Tag Archives: seaside

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

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GRISELDA AT THE SEASIDE

26 Oct

GRISELDA AT THE SEASIDE

SANDCASTLE photo: sandcastle DSCF3471.jpg
Griselda never meant to go on holiday, but somehow she did.
Her normally taciturn personality meant that such luxuries as holidays were out of the question. Sand and sea and buckets and spades and all the frippery involved in taking a week away from home were anathema to her. And we must remember that normally Griselda was very set in her ways, though it wasn’t unusual for her to resort to the repertoire of magical spells at her command when things were going, from her perspective, wrong.
“Damned seaside,” she muttered to Henrietta Blackboil, “you get sand in your lady bits, and it takes some shifting…”
“But I’m going,” Henrietta told her with a twisted, sardonic grin on her face. “I heard the young couple who live next to me say they were going to spend two whole weeks in a caravan at the seaside, and I want to spoil it for them! They’re only doing it to get some peace from me! I heard them say it, and I reckon I’m a good neighbour, generous to a fault and quiet as a mouse.
“Quiet as a mouse when you’re drunk,” spat Griselda. “I know you. Rolling about the place with your head in a spin on account of Thomas the Greek’s cheap vodka! He makes it himself, you know, and not even he knows what’s in it! It must be a nightmare living next to you when you’re having a wild weekend!”
“They never last a weekend,” snarled Henrietta. “Anyway, I’m off to the seaside and that’s that. I’ll take my bucket and spade! And it’s a bloody good spade: the last time I used it I dug a dirty great hole for the rent collector!”
“What did he want a hole for, hag?” asked Griselda.
“I buried him in it!” cackled Henrietta. “I dug it and when I refused to pay and he got nasty I bopped him on the head and buried him! He’s still there, pushing up the rose bush I planted in memory!”
“You repulsive lump of diarrhoea!” snarled Griselda. “And if you’re going to plague the poor sweet things who moved in next door to you then I’m coming along to keep an eye on you!”
“Sod off!”
“And think of it, hag. If I take you there’ll be no fares to pay, no ticket collector on the train demanding money with menaces, and you without a hole to bury him in!”
“You’ve got a point there.”
“I know I have, hag.”
And that’s how it was that the train carrying two young lovers from the house next door to Henrietta Blackboil’s home might have been seen being followed by two old women sitting astride Griselda’s second-best broomstick had anyone been bothered to look.
The caravan that Henrietta’s neighbours had selected for their holiday was a nice, airy, roomy one. Derek and Helen Walker hadn’t been married for a year by then, and they were both deeply and, to Henrietta’s mind, sloppily in love with each other, and the sort of genuinely nice people who wanted to enjoy their holiday.
“It’s pervy,” growled Henrietta when the two old crones were standing on a grassy rise looking down on the caravan site. Derek and Helen were walking towards a small shop-cum-amusement arcade, he sporting a bright pair of Bermuda shorts and a brighter t-shirt and she in a silky dress that fluttered in the summer breeze.
“She says she’s glad to be away from you and your filthy ways for a fortnight,” Griselda said to Henrietta. Griselda could hear small sounds over vast distances when she concentrated, which was a second reason why Henrietta was happy to have her with her, the first being the free (if scarily uncomfortable) transport.
“I don’t have filthy ways!” shrieked Henrietta.
“Sshh! They both heard that and he said it sounded like the disgusting old crone who lives next door having a heart attack,” hissed Griselda.
“I’m not having any sort of attack!” shrieked Henrietta.
“Just you be quiet, you selfish old hag!” whispered Griselda, nudging her in her bony ribs. “Come on – let’s go and make a sandcastle, seeing as you insisted on bringing that huge spade.”
“All right then,” sniffed Henrietta. “I was brought to the seaside by my uncle when I was a titch, and he bought me a candy-floss on a stick. Can I have a candy-floss, dear friend?”
“Yes, I suppose so, but not on a stick,” muttered Griselda, and she produced a plastic bag filled with pink candy-floss out of what was, to all intents and purposes, thin air. “Sticks are out,” she muttered, “damned health and safety regulations!”
“It’s not the same in a bag,” complained Henrietta.
The two old creatures settled down on the beach and Henrietta started digging with her large, rusty spade. She made a pile of sand the height of a man and then, craftily, starting tapping it and moulding it into the shape of a castle.
But is wasn’t an ordinary sandcastle. Oh no! It was a gigantic sandcastle, with parapets and doors and rooms inside and a deep, dark dungeon.
“That’s not bad,” opined Griselda, struggling to keep sand out of her grizzled old lady bits, and almost (but not quite) succeeding.
“It’s bloody good!” swore Henrietta, and she scooped a moat out of the sand. An inlet from the sea flowed into it and she cackled with delight.
“A flag! You need a flag!” croaked an impressed Griselda.
“Easy-peasy” cackled Henrietta, and she hastily pulled a grey and slightly stained pair of bloomers from around her own bottom, and raised them on a pole until they fluttered in the breeze above the castle.
“Let’s explore,” she announced.
“Do we have to?”
“Are you scared, hag? Afraid of what your alcoholic friend has built?”
“No,” hissed Griselda, “it’s started to rain, and everyone knows what rain does to sandcastles on beaches. And I don’t want to be buried in a mountain of sand because you’re reliving a gross childhood.”
Henrietta sighed. “My uncle bought me something else,” she whispered.
“He did?” queried Griselda.
“He bought me a boat for sailing in the sea,” chanted Henrietta, “and he sailed away in it, and was never seen again.”
“Why was that?” asked Griselda, shocked.
“I wanted an ice-cream, but he wouldn’t buy me one!”
Then the rain dashed down, battering the sandcastle and seeming to melt its solid walls into golden piles of wet sand, and Henrietta wept.
© Peter Rogerson 26.10.14