Poirot’s blind spots

Few things are as endearing to a reader as their favorite character’s blind spots. Especially with such a seemingly omniscient character as Poirot, he is brought  down to earth by these simple foibles. From both the books and the TV series (mostly both), here are some of Poirot’s most “humanizing” aspects and traits.

1. His wardrobe. Especially those patent leather shoes; highly impractical, perpetually a cause of pain. But dang it, he wants to look smart. Instead, he ends up covered with sand and dust in “The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb,” and immerses (and ruins) a pair of suede shoes while helping Arlena Marshall to launch her float in Evil Under the Sun. He knows, on some level, that his get-ups cause consternation to his British acquaintances:

Rowley Cloade was eyeing Poirot rather doubtfully. The flamboyant moustaches, the sartorial elegance, the white spats and the pointed-patent leather shoes all filled this insular young man with distinct misgivings.

Poirot realized this perfectly well, and was somewhat amused. (Taken at the Flood)

But in other stories– perhaps earlier ones– he seems blissfully unaware of his own incongruity to the surrounding landscape.

‘Dear me,’ I complained. ‘There is something about this place that makes me feel extremely conspicuous. As for you, Poirot, you look positively exotic.’

‘You think it is noticed that I am a foreigner—yes?’

‘The fact cries aloud to heaven,” I assured him.

‘And yet my clothes are made by an English tailor,’ mused Poirot. (Dumb Witness)


2. The English language.
It seems a bit rich to call Poirot’s slips in English a “blind spot,” considering that he speaks (as per Christie) at least four languages himself– English, French, German, and Italian. He has solved various crimes and decoded clues specifically because of his linguistic skills (including clues in English), sometimes highlighting the Englishman’s lack of a grasp of foreign languages (see: “The Stymphalean Birds,” “The Adventure of the Lost Ball”). But let’s face it– when he does get bewildered over various turns of phrase in English, it’s hilarious.

Miss Lemon replied sadly that servants did not seem to know what elbow grease was nowadays. Poirot looked a little puzzled, but decided not to inquire into the inward meaning of the mysterious phrase ‘elbow grease.’ (“The Mystery of the Spanish Chest”)

‘No, no, you do not derange me in the least.’

‘Good gracious– I’m sure I don’t want to drive you out of your mind.’ (Dead Man’s Folly)

‘Perhaps some convivial idiot who has had one over the eight.’

Comment? Nine? Nine what?’

‘Nothing– just an expression. I meant a fellow who was tight. No, damn it, a fellow who had had a spot too much to drink.’

Merci, Hastings– the expression “tight” I am acquainted with.’ (The A.B.C. Murders)

And one of my favorite bits of banter with Japp:

‘You’re a pig-headed old boy, you know.’

‘You insult first my nose and then my head!’

‘Figure of speech, that’s all,’ said Japp soothingly. ‘No offence meant.’

‘The answer to that,’ I said, ‘is “nor taken.”’

Poirot looked from one to the other of us completely puzzled. (Lord Edgware Dies)


3. Offering drinks to guests.
For a man with such a grasp of human nature, it is remarkable that Poirot continually offers his guests exactly the sorts of drinks that they find disgusting. It works well for humor, however: in the TV adaptation of “The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim,” attention is called to this trait by Poirot’s offering “something warming” to Japp, who accepts since he’s off-duty… only to be given a cup of hot chocolate, much to Hastings’ amusement.

A couple of my favorite examples from the books…

Poirot pressed his guest with refreshments. A grenadine? Creme de Menthe? Benedictine? Creme de Cacao?…

At this moment George entered with a tray on which was a whisky bottle and a siphon. ‘Or beer if you prefer it, sir?’ he murmured to the visitor.

Superintendent Spence’s large red face lightened.

‘Beer for me,’ he said.

Poirot was left to wonder once more at the accomplishments of George. He himself had had no idea that there was beer in the flat and it seemed incomprehensible to him that it could be preferred to a sweet liqueur. (Mrs McGinty’s Dead)

So it came about that at three o’clock of that same afternoon, Rhoda Dawes and Anne Meredith sat primly on their chairs in Poirot’s neat room and sipped blackberry sirop (which they disliked very much but were too polite to refuse) from old-fashioned glasses. (Cards on the Table)

The one astonishing exception to this rule is Poirot’s interactions with Ariadne Oliver. In one story, he says to George that “I never know what she likes”– and yet he goes on to provide exactly what she likes. On every social occasion, this is the case. Mrs Oliver also knows exactly what to offer Poirot as a hostess, unlike most of his other acquaintances. (I’m currently writing a short story featuring Mrs Oliver, outlining the story of the literary luncheon in which she and Poirot first meet, and this becomes an important plot point.) Her attentiveness is especially notable in Third Girl, and the scene is translated nicely in the television series in Poirot’s visit.

‘Chocolate? With whipped cream on top? Or a tisane. You love sipping tisanes. Or lemonade. Or orangeade. Or would you like decaffeinated coffee if I can get it– ’

‘Ah ça, non, par example! It is an abomination.’

‘One of those sirops you like so much. I know, I’ve got half a bottle of Ribena in the cupboard.’

‘What is Ribena?’

‘Blackcurrant flavour.’

‘Indeed, one has to hand it to you! You really do try, Madame. I am touched by your solicitude. I will accept with pleasure to drink a cup of chocolate this afternoon.’ (Third Girl)

Hastings is also much better on this point than Poirot is with others. When he places orders for drinks for himself and Poirot, he goes ahead and finds that creme de menthe (the episode Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan) or the cup of chocolate or the tisane that the English scorn.

I ordered two whiskies and sodas and a cup of chocolate. The last order caused consternation, and I much doubted whether it would ever put in an appearance. (“The Cornish Mystery”)

One might conclude from this that only Poirot’s closest friends have that proper mutual understanding about drink preferences. Otherwise, Poirot’s completely out to sea.

4. The Countess Rossakoff. It isn’t only that he knows perfectly well that she’s a crook, and yet eternally fascinating to him. He is also aware on some level that she has probably lied about her romantic past. The story “The Capture of Cerberus” is jarring to Poirot readers on this point– the great detective chooses to remain willfully blind about this object of his affection. It is a very rare move for Poirot.

Poirot objected, ‘Her life can surely not have been safe and dull as a member of the ancien regime in Russia during the revolution?’

A look of faint amusement showed in Miss Cunningham’s pale blue eyes.

‘Ah,’ she said. ‘A member of the ancien regime? She has told you that?’

‘She is undeniably an aristocrat,’ said Poirot staunchly, fighting back certain uneasy memories of the wildly varying accounts of her early life told him by the Countess herself.

‘One believes what one wishes to believe,’ remarked Miss Cunningham, casting a professional eye on him.

Poirot felt alarmed. In a moment, he felt, he would be told what was his complex. He decided to carry the war into the enemy’s camp. He enjoyed the Countess Rossakoff’s society partly because of her aristocratic provenance, and he was not going to have his enjoyment spoiled by a spectacled little girl with boiled gooseberry eyes and a degree in psychology!

5. Employee misunderstandings. As my memory has it, Poirot is not really depicted by Christie as someone who particularly misunderstands his employees. A couple of times, Miss Lemon or George surprise him with an astuteness that takes him unawares. In Hickory Dickory Dock, he is dumbfounded to learn that Miss Lemon has a sister. But this cute narrative from the episode The Dream, while not part of the books, does perhaps draw on some of Christie’s notes about Poirot’s hospitality-related blind spots.

Poirot: “But you have never complained before.”
Miss Lemon: “I’ve done nothing but complain for the last six months!”
Poirot: “No!”
Hastings: “It has been mentioned, Poirot.”
Poirot: “Kindly do not band together against Poirot!”


6. The Chocolate Box.
This famous early case, cited by Poirot as his one utter failure of deduction, is one of those few “blind spots” to which Poirot himself has openly admitted. I hesitate to mention it, since it doesn’t really represent a consistent, recurring misunderstanding on his part, as to be a personality quirk. But there is another “blind spot” of Poirot’s at the very end of the story which does recur, serving to amuse Hastings and the reader.

‘Or no– remember it, and if you think at any time that I am growing conceited– it is not likely, but it might arise.’

I concealed a smile.

Eh bien, my friend, you shall say to me, “Chocolate box.” Is it agreed?’

‘It’s a bargain!’

‘After all,’ said Poirot reflectively. ‘It was an experience! I, who have undoubtedly the finest brain in Europe at present, can afford to be magnanimous!’

‘Chocolate box,’ I murmured gently.

‘Pardon, mon ami?’

I looked at Poirot’s innocent face, as he bent forward inquiringly, and my heart smote me. I have suffered often at his hands, but I, too, though not possessing the finest brain in Europe, could afford to be magnanimous!

‘Nothing,’ I lied, and lit another pipe, smiling to myself.

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“Just for the love of it”

Mystery writer Ellen Seltz has given me a guest post on her blog! In it, I attempt to explain the why” of my voluminous output of Poirot-themed fan art and sundry. What drives a wielder of an Art degree to such levels of apparent derivation and fangirl-ish goofiness?  Check it out!  And many thanks to my kind host. 🙂

Poirot sings

A few random notes about Poirot’s singing. Off the top of my head, I can think of two instances in the books where he sings (diligent readers may possibly think of others). He is said to sing in “a hesitant baritone” as well as affecting “an abominable falsetto voice”!

Hercule Poirot essayed in a hesitant baritone.

‘The proud have laid a snare for me,’ he sang, ‘and spread a net with cords: yea, and set traps in my way…’

-One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

***

‘Yes. To hum a tune is extremely dangerous. It reveals the unconscious mind. The tune you hummed dates, I think from the days of the war. Comme ça,’ Poirot sang in an abominable falsetto voice:

‘Some of the time I love a brunette,
Some of the time I love a blonde
(Who comes from Eden by way of Sweden).’

-The A.B.C. Murders

***

I think it is safe to say that Poirot is not much of a singer. 🙂  In the television series, we distinctly hear Poirot’s singing voice (hesitant remains a pretty good adjective to use) in a few places: The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly, The Theft of the Royal Ruby, and The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Neither adaptions of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe nor The A.B.C. Murders feature Christie’s scenes of Poirot’s singing in church and to tease Hastings, respectively.

In Johnnie Waverly, Poirot and Hastings encounter a disappointing buffet breakfast at the home of their host, and subsequently decide to nip off in the car in pursuit of sustenance at an inn. While riding back, Hastings (perhaps cheered by his recent pint) seems to initiate the singing of the children’s folk song, “One Man Went to Mow.”

The Theft of the Royal Ruby sees Poirot as a guest of a renowned Egyptologist and his family at Christmastime. On Christmas Day, we see Poirot and company in church while our favorite detective is schooled on the proper vocal arrangement of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

And in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot (in a burst of enthusiasm for the British war effort) leads his merry band of fellow Belgian refugees in a sort-of rousing chorus of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t mention it here, but since I have the photo up anyway– remember how Poirot points out that Mrs. Inglethorp has extended hospitality to himself and *seven* of his fellow countrymen who are refugees? Count the number of Belgians trailing along after Poirot. Are my eyes deceiving me, or is that actually eight men?

Here’s another photo. Who’s the mysterious extra man?

Anyway, getting back to the point of singing…

Suchet does not consider himself much of a singer, and as a matter of fact you’ll rarely see him singing in his screen roles. But there is a rare occurrence of such in the film When the Whales Came, and coincidentally, his character is once again singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” In a decidedly inebriated state! (When the Whales Came is also set at the time of the Great War, hence the choice of song, and the music for the film was by Christopher Gunning. Small world, eh?)

The ghost that took over his life: Poirot’s handwriting in Curtain

“I am writing a letter to Hastings to explain all that has happened, and what makes it extraordinary is that the art department have discovered a way to create my handwriting so that I do not have to write every word myself time after time. It is as though a ghost has taken over my life.”

-David Suchet, Poirot and Me

This little detail about the final scenes of Curtain, mentioned in passing in Suchet’s book, intrigued me when I first read it. Art departments and handwriting are always of special interest! But it was only when I took a close look at what is shown on screen in this episode that his meaning became clear. (In advance: please understand that in this post, I’m not attempting any sort of “gotcha!” to said fine art department– I may have never noticed, had it not been obliquely pointed out by Suchet himself. I merely note this as something that interests me.)

It began simply by noticing that the letter that Poirot was writing to Hastings looked an awful lot, but not quite, like Suchet’s own handwriting. Curious, because the letters all looked like he wrote them, but something seemed a bit off about it. Then I remembered the quote from his book. Do you notice?

Font-lovers may notice what is so curious about the FIRST sentence of Poirot’s writing here: what we’re looking at is essentially a “David Suchet’s Poirot” font. Zoom in (click on the picture) and look at any single letter– try the lower-case “h,” “y,” “m,” for easy examples. Every one of those letters looks exactly the same as every other in that sentence! That’s what looks unusual– the first part of the page is uncommonly smooth and regularized. Now starting at “But really, my friend,” look at the rest of the words. Those are hand-written by Suchet himself, and contain variations on the letters rather than uniformity, appearing much looser that the words that came before. The camera had to show him actually writing with his own hand for these shots, but a font was made of his handwriting for the first part of a paragraph so he wouldn’t have to write it all out each time. Presumably print-outs were made to which he added. This is what his quote at the top of the post meant. If you look carefully, you may even notice that the color of the ink appears slightly different between the “font” and the true handwriting.

Once you see this pattern, you can’t un-see it in the other paragraphs of writing shown. I’ve highlighted the real handwriting in blue brackets; the rest is a printed font.

There are at least two possible reasons I can think of as to why the art department would go to the bother of creating this font in the first place. Either it really was merely to convenience their actor; or it might be that doing too much handwriting in those arthritis-heavy prosthetics does not-nice things to them. There may have been other reasons.

The font works perfectly well for the few moments it appears on screen. If, however, you really wish to forge someone’s writing successfully (or even to create a slightly more believable handwriting font for closer scrutiny, though it is far more expensive to do so), always remember to use multiple variants of letters.  Poirot himself knows enough about forgery to let you in on that.  😉

The 10 most “Poirot” fabrics you’ve EVER seen

I’m a multi-crafter. As quilting is one of my many hobbies, I enjoy hunting for fabrics in unusual themes and motifs that are of interest to me. Poirot has been no exception.

If making Poirot-themed throw quilts is too strange for you (and why should it be? I’m on my fourth or fifth one), perhaps you’ve been thinking of sewing up a tote bag or laptop cover. Why not make one that reminds you of your Agatha Christie interests?  🙂

My criteria for selecting the following fabrics for this post was that each one must represent at least two things that point to Poirot. All fabrics are 100% cotton. I can’t promise that you can necessarily track them all down, but I’ll provide information to help you with your own searching. One or two of these fabrics are somewhat dubious copyright-wise, and one or two aren’t for sale at all. But I hope all will inspire you as fabric-loving Poirot fans.  😉

1.) “Ladies and Gentlemen” fabric by David Textiles

For generic fabric, it hardly gets more Poirot-esque than this black-and-cream fabric. The texts say: “A gentleman is always well-groomed” (moustache), “A gentlman is always well-dressed” (hat and wing collar), “A gentleman is always well-prepared” (umbrella), and “A gentleman is always well-mannered” (hand writing courteous notes). I think you’ll agree that this is Poirot all over! I used this fabric, cut into strips, for my A.B.C. Murders quilt top.

2.) “Longfellow” by Windham Fabrics

I stumbled upon this particular print from the “Longfellow” line while searching for fabric with magnifying glasses (not easy). This one, representing some gentleman-scholar’s desk, features several things suggestive of Poirot: the glass, the pocket watch, old books, maps, and correspondence. The “Longfellow” line also has two other coordinating fabric prints with only pocket watches all over.

3) “Poirot Words” by Kelly Klages (Spoonflower)

I created this fabric– also in black on white– via Spoonflower for personal use (a.k.a., not for sale, sorry). At first glance they are just random French words and expressions, but careful Christie readers know that they are all very Poirot-esque utterances. I used a font reminiscent of that used in the television series. This fabric gets used in just about all of my Poirot projects.  🙂

4.) Moustache batik

I have no information on this multi-color batik fabric, but I was genuinely astonished at how POIROT it was. Many such moustache prints will throw in a motif or two that is not suggestive of our favourite Belgian, such as a pipe or hipster glasses. But this fabric stays so Poirot that you wonder if they didn’t actually have him in mind when designing it.

5.) “Murder on the Orient Express” fabric, by scrummy (Spoonflower)

This Spoonflower custom fabric obviously takes a lot of its imagery from the Albert Finney Orient Express film. The references to Christie and the novel are overwhelming, and include the title, Poirot, the train, the suspects, a view of Istanbul, the murder weapon, a newspaper clipping about the Armstrongs, the last words of the book, the clues, etc etc.

6.) “Poppy Lane” by Timeless Treasures

I love this particular retro advertising fabric in the “Poppy Lane” line, as it gives a nice, 1920s kind of setting to a Poirot project. I used it for this throw pillow. Some of the line drawings are rather art nouveau, and the fancy restaurant and car make you feel like you’re stepping right into Christie’s London. Some of the ads are in French, too. And I find that the black, white, and red go very well with many other fabrics I’ve found for these kinds of projects. These sorts of fabrics are really not easy to find.

7.) “Toile de Christie” fabric by artgarage (Spoonflower)

This Spoonflower fabric is fun because you can spy ALL of Christie’s famous sleuths– Poirot, Marple, Tommy and Tuppence. Yet it’s very subtle and doesn’t scream the fact to high heaven.

8.) “Gentleman’s Club” by Fabscraps

The “Gentleman’s Club” line (available in three colorways, if you can track it down) has a variety of vintage prints, but I like this one the best. It portrays an assortment of fancy waistcoats, with French script in the background.

9.) “Poirot” by erinejanosik (Spoonflower)

This Spoonflower fabric shows imagery that was most obviously taken from the television series. Shown are (Suchet’s) Poirot, the silver-topped swan cane, the vase brooch, a cigarette case, pince-nez, a tisane glass, and a quote from The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

10.) Assorted moustache fabrics by Riley Blake

F

For #10, I’m breaking my rule about only showing fabrics with two or more Poirot characteristics to bring you my personal favorite of all-moustache fabrics. Riley Blake’s come in a vast array of variation, including black-on-white, multi-color, tiny white on red, and tiny pink on grey. Very fun, colorful, and versatile!

Poirot Christmas humor, via screenshot

Being the very silly person that I am, I could not help but notice that certain moments in Hunter’s Lodge and Hercule Poirot’s Christmas presented an irresistible opportunity for silly holiday screenshots. Here’s three for you, featuring Poirot with a Christmas bow and he and Hastings sprouting antlers. You’re welcome.  😀

Poirot would totally kill me if he ever saw these.

hpchristmas18

hunterslodge22

hunterslodge23

 

***UPDATE***

Feedback, a.k.a. Hugh Fraser retweets it and makes a really silly pun:

tweet125

 

 

Welcome to Seven Storeys High!

‘This employment requires precision of the fingers. With precision of the fingers goes precision of the brain. And never have I needed that more than now! …I can build card houses seven storeys high…’
-The Mysterious Affair at Styles

My name is Kelly and I’m rather into Agatha Christie– so much so that my Poirot fan art and random speculations have been taking over my social media output. It seemed like a good idea to collect everything onto a blog and keep it tidily in one place. Because without order and method, well… you know.

Expect to see anything and everything from traditional-media fan art, to graphics, to humor, to ponderous analysis and speculations of all sorts, to who knows what else. I deal in Agatha Christie’s Poirot, books and screen alike.