The British are probably the most polite nation in the world. They go to great lengths to make the other person comfortable and at ease. Their cheery greetings, patiently waiting for pedestrians to cross the road whilst in cars and involuntary queue formations are absolutely delightful. There is an unwritten code of conduct which every Briton swears by making day-to-day interactions tolerable and hassle-free.
Today morning was dreadfully cold and raining. It was the coldest weather this trip. I stamped my feet on the hard concrete at the Guildford railway platform, turned up the collar of my coat. While it wasn’t raining cats and dogs, nonetheless there was a steady downpour which made walking on the streets against the biting wind a painful task.
Today we went to the delightful Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. They’ve reconstructed Holmes’ rooms based on the books and contemporaneous Victorian interior fashions. The building where the Museum is housed was actually built in Victorian times.
221 B was actually on the first floor. Holmes’ bedroom and study/living room was on the first floor. Watson and Mrs Hudson’s rooms were on the second floor. They painstakingly reconstructed the rooms with great care for details. They even put in floorboards which groan as you tread on them. They completely transport you to that elegant purposeful era with the only discord being the lack of thick, heavy fog outside the window.
Holmes’ bed with the famous deerstalker’s hat:
A book on bees behind which are bubbling chemical concoctions in glass containers:
Various grease paints to help Holmes’ effectively disguise himself:
Holmes’ fireplace in his study. If seen carefully one can spot the violin by the fireplace:
Letters written to Holmes:
These rooms gives one an idea of how Holmes and those of his social strata lived in Victorian times. The most striking aspect is how small the rooms. The whole house is farcically tiny, although it has an extravagant and baroque style. Maybe the residents spent more time outdoors than common today.
Watson and Mrs Hudson’s rooms were used to display detailed and varied Holmes’ memorabilia and wax statues depicting key scenes in the Holmes’ stories. All these scenes are deeply engraved in the minds of readers by the powerful illustrations by Sidney Paget.
Red-headed Jabez Wilson patiently copying the Encylopedia Britannica:
The mysterious lady shooting Charles Augustus Milverton:
Irene Adler and the Bohemian Prince:
The stuffed head of the black hound in the Hound of Baskervilles:
Dominant bronze bust of Holmes himself:
Watson’s desk complete with a B.P. measuring device (sphygmomanometer):
We took the Underground to Charing Cross and had lunch at the Strand. We next went on a hop-on hop-off bus tour which is covered by the London Pass. We were apprehensive about the weather because we were on the top deck of an open doubledecker bus.
However, the weather improved dramatically: the heavy sullen grey clouds disappeared leaving behind white wispy trails; glorious sunshine burst forth leaving one’s surroundings glowing with a shiny radiance. It got so warm that I had to take off my coat.
The commentary was done by a personable Frenchman. He carried us past all the important landmarks, regaling us with witty anecdotes. I couldn’t help dozing a bit due to the splendid weather and I woke up thoroughly refreshed. These are some pictures taken when I was still awake:
This is the Australian High Commission which was shot as Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter movies:
St Paul’s Cathedral:
The weather suddenly worsened towards the end and was breaking into a drizzle just as we got down at Tower Bridge:
We then went on to Globe theatre for a guided tour of the small museum/exhibition and the theatre itself. This theatre was reconstructed in 1997 and two shows have been running daily since. The theatre is circular and open roof in keeping with the design of the original Globe which was burnt down in 1613 by a misfired cannon. The cannon was meant for sound-effects but as the structure was wood and the roof was dry thatch, the place caught fire easily and burnt down to the ground.