I remember these nights. Very tired after an evening spent with fellow Holmes fans, yet sitting down to the computer to do a write-up of the evening that just occurred. It has been a while.
Peoria's Hansoms of John Clayton met tonight. It took a little digging to find out the last time that happened (this century's Hansom record keeper is not quite as detail-oriented as last century's), but it turns out that a true gathering of the Hansoms hasn't happened since March of 2004 . . . nine years ago.
One's first reaction to a nine year hiatus is to think, "Oh, all those years we missed!" But in preparing for this little gathering, I had to take myself back in time to what the Hansom meetings were like nine years ago. There was no new Sherlock coming in from any major media -- books, movies, or television -- to fuel the fire in our less obsessed members. Doing research for a presentation that would only be heard by three other people was dispiriting for those who made the effort. And the thing that we probably didn't even realize at the time -- our meetings had a strict routine that was almost like a church service, a ritual sequence we had followed dutifully for more than twenty-five years.
Clayton ritual. Welcome. Toasts. Announcements. Presentation. Quiz. Reading of 221B. Refreshments. Yes, you had to wait until everything else was done to get your cheese and crackers. (Though to be fair, our wonderful hosts provided what was usually a small supper at that point.) We had a podium with our logo on it, and whoever was running the meeting stood behind that podium. And sometimes blew a bobby's whistle to make people be quiet.
Now, I'm not complaining. That system served us well for decades. But upon reflection, while ritual is always comforting to some, it's also a little restrictive to some and laziness-inducing to others, like myself. And in considering what a new Hansom meeting was going to look like, I knew we couldn't just go back to that. So I put the podium up on the dining room table behind where we were going to sit, as more of a decoration than a meeting focus, and we gathered in a big comfortable circle and just started talking. With ten people present, that seemed to work just right.
We did do the Clayton Ritual, of couse, just for its connection to our past and to give the meeting an official Hansom start. But after that, it was a free-wheeling discussion, starting with a bit of reminiscence and catch-up for the veteran Hansoms present, introduction for the new Hansoms present, and on to our story for the evening, "The Adventure of the Empty House." We'd get off-topic, but wander back, and there was just soooo much to talk about. Old friends. Downey. Cumberbatch. Lucy Liu.
At one point, Faith Wallis brought up Sherlockian Mythbusters on YouTube, and since the DVD of that Illustrious Clients production was only three feet away from me, I popped it in and we watched Don Curtis practice thumb-chopping. With our mix of new and old Hansoms, there were so many bits of appropriate Sherlockiana that I found myself wanting to pull out, but kept stopping myself . . . it very quickly started to seem like there would be time for that at later gatherings. (And dragging some Hansoms down to see our Indiana cousins at some point!)
And there would be later gatherings. Before everyone started wearing out, I collected contact info and we set a date and place for out next meeting. And the site of the one after that.