Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It fell on Ol’ Robbo to take Youngest Gel to swim practice this morning.  It’s in the low 70’s and raining on-again/off-again.

Gel: “OhMyGod, it is so freezing! I can’t believe they’re making us swim in this!”

Self: “You know…”

Gel: “I mean, the last time it was like this? My ears were ringing, it was so cold!”

Self: “You know, when….”

Gel: “I am so serious! I mean, it’s practically snowing!”

Self: “You know, when I…”

Gel: “And the pool isn’t even heated!”

Self: “You know, when I was a kid….”

Gel: “Wait…is this when you were in college?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel: “And you were rowing crew?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel: “And there was ice on the river?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel:  “And you had to wade in up to your thighs barefoot?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel: “And there was ice in your hair?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel:  “I’ve heard it before.”

Self:  “Well, it’s true, you know. That’s cold, so you can just suck it up, buttercup.”

Dang kids!  Now they’re taking my Life Lessons right out of my mouth before I can even tell ’em!

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Before heading out on his anniversary trip, Ol’ Robbo tried to pre-post a couple of entries here apropos to marriage, in order to cover his extended silence.  (You know, so that the three or four of you who actually pay attention to this blog wouldn’t come and sack Port Swiller Manor in my absence.)

Evidently, I did or did not do something I was supposed to under the harsh bloggy strictures of WordPress, because none of said pre-paid posts ever turned up on the main page.

Oh, well.

Anyhoo, I’ll resurrect the meat of just one, a very short Python sketch over which I have laughed immoderately ever since I first saw it.  (Sorry about the subtitles.)

 

Incidentally, “Well you can’t change your bloody wife!!” is not a bad line to consider when you’re going through some of the darker patches.  Trust me on this.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo and the Missus just got home from celebrating our 25th anniversary in Bermuda.  My friends, all I can say is that it is a delightful, delightful place.

Friends of the decanter will remember that Ol’ Robbo asked some time last week about things to do and see in the place.  In the end, however, by enthusiastic mutual consent, we wound up simply loafing about for three days.  Uncle Robbo did remember to bring back a few snaps for your entertainment, however.  On reviewing them, I believe you will concur that our decision was a wise one.

We stayed at a private club at Coral Beach, located on the south side of the island at roughly the midpoint.  Here is the view from our balcony:

Room With A View

We ate breakfast here each morning, and by the time we left had collected quite the following of sparrows and kiskadees (a bird Ol’ Robbo had not seen before) through tossing breadcrumbs out on to the floor.  With a full pot of java and that kind of view, why wouldn’t I linger over it?

At night, we left the double-doors open (but not the screens) so as to catch the sound of the waves crashing and the wind rustling in the palms.  The other thing we heard all night was about a bajillion tree frogs, many of which had a call that sounded like a high-pitched sonar “ping”.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo slept very badly all three nights, but that’s because I always do so when away from home.  I could have taped this particular cacophony and made bank selling it as a soporific.

Eventually, though, we’d toddle down to the beach.  The first thing I must say is that I have never seen sea water quite like this – so clear and so luminously blue.  The second is that for all the talk of “pink” Bermudian sand (and our beach is supposed to be one of the pinkest), you’ve really got to catch it at the right time of day and without a lot of footprints and tiretracks churning it up in order to get this notion.

Life’s A Beach

Anyhoo, as I say, we’d toddle down to the beach after brekkers.  Each day, we’d set up shop under an umbrella and alternate between reading, dozing, plunging into the water (where we saw numerous schools of young Jack Permit fish fooling about), walking laps (the entire beach is about half a mile or so from end to end), and getting the nice man at the bar to bring us G&T’s and Pimm’s Cup.  Tough life.  Tough life.  (Yes, we talked about marriage stuff, too, but I won’t bore you with what is, after all, confidential.)

Actually, it was truly tough in one respect:  Ol’ Robbo, even as he types, is suffering from being thoroughly cooked by the sun.  I tried spraying on sunblock, but evidently my skills are suboptimal, because I’ve come out looking piebald, like Ransom in Perelandra.

By the bye, and still keeping on the topic of the beach, the whole time we were there, we got to watch pairs and groups of the iconic Bermuda Longtail fly up and down the shore.  An intensely beautiful tropicbird that I, of course, have not seen before. I can well see why so much of the local artwork incorporates images of this bird.

The place we were staying is set at the top of a forty foot cliff overlooking the ocean.  (Right at the top are the restored remains of an English gun emplacement from the earliest colonial times.  Idiot Robbo had forgot all about the fact that Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by Jamestown colonists under George Somers after their ship was driven ashore during a hurricane.)  During the day, as I say, we were able to get refreshments down on the beach.  In the evenings, we dined up at the top of the escarpment.

All in all, as I say, delightful.

A few random additional thoughts and observations:

♦  The Bermudians, as a rule, at least so far as I observed, seem to be friendly without fawning.  They were all of them cordial, but one was always aware of a polite but firm barrier.  I’ve no problem with that.

♦  The place is very cramped, and space is at a premium.  The roads are narrow, shoulderless, and wound about, and it’s small wonder that the island-wide speed limit is only 25 mph.  Between that and driving on the left side, Ol’ Robbo would have quickly gone insane behind the wheel had he attempted it.

♦  The place also is as expensive as hell, largely because everything has to be imported.  I’m still gulping a bit about the total damage done from our trip (not that it wasn’t completely worth it).

♦ I had not realized that the only substantial water supply on the island is rainfall, so that each resident is responsible for catching and storing as much said rain as possible via roofs and tanks.

♦  Somebody remarked here previously that landing at Bermuda was like landing on an aircraft carrier.  I dunno about that, since I don’t look out the window until the rubber meets the tarmac, but I can tell you that because of that comment, and because the flight out was rather bumpy, Ol’ Robbo found himself repeatedly muttering under his breath, “Next time, Jack, write a goddam memo!” **

** A nifty-gifty of a spotable quote.

Anyhoo, long story short, we had a lovely time and will definitely go back if and when we can.

UPDATE: My apologies if any friend of the decanter feels this post is a bit too Robin Leach-ish.  Ol’ Robbo did not in any way wish to appear as if sticking on dog about “Champaign wishes and caviar dreams” here.  This was the first vacay Mrs. R and I spent together alone and in some style in God-knows how many years and we worked like dammit to plan, save, and wangle so that we could enjoy it without worry.

By the bye and speaking of which, my favorite Robin Leach quote? “There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.  It was….the garage.”  Anybody spot the quote?

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Perhaps due to all the rain we’ve got round here this spring, Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the Virginia Creeper which festoons several of the walls of Port Swiller Manor is growing in leaps and bounds.

There are people who don’t like VC and treat it as a weed, but I’m not one of them.  (I prefer the term “native species”.) It has big, beautiful bunches of leaves that turn flaming red in the fall, it takes no maintenance whatsoever, and it doesn’t dig into masonry the way ivy does.  (True, if let out of hand it’ll gum up your gutters, cover windows, or smother other plants, but that’s true with any vine.)

So I’m happy to let it alone.

On the other hand, I was out in the garden this morning after a long absence and noted that the morning-glory was in the act of committing its annual bust out.  Again, Ol’ Robbo likes morning glory (it grew all over our neighbor’s fence when I was a kid in Texas and I sometimes think about keeping some in a pot on the patio), but this stuff I treat like a weed.  Once it gets itself enmeshed in the butterfly bush and raspberry canes, you can forget about keeping any control over the garden until the first frost hits. Fortunately, I spotted it early enough that I was able to do a major Round Up nuking of it. (It’s the only way to be sure.)

I mentioned last week that I thought this would be crisis time, the point where how things are going to look for the rest of the summah is decided.  I think, I think, that I’m doing pretty well this year, and that the jungle is going to be held more or less at bay going forward.  Of course, we shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Flag Day!  (The Stars and Stripes fly at Port Swiller Manor 24/7/365, by the bye,  and have done so since 9/11.)

On his daily walk down the National Mall today, Ol’ Robbo saw a sight that made him smile.  It was a young man in camo and a MAGA hat. He had both a large United States flag and a large President Trump flag on a pole.  He was trotting along, weaving in and out of various groups of people, and politely and quietly saying, “Happy Flag Day! God bless the USA! Happy Birthday, President Trump! Happy Birthday, United States Army!”  I also heard him tell somebody that his plan was to loop back and forth between the White House and the Capital for as long as he could.  He did not look crazy, only cheerfully enthusiastic.  From what I could see, the people were generally happy to see him and responded in kind – several got him to pose for pictures with them.  It was very refreshing, indeed.

On a completely different note, I also noticed that construction has begun on the infrastructure for this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and that the two feature “folk” lands this year are Armenia and Catalonia.

I know virtually nothing about Armenia except that the Church is very ancient there and the Ottomans tried to wipe them all out during WWI but we’re not supposed to talk about that because reasons.

As for Catalonia, the region has been a thorn of separatist trouble in the side of Madrid ever since Ferdinand and Isabella cobbled the kingdom together after the Reconquesta, but again I don’t know very much about the culchah other than what I’ve gleaned from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels.

I wondered if there was some particular reason for picking these two places, some “preservation of autonomy in the face of outside pressure” kind of thing, so I ambled over to the Festival website but couldn’t find any statement explaining it.   So for all I know, the organizers may just have thrown darts at a map on the wall.

And speaking of such things, I gather the World Cup soccer tournament has started up.  Ol’ Robbo isn’t going to bother following it.  Soccer, as a sport, does not interest me in the least.  And as to the WC in particular, I associate it very closely (and perhaps, I admit, unjustly) with people who enthuse over the idea of One World global governance (as well as the metric system and Esperanto), which I loathe and despise.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For whatever reason, perhaps because the summah heat has set in and my intellect is correspondingly evaporating, Ol’ Robbo has started whipping through Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series again.

I may provoke some ire over the decanter and walnuts here, but I’m going to say it anyway: By golly, is this stuff trash.

So why do I read it?  Because I’m a (casual) student of the Napoleonic Wars and I enjoy what I believe to be Cornwell’s gift for accurately explaining and describing the purely military side of things, from strategic objectives to logistics to tactical maneuverings to the nitty-gritty of hand-to-hand combat.

But as for the rest? Aw, Jeez.  The characters are cardboard bordering on caricature, the dialogue is preposterous, Sharpe’s up-from-the-gutter story is clang, clang, clang, and the love interests come and go like Bond Girls.

For what it’s worth, I have nearly identical opinions – both good and bad – about the novels of Tom Clancy, which I also read from time to time, although I don’t really venture much beyond Clear and Present Danger.  Also Jeff Shaara, Derek Robinson and, for that matter, C.S. Forester and Charles Kingsley.

On the other hand, I have no such misgivings about reading and rereading similarly-themed works by the likes of Patrick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser, P.C. Wren, Erskine Childers, Conan Doyle, and Rider Haggard.  (Yes, I know one of you is going to mention John Buchan, but I still haven’t read him yet.  And of course, Kipling is beyond question. )  One of these days, I’ll put my mind to analyzing the differences.

Anyhoo, getting back to the Sharpe stories, I savor the battle scenes, cringe at the personal interest stuff, and feel vaguely ashamed about it all afterwards.  And yet, as I say, I keep coming back.

Who are some of your secret or not-so-secret favorite trash authors?

UPDATE: Of, I forgot.  The other evening as I was reading one of the Sharpe books, Eldest Gel came in the room and asked me about it.

“Oh,” I said, “It’s historickal fiction about the Napoleonic Wars.”

She looked at me cock-eyed and exclaimed, “Who on Earth else but you would read something like that?”

Kids these days.  Even mine.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Believe it or not, this month marks the 25th anniversary of the day on which Ol’ Robbo and Mrs. R were first manacled together.

In celebration, we are going to spend three nights in Bermuda, to which island neither of us has been before.

There’s a particular reason for this choice of destination: We had wanted to go to Bermuda for our honeymoon.  Only in those days, just out of law school in the midst of a legal market collapse, Ol’ Robbo couldn’t possibly afford it.  Plus, my phobia about flying back then was so bad that I really didn’t think it would be a good basis on which to start our life journey together.  So we made other plans.

Things are much different now, twenty-five years later.  We have the readies, and although I’ll never actually enjoy flying, I’ve got my fears sufficiently under control through experience that we’ll be fine on the plane.

So we’re looking on this jaunt as a sort of deferred gratification.

Anyhoo, if any friend of the decanter has inside information on things to do and see in Bermuda, I’d be grateful for the information.  We’re absolutely solid for accommodations, but suggestions regarding food and drink, together with touristy activities, would be most appreciated.

Of course, I’ll tell you all about it (mostly) when we get back.

UPDATE: Thankee, friends, for the well-wishes and pro-tips.  Curiously enough, when I asked Mrs. R this evening what she thought she might like to do while we’re there, she said that she’s so worn out that she really just wants to spend a lot of time loafing on the beach. (We’re staying right on it.  I believe you might even be able to get drinks brought to you on the sand.)  Indeed, she even talked about what books she might like to bring with her.

Twist. My. Arm.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

We’ve had boat-loads of rain over the past few weeks in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, and the vegetable division of Ma Nature’s army is responding with a whoop and a holler.  Ol’ Robbo senses that the next ten days to two week will be the crisis point of the year: Can I stay on top of all the weeds?  Or does the jungle once more take over?  (Once we get into the boiling heat of High Summah, Robbo’s will to fight crumbles considerably.)

Alas, the next few weeks are also chock-a-block with other Family Robbo activities, about which more anon, and will leave me little time for machete patrol out in the yard.

We shall see what happens.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo would be remiss in failing to raise a bumper to the Washington Capitals in honor of their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  Well done, gentlemen!

As I remarked a couple days ago, I really don’t follow hockey at all. (There are banners all over downtown with pictures of the Caps players. I haven’t the faintest idea who most of them are.)  Also, I loathe band-wagoning.  So I won’t pretend to be swept up in the #ALLCAPS mania I’ve seen around here this week. (I only twigged to that slogan yesterday, by the bye.) Nonetheless, it’s nice to see such a joyful and unifying victory in a town that is at daggers drawn about practically everything else.

Speaking to a sport in which I do take a tremendous interest, I like to think that this triumph will also put a little extra wind in the sails of Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals.  To even an casual observer like me, the Caps have had a real monkey on their backs in recent years, perpetually making the playoffs and perpetually collapsing.  Similarly, the Nats have won the NL East four out of the last six years but have been completely skunked in post-season play.  With this example before them, perhaps the Boys of Summah will find that little extra psychological edge.  Similarly with the fans.  One championship will make them that much more hungry for another one, and perhaps a little extra enthusiasm from the Tenth Man will do the trick.  It certainly can’t hurt.

(By the bye, you will note that I am speaking strictly of clinical psychology here and in terms of purely objective speculation.  I do not in any way mean to provoke the Baseball Gods with any whiff of hubris, presumption, or naming of calls. Bas! Bas! Bas! Taboo! °°)

**Circles thrice, tosses salt over shoulder**

Anyhoo, as I say, well done indeed!

°° Spot the quote.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Back in the day Ol’ Robbo had a standing joke with one of his chums of lampooning Jacques Cousteau. In outrageous accents which sounded more like John Cleese’s French K-niggit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, one of us would suddenly say, “Zah seas!  Ze are die-EEEENG!

To which the other would reply, “But not fast EE-NOOF!!

Oh, we were real cards.

This bit of flotsam recently rose to the surface of Ol’ Robbo’s braim because for the past several days I have been passing an odd protest/exhibition display during my lunchtime walkies, the Ocean Plastics Lab sponsored by our friends at NOAA.  It’s a set of about half a dozen open-sided metal cargo containers full of displays of facts and figures on the amount of junk floating about in the world’s oceans and the harm it is supposedly doing to sea-life.  (Birds and fish getting hung up in plastic bags, dolphins swallowing water bottles, octopi stealing shopping carts – that sort of thing.)

This sea-garbage biznay seems to have become a Thing with the Greenies over the past few months, or at least they’ve started beating the drum about it more vigorously in that time.  On the one hand, I’ve no problem with it.  Unlike airy-fairy Globull Enwarmening theory, this is something that at least has a tangible and measurable cause-and-effect relationship between human action and resultant Bad Things.  If so inclined, you can go look at the damn stuff yourself (and presumably all the marine corpses floating about in it as well).

On the other, I’m pretty sure that I saw a piece within the past couple weeks that points out this is really a Third World problem:  The junk tossed into five specific rivers in Africa and Southern Asia is supposed to account for some gigantic portion of the total oceanic pollution.  So why are busloads of teenaged tourists from Indiana and your humble host being scolded about it down on the National Mall?  Why isn’t NOAA setting up its displays in, say, Chittagong, or gently hectoring the good people of the Congo?

I think the answer to both questions probably lies in the trailer marked “Solutions”.  I haven’t looked in, but I don’t need to be Carnac the Magnificent (boy, am I dating myself!)  to know that what it boils down to is this:  Gimme a dollar, America.

You’ll forgive Ol’ Robbo for his cynicism, but Wealth-Transfer-As-Solution-For-Third-World-Problems hasn’t exactly got a stellar track record.  (The problems tend to remain, while the wealth is only transferred as far as the coffers of the people demanding it.)  So I will politely refuse to get involved so far as sticking my hand in my pocket is concerned.

On the other hand, I will take a step similar to what I did in response to the bombardment of solicitations I was receiving at one point from the Save the Whales people.  After the umpteenth appeal from them, I  wrote back on the pledge card something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for bringing to my attention the heart-wrenching travesty of whale hunting.  Because of your informed concern, I hereby pledge going forward never to personally kill a whale.  You have my promise.”

I never heard from them again.

Likewise, I hereby pledge never to throw any non-biodegradable garbage into the oceans.  Who’s with me on this?

 

 

 

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