Author Topic: The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist


The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
« on: October 22, 2019 »
Almost all of us mislay our keys from time to time. Or walk into a room and don’t remember why we’re there.

Are you lost, big boy?

Or most chilling, we may with no malice aforethought forget an anniversary. However, I’m willing to bet not too many people have taken the train to London for an organised ride, only to have it dawn on them, as they’re tapping their toes at the meeting point, that their watch might not be wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the right time zone. So to speak.

My wife was rendered nearly speechless when I called to relay the breaking news that I had somehow translated this

to this

Put that in your pipe and smoke it

and it still blows my mind a little that I could be 168 hours premature. On the other hand, didn’t the mastermind himself not allow certain well-known facts to misentertain him while he filled his brain with more pertinent items?

It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones." "What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently; "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
A Study in Scarlet

My original plan had been to catch the first half of the tour, then head off for a proper meal, because a) as a 16/8er, breakfast involves more of a fast than normal, b) my favourite dining spot opens at 11.30, and I like to arrive at the food boat before it fills with starving vegans, c) I don’t get into the city so often these days; I have places to go and art to meet.

Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the caption

This rather changed the complexion of the day ahead. “Find me Sherlock Holmes-y places to go,” I instructed Therese, for I hadn’t a clue where to go after 221B Baker Street.

I’ve read a bit of Arthur Conan Doyle, but I’ve read even more Donald J. Sobol, thanks to a dissolute childhood spent lounging in a library well stocked with his works. Who is Donald J. Sobol, you ask?

As American as baseball and cruiser bikes

Sobol (the J stands alone, which was very presidential of his parents) was a prolific writer of whodunits for kids. The first in the series, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, was published in 1953. His books haven’t been out of print since.

You could call his work derivative (who hasn’t been there); I suspect authors prefer to be thought of as inspired. I don’t suppose the stories are comparable as literature which stands the test of time. But I do recall Encyclopedia as being more fun than his spiritual forebear,

Discussing The Case of the World's Smallest Violin

doubtless because he and his friends were easier to relate to than a couple of middle aged Victorian gentlemen could ever be. Even though I'm now middle aged and, well, Elizabethan.

All of which is to say, I couldn’t remember anything about what Holmes & Watson got up to in London town.

Do you have any tickets left for Momma Mia!? It's for a friend.

This is where a guide with the knowledge might have come in handy. A search by my research assistant offered mostly movie locations, with a sprinkling of more substantial prospects. The game was afoot.

Thus I made my leave of Hyde Park Corner, not before finding an adapter on the pavement that only looked like it had been gnawed on a little

I deduce somebody needed to connect two devices

and bearing witness to the mystery of the ballet dancer in the shadow of Wellington Arch.

Dance like nobody's gawking

The crime-fighting duo’s fictional lair wasn’t difficult to locate once once I'd oriented myself.

It sits at what should apparently be 239 Baker Street, between YOGA + PILATES and another tourist mæcca.

It took the powers-that-be less than 5 minutes to emerge and request that my bike vacate its prime spot.

An employee who gave up the name Michael stood at the entrance, his main job being to appear on countless Instagrams and direct traffic through the portal. Ambassadors in blue usually serve 45 minute shifts, which doesn’t sound too arduous until you remind yourself it’s not polite to scowl after the first 50 selfies.

"I’m happy to give you my autograph, but if you’re looking for Sergeant Pepper, he’s next door."

I didn’t seriously consider going in: too crowded to be countenanced, too expensive, and now too besmirched by a certain lack of compassion for velocipedists. A few minutes of window shopping was enough.

Down the street and in front of the train station stands the beanstalk himself, a beacon for Baker Street irregulars.

Further along was evidence of cashing in on several fronts.

My next stop was the Old Bailey, which must have had seen a parade of malefactors nabbed by the sleuth, all shaking their fists and decrying ineluctable logic.

Send him down

Putting justice in reverse, I then made my way to New Scotland Yard on Victoria Embankment by way of Downing Street, where the powers-that-be didn’t ask me to move my bike.

The metropolitan police weren’t headquartered here back in the day, but it was an entirely justifiable photo op, seeing as Sherlock wasn’t a vigilante, but a “consulting detective” – an enabler of proper representatives of the state.

I didn't stage this shot guv, honest

There’s a themed pub nearby, of no interest otherwise as I’m teetotal. Just medicinal cocaine for me, thanks. (In all candor, my only snuff is sunshine.)

Then it was up to the The Langham Hotel, which while not where conception of the classic series actually happened, has been a legendary meeting place of great minds, including Conan Doyle’s and Oscar Wilde’s. A number of stories also mention it.

The Case of the Missing L

It was time for cheese: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, on Fleet Street. Wait a minute, wasn’t I just around here? Who was designing this itinerary, anyway? Don’t blame Therese. I was happy to be spinning through the city on a full-size bike for a change, so the more pedalling, the better.

This was a pub where the author liked to hang out. As far as I know, that’s it. A famously verbose and profane parrot used to live there, too.

Polly wants an uncensored dictionary

I decided The Clink south of the river [shudder] was worth a visit, because the dark cobblestone streets are suitably atmospheric, if choked with enough sightseers to deter all but the most determined cyclist.

Boris bikes don't stop

You'll know the devil by his tuba

We’ve all seen pictures of Arthur Conan Doyle, right? Still, I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Time to go to The National Portrait Gallery. This necessitated a detour through Busker’s Alley, because who doesn’t want to see a man limbo under his doom

within spitting distance of the Pokémon predator Pikachu.

That’s just cheap alliteration. I briefly met the man inside:

Open wide

and can form no judgements other than that he happily accepted my coin. I didn’t even cheat with something equally clinky, as I easily could've done, but where would my karma be then.

I gave the floating Yodas a wide berth. They breed like rabbits, but aren’t nearly as adorable.

There were only three a minute ago

Yes, you never know what sights you'll see in The Smoke.

It takes all kinds

Once inside the Portrait Gallery I was presented with a plethora of suspects.

We all look alike to you, don't we

Fortunately someone who worked there was willing to lead me to a painting of Conan Doyle with only a modicum of correction of the pronunciation of his name.

Say it again, Sam

Bernie Sanders had a gander too

Keen to capture anything else with the stamp of Sherlock on it, as well as grab another bite to eat, I went to John Lewis, which delivered with a cinnamon roll and fun for all the reasonably alert famiy.

It’s already Christmas on the third floor.

Just the kind of thing Moriarty would get up to

bonus alternate caption
Why exploding kittens? I don't understand the question.

Comes with a triggering device for cat people*

*After a serious discussion the day after posting this about emotionally distressing social media posts, I feel compelled to add this link about the death a pet to show that I am not, in fact, without feeling for small furries. If anybody came near Chompsky with an exothermic device I’d have a contract put out on them, and not the nice legal kind.

It strikes me that Chief Brody could’ve killed jaws by feeding him a rigged kitten

Watson saved the receipt in case his friend didn't like it

Last stop: the British Museum. A security guard rifled through my bag, in search of sharp objects to cut himself with for having such a pointless job. Thank goodness I hadn’t bought that gift idea sitting near the exploding kittens, or I’d be posting this from whatever the British version of Guantanamo is.

The museum has a solid connection to our subject, as he spent time researching cases in the British Library's reading room, once the core of the building but since relocated to so far north it would give me a nosebleed.

You'll go far, he told her

I touched base with the Rosetta Stone, as surely the great detective must have done from time to time, savouring what was once a magnet to mystery solvers.

Google Translate overload

The gift shop offered its usual amusements,

Mrs Hudson was forever buying him knick-knacks just so she could have the pleasure of dusting them

the Enlightenment Gallery its enlightenments,

Holmes was beginning to suspect the fair sex wasn’t Watson’s department after all

and the book shop its stock-in-trade.

"I'd better leave before they ask me to sign these."

That about wrapped it up. It was time for the train back to the kind of place where Holmes retired to look after bees

The man always was a master of disguise

and reminisce.

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman whose number he didn't get

PS. I was going to call this The Case of the Clueless Cyclist, or perhaps The Case of the Early Adopter, but it turned out there was a perfectly apt title staring me in the face.


Baker Street revisited
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2019 »
Last week:

This week:

I began the morning by running up to 221B. It was early enough for a peek inside before bustle obscured all but itself.

Do they test for drugs?

Then to the tour. Can't believe I missed this before!

Tim gave us background on Arthur Conan Doyle's writerly aspirations and disappointments, whilst Tim worried that half of us were going to be wiped out because we were standing in the street. (Note that I may be taking of bit of poetic licence in this and indeed many previous and subsequent posts.)

The birth of Holmes and Watson's friendship happened at St Bartholomew's Hospital. We went there via Islington, which surprised some by the absence of Islington. I'd visited Barts as well but forgotten to mention it, perhaps too traumatised by the casual violence in this part of town.

We were reminded that Sherlock had a brother named Mycroft who was said to be even more brilliant than he, but alas had "no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right." My hero, in other words. Mycroft brought Holmes The Adventure of the Yellow Submarine, which is a much better name than The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans. Aldgate tube station figured in the story, so there we went.

I doubt Holmes had much use for modern art. Still, the Tate Modern was a handy comfort stop on the way to Battersea Park for some business about a pagoda; my notes are unclear. Google has yielded an intriguing palimpsest, and there's this happy coincidence:

The ride had a couple more stops to go, but that's the last of my documentation of it. I also deeply regret neglecting to get a picture of George Peabody with that traffic cone on his head when we passed.

My day out wasn't finished. In search of possible illustrations for a short story about Moriarty, I visited the Science Museum's mathemathics gallery.

Slide rule to plan crimes to the nearest decimal point

Instruments of torture which can also be used to make architectural drawings

Remember when Father Ted made Mrs Doyle cry by buying her a Teasmade? This is how Watston made Holmes cry.

Babbage analytical engine built with a grant from the Moriarty Foundation

The exhibit on phrenology caused visitors to flee

The gift shop left me a little queasy, if I'm honest.

Ethically sourced?

A rare sigh of relief for discrimination

Back on the road I saw a witch rollerblading, which is what they do when there are no brooms handy.

She was on her way to a convention celebrating diversity in morbidity.

Organ donor

I'll trade you my tongue sandwich for your eye of newt yogurt. Wait – is that a brain? You've been holding out!

Thrown out of the coven for crimes of fashion / Is that a bunny in your pants or are you just hoppy to see me?

Proof that death can come as a gentle embrace

The Brexit unicorn?

Think of the beautiful children we'd make. Possibly from different parts.