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Ol’ Robbo is off with the port-swiller family on summer hols today.  I probably won’t have much opportunity or, frankly, desire to post while away, most of my time being taken up dozing on the porch and idly watching the lobstahmen do their thing down in the bay.

I’ll probably be back Wednesday week, tanned, ready and rested.  In the meantime, I have a request for my fellow regulars here:  I need to give the port-swiller blogroll a bit of an updating.  If there is anyone out there in the ‘sphere that you think I might enjoy reading on a regular basis, I’d be much obliged if you could drop me a note, either in the comments or in the ol’ port-swiller mail sack.  Thankee very much.


Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Would you believe that today marks the second anniversary of ol’ Robbo’s blatherings here at TPSAYE?

Neither would I.  In fact, if it were not for the monthly archives over there to the left, I would swear that this is only the first anniversary.

Anno Domini and all that, but I find myself slightly concerned that I am getting to the point where I can so easily lose track of an entire year.

According to the WordPress stats thingy, as of this post (the 1,098th, if you’re keeping track) there have been a total of 246,505 partakers of the port and Stilton.  Thank you very much.  All I can say, pace Monty Python,  is that if you’ve enjoyed reading these ramblings half as much as I’ve enjoyed rambling them, then I’ve enjoyed them twice as much as you.

Ha, ha!

So bumpers all round, ladies and gentlemen, and no heel taps!

Well, fellow port-swillers, you may be interested to hear that ol’ Robbo needed expend no ammunition yesterday to protect the eldest gel from her young gentlemen friends, although I must admit that she arrived home from the movies with a look on her face of a particular kind of delight  that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before.

Think I’ll keep the powder dry just in case.

I happened to be talking to a colleague about all this yesterday and to mention that the gel has been asking me questions lately about boys.  The colleague was surprised that the gel would feel comfortable enough to be talking to me about this sort of thing.  I, in turn, was surprised that the colleague was surprised.  On thinking it over, it made me feel blessed to be that close to the gel.

And to pray that it stays that way.

It occurs to me that for all of the musickal references scattered throughout the Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brian, there is not a single mention made (at least that I can recall¹) of the musick of Beethoven.

I wonder why this is.

Certainly Jack and Stephen show a general preference for earlier musick – works by Corelli, Locatelli, Handel, J.C. Bach and “Old” Bach, for instance.  But then again, there are also references to their playing pieces by contemporary composers like Clementi and Hummel.  I find it hard to believe that two such enthusiastic musicians would not be aware of Beethoven’s musick, much less that they wouldn’t at least give it a try.

But as I say, I don’t believe O’Brian ever mentions such a thing.

Curious, that.

¹It’s been a very long time since I read any of the books past The Wine Dark Sea, and I never actually dipped into the last, incomplete novel, so my information is incomplete and perhaps my memory is faulty.

The twelve year old gel is going to the movies later this afternoon with a pair of her young gentleman friends.

Of course, it’s all perfectly innocent at this point, but then again one doesn’t wait until after the barbarians have entered the citadel before one moves to strengthen the garrison.

I knew from the very day she was born that sooner or later I was going to have to deliver the “boys are scum” speech.  Guess I’d better get on with drafting it.

Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aime Baudry (1860)

Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1768, of Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont, the idealistic young provincial aristocrat who went to Paris and assassinated that Jacobin dog Jean-Paul Marat in his bath during the French Revolution, going to the guillotine herself for committing the murder.

In one of his Bertie & Jeeves short stories entitled “Comrade Bingo”, P.G. Wodehouse has young Bingo Little fall madly in love with a woman named Charlotte Corday Rowbotham, the daughter of a Communist agitator.  Bingo goes so far as to don a fake beard, haranguing the workers and scaring the devil out of his rich uncle in order to impress the gel.  (Jeeves, of course, is able to break up Bingo’s ridiculous infatuation and save the day with his usual deft skill.)

I must confess that I have never understood what ol’ Plum had in mind naming the gel after Corday.  If her father is such a leftist, why would he honor the assassin of another one?  Perhaps I just don’t get the joke.  Perhaps Plum’s own historickal memory was a bit sketchy on the point.  In any event, I can’t help thinking of his story whenever I see a reference to the original Charlotte Corday.

Because I heard this song some time in my early yoot and it became lodged in my braim, invariably coming to the surface any time I see or think of the name Winchester ever since (see below).

UPDATE: For the Bovina Bloviator

Here’s an interesting question:  Is it right to restage a Civil War battle in a state that never actually saw combat on its soil?  Behold the little-known Confederate push into Maine:

The Battle of Fort Knox on Saturday featured more than 200 Civil War buffs who portrayed troops from the Union and Confederate forces, their wives and children and residents of a town called Unity, a civilian encampment based on the real town of Winchester, Va., a strategic area that changed hands numerous times during the real Civil War fought from 1861 to 1865.


The period activities -— which included military training exercises, naval and land-based battles, the execution of a Union deserter and a couple of weddings -— aimed to evoke the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of 1864, the year before the Civil War ended, said the mysterious “Miss Rose,” a key organizer who declined to reveal her modern identity.

“I go by ‘Miss Rose’ and that’s the only thing I go by because the focus shouldn’t be on me, it should be on my re-enactors,” she said Saturday.

Hey,Vic! Weren’t you just away on vacation somewhere?

The Civil War encampment event was sponsored by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, supported by the Friends of Fort Knox and Friends of Maine State Parks and co-hosted by the 20th Maine Company B and the 15th Alabama Company G.

“This is the largest [American Civil War re-enactment], we believe, that we’ve ever had in the state of Maine and the first of, hopefully, many to come,” Miss Rose said.

I believe that she means the first put on by these particular groups.  Otherwise, it would be the largest by definition even if only two or three gathered together.

The Maine and Alabama re-enactment groups “co-hosted this to be able to bring both sides [of the Civil War] to the state of Maine and show people that it isn’t necessarily quite the way that some folks believe it was, and to show how it actually was. We’re all living historians and teachers,” Miss Rose said.

Except that this isn’t how it actually was, since last time I checked Winchester is still firmly planted in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny.

“We wanted to bring the Civil War here to Maine for the Maine folks to see because we were so far removed that we don’t have anything actually here that pertains to the Civil War other than a number of forts and things. But this one never actually saw action. It never was garrisoned [and] it never had troops in it,” she said.

That Maine doesn’t “have anything actually that pertains to the Civil War,” ( i.e., actual historickal action) is  not completely accurate, in fact.  There are several rayther interesting and even exciting stories about Confederate commerce raiders hitting Portland, Calais and other spots along the coast.  I assume that those raids are what is meant by “naval battles” here.

I don’t have any problem with the reenacters setting up shop and going through all their paces.  But since every land battle is inherently specific to a particular geographical location, it seems a wee bit silly to me to have Yanks and Rebs facing off against each other in a place where they patently did not do so.

The Beeb is doing an All Creatures Great and Small prequel:

Classic rural drama All Creatures Great and Small is set for a TV comeback.

The adventures of Yorkshire vet James Herriot, which originally ran on BBC1 from 1978 to 1990, are being given a new lease of life, possibly in a bid to attract the former audience of ITV’s discontinued Sunday night drama Heartbeat.

The new three-part series, Young James, is due to be filmed and set in Glasgow, the city where veterinary surgeon Alf Wight – author of the original diaries, which were witten under the pseudonym James Herriot – learned his trade. The new show will feature the earlier years of Herriot’s career.

Casting for the lead role has not yet begun. Christopher Timothy played Herriot in the orginal series, which also starred Robert Hardy, Peter Davison, Lynda Bellingham and Carol Drinkwater.

At its peak, All Creatures Great and Small pulled in audiences of more than 13 million.

BBC1 controller Jay Hunt said: “The chance to bring the story of the real James Herriot alive for a BBC1 audience that grew up with All Creatures Great and Small was irresistible.”

The 60-minute programme will be made by Koco Drama, Shed Media’s new drama company. It was co-created by Kate Croft and the now-deceased Johnny Byrne.

ACGAS was a staple of Robbo’s misspent teenaged years so perhaps I am unduly biased, but it seems to me that we live in a day and age in which it is simply impossible to capture on screen the spirit of either the original series or of the books themselves.  Will the writers recast the thing in the current air of narcissistic, ironic nihilism?  Or will they seek to recreate the innocent wholesomeness of the original that is so alien to many of today’s audience, particularly the young?

Plus, Harriot himself was largely the straight man of the stories, the meat of the thing being provided by Sigfried, Tris and Mrs. Hall, to say nothing of Tricky-Woo.  And without the likes of Robert Hardy and Peter Davidson, where are you, really?

Sunday was yet another boiling day round the port-swiller residence, with the kind of heat and humidity that causes elephants to go rogue and natives to run amok.

Being in a more or less parboiled condition himself from the cumulative effects of commuting through weeks of such miasmatic air, old Robbo did the only sensible thing upon returning home mid-afternoon from Mass:  He promptly dozed off in his favorite comfy chair.

I knew that there was a chance of rain in the forecast.  Also, as I drove home I had noticed some cloud banking far in the west, even though the sun was still beating down unfiltered directly overhead.   So I drifted off with the hope that perhaps later on we might get a spot of rain to bring some relief.

Imagine my delight, then, when I awoke a while later to find the sky overcast and a dark wall of cloud approaching from the west.  Imagine my further delight to hear the squall coming – it sounded exactly like a jet engine before it arrived.  And as I stood watching the rain lashing down in sheets, I could almost feel myself rehydrating by association.

Alas, the storm didn’t last very long, and it really didn’t do all that much to cool things down.  But it was a very welcomed interlude.


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July 2010