Mail, Ferns, 221B Baker Street, and Hershey

This is going to be a dreadfully dull post, a diary of what I’ve been up to the past few days, including visits to 221B Baker Street and Hershey Gardens. But first, a rant.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in keeping the outside world away, because most of it is trying to sell me something I don’t want nor need.

I don’t need high-speed Internet service bundled with hundreds of cable channels I wouldn’t watch. Comcast and Verizon have been bombarding us with sales come-ons combined with mobster-style threats to get our service “upgraded” (e.g., rip out our copper wires) in favor of voice-over-Internet service that’s not as good but more expensive.

Being of a certain age, we’re also invited to “free” dinners and airline tickets in return for listening to a spiel for investment services and final destination homes.

Then there’s the phone come-ons of a kind that should have been blocked by joining Pennsylvania’s Do-Not-Call program, but which as proven to be a toothless waste of taxpayer money due to the phone system’s inability to electroshock callers. If Verizon offered that upgrade I would gladly pay for it.

Which is why, after getting the mail and trashing the majority if it, I went outside to look at the ferns, those most ancient and graceful of plants.

ferns-growing-hershey-2It was more out of hope than anything else that we planted them. I understood ferns loved to get their feet wet, and although this particular patch near the driveway receives a good deal of rain from the downspout, I didn’t expect them to take. But they did.

ferns hersheyThe area is mostly bare, but within a month it will be full of ferns, gracefully unrolling themselves and spreading their leaves to catch the sun. To watch them is to enter a time machine. They’re ancient plants, first appearing 360 million years ago. The ones I’m watching haven’t changed in 145 million years. In terms of human lifespans, the traditional three score and ten, that’s more than 2 million lifetimes ago.

They’re conservative plants. They don’t hold with that flowering, seed-bearing nonsense. Spores were good enough for their ancestors, so it’s good enough for them today.

Standing outside in the first burst of warmth, thinking about ferns, was far more entertaining than anything the outside world could have given me at that moment.

Meanwhile, this past weekend

On Saturday, the wife and I traveled to Reading, where a Sherlockian had built a replica of 221B Baker Street in his basement.

sherlock5I have been a lifelong fan of mysteries, ever since my parents introduced me to Sherlock Holmes one Christmas. I still have those books. They were not what you’d call readers, although they did have books around. They had subscribed to Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, and even got me the children’s edition (which I confess I barely read).

I had dipped into Sherlock since then in an irregular fashion. I saw “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” in the theater, as well as the two Sherlock movies. I fell in love with the BBC version, and observed the explosion in fandom that led me to the podcasts by the Babes, the fanficcers, and the two guys in the Midwest, all of whom bring unique perspectives, from traditional to contemporary, in their approach to the characters.

That compulsion in me to collect and explain led to the 223B Casebook Series, and it was only a short jump from there to visiting Scion meetings (Watson’s Tin Box and White Rose Irregulars), and from there to spending two hours driving to Reading to look at a guy’s basement.

We only spent a couple hours there. I wish it had been longer. I wish I had been alone, to listen to the clopping of horses’ hooves on the street outside and sit by the coal fire reading The Sporting Times (“the Pink ‘Un”) could and imagine the sound of someone opening the front door and climbing the 17 steps to my door, and what would happen in that room.

sporting times England

Called the Pink ‘Un for being printed on pink paper, which, alas, was not permanent.

Jack Finney’s Time And Again has a wonderful method of time travel. The traveler must surround oneself with all the trappings of the era they want to visit. They must wear the clothes, eat the food, amuse themselves like someone from that time, and *hey presto!* you suddenly awake from your bed, open the window, and find yourself in Victorian New York City.

Barring that, the 221B we visited provided the next best thing, thanks to the power of Conan Doyle’s imagination. Because how many other rooms are there in the whole of fiction that fans would want to recreate? Bilbo’s hobbit hole comes to mind. The bridges of the Enterprise from the original series and the next generation. Nero Wolfe’s office is clearly described, but it’s not so evocative that anyone has built one in their home.

Except for that, Mrs. Hudson’s sitting room stands at the top of the list, a character in itself. Considering the millions of books out there, that’s a pretty amazing achievement.

hershey gardens conservatory

Hershey Gardens Conservatory under construction.

A visit to Hershey Gardens

The day before, Hershey Gardens held its annual event where local groups were invited to set up tables. It was the perfect day for it. The weekend before, temperatures were near freezing and a storm dumped several inches of wet snow. Saturday, it was sunny, no breeze, and inviting to linger.

The tents were spread out across the grounds, inviting wandering and investigating.

The tents were spread out across the grounds, inviting wandering and investigating.

The gardens are on a hillside below the Hotel Hershey. Look in one direction, and you see Hersheypark, looking like a Sim amusement park with the roller-coasters rolling along and the Ferris wheel spinning. In the other direction is the Hotel Hershey looking down like an aristocratic mansion.


In between, families and photographers wandered about. It was as peaceful a scene you could want, an invitation to live in the moment, even captured on film.

A scene to inspire Georges Seurat.

A scene to inspire Georges Seurat.