We come back to Sherlock Holmes from time to time here on The Hornet. We were impressed with Guy Ritchie’s movie, and also with the modernised TV show with young Benedict Cumberbatch as the millennial version of the great detective.
Not everybody’s cup of tea, of course, the new chaps. They don’t fit with the perceived “classic” Holmes look. Yet flicking through the pages of A Study in Scarlet the other evening, it dawned on The Man from the Hornet that ACD gives us precious little description of our hero save that he is tall with blue eyes and has a chin that “marks the man of determination”.
He certainly never puts pen to paper to inform us: “The great detective, casting violin, pipe and syringe aside, made for the door, pausing only to don his deerstalker hat and Ulsterman cape.”
The look that we have grown to love – essentially a country look in its day – is brought into the picture by the great Sidney Paget, illustrator of the Holmes stories for The Strand magazine.
That the characters of Holmes and Watson continue to be so beloved some 124 years after their creation, is a testimony to the power of ACD’s skill and imagination.
The look associated with popular fiction’s most-filmed character inspires such devotion that devoted Sherlockians become most overheated if new versions deviate from it in even the smallest detail. That is thanks in part to Mr Paget and his illustrations (such as that above).
But it also suggest that the look is an enduring one: by turns individualistic, practical, eccentric, even fun – but always stylish. And quintessentially English. A look very much of the moment with the current proliferation of the country look in town.
The other night I went to dinner with two of my greatest friends Steve and Marina, they are Denton Hats, the best hatters in the country. Steve was Mr Christys’, for well over twenty years he did everything there and now makes his own hats which are the best. Marina designs the most beautiful ladies hats.
We of course went to Ramano’s another dear friend, he fussed Marina with Champagne cocktails, a fabulous dinner wines and liqueurs, he joined us for a drink and a chat. It was a splendid evening.
What stood out from the evening is what Steve said about Marina.
I met a girl,
I married a lady,
I now live with a women.
That sums them up, they are a team, they are as one and complement each other wonderfully.
They have a grown up family of beautiful and clever twin girls and a handsome and clever boy who is in the business.
They have achieved a great deal and are young enough to achieve a great deal more . Steve has already achieved a dream he had as a young man to bring hatting back to Denton, that local boy has done it and he’s going to do more, a lot more.
Good luck my friends, you know I will always be there for you as you were there for me. As Dan the son said to me “us Manchester people stick by our friends, Bill”. Indeed they do.
Oh, Steve started at Christy’s’ when he was sixteen, he did a seven year apprenticeship and as the Evening Standard wrote about him that’s how long it takes to become a doctor. Steve’s the last working hatting apprentice in the UK and there’s nothing he doesn’t know about making a hat. I call him “The Hands On Hatter” he’s not one for sitting in the office, he’d rather be down and at it, making hats.
Incidentally Denton is the home of hats, they started making hats there in 1702. How about that!
“Bill Hornets here. At the moment it seems that every time I pick up a paper – or, indeed, browse our own blog here at The Hornet – that a veritable swarm of words on the Trilby Hat is swirling around me.
It certainly seems to be the hat of the moment.
The name Trilby comes from a novel (1894) by George du Maurier. It was a huge best seller and was turned into a very popular play. The beautiful heroine who (of course) dies in the arms of her lover was called Trilby as was the name of the book and play.
The hat she wore in the play was an Austrian soft felt hat – a man’s hat. The English hat makers quickly copied it and the Trilby was born. In America a trilby is known as a short brim fedora.
“Where does your heart belong?”, 2014, neon
part of an ongoing series ‘The daily questions’.
He arrived in New York aged thirteen with the seat hanging out of his pants, his words, from Northern Greece. Nobody could pronounce his Greek name so they gave him an English one in this land of fresh opportunity.
He was good at school and good on the streets, he quickly made friends with other kids: Jewish, Italian, Hispanic, any kid. He was good-looking, tough and friendly, people liked him and he could always turn a dishonest buck.
Leaving school he got a job in a Greek shipping company and did well for them. Then he started his own company. He had little money but an idea: every Greek in New York could become a ship owner by buying a share in his boat. It went something like this: five to fifty dollars or more made you a ship owner. He found a beaten up but seaworthy boat, got a cargo, a Greek crew and it put to sea. Then disaster! The boat sank, all the crew were saved and Harry collected the insurance and the rest as they say is history.
When I first met him he was somewhat older than me, a tall strikingly good looking charismatic man with a strange courtesy. He had a beautiful, charming wife whom he adored, they’d been childhood sweethearts.
He had a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park, an office in the city he never went near and kept a permanent suite in a famous hotel and by now had many, many, many millions of dollars.
In a corner of the ground floor lounge, at the hotel he held court when he was in London, he sat with a bottle of black label whisky. An assistant and two of his boys were not too far away. You visited by appointment; there were often some interesting people waiting for the royal presence. I was always last, which flattered me as it meant he wanted to talk. You see, he could talk to me as he knew I was one of the few people who wanted nothing from him, except his company. I loved Greece and liked and got on with Greeks too.
He arranged our meeting “by accident” of course, as he found out I had contacts in Greece that may be able to help him with a small problem. My friends in Greece were of an old established family involved in politics and law. Harry had some problem with a new Rolls Royce his wife had imported,something was a bit dodgy with the paper work. My friends couldn’t really do much, but there was a small court case with a small fine, a formality really, nothing of importance. I was summoned to his presence. He thanked me for the introduction and asked if there was anything he could help me with. “Nothing, said I, it was my pleasure to be of any small service”. Then it came. He fixed me with cold hawk’s eyes. He said he knew his boys had told me he watched old black and white very romantic movies by himself and cried and tears were rolling down his face. I told him I had heard, it was very moving.
“Bullshit, I’ve never watched any of those movies, I’m crying for myself, for all the dirty, filthy, depraved, disgusting, diabolical and evil things I do and have done for money and now there is no way out.” I’d heard that Harry had his fingers in many sticky pies. The hawk’s eyes looked straight into mine, I was afraid, Harry could be ruthless. You are the only person I have told this to, Vasilly, he used my Greek name, you will tell nobody. You don’t know it yet but I have given you a great gift. One day you will know it, then thank me.
The Hawk’s eyes disappeared, we had two large black labels then went to the best Bezooki club in London with the best belly dancer the best food and the best whisky.
I never betrayed his confidence. Some time ago he got taken out, thank God it was a professional hit: a bullet in the back of the head when he was least expecting it. Long before that I did realise the value of his gift and quietly thanked him. Thanks again Harry, I do miss you. God, you made me laugh and God, could you talk. Harry, you could talk about everything and anything and then some, I loved it. I really miss you Harry, I really do.
That is all.