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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel tells me that last Sunday she tagged along to a local church with a new friend. (She doesn’t recall the denomination. She had taken one look at the local Episcopal church, which had all kinds of politically correct banners hoisted out front, and said no way, Jose. I think she’s about done with ECUSA.)

It turned out to be an unpleasant experience – lots of happy-clappy and a band in the sanctuary and all that – but what she really wanted to tell me about was the sermon. If she understood him correctly, the preacher man insisted that there is no individual salvation.

According to the Gel, said preacher claimed people are like grains of salt in God’s eyes, only “useful” to Him when collected together in a pile (i.e., butts in the pews on Sundays) that He can “scoop up”. It’s the Group that goes to the Great Beyond, the Group in which He is interested. You mean nothing as an individual, except for your presence in the Group.

I sincerely hope the Gel misinterpreted the preacher man, or that I am misinterpreting myself, and that he was speaking of collective worship as opposed to collective salvation, because the latter idea is utterly appalling to me. That we belong to the Body of Christ is one thing, but that He should think of you or me not as individuals but only in terms of making up the numbers is as revolting an idea in Ol’ Robbo’s eyes as Calvinist predestination. That isn’t Love, it’s a quota system. (Sheesh, and Pope Francis gets called a Communist!)

I think the Gel was looking for some reassurance because she didn’t object at all when Ol’ Robbo went into a longish rant about the sanctity of the individual, of the Personal God, and how He knows and loves each and every one of us inside and out – as ourselves – from the womb going forward, and that judgement, salvation, and damnation are a matter of personal responsibility. (Shirley, I’m not wrong about this? Lie to me if you have to.)

That said, I also reminded her that she still needs to go to church. She said she’d keep looking. (By the bye, I’ve recently started to become aware of how much, without saying so, she leans on the fact that I’m Catholic. For reasons completely inappropriate to discuss here, she’s not yet quite willing to contemplate swimming the Tiber herself, but I begin to think I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if she did so at some point down the road. I do what I can.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A delightful day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. For the middle of August, the weather feels much more appropriate to Maine than to my part of Virginny. Indeed, I was sharply reminded this morning of how much I miss our summah hols up there at this time of year. I haven’t been back since the Mothe died five years ago. (There’s no psychological stumbling block or anything, we just haven’t been able to work out the logistics, what with kids whizzing off to school hither and yon. We did go so far as to reserve a rental a couple years ago but by the time I worked out all the driving math I realized the trip would be more exhausting than not going so we scrubbed it.) I’ll need to get back in that habit.

Aaaaanyway, it was a pleasure to potter around in the yard today.

I’m quite pleased with myself for keeping the garden trim and in order this year and not letting my butterfly bush go full jungle. (Never go full jungle.) I’ve been especially mindful to keep clear the little circle I laid out this spring for the Robbo Family pet memorials stones. I’ve also toyed with the idea of putting in a small St. Francis statue but Mrs. R would have conniptions, not being partial to such displays. (Witness our annual battle over my chalked Epiphany greeting on our front door.) Part of me thinks I could probably sneak one in without her ever noticing it, but that wouldn’t exactly be playing the game.

Meanwhile, I was eyeing the forsythia hedge, which I’ve ignored so far this year. My experimental plan is to hog it back over Labor Day weekend and then lime the devil out of it this fall. Hopefully that will cause a more compact flowering next spring. (When I cut it back too early, it gets overly-rangy the next bloom.) We shall see.

Speaking of liming, of the various fall services my lawn guys offer, I decided that there’s really no good reason I can’t lime and overseed the yard myself. (I’m trying to recall the lime schedule from last fall. It was three treatments, and I think they were at monthly intervals starting in September.) I did wind up signing on for their aeration service after deciding that going through all the bother of renting a machine myself wasn’t worth the effort.

The wild grape and morning glory have now completely overwhelmed my raspberry bed. I concede that fight for this year.

Speaking of fighting, I have seen much of the hummingbirds lately, a pair of females who seem to dogfight constantly. It’s always two females, every year. I sometimes wonder if one or both isn’t a return. Are hummers like salmon, returning to the same haunt each year? Do they even live all that long? I dunno.

Finally, I notice the crabapple tree behind my back fence seems to have shuffled off this mortal coil. It didn’t really fruit at all this year and now its leaves are all turning brown and falling off. I guess these things just happen. (It was fully mature when we moved in over twenty years ago.) I’ll need to have it down, I suppose, since I don’t want to look at a scarecrow leaning over my garden.

Well, on to other matters. The Elder Gels leave for school tomorrow morning and Ol’ Robbo has to go pack their lead ingot collections in their cars.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday, Ol’ Robbo noted a rumor he’d heard that a Very Bad Thing was coming in his Diocese, specifically the stamping out of the Traditional Latin Mass. However, I heard the rumor from a dear old blog friend of mine who, if she has a fault, tends to get the bit between her teeth when strongly roused (she was already calling for our Bishop’s resignation and alleging his predecessor had a boyfriend), so I thought I’d hold off swallowing my own tongue until I found out what actually was happening.

Turns out that the news was actually about as good as one could hope, given the current situation. Of the 21 parishes in the Diocese that offer the TLM on some schedule, the Bishop in fact pared it back to 8, but fortunately, mine is one of them. In the face of the pressure which is coming down from Rome on this, I think this actually reflects a tremendous amount of effort to defend us.

As Ol’ Robbo has said before, this is perhaps the stupidest, most useless, and petty of pogroms, and I have yet to see any explanation or justification that warrants it. Even Mrs. R, who is not herself Catholic, is appalled by what us TLMers are being subjected to. And for what?

There is happy-clappy talk of the need for “unity”. Well, I feel perfectly united already with my fellow Catholics who prefer the Novus Ordo, thank you very much. Do they think I stand around in front of my church, sneering in disdain at the crowd getting out of the N.O. Mass just ahead of mine? Why should we not enjoy two perfectly valid forms of the same worship?

Then there is the talk about Moving Forward. (Francis called us Latin Sharks “backwardists” just the other day.) I think he imagines that we get together over the coffee and donuts afterward and swap Sedevacantist conspiracy theories or something. Whatever it is certainly seems to strike a nerve, because as I say the vitriol and spite coming out of Rome (and among the more toadying senior clergy here) are truly distressing.

I’ve attended the TLM ever since I first swam the Tiber. I do so because of its beauty, its antiquity, and its reverence, and because I believe those traits have a very positive influence on the quality of my own worship. I see no reason whatsoever why this should cause any kind of harm to anybody else or to HM Church as a whole. And I dearly wish the Powers that Be would simply drop it.

In the meantime, I am grateful for my parish and my bishop.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, fourteen years ago today, Ol’ Robbo decanted the port, set out the Stilton, and invited you all to take a pew. Hard to believe it’s been that long. (Those of you who remember my prior gig at the Llama Butchers will know that place only lasted for about five years, yet it still seems like I blogged longer there than here. Go figure.)

Stumping along behind the lawnmower this morning, to keep my mind off the long, wet grass with which I had to deal due to all the rain we’ve had lately, Ol’ Robbo got noodling about the years this place has seen, and what has changed.

Certainly it’s been witness to the Gels growing up. Back in 2008 we were on the leading edge of the terrible early teen years. Somehow or other, as reported here from time to time, we managed to weather them, and now the Gels are all in their 20’s and on the cusp of starting their next chapters.

On this day in 2008, Ol’ Robbo was still a newbie Catholic, too. I haven’t really blogged about that very much in more recent years, prolly because my Convert Derangement Syndrome has been steadily wearing off and I’ve realized what a crashing bore I must have been. But I got a whiff of a rumor this morning about a potentially Very Bad Thing that will directly impact on my worship, so I may start giving vent to such issues again soon. One thing I will say if I have not made it plain before: I do not care for Pope Francis.

Also on this day in 2008, I expect I still believed that the G.O.P. Establishment had my best interests in mind. Ol’ Robbo was a big fan then of writers such as George Will, Peggy Noonan, and the gangs at National Review and The Weekly Standard. Whelp, that’s gone completely out the window: It’s become crystal clear in recent years that the only thing the GOPe cares about is the GOPe. (Ol’ Robbo has a small collection of books by these authors. Just on principle I can’t bear the idea of throwing them (or any other books) away, but I have moved them to the Shelf of Shame in my basement.)

Finally, Ol’ Robbo was in his early 40’s back then, and of course due to math, is now in his later 50’s. I’m happy to report that I’m still in good shape and about the same weight, but I was somewhat surprised when I started my plague-beard last year just how much white there is in it.

So! What do the next fourteen years hold?

Well, on the domestic front my obvious hope is marriages and grandkids.

As far as Holy Mother Church goes, a priest friend of mine likes to quote an Italian proverb that “after a fat Pope comes a thin one”. Things will change again.

And on the politickal front? I begin to see signs that the pendulum has reached the top of its arc and is starting to swing the other way. For all its self-protective fecklessness, I doubt the GOPe remains relevant very much longer.

Anyhoo, thankee to all of you who have dropped in here over the years, whether on a daily basis or just every now and again! Bumpers all round, ladies and gentlemen, gun’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heal taps! Huzzay! Huzzay! Huzzay!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Mother’s Day!

Well, despite some vague threats this week, no screaming pro-abort wokesters at Mass today. (Screaming infants? Well, that’s something else. Like the poor, they will always be with us.)

A goodly number of heads on swivels, however. I’d bet a substantial bit of coin that I wasn’t the only one in the Box yesterday fessing up to a vivid fantasy of gut-punching anybody who tried to desecrate the proceedings in any way. For their own sake, they prolly were better off not trying it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Quasimodo (or “Low”) Sunday!

Ol’ Robbo likes the conclusion to the Octave of Easter very much. After Lent, Holy Week, and the big Easter triumph itself, I always feel a sense of relaxing and taking a deep breath, of, as it were, not being “on” anymore for a while, if that makes any kind of sense.

I also like it because all the Christmas and Easter people have gone away, and taken with them their confusion, distraction, and (sometimes) bad manners. (On Maundy Thursday, the Mass of which our padre serves up in a sort of English/Latin hybrid, a woman sitting behind me said in a loud stage-whisper “At least we get to pass the Peace in English!”) And yes, I know this is bad of me.

Finally, I always enjoy the Gospel reading for the day, in which the risen Christ confronts the doubtful and insistent Thomas. It may just be Ol’ Robbo’s read on things, but I am pretty certain Jesus is doing a certain amount of gentle teasing of the gob-smacked Apostle here. I certainly hope I’m not wrong about this, because I’ve long seen it as an indication of His sense of humor, and I’d hate to think God doesn’t laugh from time to time. (And I love Caravaggio’s treatment of it, too.)

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

I hope all friends of the decanter will join me this festive day in donning your candy-ass monkey suits, dialing “Quando, Quando, Quando” up to eleven on your 8-tracks, and remembering not to “go changing”.

Ah, me.

Ol’ Robbo floats this joke every year on this day, and even though it invariably lays an egg, I still enjoy it myself.

In part, I love to pay tribute to a truly great movie that is immensely funny, eminently quotable (which see), has a fantastic soundtrack (which resurrected several careers and introduced a whole new generation to R&B), and has, in its themes of charity and redemption, a surprisingly strong Catholic underpinning. (“Boys, you got to learn not to talk to nuns like that.”) (Which see.)

In other part, I also love to spit on the modern “Environmental Movement”. Make no mistake: Ol’ Robbo believes in responsible stewardship as much as anybody else. But what goes on now in the name of “Green” is a cheat and a swindle and (shall I say it?) a blasphemy, a program based on politicks, not science, and designed for no other reason than to empower and enrich those in on it, and to shackle and enslave us peons who aren’t. (That this is also Lenin’s birthday is, to me, no accident. That one of the co-founders of “Earth Day” murdered his girlfriend and composted her body in his apartment closet is, shall we say, par for the course. Green on the outside, red on the inside. And you know who else was a keen environmentalist (and a strict vegetarian, and an ardent dog-lover?)) But don’t you dare question anything: the science, the costs, the liberties surrendered, etc. You just take that filthy, unreliable, dangerous public transportation back to your browned-out, unheated, stack-a-prole hovel and appreciate your soy rations while Your Betters jet off to Davos to discuss Deep Things before disbursing to their seaside mansions to wine and dine their cronies dropping by in fleets of SUVs. PAH!! As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, when the people who keep telling me there’s a crisis start acting like there’s a crisis, then maybe I’ll start to listen. In the meantime, they can sit the fook down and shut the fook up.

Ah. That felt good.

As regular friends of the decanter will know, Middle Gel is spooling up to go into a career in environmental management, finishing up her undergrad degree on it in a couple weeks and heading off to grad school in the fall for same. Ol’ Robbo has ranted and raved on the above themes to her for years and years and (I hope) instilled in her the necessary sense of balance and skepticism to allow her to do some real good while avoiding both the Scylla of rainbows and unicorn-farts idealism and the Charybdis of graft and corruption-fueled totalitarianism. I will say that if anybody can pull off such a delicate balance, she can. (If not, I hope she goes with the graft and corruption. That way, when I’m reduced to beggary, at least I’ll have a seaside mansion where I can go stay.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is taking the day off this Easter Monday in order to give himself a much-needed rest. (Actually, this isn’t even quite true: My eyes opened up at 6 ack emma as usual this morning and I was putting away the good china and silver and on my second load of laundry before I even thought about it. The work never really ends, and also I can’t relax when I know there’s still a large mess to clean up.)

I won’t say anything about Easter itself just yet except to make two points:

First, I think I did my rather pathetic self a world of good over Lend and Holy Week this year, and I now feel an urgent need to secure and make permanent those gains. Here’s hoping I can do so.

Second, a glass of wine (!) with long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, whose suggestion that I make Lobster Newburg for those members of my family too heathenish to appreciate my rack of lamb proved a surprising success, even among the lamb-eaters. (Good think I made as much as I did.) I actually mixed lobster and shrimp, and served it up in little pastry “bowls” made from sheet dough. And if you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “Self, is it possible to jury-rig a steamer using an ordinary pot and a cut-up aluminum baking pan?” I can now say yes, yes it is. (The lamb, by the bye, prolly could have stood another five minutes in the oven, but it was nommed appreciatively by most of the table nonetheless.)


Our next-door neighbors had their house painted over the weekend. Like Port Swiller Manor, theirs is a two-story brick colonial with metal siding round the back of the second story. All the brick part is now white. Mrs. R and I have had occasion to discuss painting the Manor now and again over the years. The conversation has usually gone something like this:

Mrs. R: “I think I might like to paint the house.”

Self (pounding on the table): “Whisht, woman! I’ll nae hae any bricks on mah hoos but wha color Goad made ’em! Away with ye!”

Let’s just say now that Ol’ Robbo doubts we’ll be having this conversation again. Heh. (No disrespect meant, of course, to those who like painted brick. I just don’t. And this example has now proved to Mrs. R that it would be a bad idea here.)

And speaking of which, guess what’s invaded the house? Yes, you are correct: Squirrels! They’ve got into the attic through a hole where the fascia board has rotted under one corner of the roof. Yesterday one of the young’uns and I got into a staring contest when he poked his head out. Worse, one of the adults came down through the wall and has now got himself stuck in the downstairs ceiling. There’s a small gap in the siding where the porch roof-beam meets the wall and he’s started trying to dig his way through that. I’ve stood on a stepstool and jabbed at him a couple times with a long-handled toasting fork but he’s far too fast for me.

When I told Mrs. R about the infestation, she asked what I was going to do. “Oh, I dunno,” I said, “Poison ’em, I guess, if they don’t go away themselves.” That, as they say, tore it. Keep in mind, this is the same Mrs. R who will literally stand on a chair eeking in approved 50’s sit-com fashion at the sight of a mouse, and who won’t even go out on the screened porch when the bats are twittering about in the back yard. But her reaction? “Oh, how could you? The one in the ceiling is stuck and afraid and just wants to go home! You brute!” She’ll be crying out the other side of her face if the little bastard tree-rat does manage to punch a hole in the wall.


Speaking of houses, Ol’ Robbo was delighted when it looked as if a pair of bluebirds was taking up residence in the box he put out this spring, Mr. B aggressively defending the thing against the admittedly heavy traffic of other birds in the vicinity. But, alas, I guess they decided they just didn’t much care for the neighborhood after all, as they seem to have cleared off and their claim has now been jumped by a pair of house sparrows. I’m glad the box is being used, of course, but sparrows? Meh.

On the nesting front, I’d also just like to point out that if Mrs. Goldfinch doesn’t like the opening and closing of the garage door and the comings and goings of Robbo and family, she shouldn’t have built her nest in the ivy directly above said door in the first place. It’s not as if she hadn’t ample warning.

Finally on the bird front, Ol’ Robbo had an opportunity to chat for a few moments yesterday after church with long-time friend of the decanter NOVA Curmudgeon, who reported spotting the first hummingbird of the year at his feeder this weekend. Huzzay, huzzah! Now that I know they’re definitely in the area, I await the first incoming to my own feeder all the more eagerly.

Well, that’ll do for now. As I say, time for a break. After I switch out that next load of laundry, of course…….

Post-Break UPDATE: Well, having written about Mr. Squirrel in the ceiling, it’s now been better than 24 hours since I last heard him skittering around. Maybe I DID get him with the fork! Or perhaps he found his way out after all. Either way, the best problems are the ones that go away by themselves.

Ol’ Robbo spent yesterday afternoon rereading Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, which I hadn’t picked up in quite a while and which was therefore almost new to me. With all the masks being pulled off the faces of the global oligarchs these days, what GKC had to say about the true nature, identity, and goals of anarchists and nihilists 100+ years ago now has turned out to be eye-openingly prescient.

(The Resurrection, Piero Della Francesca c. 1463)

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Good news: He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Ol’ Robbo wishes to extend to all friends of the decanter a most blessed and happy Easter.

As for myself, it’s been an interesting, edifying, and challenging build-up over the past forty-plus days, and a consequent better (I hope?) appreciation and understanding and, to be honest, terror of what I spent the three-plus hours of this evening’s Vigil Mass muddling over.

I’ve got a whole week of the Octave of Easter to suss out some of these reflections, and if you all don’t behave yourselves here, I just might. (If you are good, I also have much to say about more secular matters, so stay tuned.)

Not just now, however, as it’s well past midnight, I’m deep into a glass of celebratory cognac, and at the moment I’m still basking in the glow.

As I say, He is risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah, indeed!!

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers!

This year’s Family Robbo tax return package showed up on the Port Swillor Manor doorstep last evening for signing, processing, and check-cutting.

The irony of Caesar’s goons coming around to collect his denarii during Holy Week this year has not been lost on Ol’ Robbo, and has provided me an interesting point of meditation vis a vis what gets rendered to him and what gets rendered to God and, perhaps more importantly, why.

On the one hand, it’s quite comforting, when reading of the latest madness of the world around one, to know that in the end it really doesn’t make that much difference when compared to Eternity.

On the other, I still live here, so I will ask a question I may have asked already: It’s been a long time now since Uncle paid any attention to the notion that you only buy what you can pay for and that there should at least be some rational relationship between federal outlays and federal revenues. He simply prints the stuff now. (Inflation? Never heard of it!) That being the case, why am I still paying any income tax at all?

The world wonders.

Okay, Ol’ Robbo is really signing off for now. Bless you all and have a very Happy Easter, and I’ll see you on the other side.

** I don’t care what the young whipper-snappers say, they’re still relevant. And Revolver is still my favorite album.


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September 2022