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Watson Cam
Dr Watson reviews his tab at the Hound and Ferret

Dr Watson reviews his tab at the Hound and Ferret

Posts Tagged ‘Holmes’

An A-Z of the Criminal Underworld: “L”

Since Holmes departed and left me on my tod in these miserable rooms [Charming – Mrs H], I’ve often whiled away an afternoon by compiling an A-Z of some of the most notorious criminals I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.  In honour of Holmes’ objection to conformity I’m starting this week with the letter ‘L’ – which is also convenient as I left the notes for ‘A’ inside the arm-cast of a patient I saw last Wednesday. C’est la vie as the Italians say.

 

Lolloping Beggar, The

A devious confidence trickster who would extort huge sums of money from wealthy women. Once the crime was discovered he evaded capture by alternately skipping, shuffling and shambling in such a way that it rendered any assailant powerless as they were too busy rolling on the ground crying “It’s so funny it hurts”. Luckily for Londoners his career came to a timely end when he lolloped into a dyke and was never seen again.

 

Lionel the Staffordshire Bull terrier

While not strictly a criminal, Lionel deserves his place here due to a penchant for shredding and eating vital evidence during his brief stay with us in early 1900.  He was also responsible for the defacement of our original rug and one of my moccasins.  Finally we dispatched the shaggy brute to a kindly old lady in Kensal Green. Why we sent her a soiled moccasin and not the dog is still a mystery.

Lionel and friends in happier times

Lionel the Staffordshire Bull Terrier – loved life, and moccasins.

 

Lance Corporal Edgar Davids

A dashing young officer who became a double-agent during the First Boer War.  First he took the side of the Boers, then came over to our side, joined the French who weren’t even involved, came back to our side again, had another stint with the Boers and finally decided he’d always rather liked the Portuguese.  He was allegedly killed in a parade ground accident in early 1898 but Holmes always felt he shared a striking similarity to the Dutch long-jump champion, Erik Van Schlupp.

Double-agent and all-round git

Lance Corporal Edgar Davids shortly before his accident. Although an experienced campaigner and double-agent he never mastered the correct way to hold his rifle.

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A Patient Audience

Upon the special request of Inspector Lestrade I went undercover as a surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital in what later became known as the Mystery of the Diffident Nurse.  So successful was my deception that one day while searching for the gentleman’s toilet (undercover work always goes straight to my bladder) I opened a door and found myself  in front of a large gallery of medical students who applauded most generously.

Upon the special request of Inspector Lestrade I took the identity of a surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital in what later became known as the Mystery of the Diffident Nurse.

I was most taken aback but not as much as when I was asked to perform an appendectomy on a man who was suddenly wheeled before me.  My General Practice had not prepared me for this moment – my only previous surgical experience being the removal of small moles.

Nonetheless I couldn’t disappoint my audience and dived in enthusiastically, confident I would pick it up as I went along. At the end of the case we all had a jolly good laugh about it and fifteen years on I still occasionally lunch with my unwitting patient, although this is sometimes a bit strained since he is now strictly limited to non-solids and can only lie out flat.

Skeleton Staff

Doctors from Charing Cross Hospital describe what will happen to me if they ever see me again

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My Great Railway Journeys No.2

1 – Double Jeopardy –  I once endured two high-speed pursuits through a twelve-carriage train on the same day. The first one involved Holmes and myself, accompanied by a band of hardy police officers, chasing down the man believed to be the notorious Farnham Fingersmith.  However, after capturing the criminal, Holmes refused to answer any questions about the investigation unless he could do so in Latin – whereupon the two of us were chased back through the train by the band of officers angered further by Holmes repeating the phrase “I know a secret you don’t know.”

2 – Death on the Line – I once had the misfortune of sharing a compartment with a murder victim for the entire length of the Great Western Railway.  This wasn’t quite as grisly as you might imagine as I only realised he was dead after serveral hours.  Up to that point he had been the model travel companion and was the most attentive audience for my anecdote about the giant rat of Sumatra.

3 – Points of Interest – The trip to Bucharest was one of highs and lows.  On the downside, a dozen people were injured in a derailment at Innsbruck while a further ten passengers were hospitalised after coming under fire from a criminal gang who boarded the train at Verona.  On the plus side, there was plenty of room in the buffet car….

Holmes identified a number of points of interest - this was not one of them.

Holmes identified a number of points of interest – this was not one of them.

 

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My Great Railway Journeys No.1

1- The Bruce Forsyth Plans – Holmes once tasked me with transporting a set of highly-sensitive documents to a secret location which, on inspecting my tickets, turned out to be East Croydon. I took every precaution, travelling under the pseudonym, Barry Peaseman, and keeping my service revolver tucked into my sock. Unfortunately I was so intent on practising the phrase “my name is Barry Peaseman” that I left my doctor’s case containing the plans (and a ham sandwich) on the platform as the train departed. Holmes never again trusted me with such a mission despite the contents of the case being safely recovered with only minor omissions – notably the lack of ham in my sandwich.

2 – The Art of Misdirection – Inspired by one of Holmes’ monographs, I used several of his persuasive techniques to travel all the way to Switzerland using just a pair of opera tickets. Sadly, the reverse was not to prove successful and I was forcibly ejected from La Boheme for attempting entry with a single to Southend.

The undercover surveillance of Professor Moriarty is compromised as we are forced to sit next to him on the Rail Replacement Bus Service at Penge.

The undercover surveillance of Professor Moriarty is compromised as we are forced to sit next to him on the Rail Replacement Bus Service at Penge.

 

 

 

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Secrets of Belgium (or ‘How I lost my stethoscope’)

Watson - half man, half moustache - all doctorI am not speaking to Mrs Hudson.  In fact I haven’t uttered a word to her for four days. I can assure you that this isn’t an act of pure childishness [yes it is – Mrs H] but rather an act of justified revenge.

On Saturday night we were enjoying our regular game of bridge along with some very regular top-ups of port when I made an informed remark about the situation in Belgium. At this point Mrs Hudson burst into a paroxysm of laughter and wheezing (which reminded me too readily of the Garroted Parson Adventure.)  I immediately brought her to her senses by throwing the remainder of her port in her face (mine was just out of reach) and asked her what was so funny.

It turns out that ‘We’ll always have Belgium’ was some sort of code for hilarity between Holmes and Mrs Hudson.  When I enquired more she began asking me about an old case – the Adventure of the Five Bristles.  Of course this was one of my favourites as I played a leading role in tracking down a rare broom in a two-week escapade across Europe. Mrs Hudson could no longer contain herself.  Picking the glass out of her face she claimed that there was never any such case and that Holmes had sent me away on a fool’s errand so he could work on one of his experiments in peace.

I was about to protest and dismiss the idea as a prank when I recalled returning to Baker Street after the event to discover the aftermath of an explosion and the smell of pickles.

Miss Dempsey Makepeace and her maid, Phyllis, moments before their treasured broom was stolen. The handle was recovered two years later. Unlike poor Phyllis who still weeps at the sight of dust.

Miss Dempsey Makepeace and her maid, Phyllis, moments before their treasured broom was stolen. The handle was recovered two years later. Unlike poor Phyllis who still weeps at the sight of dust.

I was suddenly enraged – for I remembered that the incident had claimed a rather fetching dressing gown with silk tassels – and in a temper I kicked our bridge game fully across the room.  This seemed to entertain Mrs Hudson further so I began kicking all manner of inanimate objects in a blind fury.  Unfortunately one of them was my half-open medical case and I watched in horror as my stethoscope flew out of the open window and landed on top of a brougham cab heading for Covent Garden.  I haven’t the mind or heart to advertise its loss and I have taken to miming it ever since in my surgeries in the hope that nobody notices.

Alas, what tangled webs we weave, to be deceived by those so close.  Now here’s someone knocking at the door.  I hope it’s Mrs H with a groveling apology but I suspect it might be a flower-girl wishing to sell my stethoscope back to me!!

Footnote – it has caused me to question some disturbing elements of the old Five Bristles case – notably, who was the mysterious Dr Llewellyn, are their really three more bristles still unaccounted for – and what if the man in the old theatre was not a hired assassin but the blind piano tuner he claimed to be?!  And more importantly, did anyone see me shoot him in the foot?

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Mrs Hudson offers an Analysis

Psychoanalysis appears to be all the rage these days (my butcher uses his cheese counter to double as a couch) so I thought I’d save the good doctor some pennies and offer my own analysis of his recurring nightmare.

 

Recently I have been having a recurrent dream where I am on the Centre Court of the All England Club at Wimbledon. 

This may be linked to the night that you went for a quiet drink with your nephew and ended up breaking into the Club to have a rally with some mutton pies.  Lestrade tells me that when you were apprehended you claimed that you were the President of the Association.  When that didn’t wash you decided to lie on the grass and pretend you were invisible.

 

 I look around at the spectators who appear to all be holding opera glasses until it dawns on me that they are all using periscopes and bear a passing resemblance to King Edward.

You once told Mr Holmes that you found opera oppressive although we always assumed that was because you were jilted by that awful woman playing Brunhilde.  [Actually I wasn’t jilted, I was assaulted, then married, then jilted – Watson]

 

Lost love - Brunhilde as played by Miss Connie Eckhart.  Miss Eckhart appears courtesy of a legal error.

Lost love – Brunhilde as played by Miss Connie Eckhart. Miss Eckhart appears courtesy of a legal oversight.

 

The periscopes reference may have something to do with the Bruce Partington plans affair – that web of international intrigue and espionage – or it may be connected to your being caught peeking through the side of the bathing machines. [I keep telling you – I thought I’d left my gloves]. You have such a man-crush on King Edward and are forever quoting him to the boys in buttons.  I even saw you pretend to knight one of them with the gas lighter.

 

All England Tennis Club circa 1888 - Mr R J Pinkerton (top left) had a terrific forearm while Miss A Abrams (bottom centre) had an amazing forehead

All England Tennis Club circa 1888 – Mr R J Pinkerton (top left) had a terrific forearm while Miss A Abrams (bottom centre) had an amazing forehead

 

 I look back to the court and over at my opponent.  He is a tall, lean man, athletic without being overburdened with muscle and I’d imagine quite handsome although it is hard to tell as he wears a large bee-keeper’s hood over his head.

I have no idea on this one except to say you are very fond of honey.  And equally fond of unusual head furniture.  Do you remember that you spent all of 1879 wearing a pith helmet?  [I was in Afghanistan!]

 

There is something in his stance that triggers a memory – a small nugget of recognition.  That walk, those arms, those hundreds of bees.  Of course it must be – Holmes! I am about to wave and shout ‘Aloa’ when my opponent smashes a perfect ace down the Centre Line and in to my face, fracturing my nose.  This is most shocking, especially as we had agreed to only serve underarm.

Hmmm I did once fracture your nose with a coal scuttle. Or was it a turnip?  Could it be related?

 

I wake instantly and reach for my bedside brandy.  What could this all mean?

It means you are an alcoholic. Love, Mrs H.

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I Dream of Tennis

Recently I have been having a recurrent dream where I am on the Centre Court of the All England Club at Wimbledon.  I look around at the spectators who appear to all be holding opera glasses until it dawns on me that they are all using periscopes and bear a passing resemblance to King Edward.

I look back to the court and over at my opponent.  He is a tall, lean man, athletic without being overburdened with muscle and I’d imagine quite handsome although it is hard to tell as he wears a large bee-keeper’s hood over his head.

There is something in his stance that triggers a memory – a small nugget of recognition.  That walk, those arms, those hundreds of bees.  Of course it must be – Holmes! I am about to wave and shout ‘Aloa’ when my opponent smashes a perfect ace down the Centre Line and in to my face, fracturing my nose.  This is most shocking, especially as we had agreed to only serve underarm.

I wake instantly and reach for my bedside brandy.  What could this all mean?

King Edward - took his name from the humble potato

King Edward – took his name from the humble potato

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The Truth is Out There (But I’d rather Stay In)

Some might say I have underplayed my involvement in many of Holmes’s cases for artistic and dramatic purposes. They would be wrong.

Although it is true that I may have diminished my role in such tales as The Trolley of Fear (where I appear in print only briefly to request a spare pair of wellingtons) there are many occasions where in hindsight I may have overstated my contribution and I would like to put the record straight.

On re-reading my narrative for The Voluptuous Client I realise I may have exaggerated my part in the spectacular brawl at the Micklegate Public House. I cringe now when I read that I ‘flung myself into the fray with wild abandon to protect Holmes from being overcome’ when in truth I was partly responsible for the affray by claiming I had been cheated out of the meat raffle.

I also regret my over-egging of the undercover role I had during the Curious Case of the Three Mables where I report that ‘I was a model of grim persistence, hiding in the stables for several weeks as part of an elaborate stake-out’. I’m ashamed to say that the whole case only took 48 hours to tie up but I’d formed a sentimental attachment to a pony called Princess Beatrice (my name for her) and I refused to leave for a further ten days while I combed her mane and fed her a secret stash of Mrs Hudson’s cooking apples.

Princess Beatrice - lust for life

Princess Beatrice – lust for life

Alas, one day I went to the stable to find Beatrice was gone, whereupon I sank into a black despair which lasted for the whole of 1896 [and without any apple pie, serves him right – Mrs H].

Ah, such painful memories. And now you Holmes have deserted me too. Perhaps you will one day reappear just like Princess Beatrice. Although unlikely that you too will be running in the 3.30 at Kempton.

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Bath Time

I enjoyed a lovely day in Bath Spa recently where I was finally persuaded by Mrs Watson to take the waters. [A fine alternative to him taking the alcohol – Mrs H]

I was mid-paddle when the thought occurred to me I had been here once before with Holmes. Indeed many readers will recognise the case I later immortalised in print as the Adventure of the Bleached Cobbler.

Holmes was always non-committal about the artistic licence of my titles and showed it in this instance by instructing Mrs Hudson to braise and confit my favourite fountain pen and serve it to the Bath Rugby XI. Such happy memories – I wept for almost an hour at which point the bath attendants cordoned me off with a modesty screen and re-routed a public tour.

It should be said that they were also concerned my tobacco might be contaminating the waters. To wit I replied that bathing, tobacco and dignity were the holy trinity of a gentleman. I am not allowed back.

My Life in Bath

Dr Watson demonstrates the infamous bath-pipe combo. The original of this photograph can be found hanging in the National Gallery (first floor toilets)

 

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The Lost Diaries – The Bygraves Ritual

I was rummaging through an old tea chest in search of the emergency currant bun I’d stashed away when I came across a selection of loose papers. The pages contained a great many cases which I’d failed to write up in full – indeed some were just a few words scrawled on backs of envelopes [and one of my napkins which I was keeping for nice – Mrs H].

For instance I have absolutely no recollection of the circumstances behind The Veiled Old Codger or one which simply reads Holmes Encounters a Puffin. However I did manage to find an extended paragraph on the mysterious adventure of The Bygraves Ritual – I have included edited extracts for you here.

A telegram arrives from a Lord and Lady Birkbeck urging Holmes to come immediately to Bristol. Unfortunately Holmes is already in Bristol on another case and I resolve to telegram him immediately with the news. Sadly I get distracted by a large moth which terrorises me for several hours and by the time I remember the message Holmes has arrived back at Baker Street and resolves to tell me the whole story of his case over a five-pipe marathon. When I awake in the morning I finally remember the message when Holmes reads an article in the newspaper that both Birkbecks have died in mysterious circumstances involving a casserole dish and some lemon wedges. In shock I finally forward the telegram to Bristol forgetting that Holmes is sat with me in the living room.

The Telegram Lad - the future of communication (not actual size)

The Telegram Lad – the future of communication (not actual size)

Three days later I receive another telegram from a sinister group calling themselves the Bygraves clan who confess in full to having committed the murders. Unfortunately I manage to mix up my papers and use the confession to wrap up my emergency currant bun condemning the story forever to a sticky doughy grave. Oh, how our lives are dictated by the fates…

Case status: unsolved.

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