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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees the news this final day of 2022 that dear Pope Benedict XVI has passed. The warnings of his rapidly declining health started going out a few days ago, so I’m saddened but not shocked.

God bless him. He wasn’t the reason for my own swimming of the Tiber, since any cult of personality is pernicious, but his scholarship and orthodoxy represented exactly what I was looking for, and I can at least say that his example gave me a solid foundation to endure everything that has happened since.

Who can say, in the end, but I like to think that Papa Benny will not have much time in Purgatory.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friend of the decanter rbj1 reports that Turner Classic Movies is running a “Thin Man” marathon New Year’s Eve.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo will be unable to tune in. I learn this morning that what I’d thought was going to be a quite evening’s celebration with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family has suddenly strengthened into a Cat 3 shindig with the addition of several other guests, so I will now be spending it “entertaining”. (Mrs. R denies this, but I know perfectly well how it will play out. The good news is that it might actually be warm enough this year for the thing to spill out onto the porch.)

Don’t worry: I only say “alas” in the sense that figuring out food and drink suddenly becomes more complicated. As a matter of fact, all of the additional guests are good friends, not quite such crusty reactionaries as I am (and as is the FLMC), but within a few standard deviations thereof. Furthermore, they know me thoroughly and know to ignore most of my blather, so I needn’t worry about holding my tongue as I had to at Christmas dins.

Anyhoo, a thing about “Thin Man”. The original novel on which the films were based was of course written by Dashiell Hammett, who for many years was the slave of playwright Lilliam Hellman. (He dedicated the novel to her, and indeed Nora Charles is supposed to be a tribute.) This didn’t matter much to Ol’ Robbo until I read up on Hellman. John Zmirak, in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, uses her to illustrate Envy. (He also refers to her as “Stalin’s Trollop”.) A thoroughly horrible woman. I’m not saying I’ve stopped watching these movies as a result of this knowledge, but it now lurks around the edge of them for me, emitting a faint but foul odor.

Just an observation. I suppose if one goes digging far enough one can find many, many instances of this sort of thing but this one in particular sticks in Ol’ Robbo’s braims.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sometimes the sight of Ol’ Robbo lounging in his comfy-chair with his nose contentedly stuck in a book seems to give Mrs. R the heebie-jeebies. At any rate, she interrupted me in my worming this morning to make me go drop something off to Youngest Gel at work.

It was very strange. The Gel works at the same animal hospital we took our first three cats to between twenty-five and thirty years ago – their files are still in the system – and yet I have no recollection whatsoever of having set foot in the place before. None.

I mentioned this to Mrs. R when I got home. “Oh,” she said, “They’ve remodeled the building since then.”

That might well be true, but not only did I not recall the building itself, I also did not recall having been in that specific location, either. (And, as I say, we’ve lived in the area and haunted the biznays round there for thirty years.)

I’m one who prides myself on my geographical memory: Once I’ve been to a place, it generally remains tattooed on my brain and I can recall how to get back to it without having to look up the directions again. So it’s a bit disconcerting that I couldn’t pull this one up out of the depths.

Oh, well, one of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

(Back to book-worming….)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.


Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.


Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.


Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.


Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.


Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”


Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

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

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

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

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:)

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

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

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.

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

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 Savior, 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.

— Luke 2: 1-14 (KJV)

very merry Christmas to all friends of the decanter!  God bless you all!  Bumpers all round and gunn’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heel taps!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself with no particular place to go and nothing in particular to do today, everything being already teed up for the celebrations. Indeed, I could have spent the whole day loafing in robe and jammies. However, I’ve never been able to stand that: At a certain point I must get showered and dressed. Otherwise, I start to get the heebie-jeebies.


The Storm of the Century of the Week blew through the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this morning, dropping heavy, non-sticking snow for about twenty minutes. The skies are clearing out now but the wind continues to howl and the temperature plummet. It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that he needs to up the birds’ rations today – they look like they could use them.

Middle Gel remarked that she’s happy she’s not out in Indiana today, as the low in Bloomington was -7. Oh, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience the joys of a Midwest Wintah soon enough. My personal record low was -17, together with a screaming wind, experienced one morning in Cheyenne. That was the first time I ever felt the cold as an entity that would actually kill me if I gave it half the chance.


Speaking of which, this is the first vacation in which it feels like the Elder Gels are visiting rayther than coming home. Most interesting. As I recall, I felt the same sort of dynamic from the other side, as it were, my first year of grad school. (The first time I felt that the change was coming was Christmas my junior year in college. It hit me one day while I was sitting and talking with the Mothe. I admit I burst into tears.)


Tonight, in the spirit of things, I gather we’re all going to watch “Home Alone” together. Ol’ Robbo confesses he hasn’t actually seen this film since it was in the theatres however many years ago. (Don’t tell me.) Another time maybe I can get them all to watch “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, an inexplicably under-rated movie in my humble opinion. (I mean, it’s got John Houseman, Robert Mitchem, and Bobcat Goldthwaite in it. What more could one ask?)

Also in the spirit, it would seem Mrs. R found a little indoor mini-s’mores making device. Hard pass on that for Ol’ Robbo, who has never liked sweets and grows more and more intolerant of them as the years go by. (Perhaps I’ll break into the Laphroigh instead.)


Speaking of the spirit, somehow Ol’ Robbo managed to come through without getting thoroughly browned off by premature Christmas musick this year. Don’t ask me how, but there it is. (I thought hearing Willie Nelson sing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” right after Thanksgiving was going to get me, but I managed to weather it.)


“I Read the News Today, Oh Boy” Dept. Why has it suddenly become double-plus ungood wrong think to raise questions about Ukrainian President Zelensky, or indeed to treat him as anything other than a Hero?*** Hard pass on that, as well. I know a gal who declared the other day “Zelensky Day” on FacePlant after he spoke to Congress. Of course, this is the same gal who on the day of the January 6th protests felt compelled to inform her FacePlant audience that she and her family were “all safe home and sound”. She lives twenty miles from downtown Dee Cee. Wanker. Do you wonder why Ol’ Robbo grows daily more skeptical of and disgusted with the current state of things?

***Rhetorical question. Ol’ Robbo knows perfectly well why.


“And Robbo Wept, For There Were No More Wu’s to Conquer” Dept. Speaking of such things, I’ve just about finished my latest cycle through the complete works of Mr. Evelyn Waugh, having only his collected correspondence with Nancy Mitford left to go. Each time I read him, I become more firmly convinced that he really is my favorite author of all time.


Well, that should be enough for those two or three of you who gather together here. (I truly hope you enjoy these musings – just as I went to hit “post” the first time I discovered my wifi had cut out on me and only my first sentence had been saved, so I had to retype the whole dang post from memory. D’oh!) I will duly put up a Christmas Card tomorrow here as I decorate the rest of Port Swiller Manor, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has alluded here before to the fact that both his late parents loved to cook. The Old Gentleman focused primarily on Italian dishes (with occasional, and to me disastrous, forays into the German and Irish) and was the family grill man. The Mothe tended to the French and was also the pastry specialist. (She attributed her superb ability to deal with dough to cold hands resulting from poor circulation.)

Anyhoo, some 20-odd years ago now, the Old Gentleman was inspired to type up his favorite recipes and present them in book (well, three-ring binder) form to us kids.

Doubtless due to this background, Ol’ Robbo thoroughly enjoys cooking himself, as do my brother and sister. (Which is just as well, because none of our spouses are any real use in the kitchen.) And I suppose I use the Old Gentleman’s recipe book more than any other I own. Over the years, however, I’ve also taken to writing down my own recipes picked up here and there and modified to my tastes. I typically scribble them out on random sheets of paper and shove them into the Old Gentleman’s binder.

The other evening I found Youngest Gel in the kitchen flipping through said binder. First she expressed astonishment that they had typing back in the Old Gentleman’s day. Then she told me my handwriting looked like Linear-B, a term I wouldn’t have thought she knew. Dang whippersnapper! But then she disappeared to her room, returning with a little notebook in which she had been jotting down her own recipes: Evidently she’s developed a taste for cooking herself and did a good bit of it on her recent semester abroad.

It occurs to Ol’ Robbo now to invite Youngest to help me out with Christmas Dins on Sunday. Not so much because I need the extra pair of hands, but because I think she might enjoy it and may also learn a thing or two.

(It also occurs to me that I should sit down and type out those Linear-B scratchings, perhaps even making them a second section of the Old Gentleman’s binder. That’s kind of a neat idea the more I think about it.)

UPDATE: Speaking of Christmas Dins, Ol’ Robbo was seized with the idea of getting in the fixin’s yesterday ahead of the latest Storm of the Century of the Week. Alas, the idea seemed to have occurred to everybody else round here as well, so the process turned out to be pretty painful. But I sit this morning with my kawfee looking smugly out the window at the sleet and patting myself on the back for having got her done.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Winter Solstice!

It used to baffle and bother Ol’ Robbo’s tiny brain that the worst of winter (or summer, for that matter) weather should take place after we hit the solstice and begin climbing back toward the equinox. For some reason, it just felt Wrong.

Finally, however, after many years of cogitation, I’ve now got it in my head to think of the atmosphere as sloshing around like water but even more so. Put that way, of course it’s going to take a while to, as it were, reverse its momentum.

I thought you friends of the decanter would be relieved that this is one fewer thing about which Ol’ Robbo feels compelled to fret.

That said, we’re about to get sock-o’d by some extremely cold air this Christmas weekend. What with one thing and another, I never got around to putting up the back-seat side panels on La Wrangler this year and it’s really too late now, cold canvas being a complete bear to deal with. Midnight Mass is going to be something of a challenge, but the large cognac with which I reward myself in the small hours after my return to Port Swiller Manor will taste all that much better.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over at AoSHQ yesterday, the Moron Horde started discussing the works of Patrick O’Brian. Always one to try and move a conversation along, Ol’ Robbo was prompted to mention another nifty little set of Royal Navy stories set during the Napoleonic Wars entitled Dr. Dogbody’s Leg by James Norman Hall. At such prompting, it occurred to me that I hadn’t read these stories myself in a while and that maybe the whole biznay was a Sign that it was about time to do so again.

So Ol’ Robbo shuffled into the Port Swiller Manor library, only to find that his copy……was not there.


Ol’ Robbo hates it when this happens. And happens it does: The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason, Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson….the list goes on. Random events pull up a particular card in my mental catalog, I go to find the volume: Nothing.

I can’t possibly imagine where they get to, either. Nobody borrows books from me that I can think of. None of the Gels is especially interested in the sort of thing I read. Mrs. R has an evil reputation in the house for throwing things away without realizing it, but when it comes to my library she mostly misplaces volumes instead of chucking them. (When she does try to throw away my books, as she is currently trying to do with my law school texts on the grounds that they are “moldy”, she does so on the grand scale, distaining singletons.)


I suppose it’s hie to the devil’s website to look for another copy. My chief fear, given the sort of reading I enjoy and the increasingly horrible and censorious times into which we’re descending, is that one day I’ll go to look and books like this won’t be there anymore, either.

UPDATE: Speaking of sea stories, Ol’ Robbo watched “Blackbeard, the Pirate” (1952) last evening. I can’t recommend it. The sets and effects are cheesy and unpersuasive, the history it thoroughly botched, and Robert Newton’s Edward Teach is a cartoon character better placed in one of the old Disney films. True, the film does feature the lovely and talented Linda Darnell, but that’s not enough. Nor is the nerdy fact that the hero, Robert Maynard, is played by Keith Andes, who was Akuta, leader of the worshippers of Vaal, in the Star Trek TOS episode “The Apple”. (And yes, I’m thoroughly ashamed that I recognized this and even more so that I can cite the cross-reference without looking it up.)

UPDATE DEUX: Went and ordered the three volumes mentioned herein. Thank goodness, they’re still available. (Merry Christmas to me!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself watching a teevee program about New Zealand last evening which touched briefly on the Maoris.

Not that the name has any good reason to come up in Ol’ Robbo’s everyday conversation, but I had always thought this name pronounced “May-OR-ee”. The narrator, however, consistently said, “MOW-ree”. A quick scan of the innerwebz seems to confirm that the latter is correct.

I can admit when I’m wrong, but I wonder if this is one of those examples of past pronunciations being disappeared for politickal reasons like, for example, the current fashion of pronouncing Kiev “Keeeev”. Is my version perhaps an echo of the country’s colonial history? Or am I just a dummy?

You needn’t answer the latter question. As I say, it’s not a word I use very often.

UPDATE: Somewhat related, perhaps, I see increasing numbers of scary monster stories about some new “bivalent” COVID “booster” and how you knuckle-dragging science deniers who refuse to take it are all gonna die and serves you right!!

Which is not the point in and of itself. Rayther, the point is that I consistently misread “bivalent” as “bivalve”.

But since I detest oysters and clams, I suppose it is sort of the point after all!


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December 2022