When I was 10yrs old, I saw ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ on one of the book racks at Padiham Library with a photograph of Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes on the front.
Something made me pick up that book.
I’ve always felt that I don’t belong, like there isn’t a place for me in this world but reading ‘The Adventures…’ I found an escape from all that. Holmes didn’t really fit into his world but he found a way and someone to share the experience with.
The Granada series was being re-aired on a channel called Granada Plus and my grandparents had cable tv so my grandfather would record the Jeremy Brett series for me. In my last year of primary school I did a presentation on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and persuaded several classmates to join me in performing an adaptation of ‘The Priory School’.
I soon became an avid collector and consumer of anything Holmes – when I was 11/12yrs BBC2 would show the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films on TV after the morning children’s TV finished. I would set the video to record each morning and rush home from school to watch them over and over. My favourite will always be ‘Sherlock Holmes Faces Death‘, which is probably one of the best adaptations of ‘The Musgrave Ritual’ out there.
Star Trek and Doctor Who also became important in my life around this time but it’s always ‘The Adventures…’ I go back to whenever I need to escape for a bit. But it never escaped my attention that I was still the outsider because there wasn’t anything else that had captured my attention like Sherlock Holmes.
In an attempt to…I don’t know what, improve my social skills or in an attempt to get me out of my own head my parents had enrolled me in Burnley Youth Theatre’s summer school when I was 8/9yrs. Since then I’d been attending their Saturday morning junior sessions and amazingly, the year I discovered Sherlock Holmes was also the year the youth theatre presented an interactive Sherlock Holmes murder mystery as part of their summer school activities. This started to give me an idea that there were more people who knew about Holmes out there but it wasn’t until I was 16yrs old I discovered that there were other people out there for whom Sherlock Holmes was just as important.
The internet was relatively new to me and search engines were just in their infancy so often the easiest way to find things was to look in an actual printed directory. One of these directories had come with a copy of Computer Active and there was a listing for Michael Sherman’s Sherlock Holmes website. I somehow found the early website for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London as well, and more importantly the Holmes Slash egroup. This is where I discovered slash and made many, many friends with whom I still spend time with today.
I never managed to convince my parents to join the Sherlock Holmes Society on my behalf (I think you had to be over 18 to join as a full member back then, but I don’t remember) but that didn’t really matter as two years later I moved to London. The first thing I did was join the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and my first event was a walk around Holmes’s London one Sunday afternoon in April.
I don’t really believe in guardian angels or ghosts or anything like that but part of me does sometimes wonder if there was a reason I randomly picked up that copy of ‘The Adventures of…’ all those years ago.
“What do we say about coincidences?”
“The universe is rarely so lazy.”