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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I may have mentioned the other day that Mrs. R was after me about getting a flu shot.

In the past, Ol’ Robbo has been able to dispose of this annual nuisance with a mumbled “Yes, Dear” or two, after which she drops it and I go on my merry, non-pierced way.

This year is different, however.  She hasn’t dropped the matter yet, but is actually ramping it up to the point of it becoming real “Carthago delenda est” time.  Had a downright fit when I wouldn’t stop by the pharmacy when we were at the store together yesterday.  She’s even gone so far as to try and enlist my brother and his wife as allies in the Cause, they being medical people, and is hinting at the Lysistrata Treatment if I don’t get in line.

If this situation keeps up much longer, I’m thinking about getting a band-aid and slapping it on my shoulder myself, just to get some peace back.  (And don’t any of you dare tell her I said so!)

Why the vehement insistence this year, I really couldn’t say.  My best guess is that I was down a good bit last winter and she thinks it could happen again.  (For some reason, she either can’t or won’t believe that I was sick so much last year because of grief over the Mothe’s passing.  That won’t be a factor this year.)

You may be asking yourself, “Self, why doesn’t he just get the dumb shot and humor her?”  Well, first off, I really hate needles.  Second, I hate being nagged and there’s a certain principle about this at stake here.  Third, I’ve never put much faith in the efficacy of these flu shots to begin with: What with the way the virus mutates, it’s a crap-shoot at best whether the strain is going to be right.  Finally, if it can help, I’d rather some little old lady got the dose than I did.

So, there.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that the cooler weather has settled in firmly, Ol’ Robbo can return to his practice of reusing the shirt he wears to Mass Sunday afternoon for the office on Monday.  I enjoy this because I can still smell the incense the next day.

There are a number of different incensings during the course of the Traditional Latin Mass:  The incensing of the altar before the Introit; the incensing of the Missal before the reading of the Gospel; the incensing of the Offerings, the priest, the other servers and the congregation; and at the Consecration itself.  Given a good-sized thurible and some snappy wrist action,  the atmosphere can get pretty saturated by the time things are done.

Good old smells and bells.  Gotta love ’em.

UPDATE: Speaking of things Traddie, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught a week or two ago by a small item (at the Puppy-blender’s, I think) concerning one Brian M. McCall, an Associate Dean and Professor at Oklahoma Law.  In 2014, Dr. McCall published To Build The City of God:  Living as Catholics in a Secular Age. It is, so I gather, a Rad-Trad guide to navigating our current, ghastly, so-called “culture”.  Apparently, it includes some rayther stark assessments and opinions.  (For example, it condemns “same-sex marriage” and states that women shouldn’t wear pants out of modesty.)

Evidently, somebody recently read this book and Was Not Amused.  A campaign was started against Dr. McCall, not because he’d every been found to have discriminated against, harassed, or even treated anybody without respect, but simply because he had committed wrongthink in putting these ideas to paper.  The nooz item I saw was the reported that he’s now been hounded out of his administrative position with the school because of it.

I went ahead and bought the book.  Even though Ol’ Robbo is a Traddie of sorts himself, I’ll wager there are some things in it with which I will disagree.  Fine.  But I felt it my obligation to make at least some small protest against this kind of Orwellian bullying.  (Show of hands, by the bye, for those who believe McCall would have received the same treatment had he reached these conclusions from the perspective of Islamic fundamentalism.  Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?)

I’ll let you know what I think of it. (The book itself, that is. You can gather what I think of the situation already.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, time to cut back the peonies, I guess.  Every single year I tell myself, “Self, we ought to dig these puppies up, divide the root balls, and plant them out.  We could easily have three times as many shrubs as we do now.”

And every year I respond, “Eh…maybe next year.”

I also need to cut back the ferns hanging on the porch in preparation for bringing them inside for the winter.  To actually bring them in today would be to concede a kind of seasonal defeat.

UPDATE:  Done and done. Ol’ Robbo also had to make a hardware store run.  Somehow my reading glasses slipped off my collar without my noticing as I walked out to the mailbox beforehand.  I then squashed them flat while backing out of the garage.  That made me feel old. On the other hand, the gal running the register at the store flirted with me.  That made me feel young.  Until I reflected that she was probably the same age as my own Youngest.  That made me feel old again, plus a little bit creeped out.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo tends to stay off politickal observations here.  It’s generally too tarsome, and these days so very poisonous, plus in the end it only occupies a very small part of my worldview.

Every now and then, however, I feel the urge to speak out.  This is one of those times.

And what I have to say is this:  If the GOP has any intelligence whatsoever, it will take the theme “Jobs, Not Mobs” and absolutely hammer it for the next few weeks.

It’s simple, elegant, and right to the point.  It nicely contrasts the productive with the destructive, the positive with the negative, the normal with the unhinged.  And in one word, it encapsulates every aspect and action of the “Antifa” street thugs and their soiboi NPC social media fellow-travelers.

So go for it GOP.  I think you’ll be glad you did.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just to follow up on my post immediately below, Ol’ Robbo did watch the 1982 made-for-teevee version of “Ivanhoe” last evening and found it perfectly enjoyable in a blandish way.

I can’t remember the last time I saw it, but I had forgotten that it had a pretty heavy-hitting cast which included James Mason, Michael Hordern (an old favorite of mine), Julian Glover, Rebecca Hussey (who was a thing at the time), John Rhys-Davies, and Sam Neill (and what hasn’t he been in?).

As for Anthony Andrews in the title role, well, if Colin Firth can play a battle-hardened Roman general in a movie I absolutely deny tossing into my queue every now and again (and deny even further that it has anything to do with the presence of a shmokin’ hot Indian actress), I suppose Andrews can be a silly English kniggit, too.

I say it’s blandish because although the jousts and the climactic storming of the castle are pretty cool, the rest of it just sort of putters along without a whole lot of drama or chemistry.  (I recall that the 1952 movie with Robert Taylor, Liz Taylor, and Joan Fontaine had a lot more fireworks to it.)

And as I only read the book once about eleventy-billion years ago, I have no idea how faithful this version is to Sir Walter’s original.

I’ll only say also that sob stories about how mean the Normans were to the Saxons amuse me to a certain extent, since the Saxons had been doing the same damned thing (and worse) to the Britons for hundreds of years prior.  The biter bit, as it were.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can’t seem to tape out a fully-formed post on any single subject this evening, so how about a this-n-that fondue?

♦  Start with the fact that I can’t spell “fondue” without looking it up.  And I dislike the whole concept because of some childhood incident, the specifics of which I can no longer recall.

♦  The Local Classickal Station is doing their annual fall pledge drive and I have finally become so sick of hearing the same pitches over and over and over again that I’ve actually turned off my radio until it’s done, a practice I usually reserve for Lent.  (Yes, I do contribute.)

♦  I recently read Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That again for the nth-time.  With each reading, I find I become even more fascinated by his experiences in the trenches in WWI, but also more repelled by his character.

♦  And on the subject of books, I have a very real feeling that it’s time for me to revisit Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which I reread every couple years.  I remember a meme some blog-friend posted years ago:  Pamela Flitton or Brenda Last?

♦  Today was the first day of the season that I was able to do my lunchtime walkies without breaking a sweat, something I’m sure my office mates appreciated.  I also was able to keep up a spanking pace – my habit is to leave my building at the same time each day and to wind up near the Grant Memorial at about 12:45 pm.  There’s a nearby bell tower that strikes quarterly, and where I am when it goes off tells me how good my pace is.

♦  Obsessive-compulsive? Moi? Say rather that my mind is quite scattershot, so I need to build as many routines as possible – walking the same route at the same time, parking in the same space every day, keeping my keys, wallet, etc., in the same spot.  Otherwise, I would become disoriented very quickly.

♦  Speaking of the season, the annual Flu Shot Wars have flared up at Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. R has begun badgering me about getting one and I have already stuck in my heals and balked.  Ol’ Robbo has a deep aversion to needles.  It’s as simple as that.

Whelp, enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo is off to revisit the early-80’s tee-vee version of “Ivanhoe” with Anthony Andrews, who was at his peak star power in those days.  I can’t help thinking that Andrews didn’t really have the brawn to play a medieval knight, not like Robert Taylor. But ne’er mind.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall how a couple months back Ol’ Robbo was praising Washington & Lee University for holding fast in the face of pressure to disappear its history?

Yeah, not so much.

Renaming a couple buildings and replacing military portraits of the school’s namesakes with civilian ones may seem pretty innocuous, but that’s only if you think this is all that will happen.

And if you think that, Ol’ Robbo’s got some beachfront property at Cemetery Ridge you may be interested in purchasing.

Not that I give them a lot of alumni coin to begin with, but I think I’ll stop now.

(Short post this evening.  The Family Robbo spent a good chunk of last night at the vets with the dog after she had a case of bloody diarrhea.  Ol’ Robbo was positively cringing, especially after what happened last week:  An elderly cat who was nobody’s favorite was one thing, but the Port Swiller Puppeh is the apple of everyone’s eye here and Mrs. Robbo’s baby, and if something happened to her, I’d be scraping the family off the floor with a spatula.  Fortunately, after many hours and many (expensive) tests, they found she doesn’t have cancer (as I feared) or other major issues but probably just a bacterial infection.  She’s better today and eating boiled chicken and rice, but I’m still a bit zombied.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself doing double-duty this morning, first going along with the family for the first time in several years to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, and then later toddling off to Mass on his own.

I used to do this pretty consistently after I first went to Rome until Mrs. Robbo told me to stop it.  She didn’t like it when, while everyone else was going up to the altar rail for communion, I remained in the pew and stared at the ceiling.  On the other hand, she began to miss worshipping together, plus there’s the whole pour encourager les autres thing as far as Youngest’s spiritual development goes.  (Plus, to be honest, I still do loves me some Anglican hymnody.)

So today, I in fact got up and went to the altar rail myself.  However, I didn’t take communion, but simply crossed my hands and bowed my head.  The rector gave me a blessing instead.

I’m sure nobody on either side of the Tiber could have any strong objections to that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sad news on the Port Swiller Manor front: Early yesterday morning, the eldest of our three cats shuffled off this mortal coil.

She was nearly fifteen.  Apart from an unusual amount of yacking up this summah, which we attributed to hairballs, she’d seemed fine.  And her checkup in July revealed nothing out of the ordinary.  But a couple weeks ago, we realized that she’d suddenly lost a great deal of weight, and that instead of a brindled meatloaf, she’d become a rag and a bone and a hank of hair.  Also, her breathing started to get rather snuffly.  Some quick research on the innerwebz suggested to Ol’ Robbo that she might have had leukemia.

For all these changes, she didn’t appear to be in any pain or distress.  She still leapt up on the arm of my chair for pets as soon as I sat down, she didn’t shy away from being touched in any particular place, and even though she didn’t eat much of it, she was still demanding to be fed at 5 ack emma each morning.   So we let it go:  If we took her to the vet, in exchange for the stress and strain of a car ride, we’d only be told either that she should be put down or else that we should spend jillions of dollars on treatment that might stretch her time out a bit.  Neither option seemed particularly appealing.

Then, early Tuesday evening, Youngest Gel came to me and said, “Dad, Bella is curled up in a corner of the fireplace.  She went there to die, didn’t she.”

Yes, yes she did.

When she hadn’t shifted spots by mid-evening, Ol’ Robbo went to be with her.  I knew what was coming, so I decided to try and make things as comfortable as possible.  So I just sat there, gently scritching her ears and repeating her name softly.

She and I both dozed on and off, and she moaned softly now and again, but overall things were pretty quietly.  Then, at around 3:30 a.m., she reared way back, her head slid sideways, and she slumped down.  I thought she had gone in that moment, but a few seconds later she started breathing again.  This went on for about half an hour – short, shallow breaths (although not labored), each one ending in a sort of click.  Her eyes were open, but I knew she couldn’t see anything.  Then, around 4 a.m., she stopped breathing and quickly subsided into a deflated heap.  I sat on for a little and then gently put her in a small box, wrapped in a tea-towel.  Mrs. Robbo took her to the vet later in the morning.

Overall, I think she went very peacefully.

So that was how it was.

I’m saddened, of course, but not crushed.  Partly this is because she was never a favorite of mine – in addition to the above-mentioned breakfast pestering, she shed all over everything and bullied the other two cats.  Partly it’s also because she’s the fourth cat we’ve lost in 25 years now and I’ve simply become more philosophical about what is obviously the worst part about pet ownership.  The Gels took it pretty calmly too, although we made sure to wait until after the two Elder ones had finished their midterm exams before telling them.

We won’t replace her, but will be content to stick with our other two, who are about four years old.  And when they go? Well, who knows what Ol’ Robbo will think about getting another kitteh ten or fifteen years from now.












Derwent Water, Lake District – Image lifted from Wiki

**No, this post has absolutely nothing to do with “Star Wars”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I can’t find it now, but regular friends of the decanter may recall my posting some time back that I had long been curious about the fact that John Cleese’s Cheese Shop customer character from Monty Python had been skimming Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole while seated in the public library in Thurmond Street before suddenly becoming peckish.  Esurient.  Y’e were ‘ungry-like!  To this end, I wrote that I was going to buy and read the book myself.

Well, my friends, I’m happy to report that although it lay around neglected for months after I ordered it from the devil’s website, I finally sat down and read this 700+ page opus this past week.

When the book was first published in the 1920’s, John Buchan called it “the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure“.  To me? It’s trash. Glorious, entertaining trash, but trash nonetheless.

Rogue Herries is the first of four novels chronicling the fortunes of the Herries family, stout English gentry from Cumberland, from the 18th through the 20th Centuries.  The “Rogue” involved is Francis, youngest son of his generation, and the book picks up his story in about 1730 when, disgusted with the imperfections of the world around him, he removes himself and his young family back to the ramshackle Herries manor house in the Lake District.  He’s called “Rogue” by the locals because he is willful to the point of violence, eccentric, and notorious for such things as humiliating his wife, selling his mistress at a fair, and harboring a suspected witch in his household.  The story covers the next thirty-odd years of his and his family’s life.

I call the book trash because the plot is complete soap-opera. (Without looking it up, I wonder if it has been dramatized? Should be if it hasn’t.)  Some of it, for instance Francis’s interactions with his boy-wonder son David, is quite moving at times.  On the other hand, most of the story about his relationship with his second wife, the Gypsy-girl Mirabell Starr, had me groaning and occasionally muttering “Oh, come on!”

Not that trash is a bad thing, mind you.  I’m reminded of the passage from Evelyn Waugh’s Unconditional Surrender in which the literary critic Edvard Spruce is discussing a new novel, The Death Wish, by a rising (but insane) WWII British Army officer:

“You’ve read The Death Wish?” Spruce asked.

“Bits.  It’s pure novelette.”

Novelette? It’s twice the length of Ulysses.  Not many publishers have enough paper to print it nowadays.  I read a lot of it last night.  I can’t sleep with those damned bombs.  Ludovic’s Death Wish has got something, you know.”

“Something very bad.”

“Oh, yes, bad; egregiously bad.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see it have a great success.”

“Hardly what we expected from the author of the aphorisms.”

“It is an interesting thing,” said Spruce, “but very few of the great masters of trash aimed low to start with.  Most of them wrote sonnet sequences in their youth.  Look at Hall Caine – the protégé of Rossetti – and the young Hugh Walpole emulating Henry James.  Dorothy Sayers wrote religious verse.  Practically no one ever sets out to write trash.  Those that do don’t get very far.”

(I hope that Miss Sayers hunted down Mr. Wu and clocked him one for that, by the bye.)

Anyhoo, there it is.

Two other things about the novel, both of which are plusses to Ol’ Robbo.

First, as I say, the story picks up about 1730, and while it’s largely at a distance, the history of the period does make occasional appearances.  There are mutterings here and there of Jacobite and Hanoverian politicks, and Francis in fact meets Bonnie Prince Cherlie in Carlisle during the ’45.  The troubles with the American Colonies also are mentioned.  And there are also hints of the changes beginning to sweep 18th Century Britain with the onset of the Industrial Revolution (which I strongly suspect will have a more prominent part in the next novel in the sequence).

Finally, Walpole’s descriptions of the English Lake District – its geography, its changing seasons, its people – is straight out of a Tourist Board’s dream:  One’s overwhelming feeling upon reading them is the desire to go see the place oneself.  Walpole doesn’t attempt to distort or camouflage anything, either. He’s no Thomas Hardy inventing a region of Wessex or E.F. Benson setting a Mapp & Lucia story in the town of Rye but calling it Tilling.  Instead, he lays out a precise geography – Keswick, Grange, Rosthwaite, Barrowdale, and the River Derwent.  If you dial up Gurgle-Maps, you can pinpoint exactly where each bit of his action takes place.  Ol’ Robbo used to own a book of Lake District photography.  Maddeningly, I can’t seem to find it anymore.  Too bad, because I’d bet a considerable sum that it covered many of the locations described by Walpole.

So overall, a satisfying exercise, I think, although I’m not sure I’ve gained any illumination as to why Cleese mentions it in the Python sketch, except maybe to emphasize the character’s eccentric half-intellectualism.  At some point, I probably will re-read it, too.  A quick glance at the devil’s website shows that the other three volumes of the Herries Chronicles are also available.  Put it this way: I’ll probably eventually buy them because I now know they exist and, frankly, I want to see what happens next, but I doubt I’ll read them (or this one again)  until I’m flopped on a beach somewhere or sitting on a porch in Maine overlooking Casco Bay.  This is pure vacation-reading, so it is.


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