Tuesday 18 October 2016

The Case of the Befuddled Bishop

A John Holmes and Sherlock Watson Mystery
 H  Hurry Watson and consume your utterly unpalatable flakes of crushed maize; we have a visitor. A young lady!

 W  Mumble, gurgle, splutter.

 H  I perceive that the lady in question is in service and that she has a problem with her employer, the Reverend Miles Platting, the Bishop of Exeter. From her early arrival I deduce that she has travelled to London yesterday on the slow but less expensive Parliamentary train and has spent the night with Elsie Carr, her cousin, in Wapping. She arose at first light this morning and has walked to Baker Street.

 W  Holmes, yet again you amaze me. How can you possibly deduce all that from a simple knock on the door?

 H  Elementary mu dear Watson - you know my methods. I read her letter which arrived first post whist you were still engaged in your ablutions.
Daisy Hill, the maid, explained that the Bishop had left the Palace after an early cold collation (provided under protest by the cook, one Doreen Totley) and set off to catch a train from the London and South Western Railway Station. He had announced to his reverend colleague, Dean Lane, that he was taking few days holiday to spend some time with Humphrey Park, his elderly uncle, both men staying at the George Hotel Bridport.
Apparently, he never arrived and has not be seen or heard of since!

 H  Do not distress yourself Miss Hill; Watson and I will find the bishop. Can you describe his attire?

 D  Oh, yes sir! He wore his ecclesiastical gaiters, a purple bib stock with clergyman's collar ...
... and his Capello Romano, a gift from a Roman Catholic priest. He carried a small Gladstone Bag in which he packed his nightshirt, razor, pipe and tobacco.

 H  You have done well, Miss Hill. We will bring you an answer before the weekend.

Holmes and Watson took the afternoon express to Exeter and, after a splendid evening meal and a good night's sleep at the White Hart Hotel, assembled for breakfast and to discuss their plans.
 H  Good Morning Watson. May I introduce Sir Barrington Doe, the nation's leading expert on travelling by public transport. In particular he is astoundingly familiar with the new-fangled and fearful "Motor Omnibus".

 W  Good grief, Holmes; no Christian man or woman should entrust their God-given bodies to those agents of Old Nick himself! Motor omnibuses, with their engines of terror, will never catch on.

 H  Nevertheless, Watson, Barrington has brought along a table of times which may help us retrace the steps of the errant Bishop. The document is published by an organisation with the illiterate title of Traveline. It is sad to see so-called public bodies with an inability to spell.
Pray check both your Bradshaw and my map of East Devon and Dorset ...
... and we may surmise that the Good Cleric will have changed from train to omnibus at Axminster, thereby joining the 2.20 pm departure to Bridport as per the published table of times. We will take the same train and make the same connection.
 W  You seem to have come to a conclusion already, Holmes. 

 H  Not yet a conclusion Watson. But Crockfords Clerical Directory may help us.
It tells us, amongst other matters, that Bishop Platting is a great enthusiast for all that is new in public transport including trains and the less popular motor omnibi. But it also tells us that he is renowned for absent mindedness and forgetfulness, having occasionally led mattins whilst still wearing his nightshirt instead of his alb.

 W  But let us conclude this discussion later as we are now slowing to enter Axminster station.

And, once outside the station, the pair seek information about the 2.20pm departure for Bridport (only) as per the timetable from Barrington Doe.

 W  We are undone, Holmes. The departure board is blank!
 H  Do not distress yourself Watson. Despite the efforts of those who rely on the ludicrous invention of electricity to bamboozle us, we may be thankful that printed matter is still available as on this bus station post.
 W  But regard there, Holmes. The printed table of times differs from that supplied by Mr Doe. This version says that the 2.20pm omnibus continues beyond Bridport to Dorchester. What is more, Holmes, the times printed on this brochure from the omnibus company report the same anomaly.
 H  Good work stout fellow, that game's afoot. Let us catch the omnibus to Dorchester. Here it comes.

 W  I shall be brave, Holmes, I shall be brave. But surely you mean for us to alight in Bridport, the Bishop's intended destination?

But what is this deception? What dastardly deed of deceit is delivered here?
The omnibus does indeed state that it is only going to Bridport, Barrington Doe was right after all?!

 H  You need to use your eyeglass, Watson. The small print reveals that this vehicle offers "a connection to Dorchester".

 W  But will the absent-minded Bishop have coped with this confusion?

 H  I fear not, good friend. But at least our problem is now solved. Let us board the omnibus and travel to Dorchester via the connection at Bridport and there, I predict with utter confidence, we shall surely discover the Bishop.

As indeed they did. Holmes and Watson repaired to the Crown at Dorchester ...
... and discovered, slumped and dazed on his bed ...
... The Reverend Miles Platting, Bishop of Exeter.

 W  But how? Why Dorchester and not Bridport?

 H  Elementary my dear Watson. The confused Bishop, weary from his travels may have dozed off on the omnibus, or even expected to alight at its terminus as indicated on the vehicle. As Bridport was his intended destination, he would surely have happily waited until the end of the route, its terminus; thence making his way to the Crown Hotel - the wrong Crown in the wrong town, namely Dorchester - and awaited the arrival of his uncle.

 W  Who, equally baffled, was waiting in Bridport! Bravo Holmes, your genius never ceases to amaze me. But one thing still puzzles me. How did the Bishop manage to change omnibuses in Bridport without realising he was there?

 H  In the same way, old chum, that we did not change omnibuses in Bridport. The sign on the front of the omnibus is a blatant lie and a delusion, no doubt designed to discourage passengers. As you so wisely opine, Watson, I fear there is no future in motorised public transport.
We will take a carriage back to Exeter.

 W  A wise decision, as ever, Holmes. I look forward to Mrs Hudson's excellent repast, doubtless awaiting our return at 221B. But I am deeply saddened by one aspect of the case ...
... namely why the destination of the 2.20pm was incorrectly shown on the Travel Line document.

 H  Why indeed, Watson. I do not expect to see The Motor Omnibus as a significant means of transport. Gentlemen will always prefer their own horsepower to the omnibus.

Hurry, Watson, our carriage awaits.

 Next X51 blog : Wednesday 19th October 


  1. Andrew Kleissner18 October 2016 at 07:42

    Excellent, well done! But I do have a question (apart from the timetable anomaly): is the fact that the journey is advertised as a "connection" rather than a "through service" a way of cunningly extracting two fares from the paying public or (more likely) two lots of reimbursement for those travelling on free passes?

    1. Not normally, companies offer through fares at normal prices and it is not normal for concessions to be required to re-scan. The only reason for the splitting is to get round EU drivers hours rules designed for long distance lorry drivers whereby any local bus service over 50kms (a figure suspected to be longer than the longest high intensity bus route in mainland Europe) has to be worked by a vehicle fitted with a tacho & driven by a driver on EU drivers hours both of which are more expensive and less flexible than working under domestic rules. To get round this operators split their services into pieces and the DfT, to hide its incompetence in sorting this before the legislation came in, allowed operators to work it as a through service as long as it was advertised as separate services (there is some debate about how that is displayed on things like destination blinds, First are quite conservative whilst others like some Stagecoach ops are hapoy to show the end point), until this is tested in court operators don't really know where they stand.

  2. Methinks something is amiss, if not afoot. Surely Mr Holmes would know that the Bishop would be the Right Reverend, not just Reverend.
    Could the eminent detective make such an elementary mistake? Unless clerical titles are also affected by the 50km rule and need to be split part-way.

  3. Is it too much to hope that this 50km connection nonsense will be consigned to the history books, when 'Brexit means Brexit' is implemented?

    1. Provided rescinding the legislation doesn't let in any possibility of driver exploitation is my wish a a passenger.
      I want safe journeys.

  4. This was presumably inspired by an allegedly forgetful c19 Bishop of Exeter who sent a telegram to his wife - 'Am Ilfracombe. Why?'