Or “How I got my Sherlock Holmes Hat”
(I have been asked a few times about my story about how I got my deerstalker. I finally put fingers to keys and tell the tale.)
It was the Christmas season back in 1994 (almost 20 years ago… I feel sooo ooolllldddd!). My family (parents, 2 sisters, and brother) had a chance to visit the UK. We went through England, Wales, and Scotland… all areas that my family is descended from (had a wonderful Christmas popping in on my Welsh cousins by surprise… but that’s another story).
When we were in London, I really wanted to visit the infamous 221b Baker Street, the famed (fictional) home of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I had been a Sherlockian for about 7 years by that point, and with the aid of my mom (Dad and siblings split and went to Madame Tussauds) we waited in the line (or as the British say, queue). I had a lovely chat with a father and his young son who stood behind us. They had visited the set of the Granada’s Sherlock Holmes set and said how wonderful it was.
So we waited in line, paid the fee ( £5 I think it was, or £8), and entered. We went through the rooms, up all 17 steps (I counted, and yes there really were 17 steps). There were rooms that had dummies recreating some scenes from the stories, such as the King of Bohemia from “A Scandal in Bohemia”. We entered the revered study where Holmes and Watson would sit, talk to each other or to clients. Everything was a bit cramped, because, as our guide said, that was about how it would have looked in the late Victorian era. The reason why the rooms are bigger on tv is so they have room for the cameras and crew and other equipment.
The whole time I would remind myself that this place, this residence turned into a museum, was for fictional characters. They never existed. Sure they were partly based on real people, but those people did not live here. All the beautiful detail in books, dagger on the mantelpiece, the hanging Persian slipper, everything that was from the right period of history but yet still fictional. But I fell back into “playing the game” as I sat down carefully onto Holmes chair, picked up the deerstalker and put it on my head and carefully picked up the calabash pipe from the table by the chair. My mom took a picture (which has since been lost, drat!). and we went into Holmes’ bedroom, then upstairs to Watson’s room.
The last room was the gift shop where there were so many things to buy. I wanted one of everything, but my funds said otherwise. I had a wonderful conversation with the woman running the register, excitedly telling her how I was a fan from America and how I had wanted to visited Baker Street ever since becoming a fan. I did manage to buy a few things (all which I still have, amazingly after several moves), and we went downstairs and across the street to another Sherlock Holmes memorabilia store directly across the street from 221b (From what I understand, it is no longer there).
So I’m wandering around this second store but not seeing anything near as good as what I got at 221b. Then my eye catches a hat rack of deerstalkers of all different colors and patterns. I never knew there were so many different looking ones, but there they sat. But none of them were what I would want to get. I wanted a traditional looking one, not crazy colored or weirdly patterned. I remembered seeing a hat rack over at 221b, and only remember seeing one hat there that I liked. I talked to mom about it and she said I should see about trying to go back over there. I still had the receipt from entering, and who knows if I would ever be in London again, so why not go for it?
So I crossed Baker Street once more (it seems so weird to type that, and that it actually happened!). Outside there was still a line, and also a middle aged man dressed up as a Victorian Bobby. I showed him my receipt and asked if I could enter again.
“Go ahead!” he said with a slight bow and a smile, lifting one arm towards the door. I excitedly thanked him and went up the steps (1, 2, 3,….17) to the shop. The same woman was still there, and seeing me she let out a laugh. I asked about the deerstalkers and she pointed to the hat rack. I quickly looked over them and spotted the one I had remembered seeing out of the corner of my eye.
And there it was. I picked it up, bought it and headed downstairs (17,16,15…1).
And there it is, sitting on my head a couple years ago. It’s one of my favorite Sherlockian possessions. And yes, I know that he was not explicitly described as wearing one, but it’s fun to wear (Sidney Paget illustrated Holmes as wearing one, and that’s good enough for me). When I went to see both Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, I wore it to the theater. No one had to ask what movie I was going to see. The answer was elementary.
[I had posted this earlier this year, but when rebuilding the blog in the last few days, I had somehow lost the backup. Thank goodness for Google’s cache!]