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Have I ever mentioned here before how much I despise musickal medleys?  I have? Well, reader, I’m a-gonna do it again right now.  After all, ’tis the season.

Ever since I was a small child, the very concept of the medley has scraped across my soul with the shriek of a thousand iron gloved Titans scratching a thousand Chalkboards of Tartarus.  The practice of taking perfectly decent pieces of musick; slicing, dicing and chopping them; and then cobbling the bits back together, fills me with a Jack Nicholson-like urge to hunt down the perpetrators of such desecration and start saying it with an axe.  And the particularly sacrilegious practice of mixing up respectable, holy carols with popular bilge makes me ask myself What Would Torquemada Do?  “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” segueing into “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”?  As Gob Bluth would say, C’mon!

No doubt some of my fellow port swillers might say, “Um, Tom, why don’t you just turn off the radio?”

What, and miss one of my favorite traditional holiday gripes?


Regular friends of the decanter may recall my griping here from time to time about the perennial upstairs plumbing leakages that plague the port-swiller residence.  (It’s a toss up as to whether this or the constant knocking down of the mailbox is the most annoying chronic household repair issue.)

No, the pipes aren’t at it again.  However, I’m having to spend my day off repainting the bits of the library wall and ceiling where large holes had to be made last time around in order for the plumber to get in and do his thing.  Of course, this’ll be the cue for the whole cycle to start all over again.

Anyhoo, it’s been some time since ol’ Robbo had to do any paint jobs around the place.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not used to the fumes and therefore am more easily susceptible to their mind-altering potential, because as I was working earlier this morning I was fool enough to say to Mrs. R, “You know, I really ought to paint the upstairs hall and our dressing room over the holidays.  Do you realize they’re the only places I haven’t tackled since we moved in eleven years ago?”

Of course, Mrs. R, far from telling me I ought to go lie down with a cool compress until I felt better, instead said, “Yay! Merry Christmas to me!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A couple of years ago, I brought home from Maine a box full of books that had belonged to the Old Gentleman.  They mostly had to do with fly-fishing (for example, I have a very nice leather-bound 1907 reprint of the 1653 first edition of Isaac Walton’s The Complete Angler), although representatives of other genres were included as well.

Among the second group were a couple of books entitled The Complete Letters of Henry Root and Root Into Europe.  If you’ve not heard of these, Henry Root is a fictional crank.  The “letters” are a series of spoof missives to newspaper editors and other exalted personages on various social and political topics, each one more crack-pottedly reactionary than the latter. I flipped through the books but frankly didn’t much care for them.  The humor was much too much of the clang! clang! clang! variety to suit my taste.  Nonetheless, I believe the Old Gentleman found them entertaining, and even thought himself a bit of a daring wag  for doing so.  (He’d not have kept them otherwise.)

I bring this up because of a little anecdote I ran across in Anthony Powell’s autobiography.  The author of the Henry Root letters was a man named William Donaldson, who in his younger days spent much time and money hanging about the world of the London stage (and living the 60’s boho lifestyle, um, to the hilt, as it were).  As it happens, Donaldson attempted to finance a play written by Powell entitled The Garden God (a very naughty piece about Priapus.  ‘Nuff said.)  Owing to the last-second recalcitrant backsliding of Donaldson’s uncle and trustee, the thing fell through.  Crushed, Donaldson disappeared from Powell’s ken.

Powell reports of subsequent events: “A long time later, however, I once or twice saw Donaldson’s name in a gossip-column accompanied by a photograph, and in 1975 a firm of publishers unknown to me by name sent a work in paperback entitled Both the Ladies and the Gentlemen: The Memoirs of a London Brothel-Keeper in the 1970’s by William Donaldson.  On its blurb the author was quoted in giving the opinion that ‘as I might be the only ponce with a pen, it was of some importance that I kept a record of various comings and goings’. 

I’ll bet twelve dozens of your favorite vintage that the Old Boy was unaware of these facts, and furthermore, that if he had become so enlightened, he’d have burned the other books straight away.  It may be a bit unkind on my part, but imagining the look on his face had he been informed of Donaldson’s goings on and other literary adventures made me laugh much harder than anything I ever read in the Root books.

Oh, and here’s another little Powell story that I found delightful in a different way:  One of his early novels (actually his first, perhaps and from the early 30’s, I believe) was entitled Afternoon Men.  In the mid 60’s, somebody got the idea of adapting it to the stage.  The stage version, which ran for a limited time at some out of the way theatre, was not a success.  However, among the actors partipating in it was Peter Bowles, a long time favorite of mine and well known to anyone who enjoys Brit comedy. 

Somewhere else in his memoir, Powell also mentions some anecdotes related to a Sir Edgar Bonham-Carter, who apparently was quite off his nut.  This caught my eye because I believe I’ve heard before that Helena Bonham-Carter had a title lurking in the background somewhere, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a direct relationship.

I bring up these last two items to once again illustrate what a small, small world it is, especially when it comes to Brit arts and politics, and because I take real pleasure in coming across these little reminders of the fact.


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December 2011