I’m not quite sure what made me start thinking about HMS Victory which was the ship Admiral Lord Nelson sailed when he fought the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, so then I started checking out a few things – Google is the greatest. I knew that the Victory had been built at Chatham Dockyard on the River Medway in Kent which was where Matt served his apprenticeship as a young man (electrician). We both lived in the area for many years (me actually on the river right opposite the dockyard) although neither of us were born in Kent. These days the Victory is birthed in Portsmouth, Chatham Dockyard closed a few years ago and most of it is now a housing development which is so very sad. Matt went round the area last time we were back in the UK and discovered that there were a few remnants like the ‘mast ponds’ where they would float the wood intended for masts to ensure that they were well cured before they were stepped into a vessel. Plus they also floated the wood intended for the hulls of the ships. When he was there, the ponds were still full but at some point in 2008 they were emptied and I cannot find out what has happened since. The south pond has been turned into a parking lot which is terrible. What a loss of a great piece of history. OK I found the following The mastpond was emptied to flush-out an excess of fresh water that each year helps blanket weed to invade the pond. It has now been re-filled with salt water from the river. There is no danger of the mastpond being filled-in. The development plan actually allows for the currently filled-in South mastpond to be re-excavated thus uncovering the entrance to the Brunel tunnel. A recent archaeological dig uncovered the tunnel entrance complete with a sluice gate mechanism and tow-path! There is lots of fascinating information and many pictures here. I must say, never having seen them before, I hadn’t realised they were so huge. I am so glad they are going to re-excavate the south pond. The empty ponds look so desolate don’t they. Here is another more recent piece of information:
The Mast Pond was drained again in February (2011) (it was me wot done it!), this time for filming a stunt for the forthcoming Sherlock Holmes 2 movie, part of which was shot in the dockyard. There is a culvert on the river side of the pond which comes out in the wall next to the Graving Slip (also known as the boat slip). The river end of the culvert has a tidal flap on it which should be left open, allowing some movement of water in and out of the pond, thus maintaining the salinity of the water in the pond and helping to prevent the kind of algal bloom which clogs up the pond. The reason there was a build-up of fresh water in the pond was because the tidal flap had been left closed, preventing river water from flowing into the pond when the tide comes in. The reason it has to be salt water in the mast pond is that the salt water effectively pickled the pine wood that masts and spars are made of. If pine is seasoned normally, the the resin sets, making the wood brittle. Salt water prevents this, allowing the masts and spars to be flexible.
So far I haven’t found a picture of the ponds filled up. I guess nobody bothered to take them once they were back to normal.
I had an excellent Chinese lunch yesterday and not only did they have dumplings but green onion buns too which were delicious. I asked for the staff to do a birthday “thing” for our friend, so they came over with a dessert which had a candle on it, it was lit and then everyone sang Happy Birthday, even the table next to us which was nice. He then blew out the candle and eventually ate the dessert. Another friend having a birthday today is apparently going to a Japanese restaurant, she said her son was nuts about soft shelled crab, to me that is a Southern dish, but apparently they serve it in a maki roll. Having Googled I came up with this picture above, whether it is the same thing or not, I have no idea. In the South they fry them and so long as they are properly done, they are delicious. We have a friend who makes a very good job of them. I could eat the three in this picture right now.
Last night we watched The Lion in Winter, the 1968 version, with three of the greatest actors of our time, Katherine Hepburn who got an Oscar for this movie, Peter O’Toole and Anthony Hopkins, as he was then. I wonder why he got a knighthood and O’Toole didn’t. I saw the film many years ago, when I was still in England and enjoyed it then. I kind of thought I might not this time, I was wrong, it is still a brilliant movie, brilliantly performed by brilliant people. Timothy Dalton, later to play Bond, was also in it. Much to my surprise Matt watched the whole movie too. He doesn’t normally enjoy historical stuff. Just shows you what a good film it is. Also, we were watching it on TCM which has no ads so that made a great big difference. You have no conception of how much I hate advertising through movies.
This recipe I use for Kedgeree is probably not authentic, but is one my father always used and which I love. My biggest problem these days is getting some decent smoked fish.
1 lb smoked haddock (smoked cod can be substituted)
Milk to cover
1 Cup long grain rice (Basmati is best)
Butter to taste, I like lots
2 hard cooked eggs.
First poach the haddock in the milk until the fish flakes easily. Remove the fish, break it up and make sure there is no skin or bones left. Meanwhile cook the rice as directed on the package. Melt a large knob of butter (2 oz.) in a saucepan and add the rice and fish and cook, stirring, til warmed through. You may need more butter, I use lots when making this. Taste for seasoning and add if required. Slice the eggs and remove the yolks. Turn the fish and rice onto a serving dish, decorate with the slices of egg white and then sieve the yolks over the top. As a variation you can add a dash of cayenne and/or a teaspoon of curry powder blended into the butter. You can also add thick cream at the end, if you wish and don’t care about cholesterol.
You can decorate the final dish with more hard cooked eggs and some chopped parsley for garnish.
Have a great day