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In the Bigs, pitchers and catchers report one month from tomorrow.  Woo Hoo!

On a, ah, humbler level, this evening I swing by the local park to sign up the youngest gel for the spring softball season.  Although she could technically play one more season of kiddie transition ball, we’re going to try her out at AA like she played in the fall and see what happens. She is certainly big and strong enough, and she’s getting her fielding and hitting skills under control.  Plus, she slides into home plate like a jet fighter touching down on the deck of a carrier, a talent that I am sure will earn much praise at this level.

Being the glutton that I am, I volunteered on the form to help coach again.  Truthfully, although I did not volunteer to manage a team this spring, I kinda-sorta hope they come to me again and ask me to do it.

Regular port-swillers will recall that the eldest of the gels started softball at the AAA level, played a couple seasons and then dropped out of the program after a week or two in the majors when she decided that it was too much work, what with starting middle school and all.  We’ve started this one much younger, and I don’t mind telling you that I sincerely hope she sees it all the way through.

UPDATE: Yikes! No need to worry about whether the League has any interest in my coaching services this spring.  When the VP in charge of the softball program spotted me, I felt like a mug of beer put down in front of Norm Peterson.

The "Queen Anne" Flag, adopted 1707

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the French, both in Quebec and at Versailles, referred to the colonists of New England as Les Bastonnais, both verbally and in their correspondence.

Of course, this is a play on “Boston”, but I can’t help thinking that the use of that first “a” also is meant to convey a certain sense of contempt or disdain, to make the name  something of a slur.  (Indeed, I believe it still survives as such in Creole.)

Thought I would share that with my fellow port-swillers, knowing as I do that this sort of historickal trivia fascinates you lot almost as much as it does me.

And for those of you asking yourselves, “Self? How d’you suppose ol’ Robbo is coming along in his rereading of Francis Parkman?” I will answer that I am up to the second-to-last book of the cycle, Fifty Years of Conflict, and the War of the Austrian Succession has just cooked off thanks to that Prussian Bad Boy, Frederick the Great.  Meanwhile,  the French Canadians have nipped down to fortify Crown Point on Lake Champlain, and everybody in the rival English and French colonies is suddenly becoming keenly aware that this here continent ain’t big enough for the both of ’em.

The Aubrey & Maturin reference below put me in mind that O’Brian seemed to have a particular liking for Locatelli, as he has Jack and Stephen play his musick often enough.

Today is the anniversary of the battle between two British frigates, HMS Indefatigable (44) under Captain Sir Edward Pellew and HMS Amazon (36) under Captain Robert Reynolds, and the Revolutionary French ship of the line Droits de l’Homme (74) in 1797.

The Droits de l’Homme was on her way back from a disastrous attempt by the Jacobins to invade Ireland and stir up trouble there when the Brits came across her off Ushant.  After a protracted bout of manouvering and cannonading in an ever-increasing gale, during which the French ship was unable to open her lower gun-ports, the Brits eventually hounded her on to a sand bank in Audierne Bay, where she broached to and broke up.  About 900 Frenchmen were lost in the wreck.  While Pellew managed to dance back out of the bay, Amazon was unable to claw off and also grounded.  However, she did not sink and only six men – who disobeyed orders and tried to make it to shore on their own – were lost.  The remainder of the crew were eventually rescued and made prisoners of war.

The battle was a fine example of nautical skill and gunnery on the part of the Royal Navy, somewhat in the nature of a pair of Davids going after a Goliath, and at least in my opinion was another contributor to what one might call the moral superiority of the Brits over the French on the water, an almost natural assumption that Britannia ruled the waves and that the French went to sea at their peril.  I’m convinced that this assumption played an absolutely critical part in the trouncing of both the Revolutionary and the Napoleonic navies of France (although I’ve always suspected that the balance really began to shift after the Battle of the Saintes in 1782), as it promoted aggression and audacity on the part of His Majesty’s band of brothers, while also causing the French to act timidly and hesitantly.

By the bye, I’m pretty sure Patrick O’Brian had this episode in mind when he penned – which one was it? – The Surgeon’s Mate, I think.  I believe it was in that one that Jack Aubrey, commanding HMS Ariel, lends a hand to a Brit frigate running down a French 74 on a dark and stormy night in the Channel.


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January 2011