Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, time to cut back the peonies, I guess.  Every single year I tell myself, “Self, we ought to dig these puppies up, divide the root balls, and plant them out.  We could easily have three times as many shrubs as we do now.”

And every year I respond, “Eh…maybe next year.”

I also need to cut back the ferns hanging on the porch in preparation for bringing them inside for the winter.  To actually bring them in today would be to concede a kind of seasonal defeat.

UPDATE:  Done and done. Ol’ Robbo also had to make a hardware store run.  Somehow my reading glasses slipped off my collar without my noticing as I walked out to the mailbox beforehand.  I then squashed them flat while backing out of the garage.  That made me feel old. On the other hand, the gal running the register at the store flirted with me.  That made me feel young.  Until I reflected that she was probably the same age as my own Youngest.  That made me feel old again, plus a little bit creeped out.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo tends to stay off politickal observations here.  It’s generally too tarsome, and these days so very poisonous, plus in the end it only occupies a very small part of my worldview.

Every now and then, however, I feel the urge to speak out.  This is one of those times.

And what I have to say is this:  If the GOP has any intelligence whatsoever, it will take the theme “Jobs, Not Mobs” and absolutely hammer it for the next few weeks.

It’s simple, elegant, and right to the point.  It nicely contrasts the productive with the destructive, the positive with the negative, the normal with the unhinged.  And in one word, it encapsulates every aspect and action of the “Antifa” street thugs and their soiboi NPC social media fellow-travelers.

So go for it GOP.  I think you’ll be glad you did.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just to follow up on my post immediately below, Ol’ Robbo did watch the 1982 made-for-teevee version of “Ivanhoe” last evening and found it perfectly enjoyable in a blandish way.

I can’t remember the last time I saw it, but I had forgotten that it had a pretty heavy-hitting cast which included James Mason, Michael Hordern (an old favorite of mine), Julian Glover, Rebecca Hussey (who was a thing at the time), John Rhys-Davies, and Sam Neill (and what hasn’t he been in?).

As for Anthony Andrews in the title role, well, if Colin Firth can play a battle-hardened Roman general in a movie I absolutely deny tossing into my queue every now and again (and deny even further that it has anything to do with the presence of a shmokin’ hot Indian actress), I suppose Andrews can be a silly English kniggit, too.

I say it’s blandish because although the jousts and the climactic storming of the castle are pretty cool, the rest of it just sort of putters along without a whole lot of drama or chemistry.  (I recall that the 1952 movie with Robert Taylor, Liz Taylor, and Joan Fontaine had a lot more fireworks to it.)

And as I only read the book once about eleventy-billion years ago, I have no idea how faithful this version is to Sir Walter’s original.

I’ll only say also that sob stories about how mean the Normans were to the Saxons amuse me to a certain extent, since the Saxons had been doing the same damned thing (and worse) to the Britons for hundreds of years prior.  The biter bit, as it were.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can’t seem to tape out a fully-formed post on any single subject this evening, so how about a this-n-that fondue?

♦  Start with the fact that I can’t spell “fondue” without looking it up.  And I dislike the whole concept because of some childhood incident, the specifics of which I can no longer recall.

♦  The Local Classickal Station is doing their annual fall pledge drive and I have finally become so sick of hearing the same pitches over and over and over again that I’ve actually turned off my radio until it’s done, a practice I usually reserve for Lent.  (Yes, I do contribute.)

♦  I recently read Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That again for the nth-time.  With each reading, I find I become even more fascinated by his experiences in the trenches in WWI, but also more repelled by his character.

♦  And on the subject of books, I have a very real feeling that it’s time for me to revisit Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which I reread every couple years.  I remember a meme some blog-friend posted years ago:  Pamela Flitton or Brenda Last?

♦  Today was the first day of the season that I was able to do my lunchtime walkies without breaking a sweat, something I’m sure my office mates appreciated.  I also was able to keep up a spanking pace – my habit is to leave my building at the same time each day and to wind up near the Grant Memorial at about 12:45 pm.  There’s a nearby bell tower that strikes quarterly, and where I am when it goes off tells me how good my pace is.

♦  Obsessive-compulsive? Moi? Say rather that my mind is quite scattershot, so I need to build as many routines as possible – walking the same route at the same time, parking in the same space every day, keeping my keys, wallet, etc., in the same spot.  Otherwise, I would become disoriented very quickly.

♦  Speaking of the season, the annual Flu Shot Wars have flared up at Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. R has begun badgering me about getting one and I have already stuck in my heals and balked.  Ol’ Robbo has a deep aversion to needles.  It’s as simple as that.

Whelp, enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo is off to revisit the early-80’s tee-vee version of “Ivanhoe” with Anthony Andrews, who was at his peak star power in those days.  I can’t help thinking that Andrews didn’t really have the brawn to play a medieval knight, not like Robert Taylor. But ne’er mind.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall how a couple months back Ol’ Robbo was praising Washington & Lee University for holding fast in the face of pressure to disappear its history?

Yeah, not so much.

Renaming a couple buildings and replacing military portraits of the school’s namesakes with civilian ones may seem pretty innocuous, but that’s only if you think this is all that will happen.

And if you think that, Ol’ Robbo’s got some beachfront property at Cemetery Ridge you may be interested in purchasing.

Not that I give them a lot of alumni coin to begin with, but I think I’ll stop now.

(Short post this evening.  The Family Robbo spent a good chunk of last night at the vets with the dog after she had a case of bloody diarrhea.  Ol’ Robbo was positively cringing, especially after what happened last week:  An elderly cat who was nobody’s favorite was one thing, but the Port Swiller Puppeh is the apple of everyone’s eye here and Mrs. Robbo’s baby, and if something happened to her, I’d be scraping the family off the floor with a spatula.  Fortunately, after many hours and many (expensive) tests, they found she doesn’t have cancer (as I feared) or other major issues but probably just a bacterial infection.  She’s better today and eating boiled chicken and rice, but I’m still a bit zombied.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself doing double-duty this morning, first going along with the family for the first time in several years to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, and then later toddling off to Mass on his own.

I used to do this pretty consistently after I first went to Rome until Mrs. Robbo told me to stop it.  She didn’t like it when, while everyone else was going up to the altar rail for communion, I remained in the pew and stared at the ceiling.  On the other hand, she began to miss worshipping together, plus there’s the whole pour encourager les autres thing as far as Youngest’s spiritual development goes.  (Plus, to be honest, I still do loves me some Anglican hymnody.)

So today, I in fact got up and went to the altar rail myself.  However, I didn’t take communion, but simply crossed my hands and bowed my head.  The rector gave me a blessing instead.

I’m sure nobody on either side of the Tiber could have any strong objections to that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sad news on the Port Swiller Manor front: Early yesterday morning, the eldest of our three cats shuffled off this mortal coil.

She was nearly fifteen.  Apart from an unusual amount of yacking up this summah, which we attributed to hairballs, she’d seemed fine.  And her checkup in July revealed nothing out of the ordinary.  But a couple weeks ago, we realized that she’d suddenly lost a great deal of weight, and that instead of a brindled meatloaf, she’d become a rag and a bone and a hank of hair.  Also, her breathing started to get rather snuffly.  Some quick research on the innerwebz suggested to Ol’ Robbo that she might have had leukemia.

For all these changes, she didn’t appear to be in any pain or distress.  She still leapt up on the arm of my chair for pets as soon as I sat down, she didn’t shy away from being touched in any particular place, and even though she didn’t eat much of it, she was still demanding to be fed at 5 ack emma each morning.   So we let it go:  If we took her to the vet, in exchange for the stress and strain of a car ride, we’d only be told either that she should be put down or else that we should spend jillions of dollars on treatment that might stretch her time out a bit.  Neither option seemed particularly appealing.

Then, early Tuesday evening, Youngest Gel came to me and said, “Dad, Bella is curled up in a corner of the fireplace.  She went there to die, didn’t she.”

Yes, yes she did.

When she hadn’t shifted spots by mid-evening, Ol’ Robbo went to be with her.  I knew what was coming, so I decided to try and make things as comfortable as possible.  So I just sat there, gently scritching her ears and repeating her name softly.

She and I both dozed on and off, and she moaned softly now and again, but overall things were pretty quietly.  Then, at around 3:30 a.m., she reared way back, her head slid sideways, and she slumped down.  I thought she had gone in that moment, but a few seconds later she started breathing again.  This went on for about half an hour – short, shallow breaths (although not labored), each one ending in a sort of click.  Her eyes were open, but I knew she couldn’t see anything.  Then, around 4 a.m., she stopped breathing and quickly subsided into a deflated heap.  I sat on for a little and then gently put her in a small box, wrapped in a tea-towel.  Mrs. Robbo took her to the vet later in the morning.

Overall, I think she went very peacefully.

So that was how it was.

I’m saddened, of course, but not crushed.  Partly this is because she was never a favorite of mine – in addition to the above-mentioned breakfast pestering, she shed all over everything and bullied the other two cats.  Partly it’s also because she’s the fourth cat we’ve lost in 25 years now and I’ve simply become more philosophical about what is obviously the worst part about pet ownership.  The Gels took it pretty calmly too, although we made sure to wait until after the two Elder ones had finished their midterm exams before telling them.

We won’t replace her, but will be content to stick with our other two, who are about four years old.  And when they go? Well, who knows what Ol’ Robbo will think about getting another kitteh ten or fifteen years from now.












Derwent Water, Lake District – Image lifted from Wiki

**No, this post has absolutely nothing to do with “Star Wars”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I can’t find it now, but regular friends of the decanter may recall my posting some time back that I had long been curious about the fact that John Cleese’s Cheese Shop customer character from Monty Python had been skimming Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole while seated in the public library in Thurmond Street before suddenly becoming peckish.  Esurient.  Y’e were ‘ungry-like!  To this end, I wrote that I was going to buy and read the book myself.

Well, my friends, I’m happy to report that although it lay around neglected for months after I ordered it from the devil’s website, I finally sat down and read this 700+ page opus this past week.

When the book was first published in the 1920’s, John Buchan called it “the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure“.  To me? It’s trash. Glorious, entertaining trash, but trash nonetheless.

Rogue Herries is the first of four novels chronicling the fortunes of the Herries family, stout English gentry from Cumberland, from the 18th through the 20th Centuries.  The “Rogue” involved is Francis, youngest son of his generation, and the book picks up his story in about 1730 when, disgusted with the imperfections of the world around him, he removes himself and his young family back to the ramshackle Herries manor house in the Lake District.  He’s called “Rogue” by the locals because he is willful to the point of violence, eccentric, and notorious for such things as humiliating his wife, selling his mistress at a fair, and harboring a suspected witch in his household.  The story covers the next thirty-odd years of his and his family’s life.

I call the book trash because the plot is complete soap-opera. (Without looking it up, I wonder if it has been dramatized? Should be if it hasn’t.)  Some of it, for instance Francis’s interactions with his boy-wonder son David, is quite moving at times.  On the other hand, most of the story about his relationship with his second wife, the Gypsy-girl Mirabell Starr, had me groaning and occasionally muttering “Oh, come on!”

Not that trash is a bad thing, mind you.  I’m reminded of the passage from Evelyn Waugh’s Unconditional Surrender in which the literary critic Edvard Spruce is discussing a new novel, The Death Wish, by a rising (but insane) WWII British Army officer:

“You’ve read The Death Wish?” Spruce asked.

“Bits.  It’s pure novelette.”

Novelette? It’s twice the length of Ulysses.  Not many publishers have enough paper to print it nowadays.  I read a lot of it last night.  I can’t sleep with those damned bombs.  Ludovic’s Death Wish has got something, you know.”

“Something very bad.”

“Oh, yes, bad; egregiously bad.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see it have a great success.”

“Hardly what we expected from the author of the aphorisms.”

“It is an interesting thing,” said Spruce, “but very few of the great masters of trash aimed low to start with.  Most of them wrote sonnet sequences in their youth.  Look at Hall Caine – the protégé of Rossetti – and the young Hugh Walpole emulating Henry James.  Dorothy Sayers wrote religious verse.  Practically no one ever sets out to write trash.  Those that do don’t get very far.”

(I hope that Miss Sayers hunted down Mr. Wu and clocked him one for that, by the bye.)

Anyhoo, there it is.

Two other things about the novel, both of which are plusses to Ol’ Robbo.

First, as I say, the story picks up about 1730, and while it’s largely at a distance, the history of the period does make occasional appearances.  There are mutterings here and there of Jacobite and Hanoverian politicks, and Francis in fact meets Bonnie Prince Cherlie in Carlisle during the ’45.  The troubles with the American Colonies also are mentioned.  And there are also hints of the changes beginning to sweep 18th Century Britain with the onset of the Industrial Revolution (which I strongly suspect will have a more prominent part in the next novel in the sequence).

Finally, Walpole’s descriptions of the English Lake District – its geography, its changing seasons, its people – is straight out of a Tourist Board’s dream:  One’s overwhelming feeling upon reading them is the desire to go see the place oneself.  Walpole doesn’t attempt to distort or camouflage anything, either. He’s no Thomas Hardy inventing a region of Wessex or E.F. Benson setting a Mapp & Lucia story in the town of Rye but calling it Tilling.  Instead, he lays out a precise geography – Keswick, Grange, Rosthwaite, Barrowdale, and the River Derwent.  If you dial up Gurgle-Maps, you can pinpoint exactly where each bit of his action takes place.  Ol’ Robbo used to own a book of Lake District photography.  Maddeningly, I can’t seem to find it anymore.  Too bad, because I’d bet a considerable sum that it covered many of the locations described by Walpole.

So overall, a satisfying exercise, I think, although I’m not sure I’ve gained any illumination as to why Cleese mentions it in the Python sketch, except maybe to emphasize the character’s eccentric half-intellectualism.  At some point, I probably will re-read it, too.  A quick glance at the devil’s website shows that the other three volumes of the Herries Chronicles are also available.  Put it this way: I’ll probably eventually buy them because I now know they exist and, frankly, I want to see what happens next, but I doubt I’ll read them (or this one again)  until I’m flopped on a beach somewhere or sitting on a porch in Maine overlooking Casco Bay.  This is pure vacation-reading, so it is.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!  Did you know that ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize this was a holiday weekend until last Friday?  The relief I felt when I found I had an extra day after all the silly running about behavior I had to do Saturday and Sunday was immense.

So on to this and that:

♦  In the spirit of the day, I recommend to you once again a trilogy of books by Hugh Thomas, sent to me by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  They are Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire from Columbus to Magellan, The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America, and World Without End: Spain, Phillip II, and the First Global Empire.  What I really like about these books is the way Thomas sets Spain’s American ventures in the context of its home politicks and culture – the Reconquista, the Inquisition, the relations of Castile and Aragon, and the larger Hapsburg connections between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.  It all wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

♦  Speaking of which, Eldest is taking a course this semester on pre-Columbian American empires, specifically the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas.  She’s really enjoying it, in part because her prof refuses to paint them as Rousseauian utopias and is careful to include the uglier aspects as well.  (She recently watched “Apocalypto” in connection with the course.  Her review? “It was weird.”)

♦  And speaking of ugly, is Melania Trump really getting flak for wearing a “colonial” pith helmet on her tour of Africa?  Do these fookin’ people honestly have nothing better to do with themselves?  Or is this just aggression-transfer resulting from last week’s Pickett’s Charge effort to sink Justice Kavanaugh?

♦ On a completely different note, our trip to CNU to visit Middle Gel this weekend was very nice.  We saw her perform in a pan-musick department concert Saturday afternoon, and then went to a BBQ picnic out on the lawn.  While we were eating, the marching band came, well, marching by on their way to the football stadium for the evening’s game.  I understand they are the second largest Division III marching band in the country.  They were really strutting their stuff, too.  I dunno why, but Ol’ Robbo has always been a sucker for school marching bands.  I like both the sound and the razzmatazz.  (And no, I was never a Band Geek myself.)

“Ah, Ha, Ha, Haaa…”

♦  Pulling out of the parking garage at the hotel yesterday morning, Ol’ Robbo was able to make a turn in our Honda Juggernaut that missed a neighboring car’s fender by inches but saved me having to back up again.  As I did so, I laughed in the voice of Snake from “The Simpsons”.  Mrs. R looked at me and said, “You are so strange.”  But I was happy.  Is this just a guy thing?

♦  And speaking of happy and driving, friend of the decanter Tubbs remarks in a comment below on the slog that is I-95 and the Dee Cee Beltway.  In fact, we didn’t do too badly coming up I-64 from the Tidewater and then I-95 from Richmond yesterday.  And I have to confess that ever since they’ve completed the EZ-Pass express lanes on the Beltway and dropped them down to around Stafford on I-95, the last 45 minutes or so of my trips home from south of The Swamp have become downright pleasant.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Ol’ Robbo needs to go mow the lawn now and feel appropriately guilty about historickal European destruction of Indigenous Peoples, but mostly go mow the lawn.

UPDATE: Yardwork status? Done.  I forgot to mention earlier that we took Youngest with us on our visit this weekend.  She got very mad at Ol’ Robbo because I point-blank refused to let her practice driving on the interstates.  I did, in fact, let her drive when we were in Newport News, but even then she almost ran a red light because she got distracted by something.  No way is she ready for bumper-to-bumper at 80 MPH.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got back late this afternoon from Middle Gel’s Parents’ Weekend festivities.  (The Gel looks splendid, by the bye, and a good time was had by all.)  So it behooved me to find myself a local parish at which to attend Mass this morning and, having found one, actually to get my person up and out to do so.  (When away from my home parish over a weekend, my research is always thorough, my execution sometimes faulty.)

Happily, Ol’ Robbo made the grade today.  A glass of wine with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News, Virginny! The padre who presided was of Southeast Asian origin and I couldn’t understand half of what he said, but the Mass was reasonably dignified and the congregation one of the more enthusiastic body of hymn-singers Ol’ Robbo has encountered since swimming the Tiber.  (Most Catholics seem to do no more than mumble, which is hard cheese for a person brought up in the Anglican tradition.)  I’ve no qualms at all about revisiting this parish whenever we go down to see Middle Gel in future.  (And it’s only about ten or fifteen minutes from the hotel where we stay!)

A mere half hour after we returned to Port Swiller Manor this afternoon, we scooped in Daisy the Special-Needs Dog and repaired to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, there to take part in the annual “Blessing of the Animals” in honor of the Feast of St. Francis (which was actually last Thursday, October 4).

Ol’ Robbo has never been particularly fond of this notion of St. Francis as “Friend of the Animals”.  It always conjures up in my mind an image of the Saint as a kumbaya hippie with a couple of Disney bluebirds flying about his head smiling and trilling, while Thumper the Rabbit sits nearby, rolling up his eyes in adoration.  Not that I’m a real Franciscan to begin with (I’m more Benedictine in temperament), but if we’re to have him, I’d much rather go with the rich-kid-who-throws-all-his-clothes-away-for-Lady-Poverty, lives-in-filth, tries-to-sell-himself-to-Muslim-slavers-to-redeem-someone-else guy.   I still think it a bit extreme (as did the Muslim slavers), but at least it isn’t sentimental and Hallmark-ish.  Besides, I think this animal-blessing biznay – which my own parish does, too – is just a gimmick to try and keep people “engaged”.

Anyhoo, I went.  Mrs. Robbo wanted me too, and Youngest gave the Old Testament reading.  (She did very well, too, keeping her head despite several outbursts of conflict among some of the pooches present.)  It was an all-dog “congregation” this year (every now and again in the past somebody has brought a cat and I heard one year somebody brought a horse), and it was amusing to see the various reactions to getting sprinkled with water.  Some of them evidently loved it and wanted to go round again.  Others, not so much.  Our own dear dog, already out of her depth, seemed mostly confused, and after a short time started pulling me towards a car, any car, if it meant taking her home.

But I confess I’m glad we did it.

All in all, a good day.

Blog Stats

  • 452,679 hits
October 2018
« Sep