A Year In England – January

January is not my favorite month. Never has been. After the holiday lights and decorations that brighten dark December evenings are put away, the cold, gray days of January seem to stretch on forever.

Yet, January also begins a new year and the hope of a fresh start.

In January 1989, nearly half-way through my year in East Yorkshire, I looked for new things to occupy my evenings. As my homesickness lessened, I watched fewer American TV shows and discovered more British ones I enjoyed. Even the BBC News was a refreshing change, giving coverage of the world and the United States different from what I had previously known.

Sunday evening, January 8, 1989, I sat down to watch the premiere of a new show, Agatha Christie’s Poirot. I watched the Art Deco-style opening filled my small TV screen and listened to the theme song. Shorter and less cluttered than most US show openings, it was the perfect introduction to the show. I was hooked.

While a long-time fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple TV series, my knowledge of Hercule Poirot was Peter Ustinov’s portrayal in Murder on the Orient Express. I was captivated watching David Suchet bring the Belgian detective to life through his mannerisms and accent. The period costumes and sets were amazing, transporting me back to 1930s England.

Soon a weekly routine developed. Sunday evening I’d pop some of the popping corn I bought from the local greengrocer in a pan on the stove, then settle in front of the coal fire to watch Poirot work his little grey cells to solve the mystery. It was a highlight of those long, winter evenings.

I’ve enjoyed the mystery genre since I read my first Nancy Drew book years before, trying to solve the mystery, to figure out who-done-it before it was revealed at the end. I still find the mystery genre, be it thrillers, police procedurals, or period mysteries, to be my preferred reading material. And it turns out that is what I enjoy writing as well. My current project is a mystery thriller set in Beverley, England, and I have two other books and a novella planned out in my mind. I am also beginning to plan another series, a cozy mystery along the lines of Jessica Fletcher meets Agatha Christie.

After returning to the States, Agatha Christie’s Poirot made it to this side of the Atlantic, airing on PBS. Once again I settled in on Sunday evenings to watch the story unfold, to see if I remember who was guilty and try to pick up on clues I missed in previous viewings. As the first strains of the theme begin and the art deco images appear on the TV I am transported back to an easy chair warmed by a coal fire on cold winter evenings during my year in England.


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