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Up in flames


The Cutty Sark.

Which is not my charming way of telling you I’ve killed a bottle of cheap hootch this morning. The great ship Cutty Sark caught fire today. She was in the process of major renovations so much of the planking was off-site, but most of it was there and is very severely damaged.

The Cutty Sark was the most famous tea clipper ever built and the only one still afloat. Well, afloat in a special dry dock built for the convenience of 13 million tourists and one weasel. We went to see the Cutty Sark on my very first trip to London in 1997. I’ll never forget it, because…well. London! Greenwich! Cutty Sark!

She was launched in 1870 and traded tea with China. Then wine, spirits and beer. She plied the wool trade to and from Australia from 1885 to 1895, setting speed records from Sydney to London every year. She began losing money and was sold to the Portuguese, where she ran between Rio and Lisbon. She was in London for a sprucing up in 1922 when an Englishman saw her and bought her back. She finally retired after WWII and was towed Greenwich, where the dry dock was built.

The name Cutty Sark comes from Burns’ poem, Tam O’ Shanter. There’s a beatiful witch in it wearing a short (or cut) shirt — “cutty sark” (the Portuguese crews called her “Pequina Camisola”). That’s the witch, up there on the figurehead, though why she’s clutching a horse’s tail or a hunk of hair or whatever, I do not know.

I haven’t heard whether she survived the fire.

Further reading:
Manchester Evening News, Glasgow Evening Times, Reuters, Google Maps.

May 21, 2007 — 6:55 am
Comments: 17

Beer of the Day: Fursty Ferret


Beer: Fursty Ferret
Brewery: Hall and Woodhouse
Alcohol: 4.4%
Pros: It has ferrets all over it!
Cons: Tastes distinctly of ferret.

I had the t-shirt, time to sample the beer.

Have you ever picked up a product and suddenly felt the warm throb of a marketing drone humping your shin? Such a product is Fursty Ferret. Here’s the back label:

When in decades past the idyllic country home of Miss Rose Gribble became a local inn, legend has it that the inquisitive local ferrets frequented the pub’s back door on a mission to sample its own reputed brew. In their honour it was named Fursty Ferret, and today it’s brewed in greater quantity — so now you can enjoy the celebrated ale that still eludes the ferrets of Gribble Inn.

I think I just fwowed up a little. England is an exotic land, but insufficiently exotic to support roving bands of alcoholic ferrets congregating behind hotels to cadge beer. More’s the pity. Still, my favorite beers are dark red bitters, and this one looked like Mr Goodferret.

The label describes it as sweet and hoppy. I found it bitter and skunky. Which is, I suppose, entirely appropriate.

“Skunking” is what it’s called when light strikes beer and transforms some junk in the hops with a big chemical name into a sulfur compound very similar to eau du skonk. Skunking can happen in less than a minute in clear glass bottles exposed to sunlight; it happens in dark brown bottles exposed to fluorescent light, too, but it takes a few days. Which means that pretty much every import you’ve ever drunk from a glass bottle is at least a touch skunked. It might even be fair to say that a whiff of pong is a proper and intended part of the bottled beer experience.

Well. It’s not like I was going to pour it down the sink. I give it:


  two and a half drunken weasels.

— 1:00 am
Comments: 1