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Port Swiller Manor after the  Initial Driveway Cleanup

Port Swiller Manor after the Initial Driveway Cleanup

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, the Family Robbo survived Snowzilla intact.  Indeed, we didn’t even lose power this time around, owing to the lightness and dryness of the snow. Deo gratias.

Dulles recorded 29″ while they got 22″ downtown.  I think we probably split the baby here.

In any case, I’ve spent the last three days heaving snow off the Port Swiller driveway and my arms and shoulders ache something fierce as a result. (I also think I pulled something in my abs today.)  But the real story of the cleanup was the Eldest Gel.  I had mentioned casually to her a couple days before the storm that I expected her to help shovel out, given that her own car was involved in the matter.  Nonetheless, I had envisioned that when push came to shove she would balk, finding some excuse for weaseling out and leaving the whole job to ol’ Robbo (who, quite frankly, is getting a bit old to deal with this sort of thing all by his lonesome.)

Well, was I pleasantly surprised.  Both yesterday and today, the gel was actually on station and shoveling away even before I even got out of bed.  Plus, not a single word of complaint the entire time, indeed, the closest she came was to say, “I hate this, but I know it needs to be done.”  Instead, we chatted and listened to her iThingy playlist of classic rock.

Musick to ol’ Robbo’s ears.  That the gel is thinking like a responsible adult is something I’ve been praying for, for a very long time indeed.  Also, although I suppose we could have hired somebody to come and dig us out, ol’ Robbo was brought up with the idea that hard work (including manual labor) is important to character development.  The gel felt damned proud of herself for pitching in, and so she should have.  (And get this: She also asked if she could borrow my copy of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, as she has felt the need recently to shore up the underpinnings of her faith in the face of all the hostility she gets about it from some of the kids at her school.)

Oh, speaking of musick, at one point I was at the top of the drive while she was working closer to the garage.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” turned up on her phone, and even though I was some distance from her, at the appropriate point I went into “Wayne’s World” head-banger mode.  The gel laughed and laughed.

Good times.  Good times.



Image filched from the Capital Weather Gang (which see link)

Image filched from the Capital Weather Gang (which see link)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, from the midst of Snowzilla!

Yes, it set in around 1:45 pm yesterday and has been snowing like dammit ever since.  Tough to eyeball accurately, but I’d say we’re already well north of a foot at Port Swiller Manor, with a forecast of continued white stuff well into tonight.

Ol’ Robbo was actually surprised to wake up this morning and find that the power had not gone out overnight.  That means at least one more hot pot of coffee for me, so for the moment all is well.  The wind hasn’t really been an issue yet and I think, I think, we might just dodge that particular bullet.

Of course, I could be mis-

No, no.  Just kidding.

If the power holds up today, I plan to watch a 1981 production of Othello that I stumbled across in the Netflix library.  Bob Hoskins plays Iago, so it has some potential.  I’ll let you know what I think.

If not, I’ve started in again on Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time.  I’m not sure if this is my second or third reading but I’m already getting much more out of it than last time.  How I could have missed a line like “He’s so wet you could shoot snipe off of him” previously is beyond me.

The Big Dig starts tomorrow.  Despite the fact that the Bishop has already granted dispensation to stay home, I would like to have gone to Mass.  Unfortunately, I just don’t think I’ll be able to get the driveway cleared in time to make it.  Oh, well.  At least I’m guaranteed some good exercise.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now I imagine all three or four of you have read the news that the Anglican Communion this week put the Episcopal Church on a three year suspension over the issue of ghey marriage, with the instructions to get back in line or risk being chucked permanently.  ECUSA immediately responded by playing the defiant victim card.  Frankly, ol’ Robbo was astonished.  For years the attitude of ECUSA was that Canterbury would never take punitive steps in response to its creeping progressivism because it basically bankrolls the Communion.  I guess the African and South American Bishops, who have become the real theological leaders, finally have had enough.

It’s possible that one side or the other will blink eventually, but this sure looks like the beginning of a final and permanent schism to me.  If that happens, I suspect that most if not all of the remaining traditionalists within ECUSA will bail – going to the North American Anglicans, some other Protestant denomination and maybe Rome herself.  The rump, finally free of all adult supervision, will then crumble further into fringe Unitarian obscurity.

This news aggravates a long-standing sore in ol’ Robbo’s conscience, since, as regular friends of the decanter know, when I swam the Tiber myself eight years ago, I left my family on the other, Palie, shore.  Mrs. R has no interest whatsoever in following me, and the gels are all caught in teenaged limbo – too old to remold but not quite old enough to make up their own minds (at least while still under Mrs. R’s roof).  I pray for their conversions (and those of the rest of my family) daily and try to set an example and drop gentle hints, but so far, no joy.  I’m not sure what else, if anything, I can do, but I still worry that I haven’t exerted myself enough to get them off the Titanic before it finally goes down.

Perhaps this sudden new in-gushing of ice water will motivate them to take stock anew.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Epiphany!

Yes, today marks the O-ficcial end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and – practically speaking – all those lords, ladies, maids, partridges, rings, et al are invited to get off my lawn.

Seriously, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is, in my humble opinion, one of the most tedious and un-rescuable of all the Christmas standard carols, despite the fact that some people think it’ s some kind of Catholic code.

EpiphanyAnyhoo,  the point of the day is to mark the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, there to worship and adore the Baby Jesus, thereby heralding His ministry amongst the Gentiles.

I try to wrap my brain around this encounter.  According to Matthew:

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

I love that “another way” language.  Clearly, the Magi got wind of what Herod (not a man to be crossed0 intended and wanted no part of it.  But what was the timing? What was the protocol?  I’m fine with the idea that the Magi were not”Three Kings” but were something more like astrologers or “wise men without portfolio”.  But what were the temporal obligations of their visit? What were the security protocols? How did it end?

Inquiring (and yet, perhaps, useless) minds want to know.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Father P said in a recent homily that Holy Mother Church deliberately placed a number of saints’ feast days in the period immediately following Christmas Day to cover the dearth of Biblical references to the actual birth and immediate infancy of Jesus.  This, he said, was because newborns – even that who was God Incarnate – are good for little more than feeding, sleeping and producing poopy diapers, and Scripture deems it best to avoid such squalid details about our Lord.

Reasonable enough.

Anyhoo, today is the Feast of St. Thomas a’ Becket, martyred Bishop of Canterbury.  You know, the one at whom Peter O’Toole kept rolling his eyes and crying out in anguish, “Thomaaaaassss!!!!!

Because my mind is what it is, I can’t help associating this day with SCTV’s parody NASA production of T.S. Eliot’s “Murder In The Cathedral”.  Alas, there seems to be some kind of copyright ban on showing the clip, but – and you can trust me on this – it was damned funny stuff.  (SCTV was always better than Saturday Night Live, even in SNL’s original heyday.  **Breaks beer bottle, looks around for challengers to his assertion.**)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. John the Beloved!

Friends of the decanter are probably aware of the lovely little non-controversy controversy over what day Christmas actually ends.  Conventional teaching – as in the “twelve days of Christmas” – says the Epiphany on January 6.  Some others argue that it ought to be the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord on January 8.  Real hard-core types hold out for Candlemas on February 2.

It’s fascinating stuff to me, however I don’t bring it up here to get into the arguments but to note that when I went for a jog yesterday afternoon, I saw that somebody had already run their tree out to the curb.

And earlier in the day when I had flipped on the local classickal radio station there was not a ghost left of the “holiday” musick with which it had been saturation-bombing my ears since the day after Thanksgiving.


The appropriation and commercialization of the season by the secular world is bad enough.  What’s worse is the bending and mutilating of its symbols, images and traditions in order to fit the needs desires of said world.  (These desires include the deliberate destruction of their religious associations, by the way.  The government/industrial complex does not suffer other centers of power in its long march toward creating Utopia.)

Ol’ Robbo saw an item in the nooz a few days back about some academic type down in Florida who is proposing we change “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Federal Holiday”.  Her reasoning centers on the usual blather about inclusiveness and insensitivity, but part of me thinks the actual proposal isn’t such a bad idea.  Go appropriate your own damned symbols!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. Stephen!  I hope you are all recovering from lots of Christmas Day merriment – it was certainly quite late this morning before anyone at Port Swiller Manor began to stir.  (Except for the eldest cat, who started -as is her wont- to pester me to feed her at about 6 ack emma.  Damned cats.)

Anyhoo, we had a very pleasant Christmas Day ourselves, meaning there was no teenager trauma and the oven didn’t cut out on me (as happened last year before I could get teh popovers done).  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t like to brag, but I will say that I seem to have a genuine talent when it comes to roasts.  I absolutely nailed that bad boy this year, getting a near perfect rosey-red center.  Surprisingly, there really isn’t that much left – maybe two or three meals’ worth.  I like to think this was some testament to my cooking.

Today I begin my new exercise regime, by the bye.  Nobody would ever call me fat, but because of my fondness for red meat and wine I’m beginning to develop a certain flabbiness which probably is not the best thing for a fellah shortly to turn 51.


"Merry Christmas, beyotches!"

“Merry Christmas, beyotches!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, like everyone else east of the Mississippi, ol’ Robbo can’t help remarking on the crazy warm weather visiting us at the moment.  It’s nearly 70 degrees here and there’s even a chance of a thundershower this afternoon.  Reminds me more of Christmases from my misspent yoot in South Texas than the norm.

Well, what can you do.

Meanwhile, I find that I’m not happy with either the ribbon or the candles I bought this year.  The ribbon is not wide enough and the candles taper too much.  These are minor things, of course, but I like to get them right.  Speaking of which, my plan is to finally take advantage of post-Christmas pricing and stock up on decorations early, including finally tracking down a creche with which I can be happy.

I’ll go ahead and wish you all some pre-Christmas joy but my other aim is to really try and celebrate the full twelve days this year.  Tomorrow is but the beginning, after all.  See you at the Nativity!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo’s Christmas Prep status has just been upgraded to “locked and loaded”, as I managed to get to the grock store to pick up the makings of Christmas Din-Dins relatively unruffled this morning, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the pouring rain.  About all I have left to do before the festivities get under way tomorrow evening is to switch the Advent bows and candles to red, and lay out the table (something it’s always wise to leave until the last minute because cats).

Christmas Dins will consist, as it always does at Port Swiller Manor, of the classic roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg.  (In this case, the two veg actually are one very large portion of asparagus).  This year I am also attempting a Julia Child cheese casserole for those weirdoes respected members of the family who do not choose to eat beef.  This will be preceded by bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, cheese n’ crackers and various other snacks, and followed by whatever dessert my cousin brings along with her.  And of course I’ve already laid in a stock of sherry, burgundy and port to accompany the various stages of the meal.

We’re supposed to go on to some friends for drinks later in the day.  How on earth I’m still even going to be conscious by that point is a great mystery.

Tomorrow evening kicks off with the Middle Gel singing one of the services at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church.  (I hope it’s not the “family” service, because at that one the rector skips his sermon and instead calls the chillruns up to the altar and reads them some revolting kiddy book.)  Later on, I’ll push off on my own for Midnight Mass, from which I don’t get home until past two ack emma.  My traditional way of capping off Christmas Eve is to have a nice glass of cognac before crawling into bed and trying to grab a few hours’ sleep before the piranhas start circling the Tree.

Between the activities of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, ol’ Robbo ends up pretty exhausted when all is said and done, but it’s a calm, joyous sort of exhaustion.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Six days late because of illness (which see below) and Thanksgiving travel last weekend, but a very happy Advent to you all!  As you can see here, ol’ Robbo got his wreaths up this morning, thus ensuring a steady stream of confusion over the next few weeks on the part of mailmen, delivery people and general callers at the front doors of Port Swiller Manor.  (“How come the ribbons are purple?)  I also chucked the remaining fall pun’kins into the creek and mulched the clematis, wisteria and jasmine round the base of the back porch.  A good day.

Advent has become more and more important to ol’ Robbo over the years as a liturgical season.  Indeed, it is becoming much more of a Lenten-like time for me (as it used to be for the Church as a whole) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the next few years I didn’t start introducing more acts of penitence to my current routine of study and reflection.

Of course, this also has the effect of making the outer world’s “Holiday Season” all that more jarring to me.  I couldn’t help noticing yesterday that all the banners on the lamp-posts downtown, in addition to bearing words like “Joy” and “Love” feature….pictures of shopping bags.  I was actually both amused and bothered by the kerfluffle at the University of Tennessee this week over a memo warning not to allow “religious themes” at “holiday parties”.  (The memo came from the same office, btw, that tried to issue a draconian speech code a couple months back and was laughed out of touch.)  Back in the day at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, we didn’t have “Secret Santa”.  Instead, we had something called “Non-Sectarian Gift Giving”.  I fear that same spirit has pretty much infected the general culture now.

Now I am sure there are many people of good will who go in for all the commercialism and consumerism and gaudiness of the “Holidays” with genuine good will.  And I have no wish to dampen their generosity and caring.  However, I increasingly see the thing itself as intrinsically evil, a mockery of and distraction from what Advent and Christmas are actually supposed to be about.  (Yes, I know – religious and social pluralism and all that.  Fine.  Then drop the Christina symbolism still attached and go appropriate your own markers.)  It doesn’t take much imagination to guess the source of such mockery and distraction.   So in my own, small way, I intend to take what steps I can to further isolate the “Holidays” from my mind, to ignore them or, when they get to be too much, mock them.  So when, in the next few weeks, you see posts here labeled “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Holiday, Dammit”, you’ll know what ol’ Robbo is about.


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