Suffolk – the uneatable cheese of the Royal Navy

I’d like to introduce you lot to the excellent Foods of England project.

I particularly liked its entry for Suffolk Cheese, a product that is no longer made for reasons that will become obvious. Until the mid-18th Century it was used by the Royal Navy to feed its sailors, but by all accounts it was dry, salty and so hard there were many stories and jokes about the difficulty of eating it.

Naval administrator Samuel Pepys wrote that he was upset when his domestic staff complained about having to eat it. On the 19th December 1825, The Hampshire Chronicle carried a notice that read: ‘As characteristic of Suffolk cheese, it said that a vessel once laden, one half with grindstones and the other half with the above commodity, on arriving at its destination it was found that the rats had consumed all the grindstones, but left the cheeses untouched.’

Historian NAM Rodger reports that the Navy gave up provisioning ships with the stuff in 1758, no doubt to loud cheering from the foc’sl. My crews, of course, are always provided with the finest cheese I can afford…

Other sea related entries are hardtack or ships biscuits (a nuclear bomb test was named after them), grog, bumpo, and  Cheshire cheese (another Naval staple).

My thanks to Sarah Coxson for the tip!

The Kentish Sail Association’s Swale Match 2013 – part 2

A happy career change from NHS manager to traditional boatbuilder

Marc Chivers pilot punt 4

Remember Marc Chivers, who built this handsome 13ft pilot punt during his time at the Boat Building Academy? (For more on the pilot punt, click here.)

He’s now working for Ashley Butler down at Dartmouth and is very happy with his new life, according to an interview he has given to At Butler & Co, he’s currently working on Pilgrim, an 1895 Brixham sailing trawler.

Before coming to boat building Marc had been carving a career working in the NHS for a primary care trust, a role he found ‘frustrating, soul destroying and generally unfulfilling’.

(Of course, under our new government, if he was still working for a PCT he’d now be facing redundancy.)

He told Careershifters that making the change was easy: he split-up from his ex-wife, resigned from his job and enrolled on the boat building course with the Boat Building Academy. I suppose it sounds easy if you say it quickly.

From the quotes online, there’s no question Marc is a happier man however: ‘I love my new life and I love working in the boat yard helping to build and restore wooden boats is wonderful,’ he told the website. ‘The guys I work with are great and they all are more than happy to share and impart their skills.’

He also added that the work itself is very hard  physically as it involves big lumps of wood and working outdoors in all weathers. I can believe it. One of the enduring underlying themes of this weblog is that there’s something special and admirable about those who build and maintain traditional boats – they’re definitely made of sterner stuff than most of us.

Marc’s weblog reveals more about his new life: click here.

PS – Do check out the Butler & Co weblog – they found WWII bullets in one of the timbers!