People who set out to London, like I did because I had chosen to study in Brighton, a city called London by the Sea. The thought of taking the Underground was mildly nerve-wracking, but you can't own up to that can you? Not after styling yourself as a modern day go-getter woman!! Thankfully, I had an old classmate in London who was game to join me on my exploration-of-London-by-foot mission. You will be surprised at how much of central London can be covered by foot in a day, the aches at the end of the day notwithstanding. Like a little genie in the bottle, he asked me with a flourish where I wanted to first head to on a beautiful bright autumn morning. I'm sure he was surprised when pat came my answer...221B Baker Street. I don't think he made the connection instantaneously. Neither Robert Downey Junior nor BBC Entertainment had immortalised Sherlock Holmes on the screen yet!
A moment of confusion later, I helpfully added - Holmes? Sherlock Holmes? The coin dropped and we decided to rely on the GPS on the phone to guide us to 221B Baker Street. We had begun our day at Hyde Park, so the GPS had to guide us to Baker Street from there. Poetic I thought, from the Poet's Corner to my literary hero's residence. Now any die-hard fan of Sherlock Holmes would agree with me that after reading the way Arthur Conan Doyle describes Holmes' house, there is little doubt left that if I got to Baker Street, I'd locate 221B easily too. And those who know London would agree that the houses and the brass plates that help you locate the address are just about how it would have been in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century across most parts of the plush Central London. Right down to the cobblestone pathways!
Seeking out Sherlock Holmes proved to be the biggest anticlimax of my literary fantasies - kind of like realising that Santa Claus is not really the funny man in the funny suit and the presents he leaves behind are bought by harassed parents. I'd hoped that like most historical places, 221B Baker Street would be a monument to the memory of Sherlock Holmes. A place that Arthur Conan Doyle actually had been to himself when he was fleshing out his Holmes and doing it so meticulously that it is difficult for me to accept he is just a fictional persona. All the Sherlock Holmes-brand wares sold by shops big and small on Baker's Street are a mocking reminder of how except for Baker's Street, even his address is fictional. And were it not for this statue, I'd have wondered if I'd come to the right Baker's Street!! The disillusionment post the Holmes' house-hunt was clearly what prevented me from seeking out the platform at the King's Cross railway station, from where I could have perhaps taken the train to Hogwarts! How I did catch a glimpse of Hogwarts, that's a story for another day!