The Sherlock Holmes Post

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:

there’s a typo–soild instead of soils, I never bothered to correct 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:

Brother Mycroft

“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:

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.

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.

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.

Sherlock’s message to Watson, from The Adventure of the Creeping Man

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.

The Adventure of the of the Blue Carbuncle

Still Life With Agatha Christie

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. (I touch on Waterhouse in this silly post.) 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.

Escape To The Future… with Bastille!

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 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.

Feeling like,

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?

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

Plug In…

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?

Bastille on Spotify.

Quoted lyrics were all written by Dan Smith.

2021 Recap

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.

starlings have been the stars

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.

crocuses always please

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.

hello handsome

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!

Last Of The Autumn Leaves

I took so many pictures of autumn leaves this season, and now I don’t know what to do with them. So here’s yet another autumn leaves post–this should do until next year!

Foliage in Manchester city centre.

A little leaf that blew into my kitchen.

Litter covering the leaves in my local park. Occasionally I take pics of litter, whether it’s to showcase the ignorance of humankind, or something for my Random and Weird Phone Shots collection. Or both. Or in this case, the writing on the box. I don’t what the product is, whether it’s a drink, a snack, or perhaps a small toy, I just like its name. Of course, I’m a fan of Marvel Cinematic Universe (that has given us tons of stuff this year), and it reminds me of the scene in the first Avengers movie where Steve Rogers aka Captain America assigns everyone a task in their fight to beat the villains, when he turns to Hulk and says only: “Hulk–smash.” And Hulk smashes. It’s still remains a favourite of mine.

Halloween In The City

It’s that time of the year when the city, by which I mean Manchester, gets dressed up in the theme of Halloween. There’s so much fun stuff and I took a lot of pictures; it was a though decision to pick the ones for a blog post.

“Can you believe the utter stupidity?”

“Howdya like my new tentacles?”

Welcome to our castle. Don’t worry, we don’t eat people.

Without cooking them first.

Dragons make wonderful pets, I hear. As long as you’re fireproof, you’ll be fine.

“There’s something in my eye.”

Wanted: vendor for our market stall. We’re not sure what happened to last one.

A skeleton collection: I don’t know what it is, but I really do enjoy skeletons. I think it might be that they always look like they’re laughing at something.

And this one’s in a wheelbarrow. I love wheelbarrows.

“Hello, honey, I’ve been waiting for you!”

“Oh, look, kids, daddy’s home!”

Lovers.

There’s nothing like seeing monsters or villains deeply in love with each other. I went to see Venom Let There Be Carnage the other day, and the romance between Cletus and Frances (played by Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris), the villains of the film, melted my heart. They were just so tender with each other, and you know they’d destroy the civilisation to be together. They even danced in the flames!

Since I’m on this topic, how about Gomez and Morticia from Addams Family? I think they legit might be one of the best married couples in all of fiction.

Anyway, Happy Halloween, and beware of the monsters. The true scary fact is, the most dangerous ones don’t look like monsters at all.

Home 2

Well, it’s been a while–and a long one at that–since I took part in a challenge on Some Photoblog!

Almost exactly two years ago, I posted an entry Home, hence the number 2 in today’s title. I had in my mind an idea of the comfort and cosiness of home, the warmth and blankets and cups of hot coffee or tea, the snug leisure wear, that sort of thing. As the days shorten and weather gets colder (in the Northern Hemisphere, of course!), this is appreciated even more.

I also made “home” a tag on my blog, although it only features a few posts so far.

A letter addressed to Poirot’s home, Whitehaven Mansions in London

Hercule Poirot, one of my favourite fictional characters ever, liked being at home–he was definitely not an outdoors person. Quite a contrast to your traditional English country squire, fond of sports and hunting!

My Amazon Prime app opened in my phone, showing my purchased films, all starring my favourite actor and celebrity crush Sam Claflin

I’m very much like Poirot in this, though I do like to take my walks and photograph the outdoors. Staying in and watching movies or TV shows on streaming is how I spend a lot of my free time. I have three streaming services, so there’s always something good to pick. I like a lot of stuff of various genres.

“You were saying?”

My home is not only a home for me, it is also where my cat Pepper lives. She doesn’t go anywhere else–she’s an indoor cat, and no doubt she considers herself the boss around here!

There is a lot I could write about the subject of home, with regards to immigration, for example (where is home, really?) but I’ve talked about it enough and I’m tired. So, I’ll end it here.

For the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge – Home. I have enjoyed this, I will try to participate more often!

Agatha Christie

Note: This post was originally published on Some Photoblog in April 2019. However, I deleted it after I realised I hated the posted photographs. I took some new ones and now I hereby, with some minor changes, republish the post, in time for Agatha Christie’s birthday.

No spoilers for any books or short stories ahead.


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. And here it is now.

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.

Of course, I’ve mentioned Agatha Christie multiple times on this blog. I will probably keep mentioning her.

I got into Agatha Christie sometime in my mid-teens; my first book was The 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. Not a surprise at all, I’m sure everyone has at least heard of it!

(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, a 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, age 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 the heart (as in, love, not the organ). 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–and who also makes an appearance in Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy. Harley Quin short stories have this spooky atmosphere, almost touching on supernatural.

Similarly, stories in The Hound of Death collection have the same feel. There have also been new short story collections released in recent years, which include such short stories.

Apart from all this, Agatha Christie’s work includes 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 pen name Mary Westmacott. I’ve seen them boxed under “romantic novel”, though I’m unsure this is entirely correct. At least, I don’t think they’re strictly romances. So far I’ve read Giant’s Bread and Unfinished Portrait and enjoyed them both a lot. The latter is semi-autobiographical.

And that’s not all. She was also a playwright. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in UK–it was only the pandemic that halted its run, but it reopened as soon as it was possible. I have seen it performed here in Manchester on their 60th anniversary tour, in 2012. And kept the ticket for nine years!

What’s interesting also is that, although 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 (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. A domestic thriller, in fact.

I went to see Love from a Stranger year in July 2018.

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 Suchet portrayal is iconic. He is so much associated with the little Belgian detective that he wrote a book about it!

Currently Hercule Poirot is being played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the films. Murder on the Orient Express was released in 2017, the next one is Death on the Nile, which was set to be out in October 2020 but keeps being postponed. (Latest date is February 2022.) 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 Peter (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:

I have rearranged them since

So, as you can see, I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I know she’s not literally acclaimed–some male author or other apparently wrote some essay titled Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (and who cares about your essay, male author?)–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. 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 innocent. I first came across this in the 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 the 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 that is why the recent BBC adaptation got it so wrong. All the adaptations by Sarah Phelps (with the exception of 2015’s And Then There Were None, which is impossible to ruin) were bad. That is because the woman had never read any Agatha Christie book when she was tasked with adapting her books. She had previously worked on Eastenders, a degenerate soap opera, and is high up in BBC, but is in no way, shape or form qualified to adapt Agatha Christie books. Thankfully, those adaptations were not very memorable or popular with the audience, and hopefully will be soon forgotten. People still turn to David Suchet’s Poirot, or the older Peter Ustinov movies.

Two tropes that Agatha handles so superbly are: the dysfunctional family (examples: After the Funeral, A Pocketful of Rye, Crooked House, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas) and the love triangle (no examples because that would be telling). Don’t let the latter put you off, this is no YA fiction! It’s possible she reused the trope so often because of her own experience. Her husband, Archie Christie, left her for another woman. That’s when she went missing for 11 days, that incident she never talked about, or mentioned in her autobiography, and that still fascinates people to this day. She was found at a hotel in Harrogate under a fake name, with the surname being the same as her husband’s mistress’s. She may have had a memory loss, or she may have been the original Gone Girl, who knows. She and Archie divorced, and she later met the archaeologist Max Mallowan, who became her second husband, and with whom she was much happier. She accompanied him on his digs and even set one of her books, Murder in Mesopotamia, at an archaeological dig.

Fun fact: when she went missing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, consulted a psychic to help find the missing writer, using one of her gloves. He was into that stuff.

Some of my favourite Poirot books are: Sad Cypress, Five Little Pigs, The Hollow (mentioned in my Yggdrasil post), Murder of Roger Ackroyd, of course that will always remain my beloved. From Miss Marple collection I rate The Moving Finger and A Murder is Announced the highest. But the one I name as my top Agatha book is Endless Night. It’s a surprisingly good late gem from the author, whose late work is not as good as her earlier one. It’s got an aesthetic of a gothic novel… until it doesn’t. I recommend everyone to read it, if you haven’t already.

I make a point in my post about eBooks that works that enter public domain are available for free on Gutenberg to download in various formats. As of September 2021, Gutenberg has the first six books of Agatha Christie, link here.

that chocolate is Belgian chocolate, of course!

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!


Check out my other Agatha Christie posts.

Good people of WordPress, any of you a fan?

Star Trek!

It’s one of my most favourite things to exist.

Star Trek has had several mentions on Some Photoblog, but no dedicated post yet.

small model of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise

Not sure if this is exactly a dedicated post, to be honest. I’m certainly not going into any analysis, or anything like that. I’m a bad Trekkie anyway. I still haven’t watched Voyager and Enterprise. Or the original animated series. I can’t recite any starship specifics or any technobabble whatsoever. I don’t speak Klingon and I don’t intend to learn it. I just enjoy watching Star Trek, any Star Trek.

No hating on any Trek in my house! Each one has something going for it. And if not, the ones that have things going for them will always remain.

Sure, there are nerds that cannot accept the newer Treks, such as Discovery for example. “All this political correctness!” they scream, as if Star Trek hasn’t always been woke. “Do we HAVE to have gay relationships?” they whine, as if Kirk and Spock haven’t always been gay for each other.

The famous scene from The Wrath of Khan (screenshots from YouTube)

I’m very partial to Deep Space Nine myself. I’ve seen someone call it “the bastard step child of Star Trek”. Maybe that’s why I relate to it… Set on a space station, not a Trek-typical spaceship, it includes main characters who are not Federation citizens, neither they are officers of Starfleet. We also get a more developed Ferengi. Quark and his cop-and-robber banter with Constable Odo is never not entertaining. The friendship between Jake and Nog is so cute, and they get to actually be kids. The commander of the station is Benjamin Sisko, who is a widower and a single father to Jake. Kira Nerys belongs to my favourite female characters of all time. And let’s not forget Julian Bashir and Garak–and whatever was going on there.

As for the movies, my favourite is probably The Next Generation’s First Contact. I loved the scene where Captain Picard reveals to Lily that she’s on a spaceship. Another favourite is the original series’ The Voyage Home. You know, the one with the whales. “They like you very much, but they’re not the hell your whales.” Ah, you can’t beat Spock.

(Both movies involve time travel, I just realised, and I’m not a big fan of time travel. It depends, I guess.)

collection of special stamps released by Royal Mail

Star Trek’s influence on pop culture, and life generally, has been phenomenal. NASA even has an article on the tech of Star Trek.

Live Long and Prosper!

Oh yeah, I saw Patrick Stewart at an anti Brexit march once.

Happy 55th Anniversary, Star Trek!

I’ve Just Seen Black Widow And…

It was awesome!

Well, technically it was yesterday I watched it. But I wanted to make this post, as I made similar ones in the past – for Black Panther, Avengers Infinity War, and Captain Marvel. Each of those stood out in some way. Black Panther had majority black cast and took place in Africa (and I’d never seen that many black people at a cinema), Infinity War was a culmination of all the previous films, featuring all our beloved heroes, and Captain Marvel was the first female superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe–only took them 11 years.

A Black Widow movie was due a good five or six years ago, but at least they finally made it, only for it to be delayed by the pandemic. But it’s here now, at last, also available on Disney+ for an extra charge (for now). It’s the first time I’ve gone to the cinema since the pandemic (last film I watched at the movies was Knives Out, which incidentally became one of my favourite films of all time). When the lights went out and the Marvel Studios intro started playing on the screen, I felt shivers down my spine. I was surprised by that myself!

As for the movie, 10/10 would recommend. And not just to Marvel fans.