Sherlock Holmes: Feeling unwell

SherlockHolmes2Over twenty years ago I worked with a man called Dave. He was a jazz drummer doing other things to earn a crust. Dave was exceptionally good company and we spent our time dreaming of different lives and future happiness whilst doing enough work not to arouse comment. His jobs had always been boring, watching the time tick slowly to that moment of freedom when he could feed his real passion, playing the drums.

Dave told me that in his previous job he had faked illness once too often and was worried when one day when he was ‘pulling a sickie’ he received a telephone call from the Head of Human Resources. Dave had rent to pay and outstanding bills and didn’t want to lose his job.

The call began, the Manager had serious questions, real concerns, and he needed answers – unreliability, a possible occupational health appointment, a need for everyone to work hard for common company goals. Dave stuttered his replies sounding unconvincing. This was, he thought, the end of another job and the worry of unemployment.

Then he looked down, he was reading a short story by Sherlock Holmes, ‘The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual’ and there was a Victorian engraving with Sherlock searching for the murder victim and pointing at a woollen scarf tied around a stone. “Look”, Sherlock exclaimed, “its Brunton’s muffler!”

Dave interrupted the HR Manager, “I’m trying to keep upbeat about this but I now think you need to know, I have a terrible sore throat and the Doctor thinks I might have ‘Brunton’s Muffler’, although I will need more tests to confirm this”

There was a brief silence. Finally the HR Manager said “I’m so sorry, we had no idea, why didn’t you tell us earlier?” Dave was about to continue to spin the yarn about his fake illness but the HR Manager was in full flow “I think I’ve heard of this Brunton’s…..…Muffler, it’s really serious, you need to go back to bed and take it easy, let us know how you get on. Thank you for letting us know. I’m so sorry”. He hung up.

Dave said that he felt both extreme elation and deep, agonising guilt for the next few days as he sat at home nursing his imaginary illness inspired by an outdated name for a wooly scarf.

This story came back to me the other day when I was passing through Baker Street Tube station. The station walls have huge Victorian illustrations from Sherlock Holmes stories. Sadly there wasn’t picture of Brunton with or without his knitted muffler.

You might like to know that it all ended up well for Dave by the way. I did a quick Google search, he is now a lecturer in drumming at a well-respected institution and his jazz band gig list takes up several internet pages.

I doubt that his case of ‘Brunton’s Muffler’ has flared up for many, many years.




The image is Basil Rathbone one of the best interpretations of Sherlock Holmes on the screen. It says ‘copyright free’ on the search so I hope it is!

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. I like this post and what it implies! So good to read that your friend kept going never ever forgetting his passion and finding a way to finally put it in the centre of his (working-)life. For me this is so encouraging as I am stuck in a highly unsatisfying job(-search-)situation for quite some time – so far without real success in finding a solution to improve it. I always enjoy stories like this, especially when told by “real” people I know and not in a “how-to”-book. It would be great to know what steps he took to get where he is now.

    • Oh Cris, I replied to your comment on my phone but now see it didn’t get through! Grrr! Your conundrum gave me an idea for a post but we have been away but I will get to it soon. We only have two ‘self help’ books on our shelf. One is an analysis of all other self help books and what the author learnt from them and how he put it in to practice. ‘What’s stopping you?’ by Robert Kelsey. We are not a fan of the genre but this one really made me think.

      • Ah I see, maybe I´ll look into that one , I am always interested in some good advice / interesting helpful books, the title is promising as most obstacles seem to arise from within ourselves with a tremendous amount of “iffing and butting ” that hinder us to go on and try things as do children ;-O.
        I´m glad I inspired you – as you two guys don´t cease to inspire me with all the things you do and make and think:-) Hope you had a great time in Wales, sure sounded like it.
        All best

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