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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As Ol’ Robbo types, it wants about an hour or so to the new year, and for the past couple hours the basement of Port Swiller Manor has been seething with kollege kid merriment, which seems to consist mostly of the yoots screaming at the tops of their lungs at each other over a background of thumpa-thumpa-thumpa.

Ol’ Robbo never had much taste for this sort of thing even back in the days of his own misspent yoot. You can imagine what I think about it now: Calm and quiet Port Swiller Manor transmogrified into Animal House. Cor lumme, stone the crows.

This is all because Youngest Gel wanted to throw a New Year’s Eve party for some of her old high school chums. “It’s been such a hard year for them, why not let them have a little fun?” was the main argument in favor. I confess that this has a certain merit to it. And I will admit further that the idea of figuratively snapping my fingers under Kommissar Northam’s nose also had some appeal. (I didn’t do an actual head count, but I’m pretty sure there are a few more kidz down there than Der Kommissar deems acceptable for social gatherings.)

Anyhoo, like the sap that I am, even though I knew the current inescapable, disruptive, brain-scrambling, mellow-harshing atmosphere is exactly what it was going to be, I didn’t smother the idea in its infancy. And now I’m paying for it. (Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa!!)

The good news is that, although it is still very unpleasant, so far I’ve only had to go downstairs once to tell them to turn the music down. (I said I was concerned the neighbors would call the cops.) The Gel spent all afternoon gussying up the basement and it’s pretty dark and clubby, but somehow the patented Robbo Squint still effectively discomfited those yoots on whom I directed it. Heh.

The better news is that we made abundantly clear ahead of time that Youngest’s guests were to be Ubering out of here by no later than 12:15 a.m. It’s 2021. Congratulations. Now get lost, kidz.

The bestest news is that, by putting up with this ruckus now, Ol’ Robbo feels he has exhausted any and all equitable obligation to host such a yootful shindig ever again. We’re done.

Anyhoo, just writing this post has killed some time and the end is in sight. So, a happy New Year to all friends of the decanter, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Post-Midnight UPDATE: Again, Happy New Year, my friends! Bumpers all round, and no heel taps!

About twenty minutes prior to midnight, the tumult and the shouting downstairs suddenly died, suggesting that the captains and the kings had departed. *** A quick search confirmed this, as it also did a firm resolve that if anybody thinks Ol’ Robbo is going to participate in that clean-up, they’ve got another thing seriously coming.

Teh kidz seem to have migrated to somebody else’s home to consummate their NYE celebration. I still have to stay up, of course, not to shotgun festivities at Port Swiller Manor anymore, but to make sure Youngest gets home from her jaunt in one piece. Heigh ho. At least this vigil is less noisy.

*** G’wan, spot the riff.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and a continued Merry Christmas!

Ol’ Robbo is on hols this week, and although I’m not actually doing much of anything, I am at least trying to stay away from the keyboard, so just a few posts here and there for now.

Christmas Day turned out to be just lovely this year: The Spirit was almost visibly flowing out of Father at Mass, Ol’ Robbo absolutely nailed his dinner preparation,*** dinner itself was festive and good natured with all the Gels home and no quarreling or squabbling. We even got a few flakes of snow! After last year’s unmitigated disaster, it was most gratifying to simply bask in the joy this time around.

As mentioned previously, we also “celebrated” an early New Year’s Eve with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family this weekend. As is usually the case, this consisted mostly of us sitting about imbibing adult beverages while the LMC and I griped about the state of the world in general, and about how nobody else in our respective families seems to understand how to properly load a dishwasher in particular, while our Brides gently mocked us and made “get off my lawn” jokes. Good times. Good times.

I learn this morning that Youngest wants to have some kind of shindig at Port Swiller Manor on the actual turn of the calendar. I can’t say that I’m overly pleased at the prospect, not so much because I think she and her friends are going to get particularly rowdy, but because the older I get the more I hate having my routine broken up, something having a group of college kids in the house, however small, will very much do.

Ol’ Robbo actually has two New Year’s resolutions this year.

First, Illegitimati non carborundum. Make no mistake, friends of the decanter, it’s going to be bad out there going forward. With the (presumable) change in Administrations, all those forces from the global corporatists to the fauxdemic tyrants to the culture cancilists to the Jacobin street thugs that have been held in some check for the past four years are going to dial it all the way up to eleven. And guess who their targets will be? But I will strive to stay above all of that and, however awful it gets, to remind myself constantly that in the end it doesn’t matter that much and that my allegiance is to a Higher Power. (And speaking of which, Ol’ Robbo is delighted that the White House chose to issue a statement today on the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Becket. Gonna miss this sort of thing.)

Second, on a somewhat different level, I am finally going to get over my fear of Flannery O’Connor and start reading her. I’ve put it off all these years for the very foolish reason that I am simply intimidated by her reputation for richness and insight, and have an irrational dislike of the notion of her, at some higher level, impatiently tapping her foot at my denseness and blunderings. Finally, I said to myself, “Self, just dive in! So you don’t “get it” the first time you read a story. Read it again! And again! And once you start getting familiar with it, then settle down to analysis and exploration of deeper meanings. After all, isn’t that what you always recommend to people interested in dipping into classickal musick for the first time?”

So we’ll see how that goes.

Anyhoo, I may or may not be in here once or twice for the rest of the week, but probably only if something post-worthy falls straight into my lap, rayther than my having to go out and look for it.

***Traditional roast beef with popovers and two veg, preceded by bacon and water chestnuts. I found myself delighted not so much because I did such a good job preparing it but because it was so evident that everyone else enjoyed it so much. There were barely any left-overs, but lots of cleaned plates. Truly gratifying.

I had mentioned here earlier that I was going to try a homemade Hollandaise sauce. It proved the simplest thing in the world. Allow me to share the recipe:

  • 3 egg yolks. (You need to separate out the whites.)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 stick of cold butter cut into 8 pieces
  • Paprika and salt to taste

(I actually doubled the above portions and it worked out just fine.)

Whisk the egg yolks, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan until blended.

Cook over low heat until it starts to bubble round the edges.

Stir in the butter one piece at a time (allowing each piece to melt before adding the next) until the sauce thickens

Add the spices. (This is optional. I’d probably use the paprika in Eggs Benedict but didn’t think it appropriate for steamed asparagus.)

Serve immediately.

Easy, delicious, and you can put it on practically anything.


1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

  • Luke 2:1-20

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and Merry Christmas to one and all!

Heavy rain here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this Christmas Eve means Ol’ Robbo has to dash out front from time to time to clear the field drains and keep the basement from flooding. Not exactly conducive to Midnight Mass attendance, so I decided to go ahead and wait for tomorrow’s noon Traditional Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form. It’s my regular gig, anyway.

Perhaps because of the lockdown, I don’t feel like I’ve been battered nearly so much this year by the world trying to impose its secularized, commercialized, highjacked “X-mas” on me. Instead, I’ve had more time to think about the approach of Our Lord’s Nativity. I admit I got off to rayther a slow start with Advent, but by last Sunday I was scaring myself with Lewis’s Mere Christianity, finding inspiration in Ronald Knox’s sermons on the Saints, and generally sensing the approaching Moment almost like the approach of some monstrous wave.

Anyhoo, that’s where I am this night. And as Linus said of the above quote, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”

May you all have a blessed and joyous celebration yourselves!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was jerked out of the dreamless this morning by the thought of what an awful lot of things he still has left to do in preparation for celebrating the Nativity. Yikes!

How does this always happen?

Dinner shopping, cleaning the house, final decorations….even when I have plenty of time to map all these things out in my head, I always feel at the last minute like I’m running about with my hair on fire.

I’ve also still got to get to Confession. Not that I am crawling with egregiousness, but it’s been a few weeks and I feel a bit shabby. Father was joking last Sunday about how people turning up in the box this week with small sins should expect big penances. I hope I don’t just annoy him.

As for Christmas itself, I haven’t yet decided what to do. I’d like to make Midnight Mass, but the weather here may be quite nasty. On the other hand, that might knock attendance down enough that I don’t have to wear a mask. (Heh.) If I wait until the Noon Mass Christmas Day, I’ll be frantically scrambling in the kitchen the instant I get back. We shall see.

We’re also on a compressed holiday schedule this year. Because of sham-demic restrictions, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family, with whom we have celebrated New Year’s Eve time out of mind, will be arriving at Port Swiller Manor on Boxing Day this year, rayther than the actual turn of the calendar. This means no rest for Ol’ Robbo this weekend, although it also means we can ignore the whole bloody biznay next weekend.

(Speaking of which, I saw a good one the other day: Thought this was a bad year? Just wait until 2020 turns ’21 and starts drinking.)

Anyhoo, time to get busy. Where’d I leave those matches?

UPDATE: Whelp, Ol’ Robbo managed to get himself in gear before work and go gather in all necessary foodstuffs and grog for the festivities. I consider this a real moral victory. In part because of the ongoing house arrest, in part because I still suffer a bit of the blues around holidays, it can be an almost physical struggle to actually get myself to do these things. I’ve learned to recognize the signs, and also that the only proper course is to put my head down and make myself power through.

UPDATE DEUX: Several friends have asked, “Tom, what’s for dinner?” Well, we tried something new for Thanksgiving this year because I’m indifferent to turkey, we hardly ever have lamb for Easter as I could wish because my family gets the vapors, but you can have my Christmas roast beef (with popovers and two veg) when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers. I’m trying to make my own Hollandaise sauce this year, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has got in the habit of late of usually checking Turner Classic Movies in the evening to see if there’s anything on worth watching. Sometimes this pays off in the form of a new-to-me little gem.

An example of such turned up last evening in the form of “Come To The Stable” (1949). Starring Loretta Young and Celeste Holm, it’s a comedy about a couple of nuns from a French convent who, owing to a wartime vow, come to Bethlehem, Connecticut to establish a children’s hospital. Dooley Wilson (Sam from “Casablanca”) is also in it.

It would be tedious to try and spool out the plot here. The Sisters encounter perpetual money issues and are opposed by composer and local landowner Hugh Marlowe on NIMBY grounds. The plot features all kinds of cross-ties to the nuns’ Normandy convent, Marlowe’s military experience there, plagiarized Gregorian Chant, and a climactic tennis match in which one of the Sisters plays in full habit.

The film’s not exactly a laff-riot, but it is pleasant and charming all the way through. It’s also immensely respectful of the Church and, indeed, it is the Sisters’ faith that in the end resolves all the problems and brings about the happy ending. (I’ve read elsewhere that Loretta Young herself was an intensely devout Catholic.)

So good on TCM. Especially during Advent and with the approach of Christmas, Ol’ Robbo has been trying to wall off the temporal madness which seems to be gripping the Country and instead focusing on more Celestial affairs. The film proved to be a nice little re-enforcement of that effort.

Moar Moovies UPDATE: By a curious coincidence, after mentioning Dooley Wilson in this post earlier today, this evening I just got a notice from Netflix that “Casablanca” is on the way. Funny, that.

Second, posting about this film reminded me of another Church-friendly comedy, “Trouble Along The Way” (1953), starring John Wayne and Donna Reed. In it, the Duke plays a football coach hired out by a small Catholic college to boost its team in order to try and raise money to avoid bankruptcy. It’s been a while since I last saw this, but my vague memories are pleasant ones. Fortunately, Netflix still carries it. (I believe, by the bye, that Duke himself was a deathbed convert.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Winter Solstice!

The fact that winter begins in earnest after the “shortest” day of the year is one around which Ol’ Robbo has never been able to wrap his head completely. You can explain it to me scientifically and I will nod wisely in agreement, but it still seems counter-intuitive.

That is all.

Well, almost.

A foggy morning here at Port Swiller Manor, and I gather we’re supposed to be clouded over all day. So much for taking a dekko at this evening’s “Christmas Star” conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

Meanwhile, following up on my post below, Decanter Dog seems to have slipped on the ice going downstairs into the yard. At least she’s hobbling a bit. So for the past day or two, we’ve been carrying her up and down in order to save her the strain. Said strain is now starting to transfer to our backs.

UPDATE: Narp. And it was a tease, too. Clouds overhead were feathery enough that I could see the moon, okay, but banked up to the southwest, which was where one was to look. Perhaps tomorrow night – I b’lieve the weather is supposed to be somewhat clearer then. But it no longer being the solstice, the chance of seeing aliens is now right out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ma Nature didn’t exactly dump a major storm on Port Swiller Manor yesterday and last night, but she did thoughtfully leave a thick layer of ice on Ol’ Robbo’s driveway this morning (as well as taking out some trees just up the street).

Ol’ Robbo remembers being told that one of the joys of teleworking would be that I no longer had to worry about digging out after a storm, to which I say, “Ha! Jolly! HA!” I may not need to get to the office, but life still goes on round here. So yes, I was out at zero-dark-thirty dutifully hammering away at the stuff with a shovel.

Took me about an hour and a half of pounding (and giving Decanter Dog hysterics) before I had a reasonable way cleared for the family fleet. It’s a much nastier job than plain old shoveling snow, and now my arm and chest muscles are aching pretty freely.

Think I can let myself off working out this afternoon with a clear conscience?

UPDATE: The answer to that last question is yes, yes I can.

This sort of dovetails into an observation that has occurred to me as a result of the on-going house arrest: I am really an endorphin junkie. (A long-standing leftover from my college sports, no doubt.) I suppose when I was commuting, all the walking about sated my craving to some extent, but I’ve found in this much more sedentary environment that if I don’t hit the treadmill and/or rowing machine in my basement four or five times per week, I really start to feel withdrawal symptoms. And if I skip for an extended period of time, I start spinning in physically, mentally, and emotionally. On the other hand, once I make myself get back into my routine, I perk up very quickly.

For all that, I actually have been pretty good about sticking to it for the most part, and have definitely put on muscle mass over the past nine months while remaining quite reasonably close to the figgah of my yoot.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter may know that today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Such friends who may listen to Robbo’s local classickal station will be bound to know it, as we’ve been being beaten over the head with the fact for weeks now. If they made this kind of fuss over such milestone anniversaries for, say, Bach or Mozart, I simply don’t recall it.

I think all the hub-bub has something to do with ol’ Ludwig Van’s position at the forefront of the Romantic Era, the point where, as I like to put it, the artist ceased to be an artisan and became an artiste. With that comes an inevitable cult of celebrity, which is what most people glom onto these days.

Personally, I’ve always resisted that movement. What interests me is skill and craftsmanship and judging the artist’s output on its own merits. Frankly, I don’t give much of a toss for the artist’s feels or struggles, at least anymore than for anybody else’s. And as for the elevation of artists into some sort of priestly class with a direct line to Truth and Beauty that we peons can’t fathom (or as Percy “Bysshe” Shelley put it, the “unacknowledged legislators of the world”), well, that’s right out. Once that line was crossed, as I think history has shown, the artistic ego came to dominate and overwhelm, and the art itself becomes almost irrelevant. (See Post-Modernism.)

Not that I mean such criticism to apply specifically to Beethoven, of course. He was every bit as talented as his reputation holds. Indeed, the same local classickal station has been doing a series of mini-examinations of his symphonic cycle, and those dealing with his technical innovations and achievements have been quite illuminating. But those that started gassing on about his brooding on the battle between Good and Evil in the Fifth or his communing with Nature in the Sixth are an ominous foreshadowing of the eventual slide of Western Art as a whole into self-absorbed wankery.

Incidentally, the same classickal station also did a poll of “top 20 favorite Beethoven works” among its listeners, to be played over the course of the day today. (I didn’t vote.) I guaran-damn-tee that his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies will be in the top two positions. The Fifth I can see as a landmark achievement in its own right. The popularity of the Ninth, however, is in my opinion a pure product of the celebrity I mention above. (As it was even in its own time. At that point of his life, Beethoven could have orchestrated a set of variations on “Three Blind Mice” and they’d have cheered him to the rafters.) And the “Ode To Joy” is, in my very humble opinion, vastly overrated.

(Yes, I said it. If you feel compelled to throw walnuts or even chunks of Stilton at me over the decanter, I will understand.)

UPDATE: Huh, the Fifth, which is playing right now, only made it to No. 5. I’m mildly surprised.

UPDATE DEUX: Well, they’re up to No. 2 and it’s the Piano Concerto No. 5 (the “Emperor”), so since I haven’t heard it yet, Imma going to assume the Ninth won the big prize.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s the BIG ONE, Elizabeth!

One to three inches currently forecast for the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. If the Covidz doesn’t getcha, surely the snow will!! AAAIIIIII!!!!!

Apparently, the crisis this time around is school-related: If we’re all under house arrest already and everybody is (supposedly) distance-learning, should the kiddies get a snow day anyway? From the buzz that Ol’ Robbo faintly hears, there is some considerable opposition to the idea from….the parents, who I suppose don’t want to be stuck entertaining the lil’ darlins. The County system, true to its reputation, appears to be dithering in the extreme over this.

On the other hand, Mrs. Robbo informed me a little while ago that, despite any potential grumblings, if we have snow tomorrow, St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method is taking the day off. Period. The thinking, I gather, is that the kidz already have so much nonsense to wade through, why not just give ’em a treat?

I must say, I can see the argument there.

In the meantime, I confirmed there is sufficient food and drink in the house to sustain us for the present. I won’t get a snow day because my employer has abolished them altogether, but I may celebrate by working in my jammies. (Checks to make sure no Zoom calls are scheduled.) At least there will be no pressing reason to have to clear off the driveway in any kind of hurry.

So let the panic begin!

UPDATE: Whelp, a few flakes are already coming down this morning but the forecast suggests now that Ma Nature is pulling the football away once again, Lucy-style, and we’ll prolly just see an inch or so mixed with a lot of rain and muck. So I guess we can stand down from our plans to eat the cats and burn the furniture.

UPDATE DEUX: A reasonably heavy fall in progress now. The grass is covered and the plows are on the road. So I guess it’s a legit snow. Kinda, sorta. I let Decanter Dog out just now to revel in it. Always funny to me how much that dog lurves snow and how much she hates rain.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Ol’ Robbo was in the grocery store this afternoon and passed what he thought to be somebody he knew.

“Hey, [Person’s Name]!” I said, brightly. “How are you?”

“Um, fine,” she said. “Well, it certainly is hard to recognize people under these masks, isn’t it?”

With that, she scurried off at speed.

Normal, well-adjusted persons would merely shrug the episode off as a reasonable mistake.

Ol’ Robbo is not a normal, well-adjusted person, but instead a highly self-conscious one whose personal Eleventh Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Make A Fool Of Thyself In Public”.*** I’ll prolly be stewing about the matter for days.

This is what I get for going against my instincts. Just because you’re neurotic doesn’t mean you don’t have reason to be.

*** “Public” does not include the Innertoobs, which is only a figment of my imagination anyway.


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December 2020