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coachFriends and fellow port swillers, I’m away in the morning on biznay and will not be back until Halloween.

In the meantime, I’ve given instructions that the staff are to keep the decanters coming and to ensure there is no lack of Stilton or walnuts, so feel free to carry on amongst yourselves.

See you when I return.


mousekingI went to pick up the nine year old at ice skating today.  It was the first day of practice for the big annual Nutcracker on Ice show that her rink puts on every year.  (Not to brag about it, but the gel competed for and won the role of the Sugar-Plum Fairy this year.)

I dutifully sat through a number of practices and rehearsals last year as well.  (The gel was – if memory serves – one of the Arabian dancers that year.) Now, I don’t mind trotting out the ol Nutcracker once a year (we have a DVD of the old Baryshnikov/Kirkland performance that used to run on PBS every Christmas), but the truth is that I really don’t much like Tchaikovsky.   And as I walked in today and heard the familiar strains of his musick coupled with the Valley Girl narration that accompanies it for this particular kiddy production, my eyelid began to twitch involuntarily.  

Rehearsals go on for the next six weeks or so.  It strikes me that the poor people actually involved in putting such a show together, who have to hear these tracks over and over and over again, by the end would be begging the Mouse King to run them through the eardrums with his rapier.

For those fellow port-swillers keeping track, I’m happy to report that the new granite (yes, got it right for a change) countertops were delivered and installed yesterday afternoon.  I know it’s all just a simple matter of careful measurement, but there is something truly pleasant about watching three guys haul a great big chunk o’ rock in and plunk it down with perfect accuracy in the space made ready for it.

After the counter guys had come and gone, the plumbers then showed up to put in the new faucet and garbage disposal in teh sink, and at last, at loooooooong last, to get the dishwasher back on line.  

So the only big things left are to put in a couple smaller cabinets, remount the microwave and slap the handles on all the drawers and cupboards.

Huzzay! Huzzah!

Unfortunately, I know this isn’t the end of the headache.  For one thing, we’re repainting the room and I can tell you here and now that there is going to be squabbling over the color.  For another, it occured to me this morning that sooner or later Mrs. Robbo is going to decide that all the decorations we’ve had in the kitchen until now somehow “just won’t go” with the new color scheme and will need to be replaced.  It is this ripple effect that I think I hate more than any other aspect of this kind of project.

So the eldest gel sidled up to me this morning and said, “Dad! Aren’t these new counters great? You can wipe spills right off them instead of just leaving them there!”

Self: “Um, why exactly couldn’t you wipe spills off the old counters?”

Gel: [with elaborate shrug] “I need to go get dressed.”


Our Maximum Leader’s tribute to Trafalgar Day earlier this week has put me in something of a nautical mood.  So it was especially pleasant to stumble across this little ditty whilst skimming through the Bab Ballads of W.S. Gilbert:


Perhaps already you may know
A Captain in the Navy, he –
A Baronet and K.C.B.
You do? I thought so!
It was that Captain’s favourite whim
(A notion not confined to him)
That RODNEY was the greatest tar
Who ever wielded capstan-bar.
He had been taught so.

Compared with RODNEY” – he would say –
“No other tar is worth a rap!
The great LORD RODNEY was the chap
The French to polish!
“Though, mind you, I respect LORD HOOD;
CORNWALLIS, too, was rather good;
BENBOW could enemies repel,
LORD NELSON, too, was pretty well –
That is, tol-lol-ish!”

SIR BLENNERHASSET spent his days
In learning RODNEY’S little ways,
And closely imitated, too,
His mode of talking to his crew –
His port and paces.
An ancient tar he tried to catch
Who’d served in RODNEY’S famous batch;
But since his time long years have fled,
And RODNEY’S tars are mostly dead:

But after searching near and far,
At last he found an ancient tar
Who served with RODNEY and his crew
Against the French in ‘Eighty-two,
(That gained the peerage).
He gave him fifty pounds a year,
His rum, his baccy, and his beer;
And had a comfortable den
Rigged up in what, by merchantmen,
Is called the steerage.

“Now, JASPER” – ‘t was that sailor’s name –
“Don’t fear that you’ll incur my blame
By saying, when it seems to you,
That there is anything I do
That RODNEY wouldn’t.”
The ancient sailor turned his quid,
Prepared to do as he was bid:
“Ay, ay, yer honour; to begin,
You’ve done away with ‘swifting in’ –
Well, sir, you shouldn’t!

“Upon your spars I see you’ve clapped
Peak halliard blocks, all iron-capped.
I would not christen that a crime,
But ’twas not done in RODNEY’S time.
It looks half-witted!
Upon your maintop-stay, I see,
You always clap a selvagee!
Your stays, I see, are equalized –
No vessel, such as RODNEY prized,
Would thus be fitted!

“And RODNEY, honoured sir, would grin
To see you turning deadeyes in,
Not UP, as in the ancient way,
But downwards, like a cutter’s stay –
You didn’t oughter;
Besides, in seizing shrouds on board,
Breast backstays you have quite ignored;
Great RODNEY kept unto the last
Breast backstays on topgallant mast –
They make it tauter.”

Turned deadeyes up, and lent a fin
To strip (as told by JASPER KNOX)
The iron capping from his blocks,
Where there was any.
With selvagees from maintop-stay;
And though it makes his sailors stare,
He rigs breast backstays everywhere –
In fact, too many.

One morning, when the saucy craft
Lay calmed, old JASPER toddled aft.
“My mind misgives me, sir, that we
Were wrong about that selvagee –
I should restore it.”
“Good,” said the Captain, and that day
Restored it to the maintop-stay.
Well-practised sailors often make
A much more serious mistake,
And then ignore it.

Next day old JASPER came once more:
“I think, sir, I was right before.”
Well, up the mast the sailors skipped,
The selvagee was soon unshipped,
And all were merry.
Again a day, and JASPER came:
“I p’r’aps deserve your honour’s blame,
I can’t make up my mind,” said he,
“About that cursed selvagee –
It’s foolish – very.

“On Monday night I could have sworn
That maintop-stay it should adorn,
On Tuesday morning I could swear
That selvagee should not be there.
The knot’s a rasper!”
“Oh, you be hanged,” said CAPTAIN P.,
“Here, go ashore at Caribbee.
Get out – good bye – shove off – all right!”
Old JASPER soon was out of sight –
Farewell, old JASPER!

Heh.  I’m sure my fellow port-swilling fans of Patrick O’Brian will find the plethora of nautical terms and naval references here as amusing as I do.  And for those of you who don’t recognize the name, Admiral George Rodney was probably England’s most famous naval commander prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.  He certainly was amongst the most successful, crowning his career by thumping the Comte de Grasse in 1782 at the Battle of the Saintes.

I mention this to follow up on a comment that I dropped in response to Maxy’s post pointing out that Nelson was able to crush Villeneuve at Trafalgar in large part because by then the superiority of the Royal Navy in terms of both seamanship and aggressiveness had been thoroughly stamped on the psyches of both the British and the French.  It is arguable that this ascendancy can be traced directly back to Rodney’s triumph at the Saintes – prior to then the Royal Navy had had a pretty lackluster record in the American Revolution and had been given as good as it gave the French during the Seven Years’ War.


Brilliant, Peggy:

The problem isn’t [the President’s] personality, it’s his policies. His problem isn’t what George W. Bush left but what he himself has done. It is a problem of political judgment, of putting forward bills that were deeply flawed or off-point. Bailouts, the stimulus package, cap-and-trade; turning to health care at the exact moment in history when his countrymen were turning their concerns to the economy, joblessness, debt and deficits—all of these reflect a misreading of the political terrain. They are matters of political judgment, not personality. (Republicans would best heed this as they gear up for 2010: Don’t hit him, hit his policies. That’s where the break with the people is occurring.)

Um….some of us were fretting about his judgment and policies before the election while you and Brooks and Buckley were in full tilt beer-goggle mode.   Barn door? The horse went that-a-way.

You know, every Friday for the past six months or so I have eagerly turned to Noonan’s column to see whether she would finally ‘fess up that she made a mistake.  

Foolish of me, I suppose.

Benny XVI











“Cardinal Smithers! Release the hounds….”

Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist.

I know I’m a bit behind on the nooz cycle in my posting but hot dawg I think B-16 caught everyone flat-footed with the extent of his new effort to bring Anglicans back within the fold of Holy Mother Church.  (The rumor had only been that a certain Anglican splinter group was going to Rome.  Nobody, I mean nobody, thought that the Vatican was declaring open season on all disaffected Anglicans.)  Go on over to Damian Thompson for all the latest news, including the (admittedly) heh-inducing fact that it looks like ArchBish Rowan Williams got totally pawned in this process.  (Note to Canterbury: Either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.)

What all this means for ordinary Anglicans and Palies, nobody yet seems to really know.  So far as I understand it, the new arrangement will involve the actual conversion of Anglicans that want it to gen-u-ine Catholicism, with all the attendant theological trappings, and not the continued practice of Anglicanism under a Papal seal-o-approval.  At the same time, there is language that under this new regime that certain aspects of Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition will be preserved.  Heck if I know what that means.    

Anyway, we shall see.

halicarnassus_cityI must say that I am an absolute sucker for classical Grecian names, both of people and of places.  And as I reread my Herodotus, I am reminded that one of my very favorite city names from ancient times is Halicarnassus.

It isn’t necessarily because Herodotus himself was a native of this city in what is now southwestern Turkey.  It isn’t because the original Mausoleum was there. It isn’t because there was a famous seige there later between Alexander the Great and the Persians.  It isn’t because at the time of the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, the place was under the control of Artemesia of Caria, who joined Xerxes’ fleet for the battle of Salamis and famously escaped the Greeks by attacking one of her own ships, thereby fooling the Greeks into thinking she had gone over to their side.

No, I simply love the name.  There’s something truly delightful about the Greek language that I simply cannot put into words.  And there are certain place names in the language – Mytilene comes to mind, for example, as do Naxos and Homer’s Sandy Pylos – which just give great pleasure.   Ditto with proper names:  Agamemnon, Pericles, Themistocles, Leonidas, Xenophon….the list goes on.

I can’t really explain it, but there it is.

I’m Robbo the Port-Swiller and I am so completely dead.

This past Sunday, Mrs. Robbo took the younger gels off to RFEC early because they had choir.  I followed along with the eleven year old a little while later.  The gel was decked out in a pretty dress, nice shoes and a long coat.  She had also brushed her hair very nicely.

As we came into the downstairs hall of RFEC, I noticed three older fellahs chatting over at one side.  I’ve known all of them for years and waived as we came by.  They all suddenly stopped chatting and stared at the gel, largely, I believe because they simply did not recognize her.  Eyebrows went up.  Jaws dropped.  I smiled weakly and shrugged.

What is it with gels that they suddenly seem to “pop” from children into young ladies?  I had thought it was only my own imagination that the eldest had suddenly shot up like a weed, got curvey and, em, started protruding in, em, womanly places.  Evidently, it isn’t  just me.

I will say, being as objective as I can be, that the gel is, in fact, staggeringly beautiful, and shows every sign of getting even more so.   It is at times when I’m contemplating this that I find myself thankful that she has such a, shall we say, Cromwellian temperment: It may be the only thing that keeps the boys from swarming her like bees.

* I usually invite fellow port-swillers to spot the quote.  This time, I’ll just give it to you.  Death of Bromosil in Bored of the Rings:  “‘Ye doom is ycomme true,’ he groaned.  ‘O, tell the Lacedomecians to damn the torpedoes.’  Then noisily shaking a large rattle, he expired.”

Victor Davis Hanson echoes my own state of mind:

I have some confessions to make, not because any of you readers are particularly interested in my views; but rather because I think some of you are in the same boat: Have you stopped reading, listening, watching, and paying attention to most of what now passes for establishment public or popular culture? I am not particularly proud of this quietism (many Athenians did it in the early 4th century BC and Romans by the late 3rd AD), but not really ashamed of it either.

Read the rest.  Like VDH, I too have found myself pretty much dropping out of the pop culchah, also indulging in old movies, classic liddashur and history.  Unlike him, though, I don’t think I’ve done so simply because they-used-to-do-it-better-in-the-Old-Days.  I’ve found, rayther, that as I pursue my (he shuddered as he typed this) spiritual journey, I simply have become more and more disgusted with things.  How in Heaven’s name did we reach the point where the summa of all values – moral, intellectual, artistic, cultural – is derived from the world-view of the average adolescent?    

This raises an interesting question:  Is it right to sandbag myself into my own little redoubt?  Or should I be out there actively mixing it up with the forces of (yes) evil?  And how does one go about doing so as a practical matter?  Stand in front of the racks of pop magazines at the grocery store making tsk, tsk noises?  Get into shouting matches with colleagues at work?  Start handing out bumper stickers and petition requests on street corners?  Or, rayther, in leading by example.  (I confess that this last is my general approach.)

 VDH mentions the dropping out of the Romans in the 3rd Century.  Gibbon states that Rome got her clock cleaned after she became Christian (in this same period) and started turning the other cheek instead of standing up for herself.  I don’t know whether this is a fair assessment (I’m inclined to think Gibbon laid it on rayther heavily), but I think the fundamental point about burying one’s head in the sand is probably valid.

Damian Thompson reports the Archbishops of Canterbury (Anglican) and Westminster (Catholic) are holding a joint news conference tomorrow (or today, according to GMT-centric WordPress).  The speculation is that Rome is about to pick up a rebel Anglican group (the Traditional Anglican Communion) that split off from Canterbury some years ago.

Here’s the thing:  Back in my own Episcopalian days, I never gave much thought to this sort of thing, or perhaps more accurately, I didn’t let myself think about it.   I think this was because I always had a deep down dread that if I actually started examining the assertion that the Anglican Communion is part of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” of the Nicene Creed, and so what if we split away from Rome, we’re just as legitimate……well, I’d find that we, ah, weren’t.

Of course, having swum the Tiber, I now look at this matter from a completely different point of view, and even find myself praying sometimes for, well, things like this.  Not out of hatred of heresy, or even for the opportunity to indulge in a Nelson Munce-like “HA-ha!”, but more out of hope and joy in reconsiliation.   Loving HMC as much as I do, how can I not be happy when others return to Her?   

A glass of wine with Mrs. P  for sending the linky (who I would invite to join me in a drink on far less pretext any day).


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October 2009