Lion’s manes and long men

In his introduction to one of the later short story collections, “Dr Watson” (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, “The Lion’s Mane.” 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 it’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, I’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, didn’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 I’m just reading it wrong, it’s an old map and well used over the years. (There’s a slightly later, and easier to read, one over at the web site–oldsite.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, can’t see the Wilmington Long Man (http://www.sussexpast.co.uk/property/site.php?site_id=13) from the hill opposite, can’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 wouldn’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 Lion’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 sand—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 schoolmaster…

 

No, I didn’t go for a swim.

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Comments

  1. Lucky you! Give my love to Sussex – I lived there for a couple of years when I was about 18, and I still miss it. My first taste of independent life, 10,000 miles from my parents…good times! BEEK makes me homesick every time I read it.

  2. Roxanne says:

    [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 schoolmaster…]

    I thought that I had read all of Canon (only after I read all of Kanon and was desperate for more). But I do not recall ““The Lion’s Mane.” I think I will dig up my ACD and see if it is in there.

    I wish I could be in Sussex, too. I guess I will just have to wait for LANG so that I can be there vicariously.

    Hope that the scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam on top and the tea served to fortify you for your further travels.

  3. Strawberry Curls says:

    Roxanne, “The Lion’s Mane” is in the last set of stories published, called The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. I had reason quite recently to reread the beginning of that story as someone asked my where Holmes called his Sussex cottage The Villa. It is in the beginning of that story where, as Ms. King says, Holmes describes his retirement home and the surrounding landscape.

    I, too, came to read all of Canon because of Kanon, not the other way around as so many others did. I wanted to learn about how Holmes and Watson met, where the emerald tie pin came from, and so many other things about the master. I find it has enhanced my enjoyment of, and appreciation for the Kanon.

    I hope to be in Sussex and Oxford in 2009, a sort of Mary Russell tour. The Wilmington Long Man has been added to my list of things to see. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us, Ms. King.

    Alice

  4. Alright, ever since I have read this post it’s been nagging at my brain. I must know, what exactly do you mean by “I flew off to madly point the lens at the pieces of landscape requested by distant producers and directors of video elements”?
    Are you once again teasing us as you did on April Fools, or is this something completely non-related to a Russell movie?

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