratislava again. I was so happy I finally took some pics there with my Canon (last time I had gone there I didn’t have a DSLR camera). November is not perhaps the best time to travel (right after the clocks went back too, so days became even shorter) but I made the best of it and I got lucky with some nice weather.
I was a bit worried about putting my cat in a cattery, fearing that she would think I was abandoning her. It was her first time staying in a cattery. But she got through it alright. (Imagine running a cattery, though, it seems like one of those dream jobs.)
I cannot do a 2022 recap post without mentioning the death of the longest reigning monarch, Elizabeth II. I’m not keen on monarchy, it’s inherently anti-democratic, but I can’t deny Elizabeth was an impressive person. She’ll be remembered for centuries to come.
The UK also went through three Prime Ministers. One of them, Liz Truss, was at the job for 49 days–and was outlasted by a lettuce.
The chaos in British politics would not have existed had Leave not won the referendum in 2016. But, you know *shrug* I have said everything that needs to be said about it.
So as not to end the post on a depressing note, let us remember the heroes of the year. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the women of Iran who rose up in protest of the regime. And also you. The person reading this, for getting through whatever you had to get through. Keep on keeping on.
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the longest running play in the world, is celebrating its 70th anniversary. It first opened in London’s West End in 1952 (and has now outrun the reign of Queen Elizabeth!) This milestone is being honoured by a tour around the country, of which one of the stops was Manchester.
Yeah, you know I went, you don’t even have to ask. Duh, I’d lose my Agatha fan card if I didn’t go see it!
Opera House looked pretty nice with the displays.
I was there on the 3rd December, so their last night in Manchester (yeah, it was a few days ago, I just forgot to post it…). From what I could see, it was a sold out performance.
The Mousetrap is a classic Agatha Christie locked room mystery. A group of people at a boarding house are cut off from the rest of the world by snowy weather, someone gets murdered–whodunnit? The tune of Three Blind Mice is a recurring motif, hence the title of the play.
When the murder was about to happen, all the lights went out, including the fire exit signs. Truly spooky!
I didn’t manage to get the program, so I had to look up the cast on the website.
Everyone was excellent–I keep saying I need to go to the theatre more often. It requires quite a different calibre of talent than film and TV acting. Fun fact: in its first opening in 1952, the role of Detective Sergeant Trotter was played by Richard Attenborough.
And finally, as it has recently been announced, The Mousetrap is heading to Broadway in 2023!
Note: A post titled A Work Of Art was originally published on Some Photoblog in June 2021.I have come to a decision to delete and republish it with some changes to the text and expanded title (the pictures remain the same as in the original post). I explain why below.
This painting hangs in Manchester Art Gallery (quite high up, hence the awkward angle).
It’s Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse. Waterhouse was an English painter of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Hylas and the Nymphs is one of his best known works.
The Gallery’s label:
(Look, I don’t know. Maybe the nymphs were just like: dude, you’re trespassing. It doesn’t have to be that deep. Waterhouse can hardly be blamed for some femme fatale shit, when it’s a story from the Greek mythology. Also, I like Pre-Raphaelites. I like nice things. I’m a visual person.)
The image below is a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in the series, released in 2011, directed by Rob Marshall:
Okay, so you have to squint a bit. But you can see it.
The two stunningly beautiful people are Philip and Syrena, played by Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Syrena is a mermaid, not a nymph (and there are no water lilies, obviously), but she does look like something Waterhouse would have painted. He seemed to have had a thing for women of mythology and legends, and bodies of water. (Waterhouse, get it?) Philip is no Argonaut, he’s a missionary, which is why he wears that cross, but he was on a ship. Which is, I suppose, a logical occurrence in a movie centred on pirates. On Stranger Tides is probably the weakest in the series, but it’s still worth watching for these two, if nothing else. Their romance would surely inspire artists and poets alike. There was something so pure about it, stupid as the word is. I love Philip and Syrena, they own my heart.
*spoilers* Interestingly, much like Hylas, Philip was never seen again either. His fate is a bit ambiguous, as he’s injured, likely quite critically, and the above scene is the moment just before he and Syrena kiss and she pulls him into the water. It was established earlier in the movie that a mermaid’s kiss can heal, and she does tell him: “I can save you, just ask,” though he doesn’t ask, he says he wants only forgiveness, as he blames himself for her capture. She kisses him anyway (get in there, girl!), and the last we see of them is when they float underwater. But I’m positive Philip didn’t die, the reason why neither him nor Syrena appear again is that The Powers That Be decided not to use them any more. *end spoilers*
So, now for the controversial part. My original June 2021 post was a silly entry about how film snobs need to get over themselves and step on a Lego, because the similarity between the Philip and Syrena scene and the Waterhouse painting proved that Pirates of the Caribbean films were a work of art. Not that I no longer believe this to be true (because the similarity cannot be denied), but it is a frivolous matter compared to… well, everything surrounding the lead actor of the franchise.
However, I maintain that the Pirates movies don’t necessarily have to revolve around the character of Jack Sparrow because they still have a lot going for them that is not Jack Sparrow. (In fact I think the later instalments should have reduced his role). Adventure, humour, horror, romance, and a lot of swashbuckling action. There are plenty of other great characters; the first trilogy truly belongs to Will and Elizabeth. I mean, it’s Elizabeth who becomes the Pirate King. Not Jack. There’s Tia Dalma and Davy Jones. Weatherby Swann (Elizabeth’s father), James Norrington, even Cutler Beckett. And the films always nail their romances. Will and Elizabeth, Philip and Syrena, and Henry and Carina in the fifth film. And I think Geoffrey Rush’s performance as Hector Barbossa is just as iconic as Johnny Depp’s Jack. The scene in The Curse of the Black Pearl “you’d better start believing in ghost stories, you’re in one” where he’s revealed to be a skeleton in the moonlight, is so bone chilling and so, well, iconic! I also love Elizabeth and Will’s wedding in the third film, At World’s End. On a ship, in the middle of a battle, Elizabeth shouts to Barbossa: “Barbossa, marry us!” To which he responds: “I’m a little bit busy at the moment!” But he nevertheless marries them, while all three of them are fighting their enemy.
Plus Ragetti and Pintel are a hilarious duo.
All that and the theme tune (composed by Hans Zimmer, no less) is the best.
I’ve written (to date) my longest post on Some Photoblog about him and IRL I can talk about him for so long, that if I should ever get kidnapped, I’d make the kidnappers release me because they’d be sick to their teeth of listening to me rambling about him.
Somehow I’ve felt for a while that one day I’d get to meet him at some convention. And I did. The convention was Dream It Fest convention in London. (Which I’m sorry to say had absolutely atrociously awful organisation, honestly shocking, considering the actors present, among whom were Emilia Clarke, Ben Barnes and some others from the series Shadow and Bone, the Heartstopper cast, Simone Ashley and Natalia Tena.) My VIP ticket for Sam included a photoshoot, an autograph, and a front seat at Sam’s panel.
(Hiding the half of the photograph where I appear (you can see my fingers on Sam’s arm) under Sam’s autograph, as I am not someone who looks good on pictures. There is a reason I don’t show my face on my profile pics–and my body ain’t that much better. At least my siblings persuaded me not to cut myself out of the photo. You can see just how freaking beautiful he looks there, so with me next to him–naaah.)
I was, as could be expected, star struck as fuck, but I managed to keep it together. The photoshoot was actually my best experience, despite my hatred of being photographed, and not something I would ever care about, had it not meant meeting Sam. He was so nice, and we even started a conversation until the member of the staff had to remind us that we were there to have a picture taken. During the autograph session, however, I said nothing, apart from “I’m pretty sure you know how to spell Linda” (a staff member gave me a post-it note, on which she wrote my name, so that he’d know who to dedicate the autograph to). Got kinda tongue-tied.
That’s about all I wanted to share today. I’m not going to talk about how I had to take a coach to London and thus had a five-and-a-half-hour journey each way, because I couldn’t trust the trains (they’re on strike a lot, and even with the queen’s death and crowds flooding to London, I still couldn’t rely on them not to cancel services), I’m not going to talk about how that one night at a hotel cost me more than the VIP ticket for Sam Claflin at Dream It Fest, I’m not going to talk about how I was a pure ball of nerves over the whole trip, and that even now, full twenty four hours after my return from London, my stomach is still so tight I eat to only sustain myself.
One day I was walking down the well trodden street that leads from my place to the park, when I spotted it. It lay there, on the ground, as if it had been there for days or weeks–but it hadn’t. It wasn’t there the day before.
I took a picture of it, because that’s what I do, you know, and also, my brother is a huge Lord of the Rings fan. Later that day, I sent the pic to him.
He joked that it was such a waste throwing it away. I, of course, remarked that littering never ceases to irritate me, considering there are bins nearby.
Then I looked at my pic closer. The cup has an Odeon cinema logo but, as Paul pointed out, the movies were out two decades ago. I thought it might have been an advert for some other type of media, a video game perhaps, as there’s the new series on Amazon Prime set in Middle Earth, so I thought “The Ultimate Quest” referred to something else of this universe (I don’t keep up with LOTR stuff, not one of my fandoms). But no, the image on the cup is definitely related to the last film of the trilogy, The Return of the King. But that was released in 2003. Also Paul was able to notice that the Pepsi logo is old. I never know what the Pepsi logo looks like, I buy Coca-Cola.
So, what is a nineteen-year-old cup doing on the pavement? And how come someone kept a paper cup from a cinema for nineteen years in the first place? It’s quite well preserved, albeit squashed. On one side it had marks from a bike, but that bike would have run over it once it was already on the street. It seemed to me someone was doing a big clear-out. But if they were doing a big clear-out, wouldn’t they have put the cup in the binbag with the rest of the rubbish?
WHAT IS THIS MYSTERY, I NEED ANSWERS!
The next day I walked that street again (I always do, since I go to the park most days) and the cup was still there. The location of the cup is near the point where a wall of one house meets the backyard of another house. The backyard has recently been filled with old, broken furniture. I think I might have cracked it.
There’s obviously some renovating going on in one of the houses and the cup must have got stuck somewhere in the furniture. As the furniture was being dumped to the backyard, the cup, being much lighter, landed further away.
I also wonder if the cinema goer kept the cup because they were a fan of LOTR. I can imagine a kid, perhaps twelve or thirteen years old making it part of their little LOTR collection. Maybe their parent/s couldn’t afford to buy them any merchandise. So they cherished the cinema cup with the image of the film, because it was the only thing they had.
Later, when they grew up and started earning their own money, they would buy whatever else they wanted. The family moved out and the cinema cup was left behind, long forgotten.
Until the renovators came.
What a relic. Might not be worth much, but it’s history.
You think the characters of Dr Strange, Hermione and James Bond are creations of Marvel comics, JK Rowling and Ian Fleming respectively? Welllllll, not necessarily. They were all created by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie.
Or it depends which ones!
In book Three Act Tragedy, (also published as Murder In Three Acts in USA) there is a character named Dr Strange, namesake of the Marvel character Dr Strange.
Although he’s referred to as Sir Bartholomew throughout the story, he is a doctor and his surname is Strange.
Three Act Tragedy was first published in 1934. It’s a Hercule Poirot mystery, which also features Mr Satterthwaite, who appears in the Mysterious Mr Quin stories. (Speaking of which, Mr Quin’s first name is Harley, so he’s Harley Quin–a very similar to the character in DC comic universe, except hers is spelled Quinn, therefore I have not included this in the post.) Dr Strange’s first appearance in the Marvel comics was in 1963, almost three decades later.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe he’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch–who is also well known for his role as Sherlock Holmes, the other famous detective! (He was also in Murder Is Easy, but that was incorrectly adapted with Miss Marple, who is not in the story.)
In the same book, we meet a character of Hermione.
Okay, so I admit this one is a bit of a stretch, as it just happens to be a character with the same first name as the beloved witch of Harry Potter fame. But it’s not like it’s a very common name, is it? Besides, if you took the character of Hermione Granger and put her in a murder mystery, you’d have her do some sleuthing, wouldn’t you? Just like the Three Act Tragedy Hermione, nicknamed Egg, does. Well, Hermione Granger does a sort of sleuthing in Harry Potter too; I always insist that the HP books are in the most part mysteries, it’s just that they include the elements of magic. It’s no wonder that the author turned to writing mystery novels. Though I for one wish she’d rather shut up… Sigh. But let’s not get derailed.
The first HP book was released in 1997.
Save the best one for the end.
One instance of the same surname, one of the same, unusual, first name–but now we have the full name.
Yup, that’s right, it was Agatha Christie who first introduced the character of James Bond! In the short story The Rajah’s Emerald, published for the first time in 1934. Same as Three Act Tragedy, as it happens.
It’s a different James Bond, of course, but it’s interesting.
The famous spy James Bond made his first appearance in 1953 in Ian Fleming’s book Casino Royale. These days he’s better known from the films. James Bond of The Rajah’s Emerald is but a humble man–but he does stumble upon a mysterious jewel, the titular emerald, while holidaying at a seaside resort, not exactly enjoying himself.
And so my mind goes on a wander…
James Bond was last (as of this blog entry, July 2022) played by Daniel Craig. And Daniel also plays the detective Benoit Blanc in the film Knives Out (which is shortly to have a sequel), one of my most favourite films of all time. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s pretty much an Agatha Christie mystery, set in modern times in America (it’s its own thing enough so as not to cause trouble with the Agatha Christie estate). It also stars Ana de Armas, who made appearance in the latest (as of this blog entry, July 2022) James Bond film No Time To Die. And Chris Evans, who was Steve Rogers aka Captain America in the above mentioned Marvel films!
Note: This post was originally published on Some Photoblog in October 2020. However, I deleted it after I grew unsatisfied with the pictures. I took some new ones and I hereby, with some minor changes, republish the post.
No spoilers ahead, except for The Final Problem, which I think is safe to say everyone knows anyway.
The game’s afoot!
If you’ve ever visited Some Photoblog, or ever talked to me at all, you know I’m all about Agatha Christie. But I have much love for Sherlock Holmes too.
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.
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? (He was also a cocaine user, but this was legal at the time.) Mystery is a popular genre, 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 of Sherlock 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 about Dr Watson
The quote is a reference to James Boswell, who was a biographer of the writer Samuel Johnson.
The lifelong partnership–however you want to interpret it–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.
Watson, The 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.
Everyone, 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 where it enjoyed some popularity. This is it:
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 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. BBC Sherlock series pretty much plays it that way.
In the next book, The Sign of Four, a new client named Miss Mary Morstan enters the scene and she and Watson fall in love and get married. It was an extremely short courtship, but it seems to have worked out for them. ACD needed to marry off Watson, so he married him off. *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, (a marvellous deal!), read by Stephen Fry, who played Mycroft in the sequel to the above mentioned Guy Ritchie film, Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows. Speaking of which:
“All men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.”
Sherlock on his brother Mycroft, from 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, except 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. 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 hate company, whether due to shyness or misanthropy, but who still like 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:
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.
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.
This is a popular outline of Sherlock’s profile (drawn my myself), 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. 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.
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, which means you can get them free as eBooks. Project Gutenberg is the best place for this.
I truly hope that if Sir Arthur 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.
It’s time to honour the Queen again, the real queen of crime and books and storytelling, still one of the best selling writers in history, Agatha Christie. I finally managed to make still life photographs that I’m happy with–the trick was using one particular table I bought in December (and thought I would end up not needing for anything) as a background. Also Mr Kipling’s French Fancies.
I went with Miss Marple this time, as she tends to get outshined by Hercule Poirot. That’s understandable–there are more Poirot books than Marple books. Miss Jane Marple first appears in The Murder at the Vicarage, released in 1930. She’s lived her whole life in a little fictional village of St Mary Mead. At first glance, she appears a very unremarkable old spinster who knits, gardens and takes part in church activities. Then she blows everyone’s minds by solving the murder.
Living in a village gives Miss Marple an opportunity to observe people and study human nature. And, as she always reminds her nephew, Raymond West, human nature is the same everywhere, village or city.
This edition of The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side featured in my previous post, Agatha Christie Paperbacks with (maybe) Tom Adams Covers. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this cover is taken from John William Waterhouse painting The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot. The book title is a line from Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott, which also inspired Waterhouse’s painting. Without giving too much away, the mystery has nothing to do with Arthurian myth, it refers to a look on the face of one of characters, Marina Gregg. Miss Marple, who wasn’t even present when Marina had that look and is merely told about it by a friend, uses this tiny detail to crack the mystery.
The Moving Finger is one of my favourites. It features my favourite couple of all Agatha books, Jerry and Megan, and Megan is also one of my favourite characters. She’s got no job, is not in education and has a stepfather whom she dislikes. The early 20s me could relate to this a lot. Unlike the other two, The Moving Finger does not take place at St Mary Mead but a different village. Miss Marple is there on a visit–luckily for the residents, she’s able to catch the culprit.
Miss Marple knows that it’s a wicked world with very wicked people in it and she expects the worst from everyone, but she still keeps a kind heart. And that’s what makes her so great.
Bastille are my favourite band and I finally got a chance to see them perform live in AO Arena in Manchester. Taking pictures at concerts is… not ideal, shall we say, but I had a hunch about how their show would look like and had already planned to post about it here.
It turned out to be exactly what I expected.
Bastille released their latest album Give Me The Future in February, and this is also the title of their tour. The general theme of the album is, let’s escape to the future of our dreams, the good future. Very plug-yourself-into-virtual-reality type of thing. I was curious if they would incorporate that into their show–and they did.
If this is life,
I’m choosing fiction
Distorted Light Beam
I think I scored myself quite a good seat for taking pics.
The band’s frontman, Dan Smith in the white hoodie.
In the middle of the night
I can dream away
Change what I like
And go back to the future again
Back To The Future
Close up on Dan. I tried to capture as many colours as possible.
I didn’t use zoom–in fact I never do with my smartphone, as the photos come out of low quality, instead I take the picture normally and then crop out the parts I don’t want, and that’s what I did throughout this concert. With the above image, I left in another fan’s phone screen in, I feel like it captures the whole vibe.
In my head, in my head,
I escape with you,
When my dreams run away,
Run away with you
Why would I stay awake?
Hundreds of phone lights during the slower tempo Oblivion (from the album Bad Blood).
Creation of Adam: The Cyber Version, maybe?
Hollywood has painted us a fucked up fate
Say you’ll resurrect me as a young deep fake
Genius minds fix all our crimes
So we can have fun, yeah?
We’re living in a sci-fi fantasy
I’m sleeping with the robot next to me
Find planet B, that’s all we need
So we can have fun
Confetti for the masses. At the end, they invited the two supporting acts (singer/songwriter Jack Garratt and the band The Native) on the stage for the closing number, Shut Off The Lights.
Thank you and goodnight.
The worst thing about the concert was that it had to end.
My favourite song from the new album is Back To The Future. Here’s the lyric video–how many references can you recognise?
The year has been… strange. World as we know it will never be the same. But there has been success with vaccines.
For Some Photoblog, however, 2021 was the most productive year ever–89 posts! The major theme was pictures of flowers taken by my smartphone on my walks, with an occasional bird thrown in.
My DSLR camera, bless the poor thing’s mirrored heart, got some work done at last, after mostly idle 2020. The lens cap got stuck in the course of this long idleness, sending me into a state of panic (easily happens to me). I had to consult Google for a solution. Thankfully I managed to get the cap off. I even wrote a short flash fiction story about it! Which was actually inspired by a prompt at Online Writers Guild, but funny how that prompt, erm, mirrored, exactly what was going on in my life.
I didn’t get up to much this year, I only visited two places outside Manchester–Lyme Park and Halifax, but the visits were that much more enjoyable. I also took a walk to Castlefield one Saturday at the end of February to have a look at the sets of Peaky Blinders that was being filmed there, and I came home with some fantastic shots–not just of the sets, but of early spring too. I think there are altogether four posts made out of that one single walk.
Autumn has also been good, we’ve been really lucky with the leaves this year.
On the pop culture side, I covered some of my favourite things: Agatha Christie (a reposted entry from 2019 with new photos taken this year), Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and most of all, actor Sam Claflin to whom I dedicated a 5200-words-long post. (I didn’t realise it was that long!) I pretty much carry a flag with his name on it–because someone has to.
In the world of movies, after a dry 2020, we’ve finally seen some delayed cinematic releases, and more. Marvel have treated us to four films in total, and they were all fantastic (Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Eternals and, most of all, Spider-Man No Way Home), plus five series on Disney+. While I’m not a big fan of James Bond, I did go to see No Time To Die, as it was Daniel Craig’s final outing, and because it was the first major picture to be delayed in the early months of the pandemic. I can say it’s my favourite now–it really was something else–and I loved the gorgeous cinematography. Cary Joji Fukunaga also directed the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre; if you’ve seen it, you know it has the right gothic feel. (I acknowledge that, as much as I’m fond of butchering that story.) Dune also finally made its appearance, a difficult book to translate to screen, but Denis Villeneuve pulled it off. The soundtrack was just *chef’s kiss*, Hans Zimmer outdid himself–and that’s saying a lot!
In the streaming world, everyone went mad for Squid Game, and I’m happy for a non-English language show to achieve such a huge success. Speaking of non-English shows, French series Lupin also enjoyed big popularity–I love me some heist. The last show I want to give a shout out to is The Irregulars, a Sherlock Holmes adjacent series featuring the group of street kids known as Baker Street Irregulars. Unusually for Sherlock Holmes-verse, it’s a paranormal mystery, with a diverse cast. I liked it so much more than that bloody Enola Holmes last year (this is an unpopular opinion and I stand by it), but unfortunately it has not been renewed by Netflix. In episode three, I spotted a familiar sight–The Cage at Lyme Park. Thus I became the Leonardo Di Caprio pointing at the screen meme.
Just like last year, I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift, who has been re-releasing her old music to get back her rights. Most memorable is probably the ten-minute version of All Too Well, to which she recorded a short film as a music video. My most streamed song this year, though, was Wellerman, a remixed sea shanty that went viral thanks to TikTok at the beginning of the year. Not surprising since I played it on loop!
Elsewhere on my writing blog, it’s also been a successful year. I particularly enjoyed myself by murdering an English classic (guess which one), dreaming about being seduced to the dark side by hot villains, and experimenting with a day in the life of a very fictional Home Secretary in a fictionalised version of Britain. But the most popular story turned out to be I Fall In Love With You Every Day. Same as previously mentioned The Camera Smiles, it, too, was a response to a prompt by Online Writers Guild.
I think I went on for long enough, so let me wrap this up with Pepper, my constant and only companion. In October I had some massive work done on my flat (landlord at last realised what terrible state it was in), so I now have a brand new kitchen and bathroom–a side note, you don’t realise how a thing like that can completely change your mindset–and one of the builders remarked that every time they brought something new in, such as tools or materials, the cat “must come and check everything”. Of course, as all cat owners know, this is a completely normal cat behaviour, but the builder clearly didn’t know it, and it still makes me laugh to this day.
Thank you for visiting my blog in 2021 and all the best for 2022!