When I move from western Ontario to eastern Ontario this spring, one of the things I'm going to miss most is the monthly pub lunches of an improbable group that names itself after a sewer.
Dr. Watson describes his London (in A Study in Scarlet
) as "that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained," and when a group of Sherlockians got together in the namesake city of London, Ontario, and decided to form a society, what better name could there be than the Cesspudlians
? (Liverpool, Liverpudlian; cesspool, cesspudlian; it's obvious after a round of drinks.)
It all got started in 2015 when I realized that there were a few members of the Bootmakers of Toronto
who lived in or near London, which is far enough away from the big city (120 miles) that they wouldn't often get to meetings. I sent out a note suggesting that we meet for lunch and see what happened, and one Saturday in August we assembled at the Waltzing Weasel
pub on London's Adelaide Street. By the time the meal was over, we were forming a society.
|First gathering of the Cesspudlians: Margot Northcott, Mark Hanson, Chris Redmond, Liz Bardawill|
Saturday lunches have been happening monthly since that beginning, mostly at another pub, the Church Key
in the city's downtown. The most recent one, in January, drew an amazing eight participants, and if everybody on the email list showed up at once, the Church Key would have to find seats for as many as a dozen of us. Besides London, members drive in from Woodstock, Stratford, Guelph, and in my case Waterloo. We have managed without any sort of formal organization, other than Mark Hanson's obliging service in keeping a list of email addresses and sending out a note now and then to remind us of the next get-together.
"the conversation drifted away into other channels" [STUD]
Conversation at the lunch table sometimes touches on Sherlock Holmes, but we're not compulsive about it; there's also lots of talk about movies, travel, the challenges of teaching and the problem of crowded bookshelves. Some of us are Bootmakers; two of us are Baker Street Irregulars; no fewer than six of us wrote essays for the About Sixty
anthology, and we occasionally talk about that too.
Oh, and we talk about London, which is a pleasant, prosperous, rather conservative city of 350,000, the home of Western University and several insurance companies. It's the county seat of Middlesex County, it sits on the Thames River, and its points of interest include Covent Garden Market and Oxford, Pall Mall, and Piccadilly Streets. It's better known for snow, however, than for yellow fog.
"my knowledge of the history of crime" [STUD]
It also turns out that the Church Key is just steps away from the sites of two of Canada's most legendary crimes. One is the 1919 disappearance of impresario Ambrose Small
, who owned the Grand Theatre straight across Richmond Street from the pub. The other is the murder of waitress Kate Gardener, whose body was found in May 1879 (not August as Wikipedia claims) in a shed behind a house on Queens Avenue, just around the corner. The house was the home and place of business of Dr. Neill Cream
, who would eventually be hanged for other murders in the other London far away. After the inquest learned that Gardener's death was not suicide, as first suspected, but murder, Cream found it convenient to abandon his practice as sawbones and abortionist, and to leave town on the Great Western Railway. Neither he nor anyone else was ever charged in the case. The Cesspudlians will get around to doing more intensive research on the matter, one of these days.
I'm going to miss all this friendship and erudition when I make the move to Carleton Place, near Ottawa. Waterloo is a substantial distance from London — an hour if you drive with determination, two hours if you amble the way I like to — but from my new home it would be an overnight trip. I suspect the Cesspudlians will get along fine without me, but I'm certainly not going to forget them. I think the Cesspudlian Society is, in fact, the best Sherlockian group I've ever belonged to. Thanks, guys.
Editor's note: Forming a Sherlockian society is a relatively easy thing to do. And there are a variety of ways to structure the meetings. For more information about getting started, please listen to Episode 05: Sherlockian 101 (Part 2) and for some examples of what goes on at other societies, listen to Episode 110: Sociable and Clubbable.