Saturday, 16 October 2021

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 16th October 2021

  The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 16th October 2021


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)





The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) provided the following toast to Dr. Watson's egg spoon:

Egg spoon -

Spoon for egg -

Used by doctor

Who was shot in leg.

Or possibly arm.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) made a sort of shifty motion with his left hand.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following presentation of an essay he wrote regarding Canonical cheese.:

The Cheeseboard of Sherlock Holmes


One of the important yet neglected branches of Holmesiana is that of Sherlock Holmes's association with cheese. There is clear evidence in The Canon for the great detective's turophile status which has, hitherto, gone unnoticed. I list here, then, the many cheeses spoken about in The Canon in the hopes of highlighting another facet of Holmes's character.


Holmes’s love of cheese might surprise some readers of The Canon. At first glance, there appear to be only three mentions of the dairy product.

Once in A Study in Scarlet:

“The theories which I have expressed there, and which appear to you to be so chimerical are really extremely practical—so practical that I depend upon them for my bread and cheese.”

Once in The Blanched Soldier:

“It wasn't merely that ghastly face glimmering as white as cheese in the darkness.”

And once in The Sussex Vampire:

“The doorsteps were worn into curves, and the ancient tiles which lined the porch were marked with the rebus of a cheese and a man after the original builder.”


But The Canon hides many secrets in plain sight and one need only take a second look to spot the many other references to cheese. For example, were you aware that Holmes was a fan of edam?

In chapter five of A Study In Scarlet we find:

““Old woman be damned!” said Sherlock Holmes, sharply.”

Edam is right there, hidden in Holmes’s sharp exclamation. And that’s not the only place it can be found. From The Engineer’s Thumb we find:

“…the plaster was peeling off the walls, and the damp was breaking through in green…”

From The Three Gables:

“But she is the ‘belle dame sans merci’ of fiction.”

The Sign of the Four:

“‘Then my comrade and I will swear that you shall have a quarter of the treasure which shall be equally divided among the four of us.’”

There are a total of thirty-two such references to edam scattered throughout the stories. Holmes must have been a massive fan of this mild-flavoured, semi-hard cheese. And that’s not surprising – it makes great cheese on toast.


Brie also seems to be a favourite. For example, in The Dancing Men:

“A nice old brier with a good long stem of what the tobacconists call amber.”

This is just one of eighteen such mentions.


The Welsh cheeses are given a far more vague reference. As, for example, in A Study in Scarlet:

“In one place he gathered up very carefully a little pile of grey dust from the floor, and packed it away in an envelope.”

There can be no doubt that this is a reference to the sound-alike Caerphilly cheese. The hard crumbly pale cheese is indeed quite like a “little pile of grey dust” in both appearance and flavour.


From The Greek Interpreter there is the following scene in The Diogenes Club:

“…cautioning me not to speak, he led the way into the hall. Through the glass paneling I caught a glimpse…”

“Hall-through-the”. How obtuse would one need to be not to immediately recognise the presence of Halloumi – the goat cheese which is often used as a substitute for meat? The dubious similarity in sound between “hall-through-the” and “halloumi” no doubt represents the dubious similarity between the taste of halloumi and actual food.


But that’s not the only cheese to be found in The Greek Interpreter – the English staple cheddar also appears:

“My companion let down the window, and I caught a glimpse of a low, arched doorway with a lamp burning above it.”

It is, perhaps, surprising not to find more references to cheddar. It is, after all, the best cheese in the entire world. But the only other mention I could find was in this same story:

“We had reached our house in Baker Street while we had been talking.”


The Six Napoleons adds a classic Swiss cheese to the cheese board, albeit with one “m” issing:

“No explanation save mental aberration can cover the facts.”


Blue cheese comes from The Blanched Soldier in the form of some delicious stilton:

“All evening, though I tried to think of other things, my mind would still turn to the apparition at the window and the rudeness of the woman.”


The Final Problem sees some Greek cheese join the cheese board:

“The question now is whether we should take a premature lunch here, or run our chance of starving before we reach the buffet at Newhaven.”

The context seems to suggest starvation is an option on a par with eating feta. This is because feta is awful.


So there we have it, the cheeseboard of Sherlock Holmes would contain edam, brie, Caerphilly, halloumi, cheddar, emmental, stilton and feta. No doubt there are more still to be found, but I believe this will do to be going on with.


Any Other Business:


Tuesday, 5 October 2021


You may have noticed that there was no 2021 September meeting of The Shingle of Southsea. This was due to tensions created by political differences between members of the society.

We are engaging in mediation and hope to resolve these differences in time to have an October meeting.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 22nd August 2021

  The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 22nd August 2021


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) smelt it, dealt it and then said sorry.


The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) said the toaster was broken.  


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following five Holmesian "how to" videos:

How to think like Sherlock Holmes:
How to observe like Sherlock Holmes:

How to dress like Sherlock Holmes:

How to play violin like Sherlock Holmes:

How to tell different ashes apart like Sherlock Holmes:

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 24th July 2021

  The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 24th July 2021


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)





The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) provided the following toast to Watson's egg spoon:

Egg Spoon - 
Spoon for some eggs.
Eggs which pop out
Between chicken legs.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved that we should advertise the Doyle's Rotary Coffin six month long Treasure Hunt which can be found here:

Doyle's Rotary Coffin Treasure Hunt



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) has been taking taking film posters and substituting the tag lines for quotes from the Sherlock Holmes Canon. He presented these posters in three formats. A link to a PDF book of them:


A tedious video:

And finally, as the actual pictures:

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 1st June 2021

 The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 1st June 2021


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) refused to apologise because it was someone else's fault.


The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) provided the following toast to Victor Hatherley in the form of a haiku:

Victor Hatherley,

What did you go do that for?

No thumbs up for you.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) yet again moved that we should advertise the fact that he has produced a free PDF download of a Chapter and Verse version of The Canon. The goal of it is to make it easier to reference passages and lines from the text. It is available here:

and you are encouraged to download it and share it anywhere and any way you like.

The motion was passed quickly and carefully but some still got on the carpet.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following presentation of an essay he wrote regarding the Holmes's retirement:

Holmes’s Bee Farm

By "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)


First a warning. I beg the reader to bear with me. This essay will appear (Study in Scarlet style) to jump from one topic to another wholly unrelated. However, all will make sense in the end. Also, the dates I use for the following are from my own chronology – Watson Does Not Lie. Other chronologies are available for the Canon. But, broadly speaking, they all concur enough to work with the following observations and theories.


The earliness of Holmes’s retirement has puzzled many a Holmesian – he was only 50 at the time. I have recently also become puzzled by the location he chose for his retirement. The Canon suggests in SECO 1:4 that he had retired expressly to study bees – a study which would lead to the publication of a book on the subject ten years later (see LAST 1:363-368). Yet he retired to a cliff top cottage overlooking the English Channel.

There are several reasons this does not make sense. An exposed coastal location would often cause his bees to be scattered by high winds. He would be likely to lose several swarms. It would also reduce foraging options for the bees. To the south of the hives would be nothing but ocean, no plants. And it is also believed that seaside flowers are affected by the salt water and yield less nectar. Finally, the hive would be hit by sea water whenever there was a storm, which is not ideal for producing nice honey.

None of these factors would prevent someone from keeping bees. Plenty of people do keep bees in seaside locations with some success. But they keep bees in seaside locations because they lived there first and kept bees second. Holmes retired expressly to study bees. He could retire anywhere he liked. Why would he choose the least favourable location?

Could it be that he did not really keep bees at all? Did the literary agent misread Watson’s accounts and make incorrect corrections? Consider Watson’s preface to the Last Bow collection of stories. We may presume that this preface was supplied directly from Watson to the publisher, without interference from Doyle. Watson does not mention bees at all. He simply states that Holmes lives in a small farm “where his time is divided between philosophy and agriculture.” Note he says “agriculture” not “apiculture” as he surely would have done had that been the case.

The first mention of bees comes in SECO 1:4 which states Holmes has “betaken himself to study and bee-farming”. My belief is Doyle incorrectly altered Watson’s original words. He thought he was correcting an error, but he wasn’t. Having made this mistake once, it was repeated a further five times when Doyle made such “corrections” to LION and LAST – the only other places Holmes’s hives are mentioned.


Let us now consider a different discrepancy in the Canon. That of Holmes’s arms. In SPEC 1:274 in 1883, we see Holmes has strong arms which are able to straighten a bent poker with ease. But in BLAC 1:393 in 1895, Holmes reports that he could not skewer a pig with a harpoon because the task requires a strong arm. What had changed in the years between the cases? Why were his arms no longer strong?

In an attempt to fathom this change, I went off looking for information about Holmes’s arms throughout the Canon. I made two interesting discoveries.

Firstly, before 4th May 1891, Holmes’s arms are only ever described as long. After 1st April 1894 they receive several other adjectives: “thin” (EMPT 1:95, PRIO 1:35, ILLU 1:7), “sinewy” (EMPT 1:95), “wiry” (3GAR 1:436) and “nervous” (ILLU 1:7).

Secondly, no other story mentions Holmes’s arms more than EMPT. It is as if, they were especially apparent to Watson in this case.

So what happened between 1891 and 1894 to occasion these differences? The Great Hiatus. It seems to me that some change had come over Holmes’s arms during his absence from Baker Street. A change Watson was especially aware of when Holmes returned in EMPT. Most likely this occurred during the battle at the edge of the Reichenbach Falls or during his subsequent accent of the sheer cliff face beside it. Maybe one of Moran’s boulders did do some damage after all.

Consider EMPT 1:85-87. Recovering from a faint, Watson grabs Holmes by the arm and, feeling it’s damaged condition is compelled to ask “Is it really you?” It must have felt considerably different to the arm he had known before.


So, what is the link between the bee-keeping error and Holmes’s arm? Simple. In SECO, Watson never wrote that Holmes was going to study bee farms on the Sussex Downs. He wrote that he was going to study beef arms. Doyle saw this, assumed it was an error and “corrected” it.


Holmes, as I have said, suffered some sort of injury to one or both of his arms during his escape from the Reichenbach Falls. He returned to Baker Street in 1894 and attempted to continue his work with his now weak, thin, sinewy, wiry, nervous arms. He did fairly well but over the next ten years the arms continued to get weaker. Finally Holmes could stand it no more and announced his retirement in 1904. He took himself to the seclusion of a small cattle farm on the Sussex Downs where he could begin experimenting with beef arms.

No doubt inspired by the works of Dr. Victor Frankenstein a hundred or so years before, it was his intention to build himself new arms out of cow meat. After all, what could be beefier than beef?

The references to bees and bee-keeping found in LAST and LION, then, are actually supposed to be references to beef and beef-keeping. Sadly, as they passed through Doyle’s hands, he mistook these for errors and changed them.

Most puzzling is the alteration Doyle made to Holmes’s magnum opus. LAST reports on a small blue book titled in gold – Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. No such book ever existed. What it should have been called was The Practical Handbook of Beef Suture, and the fact that Holmes wrote it is testament to the fact that he must have succeeded in replacing his broken limbs with highly satisfactory beef arms.

Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) shared the following "music":

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 11th May 2021

   The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 11th May 2021


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised for his strange thumb.


The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) provided the following toast to Annie Harrison from The Naval Treaty:

Annie Harris-on.

Annie Harris-off.

Annie Harris-sneeze.

Annie Harris-cough.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved that we should advertise the fact that he has produced a free PDF download of a Chapter and Verse version of The Canon. The goal of it is to make it easier to reference passages and lines from the text. It is available here:

and you are encouraged to download it and share it anywhere and any way you like.

The motion was not seconded.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following presentation of a short story he wrote regarding the continuing adventures of Silver Blaze:

The Adventures of Silver Blaze

By Paul Thomas Miller

(Being a reprint from the reminiscences of Donkey, late of the Kings Pyland Farm.)


Chapter One


In the year 1875, when I was but a year old, I was purchased by a farmhand, and proceeded to King’s Pyland to conduct the sort of light draught work prescribed for donkeys on British Farms. King’s Pyland brought honours and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but farming and towing goods to market. I was a faithful worker on the farm attached to the famous stables, where I had served during the intriguing horse disappearance of 1891. A few years after this excitement, I began to show my age. I should have fallen into the hands of the murderous glue factory had it not been for the devotion and courage shown by Mrs. Straker, who insisted that after nineteen years loyal service, I should be honoured by retirement to The Paddock.

The Paddock was usually reserved for the race horses of King’s Pyland. Those who had proved themselves worthy of being put to stud but were no longer able to compete were kept in the field which was the main point of connection between the race stables of the estate and the farm land. It was a much honoured position and I was proud to take residence here – the first of my kind to do so. I discovered I had only one co-tenant: an eight year old glossy thoroughbred who introduced himself to me as Silver Blaze. He had, I understand, taken a fall during a race a few months previously and due to a slight injury in the left foreleg, was now unable to race. It was with considerable pride that he informed me Colonel Ross – our owner – was too proud of Silver Blaze to part with him. And so we found ourselves, two unemployed equidae, settling down in our new surroundings.

We were by no means uncomfortable. We had plenty of space for exercise. Our diet was specially prepared and served to us by the benevolent Mrs. Straker. The Paddock’s unique position behind the red-brick villa of King’s Pyland afforded us ample views of the farm to the north, the training stables to the south and the moorland to the West. We shared stories of our pasts and I remember the unnerving twinkle in Silver’s eye whenever he recited the story of how he dealt with the wicked intentions of John Staker – the trainer – a few years earlier. Soon, though, the monotony of retired life began to press down upon us.

Finally, one morning in June, Silver’s frustrations came the fore.

“I am a racing horse, Donkey,” he whinnied, “tearing myself to pieces because I cannot enjoy the work for which I was built. Life is commonplace, The Paddock is sterile; audacity and romance seem to have passed forever from my life.”

I replied that I quite understood, but I failed to see what choice we had in the matter. His reply was as exciting as it was surprising.

“Do you remember that detective fellow I told you about? The one who saw what had happened to John Straker and me when no other could?”

“I recall rather well.” I replied, for I had heard the story several times a day for the last few months. “’Sherlock Holmes’ was it not?”

“We shall emulate him. I shall be the detective and you will be my Watson. We shall fight for justice and goodness.”

“But what shall we investigate? There is little crime on the moors and less still in The Paddock.”

“Oh, we shall find something,” he answered as we cantered over to meet Mrs. Straker who was bringing out our breakfast.

He was quite right. Within a few days our first case was upon us. And I soon began to doubt whether my companion was really on the side of good.


Chapter Two


Dog was a mongrel who kept guard in the training stables and was a bosom friend of the three stable lads who worked there. His heritage was unclear, but I fancy there was a good deal of collie in him and perhaps a little spaniel too. During the day he was mostly given free range over the King’s Pyland estate and it was through him that Silver and I got most of our news of the outside world. It was never very exciting news, but the boredom of The Paddock and the friendliness of Dog more than compensated for that. However, this particular Saturday Silver found Dog’s news tremendously exhilarating.

“Have you heard the latest?” Dog asked as he approached The Paddock.

“How could we have done? You know very well Donkey and I are stuck here on our own.”

I was somewhat embarrassed by Silver’s asperity, but Dog’s boundless joie de vivre enabled him to take it with good grace.

“Ned Hunter - one of the stable lads – has gone missing.”

The twitching of Silver’s ears betrayed his interest. “Go on… tell all…”

“Well, it seems he and Edith Baxter – the maid – had been stepping out together in secret.”

“Not much of a secret if you knew about it, Dog.”

“Not much of a secret because everyone knew about it, Silver. They were about as subtle as a pig fart. But the other two stable hands and the racing trainers all pretended not to know. The last few nights, after lights out, they’ve been meeting on the far side of the sheep field for… well… I needn’t say. About mid-night one of the stable lads said he heard Edith shouting insults at him – though no one else did. And this morning Ned was nowhere to be found.”

A short silence was finally punctured by Silver turning to me, glee writ large on his equine features, and almost whispering “Our first case!”

“What’s this?” asked Dog.

Silver filled him in on our plan to become the world’s first trotting detectives.

“…and now we have our first case! The Adventure of the Missing Ned.”

“But how can you two investigate when you are trapped all day in The Paddock?”

“Ah, I have been working on that,” Silver replied with no little pride. And to demonstrate, he took a few steps backward, trotted forward and easily leapt over the low wooden fence. He turned and grinned back at us both from the freedom of the lane which leads past the house.

“Silver!” I exclaimed “When did you discover you could do this?”

“Oh, a few nights ago. I’ve been working on it in the evenings after you go to sleep.”

“I never heard a sound.”

“That is what you may expect to hear when I am leaping fences. Also, you sleep very deeply, Donkey. Very deeply. Nothing seems to wake you.”

“Still,” Dog chimed in, “that doesn’t help Donkey much, does it?”

“He’s right, Silver. I could never do that.”

“And you’ve no need to, my dear fellow. The gate opens from this side…” and so saying, he bit the handle, lifted and the gate swung open. “Shall we, Donkey?”

After a little conversation we decided we would wait until evening before we began our investigation in earnest. It was probably best not to be too conspicuous. If the people spotted us wandering about King’s Pyland, we would likely find the fences raised, the gates reinforced and our new freedom curtailed. Instead Silver closed the gate and returned to The Paddock in the same way he had left it. Dog wandered off and we went about our usual daily routine.

It was not until dusk that we returned to discussing the case. Silver’s enthusiasm was palpable but his plan was less clear.

“Are you ready, Donkey?”

“Indeed. But what are we going to do?”

“We will solve the case, of course! When we find the body, we will be hailed as heroes! It’ll be just like my glory days in the Wessex Plate!”

“But how wi… wait… ‘body’? What makes you so sure the boy is dead?”

“Pshaw, Donkey!” he retorted, bounding the fence and opening the gate, “There has to be a murder for it to be a real case! Of course he is dead. We will start where I last saw the pair together – over the far side of the sheep field.”

“That seems reasonab… where you last saw them?” I spluttered as we strolled along the lane. “You mean you’ve been watching them?”

“I told you I’d been working on escaping The Paddock for several nights. And I told you that you never wake up. I was gone until the early hours last night and you never noticed a thing. I had a good view of their argument. They were far too involved in each other to notice me standing concealed by the gorse.”

“So she was shouting! What did they argue about?”

“I’m not entirely sure. But it seems he was keener on something than she was and she was putting him in his place. She was certainly very loud about it before she stormed off back to the house. That was when Ned was left alone. He sat for a while afterwards and that was when I stopped watching.”

“Good grief! Do you think Edith returned with some weapon? Was the argument that severe?”

“Who can tell? Humans are never to be entirely trusted, - not the best of them. But here we are, let us see if we can pick up his trail.”

Silver was at once transformed. He was intent on examining the ground as thoroughly as possible. Sadly his body was not built for such a purpose and the sight of a racehorse attempting to kneel on all four legs in order to peer into the mud of a Dartmoor field is not one I shall soon forget. Nevertheless, he seemed to be successful, for a short while later he rose to his feet with a triumphant “Aha!” and we were off, following a trail, I confess, only visible to his eye.

It was a winding trail which led us out on to the moor, half way to Mapleton, then around in an arc to come back to the stable side of King’s Pyland. We snuck through hedges and around various out buildings until finally we found ourselves at the side of the main villa. Off to the side of the building is an old wooden barn, wider than it is deep. It was once used for the storage of farming equipment, but as Colonel Ross had slowly turned from farming to the rearing of race horses, it had become redundant and was largely empty.

We made our way to the unfastened door of the barn. It was here that Silver stopped.

“The body,” he announced imperiously, “is in this barn!”

He pulled on the loose door of the barn and revealed a ghastly scene. Ned Hunter lay on the floor with his head caved in. In the dirt on the floor was written in large clumsy letters ‘Edith killed me’.


Chapter Three


Silver Blaze gave an almighty whinny which did the job of rousing the household. When Mrs. Straker came out to see what the ruckus was all about, she found me outside the barn and Silver inside, stood beside the body with a very satisfied look on his face.

The police were called and when Inspector Gregory arrived he reached much the same conclusion as myself: Edith had been offended by Ned’s advances and extracted her revenge with some blunt object – possibly a ladle or rolling pin – brought down with great force in the centre of his forehead. She had hidden the half-dead body in the barn where he was left to expire. With his dying breaths Ned had scrawled the name of his attacker in the dirt on the floor. Edith was arrested and taken away. There was little doubt that she would be found guilty and hanged for her crime.

Once we had been congratulated and returned to The Paddock, Silver and I went over the salient points of the case.

“It was all quite elementary, Donkey,” he said with his eyelids half closed. “Once I had hidden the body in the barn, I just had to wait until he was noticed missing, pretend to follow a trail and then find him again.”

“You mean, you killed him?!” I asked, abhorred.

“Yes. After the fantastic rush I felt the day I stoved old John Straker’s skull in, I knew one would never be enough. I’ve been biding my time waiting for the opportunity to repeat the experience for years. The Paddock, with its position and flimsy fences, was just the opportunity I required.

I’d been watching Edith and Ned for a few nights and the argument they had last night was just the cover I needed. After Edith stormed off, I simply strolled over to Ned, turned around and smashed his stupid face through the back of his head with a nifty little kick. It was a glorious crack. Thankfully I only broke bone, not skin, so there was little mess to worry about. Then I dragged him through the grounds, into the barn and closed the door.”

I must have looked horrified, for Silver gave me a reassuring nudge with his nose and said “Don’t worry, Donkey. I got away with it again. Isn’t it thrilling! To murder a man and then actually be praised for it.”

He stared at me, almost menacingly. Eventually I managed to form words again.

“Didn’t Dog hear? Didn’t he try to stop you?”

“Oh, Dog never does anything in the night time. He’s sleepier than you. Everyone knows that! Now, who’s murder shall we solve next? That Silas Brown keeps sniffing around our Mrs. Straker. Maybe we should curtail his advances…” And he began to write with his hoof in the mud ‘Mrs. Straker killed me’ in large clumsy letters.

Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) shared the following "music":