"..a bardy view!"

Sherlock Holmes and London Buses….

A London double-decker bus was emblazoned with an advert for Roehampton University. I noticed it because I have a daughter studying there. The red London bus has a tendency to be very promiscuous and reproduces with abandon. It's pedigree has been somewhat diminished over recent years and the traditional routemaster lost its place to the obnoxious arrogant usurping bendy-bus.

However the new mayor Boris Johnson (I say new, but things take time in London) is about to launch a routemaster for the 21st century, and hopefully the stupid bendy-bus will be consigned to the basket of failed experiments. (Ken Livingstone take note).

Anyway the bus in question proclaimed "Roehampton University. Open spaces for Open minds". This is the sort of thing that can easily get lost in translation. For example some non-English speakers could have interpreted it as "Empty spaces for Empty minds".

Then again, Universities are designed to fill space with substance, so perhaps the slogan could work on several levels.

I've become somewhat of an aficionado of Sherlock Holmes.

About 15 years ago I came across the complete facsimile of every story about the eminent sleuth printed by the Strand Magazine.

It was at a car boot sale, and the book, as thick as a brick, had a £5 price tag.

I've read it over and over ever since and during my ownership it has travelled at least 100,000 miles. Amongst many of Sherlock's sayings (courtesy of his friend Dr Watson, and courtesy of the author Arthur Conan Doyle) was the observation that he regarded his brain as a receptacle of finite space, and to fill it with irrelevancy was a waste of it. In other words, he was an expert in his chosen profession, and was not likely to have virtual book shelfs of trivia stored away that could detract from it.

Yet he appreciated art and music. He played the violin. He was also quite fond of opium, and when he wasn't smoking that, he would also inject himself with a stronger substance. In context of the times, this revelation wasn't such a big issue, but Dr Watson was concerned about his potential for addiction. Not surprisingly these references have been removed entirely from the Hollywood portrayal of the subject.

When Holmes wasn't involved on a case, he became withdrawn and depressed. He would lounge around his apartment, smoking heavily, eating little, using narcotics and being a thoroughly untidy, unsociable layabout. Not a very good example for anyone. But he was exceedingly well educated and was selective in the knowledge he garnered.

Does anyone really exist like that in real life? Consider that Conan-Doyle created Holmes in the 1870's and 140 years later we can say they surely do.

I know they do! I have met people who are so focused on their chosen subjects and professions that they are totally dysfunctional outside of them. I have met academics that are so far removed from the realities of life, that life itself is irrelevant if it does not incorporate their vocation.

A ballerina, opera singer, musician, actor, scientist, physicist, cosmologist, surgeon, historian and some authors all live in the unique bubble of their world, and the outside world – the world most others live in, is very remote.

So maybe universities are really for empty minds and not open ones.

London buses are very clever.

As Sherlock said "There is nothing as deceptive as an obvious fact!"


July 3, 2010 - Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Education, General, Science, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Can you still have a fag on the top deck of a London bus. I assume not, but a quick shag is OK? Bring back Vicky I say.


    Comment by Spook | July 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. A fag to Americans has a different meaning – so whilst smoking is banned on buses, perhaps a quick shag with a fag is still possible on the top deck! But shagging in general is probably more common than a drag from a filter tip.


    Comment by Bar De Ness | July 5, 2010 | Reply

  3. How sad.


    Comment by spook | July 21, 2010 | Reply

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