Saturday, November 29, 2014

The speckled band

Today was day 6 of Book Week Scotland and it probably presented the biggest challenge yet in meeting my reading pledge, because we were out nearly all day visiting friends in Glasgow. I had had some idea of reading to my family in the car on the way to their house, but as there was a bike in the boot with the front wheel sticking out between the two rear seats (!) I was unable to sit in the back with the children as planned. Also, I had to map read. I don't think reading a map of Scotland is quite in the spirit of my reading pledge...

After we arrived at our friends', we went for a walk and the boys went mountain biking, then we had tea and cake, and then we had dinner and wine. By this time it was very dark outside. It was patently going to be impossible to read anything on the journey home, and too late to do it when we got there. So in the end, I left the adults chatting over coffee, lured my daughter into the hosts' kitchen and read to her in there. The boys missed out but I gave them a recap of the highlights on the trip home. I hope honour was satisfied.

Tonight's reading was The speckled band, a Sherlock Holmes story by Edinburgh-born Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of whose other, non-Sherlockian tales I read earlier in the week. I chose this story because I have a particular fondness for it. When I was a child, my father had a couple of vinyl records with dramatisations of Sherlock Holmes stories on them, and The speckled band was one of them. This was in the days before audio books and indeed even before CDs. I think there were at least four recorded stories, but the only one I can remember was The speckled band. I think that was the only one I was actually interested in listening to, because I found it incredibly scary - evidently I had a taste for the macabre even at an early age. I remember I used to listen out for the moment when Julia Stoner chokes out the words, "It was the band! The speckled band!" with a kind of horrified fascination. It was a moment of supreme and grotesque drama.

I very much enjoyed revisiting this story with my daughter. If you would like to read it, it is available online at but personally I think it is worth investing in a copy of your own. This is the one I read from (also pictured above): The Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes Wordsworth Classics but there are many other editions.

I'll be back again tomorrow (Sunday 30th November) with my final reading for day 7 of Book Week Scotland!

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