Here's one of those things I love about Sherlock Holmes that you forget after a while, and then get to be happily reminded of . . . .
There is great joy to be had in little things. Details in the Canon. Simple Holmes-related artifacts. A digital clock hitting 2:21. And even, as happened tonight, an almost non-attended Sherlockian discussion group meeting.
I've mentioned our local library group, the Sherlock Holmes Story Society, here before, which meets at the North Branch of Peoria Public Library on the fourth Thursday of the month at 6:30. We've been going since January of this year, and attendance is still pretty irregular, ranging from eight to tonight's gathering of two and a half.
Going into this evening's discussion of "The Engineer's Thumb," I was not expecting much. I'd forgotten the meeting myself until the day before, the good Carter was buried in deadlines and unable to attend, and the reminder e-mails we had decided to start sending out had failed to come together. And when 6:30 approached and I was sitting in the meeting room alone, things were looking pretty bleak.
And then one person showed up.
And one of the best meetings ever began. Because what makes a great Sherlockian meeting? Getting surprised by another person who you quickly see is into Sherlock Holmes as much as you are. Someone who got the stories read to them as a child as bedtime stories. Someone under thirty who appreciates the Granada series. And someone who not only cites Lyndsay Faye's work as their favorite pastiche, but attended the legendary doom that was DashCon. The kind of person you hope will walk into any Sherlockian meeting.
Not that we don't have a few such folk in the Sherlock Holmes Story Society already (Where were ya, guys?), but a brand new one?!? Treasure.
We had a good back-and-forth on "Engineer's Thumb" until about the halfway mark of the meeting, when a second attendee showed up (the "half" I mentioned earlier), an older gentleman in mirror shades and black cloth gloves. And then the meeting took a turn . . .
He took the gloves off, but not the shades, and soon we got peppered with random questions about Sherlock Holmes ranging from "Was he real?" to "Does this need a book?" to "Did you ever see The Prisoner?" And he was taking notes on our answers. He had seen a lot of Sherlock Holmes movies, primarily the Rathbones, I think, but kept giving us springboards to talk about some aspect of Sherlock Holmes that might have had something to do with his legion of questions.
William Gillette. Conan Doyle's non-writing career. Heroes who die. Adolph Hitler's Hound. The number of pages in the Complete (and how it wasn't the same in both copies present). Robert Downey Jr. Suddenly we were on a wild random treadmill of subjects and never made it back to "Engineer's Thumb" before the overhead speakers said it was time to close the library.
It would have driven a more goal-oriented Sherlockian mad, but that last half of the meeting still just makes me laugh. As so often happens, when you least expect it, you sometimes get great surprises.
And tonight was one of those nights. Next month, I'm determined to get those reminders out, because our Sherlock Holmes Story Society alumni are going to want to meet our newest member when she returns. Our late arrival said many times that this was probably going to be his only time in the group, which is why he had so many questions, so I don't expect we'll be seeing him then.
But you just never know about Sherlockian gatherings, and that's the best part.
When you follow Sherlock Holmes around, you always get marvelous surprises, and most often, when you least expect them.