Saturday 9 March 2024

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 9th March 2024

Date of Meeting: 9th March 2024 - two days before INTERNATIONAL HUG-A-HOLMESIAN DAY (11th March every single year!)


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



Apologise. Fraternise. Double fries. Deep blue eyes.



Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) rather pathetically toasted Silver Blaze:

If the cravat Fitzroy he may wear it.

But young Simpson did not really bear it.

It was Straker, you see,

Tied it 'round a horse knee

And attempted, thenceforth, to injair it.


Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) presented the following absurdity:

Construction For Noble Batchelors

A close reading of The Canon can leave no doubt that Sherlock Holmes is an artist. In GREE he referenced the fact that his family has “art in the blood”. I count five times that Watson called Holmes an artist (EMPT, BLAC, VALL (twice), THOR), twice that Holmes described himself in such terms (VALL, DYIN) and once that a client described him so (RETI). Make no mistake, these are not oblique references or hints – Holmes is quite clear that he considers himself an artist and Watson definitely concurs.

But Holmes was far from a conformist. We see no evidence of him painting Romantic, Realist or Impressionist masterpieces. Nor would we expect to from one “who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul” and had “Bohemian habits”. Note that when Watson used the term “Bohemian” to describe Holmes he was invoking the following definition: “a person who is interested in artistic and unusual things, for example art, music, or literature, and lives in an informal way that ignores the usually accepted ways of behaving”. Watson is reinforcing the notion of Holmes as an artist, but he also very clear that Holmes was not one for anything as mundane as the norm. So, what sort of artist was Holmes? I believe he struck out on his own, paving the way for a new form of avant-garde art, which wouldn’t receive a name until two years after his last recorded adventure. I believe Holmes was the godfather of Dada and we might retroactively title his one-man art movement Proto-Dada.

To explain, I should start by giving some idea of what Dada is (or was – as some believe the movement to be dead). Now, I am no artist myself. Nor am I any kind of art critic or art historian. In fact, when it comes to knowledge of art, I would be lucky if Watson rated me as highly as “Nil”. Everything I think about art should be treated with, not just doubt, but outright disdain. But I’m not going to let that stop me.

Dada is difficult to separate entirely from the Surrealist movement it later morphed into. Origin stories are numerous, and it is difficult to say for certain where and when Dada was born, but it is tolerable to suggest it first took form at the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich in 1916. It was a reaction to the insanity of the world outside Zurich, in which war, hatred and destruction were tearing everything apart. Dadaist Hans Arp later put it rather neatly:

“Revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War, we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts. While the guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all our might. We were seeking an art based on fundamentals, to cure the madness of the age, and a new order of things that would restore the balance between heaven and hell.”

(Incidentally, this quote was the cause of the essay you are now reading. The Dada reaction to the chaos of war by writing poetry immediately made me think of the poem 221b by Vincent Starrett. In 1942, when Starrett wrote the poem, he referred to "the world went all awry" and "though the world explode", indicating the insanity of World War Two tearing the world apart. Holmes, for Starrett, was the art form he turned to for comfort in the chaos of world war. The artists at Cabaret Voltaire turned to Dada. Surely there must be some link between the two…)

Exactly what makes something Dada remains impossible to define as it was consciously trying to be indefinable. Indeed, they made the world question what art itself was, let alone any specific movement. Any description of Dada will ultimately fail to describe Dada. But I’m not going to let that stop me.

The Dadaists blamed much of the insanity of the world on the bourgeoisie, the status quo, the conventional. They absolutely despised the bourgeois concept of art – pretty things for people with money, that did little more than match the sofa. Moreover, if doing things the accepted way was responsible for the state of the world, it made sense to stop doing things the accepted way. They felt art should affect people’s lives – make them see and experience things differently. Dada art, then, embraced absurdity and the shocking. It revelled in the chaos of human life instead of ignoring it. It was dedicated to erasing the distinctions between art and life. The result of this was that Dada art itself was absurd, shocking, unconventional and chaotic. It embraced juxtaposition and the irrational collision of ideas, sometimes satirically or wittily, but not always.

Dada experimented in different mediums – there were performances of poetry, spoken word, music and dance as well as the production of sculpture, collage and painting. The performances were nonsensical and chaotic. Often several performances would take place at once, each drowning out the others so that no meaning could be pulled from the maelstrom of activity. Actual artworks ranged from the Readymades of Duchamp (for example, an upturned urinal signed “R. Mutt” which was titled “The Fountain”) to confusing vibrant photo collages like Max Ernst’s “The Word” – a headless woman stood in a giant chestnut case with birds tucked under her arms and legs.

However, I’m not here to catalogue the works of Dada, so I shalln’t attempt to describe many of its works to you. If you want to get a better idea of it, I politely suggest you Google Dada and see which rabbit holes attract you. What I want to do is compare the behaviour and artistic output of Sherlock Holmes with that of the Dadaists. And I’d like to start with poetry. Dada poetry is predominantly represented by one of the early Dadaist’s – Tristan Tzara. In 1920 he published the following suggestion on how to produce Dada poetry:


Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

This wasn’t the only method used to write a Dada poem. André Breton (who eventually moved from Dada to Surrealism) used a method known as automism, or automatic writing, to try to get words down on paper directly from his subconcious without the involvement of rational thought. What you get from these methods is something disjunctive, moving and nonsensical. Here’s an extract from a typical work of Tzara (Proclamation Without Pretension):

At this moment I hate the man who whispers

before the intermission-eau de cologne-

sour theatre. THE JOYOUS WIND

If each man says the opposite it is because he is


Get ready for the action of the geyser of our blood

-submarine formation of transchromatic aero-

planes, cellular metals numbered in

the flight of images

above the rules of the

and its control

Compare this with Holmes’s poem you can pick out of the text of The Dying Detective:

Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters,

So prolific the creatures seem.

Strange how the brain controls the brain!

No doubt there are natural enemies which limit the increase of the creatures.

You and I, Watson, we have done our part.

Shall the world, then, be overrun by oysters?

No, no; horrible!

While the chaos of Holmes’s piece is, perhaps, not fully realised, certainly the proto-Dada flavour must be evident to any reader.

Next consider Dada music. Some music of the scene was tonal and classical, some was mocking and satirical, but the type that interests me is the experimental improvised music which they produced – discordant messes which the Parisian Dada movement termed “anti-music”. We have no direct evidence of this music as Dada performances set out to be transitory and incapable of being captured, but accounts mention unskilled but enthusiastic drummers and erratic bell clanging among other auditory assaults. It is difficult not to see the following testimony from Watson as almost predicting this art form:

“When left to himself, however, he would seldom produce any music or attempt any recognized air. Leaning back in his arm-chair of an evening, he would close his eyes and scrape carelessly at the fiddle which was thrown across his knee. Sometimes the chords were sonorous and melancholy. Occasionally they were fantastic and cheerful. Clearly they reflected the thoughts which possessed him, but whether the music aided those thoughts, or whether the playing was simply the result of a whim or fancy was more than I could determine.”

In terms of Dada performance, though, I think Holmes’s greatest moment came in the back shop of Allardyce’s. During his preliminary research in Black Peter, Holmes parades through the streets of London with a barb-headed spear tucked under his arm, he then rocks up at the local butchers where he purchases a whole pig, has it hung in a back room and then, in gentleman’s garb, furiously stabs at the pig with his spear. Now, this was not pointless activity – he was gathering data about how easy it is to transfix a body with a harpoon – but Holmes is aware that it is absurd behaviour, and this appears to delight him. Indeed, we see him chuckle as he relates his activities to Watson. I feel sure that, given the opportunity, Holmes would have loved to repeat this activity on the stage of Cabaret Voltaire.

Duchamp’s “The Fountain”, described above, is possibly the best-known piece of Dada art. It comes from a category of Dada known as the Readymade (a term invented by Duchamp). These are ordinary, prefabricated objects which the artist takes and presents as a piece of art. While it isn’t necessary, the artist may make some alterations to the object or present them in a certain way (E.g. combining a wheel and a stool, writing on a urinal, or creating collages out of litter). I won’t insist upon this one, but I would like to point out that the use of busts made by other people may be seen as Holmesian Readymades which he used in interactive Dada performances. One example is the performative interaction with a bust at the conclusion of the Six Napoleons:

Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a sharp blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the shattered remains. Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph, he held up one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a pudding.

“Gentlemen,” he cried, “let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the Borgias.”

Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse, we both broke out clapping as at the well-wrought crisis of a play.

 It’s difficult not to see this as an absurd performance piece. But the more convincing examples are the busts of himself he keeps having made just to invite their destruction at the hands of his enemies. The bust which Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of Grenoble spent days crafting is left on display for Colonel Sebastien Moran to destroy and the one by Tavernier, the French modeller, is set up for a similar fate at the hands of Count Sylvius, albeit one that never transpires. It’s silly behaviour which involves Holmes taking the craftsmanship of other people and incorporating it into his own artistic performances. Again, not fully formed Dada behaviour, but very much laying a foundation for it.

In terms of the visual arts, one of the most well-known branches of Dada was the photocollage or photomontage. Using the inherently Dada medium of prefabricated photographs – a type of Readymade – these images were cut up, mixed together and reformed to make something new. The result was not typically beautiful – as bourgeois art had been until then – but disjointed, absurd and often involving an unexpected mixture of ideas. I am not suggesting that Holmes ever went so far as to produce collages but I would point out the way that he decorated his own bedroom as described by Watson:

“I walked slowly round the room, examining the pictures of celebrated criminals with which every wall was adorned.”

This was not normal décor. Watson’s selections for their shared space were far more typical – a portrait of Henry Ward Beecher and a picture of General Gordon. These were attractively made portraits of people to admire. Holmes’s selection of ugly criminal portraits covering every wall is a kind of simple photomontage which juxtaposes the normally hidden murky nasty side of London with the on show nature of a genteel Victorian gentleman’s walls. He is breaking convention and defying expectation.

Other Dada performative arts also seem to have pre-empted by Holmes. The Dadas were known for their eccentric costumes, cubist/tribalist masks and multiple identities. Absurd costumes (such as the bizarre cardboard bishop-esque costume Hugo Ball would wear to recite his poem Karawane) were visually striking, as were the masks made by Marcel Janco which performers would wear at the Cabaret Voltaire. Holmes never really went in for this level of absurd costuming, but we can see parallels with the behaviour of Arthur Cravan. Arthur Cravan, nephew of Oscar Wilde, was born in Lausanne, Switzerland but was part of the New York Dada scene, rather than that of his home country. While he was an artist and a writer, it was in his style of living that he most embodied the spirit of Dada. He would announce himself as all kinds of things he was not - a sailor in the Pacific, muleteer, orange-picker in California, snake charmer, hotel thief, logger in the great forests, former French boxing champion, grandson to the Queen’s Chancellor, Berlin automobile chauffeur, gentleman thief, and much else besides. This penchant for false identities was quintessentially Dada. In developing alternative personae, the Dadists implied that, rather than being fixed, identity is in a state of flux. And the development of alternative personae is something Holmes was all over. From Altamont – the Irish-American secret society agent to Escott the romantic plumber, Holmes had a skill for adopting alternate personalities. As Watson put it:

“It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume. His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime.”

Certainly Holmes was not as absurd as the Dadaists – when he dressed as a priest he looked like a priest, not a madman in vibrantly painted slabs of cardboard – but that is not to say he didn’t enjoy certain shocking and even silly behaviour in his alternative personae. I would remind you of his actions while dressed as a book seller in Empty House. First he prattled on about filling a gap on a shelf with British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War and then he transformed into Holmes so quickly the shock caused Watson to pass out. Again though, Holmes’s performances in alternate personae were not so much Fully Dada as examples of a man experimenting with ideas they would later build upon.

Principally, Dada was an idea movement rather than a stylistic one. It was a sort of anti-art self-destruction because previous art served the bourgeoisie and their narrative. This anti-art approach meant that Dada was, essentially, an attitude. An attitude of rejecting convention, of embracing chaos and delighting in absurdity. And we see examples of this attitude in Holmes all through The Canon.

The description of Holmes’s housekeeping in The Musgrave Ritual are well known. Holmes was “a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece”. He shoots letters into the wall and his “chemicals and of criminal relics… had a way of wandering into unlikely positions, and of turning up in the butter-dish or in even less desirable places.” This Bohemian mode of living can certainly be seen as a Dada flouting of convention.

Apart from the Dada poem found in Dying Detective above, we see an awful lot of purposely confusing language from Holmes. While his famous “curious incident of the dog in the night-time” conversation with Colonel Ross turns out to have meaning later, it still resembles Hugo Ball’s Dada sound poems in that Holmes seems to be purposely confusing people with language which sounds like it should mean something but means nothing to them.

Like the Dadaists, Holmes is attracted to the weird and bizarre. But, unlike the Dadaists, for Holmes this is because it serves a purpose. He explains this in The Hound of the Baskervilles: “The more outré and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it.” As a result, Holmes has an eye for the absurd. In The Speckled Band, for instance, Holmes notices the bell pull that doesn’t ring, the misplaced ventilator and the bolted-to-the-floor bed which had all been missed by Helen Stoner – the person actually living with these anomalies. Her response when they are pointed out? “How very absurd!” Time and again we see this affinity for absurdity in Holmes. To be clear though, while this borders on Dada it is not quite the same thing. The Dada’s relished the meaninglessness of the absurd – Holmes relished the meaning he inevitably uncovered in the absurd.

Contradiction and juxtaposition featured heavily in Dada art, to violate expectations and rationality. A reading of pretty much any of the Canonical stories will reveal an instance or two of Holmes behaving in ways which involve contradiction and juxtaposition. Some are small and some are great. Sometimes the contradiction is between his actions in different stories. For example, in The Gloria Scott he is bitten on the ankle by another student’s dog. Instead of berating the owner, he becomes close friends with him.  In Abbey Grange and Blue Carbuncle he expends a great deal of effort apprehending a criminal just to let him off, whereas in Five Orange Pips he expends so little effort catching the villains that they get to kill one more person and never face justice. In Charles Augustus Milverton he goes to the ridiculous length of becoming engaged to someone he has no interest in just to get a dog out of the way, when we know he and the doctor had ready access to enough sedatives to do the job far more effectively and easily. In Devil’s Foot, he uses a narcotic to prove that it is incredibly dangerous – despite this predictably being a very dangerous thing to do. As it mounts up throughout The Canon, all his absurd, contradictory, bohemian behaviour points to a Dada heart beating in the chest of the artist Holmes.

In summary, then, I contend that Holmes was a (if not “The”) Proto-Dadaist. While he didn’t quite embody the nihilism and anarchy of proper Dada, he did recognise the chaos of real life and, in many artistic ways, toyed with things absurd and disjointed that reflected this social disarray which the bourgeoisie sought to hide. He more or less lays this bare at the beginning of A Case of Identity:

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outré results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”

Or perhaps Watson put it better when he reviewed The Book of Life (a clear metaphor for actual human life):

“What ineffable twaddle!” 


Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) wanted to remind everyone that Monday 11th March is International Hug-A-Holmesian Day. Unfortunately there was no one else present to hug.

Saturday 3 February 2024

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 3rd February 2024

Date of Meeting: 3rd February 2024


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



Sometimes I think "apologies" sound a bit like "apple juice". But it doesn't. Sorry.



Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) toasted the boundaries of Holmesiana:

Of Sherlock Holmes

There's been much study

By idiots

And fuddy-duddies,

But the thing

They won't reflect on

Is the Great

Detective's rectum.


Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) presented the following space filler:

The First and Only Holmesian Regatta

Sherlockians are ever interested in expanding the field of Holmesian entertainments. This year saw the birth of the latest innovation: The Holmesian Regatta – a boat race between vessels from the Sherlock Holmes Canon. The event was originally televised live on an obscure web-only channel. Sadly, this was not recorded. What we do have is a selection of the commentator’s comments which have been transcribed for us by Paul Thomas Miller from memory. There are several large gaps in his recollection, but the overall feel of the event remains apparent.

Welcome to the first annual Holmesian Regatta, taking place on the Thames. The course is a fairly simple one. Starting here at Tower Bridge and ending here at the Custom House pier at Gravesend. It's a twenty-five-mile journey and they will be going with the tide. We can expect speeds exceeding 15 knots and, with cameras and drones covering the whole route, this should be an exciting spectacle.

Our six contestants have all taken their place at the start line. The boats in this year’s competition are:

 - The Aurora, skippered by Captain Mordecai Smith. The Aurora has a distinct advantage in this race, having already run the course once before in July 1888, although it only completed 8 miles of the course before running aground.

 - The Alicia, skippered by Captain William Cantelo. This cutter is highly rated for its ability in all types of weather.

 - Next up is The Lone Star, an American vessel skippered by Captain James Calhoun. He'll be glad to be working with his usual crew, who all seem to have come dressed as ghosts.

 - Boat four is the unimaginatively named Little Yacht, skippered by Captain Neligan. Despite living in the famous fishing county of Cornwall, Neligan admits that he knows nothing about boats and that his Little Yacht is absolutely not up to the task. However, he is desperate for the prize money, so he's willing to give it a shot.

 - The Norah Creina is an Irish steamer skippered by Captain Sutton and crewed by Messrs Biddle, Hayward, and Moffat.

 - And finally, we have The Gloria Scott, a heavy-bowed, broad-beamed craft skippered by... well this is interesting, the previously listed captain has, apparently been suddenly replaced with a Mr Jack Prendergast. I can't say that I know much about him, but I'm sure he knows what he's doing...

...Ah... it looks like they are ready to start... yes, the engines are being stoked and the starter is raising his pistol.


And they are off... 

...Already they are tearing past St. Katherines and around Canary Wharf. I must say, the river is looking lovely today. The Aurora seems to have taken an early lead, let's hope they can keep up this pace. The other five ships are all in a dead heat a few hundred yard behind them...

...Oh no! What's this! Captain Mordecai Smith seems to have relinquished control of The Aurora to a one-legged man who has immediately lost control of the ship and... yes... he's run it aground again! Smith can't be happy with this.

Taking advantage of the situation, here comes The Norah Creina. With their solid approach, the Worthingdon crew should have little trouble... oh dear... it's sunk.

But here come the plucky Americans aboard The Lone Star. This is an experienced crew used to much worse conditions than these. Captain James Calhoun has taken this vessel back and forth across the Atlantic countless times, they'd be unlikely to... oh no, my mistake... they've sunk...

...So now, in a dead heat we see The Little Yacht, The Gloria Scott and The Alicia passing Thamesmead where weather conditions seem to have deteriorated. There is a small patch of mist on the Thames here, but they should have no trouble passing through it... Neligan's Little Yacht is the first to emerge - by a hair in front of the Gloria Scott... but what's this? The Alicia has simply disappeared. This will be a blow for the, now non-existent, crew who put so much into getting The Alicia ready for this race…

…Neligan's Little Yacht is building on its lead. It's a good two or three lengths ahead of The Gloria Scott as they approach Coldharbour. Their lead seems to just keep growing. They'd have to do something stupid to lose this race now... oh... the crew all seem to have abandoned ship... and... yes... I can just about see... they've drowned.

This just leaves The Gloria Scott. There's just under 6 miles of the course left. Surely, they can't possibly lose now, as they are the only remaining ship. All they need to do is stay calm and... wait... what's this smoke coming up from her...


Oh dear, The Gloria Scott, Jack Prendergast and all aboard appear to have exploded...

...Well, where does that leave us?  The First Holmesian Regatta was certainly an exciting affair, but the only winner seems to have been Poseidon. All that remains, is to clear the detritus from the river, put on your hat and coat and join me for something nutritious at Simpsons. Goodbye, folks.


Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) started crying and didn't stop until everyone else left the room. As there was no one else in the room, this took an unexpectedly long time.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 16th January 2024

Date of Meeting: 16th January 2024


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



I apologised to a lamp post this morning after I walked into it. Then someone walking in the other direction laughed at me.



Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) toasted the hitting of children:

At school Watson would have his fun

While Phelps would often brick it -

For it seemed rather a piquant thing

To hit Phelps with a wicket.

A child, Percy may have been,

But his peers thought it a sweet thing

To chevy him round playgrounds

And give his shins a beating.


Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) presented the following important paper about Holmes's fast food preferences:

The Detective and the Colonel

To date, Sherlockiana has failed to provide an answer to the question of what Sherlock Holmes would order from KFC. This may be because Sherlockians so far have fallen at the first hurdle – the question of whether Sherlock Holmes was ever afforded the opportunity to order anything from KFC – that is, was there ever a KFC outlet within his reach.

Holmes’s Baker Street years spanned 1881 to 1903 inclusive. However, the first restaurant which may be considered a KFC – Sanders Court & Café - was not opened until 20th March 1930. And, even then, it was opened in North Corbin, Kentucky, a good 4039 miles from Baker Street. It is unlikely, then, that Holmes would have been able to sample the original Colonel Sanders menu during his time at 221b.

But is this relevant? There is no reason for us to limit our enquiry to his Baker Street years. We can be fairly certain that Holmes is still living in retirement somewhere near Eastbourne on the UK’s south coast today. And considering that in May 1965 Colonel Sanders opened his first UK restaurant, this gives Holmes nearly 60 years to have encountered a KFC outlet.

Indeed, it could be more than that. Holmes was a widely travelled man. Within The Canon we see him visit places as diverse as Luxemberg, the US, France, Italy, Tibet, Switzerland and Sudan. There is no need to suppose that he ceased travelling when he retired. As it is entirely feasible that he returned to the US in his later years, there have been 90-something years in which he may have visited a KFC.

We can confidently say, then, that it is possible for Holmes to have tried KFC’s battered, bucket-based battery bantams at some point. But that isn’t really the central point of our inquiry. What we want to know is what he would order if he went to a KFC.

Before it is worth examining KFC menus, I first to need to establish what Holmes’s tastes were like. Until we know what sort of flavours he enjoyed, we cannot hope to pin down his fried fowl of choice. Fortunately, there are plenty of clues in The Canon. For example, Holmes chooses the restaurants Watson and he dine out several times. Simpson’s is chosen twice (DYIN and ILLU). Simpson’s were famous for their roast beef dinners. In BRUC and HOUN he chooses different Italian restaurants. Holmes indicates that he enjoys port in CREE, GLOR and SIGN. Perhaps most telling is the “epicurean little cold supper” which he lays on in NOBL. It consists of a brace of cold woodcock, a pheasant and a pate de foie gras pie (as well as several old but unnamed wines). Elsewhere in the Canon we see Holmes choose a beef sandwich, oysters, grouse, trout and tinned tongue. Further indicators as to his favourite flavours can be seen in his preference for coffee over tea, strong shag over subtler tobaccos and concentrated atmospheres over clear ones.

We may also note that he is not averse to a little spice. After all, he was very pleased to find he had the option of curried chicken for breakfast in NAVA. But it should be noted that middle-class British Victorian households probably didn’t go in for too much spice in their curries - British food has always been notably bland.

With all these preferences considered together, we see a clear pattern to his likes. Holmes is a man who enjoys strong, meaty (what the cool kids call “umami”) but simple flavours. While he liked a little spice in some of his food, it is unlikely that he would have favoured anything too fiery. What can we find on the KFC menu that would appeal to such a palate?

The basic KFC menu hasn’t really changed that much over the years, the central item has always been fried chicken seasoned with “the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices” (that is, salt, thyme, basil, oregano, celery salt, black pepper, dried mustard, paprika, garlic salt, ground ginger and white pepper). But there have been countless variations on this theme over time and even more variation between different countries. For the purposes of this paper, I have chosen to limit my enquiry to the menus available today.

Firstly, we should address the idea of Holmes eating food with his hands instead of a knife and fork. KFC is very much a finger food. One is expected to hold the food in one’s hands and to take bites out of it. Coming out of the back of middle-class Victorian Britain, this would have seemed unpleasant to Holmes’s refined nature. To be sure, in HOUN, Watson describes Holmes’s “cat-like love of personal cleanliness”. It is true that Holmes was able to adapt and move with the times, but deep down he probably would have found the inevitable greasy fingers caused by a piece of “Original Recipe” chicken a rather unpleasant experience. I have a sneaking suspicion he would have opted for the modern burger options which KFC offer so that he could avoid getting chicken oomska directly onto his hands.

With regards to flavour,  it would seem that the “Original Recipe” choices would lack enough meatiness for him. Holmes was a big consumer of beef and when he did eat fowl, it was usually some sort of gamey bird. Holmes would crave a more robust flavour than plain chicken. The temptation is to head in the direction of the “Zinger” items, but I suspect this may have been too spicy for his simple palate.

So far I have only considered the UK KFC menu. Might the rest of the world offer something more in keeping with Holmes’s tastes? Let us consider some of the more eccentric offerings found in global KFCs.

In China, you can get a Shrimp Burger from KFC and in Thailand you can get a Shrimp Doughnut. However, the only seafoods Holmes shows any interest in in The Canon are oysters and trout. With oysters being in the umami ballpark and trout being boringly bland, there is no reason to think Holmes would have favoured anything with a proper seafood flavour.

Many other countries offer twists on the KFC burger which may be of interest to Holmes. However, the Cheese-Topped Burger of the Philippines, the chicken-instead-of-a-bun Zinger Double Down King of South Korea and the Brazilian Corn and Philly Chicken Sandwich all seem far too messy and complex to appeal to Sherlock.

Similar sloppy fare, which Holmes would be unlikely to want to handle, include Chizza (available in Japan, India, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore) - which is fried chicken topped with pepperoni, cheese, pepper, pineapple and pizza sauce, Australia’s Nacho Box and Singapore’s Parmesan Chicken with Truffle-Flavored Cheddar Sauce.

Malaysia’s Paper-Wrapped Chicken would certainly be a cleaner eat, but I suspect the unusual and delicate seasoning would put Holmes off.

It seems that no matter where we look around the globe, there is nothing on the menu which would appeal to him more than a straightforward KFC fillet burger. But he would have to customise this to get his hit of umami. The most likely possibility is that he would have augmented his meal with a portion of “regular gravy”. Perhaps a “Fillet Tower Burger” with some gravy poured inside could provide such meatiness, while the crispy hash brown within could serve to soak up some of that gravy to avoid too much mess. If this is the case, there is no way that the cunning sleuth would pass up on upgrading the burger to one of the many meal-deals available to him. Most likely he would opt for the Fillet Tower Burger Meal for £8.99. He would forgo the option to upgrade to a large meal for a further £2, aware that this would just get him a few more chips and a bit more soda-pop – thus, it is not really worth the money. Instead, he would put the saved £2 towards his £2.50 portion of "regular gravy".

As a side, Holmes would almost certainly go for fries, although I like to think he would insist on calling them chips. There are other options available – such as the hollow Dipping Fries of Romania or India’s battered Vegetable Strips, but I suspect that Holmes’s preference for cleanliness and simplicity would lead him to pick a classic medium portion of straight forward plain fries. Not the seasoned ones, mind, which are a bit much and get seasoning all over your fingers.

For a drink, Holmes would be upset to find that he could not get original recipe Coke at a UK KFC. This is because KFC in the UK only stock Pepsi. Also, in 1904, Coca-Cola stopped lacing Coke with quite so much cocaine, so it wouldn't satisfy him anyway. Instead, he’d probably go for something less fizzy and with a richer flavour. I think this would probably be the Apple & Blackcurrant Fruit Shoot.

Here ends the lesson for today.



Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) asked whether there was any port. There was port. And the port was drinked.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 2nd December 2023

Date of Meeting: 2nd December 2023


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



I apologise for the hasty distracted nature of this meeting.



Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) presented the following mean-spirited pastiche what he wrote. He explained that he had already rejected the idea of sharing this piece once before because it was at once a horrible bullying sort of thing to write and also rather hypocritical. However, as he was overloaded with other things and struggling to come up with anything new, he had wheeled it out anyway.

The Adventure of the Modern Day, Poorly Researched, Ill Thought Out, Badly Written Pastiche Which Nevertheless Gets Published by a Bad Publisher Who Pumps Out Any Old Crap Without Proof Reading It

(Or “Poorstiche” for short)

It had been a typically hot English March morning in 1902. Mrs Hudson had just cleared away our breakfast of grits and waffles and Holmes and I fell to discussing the announcement that morning that Queen Victoria had just commissioned a sailing vessel named The Titanic on which she planned to travel to America. She was to be accompanied by Irene Adler, the well-known adventuress - because it was an adventure,

Just as Holmes was suggesting that the unsinkable ship might one day prove capable of going around the world in eighty, days, there was a ring at the bell. We heared Mrs. Hudson open the door and this was quickly followed by footsteps clattering up the stairs and the door to our quarters bursting open.

Holmes is not one for surprise, but even he was left speechless by the sight of Sir Winston Churchill – leader of the Labor Party and president of the United Kingdom of Britain – standing they’re upon our threshold. Winston was quite out of breath and could barely keep his cigar in his mouth as he stood panting in our doorway.

Once he was settled in an armchair by the roaring fire with a glass of Pernod and black and some Spam sandwiches, he began to speak.

“I apologize for my appearance, gentlemen, but I have run all the way here from Downing Street to seek your help.”

“Think nothing of it,” replied Holmes, “we are used to such entrances here at 221b. Prey compose yourself and tell us the cause of your consternation.”

“You have heard, no doubt, of the successful experiments in aviation by the Wright brothers in Texas last month?”

“Indeed. It made for rather surreal reading.”

“Well, this clearly marks the beginning of airborne warfare. If we encounter another world war, we need to be able to bomb from the sky better than the communists in Russia.”

Up until this point, I had been able to follow the goings on and largely ignore the anachronisms, Americanisms, errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation, general mistakes about Victorian language and the wilful misinterpretation of the original Canon, but things were about to get much, much worse.

“Naturally. As we, in The West, love, above all things, our democratic freedom, we must all be on guard against the insidious threat of communism as perceived by the current author who will now spend several paragraphs putting their personal barely considered political opinions into the mouths of Watson, Churchill and Holmes.”

“Indeed,” replied Holmes again, although I don’t know what he was agreeing with, because I, like any reader who may have foolishly purchased this book, had chosen to skip forward a page.

“In summary, then,” Churchill helpfully interjected, “the prototype of the RAF’s Spitfire plane has been stolen from RAF Digby and we need you to find it. We think it is being held by a group of spies based in the sportsground behind the lecture building of the University of Cambridge.”

“Of course,” said Holmes. “I know all about Spitfires and will now spend two and a half pages talking about them because the author wishes to show off that they have real the WHOLE page about them on Wikipedia.”

“So you, see Watson,” said Holmes once I skipped to the start of the next chapter, “that is why we are on this express train to Scotland station: so that we can go to the Lecture Building at The University of Cambridge. Where I will entirely forget who I am and instead become a James Bond like character and battle the forces of something the author isn’t keen on and which Victorians had never heard of.”

“Yes,” I said, although I wasn’t really paying attention because I was thinking about how the font was stupidly large and the text was all double spaced so that the publisher could get away with pretending this short story was a novel and charging accordingly.

When we disembarked at a train station, Mycroft was there to meet us. He was holding a turbo-horse which was towing a hansom cab that we got into through the side doors.. We entered into an in depth discussion of something controversial the author is either massively in favor of or massively against 100 years before a term for it would be invented. The characters present all agreed that it was a black and white issue and allowed no room for the gray middle ground the real world exists in. And then the character who initially thought differently to Holmes rethought their values and agreed with him wholeheartedly. Any pretence to be an attempt at a pastiche was abandoned at this point. But then the author remembered what they were supposed to be doing.

“This is much like the case I wrote up named “The Bruce Partington Plans”, isn’t it Holmes”, I said, so that the reader knows how clever the author is at weaving their story imperceptibly into The Canon.

“The matter is a perfectly trivial one but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.” said Sherlock. 

“Are you just lifting quotes from The Canon to try to sound more like Arthur Conan Doyle?”

“Yes. Is it working?”



“Because you are using quotes from The Canon that don’t make any sense here.”

“I am next to the apple tree” interrupted someone who we will not mention until much later so that the conversation becomes impossible to follow because you don’t know who is talking to who.

“Thun ’er by thee garn t’pit in thy ‘arrogarb” said someone in an attempt by an American to invoke some sort of imagined regional accent from the Englandish Kingdom.

Somewhere in the next chapter, I began paying attention again and was amazed by Holmes’s invention of ninjitsu. Having subdued all the guards,, a love making session was embarked upon that involved any number of the following: Irene Adler, Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Silver Blaze, Moriarty and…

“Of course!!!,” cried Holmes, interrupting the badly written sex scene.

“What?” I said, wiping off whatever it was I had put into someone or had had put into me.

“I forgot to mention Moriarty! We should go off on a tangent about Moriarty. Everyone loves it when it all turns out to be Moriarty again!”


Skipping to the last page I discovered a resolution which left a dozen loose ends and relied on the supernatural. Or did it? Yes! Or did it? No!  Or did it? Ect.

I retired to bed that evening worn out but unable to sleep due to the sounds of the author waggling their eyebrows pridefullizingly.


Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) asked whether there was any port. There was no port.


Wednesday 15 November 2023

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 15th November 2023

Date of Meeting: 15th November 2023


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised for being late, explaining that he had had difficulty selecting which cardigan to wear.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following toast to a coffee pot:

Coffee-pot, silver-plated,

Polished well and when rotated

Can perform the sneaky trick

Of showing Watson with a stick.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following short essay which was made all the better by his excellent choice of cardigan:

Sherlock Holmes and Suitrimony

The 528th sentence of the 12th chapter of The Sign of the Four reads:

“I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment.” (SIGN 12:528)

This has always struck me as unusual wording. When someone says “I should not eat chocolate cake, it makes me put on weight,” it is reasonable to interpret this as meaning “I do eat chocolate cake, even though I should not.” This is true in most negative uses of “I should”: “I should not stay in bed until noon,” “I should not tell people my secrets,” “I should stop the killings now.”

So, when Holmes says he “should never marry [him]self,” he is, by inference, telling us that he does marry himself.

Holmes, then, was an autogamous person who indulged in the practice of suitrimony – self-marriage.

But that is not all, the wording of “I should never marry myself” is suggestive of a repeated practice. The unspoken second half of this statement feels as if it should be “but I keep doing it.” So, not only did Holmes enter into a sologamous union with himself, but he repeatedly renewed his vows.

Is there any further evidence in The Canon of Holmes’s egophilia? I submit that there is plenty. Consider the following exchange between Holmes and Watson in the first chapter of The Valley of Fear:

“You have heard me speak of Professor Moriarty?”

“The famous scientific criminal, as famous among crooks as—”

“My blushes, Watson!” Holmes murmured in a deprecating voice.

“I was about to say, as he is unknown to the public.” (VALL 1:19-22)

This would certainly seem to suggest Holmes loves himself. Other such indications of sologamy include the following:

“Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am the only one in the world.” (STUD 2:131-132)

“He knows that I am his superior” (STUD 3:57)

“Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere.” (SIGN 1:31)

“I have a curious constitution. I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.” (SIGN 8:193-194)

“When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth.” (HOUN 1:40)

“Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument,” said Holmes, taking the paper and glancing his eye down it. “This is the Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged in clearing up some small points in connection with it... Take a pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in your example.” (IDEN 1:19-22)

“You know me too well to think that I am boasting when I say that I shall either confirm or destroy his theory by means which he is quite incapable of employing, or even of understanding.” (BOSC 1:85)

“I am the last court of appeal.” (FIVE 1:55)

“I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul.” (BLUE 1:534)

“I had formed my conclusions as to the case before our client came into the room.” (NOBL 1:289)

“…I am exceptionally strong in the fingers…” (BERY 1:375)

Can one really read all of these statements from Holmes and reach any conclusion other than that he loves himself and wants everyone to know. It is not even a comprehensive list. I am certain the reader can bring one or two other examples of their own to mind. 

Devotees of The Canon will know already that Holmes’s attitude toward women was one of distrust bordering on misogyny. We know, then, that he never had a wife. Indeed, when he retired at a young age, he took himself off to the Sussex Downs where he remained unattached to another person:

“I, my old housekeeper, and my bees have the estate all to ourselves.” (LION 1:14)

The housekeeper would, at this time in English history, certainly have been a woman, who Holmes would have no interest in. Therefore, we can be quite certain that all the marriages Holmes partook of, were to himself and were for love rather than practical reasons.

Now that we can be assured that Holmes did enter in suitrimony, let us consider the sentiment of the original statement as a whole:

“I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment.”

Holmes seems to feel the act of suitrimony is somehow a bad thing which will, if he keeps renewing his vows, eventually ruin his ability to deduce, abduce and infer. How could this be?

For starters, there was a legal aspect to consider. Up until 2013, the only legal definition of marriage  in the UK was a union between a man and a woman. Even now, while same sex marriage has been legalised, the only number of people allowed to marry is two. I don’t know what kind of minister Holmes had found who was willing to carry out his marriage ceremonies, but both the minister and Holmes were toying with disgrace and legal action at every wedding of the happy single. This repeated flirting with disaster would be a cause for concern to Holmes. The more often he risked discovery, the more the fear would play on his mind. The more fear played on his mind, the less he would be able to concentrate on his work.

Secondly, Holmes was aware of the effect marriage and romance had upon his male acquaintances. In his early days he had seen what romantic entanglements led to for Butler Brunton (MUSG). This was by no means an isolated tale of woe. Consider the Dundas Separation Case (IDEN), the Gibson marriage (THOR), Ricoletti’s abominable wife (MUSG), Kate Whitney nagging Isa Whitney to give up his hobbies (TWIS), the unfortunate end of Lord Brackenstall's wedded bliss (ABBE), Mrs Barker's life wasted on a marriage built on a lie (CROO). The list of terrible marriages is almost as long as The Canon itself. Holmes, then, was presented with an unfortunately biased view of marriage. Being more likely to see bad marriages than good marriages (due to his line of work) it is understandable that he began to see the entire institution as something to be avoided.

Finally, we have Watson’s own explanation of Holmes’s desire to remain unwed:

“He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.” (SCAN 1:7-10)

Holmes believed that by allowing himself to love, he would ruin his ability to think. Much though he strongly wished he could consummate his love for himself, he also wished to resist so that he could continue to be the best reasoner the world has ever known.

However, love will find a way. Holmes did end up marrying himself. Repeatedly. It was, no doubt, his inability to keep from suitrimony which led to Holmes’s early Sussex retirement. In his rural seclusion, he could indulge his fantasy without fear of persecution from onlookers or the need to worry about the detrimental effects a romantic relationship would have on his abilities as a consulting detective.

Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) once again wanged on about his new Canonical locations book - Finding Sherlock Holmes which is now available on Amazon:

US -

UK -

(All other countries - just search "Finding Sherlock Holmes" on Amazon. I can't be bothered to do it for you.)

It has already been described as "the greatest book on any subject ever". But that was by "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) himself, so I'm not sure how reliable that is.