The last time I was in London with Carole, we went off to the Sherlock Holmes museum (or experience or whatever it is) on Baker Street, partly because we wanted to and partly because the queues outside Madam Tussauds were insanely massive and not moving. They may have been wax people for all we knew, but it was enough to put us off. Well, that and the entry price. For a couple of quid, I could pick up a couple of candles and carve a face into them.
So, anyway, we rocked up to the Sherlock Holmes thing and, as is the tradition with these things, spent some time in the gift shop prior to being allowed into the actual house that was actually occupied by a fictional character. I even took the trouble to overlook the fact that 221B Baker Street was, in fact, firmly wedged between the low-end numbers of the street, as though it had been placed here to be more convenient for passing tourists who were, too, put off by the huge queues for the waxwork people.
Once the policeman sees fit to let you into Holmes’ abode you’re presented with three or four floors of Holmes related things, modelled using fibreglass, paints and mannequins to reproduce some of the most famous items and scenes of Holmes’ long and varied career as a crime-fighter. I’ll be honest, I entered this building having a very, very limited knowledge of Sherlock Holmes other than he wore a hat, smoked a pipe and played a violin. Luckily, handy information cards revealed almost nothing about the items other than to say “this is the whatever it was from whichever book it was in”. One of them was a horse’s hoof on a pillow. I’m still none the wiser.
As well as these replicas and recreations there was also a faithful rendition of Holmes’ sitting room, complete with bullets in the wall. The best part of this room, apart from the opportunity to wear a hat that thousands of other people with various hair and scalp disorders have worn prior to you is that there’s an actual live man in there. Well, I say live. He was knocking on a bit when we saw him a couple of years ago. He’s one of those people who, as they get older, retreats further and further into their trousers so that, shortly before they pass away, they have to pull the fly down to talk to you or to take in foods.
Our high-waistbanded friend was there to point out the features in the room, including the bullets in the wall spelling out VR. Which, as our elderly guide pointed out was “mffkf mfskfhs shfkjskf, Queen Victoria”. That’s what he said. And he said it as soon as you entered the room, before you’d even had a chance to have a glance around and noticed the novelty hats and magnifying glasses. There may well have been a pipe as well, but you have to draw the line at other people’s spit. “Mffkf mfskfhs shfkjskf, Queen Victoria” is how we describe this particular part of our trip to London. It’s like the trip to the Lake District where we spend nearly a tenner on two drinks and a muffin. It’s one of those things that stays with you forever and, in this case, we don’t even understand it.
After the Sherlock Holmes experience what could be better than visiting the Sherlock Holmes pub in Westminster for a nice, authentic, Holmes themed meal and yet another recreation of Holmes’ sitting room – this one sealed behind a glass partition and lacking in the high-trousered mumbler department.
I’ll tell you what could be better.