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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By the time those two or three of you together read this post, it will be time for ol’ Robbo to shut things down.

Wednesday – Tenebrae, complete with alter boys vigorously kicking the stuffing out of the pews….

Thursday – Mass of the Last Supper.  Yes, there will be washing of feet.  Problem?

Friday – Good Friday.  The Passion.  In Latin.  ‘Nuff said.

Saturday – Easter Vigil (at which ol’ Robbo marks his fifth year as a member of Holy Mother Church and thanks every single blessed minute since he swam the Tiber).

Sunday – Various activities only marginally connected with Robbo’s celebration of His Resurrection but nonetheless meaningful and obligatory. To wit, hearing the Middle Gel sing at the Cathedral and then tooling out to the Shenandoah Valley to Cousin C’s for Easter din-dins.)

Monday – The aftermath of Holy Week……. and opening day at Nationals Park.  (No, we don’t have tickets.  But the truth is that I’d rather watch it on teevee than slog down to the Park after all the fuss and bother of the previous few days.  Anyhoo, it’s only the Marlins….)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How odd to wake up on March 25 and find Port Swiller Manor under a couple of inches of heavy, wet snow!  Must be Global Warming.  Or sumf’n.

It so happens that the gels are out of town still visiting Fort LMC.  They’ll be furious that they missed the opportunity to cavort.

Since winter storm naming has become all the rage this year, I am officially dubbing this one “Son of Snowquester”.  If Jim “Mimbo” Cantore has a problem with that, he knows where he can find me….

UPDATE:  Well, it’s all over and done.   I’d say Port Swiller Manor got about three inches or so as I sat messing about with the taxes.  Very pretty to watch coming down, with the added benefit that it’s all already melted off the drive so no shoveling for Robbo.

As to the storm name, it seems that my suggestion has been ignored (we artistes live unappreciated lives, we really do) and the commenters over at the post-mortem are collectively dubbing it “Passnover”.  (Which, in all fairness, I have to admit is pretty good, too.)

I know I’ve left it a bit late since I typically only get about two visitors here on Sunday afternoons, but you may be interested to know that the local classickal station will be broadcasting a performance of Haydn’s The Creation tonight at 9:00 PM Eastern, featuring the Middle Gel’s choir.   The concert actually took place last September and ol’ Robbo’s hands still hurt from clapping so hard.

Anyhoo, if you care to tune in (either on the radio or over the ‘net), you might find it enjoyable.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Palm Sunday!

Yes, today we celebrate Jesus’s “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem amidst a cheering mob convinced that He was going to turn Pilate into a pumpkin and the Roman garrison into a bunch of white mice, and generally re-establish Israel as God’s Kingdom on Earth.  Less than a week from now, when He didn’t do any such thing, they were howling for his blood.   That’s why I say “triumphal”.  It’s really more tragic than anything else, as He knew perfectly well at the time.

At any rate, for all of ol’ Robbo’s supposed religiosity, today is one of those days on which he is caught out as the fraud that he really is, put to shame even by many small children in the pews.  Yes, the truth of the matter is that I have never learned how to fashion a cross out of a palm frond.

As a general rule, I am pretty clever with my hands.  But for some reason, knots and bows and things of that sort have always been hard for me.  Palm frond crosses go in that category.  Even when I look at step-by-step instructions complete with photographs, my braim tends just to seize up and my fingers go into digit-lock.

Ah, well.

We’re supposed to have a rayther nasty and raw afternoon here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, so I believe a fire later on today will be appropriate.  I will simply burn my frond (as is proper) in an untied state as I ponder the shallowness of my religious instruction.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo has just finished seeing off our Honda Juggernaut®, as Mrs. Robbo and the gels head for the vast but secure holdings of Fort LMC, there to spend a couple Spring Break days cavorting with the Former Llama Military Correspondent’s missus and kiddoes.  (For some reason, the gels seem particularly mystified this year by the fact that ol’ Dad does not, in fact, get a spring break himself.)

You know, when somebody says to me, “Robbo, the plan is to leave Port Swiller Manor at 8:30 this Saturday morning,” my brain, as feeble as it might be, automatically starts calculating backwards from that departure point.  What clothes do I need?  Where are they? Need they to be washed? At what point do I need to pack, and at what point do I need to take the precedent steps to let me do so? What other things do I need?  And so on, and so on.  In response to these questions, I work out a nice, neat timetable of Things That Must Be Done.

The result of such calculations is that I am able to calmly and collectedly walk out the door, fully prepared, at 8:30 on Saturday morning.  Simple, right?

Well, it is safe to say that the rest of my family….does not think about these things the same way that I do.  Whether it’s a generational matter, the difference between Mars and Venus or just a function of individual personalities, I leave to friends of the decanter to ponder themselves.   But for alarum and confusion, for dog and pony show chaos, for last-second crises and Rube Goldberg-stop-gap solutions, there are few challenges in this world greater or more exasperating to me than trying to get all of them out the door in good time and order.

We’re talking about four women going on a stay for three nights.  From the logistical complexities, you’d think it was Operation Overlord.  From the disorder and falling out, you’d think it was the Retreat from Moscow.  From the internecine savagery, you’d think it was the Raft of the Medusa.  As has often been the case of late, the thing that finally caused ol’ Robbo’s patience to snap and his inner fiend to awake was the squabbling over who had who’s iWhatever charger.  I don’t know why, but that particular spat grates on my nerves like an iron glove on a chalkboard, causing me to see red.  And once they get on about it, there appears to be no power in the ‘Verse capable of getting them to drop it again.

But the curious thing that I’ve begun to notice about these departure preparations, with the Manor a vortex of pandemonium and Self standing in the middle working himself up into a state of ineffectual apoplexy, is that amidst all their yelling and snarling and tears, I am starting to be aware of  certain slantendicular looks being exchanged among my womenfolk caught just out of the tail of my eye.  And as they pulled out of the driveway, they were all grinning at me like delighted imps.  Is it possible that ol’ Dad, the paterfamilias, the fellah whom God Himself requested and required be honored by his children is, in all of this, being….played?

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I noticed this week that the coppers had put one of those mobile radar contraptions on the main route between Port Swiller Manor and the various schools, churches and offices which I haunt, the kind that shows you how fast you’re going and flashes at you if it thinks you’re above the limit.  I hate those things – bastard officious mechanical Nosey Parkers.  I also can never decide whether they’re designed just to guilt you into slowing down; whether they are also rigged with cameras and will send you a lovely (and expensive) remembrance  in the mail a few days later; or whether there’s a real, live policeman lurking somewhere in the neighborhood, ready to pounce.

I mentioned this as the middle gel and we passed the thing homeward bound one evening.  This provoked in her a counter-rant about how everybody speeds on our street and the police never seem to do anything about it.  I explained that the reason they don’t is because our street was built on what used to be a rail bed, and the sides are mostly either embankments or cuttings, making it very hard to find a place to safely pull over.

Hmphh. They really ought to do it anyway,” she sad.  “Everybody’s breaking the law – even you!”

“Well,” I replied, “There are laws and then there are laws, you know.  When you’re old and experienced enough, you’ll learn which ones need to be followed carefully and which ones can be replaced by common sense.  Besides, would you really want to live in a world in which the government was watching your every move, waiting for you to slip up?”

She didn’t seem much mollified.

I begin to worry about this gel.  The other two are the usual self-absorbed, adolescent pirates, but this one shows signs of being an Idealist.   Such childs must be handled carefully, lest they go off the rails.  (Take She Who Must Not Be Named, for example.  Started, apparently, as a Goldwater Girl in her own yoot.  Now look at her.)¹   So I do what I can.

T’other day, in fact, the gel mentioned some presentation at school about the imbalance of wealth distribution in the world and how unfair it all was.   My limousine liberal smoke detector started flashing, and I quickly said, “Oh, it is unfortunate, and certainly we ought to do everything we can to help the poor raise their living standards.  But simply taking things or money from the rich and giving it to the poor is no solution.  That’s just the politics of Envy, and is therefore sinful.  Besides, it’s based on the false premise that wealth is finite: that there’s just one pizza, and if I take all the slices, the poor and their kids will have nothing to eat but the box.”  (Yes, I stole that metaphor from Peej O’Rourke.)

“Wealth isn’t finite, it’s made, it’s generated.  And history tells us the very best way to lay the foundation to encourage its making is to hammer on three principles: Property Rights, Rule of Law and Education.  Countries that adhere to those ideas have a funny way of being much better off than countries that don’t.”

I don’t know how much of this actually made it past the aria she was listening to on her iWhatever, but I hope that if I say it often enough, it’s bound to sink in to at least some extent.


¹  Okay, I realize that SWMNBN can be described as a self-absorbed pirate, too.

FloraGreetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy First Day of Spring!

I realize that the time thingy on this post (for those of you who notice such) reads March 21, making ol’ Robbo look a day late.  (I would add the second half of the tag about being a dollar short, but with a wife and three daughters on my hands, you will understand if I consider such observation to be superfluous.)  However,  with respect to teh time-stamp issue at hand,  I will offer two comments:

First, the techno-anomaly that causes posts I compose in the evening of the one day to seem as if they were crafted the next allows a certain, ah, temporal ambiguity, which I refuse to concede as a Bad Thing.  Whereas I was able to take advantage of this ambiguity in, as it were, one temporal direction in the post immediately below, I now take advantage of it in the opposite direction.  At Port Swiller Manor, it is still, definitively, at least for the purposes of “scientific” accuracy and this particular post, March 20th, at least for the next hour or so.

Second, cheerfully throwing overboard the tortured logic of the prior paragraph, I would note that for many years I have thought Spring ought to start officially on March 21 anyway.   Spare me the astronomical jibber-jabber about the hours of daylight and the Earth’s angle of axis in relation to the Sun and all the rest of it.  I’m thinking on a more psychological plane here.  You see, I’m of the school that says numeric progression begins with the number “one” and that this is immensely important to our collective spirit.  Thus, our practice of numbering years “Anno Domine” begins each decade (and each century, and each millennium) with the first numbered year.  1 A.D., was the first year of said numbering.  1801 was the first year of the 19th Century.  2001 was the first year of the Second Millennium.  And so on.

Not that there’s a real logic to it (well, in fact, there is – a mighty good one, but it’s not important here), but the psychology of this phenomenon that I mentioned above to me trumps with respect to these seasonal transitions.   “March 20”, in my humble opinion, invokes a tired sense of “Yep, another ten days of March slogged through.  Woo.  Bloody.  Hoo.”

On the other hand, if Spring is to start on March 21, well, there’s all the sense of freshness, of new beginnings, of page-turning and the like.

That’s my theory, at any rate.  And I’m sticking to it.

Not that Ma Nature is paying the slightest attention to any of this.  After another Winter of Meh, we’re supposed to get flurries tonight and some kind of indeterminate rain/sleet/snow combo early next week.  This means that although I can carry out my plans to cut back Kong the Buddleia and the Konglings this weekend, any thought of setting up the new arbor over the side gate (which entails pouring concrete around the bases) or sprinkling foxglove and butterfly weed seeds in teh garden (in order to “supplement” the offshoots of the current inhabitants) is right out.

Oh, speaking of such matters, I would note for friends of the decanter that, owing to what little influence of ol’ Robbo actually wields around here, Port Swiller Manor entertains a peculiar linguistic quirk to celebrate this particular seasonal transition.  At my insistence, the family is not allowed, for example, to say, “Spring has sprung.”  Instead, they are requested and required to follow my lead in saying, “Spring has sproinged.”

Don’t ask me why I have substituted the verb “sproing” for the verb “spring” in this particular context.  I just have, okay?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Thanks to that peculiar elitist quirk of WordPress by which it insists on following Greenwich Mean Time, even though it is still the evening of Monday, March 18 at Port Swiller Manor (the 15th anniversary of the birth of the Eldest Gel, by the bye, and what would have been the Old Gentleman’s 79th or 80th), here in the virtual world of the Stilton and walnuts we are already well over half an hour into Tuesday, March 19.

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that ol’ Robbo often has voiced his opinion that Tuesday is the very worst day of the week.  In the past, I usually have laid the blame for this at the feet of what one might sum up as general work-week psychological harmonics.  (“Hole in the week” is my general term for this phenomenon, as you will know if you’ve been paying attention.)

Well, thanks to the Mothe, whose apparently inexhaustible and restless intellect has caused her to sign up for a Modern Greek History course up ta the local college, I may have stumbled upon a genuine historickal basis for my disdain.

You see, I have long known that Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.   After some painful mental scrambling, sometimes I also can remember that it was, in fact, on May 29th of that year, after a siege of roughly six weeks, that the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, is said to have fallen defending his gates from the barbarian horde as they rushed in to sack the Imperial Capital.  (Where the Emperor actually met his end is, technically, not known.  However, the tradition that he died defending the gates is one of those of which ol’ Robbo says, “If it isn’t true, it ought to be.”)

Aaaanyhoo, what I didn’t know, and what the Mothe was able to tell me, is that May 29, 1453 was, in fact, a Tuesday.  Furthermore, she informs me that, since then, Tuesday traditionally has been viewed as a day of ill-omen among the Greeks, bad luck attending anything associated with it.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, what can I say?   What I had thought was just a grumbly dislike of having to slog through the most tedious work day of the cycle turns out to have some kind of Jungian gunnegshun to my much greater fear and loathing concerning the collapse of Western Civilization, after all.  Who’d a’thunk it?

Of course, I’m not going to go all, all….(Oh, shoot! Who was that insufferable actress of my yoot who claimed to have lived past lives?  Shirley-somebody, I think….), well, I’m not going to suggest that I was Constantine XI Palaiologos in a previous life, but, as I say, it would seem that his spirit somehow or other found its way into a corner of my braims.

UPDATE:  Alas, ol’ Robbo is starting to show signs of senility, because when hitting the “publish” button, I completely forgot to include the linky to the lovely and talented Sleepy Beth’s compilation of several different versions of the obvious theme song for this post.  My apologies….

charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Spring is kinda, sorta, almost in the air and you know what that means…Yes, that softball season is upon us once again.

Friday afternoon saw teh first practice of the eldest gel’s 13-16 y.o. “senior” squad, a level devoted to getting girls ready to try out for high school ball.  The gel had not picked up a ball in a couple years and I confess that I was a leetle apprehensive about what might happen.  Would she still remember anything?  Would she be afraid of the ball?

Well, from the preliminaries, it doesn’t look like I had much to worry about.  The gel has always had a strong arm and a good eye, and from watching the other girls slantendicular, it rapidly became clear that her skill set was at least within visiting distance of most of those who had stuck with the league program.   If she puts her back into it, I think she’ll do just fine.

Of course, because I was one of only two dads who stuck around for the whole practice, I was immediately drafted as an assistant coach.  (Oddly, or perhaps not, three of the other girls on the squad had been on teams I coached in past years, so there was a kind of mini old-home week for Self and the eldest.)

The youngest gel is playing AAA ball again this year.  Her practices started last weekend, but today was a skills clinic down at the fields.  I must say again that there is just something about hanging around at the ballpark that I absolutely love – the sights, the sounds, the feel of the place.

But of course, because I was standing about soaking it all in, I quickly got drafted into helping with that, running one of the clinic stations.

Between the fly balls I was lobbing for the eldest gel’s teammates yesterday and the throwing and grounders drills I was running today, my own poor arm is pretty durn tired tonight.  (Let’s hope it doesn’t get worse – I doubt very much whether my insurance covers Tommy John surgery.)

Going forward, the youngest gel has fielding practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the eldest on Fridays.  Both gels have batting practice on Sunday afternoons.*   That’s before the actual games start at the beginning of next month.  Guess where ol’ Robbo is going to be spending a lot of time.

As I say, though, I love it.

* In case you’re wondering, the middle gel is also playing softball this spring.  But she’s taking it as a P.E. course at school, so I’m off the hook as far as coaching her goes.

UPDATE:  Oh, what the heck…. It’s still a couple weeks until I traditionally run this clip in honor of Opening Day for the MLB, but whaddaya say we bend a bit this once….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After getting very excited about a rumor floating around the nets yesterday afternoon that Pope Francis had thrown the disgraced Bernard, Cardinal Law out of the Vatican on his monstrous backside, a rumor that now appears to be unfounded, ol’ Robbo came to the realization that it is time to calm down, take a deep breath and just wait to see what happens.

So instead, I give you this:  Council bans apostrophes from all street signs to avoid ‘confusion’.  

Mid-Devon District Council said its new streets had not contained apostrophes for many years but the policy was now being made official.

Residents and plain English campaigners criticised the move, but the council said apostrophes could only be found in three street names in the district.

It added that Beck’s Square and Blundell’s Avenue both in Tiverton and St George’s Well in Cullompton were all named many years ago.

Andrew Lacey, of Mid-Devon District Council, said there was no national guidance that stops apostrophes being used.

But proofreader Mary de Vere Taylor from Ashburton said the thought of apostrophes being removed made her shudder.

I shudder, too.  Indeed, the grammar aside, I find myself mystified at what possible “confusion” could result from the difference between “Beck’s” and “Becks” Square.  Would the presence of the apostrophe be enough to distract a lorry driver, causing him to careen straight through the plate-glass window of a nearby china shop?

In my misspent yoot, we lived next door to some people I will call the Smiths.  They had a little plaque on their mailbox pillar that read “the Smith’s” which the Mothe routinely mocked to our tender ears.  Indeed, these folks became known in the family vocabulary as “the Smith-apostrophe-s”.

I never forgot that.  It was, perhaps, a rayther more brutal form of grammatickal education than the Schoolhouse Rock ditties on the teevee, but it was quite effective for all that.

In fact, the rules of apostrophe usage are really quite easy.  If the Mid-Devon District Council is so concerned as to feel compelled to take O-fficial action, instead of dumbing down the street signs may I suggest that they stock the local library with copies of Lynne Truss’s The Girl’s Like Spaghetti:  Why, You CAN’T Manage Without Apostrophes!  

UPDATE:  Here’s a nifty little article on the historickal development of the possessive apostrophe, a story that has always given me a great deal of geeky pleasure.


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March 2013