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Fifth Columnists are at work along the banks of the Douro:

In the last century Symington Family Estates exported port to around 20 countries. Now, it’s selling in more than 80. The new destinations include cash-rich emerging markets where the producers are coaxing Brazilians, Russians, Chinese and Angolans to put port on their table.

The signs are promising. Port wine sales to Brazil rose more than 31 percent in the first half of this year, to €2.4 million, making it a Top 10 importer. It’s not enough to take up the slack, though.

Producers are also pushing port in gimmicky new cocktails, such as white port with tonic water, a twist of lemon and ice, that might appeal to a younger crowd. It’s a novelty the trade’s forebears might have found sacrilegious.

Symington, though, says it’s an inevitable development. Porto has long banked on its prestige and aristocratic conventions, such as always passing the port to the left at formal dinner parties, but now it needs to shed its stuffy image, he says.

“We have to de-formalize port,” said Symington.

Bah!  Smithers? Release the hounds……

Mention was made in the comments to my Cleese-celebrating Basil Fawlty post of yesterday of the famous Fawlty Towers episode about the deaf Mrs. Richards and Basil’s surreptitious betting.  So here you go:


I might add that many of my conversations with the youngest gel seem to follow this general pattern.  I would also add that practically every line of this dialogue  is currently in use not only in the immediate port-swiller family, but amongst ol’ Robbo’s extended relations as well.   Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Last evening, the middle gel sidled up to me wearing an expression I’ve long learned to suspect and said in a voice of which I’ve long learned to beware, “Dad? You know what we’d like to get for Christmas? Nintendo 3DS’s!”

“What the heck is that?” I asked.

She explained that it is apparently the latest video game thingamabobber, with lots of new whistles and bells.  Everybody’s getting them.

“Well,” I said, “I can tell you right now that the answer is no.”

“What!” she exclaimed.  “Why nooooot?”

“Because,” I replied firmly, “You’ve already got teevee and DVDs and Wii and your iWhatevers and you’re near enough to beholden zombies to the things as it is.  You don’t need another gadget.”


Regular port swillers who are fond of the Brendan Fraser Mummy movie may recall the scene where the High Priest Imhotep summons a zombie mob to get Fraser and his friends.  It has become something of a tradition in the port-swiller household to allude to this scene any time the subject of mindless enslavement to technology (one of ol’ Robbo’s stock rants) comes up.  Therefore, I bugged my eyes, cocked my head to the side, extended my arms and began to mutter, “Iiiimhotep….Iiiiiiiimhotep……IIIIIIIImhotep…….”

The gel, much to her credit, laughed.

“Okay, then,” she said, “Can I get some kittens?”


Greetings, my fellow port-swillers, and happy Friday!

Ol’ Robbo had quite a bizarre dream last night which can best be described as a highly stylized version of the sleeping car scene from North By Northwest.

I don’t mention this in order to suggest that my subconscious self in any way holds thoughts of, ah, courting Eva Marie Saint, which for purposes of domestic liability I deny completely.  Instead, I bring it up because I recall quite distinctly that inside the dream I dozed off in the car while it was dark out and woke up again later, still inside the dream, when the sun was up and the train was slipping along the banks of a river.

I would imagine that I have had dreams about sleeping and awaking before, but I don’t recall one quite so vivid.




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October 2011