Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As I see from a quick dekko at sitemeter, it seems the demand for the return of Robbo from his summah hols has been astronomical. Well, my friends, your wait is over, as I am most definitely back.
As I mentioned, the Family Robbo met up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his brood at a lakeside retreat this year. More specifically, it was Lake Anna, nestled in the heart of the Great Commonwealth of Virginny and also sporting its own nuke plant a couple miles up the shore from us, the wastewater discharge from which kept our part of the lake at a temperature somewhere in the mid-80’s. Indeed, splashing about in it was not unlike taking a bath and, frankly, wasn’t all that refreshing.
As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo spent very little time actually swimming and much of his time kayaking. I would roll out of bed earlyish in the morning and put in an hour and a half to two hours of industrious paddling about, then go for another round later in the afternoon. It was most soothing. As it happens, I have the kind of body that, with any kind of regular exercise, buffs up quite quickly, so I am also feeling quite fit at the moment, although my arms are still killing me.
In between bouts of rowing, I found time to get in a goodish bit of reading, too. My list included the following:
A Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith by Frank Sheed. This book is not an argument but rayther, as its title implies, a simple statement of the Faith. Here is what we believe. Here is why we believe it. Here is what we do and don’t do as a result of these beliefs. Here are what we think are the consequences of following and not following them. Easy, logical, lucid prose without all that heavy breathing you get from somebody like Scott Hahn.
Frémont’s First Impressions: The Original Report of His Exploring Expeditions of 1842-1844. I picked this up because of my recent visit to Wyoming and views of the Oregon Trail Fremont’s first expedition in 1842 was to map said Trail as far as South Pass. I was delighted to recognize the area he describes in and around Ft. Laramie. The second took him all the way to near what is now Portland, down across the Sierra Nevadas (in the dead of winter) into the Sacramento River valley, around the souther Sierras through Arizona and New Mexico, back up into Colorado and then hey for home. The book is very well written and “The Pathfinder” obviously knew what he was about: exact scientific measurements and observations; good judgment of terrain; (mostly) careful travel with the occasional calculated risk; an instant grasp of the strategic importance of the Columbia River and San Francisco Bay to the rapidly expanding United States; and genuine curiosity about that area of the Intermountain West known as “The Great Basin”. Unfortunately, for some reason this edition does not contain any of the maps, drawings or appendices attached to the original reports. Also, it is fronted by a somewhat condescending introduction by some modern academic who is quick to point out what a racist/imperialist/white male aggressor Fremont was, and that, of course, we aren’t like that now. Sheesh.
The End of the Battle by Evelyn Waugh. I won’t say anything about it here. Waugh is one of my very favorite authors and the Sword of Honor trilogy (of which this is the third book) is probably my very favorite Waugh. I’ve read this book many, many times. One question that occurs to me, though: Why do references to J.H. Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish keep popping up in Waugh’s novels? It is usually found in officers’ messes, masters’ common rooms and elsewhere and I can’t help thinking that Mr. Wu is getting in a little dig for his own amusement although I don’t quite get the joke.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. A swashbuckler set in the reign of Charles II featuring a dashing privateer taking a whack at the Dons in the Caribbean. I’ve never read any Crichton before although I’ve heard of his good reputation. Frankly, I don’t understand it, if this book is any example of his writing. It might have made a good screenplay, but the prose and characters have a Tom Clancy-like cardboard quality about them. Also, Crichton doesn’t seem to grasp some basics of nautical terminology. He uses “ground” when he means “deck” and he persistently refers to ships (including a galleon) as “boats”. He also describes a gunnery trick used by the hero to elude his pursuing enemies that is patently absurd. (I also started out on Crichton’s Sphere but ran out of time and only got about a quarter of the way in – the book belonged to teh rental house. Just as well, really, because the prose was as bad as in P.L and was beginning to irk me.
And why was I able to get so much reading done? Because the house turned out to be quite big and roomy enough for the ten of us not to suffer that ghastly feeling of being on top of each other all the time and I was quite able during the mid-day hours to snuggle into a corner relatively undisturbed, apart from some bouts of door-slamming and children running about that reminded me of something out of “Arsenic and Old Lace”.
All in all, a good week, leaving ol’ Robbo tanned, ready and rested.