Cutty Sark Visitors Centre…

…Or what’s left of it, anyway. It is, of course, that strange tent-thing that looks like a cross between an albino hedgehog and a baked Alaska next to the burnt-out carcass of the poor old Cutty Sark.

I blame myself for not being able to fully talk about this exhibition. I knew it was on, but thought I had months to see it in and just never got round to going before the tragic events of May 21. I know at least one person who reads this managed to get there, so I will appreciate extra fillings-in on the bits we can’t see at the moment.

The actual tent wasn’t totalled, but you only have to step inside the entrance to see where the heat affected it. What looks like little cigarette burns are dotted around all over it, where bits of burning ash fell all over it. I’m not entirely sure why they haven’t re-opened all of it if it’s only scorched; maybe the structure’s not as sound as it looks.

For fairly obvious reasons, they have decided to open the entrance though. The figurehead, Nannie, is strategically placed in the doorway to draw in visitors and there is a loop tape of a little docco, which uses news footage and extra scenes to explain what happened and what they have available so far about the recovery project. There’s not much more than we already know at the moment – that they hope to restore her, that the iron frame is a little buckled but not as bad as they’d feared, and that it’s going to cost squillions more, so give, give, give.

The rest of the bit you can get into for now consists of a giant sea chest with a glass lid and a slot for cash, and a shop. Most of the stuff is the usual tat, but one or two of the cards are nice. They’re also selling salt (the idea being that her biggest problem – before the fire, natch, was that her timbers were full of salt; if people buy some, the problem slowly goes away. Presumably it’s not the same salt…) But it’s surely worth a tenner in the box to be able to glimpse down King William Walk and glimpse those masts and ropes and flags again…

One final thing – don’t you think they’d get more cash if they built a little viewing platform so that visitors could look in and see the extent of the damage down below instead of peering though the padlock-hole in the door?


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