Tag Archives: landlady

THE CASE OF THE SEASIDE LODGINGS

3 Aug

I have a problem Watson,” said Holmes over a cup of tea and a pipe of tobacco during a lull between cases.

And what might that be, Holmes?” I asked, for ever curious as to what might constitute a problem to one as cerebral as my dear friend.

Holidays,” he murmured, “it suggests in The Times that the human animal benefits from regular breaks from toil, or holidays, and it crossed my mind as I read it that we haven’t had a holiday. Not recently and, begging your pardon, not ever.”

You’re right, Holmes,” I said thoughtfully. “Before our partnership I was, as you know, a military surgeon and though that was almost wholly abroad I can assure you that it was no holiday.”

And I feel it would be utterly foolish for me to to take my eye off the ball,” sighed Holmes. “There’s Moriarty waiting in the shadows ready to take advantage of any absence of mine, and the criminal underworld has its spies everywhere, watching and waiting for me to take a break from my pursuit of them.”

You have created an invidious position for yourself,” I murmured.

Yet the experts suggest I might be better equipped for future cases if I were to take a holiday, so take a holiday I will, and you, with your permission, will accompany me,” he said, and I almost gasped at the notion that he was actually seeking my permission.

Of course, Holmes,” I agreed, before I could stop myself.

You recall the case of the singing dog?” he asked, “when we went to the seaside town of Skegness? That was work, and we did well. But what would you say if I suggested we went there for a holiday, just the two of us, and maybe dallied with a couple of well-heeled ladies should we chance to bump into that kind of person of a dusky evening under a fading sun? Maybe took them for tea and muffins in a classy tea-house? Or did whatever they chose, maybe created sculptures out of sand on the beach or paddle in the foaming edge of the mighty ocean?”

Skegness?” I said, doubtfully.

Of course,” he enthused, “there can be no finer place, surely? If we ventured closer to home, maybe to the South Coast or the Thames Estuary we might risk being spotted by the eyes of the criminal classes, and the message thus get back to London that we are away having a high old time, and not on business.”

You make a point, Holmes,” I muttered, not totally happy with his usually impeccable logic.

I can see us now, Watson,” he said, slowly refilling his pipe and with a distant look on his face. “The two of us enjoying a coastal bed and breakfast then out to the seas and the sands, with our eyes alert for two ladies of a certain class in need of entertainment. I could go into details with them of some of our more enjoyable cases, those in which blood-spill is at a minimum, for classy ladies would not, I’m sure, like to revel in some of the gore we come across.”

I don’t know, Holmes,” I muttered, “in my experience it is the ladies who, during idle moments of introspection and consideration, most enjoy some of the darker details of your exploits.”

Really?” he grinned, lighting his pipe. For a second time. “Then we must gather sufficient clothes for a week away from home, and be off this very morning!”

This morning?” I queried. This was beginning to sound more like an arranged visit to the Lincolnshire town than a spontaneous holiday taken on the spur of the moment, a consideration that was reinforced when he produced an already packed suitcase with a twinkle in his eyes together with return railway tickets to Skegness.

You’ve planned this!” I protested, “and without consulting me!”

Consider it a treat, Watson,” he said, and then his eyes turned suddenly serious. “You will be aware that my sojourning with the fair sex has always been somewhat limited outside of the meetings involved in our cases?” he asked.

That much was true. I doubt he had ever broached the subject of a genteel walk in the park or a purposeless moment by a river-bank to any lady, for his mind, always sharp and unfettered by social intercourse, was invariably absorbed by this or that case he was struggling with.

Well,” he said, I have decided the time has come for things to change. I need to have a better knowledge of how ladies react when they’re not under the pressure that society imposes on them, when they’re free of the constraints of a household or husband and can be themselves.”

This didn’t sound like Holmes at all, but I decided to let it go and hastily packed clean shirts and underwear, sufficient, I hoped, for a week away from Baker Street.

We arrived that same afternoon in the seaside town of Skegness, and Holmes marched me towards a lodging house on the edge of the town, but facing the sands and the sea. There was a chilly breeze blowing onto the land and the skies were overcast with looming clouds that threatened a downpour at any moment.

Our lodgings were clean: that much could be said of them, but the landlady was a considerable harridan, and we had been there but five minutes when Holmes found it necessary to express his opinion on the matter of her lengthy scroll of house rules, which included the offensive (to Holmes) No music in rooms.

Madam,” he said in his most businesslike voice, “I will pay good money for a week in this establishment and I have no intention of having my time hide-bound by petty regulations and prohibitions, so I would be obliged if you said no more that might restrict me in the normal course of my life!”

He had, after all, brought his violin!

This is my house and you’ll abide by my rules!” she rapped back, her voice bordering on a squawk.

Come on, Watson, we’ll find somewhere else!” he barked at me. “This woman is intolerable!”

Are you by any chance the Doctor Watson who writes for the Strand magazine?” she asked when she heard Holmes address me by name.

I am,” I replied, always grateful for any recognition.

Then I must praise you for your imagination!” she exclaimed, “and particularly that obnoxious character you created, the big-headed detective who thinks too much of himself! Quite amusing, as I said to my sister Girt only last week when she called!”

That great detective is a real person,” I told her, “and no offspring of my imagination! He is here, in your boarding house, taking a few days from his labours against crime and criminals before returning to the fray.”

Well I never,” she exclaimed, turning to Holmes. “Are you really as black as you’re painted?” she asked. “I was only saying to Girt how I’d like to give you a piece of my mind if you turned out to be a real gentleman!”

Holmes was clearly at a loss as to how to reply. As black as he was painted? Neither he nor I understood how my written texts could ever be interpreted in such a way, for I am almost excessively full of praise for him.

Then, “Madam,” he said in his most superior voice, “you may be happy to see your boarding house overrun by villains and black-hearted crooks, but I doubt it, and if I can use my powers to prevent it then I consider I have done a worthy thing!”

There you go!” screeched the landlady, “all superior and holier than thou! Where are these villains you’re no about, eh? I don’t see ‘em!”

Madam, it is due to my constant vigilance that you can live as quietly and peacefully as you clearly do but you can be sure there are black-hearted villains waiting for me to take my eyes off the case.” said Holmes in a huff.

There you go again!” she squawked.

Watson, come!” barked Holmes, and in all truth I have never seen him so suddenly agitated as he picked up his baggage and stormed out of the front door. “That women is intolerable,” he muttered as we walked off. “Make sure that you mention it in your next offering to your Strand magazine!”

And he marched me straight back to the Railway Station where, as luck would have it, a train was due that would take us back to London before darkness fell.

And to think I had actually been looking forward to introducing Holmes to the charms of intelligent and fragrant young ladies as we promenaded along the beach against the backdrop of the churning sea, the squeals of children playing and the squawking of ever-hungry seagulls.

Maybe next time.

© Peter Rogerson 24.07.17