Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sherlock Holmes's new case

Click to see larger image on Flickr

Wednesday morning in North Gower Street: some unusually large white vans, unmarked, are parked on both sides, and the road is partly closed. Curious passers-by linger for a moment but there's nothing to see. By lunchtime though, there is quite a buzz of excitement, although there's still nothing much happening. The vans evidently belong to a film crew and some equipment is getting set up. There's a boom but no camera so I don't really look any closer. Part of the pavement is marked with bollards and a sign warns, if you enter this zone you implicitly agree to be an unpaid extra, although that's not quite how it's worded.

Word of the filming must have spread because there is a small crowd strung out on the east side of the street, waiting to see what will happen. The pub around the corner provides a clue with the chalked message "tweeds and deerstalkers welcome". Something to do with the Tweed Run, the vintage cycling event? No, I realise - of course it's the return of the TV series that was filmed here last year and the year before. But it's lunchtime and what I actually want is a sandwich, as fast as possible, to take to one of those tedious lunchtime meetings. It's a bit past one so I'm late already, but the Piccolo Sandwich Bar and Cafe down the side street is quieter than usual, and my sandwich is ready fast enough. A generator truck sits outside the cafe, some kind of offload vehicle with huge wheels, completely unnecessary in this setting but rather impressive. There's still no sign of a camera let alone anyone famous so I head off to my meeting, where we will learn how to use the new user-friendly image database.

North Gower Street is home to Speedy's, better known as the cafe next door to Sherlock Holmes's flat in the BBC television series. Baker Street itself is far too grand and touristy to be used as the location and the shabby Georgian terraces of this out-of-the-way street, just around the corner from Euston station, serve the purpose much better. It's also a lot easier to close off to traffic without seriously affecting a whole area of central London. Speedy's is good for bacon sandwiches but otherwise a bit of a dump, one of those cafes that remain in a 1950s timewarp and might do better to clear the place out and start afresh.

There was a bigger crowd after work, and I expect they did get to see some scenes from the forthcoming series starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. Personally I hate waiting for anything - buses, people arriving at Heathrow, waiting for toast to turn brown, you name it - so I didn't stick around to find out.