You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Historickal Musings’ category.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo and the Missus just got home from celebrating our 25th anniversary in Bermuda.  My friends, all I can say is that it is a delightful, delightful place.

Friends of the decanter will remember that Ol’ Robbo asked some time last week about things to do and see in the place.  In the end, however, by enthusiastic mutual consent, we wound up simply loafing about for three days.  Uncle Robbo did remember to bring back a few snaps for your entertainment, however.  On reviewing them, I believe you will concur that our decision was a wise one.

We stayed at a private club at Coral Beach, located on the south side of the island at roughly the midpoint.  Here is the view from our balcony:

Room With A View

We ate breakfast here each morning, and by the time we left had collected quite the following of sparrows and kiskadees (a bird Ol’ Robbo had not seen before) through tossing breadcrumbs out on to the floor.  With a full pot of java and that kind of view, why wouldn’t I linger over it?

At night, we left the double-doors open (but not the screens) so as to catch the sound of the waves crashing and the wind rustling in the palms.  The other thing we heard all night was about a bajillion tree frogs, many of which had a call that sounded like a high-pitched sonar “ping”.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo slept very badly all three nights, but that’s because I always do so when away from home.  I could have taped this particular cacophony and made bank selling it as a soporific.

Eventually, though, we’d toddle down to the beach.  The first thing I must say is that I have never seen sea water quite like this – so clear and so luminously blue.  The second is that for all the talk of “pink” Bermudian sand (and our beach is supposed to be one of the pinkest), you’ve really got to catch it at the right time of day and without a lot of footprints and tiretracks churning it up in order to get this notion.

Life’s A Beach

Anyhoo, as I say, we’d toddle down to the beach after brekkers.  Each day, we’d set up shop under an umbrella and alternate between reading, dozing, plunging into the water (where we saw numerous schools of young Jack Permit fish fooling about), walking laps (the entire beach is about half a mile or so from end to end), and getting the nice man at the bar to bring us G&T’s and Pimm’s Cup.  Tough life.  Tough life.  (Yes, we talked about marriage stuff, too, but I won’t bore you with what is, after all, confidential.)

Actually, it was truly tough in one respect:  Ol’ Robbo, even as he types, is suffering from being thoroughly cooked by the sun.  I tried spraying on sunblock, but evidently my skills are suboptimal, because I’ve come out looking piebald, like Ransom in Perelandra.

By the bye, and still keeping on the topic of the beach, the whole time we were there, we got to watch pairs and groups of the iconic Bermuda Longtail fly up and down the shore.  An intensely beautiful tropicbird that I, of course, have not seen before. I can well see why so much of the local artwork incorporates images of this bird.

The place we were staying is set at the top of a forty foot cliff overlooking the ocean.  (Right at the top are the restored remains of an English gun emplacement from the earliest colonial times.  Idiot Robbo had forgot all about the fact that Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by Jamestown colonists under George Somers after their ship was driven ashore during a hurricane.)  During the day, as I say, we were able to get refreshments down on the beach.  In the evenings, we dined up at the top of the escarpment.

All in all, as I say, delightful.

A few random additional thoughts and observations:

♦  The Bermudians, as a rule, at least so far as I observed, seem to be friendly without fawning.  They were all of them cordial, but one was always aware of a polite but firm barrier.  I’ve no problem with that.

♦  The place is very cramped, and space is at a premium.  The roads are narrow, shoulderless, and wound about, and it’s small wonder that the island-wide speed limit is only 25 mph.  Between that and driving on the left side, Ol’ Robbo would have quickly gone insane behind the wheel had he attempted it.

♦  The place also is as expensive as hell, largely because everything has to be imported.  I’m still gulping a bit about the total damage done from our trip (not that it wasn’t completely worth it).

♦ I had not realized that the only substantial water supply on the island is rainfall, so that each resident is responsible for catching and storing as much said rain as possible via roofs and tanks.

♦  Somebody remarked here previously that landing at Bermuda was like landing on an aircraft carrier.  I dunno about that, since I don’t look out the window until the rubber meets the tarmac, but I can tell you that because of that comment, and because the flight out was rather bumpy, Ol’ Robbo found himself repeatedly muttering under his breath, “Next time, Jack, write a goddam memo!” **

** A nifty-gifty of a spotable quote.

Anyhoo, long story short, we had a lovely time and will definitely go back if and when we can.

UPDATE: My apologies if any friend of the decanter feels this post is a bit too Robin Leach-ish.  Ol’ Robbo did not in any way wish to appear as if sticking on dog about “Champaign wishes and caviar dreams” here.  This was the first vacay Mrs. R and I spent together alone and in some style in God-knows how many years and we worked like dammit to plan, save, and wangle so that we could enjoy it without worry.

By the bye and speaking of which, my favorite Robin Leach quote? “There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.  It was….the garage.”  Anybody spot the quote?

 

Advertisements

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Flag Day!  (The Stars and Stripes fly at Port Swiller Manor 24/7/365, by the bye,  and have done so since 9/11.)

On his daily walk down the National Mall today, Ol’ Robbo saw a sight that made him smile.  It was a young man in camo and a MAGA hat. He had both a large United States flag and a large President Trump flag on a pole.  He was trotting along, weaving in and out of various groups of people, and politely and quietly saying, “Happy Flag Day! God bless the USA! Happy Birthday, President Trump! Happy Birthday, United States Army!”  I also heard him tell somebody that his plan was to loop back and forth between the White House and the Capital for as long as he could.  He did not look crazy, only cheerfully enthusiastic.  From what I could see, the people were generally happy to see him and responded in kind – several got him to pose for pictures with them.  It was very refreshing, indeed.

On a completely different note, I also noticed that construction has begun on the infrastructure for this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and that the two feature “folk” lands this year are Armenia and Catalonia.

I know virtually nothing about Armenia except that the Church is very ancient there and the Ottomans tried to wipe them all out during WWI but we’re not supposed to talk about that because reasons.

As for Catalonia, the region has been a thorn of separatist trouble in the side of Madrid ever since Ferdinand and Isabella cobbled the kingdom together after the Reconquesta, but again I don’t know very much about the culchah other than what I’ve gleaned from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels.

I wondered if there was some particular reason for picking these two places, some “preservation of autonomy in the face of outside pressure” kind of thing, so I ambled over to the Festival website but couldn’t find any statement explaining it.   So for all I know, the organizers may just have thrown darts at a map on the wall.

And speaking of such things, I gather the World Cup soccer tournament has started up.  Ol’ Robbo isn’t going to bother following it.  Soccer, as a sport, does not interest me in the least.  And as to the WC in particular, I associate it very closely (and perhaps, I admit, unjustly) with people who enthuse over the idea of One World global governance (as well as the metric system and Esperanto), which I loathe and despise.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For whatever reason, perhaps because the summah heat has set in and my intellect is correspondingly evaporating, Ol’ Robbo has started whipping through Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series again.

I may provoke some ire over the decanter and walnuts here, but I’m going to say it anyway: By golly, is this stuff trash.

So why do I read it?  Because I’m a (casual) student of the Napoleonic Wars and I enjoy what I believe to be Cornwell’s gift for accurately explaining and describing the purely military side of things, from strategic objectives to logistics to tactical maneuverings to the nitty-gritty of hand-to-hand combat.

But as for the rest? Aw, Jeez.  The characters are cardboard bordering on caricature, the dialogue is preposterous, Sharpe’s up-from-the-gutter story is clang, clang, clang, and the love interests come and go like Bond Girls.

For what it’s worth, I have nearly identical opinions – both good and bad – about the novels of Tom Clancy, which I also read from time to time, although I don’t really venture much beyond Clear and Present Danger.  Also Jeff Shaara, Derek Robinson and, for that matter, C.S. Forester and Charles Kingsley.

On the other hand, I have no such misgivings about reading and rereading similarly-themed works by the likes of Patrick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser, P.C. Wren, Erskine Childers, Conan Doyle, and Rider Haggard.  (Yes, I know one of you is going to mention John Buchan, but I still haven’t read him yet.  And of course, Kipling is beyond question. )  One of these days, I’ll put my mind to analyzing the differences.

Anyhoo, getting back to the Sharpe stories, I savor the battle scenes, cringe at the personal interest stuff, and feel vaguely ashamed about it all afterwards.  And yet, as I say, I keep coming back.

Who are some of your secret or not-so-secret favorite trash authors?

UPDATE: Of, I forgot.  The other evening as I was reading one of the Sharpe books, Eldest Gel came in the room and asked me about it.

“Oh,” I said, “It’s historickal fiction about the Napoleonic Wars.”

She looked at me cock-eyed and exclaimed, “Who on Earth else but you would read something like that?”

Kids these days.  Even mine.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Back in the day Ol’ Robbo had a standing joke with one of his chums of lampooning Jacques Cousteau. In outrageous accents which sounded more like John Cleese’s French K-niggit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, one of us would suddenly say, “Zah seas!  Ze are die-EEEENG!

To which the other would reply, “But not fast EE-NOOF!!

Oh, we were real cards.

This bit of flotsam recently rose to the surface of Ol’ Robbo’s braim because for the past several days I have been passing an odd protest/exhibition display during my lunchtime walkies, the Ocean Plastics Lab sponsored by our friends at NOAA.  It’s a set of about half a dozen open-sided metal cargo containers full of displays of facts and figures on the amount of junk floating about in the world’s oceans and the harm it is supposedly doing to sea-life.  (Birds and fish getting hung up in plastic bags, dolphins swallowing water bottles, octopi stealing shopping carts – that sort of thing.)

This sea-garbage biznay seems to have become a Thing with the Greenies over the past few months, or at least they’ve started beating the drum about it more vigorously in that time.  On the one hand, I’ve no problem with it.  Unlike airy-fairy Globull Enwarmening theory, this is something that at least has a tangible and measurable cause-and-effect relationship between human action and resultant Bad Things.  If so inclined, you can go look at the damn stuff yourself (and presumably all the marine corpses floating about in it as well).

On the other, I’m pretty sure that I saw a piece within the past couple weeks that points out this is really a Third World problem:  The junk tossed into five specific rivers in Africa and Southern Asia is supposed to account for some gigantic portion of the total oceanic pollution.  So why are busloads of teenaged tourists from Indiana and your humble host being scolded about it down on the National Mall?  Why isn’t NOAA setting up its displays in, say, Chittagong, or gently hectoring the good people of the Congo?

I think the answer to both questions probably lies in the trailer marked “Solutions”.  I haven’t looked in, but I don’t need to be Carnac the Magnificent (boy, am I dating myself!)  to know that what it boils down to is this:  Gimme a dollar, America.

You’ll forgive Ol’ Robbo for his cynicism, but Wealth-Transfer-As-Solution-For-Third-World-Problems hasn’t exactly got a stellar track record.  (The problems tend to remain, while the wealth is only transferred as far as the coffers of the people demanding it.)  So I will politely refuse to get involved so far as sticking my hand in my pocket is concerned.

On the other hand, I will take a step similar to what I did in response to the bombardment of solicitations I was receiving at one point from the Save the Whales people.  After the umpteenth appeal from them, I  wrote back on the pledge card something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for bringing to my attention the heart-wrenching travesty of whale hunting.  Because of your informed concern, I hereby pledge going forward never to personally kill a whale.  You have my promise.”

I never heard from them again.

Likewise, I hereby pledge never to throw any non-biodegradable garbage into the oceans.  Who’s with me on this?

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those friends of the decanter who have a taste for Royal Navy history will of course remember that today is the anniversary of the Glorious First of June.  Confusion to the Jacobins!

In token, Ol’ Robbo decided to dial up a performance of this favorite shanty of Nelson’s Navy:

If you care to follow along, the lyrics:

Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies, (alt: “…to Spanish ladies”)
Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain; (alt: “…to ladies of Spain;”)
     For we have received orders (alt: “…’re under orders”)
     For to sail to old England,
But we hope in a short time to see you again. (alt: “And we may ne’er see you fair ladies again.”)

(Chorus)
We’ll rant and we’ll roar, like true British sailors,
We’ll rant and we’ll roar across the salt seas; (alt: “We’ll range and we’ll roam all on the salt seas;”)
     Until we strike soundings
     In the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly ’tis thirty-five leagues. (alt: “34” or “45”.)

Then we hove our ship to, with the wind at the sou’west, my boys, (alt: “We hove our ship to, with the wind from sou’west, boys,”)
Then we hove our ship to, for to strike soundings clear; (alt: “…deep soundings to take;” “…for to make soundings clear;”)
     Then we filled the main topsail (alt: “‘Twas 45 (or 55) fathoms with a white sandy bottom”)
     And bore right away, my boys, (alt: “So we squared our main yard”)
And straight up the Channel of old England did steer. (alt: “And up channel did make.” or “…did steer”)

So the first land we made, it is called the Deadman, (alt: “The first land we sighted was callèd the Dodman”)
Next Ram Head, off Plymouth, Start, Portland, and the Wight; (alt: “Next Rame Head off Plymouth, Start, Portland, and Wight;”)
     We sailèd by Beachy, (alt: “We sailed by Beachy / by Fairlight and Dover”)
     By Fairly and Dungeness,
And then bore away for the South Foreland light. (alt: “Until we brought to for…” or “And then we bore up for…”)

Now the signal it was made for the grand fleet to anchor (alt: “Then the signal was made…”)
All in the Downs that night for to meet; (alt: “…that night for to lie;”)
     Then stand by your stoppers, (alt: “Let go your shank painter, / Let go your cat stopper”)
     See clear your shank painters,
Hawl all your clew garnets, stick out tacks and sheets. (alt: “Haul up your clewgarnets, let tack and sheets fly”)

Now let every man take off his full bumper, (alt: “Now let ev’ry man drink off his full bumper,”)
Let every man take off his full bowl; (alt: “And let ev’ry man drink off his full glass;”)
     For we will be jolly (alt: “We’ll drink and be jolly”)
     And drown melancholy,
With a health to each jovial and true hearted soul. (alt: “And here’s to the health of each true-hearted lass.”)

Ol’ Robbo loves the nautical jargon, but I get an especial nerdy delight from the litany of geographical points as the ship sails up the Channel.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you are all having a good Memorial Day weekend.

Ol’ Robbo spent the morning helping Eldest Gel reform her bedroom.  In addition to being an almighty packrat (and a notorious thief of plates, glasses, and silverware from the kitchen), she’s also got far too much furniture in what is Port Swiller Manor’s smallest sleeping chamber.  (Indeed, my main task was the disassembly and removal of a massive wooden bedframe which took up way too much space, although I also helped her move some other things around and remove both bags of trash and my accumulated kitchen valuables.)  For whatever reason, she seems to have grown tired of living in such cramped squalor and is bent on cleaning and simplifying.

As we talked about organizing books and clothing, rearranging furniture, and maybe even repainting the walls, it occurred to me that it has not yet sunk in on the Gel that her time of living at home is now within very measurable distance of coming to an end.  That thought came into my mind because I still have a very vivid memory of my own realization that my old life was ending and a new one beginning:  I was home Christmas Break of my junior year in college.  My then-girlfriend had come to visit from Bahston, so one day I took her out to see the sights of San Antonio.  When we got back later in the afternoon, it suddenly hit me like a 16-ton weight.  This wasn’t really my home anymore, it was my parents’ and I was just visiting.  Of course I’d always be welcomed and all that, but the “Shadow of Parting”, as Galadriel put it, had suddenly and definitely fallen.

I went to the Mothe and bawled like a baby.

The memory often makes me wonder what it will be like when my brood strike out on their own.  (And yes, they’re leaving.  None of this thirty-something living in the basement stuff for us.)  Do other people get hit by such a shock? Can it be more gradual? I suppose it’s a matter of personality and circumstances.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the past two days, Ol’ Robbo has attempted to leave comments in responses to posts by long-time lovely and talented friends of the decanter Sleepy Beth and Diane, both of whom use Blogsplat.  In each instance, after foiling the fiendish “I am not a robot” security picture challenge (which reminds me of something out of an Indiana Jones adventure – “But in the Latin, ‘Jehovah‘ starts with an ‘I‘”), I keep coming up against the demand that I identify myself by my “Google User” account.

Well, I haven’t got a “Google User” account. And furthermore, I don’t want one.  (Evidently, Middle Gel does and also has accessed it from Ol’ Robbo’s laptop, because that’s the default to which the thing keeps running back. Rayther than getting caught in that potential quagmire, Ol’ Robbo has simply abandoned said attempted comments.)

Previously, Blogsplat had been perfectly happy to recognize me as a simple, country WordPress blogger.  What the heck is going on now?

UPDATE: Wow! Speaking of Blogsplat brought back to Ol’ Robbo the memory of the old Llamabutchers, with whom I started blogging on said platform way in November, 2003.  I had thought those archives long lost, but just now (on a whim) I punched them up to discover…...they’re still there! (By the way, rereading it after fifteen years, I’m still very proud of my first substantive blogpost, in which I thoroughly trash Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings movie.)

UPDATE DUEX: Additional Wow! I had also thought the Llamabutcher bloviations over at MuKnew, to which we transferred, had also been sent back to the primordial pixel slime (like in “Waterworld”), to be lost forever.  Again, I was wrong!

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This morning as he blearily scanned the headlines over his first cuppa, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught by an article from the Beeb about “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and what a hell of a time it’s having environmentally after having been smacked by a cyclone the other day.

If you had asked me, “Robbo, what is the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean?'” just a few days ago, I confess I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea.  (Probably would have guessed Rodrigues just at random because there are turtles there.)

But by one of those serendipitous little coincidences, it just so happens that I had come across the answer earlier this week as I was poking about on the innertoobs: It’s the Island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, of which I had never actually heard before.

And why on earth was Robbo looking up this particular piece of information?  Because I had just re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which is set on the fictional island of Azania (also off the coast of Yemen), and I became interested in trying to figure out if Waugh’s creation had a real basis.

Alas, no, at least not physically.  The map Mr. Wu himself provided with his novel shows Socotra to the north of the much larger Azania, but a quick check of the real map shows that there is nothing directly south of it except a whoooole lot of water.

On the other hand, there apparently are some similarities between the two in terms of flora and fauna, as well as cultural and racial history.  (Waugh’s description of the mix of primitive tribal paganism, Nestorian Christianity, and decayed Islam, overlaid on a mixed population of African and Arab, with a few scourings from the Levant, seems to echo what is said of Socotra.)  Also the general lack of interest by the Western Powers once Aden was established as a British stronghold.

So perhaps the novel’s primitive, ungovernable territory to which poor, misguided, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to bring utopian Progressivism, aided and abetted by that arch ne’er-do-well, Basil Seal, is not such pure fiction after all.  But whatever Mr. Wu had in mind, as I say, it’s serendipitous that I should have been poking around in it just before this story came to my attention.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the current eruption of the Kilauea Volcano seems no longer to be grabbing headlines for the moment.  I gather that, having done some damage (and what idiot builds next to an active volcano?), the lava has established its primary path to the sea and is busily heading that way without bothering anybody else.

When we were all gathered together the other day, somebody in the Port Swiller Manor household referred to this eruption in the context of the Pacific Rim of Fire.  Ol’ Robbo couldn’t allow this.

“Not so,” says I. “The Hawaiian Islands sit over a volcanic hotspot – a stationary thin point in the Earth’s lower crust – right smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Plate.  This, in fact, isn’t a tectonic thing, but a different phenomenon altogether.”

At which point the family’s collective “toxic nerd alert” alarum seems to have gone off, as suddenly Ol’ Robbo found himself talking solely to one of the cats, who was asleep anyway.

Hmpph!

Nonetheless, the geography of Hawaii does, in fact, have a tangential connection with plate tectonics, in that it neatly maps out the drift of the Pacific Plate over this particular hotspot.  As you can see from just looking at an ordinary map, the chain runs from southeast to northwest, the islands getting progressively smaller as you go along.  This is because the Plate itself is drifting northwest:  As long as some bit of it is over the hotspot, that bit is subject to volcanic island formation and growth.  Once the islands drift away from the hotspot, they start to erode.  Eventually, the Big Island, which is now the active one, particularly on its southeast side, will slide away from the hotspot and start to crumble and shrink as well, while yet another one eventually rises up southeast of it.

Pretty neat, eh?

And want to hear something even neater?  Go look at Google-Earth on “satellite view” setting:  Not only will you see the Hawaiian chain continue trailing away to the northwest under water, eventually you’ll see it hook sharply north and trail all the way up nearly to far eastern Russia.  That north-south section – the remnant of long-ago passage over the very same hotspot – is known as the Emperor Seamounts, and shows that the Pacific Plate at one point was drifting due north before taking a turn northwest.

And don’t just take my word for this: John McPhee writes at some length about it (and provides an illustrative map) in his Annals of the Former World, which Ol’ Robbo plugs here from time to time (and, I guess, is plugging again), and which I cannot recommend too enthusiastically.  I don’t pretend to understand it at more than a surface level, but the makings of the Earth – from plate tectonics to continental drift, volcanic hotspots to glacial gougings, erosion to geologically-driven shifts in weather patterns – never ceases to amaze and delight me.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Probably because she always dismissed it as a non-holiday herself, Ol’ Robbo found himself curiously unaffected by this first Mother’s Day since the Mothe’s passing.  (I know at least one person on FB who is having quite the opposite experience.)  Instead, I was able to concentrate on Mrs. Robbo.  The Gels and I took her out to brunch after church and, wonder of wonders, actually were able to have an enjoyable meal together without the usual shillelaghs being pulled.  A good time was had by all.

Meanwhile, coincidentally, yesterday saw the arrival at Port Swiller Manor of three big boxes of the Mothe’s effects, sent down by Sistah.  They proved to be a combination of books, various bits of bric-a-brac, and an assortment of old photographs.   Among the last was a broad selection of grade school and middle school photos of Ol’ Robbo.  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  I’d complete blotted out the memory of several of them, and was positively astounded at their reappearance.  I always knew I was a dweeb back in the day, but I’d never had any idea I was that much of one!

The Gels, on the other hand, thought them hilarious, and had a very pleasant time howling over them and asking incredulously how I could have been a ginger back then (well, I was) and what I was possibly thinking in sporting aviator-frame glasses (which were a thing in the 70’s, I tells ya’).

Another thing I noticed:  Among the photos were those of my elementary school homeroom classes.  For some mysterious reason, although I have forgotten many other things both more recent and more important, I still to this day remember the names of the teachers for those classes:  Miss Mayshack, Mrs. Boxer, Mrs. Tanner, Mr. Kays, and Mrs. Cook.  Why would that bit of random lodge in my braims, but not something else like, for example, my work computer password (which I have to keep written down and squirreled away in a safe place)?

A strange thing the mind is.

Blog Stats

  • 447,964 hits
June 2018
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  
Advertisements