Little Details

After weeks of grey skies the sun finally came out, along with a fine dusting of snow. This winter has been warm and dark, confusing for daffodils and for my little brain.

I got up early, determined to make the most of the quiet streets and gentle light. I walked into town armed with a breakfast picnic and climbed up Calton Hill – my favourite viewpoint.

As I sipped my tea, the sun became stronger and the clouds began to disperse. Children ran through the snow, dogs sniffed around my feet trying to catch the crumbs from my croissant. Holiday makers took photographs, laughing as they slipped and slid on the ice.

When my toes began to throb with cold I set off back home, taking my time to admire what I saw. Sunshine brings out the little details – the textures of stone work, the pops of green and yellow among the grey and black. It casts shadows, emphasising the ironwork and the ivy. It raises my spirits.IMG_8075








imageI had a little revelation over the Christmas holidays. An epiphany of sorts.

I don’t know how to relax.

I spent the first half of my fortnight holiday driving around the north of England catching up with friends and family, enjoying good food, seeing the sights and generally getting in to the festive swing. The second week? I did next to nothing.

The weather was gloomy (can anyone remember the last time we had a glorious sunny wintery day?), I was full of cold, and I had a lot of telly to catch up on. So that’s pretty much all I did.

And yet… I felt guilty. Like I should have been painting my hallway, or stripping and varnishing the floorboards, or sorting through the store cupboard of doom. Like watching box sets and flicking through magazines was a waste of my time off work.

As part of my epiphany I realised that the only time I really feel relaxed is when I’m on holiday abroad – where it’s legitimate to do nothing but lie on a beach and read, to potter around museums or to people watch with a glass of wine because heat makes it easy to relax and go slowly.

2016 is going to be a busy year for me. The pace of my job is picking up and I’ll be travelling more. A lot of my weekends will be spent away visiting friends and family, and I have quite a few DIY challenges to tackle in my flat. But I also want, in light of my festive revelation, to make sure that I am relaxed and refreshed enough to enjoy what I have planned, and to feel productive rather than stressed.

And so, I need some advice.

Do you get The Guilts if you have a lazy day? How do you switch off, recharge and relax?

Ten Alternatives to Sherlock

imageSo. Sherlock. We waited so long and we got… Well, I’m not entirely sure what we got to be honest. I don’t know about you, but as the BBC’s reboot has gone on, I’ve lost a little more interest with every series. I had such high hopes. Period costumes! A not-twins mystery! No Moriarty! Alas. Hopes dashed. But then as I am frequently reminded, I am a purist.

If, like me, you need your faith in Mr Holmes topping up, may I humbly suggest a gander at some of the following?

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Let’s start at the beginning, after all, it is a very good place to start – the original short stories are still rather marvellous. They’re perfect for a bedtime read, preferably listened to aloud, but always with a hot chocolate or a sherry.

Jeremy Brett in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

To me this is the “proper” TV adaptation, first shown on ITV in the 80s. Golly it’s good, true to the stories and spirit of the originals. Jeremy Brett is perfect – clever and acerbic, and his Watson is a worthy sidekick. Highly recommended for dark winter nights.

Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary

The American reboot, starring Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson, is (in my opinion) miles ahead of the BBC version. Holmes is flawed but likeable, Watson is respected by him, and while it’s a little in the CSI realm it’s still excellent. The first two series are particularly good.

Caleb Carr, The Italian Secretary

It’s not clever, but it is fun. Holmes and Watson are persuaded to venture up to Edinburgh, where dark things are happening in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Is it the ghost of David Rizzio? Silly, and clearly written for a US audience, but worth picking up.

Antony Horowitz, The House of Silk

Antony Horowitz brought back Holmes to mixed reviews in the first of his series. I enjoyed it, the Victorian feel was suitably spooky, and the full length tale works well. At times it reads like a labour of love – true to canon – and all the better for it.

Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes

I suspect that this 2009 Hollywood spectacular is what first brought Holmes to the attention of most folk. Considering it stars Jude Law, it’s not too bad. It’s certainly entertaining and a good Sunday afternoon watch, even if I’m not sure director Guy Ritchie ever read one of the original tales.

…and a few that aren’t technically Holmes, but are still a rather fun romp through the Victorian criminal worlds…

James McLevy: The Edinburgh Detective

McLevy was the first detective in Edinburgh, and rapidly became a local celebrity. His memoirs are a spectacular insight into the dark side of the city’s Old Town, particularly as most of the streets mentioned are still in existence. Conan Doyle was known to be a fan of McLevy’s books when he was a medical student, and no doubt was influenced by them. Re-published on a small scale a few years ago, it’s worth tracking down a copy.

Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

Both the original book by Kate Summerscale, and the subsequent recent TV adaption are fantastic. The true story of a particularly horrific murder in a wealthy family, they also explore the role of Scotland Yard investigator Mr Whicher and the subsequent effects of the case. A dark tale of the privilege of the upper classes and the ‘reality’ of Victorian detection.

Julian Barnes, Arthur and George

Part biography, part mystery, the true and intertwining tales of Arthur Conan Doyle and a young man who is wrongly accused of a crime explores Victorian ideas of race and class – but it’s also a marvellous insight into Arthur Conan Doyle’s personal life and his fascination with the occult.

Ripper Street

Matthew MacFadyen stars as DI Reid in this BBC/Amazon Prime spectacular set in the 1880s, shortly after the Ripper’s time. Aside from moments of extreme silliness, the characters and mysteries are compelling. The geek in me enjoyed the historical accuracy, too.


Are there any other Sherlock spin offs which I should investigate? Or am I terribly wrong about the BBC’s latest interpretation?