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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Nobody, not even my mother, knew what my father’s personal relationship with God was. But of the Old Gentleman’s opinion of organized religion, there was no doubt. In my younger day, he would go on periodic tears about its backwardness and blindness, and almost invariably end up sneering about theology being nothing more than “sitting around arguing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.” (In the end, he became a regular attendee at the little Episcopal chapel on the island where he and the Mothe spent their final years, and even served on the vestry. I tweaked him about this once and he just mumbled something about “being social”. Uh, huh.)

Anyhoo, I recall a conversation we had one day in the early 80’s. Pope St. John Paul II had just restated the Church’s stance on what are delicately termed “reproductive freedoms” and was getting savaged for it by the press. After listening to a radio nooz report, the Old Gentleman said, “The Pope needs to get with the times!”

Now Ol’ Robbo was only in high school at the time and was not exactly a regular church-goer, and it would be another 25-odd years before I myself swam the Tiber, but even then I thought this was wrong.

“Surely,” I said, “the Pope’s responsibility is to protect the orthodox teachings of the Church from fads and fashions, and to take a mighty close look at anything calling itself ‘reform’ or ‘transformation’ or ‘going forward’ to make sure that there isn’t a wolf lurking under such sheep’s clothing.” (I didn’t put it exactly in those words, but that was the sense of it.)

The Old Gentleman waived my point away dismissively.

I bring this up in light of this Synody Synod of Synodicious Synoditiness which has just opened up in Rome, because I’m hearing and reading those buzzwords again and cannot dismiss all of it as a simple matter of poor translation or media wish-casting. Too many people whose opinions I respect, including my own Padre, are signaling either openly or otherwise that trouble is coming, possibly really big trouble, and that it’s coming not from outside HMC but from within.

As near as I can tell, the push seems to be to take the Church post-modern, to eliminate as much of the antiquated icky-poo as possible, and to start over at Year One worshiping the “god” inside each of us, meaning ourselves. (Did I get that right?) And even if the Synodic Synod of Synodical Synodipity produces only modest change in and of itself, there are plenty of those who eagerly will run with the “spirit” of the thing to cause all sorts of damage and mischief, much as was done in the case of Vatican II.

I was talking with my old pal Father M (who used to blog over at Pater Paterium), not about this Synodiffic Synod of Synodical Synodapalooza, but about the general direction of things under Father Bergoglio. He counseled patience, saying, “a fat pope is always followed by a thin pope”. (Where do I mail in my vote for Cardinal Sarah?) I also remind myself that Jesus specifically promised to Peter that not even the gates of hell would prevail against the Church.

Since it’s all out of my hands anyway, I suppose all I can do is pray, sit tight, and see what happens.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The new washing machine was delivered to Port Swiller Manor this morning. When they said 7:00 A.M, by jigs, they meant 7:00 A.M. Lots of new electronic whistles and bells compared to its dead, 20+ year old predecessor. One of them is a “stain removal guide” setting. The choices include “tomato, wine, blood, grass, [and] dirt”, which immediately struck me as an outline for a fairly lurid thriller. (Perhaps I’ll write it.) Making its maiden run now. Definitely has a larger capacity than the old one.

In a change from the ordinary, Ol’ Robbo needs to refill his hummingbird feeder today not because the current content is getting old but because the little blighters have almost emptied it. I can’t recall a more active year here. There are at least three of them, and hummers being such aggressive and territorial types it’s like watching the Battle of Britain every day. (How any of them has time for sipping in between dogfights escapes me.)

I continue to scan the headlines with disgust and contempt, but also with a certain detachment because I have God. (This may sound trite or corny, but I’ve worked hard at it and finally begin to understand, however hazily, what it truly means.) How horrifying it must be for those who replace Him with worship of the State or themselves or nothing or whatever to lead such angry, empty, deceitful lives, only to discover in the end how wrong they were. (I think of the demise of Mabel Brand in Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. One of the scariest things I’ve ever read. But I also think of Puddleglum in The Silver Chair when the witch tries and fails to hocus him into denying his faith in Aslan.)

I assume that most of you who still bother to drop in here for a glass of port also spend time over at the Ace of Spades Moron HQ. Yesterday on his GAAAINZZZ thread, Ace mentioned a “push-up challenge”, the goal of which is to try and do 100 push-ups over the course of a day. As a matter of fact, Ol’ Robbo hit on this very idea himself a couple of months ago. I’m now doing 125 a day, in sets of 25. It may sound idiotic, but I only actually stumbled across the principle of doing push-ups properly fairly recently. All those years I had been concentrating on trying to straighten out my arms instead of pressing with my pecs. What a difference.

My next challenge will be pull-ups, which I can’t do worth jack.

I’m probably a bad old man for it, but now that Mrs. R and Eldest are back at work at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, I derive a certain satisfaction at watching them have to get up early in the morning to get ready. (Summahs have always been a bit irksome when Robbo has to put on the ol’ harness while everybody else sleeps in.)

On the gardening front, I will be cutting back the forsythia this weekend in order to see if I can get a more concentrated bloom next spring. They had plenty of flowers last year (thanks, I believe, to the lime treatment I started giving them) but they were overgrown and stringy. We’ll see what happens.

Also on said front, Ol’ Robbo is geeking out because his lawn service sent out order forms for fall aeration, over-seeding, and lime treatment, for which I am enthusiastically signing up. It’s my Christmas present to myself this year. (No kidding.) The Port Swiller Manor demesne hasn’t had such care since we first moved in and I’m determined to wrestle it back to good health.

And speaking of which, time for Ol’ Robbo to go haul out the mower…….

French-Fried UPDATE: Because Ol’ Robbo got the jump on his Saturday yardwork chores early, he was able to spend the afternoon lounging about. Following up on my comment about misbegotten Jackie Chan scripts the other day, I spent it reading Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days.

Well, I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly. Perhaps at least just one futuristic invention? But, no: Just a fun adventure story heavily dependent on railway and shipping time-tables. And while others might roll their eyes and skip a bit when Verne starts going into detail about the geography of various railroads in India and the United States, I got a geeky pleasure out of them. (When I told Eldest about it, we got into a discussion of whether Verne himself put in the travelling leg-work to gather together all his information and atmosphere. I should think he must have done.)

Anyhoo, it’s tightly told and nicely written, and the perfect thing for a lazy afternoon in the hammock. And I was amused to see a Frenchy’s pen-portrait of a stuffy, stiff-upper-lip Englishman. (Somewhere or other, right on the outskirts of memory, I recall reading recently a discussion of foreign attempts to portray the English, in which Phileas Fogg’s name naturally comes up. It’s going to drive me crazy trying to remember where I saw this.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is still on summuh hols this week. I can’t remember the second Monday of vacation in a row in, oh, I dunno how many years.

An interesting setting of the Mass yesterday by a composer I’d never heard of, the Messa in onore di San Luigi Gonzaga by Oreste Ravanello (1871-1938). It was scored for only two voices and continuo. Very intimate and also very melodious, and had that quality wherewith it contributed to the worship without drawing undue attention to itself (which quality I couldn’t possibly put into words). Ol’ Robbo is no great fan of the romantic style in musick (which is what this was), but I liked it.

Speaking of which, despite the fact that the sheeple are all masking up again at the stores, hardly anybody had one on at my church. But then we TLM sharks are already bad, no good people. So I’ve been told by my Betters.

I read the nooz today, oh boy. Did anybody really expect anything else out of a John Gill administration?

On a different note, I believe both the Younger Gels start their kollej classes today. Meanwhile, Eldest and Mrs. R go back to their teaching jobs next week. So the cycle begins again.

Speaking of such things, I’ve recently noticed that change in the sunlight on the trees which signals summah is beginning to wind down. (It’s the shift in the angle at which the light hits them in the middle of the day. Once you know what to look for, you can’t miss it.) I suppose I’ll be getting to my annual griping here about raking up leaves before I know it.

And on that note, the yard isn’t going to mow itself, so I suppose I’d better get off my backside and get to it. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I spent the first week of my hols just loafing. But I promised myself I’d get back to doing things this week. Time to start.

UPDATE: Done! While I was at it, all kinds of bloggy material floated through my braims, material which would have made you laugh, made you cry, made you think, made you pray.

Alas, despite the fact that I slathered myself with Deep Woods Off, the gnats ate me alive and I was so distracted by the Itchy & Scratchy show by the time I was done that I clean forgot about everything else. Durn it!

UPDATE DEUX: After several glasses of water and a long shower, I now recall that I was ranting to myself about smiley-face collectivist totalitarianism. Aren’t you glad the gnats got to me now?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As those of you who keep up with such things are no doubt already aware, Pope Francis, in his infinite wisdom and contra Pope St. John Paul II and dear Papa Bennie, issued a letter Friday severely curtailing the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

So far as Ol’ Robbo can tell, the sole justification for this is that he believes those who love the TLM are seditionist poopy-heads who need to be disbursed and stamped out.

I have largely restrained myself from Frankie-bashing here over the years, trying to remember that one salutes the rank, not the man. But this feels like a personal assault.

When I swam the Tiber nearly fifteen years ago, it was in pursuit of orthodoxy. And the fact that my parish was at the forefront of the TLM movement at the time was a major aid and comfort in my coming across. To my mind, any church that would put that much effort into reverence of form is that much more likely to put such effort into reverence of substance as well. Over the years, I’ve been proven right.***

What I don’t understand is what Frankie thinks he’s going to gain by picking this fight. Are millions of non-believers suddenly going to say, “Fellows! The Pope just put the hurt on the Rad-Trads! Where do I sign up now?” Does he believe Traditionalists are going to simply roll over?

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t consider himself a seditionist. But stunts like this…….well.

Fortunately, I am a member of one of the strongest Diocese in the country. Funny enough, when I started attending all those years ago, my parish was the only one in the entire region to offer the TLM on a regular basis. It was standing-room-only. The congregation has shrunk somewhat since then not due to lack of interest, but because so many other parishes have since started it. My Padre has been hinting around that Frankie was going to do this but, at least for the last few weeks, has been sending the message that we’ll probably be okay. We’ll see if he has any new information today.

(***By the bye, this is not to bash any of my Novus Ordo friends out there. As I say, I’m just responding to what I feel like is an attack on me, not seeking to attack anyone else.)

UPDATE: Well, no O-fficial pronouncement that I can find, but from what Father let fall today, I’d say Bullet Status: Dodged. He reminded us that our Bishop is one of the Good Guys, that he’s already getting trolled for standing pat, and that we shouldn’t be returning troll fire but instead be praying for the more questionable shepherds and their flocks. I suppose this post is kinda, sorta trolling, so I’ll say no more.

By the way, a lot of folks there today and many faces I haven’t seen before. Looks like we’re taking in refugees again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo describing his ride out to summah camp with Youngest Gel at the wheel two weeks ago.

Well, today I went to fetch her back.

Owing to the fact that the Gel was there as a rookie counselor instead of a camper this time, she had to stick around for a longish staff debriefing after their charges had all gone away. This left Ol’ Robbo a goodish bit of time on his hands, so I decided just to park myself and contemplate the goodness of God’s creation.

It was wonderfully refreshing.

By the bye, even though the covidz broke out in the Gel’s cabin mid-term and she reports they were treated like a bunch of lepers for the balance, she really, really enjoyed her two weeks as a counselor-in-training and is already eagerly looking forward to doing the entire summah there next year.

And even as I type this, it suddenly occurs to me that today may very well have been my last visit to the place, as the Gel will take herself there next year and who knows if I’ll be around long enough to see grandkids attend. Funny, that. Thirteen or fourteen years of making the drive twice a summah and suddenly zhoom – it’ gone.

Glad I got a good, long opportunity to soak it all up one last time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Fathers’ Day!

This weekend saw the return of a full house at Port Swiller Manor for the first time since January. And yet Ol’ Robbo finds himself facing dinner alone this evening. How do I come to be doing a Gratuitous Bachelor Post(TM) today of all days?

Well, let me explain……No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

The two major factors are the advent of Ol’ Robbo’s in-laws and Middle Gel’s latest sports wound.

First, the in-laws. They’re doing their snowbird summah migration back up north and are stopping over in town for a few days. Not altogether without reason, they went to the extremes of precaution during the recent medical unpleasantness, and had not been out of their house for about fourteen months. But while they now feel comfortable enough to get out and about again, they still refuse to have any close contact with anybody they know has not had the jab.

That would be me.

It’s useless to argue rationally about this, nor do I wish to upset them, so I’ve simply gone along with things and am keeping my distance while they visit with Mrs. R and those granddaughters who also are medically cleared.

Last evening, I had dinner with Eldest alone, who’s also been banished. I would have done so again this evening, but this is where Middle Gel comes in. Since her grandparents were coming through and she hasn’t seen them in over a year and a half, she naturally took advantage of their stopover here to come up herself and visit. But a week or two ago she managed to get body checked by some dude whilst frolicking on the lawn down at her school, resulting in a crocked right knee which doesn’t allow her to drive at the moment.

Mrs. R went down to fetch Middle Gel on Friday, but we decided that it would be nice for Eldest to drive her back, her teaching job having ended last week for the summah. Thus, she’s going to spend this coming week knocking about with her sister down in the Tidewater. Surely a Good Thing. They just left a while ago, as Eldest wanted to be there before dark. So no dinner with her.

What about Youngest, you might ask? Well, she’s dog-sitting for the grandparents while they go out to dinner with Mrs. R, the in-laws absolutely refusing to let their pooch sit alone and unattended in their hotel room for an hour or two.

So there you have it.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t begrudge any of this himself, really, although he thinks the ban pretty hard cheese on Eldest Gel. Mrs. R has me around every day but only sees her ‘rents once in a way, so why would I object to her spending time with them? Besides, these little get-togethers invariably get complicated, aggravating, and sometimes tempestuous. Far simpler for me simply to turn my bow into the wind and heave-to until it’s all over.

Besides, this is a good opportunity for me to indulge in a little veal scaloppini, which I avoid when Mrs. R is around in order not to offend her sensibilities. Fried up in a coating of breadcrumbs, put together with some potato pancakes, some fresh peas, and a bot of Beaujolais, and Ol’ Robbo is good to go!

And speaking of which, time for me to go start getting things ready…….

***Not really, except that when I got to church today I noticed a black Chevy Suburban with gub’mint plates waiting to pick up somebody coming out of the Mass ahead of ours. I never saw who it was but chuckled to myself at the idea that if it was Creepy Uncle Joe hoping to sneak in Communion at our parish, he would surely be deeply disappointed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

Ol’ Robbo was struck by a line in the Sequence of today’s Mass. Speaking of the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic Host, it says:

Vetustatem novitas, * Umbram fugat veritas, * Noctem lux eliminat.

Which translates:

“Here, for empty shadows fled, * Is reality instead; * Here, instead of darkness, light.”

While not pretending to be any kind of theologian nor having stayed recently in a Holiday Inn Express, Ol’ Robbo nonetheless believes this “light” to be the same one spoken of in the preface to the Gospel of St. John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made: in Him was life, and the life was the Light of men: and the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

(More knowledgeable friends of the decanter may feel free to either backstop me on this or else correct my interpretation.)

But the reason the line caught my attention in particular is that I happen to have been thinking recently about that darkness and light, about that empty shadow and reality. Seems to me there are lots and lots of folks chasing the empty shadows these days and most such shadows seem built around such people making themselves into their own little gods presiding over their own little universes centered around their own little “truths”.*** And they all seem to be so very angry and miserable about it, too. Perhaps this has always been the case but I’m inclined to believe that social media has amplified and encouraged such things, and furthermore given such people, who used to sit alone muttering to themselves, the power now to actively go after anyone who dares express a different view.

It’s really very sad. And even if they drag me off to the camps or put me against the wall because of my own “incorrect” belief in the Light and God’s reality, well, I would still feel rayther sorry for them.

***You’ll no doubt tell Ol’ Robbo that he’s just recycling that old Chestertonian chestnut about how when people stop believing in God, the trouble is not that they believe nothing, but that they’ll believe anything. My answer is that a classic is, by definition, timeless and there’s nothing wrong with applying the old formulae to new situations. So there.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Our bishop removed all diocesan worship restrictions this past week, so Trinity Sunday was particularly special today. Holy water back in the stoups, four altar-servers instead of one trying to juggle everything himself, no more sealed off pews, distancing markers, or “masks only” sections – in short, almost completely back to normal. And the sweet little old lady next to whom I have sat for ages was back for the first time in over a year. (For months, since the church first opened back up, she’s sat in her car and watched the Mass on the innerwebs, only coming in from the parking lot to receive the Host after it was over.)

Of course, coupled with my joy at the restoration of my ability to worship unfettered is a renewed horror and disgust at the reflection of just how easily it was taken away to begin with, and how seemingly everyone in the Church hierarchy from Frankie Fabulous on down simply rolled over at the behest of the “Experts”. If there ever actually was any kind of principled push-back, especially after the initial panic died down and the holes in the “pandemic” narrative started opening up, I sure as heck never heard about it. (My parish priest was pretty disgusted, too.)

If you can only keep a freedom until the gubmint tells you that you can’t, it isn’t really a freedom in the first place. And the gubmint that finds it can shut down the churches today just because of an outbreak of flu is the gubmint that will be a lot less hesitant to try and shut down the churches tomorrow because of wrong-think.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo became aware this week of The Friends of Notre-Dame, Paris, a website devoted to raising funds for the work of restoring the Cathedral from its devastating fire. (Was it really only two years ago?) Apparently, you can either add to the general kitty or else target your donation to specific artifacts, including gargoyles.

This is a neat idea and a clever way to get people to feel a personal connection to the Cathedral’s rebuilding. Just so long as nobody gets any funny ideas about Darth Vader, of course.

In general, Ol’ Robbo is heartened by the progress the French Gub’mint has made so far. I’m old enough to remember the original reports about how the Cathedral was going to be a total loss. Then rumors started flying about plans to “update” it with things like a glass ceiling and rooftop gardens, as well as to turn it into some kind of multi-faith general “worship space”. Since then, the French government said “uh-uh” and is placing it back the way it was, and furthermore seems to be on track to get ‘er done by 2024. Very impressive.

(Thank Heaven Francois Mitterrand isn’t still around. Any bastard who’d allow I.M.Pei to part a glass pyramid smack in front of the Louvre would be capable of turning Notre-Dame into an indoors water park.)

On a completely different note, in the old-style calendar (I dunno about the novus ordo), this is Good Shephard Sunday and the Gospel is John, 10. 11-16. That was the reading the Mothe specifically picked out for her memorial service. “I am the good Shepherd: And I know Mine and Mine know Me.” That’s one of those passages that goes straight to the innermost core of Ol’ Robbo’s soul.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers! (Those of you who get the “Hee-Haw” riff in the title may give yourselves a star.)

Ol’ Robbo is very pleased to report that his Easter Dins turned out absolutely fabulous.

I don’t do this to toot my own horn. I’m still a rank amateur with a very modest range, but I’ve discovered a real delight in cooking. Part of it is simply being able to eat tasty meals. Part of it is the reward of seeing others really enjoy my efforts: (All the gels were home, and we were joined by Middle Gel’s Young Man. (More on that later.) They all pitched in with a whoop and a holler and there were very, very few leftovers.) Part of it is the pure logistical challenge of working out multiple dishes in very modest facilities. (Consider yourselves lucky, by the bye, because Ol’ Robbo wrote and deleted here a long rant about the phoniness of Dream Kitchens and the Beautiful People who own them.)

Anyhoo, because I’m a giver, allow me to cut right to the chase and offer up the recipes. (I apologize in advance if this post goes a bit long but WordPress, in its infinite wisdom, seems to have eliminated the “below-the-fold” feature.)

Cracked Pepper and Herb Rack of Lamb

Ingredients: 1 frenched rack of lamb; 2 TBSP cracked black pepper (more to taste); 2 TBSP chopped rosemary; 1 TSP kosher salt (more to taste); 3 TBSP olive oil; 1 TBSP minced garlic. (I doubled the recipe without a problem.)

Cooking: Blend pepper, salt, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. Rub lamb thoroughly on both sides. Place in plastic bag or other container and let marinade. (Overnight in fridge is best). Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Set pan on stove-top at medium heat. Place lamb in pan, fat side down, and sear for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip lamb over and place pan in oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes. (This seemed a bit long to me, but believe it. I took mine out after 20 minutes and it was very rare inside.)

Marinated White Beans

Ingredients: 1/3 cup olive oil; zest of one lemon; juice of one lemon; 1 medium shallot, diced; 1 clove garlic, grated or minced; 1/2 TSP kosher salt; freshly-ground black pepper to taste; 2 15-ounce cans of canellini beans; 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano.

Cooking: (Do this the day before.) Thoroughly rinse beans and give them a good shake to remove water. Combine olive oil, lemon zest and juice, shallot, garlic, salt, and pepper, whisk together. Add beans, parsley, and oregano. Mix thoroughly. Store overnight in fridge, allow to come to room temperature before serving.

“Portuguese” Mint Rice

Ingredients: 4 cups water; 1 TBSP butter; 1 TSP kosher salt; 1 cup long-grain white rice; 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves. (I did 1 1/2 the recipe without a problem.)

Cooking: Bring water, butter, and salt to boil in large saucepan. Add rice and cook uncovered at high boil for 7 minutes. Stir in mint and boil for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let steam for 3 minutes. It’ll come out mushier than the usual 20-minute simmered rice but don’t let that worry you. It’s wonderfully refreshing.

Standard Popovers

Ingredients: 1 cup flour; 1 cup milk; 3 eggs; 1 TBSP butter (melted); white pepper and salt to taste.

Cooking: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine ingredients in bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour into Pam’d or greased muffin tins, about 3/4 full in each cup. (The recipe makes 8 popovers.) Place in oven and cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook another 15 minutes. Don’t peak. You can do this first if you need the oven for other things and either place them on a warming rack or even serve at room temperature.

Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients: I bunch asparagus with woody bottoms trimmed off; 3 egg yolks; 1/4 cup of water; 2 TBSP lemon juice; 1 stick of butter in 8 pieces.

Cooking: Asparagus (do this last): Dampen four sheets of paper towel, squeeze out excess water, place in stack. Place asparagus in flat line on stacked paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. Roll paper towel over on itself with asparagus inside. Place in microwave and zap for 3 minutes. Sauce: Separate out yolks by slurping back and forth between eggshell halves until whites have dropped off. Whisk yolks, water, and lemon juice in small sauce pan until blended. Cook over low heat until it bubbles at the edges. Stir in pieces of butter one at a time until melted and sauce thickens. Add salt, pepper if you like. Serve immediately. (I’ve made this many times and it usually works out fine. I tried to double the recipe here and for some reason it never thickened up but remained soupy. Dunno why. It tasted fine but tended to run all over things.)

So there you have it, a menu full of easy-to-prepare but delicious dishes. And if you’re concerned about horses and barn doors, just remember that Easter is not a single day, but an Octave. Every day this week is Easter Day, so if you want to tie this meal to the holiday and don’t want to wait until next year you’ve still got plenty of opportunities now to try it out. Enjoy!


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October 2021