Lion’s manes and long men
In his introduction to one of the later short story collections, â€œDr Watsonâ€ (ie, Arthur Conan Doyle) tells his readers that Sherlock Holmes has retired to Sussex, where he is keeping bees. The Sussex home is the setting for one of the stories narrated by Holmes himself, â€œThe Lionâ€™s Mane.â€ So when this compiler of the later adventures of Mr Holmes came to assemble her own stories, the setting was already rather firmly nailed down.
Which was fine; I can live with Sussex, and heaven knows itâ€™s easier to research than a village in the Alps or an island off the coast of Turkey. That, in fact, is where I was Monday and Tuesday, walking the grounds and checking to see that I was remembering things correctly, and fiddling with a palm-sized video camera to see if I can get a project going on the site with videos from the book sites. (And we will pause for a moment for the helpless laughter of my readers at the image of Laurie with a pricey little hunk of technology in her hands, trying to figure out a) how to turn it on, b) how to make it work, and c) how to transfer it onto a master computer at the end. Yeah yeah, Iâ€™m laughing, too.)
Mostly I was, although one major landmark that appears in The Language of Bees I had upside-down in my mind, not sure why. Plus the map I was using, from the late Twenties, didnâ€™t really match either the modern map (Ordnance Survey 1:25000) or the ground itself, very peculiar since it too was an OS map. I know that modern mapmakers deliberately introduce minor flaws in maps in order to catch copyists, but this one is a puzzle. Or maybe Iâ€™m just reading it wrong, itâ€™s an old map and well used over the years. (Thereâ€™s a slightly later, and easier to read, one over at the web site–www.laurierking.com/beekeep_app.php.)
In any case, hike around the countryside I did. Unfortunately for the filmic process, it was foggy. Really, really foggy. Like, canâ€™t see the Wilmington Long Man (http://www.sussexpast.co.uk/property/site.php?site_id=13) from the hill opposite, canâ€™t even see it from its feet. So I did all the non-camera things and then soothed my nerves with an early cream tea, at which point the fog suddenly grew lighter (I wouldnâ€™t exactly say that the sun came out) and I flew off to madly point the lens at the pieces of landscape requested by distant producers and directors of video elements.
I stayed at the Birling Gap hotel, a rather tired establishment run by, I think, a Russian family, but I did have a fabulous mushroom stroganoff for dinner, so that was good. And you know the place in Lionâ€™s Mane that talks about swimming? This is where Holmes (and, later, Russell) would have gone down to the water. The beach is rock, not sandâ€”walking along it gives the same hollow clicking effect as swishing around a mouthful of wet hard candies. The sand comes further down near the water, but I can well imagine that a foreign jellyfish would nestle in close to shore here, waiting for an errant schoolmasterâ€¦
No, I didnâ€™t go for a swim.