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Tea, old school


It was fine and hot today. We walked along the shingle beach at Littlestone to Romney Bay House, a big square pile built for Hedda Hopper in the late ’20s. Then, it was painted bright yellow and nicknamed the Mustard Pot. Now it’s white and a hotel. It stands off by itself right on the edge of the Channel.

We sat in the sunshine and ordered cream tea for two. It was us and the waiter, a dark man of indeterminate nationality. Not even the cook showed up today, so we couldn’t have sandwiches, but scones and jam and clotted cream would do us fine. Presently, a little fluffy dog trotted out of the house, curled up in the shade under our table and begged the occasional bit of scone.

To the North, the white cliffs of…Folkstone, actually. Dover is the next promontory up. Behind us, the local golf links. In front of us, the neat green lawn stretched right down to the beach and thence the sea. Big ships and little went up and down the Channel.

We heard subdued applause, and turned to see the English Women’s Golf Tournament had stolen up behind us and were making neat ladylike putts across the dunes. I shitteth thee not.

“Right! That’s it!” I banged on the table with the pommel of my Bowie knife, “somebody’s got ten seconds to find me a goddamned deep fried ‘possum barbecue sandwich before I start kicking limey ass!”

You really can’t give these people an inch.


May 24, 2007 — 5:01 pm
Comments: 7

Shapsnots: I heart salmon and cucumber

Yep. Got a sushi mold for my b’day.

The ordinary course of action is to roll up all your sushi doo-dah on a bamboo mat, by hand, and then give it a squeeze. But you can also press the ingredients into molds of various shapes and configurations.

The key is the sushi rice, which is both sticky and puffy, and compresses into firm shapes. Plus the seaweed wrapper, which is very dry but sticks to itself nicely when dampened.

Somehow, I always finish a sushi-making session with little sticky gobs of sushi rice stuck to me in improbable places, like itinerant boogers.

May 23, 2007 — 4:14 pm
Comments: 5

Booze of the Day: Veuve Clicquot

Back on the fizz tonight. We turned up an ancient bottle of Veuve Clicquot what B here was given for a long-ago birthday. Some sites will tell you not to hold champagne for more than six months or a year; a woman at a local winery told us you can hold non-vintage champagne for several years and it will improve (and vintage even longer). This stuff? Not vintage and could be as old as a decade. No way to know. But Veuve Clicquot is a decent brand, so we had to give it a sample.

Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin married François Clicquot (dabbler in champagne, banking and wool) in 1798, but he died seven years later, leaving her in control of the company. “Veuve” means “widow.” She guided everything toward champagne production. In fact, the factory production methods she pioneered went a long way toward establishing champagne as the preferred tipple of European royalty.

Today, it’s…top end of average. Just below vintage. In the £30 range.

This bottle? A little worse for wear. A little flat. A little dark. Eminenly drinkable. I give it

  three and a half drunken weasels, even past its best.

At the Wikipedia article on Veuve Clicquot, I found this neat picture of the various sizes of champagne bottle, which I nicked and captioned. For your boozing edification:


May 22, 2007 — 6:10 pm
Comments: 4

Shapsnots: The Alfriston Knob

They describe this object as a market cross but, really, who are they kidding?

A truck driver jumped the curb and shattered it in the…Fifties, I think. They pasted it back together again. So it’s the Shattered Knob of Alfriston, even.

Alfriston is an ancient and beautiful little town. Very old, very unspoiled. Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens’ signature tune, is a hymn written in the Thirties by Eleanor Farjeon, supposedly about the beauties of Alfriston.

— 4:01 pm
Comments: 9

Beer of the Day: Adnam’s Broadside

Beer: Broadside Strong Original
Brewery: Adnams
Alcohol: 6.3%
Pros: 6.3%!!!
Cons: Hippies.

I confess. It was the alcohol content that caught my eye on this one. But it was a nice dark red color, so it went in the basket.

Adnam’s brewery is in Southwold, a little fishing village up the coast from London. Well, it was a little fishing village. Now it’s a little yuppie village, I gather. The first record of brewing at the Swan Inn dates to 1345, when Johanna de Corby was fined for selling beer in unmarked measures (weights and measures legislation in the UK goes back kzillions of years; she was probably selling unmarked buckets o’ beer).

The whole town burned to the ground in 1659 and the Swan was rebuilt the following year. So it’s kind of the New Swan. The brewery is still in the yard behind.

A Google search for Adnam’s turns up their site with the phantom description: “A traditional brewer of classic English beer, with a very modern web site, with more style than substance (the beers have both).” That odd sentence must have been from an early “holding” page before the site went live. Bad idea.

The actual web site is worse. It’s a great smelly load of hippie marketing bollocks. Like, the Our Values page, which shows a row of pebbles with words like “sustainability” and “diversity” and “community” embossed on them, and you click the pebbles to learn that “we want fulfilled customers and employees, whose lives are enriched by their involvement with Adnams” and “we aim to manage our impact positively on the social, natural, and built environment.” The built environment. That’s a new one.

Then there’s their Too Much of a Good Thing campaign.

Confident that great beers and distinctive wines enhance the quality of life, we are determined to promote their sale in responsible ways. Our aim is to encourage more people to drink Adnams, not for individuals to drink more – and all our marketing is consistent with that approach.

During the past year we have also worked closely with local organisations and young people to produce informative ‘alco-cards’ and an educational video (partly financed by a grant from Arts & Business), undertaken widespread staff training, held discussions with our pub tenants and the police, produced clear and informative leaflets and devised a subtle variant on our ‘Beer from the Coast’ campaign.

Further work is in hand to improve the clarity of information on the back labels of our beers and wines. All of which is brought together with a simple strapline – ‘Remember, you can have too much of a good thing’.

Informative alco-cards. Sweet Jesus, I need a drink.

The beer? Oh. Strong, very bitter. I liked it. I don’t know why I keep buying a beverage called “bitters” and reacting with shock, “hey, this stuff is bitter!” I would have given it three and a half drunken weasels, but I took half a drunken weasel away because…you know. Hippies.


  three drunken weasels.

— 7:49 am
Comments: 10

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

Friday, May 18


May 18, 2007 — 8:10 pm
Comments: 4

B-b-birthday b-b-b-banjo

Happy Weaselfest! I nominated today, first sunny day of the trip, as my pretend birthday.

In the morning we walked through town and picked up some shopping (Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top on sale! How’s that for coinkydink?) and visited Mr Whippy. Because I’ve been very, very naughty. And it’s my pretend birthday.

Then we drove out to the country and had a walk along a public footpath. The whole island is criss-crossed with these footpaths. They’re ancient, traditional rights of way for foot (and sometimes horse or vehicle) traffic. The libertarian in me is horrified that landowners have to put up with — and maintain! — a network of paths across private property to accomodate a steady stream of trespassers. The bunny hugger in me considers them a national treasure. Even if I did put my hand in a stinging nettle.

mrwhippy.jpgIf ever you visit this country, make sure you somehow wangle a drive away from town. The Brits have done a remarkable job not crapping up their countryside. It’s a lush green sheep-encrusted rolling treefest, especially in May, punctuated with 11th Century pubs and shepherd’s huts and thatched cottages and ruined castles. I’m pretty sure they got the Disney guys in for the preliminary design.

Then it was back home for the traditional Showering of Gifts. I got such a lot of excellent loot this year; the surprise hit was this sporty little traveling banjo. Now everywhere I go, I can carry with me the beautiful, evocative sound of tomcats flossing their anuses with razor wire. Why anybody would voluntarily hand me this loaded weapon, I do not know. Mr Whippy could probably tell you.

Then it was out to my favorite restaurant and home to a nice brew and…I’m pretty sure I’ll fall down the something and break my something later. This is just way too good.

— 7:35 pm
Comments: 16

Four bottles of fizz and the world biggest chocolate Easter bunny


Right! We made it! And I got my wifi working!

To kick off Weasel’s Birthday Fortnight (yes, my actual birthday was toward the beginning of the month. This here’s the celebration), I was presented with this fucking ginormous Lindt bunny and several bottles of excellent champers.

The hooch on the far right above is, I think, my favorite. It’s Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top. It was the official champagne of the maiden voyage of the Titanic (which, as you may have heard, was the only voyage of the Titanic). I didn’t know this when I decided it was my favorite, so it’s…fate, not posturing.

Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top is kosher. And not plain old kosher for Passover, but extra specially jewy kosher. I’m a little unclear what that means, but you’ll find the exhaustive account here. Me, I’m only Jewish when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come ’round. I was christened a Presbyterian.

In 1916, a Heidsieck-laden ship bound for Russia was torpedoed by the Germans in the Gulf of Finland. It turned up again in 1998 and over 2,000 bottles of vintage 1907 fizz have been salvaged from it. The water’s cold, the bottles are apparently still drinkable.

This isn’t one of those. It’s an ordinary bottle from the supermarket, but it sure am fine.

And there. That’s the last drop.

Meanwhile, I see you knuckleheads have been writing haiku and trying to trip Akismet. None of it made it into the spam filter, but I suppose you know that by now. It doesn’t seem to care about naughty words. I think it hones in pretty exclusively on links. More than two are guaranteed quarantine.

But, hey, knock yourselves out. You’re welcome to post any wirty dords you like and see what sticks. (You know, I don’t think “wirty dords” really works all that well in print).

May 17, 2007 — 8:03 pm
Comments: 8