Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has found himself in a rayther dragging, achy state over the past couple of days.  (Because of my intense aversion to needles, I never get a flu shot.   This is the price I pay for it, I suppose.)

In recent years I have made a much more conscious effort than previously to strive for patience with those around me, to better tolerate their follies and foibles, to turn the other cheek, to suffer their foolishness gladly and not let them get under my skin.  And I may say, with all due modesty, that I have made some real progress on that front.  However, when I’m feeling off, the fiend within recognizes an opening and sets the facial muscles squinting and scowling again and black thoughts rolling through the braims like thunderclouds.

Such an episode happened yesterday morning.

The Family Robbo always sits in the same pew at the RFEC on Sundays, as do most people in the congregation.  Among them is a fellah who always (well, when he shows up, that is) sits within one or two pews of us and to the side.  I dread his appearance, because he always brings either his young son or his current girlfriend or, sometimes, both of them together.  They then proceed to chat through the bulk of the service in low but very audible voices, while the kid usually gets bored and starts squirming and thrashing about.  I seem to recall reading somewhere or other about the more puritanical sects back in the day arming their ushers with whips or switches to thwack parishioners behaving badly during worship.  It sometimes occurs to me that this is an idea perhaps ripe for wider application.  (And that includes the group of young persons sitting a couple rows ahead of me at Mass last Sunday, who were quiet and very well dressed but were nonetheless proving a hopeless distraction by filming it on their i-thingies.  I wanted to bean them with my missal.)

At any rate, what I dislike most about this fellah is his singing.  Not in general, you understand.  He’s actually pretty decent at hymnody.  No, there’s a very specific point that always makes me cringe.  And when I’m in an irritable mood, it’s even worse.

You see, during the Offertory, it’s the custom at the RFEC, after we sing the Old Hundredth, to sing the last verse of “America” (aka “My country ’tis of thee”).  It runs, “Our fathers’ God to Thee; author of liberty; to thee we sing.  Long may our land be bright; with freedom’s holy light; protect us by Thy might; great God our King.”  The word “great” is broken up between two eighth notes on high-e and high-c and represents the climax of the tune.

All well and good.  Except that this fellah always, always insists on drawing out that climax.  He starts out low and then flings his voice on high and then, for a flourish, over-emphasizes the high-c, too.  So instead of a modest, “Grea-ate”, he serves up something closer to, “Guh-RAY-YATE!”

I first noticed this years ago and have never been able to stop myself from listening for it.  And when I’m in a bad mood, it’s all I can do as the dreaded line approaches to keep myself from suddenly leaping over the pew and strangling the fellah in order to keep from having to hear it.   Sure enough, he did it again yesterday.  Resisting the urge to leap, I instead simply ground my teeth.

The good news is that I was able to snap myself out of it a bit later with a different distraction.  Since it was All Souls Sunday, the Rev could not resist including among the Communion hymns Lesbia Scott’s “I Sing A Song Of The Saints Of God”.  I’ve long thought this one of the silliest and cheesiest selections in the entire hymnal, and duly mock it whenever I get the chance.  What I didn’t notice until yesterday is that one can quiet easily superimpose the verse from “A British Tar Is A Soaring Soul” from H.M.S. Pinafore on top of it.  Hy-larity ensues.