Monday, August 8, 2022

A little something for my friend, the Indiana fly

One always makes a few new friends at any Sherlockian gathering. This past weekend brought a very unexpected one my way, and I thought I'd write a blog post especially for them.

My new friend, whose name I don't properly know, is a fly that somehow wandered into my room at the Cascades Inn through the door to the outside. Just the one. My fly friend would sit quietly at the top edge of my laptop and watch me type. Then they would go sit on the mirror in the morning and watch me shave. After a few attempts to swat them, I decided to go a little more Zen and just let them be, even going so far as to set out some McDonald's french fries for them as a treat. (Apologies if that pronoun was a bit confusing in number, but I don't want to gender my friend out of hand. It was a singular fly.)

So let's talk about their British cousins, or whatever of their lot inspired words from Watson's pen.

There was a fellow some decades past who printed a monograph series on subjects on the Canon, The Sherlock Holmes Natural History Series. His name was Donald Girard Jewell, and even though I did not pick up copies, my more sensible friend did, and they found their way to me. So this morning I thought I'd turn to Butterflies & Blind Beetles, the fourth volume in the series, as doing text searches for "fly" or "flies" in the Canon would yield far too many results. So what does Mr. Jewell say about flies?

His chapter "Flies in the Ointment" immediately heads for "Black Peter" and the flies and bluebottles who were Peter's friends after his passing. He points out the redundancy in Watson's words, as bluebottles are flies, and a graphic of them shows that most of us probably could not single them out in a room full of flies. He gets into fly eggs and meat safes, but let's not go there.

Instead, let us talk of those folk of the Canon whom my Indiana fly friend would love: those charming people who could not hurt a fly.

Flora Millar. Grace Dunbar. James McCarthy. Charles Augustus Milverton?

Well, that last fellow was serving as his own reference on the matter, so I don't know that we'll trust him.

Apparently the most prized flies in Victorian England were the ones found in the amber of old pipe-stems, proving that the amber was true amber -- so says Sherlock Holmes in "Yellow Face." "A fly in the amber" has come to be the idiom for a "strange relic or reminder of the past" in Britain, according to an online dictionary. And now that we've moved on to the web . . .

Did you know that blue bottle flies have the rather disgusting latin name of "Calliphora vomitoria?" It's a little fancier fly than "Musca domestica," the "common" house fly, which I think my friend was a member of. So perhaps Watson wasn't being as redundant as Mr. Jewell supposed. And it's good to learn a bit about one's friends. 

And I hope my Indiana fly friend enjoys the rest of their two-to-four week life span as much as I enjoyed my visit to Lilly Library on Saturday, or the Cascades Inn, which was their home. It might have been a long way for them to find their way to their breakfast buffet, but it would be totally worth the pilgrimage for them, for sure.

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