We lived in England for more than five years, and I have very fond memories of it. SO when I saw what Liese talked about in her Weekly at Vivi’s post, I was very happy. And I may or may not have gone through out old pictures of our days there.
Liese Sherwood-Fabre has won awards for her thrillers, romance, and literary short stories, and NYT bestselling author Steve Berry describes her writing as “gimmick-free, old-fashioned storytelling.”
In the second grade, she knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live internationally for more than fifteen years. She draws upon these experiences to endow her characters with deep conflicts and emotions.
Find Liese here: www.liesesherwoodfabre.com
My Best Day Ever Exploring the Past in England
Before he retired, my husband worked as an international consultant and spent a lot of time abroad. When possible, I would join him at the end of a trip. At the end of one such business trip, I joined him in London and had the best day ever as I set out to explore the of my passions: Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, and public health.
We started at 221B Baker Street.
When Arthur Conan Doyle penned his first tale, Baker Street existed, but the numbers extended only into the 100s. Reality only caught up with fiction in the 1930s when Baker Street, York Place, and Upper Baker Street were renamed together as Baker Street and the buildings renumbered. At that point, a building housing the Abbey National Building Society, a financial firm, became 221 Baker Street, and almost immediately the Royal Mail began delivering letters addressed to the great detective to the firm. The correspondence was great enough for their public relations office to employ a full-time secretary to respond to it all.
In 1990, John Aidiniantz purchased a townhouse at 239 Baker Street and opened the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Aidiniantz and Abbey National fought for the next twelve years over who should receive the mail still arriving for Mr. Holmes. The firm argued they were more equipped to handle the letters. Only after the company moved to new quarters in 2002 and the City of Westminster approved the museum’s use of the address 221B did the Royal Mail finally agree to deliver correspondence there.
The museum provides its visitors a re-creation of the full flat, including Dr. Watson’s bedroom and a Victorian water closet on an upper floor. Given that the items are not authentic (never owned by Mr. Holmes), you are free to handle, sit, and use them. While certain aspects of the apartment are described by Doyle, such as the number of rooms, the fireplace in the sitting room, Holmes’ chemical table, Watson’s desk, and the basket, or wicker, chair for guests, other features were less defined, such as wallpaper or other furnishings. The rooms are arranged to appear as if its occupants just left and will return shortly, including a jack-knife holding recent correspondence in place on the mantel. Additional rooms display waxworks of scenes from different stories.
For a Sherlockian, the visit allowed me a chance to imagine calling on the great detective at his home and enjoying a cup of tea at his fireside.
After completing our tour (and purchasing a few essential souvenirs), we traveled on to Chawton, the final home of Jane Austen.
Chawton has less than 400 residents. Regardless, about 30,000 people visit the museum each year to see where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life (1809-1817). There, she revised three unpublished novels, wrote three more, and started on one more she wasn’t able to complete before passing at the age 41. It is uncertain what she died of, but it is clear her health deteriorated in 1816 and by the end, she was bedridden, unable to walk or do anything for herself.
Her final home had been a steward’s cottage on her brother’s estate she shared with her mother and sister. After her sister Cassandra passed in 1845, the house was divided into smaller residences and served various uses until 1948 when the place was purchased for the museum and restored to something similar to what it had been during Austen’s time.
For me, the highlight was the table where Jane wrote and revised her manuscripts. The very small top would barely hold a modern-day laptop, and to imagine someone bending over the small desk with ink and quill made her work seem even more impressive.
After finishing our visit, we crossed the street to a small tea shop for “cream tea,” tea with a scone, and then we walked back to the train station. Surrounded by thatched-roofed houses, I couldn’t help but imagine strolling to town along a country road in the 1800s—until a local took offense at my husband’s Oxford jacket (purchased on his business trip) and shouted an insult at us as his car sped past.
I capped off the evening (and my husband dutifully followed along) with a homage to Dr. John Snow, the father of public health. Almost all of those involved in healthcare know the story of Dr. Snow and the Broad Street pump. In 1854, a cholera epidemic hit part of London. From August 31 – September 3 (just one week), 127 died and within the next week 500 had passed. All the cases occurred within 250 yards of the intersection of Cambridge and Broad Streets.
Following previous cholera studies, Dr. Snow offered a new theory for the disease’s transmission. Rather than the prevailing idea of miasma (unseen harmful vapors in the air), he argued that it was spread through consuming contaminated food or drink. With the death toll rising in the area, he was called in to investigate the source of the disease. He determined most of the infected cases involved using the public water pump on Broad Street and had the pump’s handle removed, ending the outbreak. Further examination of the pump discovered a leak from a sewer pipe into its water source.
Like other public health specialists, I continued my pilgrimage to the John Snow Pub located nearby. Other than the name and its location by the famous pump, the pub has no connection to the physician. The pub changed its name in 1955 for the 100th anniversary of Snow’s cholera research. Chances are the man never would have entered such an establishment, given that he was a teetotaler. Regardless, the second floor is dedicated to the man, sporting a number of portraits and other items related to his work in epidemiology and anesthesiology.
Being able to wrap all these sites into one day made for a very long—but quite rewarding—day.
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Liese Is taking with her the newest adventures of her newest series. And the second one will release in August (already in pre-sale) so you won’t be left hanging for long.
The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife (The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes Book 1) by Liese Sherwood-Fabre will release on June 30 in the Historical Mysteries.
Before Sherlock Holmes became the world’s greatest consulting detective, scandal rocked the Holmes family. Arthur Conan Doyle provided few details on Holmes’ boyhood. His ancestors were country squires, his grandmother was the sister of the French artist Vernet, and he had a brother named Mycroft – seven years his senior. Recently, a cache of documents has been discovered detailing, in Sherlock’s own hand, his early forays into criminal investigation.
Only weeks into his first year at Eton, Sherlock’s father calls him and his brother back to Underbyrne, the ancestral estate. The village midwife has been found with a pitchfork in her back in the estate’s garden, and Mrs. Holmes has been accused of the murder. Can Sherlock find the true killer in time to save her from the gallows?
They told me the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, and I knew I should have been honored to be at the institution; but at age thirteen, I hated it. The whole bloody place. I remained only because my parents’ disappointment would have been too great a disgrace to bear.
My aversion culminated about a month after my arrival when I was forced into a boxing match on the school’s verdant side lawn. I had just landed a blow to Charles Fitzsimmons’s nose, causing blood to pour from both nostrils, when the boys crowding around us parted. One of the six-form prefects joined us in the circle’s center.
After glancing first at Fitzsimmons, he said to me, “Sherlock Holmes, you’re wanted in the Head Master’s office. Come along.”
Even though I’d been at the school only a few weeks, I knew no one was called to the director’s office unless something was terribly wrong. I hesitated, blinking at the young man in his stiff collar and black suit. He flapped his arms to mark his impatience at my delay and spun about on his heel, marching toward the college’s main building. I gulped, gathered my things, and followed him at a pace that left me puffing to keep up.
I had no idea what caused such a summons. If it had been the fight, surely Charles would have accompanied me. I hadn’t experienced any controversies in any of my classes, even with my mathematics instructor. True, earlier in the day I’d corrected him, but surely it made sense to point out his mistake? For the most part, the masters seemed pleased with my answers when they called on me.
I did have problems, however, with most of my classmates—Charles Fitzsimmons was just one example.