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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ugh. Ol’ Robbo suddenly found himself grieving over his parents this morning. After I had got through last Christmas in good spirits, I had hoped that I was over the return of the blue devils at holiday time. I guess not. (The 14th anniversary of the Old Gentleman’s handing in his dinner pail was last week, so perhaps that proximity had something to do with it, too.)

Anyhow, the option of dialing into Mass online actually proved something of a blessing today. If I don’t shake this mood, I might have to employ it the rest of the week as well.

In the meantime, I will be signing off here until after Easter Sunday. May all of you have a blessed Holy Week and I’ll see you on the other side.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A really beautiful spring day here at Port Swiller Manor – sunny and warm with a brisk wind from the southwest – had Ol’ Robbo hurrying about the place this morning to open up all the windows and hopefully dispel some of the fug built up over the winter months. (I am going to have an enormously tedious task of taking down and cleaning all the screens this year but that can wait until after the pollen is done.)

I’m also wearing shorts for the first time this year and am happy to report that they fit just as well as they did last fall and, in fact, may even be a bit looser. (Ol’ Robbo confesses to having fallen off the exercise routine over the past week or two but I’ve generally been a good boy and I like to think my efforts are being rewarded.)

Indeed, it’s so nice out that I am definitely going to put the top down on La Wrangler when I go run errands later on.

Yes, this may be a very boring post but Ol’ Robbo loves him these days when everything is fresh and clean and coming back to life.

And Not A Moment Too Soon UPDATE: This is the first time I’ve had the ol’ laptop out in the sunlight for quite a while and I must say I’m a bit staggered at how much dust and pollen has built up on the thing without my noticing. Yikes.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Reason # Eleventy-billion why Ol’ Robbo believes his presence in this day and age is some kind of cosmic slip-up.

The FedEx package to which I refer in the post below was a new laptop sent to me from the employment hive. (They claim my old one was “at its end of life” and needed replacing. Seemed perfectly okay to me but what do I know.)

Anyhoo, I duly plugged the thing in and connected all the external bits……..and then spent forty-five minutes unsuccessfully trying to access my work system. I unplugged and replugged. I restarted and rebooted. I checked on my work phone to see if maybe the system had coincidentally crashed while I was setting up.

And I was thiiiiiiiis close to breaking down and calling the Help Desk for assistance when a still, small voice in the back of my head said, “You know, you have to dial this thing into the Port Swiller Manor wifi first.”

I’m very glad I didn’t call the Help Desk after all. They’re pretty patient as a rule but I’m pretty sure they would have laughed at me for that one. (Eldest Gel certainly did when I told her about it.)


Incidentally, WordPress seems to be tinkering with their dashboard set-up once again (for the worse, I might add). They’re now inviting me to Get MOAR Traffic by setting up a podcast. No, thankee. Ol’ Robbo may have a face for radio, but he has a voice strictly for print.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had a delivery this morning, a package he had to sign for, and get this: The FedEx guy….wasn’t wearing a mask!

This area is heavily Karened. The number of people I see masked up while driving alone with their windows rolled up, for example, is mind-boggling. If and when Kommissar Northham ever lifts the mandate, I’m sure a large proportion of folks will go right on wearing their face-diapers. Just because.

Drives Ol’ Robbo absolutely bonkers. (I saw a meme the other day, a photo of a pair of masks lying on the ground. It was captioned “Sheep Droppings”. I larfed.)

So it was delightfully refreshing to see this fellah’s mug unswathed. I very much hope it’s a sign of things to come.

(Image pinched off the webz somewhere)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was delighted this morning to spot a red fox loitering about the tree line behind the neighbor’s house. Decanter Dog spotted it, too, meaning she spent the next half hour running round the Port Swiller Manor back yard shrieking at the top of her lungs.

The fox was hovering right in front of the spot where a vixen raised a couple of kits last year, which makes me wonder if this is maybe the same vixen or perhaps one of the kits. Our neighbors kept them pretty well fed with table scraps last year, so I would think there’d be a strong incentive to return to the spot.

Looking up some background information, I find that the red fox has an average lifespan of only two to four years, which I must say rayther surprises me. I wonder if this average is artificially low due to all the foxes that get squished on the roads (at least round here) and that individuals who are able to avoid such calamity can actually live somewhat longer. It doesn’t seem right, somehow, that something so handsome should have such a fleeting time on Earth.

(I know what a pest foxes can be to poultry owners (such as my Sistah) but from my standpoint they are purely decorative.)

Anyhoo, I hope this one settles in and I get to watch another generation grow up this spring.

Rodental UPDATE: Just by way of idle curiosity since I see so very many of them, Ol’ Robbo decided to also dig out comparative information on grey squirrels. It would appear that, although some can live much, much longer, the average lifespan of the common tree rat is only 10 to 12 months.

This little nugget bothers Ol’ Robbo not a’tall. In fact, I take a certain grim delight in recognizing the latest new entrant into the feeder-raiding lists attempting to overcome my foolproof hanging arrangement and failing, sometimes getting quite violently angry about it. Greedy, flea-bitten little blighters.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo idly flipped over to the Smithsonian Channel on the teevee this evening and took in a program centered on an “aerial view” of Greece and the Aegean Sea.

You can’t go far wrong with drone footage of basic geography, but by the time the show worked its way down to Crete, some questions, niggling or otherwise, were forming in what I perhaps foolishly call my mind.

Not unsurprisingly, when it got to said island the program swooped in on the ancient ruins and modern restoration of the Minoan capital of Knossos. What got Ol’ Robbo’s attention was the American narrator’s insistence on pronouncing the “K” in Knossos. My long understanding – and I fully admit without looking it up that I could be flat wrong about this – was that the “K” is silent.

What further tickled my suspicion was that, in discussing the legend of the Minotaur, the narrator pronounced that beast’s name “MY-no-taur” instead of “MI-no-taur”. Ol’ Robbo is on far firmer ground on this one and will not brook any dissent.

(And lest you suspect Ol’ Robbo is engaging here in some kind of anti-American snobbery, I will reiterate my objection to a Brit narrator I heard on a teevee show some years ago referring to the “Bye-ZAN-teen Empire” when the correct pronunciation, of course, is “BIZ-an-teen”.


Anyhoo, the visuals, as I say, were very good. And with regard to Crete, they largely confirmed and, as they say, contexualized the descriptions of Crete given by Mr. Evelyn Waugh in his novel Officers And Gentlemen, in which his character Guy Crouchback takes part in the disastrous Brit retreat from Crete in the face of the Nazi onslaught in 1941, in which Mr. Woo himself was personally involved.

Pity the program didn’t stop with the physical descriptions of Crete. (This is the “otherwise” part of Ol’ Robbo’s criticism.) It had, instead, to delve into some kind of modern worship of the Triple Goddess (about whom Robert Graves became so infatuated). It also paid homage to native Nikos Karsantzakis, who wrote the novel The Last Temptation of Christ on which the much-ballyhooed Scorsese film was based. The program admitted that the Greek Orthodox Church had excommunicated Nikos over this book. Based on what I know of it and the epitaph on his grave***, I’d say good job, too.

** Oh, you know!

*** “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” Shorter version? Non serviam. If you’re not familiar, Bing it to see how that worked out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall Ol’ Robbo’s post from a couple weeks back about signing up with a lawn care outfit.

Whelp, they came out this week for the first weed and feed treatment of the year. One of the reasons I have put off such a service for so long is the same reason why I assiduously avoid auto mechanics and dentists: Once they’re in, they’re in for all of it. I only talked to the guy for a few minutes but he immediately started on about lime treatments, aeration, and overseeding. And I never knew before that raking out moss was a thing, but apparently it is. Part of me knows all this really ought to happen, but part of me also regrets unfastening the tent flap.


Speaking of which, even as I type, Mrs. R is on the phone with our handyman outlining a list of “projects”. The guy’s very good at what he does but unfortunately he works with a real estate friend of ours fixing up places to put on the market so he can immediately spot about a bizillion things that “need” to be done. I have to be very, very firm with the two of them.

Double sigh.

.Forehead-Slapping UPDATE: Somehow Ol’ Robbo completely forgot that today is the first day of Spring! Happy, happy, everyone!

And for all my grousing above, I will note from my poking round the grounds today that the wisteria are starting to crack through their winter bark, all the clematis have new shoots, and the jasmine is suddenly growing in leaps and bounds. Plus, the forecast says we may get a thunderstorm next Saturday. Ol’ Robbo longs for his first spring thunderstorm!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo, accompanied by Mrs. R and the two Elder Gels went out to dinner last evening. (Apart from last summah’s hols and our dropping off of Youngest at skool last August, this was the only time I’ve dined out since house arrest began.)

The occasion was the celebration of Eldest’s recent birthday so we went to her very favorite place, the local Japanese steakhouse.

Ol’ Robbo does not much care for the Japanese steakhouse “experience”.

First, he doesn’t much like being seated round a hibachi with a pack of strangers. Fortunately, due to “distancing” and the fact that it was a quiet evening, we were able to secure a station to ourselves. So at least I had that going for me.

But also, I don’t much care for the performance that goes along with the meal at these places. Ol’ Robbo likes to eat in peace and takes no pleasure at being harangued by the chef, much less being dragged into little “audience participation” shticks. I had hoped to be spared this, too, but no. The chef was set up at the next station over but carried on anyway, simply shouting his routine across the way at us. And, plague be damned, he closed in on us to do the traditional flipping of bits of shrimp into our mouths. (Well, near them, anyway. He only scored the once when Middle Gel caught one.)

Now Ol’ Robbo respects the hard work that showmen put into their acts and is perfectly willing to look on benevolently and even applaud where appropriate. All I ask is to be left out of it, to be able to preserve what you might call my wallflower status.

This is where it all breaks down, of course, because such showmen always spot me and always go out of their way to gig me. (Whether this is some kind of guild law or just humorous malignity, I’ve never yet decided.)

Take the time I was dragged to Disneyworld. Whenever we sat down for a meal, who at our table had Piglet or Goofy or whoever come up and drape their arms around his neck? Yours truly, that’s who. Creeps.

Then there was the time we visited Mrs. R’s sister and her family in Bahston and we all went on one of those duckboat tours. All Ol’ Robbo wanted to do was lean back, stare out the side, and enjoy the gentle, sunny day. Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of my reveries, I suddenly realized that the driver was razzing me in the middle of his cross-talk and that people around me were laughing about it. Grrrrr…..

Not that the fellah last evening was particularly bad. In fact, his insistence on repeatedly addressing us as “Faddah” “Muddah” and “Sistahs” made me smile at the thought of how it would enrage the gender warrior harpies had they heard it. (“Xe just assumed a traditional nuclear family?? REEEEEEE!!!“) But he also insisted on flipping shrimp at me despite all my efforts to politely decline. And that I don’t like.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How is it that even in these fever times nobody objects to the wholesale appropriation and cheap, caricaturish debasement of Irish Catholic culture? Huh? Huh??

I mean, any other ethnic-themed celebration these days instantly unleashes the wrath of the Cancelistas. But if I put on a silly green hat, grab a glass of Guinness and staaart speakin’ in a silly Oirish brogue, it’s totes cool.

(My question is purely rhetorical. I know the answer already.)

Anyhoo, how about a wee bit o’ Irish random?

– Ol’ Robbo cannot abide either corned beef OR cabbage.

– I know absolutely nothing about Irish whiskey. To the extent I touch the hard stuff anymore, I remain a single-malt scotch man (Laphroig by preference). Not that I’m unwilling to learn, of course.

– On the other hand, I DO know a thing or two about stout. Mostly, that it should not be quaffed when the outside temperature is anything over about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Today would have been an excellent day for it in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, had I had any about me.

– “The Commitments”, the story of one man’s attempt to bring soul music to Dublin, remains one of my very favorite movies. Fookin’ deadly! (Perhaps I shall pop it in this evening.)

– Leprechauns. The non-Disney ones, that is. They’re not cute and cuddly, they won’t enhance your breakfast cereal experience, and God help you if you ever do somehow stumble across one of their treasure hordes. One of my favorite short stories encapsulating the actual terror associated with “Thim People” is “The Happy Despatch” by Patrick O’Brian. (Yes, THAT Patrick O’Brian.) You’ll find it in his collection The Rendezvous and Other Stories.)

– Speaking of which, allow Ol’ Robbo to once again plug one of my favorite collections of short stories, The Irish R.M. by E. O. Somerville and Martin Ross, a pair of Anglo-Irish ladies writing in the early 20th Century. (But don’t get me going about the teevee series based on it. A gallant try but an ultimate failure, in my humble opinion.)

— A little musickal fun fact? The Irish, in fact, invented the bagpipes in the 11th Century, and promptly gave them to the Scots. The Scots still haven’t caught on to the joke.

— Another bit of semi-related musickal humor: Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C-major is known as “The Great” C-major symphony in order to distinguish it from his Symphony No. 6 in C, known as “The Little” C-major. For the period, it is a monstrously long work. The Mothe, whenever this piece was mentioned in our conversations, for reasons known only to herself (but possibly as a dig at Mr. G.B. Shaw), always would adopt a thick Irish brogue and remark, “Ta Great, is it now? Well, I dunno about dat. But it serr-tently is ta Large!”

— Well I think that’s funny.

— Finally, let me just say that Our Maximum Leader is a truly benevolent monarch.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Ides of March!

Ol’ Robbo was thinking earlier that Julius Caesar had one thing going for him: At least he wasn’t having to deal with the first Monday after Daylight Savings Time.

More kawfee…..

UPDATE: By the bye, I can’t recall where, but I’ve read one version of the story in which, when the assassins came for Caesar, being the experienced combat veteran that he was he picked up a tripod or a stool and started defending himself vigorously. It was only when he recognized Brutus and realized how deep the revolt had gone that he lowered his defenses and let himself be struck down. I rather like this idea.

UPDATE DEUX: Our Maximum Leader suggests that Plutarch might be the source of this story, so I went and looked it up. Sure enough, Plutarch reports:

“So it began, and those who were not in the conspiracy were so horror-struck and amazed at what was being done that they were afraid to run away and afraid to come to Caesar’s help; they were too afraid even to utter a word. But those who had come prepared for the murder all bared their daggers and hemmed Caesar in on every side. Whichever way he turned he met the blows of daggers and saw the cold steel aimed at his face and at his eyes. So he was driven this way and that…[snip]…Some say that Caesar fought back against all the rest, darting this way and that to avoid the blows and crying out for help, but when he saw that Brutus had drawn his dagger, he covered his head with his toga and sank to the ground.”

I also checked up on my Suetonius. He gives a slightly different account upon which our Dear Leader also touches:

“As soon as Caesar took his seat the conspirators crowded around him as if to pay their respects. Tillius Cimber, who had taken the lead, came up close, pretending to ask a question. Caesar made a gesture of postponement, but Cimber caught hold of his shoulders. ‘This is violence!’ Caesar cried, and at that moment, as he turned away, one of the Casca brothers with a sweep of his dagger stabbed him just below the throat. Caesar grasped Casca’s arm and ran it through with his stylus; he was leaping away when another dagger blow stopped him. Confronted by a ring of drawn daggers, he drew the top of his gown over his face….[snip]…Twenty-three dagger thrusts went home as he stood there. Caesar did not utter a sound after Casca’s blow had drawn a groan from him; though some say that when he saw Marcus Brutus about to deliver the second blow, he reproached him in Greek with: “You, too, my child?”

So there you have it. Except I haven’t dipped into either Plutarch or Suetonius for some time and am pretty sure I read the story somewhere in a more recent piece of fiction. Wracking my braims, the best I can come up with is that Stephen Maturin might make mention of it in one of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels. But it might have been somewhere else, too. Another possibility is Evelyn Waugh’s Helena. Ol’ Robbo went through all of Waugh’s works within the past month or two, whereas it’s been close to a year since I last read O’Brian, and the story seems fresh in my mind.


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March 2021