The Hovel is a home from Holmes

I have become half-obsessed with Steven Moffat's excellent updating of Sherlock Holmes for the BBC. At the time of writing, I have seen only the first two episodes, back to back, but am very impressed. And to think I might have missed it, had not various people alerted me to how Holmes and Watson's modern-day pad looks exactly like the Hovel.

Well, it's not exactly like the Hovel, but there are similarities. We do not have skulls everywhere, but the Hovel is near Baker Street and the house is of the same vintage. We do not have a Mrs Hudson, but we do have Marta the martyr (who says this is the worst place she has to clean, but likes us anyway). Razors and I do not solve crimes, but we do do a certain amount of sleuthing - for example: "Where's the corkscrew?" "Where's my dinner?" "Why are women like that?" (The answers to which are, respectively, under or behind something, being lovingly prepared at the Sizzling China takeaway emporium, and, er, dunno.) We also have a mirror above the fireplace stuck all over with Post-it notes, which admittedly are not significant clues, but plot ideas for the hugely amusing sitcom we are going to write about the Hovel.

At least, we used to have a mirror plastered with Post-it notes until Marta decided they were rubbish - literally or figuratively, we do not know - and threw them all away. There were some good ideas there. "They decide to start an escort service" looked promising, as did "They try to amuse themselves in a blackout", although the most conceptually ambitious one, "They're dead", was stolen by the people who did Ashes to Ashes. If one day we hear of a brilliant new Romanian comedy about the misadventures of a couple of divorced middle-aged bums, we'll have a good idea who's responsible.

But there is an added poignancy to my appreciation of the new Sherlock Holmes. Like the original, it begins with Holmes's search for a housemate. And, in news that I can hardly bring myself to report, Razors, my compañero of two years and good friend for 17, is leaving. For
New York, where he has been unaccountably offered a job. The selfish bastard wants to be on the same continent as his children, and earn twice as much money, and, for all I know, put the Atlantic between us.

My dear Watson

It is the end of an era. Two years living in each other's pockets and never a cross word except in jest. We have hidden our vegetables under our cutlery together, bought each other Lagavulin for Christmas without prior arrangement, simply because we knew our own, and each other's, minds. I can get the odd clue that he can't in the Guardian cryptic crossword and he fills in the rare gaps in my knowledge during University Challenge. I smile indulgently when he lobs empty bottles of wine under the chaise longue. When he makes outrageous comments about the woman who reads the weather on the local BBC news, I do not report him to the authorities.

He was (although he hotly insists the converse) the Falstaff to my Shakespeare, and, indeed, the Watson to my Holmes, the . . . well, fill in the names of any of the great British cultural and comic dyads. We have heard the chimes at midnight, and plucked the gowans fine. Am I, it suddenly occurs to me in horror, the Withnail to his Marwood, to be left reciting Hamlet to the wolves in Regent's Park?

So, like Holmes, I am on the lookout for a new person to share the Hovel with. Finding a replacement for Razors is not going to be easy, for that person is going to have to have a very laissez-faire attitude to fixtures and fittings in the bathroom and kitchen (both museum pieces of early 1970s tat), not be a dogmatic believer in floors and stairs that are 100 per cent horizontal, and exhibit a tolerant attitude to mice.

More to the point, they are going to have to have a very tolerant attitude to me. I look forward to holding a set of interviews in the style of Shallow Grave, and if I end up with Keith Allen dead on his bed with a pile of money, that'll be fine by me. (One day I will tell you the story about Keith Allen and the Zippo, a tale which, when it is finally revealed, will be as fatally damaging to his good name as that of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe and the prawns.) On the plus side, the house is near Baker Street, and there is a Majestic Wine within staggering distance. Form an orderly queue.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 August 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The war against science