Elementary: Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller are Modern Watson and Holmes

Elementary: Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller are Modern Watson and Holmes

The CBS series with a U.S. modern slant to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner in solving crime Dr. Watson, Elementary stars Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller as the two literary legends from England. The timing of the network’s creation did alarm the BBC who have their own present day version of Holmes. The U.K. series, which is really more like a collection of three to four 88 minute TV movies broadcast yearly is based more on the books. This version made Cumberbatch a star, or at the very least a household name, and the British were concerned that their show, developed in 2010 had been copied in the 2012 American version.

A Penny for the Guy?

English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, ...
English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, Laing Art Gallery (Tyne and Wear Museums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first moved to England I’d never heard of Guy Fawkes night. I’d never heard the little dittie that went, “Remember, remember the 5th of November…”

In high school there wasn’t a chance to take world history and despite my fascination about all things English, if it didn’t appear in a Sherlock Holmes book, I didn’t know about it.

I moved to England on the 5th of July 1982. I lived on the air base until September that year. I finally got permission to move off base after they realised that I was getting to stay in the base dormitories for free. As I was divorced my money towards housing –which went straight to my divorced wife and baby– could not be taken in exchange for my room. I’m pretty sure that the base housing folks were glad to see the back of me.

I moved off base and about the middle of October I started seeing kids in the village  carting a straw filled dummy around on a wagon. Other kids would carry their strawman and once they had found a vacant spot on the pavement (that’s sidewalk to you and me) they would lay a rag or put a pail out and beseech passers-by for, “A penny for the Guy?”

I had just gotten over the shock of realising that English kids didn’t know about Halloween, or at least very much about it, and hadn’t learned about trick or treating to a great extent. I hasten to add that has changed, although they still aren’t as dedicated to it as American kids are.

I asked in the pub why the kids were asking for a penny for the guy. I then learned about Guy Fawkes night and the celebration of it.

Lewes Bonfire, Guy Fawkes effigy

Guy Fawkes was the man who decided it would be a jolly good idea to blow up the Houses of Parliament way back in 1605.  Now Fawkes was not alone in this dastardly deed. He was part of a group of zealous men whose assassination attempt became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

The entire plot was uncovered and foiled by the authorities. Guy Fawkes –as well as many of his zealous friends– was hung for his troubles. I don’t know when Guy Fawkes night, or bonfire night as it’s more popularly known, began but there is a little dittie that was sung back in 1742 about the whole escapade.

Don’t you Remember,
The Fifth of November,
‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,
I let off my gun,
And made’em all run.
And Stole all their Bonfire away. (1742)[48]

*courtesy of wikipedia*

All I do know is that on the 5th of November they used to burn poor old Guy Fawkes in effigy on a  huge bonfire. This was generally accompanied by fireworks. Each village would, and still does, build a huge bonfire and set off fireworks as part of the celebration.

Children would make up their straw representations of Guy Fawkes and beg for coppers (pennies) to buy fireworks with. This custom has sort of died out over the years. I haven’t seen a “Guy” on a bonfire for years and I definitely haven’t seen children making the effigy of him to be burned.

Each year though villages, towns, and cities across the country hold celebrations that include bonfires, fireworks and stalls selling food. The smaller the village the smaller the celebrations. Ipswich holds a grand fireworks display and a bonfire of epic proportions each year, usually on the first weekend nearest the actual date.

I haven’t been to a bonfire night in years, but I do admit I miss the kids dragging their “Guy” through the village and asking for that, “Penny for the Guy?”

As I set here at home and listen to the fireworks being shot off all around me, I can’t help but wonder where the actual traditional tone went and what the future will be for Guy Fawkes day. It seems to me to have lost a lot of it’s original meaning when they dispensed with the burning of the effigy.

It just seems like another “official” reason to set off bangers (firecrackers) and skyrockets. I suppose that setting them off for New Years just isn’t enough.

Guy Fawkes Night
Guy Fawkes Night (Photo credit: Mike_fleming)

Incredible Growing Purple Foam

In my last blog I mentioned the fact that I was a huge Brains Benton fan. Brains was a rich kid who was incredibly smart. His parents pretty much left him to his own devices. This included having a laboratory that would be the envy of any mad scientist. Brains with his best friend (a juvenile version of Dr Watson to his youthful Sherlock Holmes) would solve mysteries in his local neighbourhood. These mysteries were in fact crimes and the only one I can remember now with any clarity is The Case Of The Counterfeit Coins. There were only six books in the Brains Benton mystery series and I read four of them. These books with their focus on a juvenile with the brain power (and money) sufficient enough for him to scientifically solve crimes faster than the local police force inspired me.

I still remember begging my parents for a science kit for Christmas. In those days, if you were prepared to spend the money, you could get a great science kit. After an entire year of me harping endlessly about this science kit I got one. And it was a doozy. *On a side note – if you have never heard this particular word, doozy equals wildly great* This kit had a real microscope that worked on both batteries and solar power (a mirror system), glass: slides, test tubes, and beakers; a Bunsen burner and loads of chemicals. You also got a scalpel, forceps, an eye dropper, tweezers and an elemental table. Along with all this great stuff, you also were given a bunch of experiments to do. You could, for example, make a tornado in a beaker. *that is the only experiment I can remember from the kit*
Before I was even old enough to take a proper science class in High School I was doing experiments that, in school, I would not be doing until I was a sophmore taking Biology. I remember doing an “autopsy” on a frog. When I cut open the stomach I found six of the biggest beetles I had ever seen. Yet, the stomach, before it had been cut open did not appear to have been big enough to hold half the number I extracted. I was fascinated with anatomy and all chemicals period.
Then I decided to discard all the experiments that were listed in the science kit booklet. I had never been able to get the tornado experiment to work and because of that I started losing faith in it. I was going to make my own creations instead. This was how I made the “Incredible Growing Purple Foam.”
My parents knew that I “played” with my science kit constantly. My bedroom always smelled of the strange chemicals I worked with. No matter how long I left the windows open the smell remained. My folks had no problem with this at all and I was always allowed to do my experiments in my bedroom. That all changed when I concocted the purple foam.
I cannot remember what items I mixed together to make this foam. I can remember my excitement when the beaker began foaming. I can also remember my excitement when the foam changed colour from white to a dark purple. I can also remember when my excitement turned to concern and then panic when the foam started moving out of the beaker and onto my science table.
Luckily I had put my experiment on a place holder from downstairs. The idea being that if I spilt anything it would not ruin the table. Unfortunately my “Incredible Growing Purple Foam” was not content with growing out of just the beaker. This foam just kept growing. It soon outgrew the place holder and started spilling all over the table and onto the floor. And it still kept growing.
I quickly grabbed the place mat with the ever expanding purple foam on it and headed for the stairs. I ran downstairs, through the kitchen and out the pantry door into the back yard. I dumped the whole thing, place holder, beaker and foam in the space between our garage and the storm cellar. The foam kept growing for another couple of hours at least. When it finally stopped growing it made a mound of purple foam that was about one and a half feet high and two feet across. I was ecstatic.
My parents were not.
It took repeated cleaning to get the purple stain out of my bedroom carpet. The table had to be repainted because the purple colour refused to be removed. I was banished to the storm cellar for any future experimentation.  Amazingly my banishment was not because of the mess I had caused. No, my banishment was because I shared my bedroom with my younger brother. Where I was judged to be old enough to play with what was in essence a dangerous toy, my brother was way too young to be exposed to this stuff.
I did not argue about this. I meekly moved all my things into the storm cellar. The consequences of this move was gradual. I began to spend less time being a junior scientist. Not because my interest waned. No I spent less time because I did not particularly like the storm cellar. It was dark (even with the light on and the storm doors open) and it hosted a plethora of spiders. I had an almost phobic distaste and fear of spiders.
I am not in the field of science or medicine. Both of these fields were high on the list of careers that my parents thought I would eventually pursue. Nope, the world lost a creative and devoted junior scientist who could have grown into a scientific genius if not for a fear of spiders.