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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo’s vacation is about over and done and tomorrow I put back on the ol’ harness. On the whole, it was quite restful and I’m ready to get back to work. A few observations to wrap it up:

As promised earlier, I did clean out the garage yesterday, at least as far as I could. I duly emptied it out, swept, blowered and mopped, threw a bunch of junk away, and reorganized the remains. So it’s definitely cleaner. (I did not make any friends among the many spiders who live there.) However, a really thorough job would have involved a good power-washing of the floor (my washer is hors de combat) and repainting the walls (don’t tell Mrs. R I said that). Maybe next year.

Another result is that I may, at last, have finally found the crack whereby the water gets down into my basement study from the garage every time it floods. (It happened again last week and there’s mud all over my study floor. Another job for another day.) Fortunately, I had some quikrete left over from another of this week’s projects with which I won’t bore you, so I duly filled it in. I guess we’ll get to test it soon, as I understand what’s left of Hurricane Ida after it makes landfall is supposed to come through here mid-week, and I’m sure lots of water will get into the garage.

Eldest Gel and I watched “Around The World In 80 Days” (2004) last evening because we both like goofy Jackie Chan action movies, but really, this was ridiculous. (And Jim Broadbent ought to be ashamed of himself.) I’ve never actually read any Verne, but the knowledge of what violence this film must do to his novel has motivated both the Gel and me to pick it up in order to, so to speak, get the bad taste out of our mouths. One of the arguments made for film adaptations of liddashur is that they’re supposed to encourage viewers (especially the young people) to read the source material. Personally, I’ve never believed that happens very much. True, it’s happening here, but we’re both cranks and I doubt if many others would share our motivation.

On that note, I’ve also got “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” (1954) in my queue, this time on the Gel’s recommendation. Again, I don’t know how closely the film follows the book, but the Gel enthuses over it because it actually tells a story without relying on explosions every five seconds, and also because she’s discovered what a good actor James Mason was. (And now she gets a real kick out of my Peter Lorre impersonations, too.) I may have seen this film when I was a small boy but I remember nothing about it, except maybe a giant squid.

Oh, speaking of books, those of you who recall that Ol’ Robbo started his vacation binge-reading the works of George MacDonald Fraser may be interested to know that I made it through virtually his entire canon, fiction and non-fiction, except Black Ajax (which I don’t own), Mr. American (which is too long), and The Steel Bonnets (his history of the Anglo-Scots border reivers which, frankly, puts me to sleep.) That should hold me on GMF for a while.

Mrs. Robbo returns home today from playing in a regional USTA tournament, her first I believe. (She also got to visit with Middle Gel because the tourney was in her neighborhood.) I’m happy that she has her tennis even though I’ve never had any interest in the sport myself. While her team didn’t advance, I gather they nonetheless put up a respectable showing. (Mrs. R has played since she was a little girl and was captain of her college team. She’s never been a power hitter, but has always relied on control and finesse. Recently, so I understand, she has developed a wicked slice that has placed her much in demand as a doubles partner.)

To celebrate her return and as a send-off before we all – Mrs. R, Eldest, and I – go back to work tomorrow, I’m doing a bit of a slap up dins tonight. Mrs. R doesn’t eat meat, so I am doing her some fish. Fortunately, she recently discovered a taste for tilapia. I say fortunately because a) the thing is so mild that you can go to town with sauces and marinades, and b) no more salmon stinking up the kitchen. I’m trying a cilantro-lime marinade recipe this time. Eldest and I are quite content with steak on the bar-b. Add some popovers and artichoke and we’re all good to go.

Well, that’s that. Time, almost, to re-enter the (un)real world of madness that I have been trying to ignore mostly while on vacay. Ol’ Robbo avoids politickal commentary here as a rule, but God help us all.

UPDATE: What better way to wind up your vacation than to set your hair on fire! Ol’ Robbo has a small firepit near his grill in which he’s accustomed to burning empty charcoal bags. I must have got a bit cavalier about it this evening because tossing the screen on top I managed to create a fireball that wooshed past my head. A little later, I noticed that it had singed a goodish part of the hair above my left ear. Distinctive smell, too. Fortunately, I am approaching what Mrs. R calls the “Mountain-Man” look, so even though the ends withered, there was no permanent effect.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are again.

Over the weekend we got word that a couple cases of everybody’s favorite plague have broken out at Youngest’s summah camp, including one case in the cabin of 9-year-olds she’s counseling. Fortunately, the camp’s response wasn’t to disburse all the campers into the hills and burn the place to the ground, as it might have been last year. Instead, they sent home the sickies and have stepped up testing on anyone likely to have been exposed to them. But the notice we got also contains the following:

“Because the remaining campers in [the affected cabins] were exposed, we have created an even-more-separated camp experience for those cabins moving forward. Meals for these cabins are being served in the barn, and all activities will take place at an even-greater distance from the rest of camp.”

In other words, they’ve been banished to Siberia.

Youngest felt so bad for her little flock that she went to the nearest Party Barn on her day off and seemingly bought the place out. (Good on her.)

Meanwhile, Ol’ Robbo received a poll in the mail from some outfit called the “Institute on Voter Attitudes & Public Policy”. Ha, ha, ha. As I’ve explained to countless hipster-doofuses with clipboards who have accosted me on the streets of Your Nation’s Capital over the years, the three things Ol’ Robbo does NOT give to strangers are his name, his money, and his opinions.

Nonetheless, I glanced over the survey. It’s the usual stuff – presidential approval, immigration, guns, abortion, public education, etc. But one question stood out:

“There is considerable debate in Congress over various plans to balance the budget. What do you believe is the best way to balance the budget?”

This actually made Ol’ Robbo laugh. The 1990’s called and want their debate back. When was the last time anybody in Congress seriously talked of “balancing” the budget? Heck, when was the last time we even had a budget, much less a balanced one? Get real. (The responses offered were the usual raise taxes, lower spending, or both. If I were to return the survey, I’d have scribbled in “In this bizarro world into which we’ve descended, what difference does it make now?”)

**Goes back to assembling his James Bond Sooper-Villain Hideout Lego kit**

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth with plenty of grilled meats, adult beverages, and things that go BOOM! in the night.

Ol’ Robbo’s day was taken up with the Big Drive with Youngest about which I posted the other day.

Things started ill-omened enough. For one thing, I screwed up my alarm clock so that when I jerked awake at oh-dark-thirty, it was to the panicky realization that I was running late. Then when we got in the car I found that the Gel’s tank was practically empty, so we had a bit of a scramble to find a gas station open that early. Finally, when we’d picked up our coffee just before hitting the highway, the Gel announced that we needed to return home because she’d forgot “something”. (That “something” turned out to be her wallet.)

Oh, Lord, I said to myself, it’s not going to be one of those trips, is it?

Well, it wasn’t.

In fact, the Gel did just fine. Granted, there wasn’t much traffic, but she still had to pick her way around some tractor-trailer rigs and it was evident she knew what she was doing. For the rest, she was calm and focused, and set a good pace without being a maniac like Middle Gel, who channels Richard Petty every time she gets behind the wheel.

Indeed, I was able to unclench pretty early on, and we wound up having a nice chat about Life, the Universe, and Everything. The drive went quite quickly.

I learned earlier that Mrs. R had approached Youngest and asked her if she really felt she needed me to go along. “Oh, definitely,” she replied. “I don’t know how to get there!” (I should note that because of the tricky backroads at the end, GPS is useless.)

I put this to the Gel on the drive. “This is, what, your eleventh or twelfth summer at this camp. How on earth can you not know the way yet?”

“I always slept in the car, remember? I’d close my eyes and the next thing we were there!”

I suppose she has a point, but being such a geography nerd myself from a very young age, I find this attitude alien.

Anyhoo, we got there in plenty of time and the Gel was delighted to be back. I duly humped her gear up to her cabin and then drove back to Port Swiller Manor.

It’s our turn to host a barbeque in a small circle of friends and Mrs. R had at first toyed with the idea of having it on the Fourth. She reconsidered, however, when she thought about how tired I would be when I got back from dropping off Youngest. In this, I applaud her good wifely sense and consideration, because I was indeed pretty beat by the time I got home. In fact, I dozed off in the hammock, waking up just in time to cook our own modest dins and then to listen to the fireworks going off in the neighborhood. (There seemed to be a lot of them this year.)

I have to go retrieve the Gel in two weeks. Because of the camp schedule, we’ll be starting back on a Friday afternoon, not a Sunday morning, so the traffic more than likely will be pretty nasty. I’m sure the Gel will be quite worn out from counseling a gaggle of nine-year-olds for all that time, so I think I’ll just let her sleep on the drive home. So far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t need to prove anything more to me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How the heck did it get to be the latter half of 2021 already? (Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The sooner this garbage year is over, the better.)

At any rate, this weekend Youngest starts a two-week counselor-in-training gig at the gels’ long-time summah camp. (The CIT position is only for a single, two-week term. She plans to return as a counselor for the entire summah next year.)

Ol’ Robbo has written here many times over the years about the drive out to southwestern PA to drop off the gels at camp. The question came up this year: Do we just let her go by herself?

After not too long a period of consideration, I came to the conclusion no, not all by herself. I-270/I-70 up into the Appalachians can be a tricky, taxing drive, and the Gel doesn’t have any experience of that kind of terrain or traffic. Plus, even after all these years, I’m not at all sure she even knows exactly how to get to the place. (She seems to have inherited Mrs. R’s lack of geographic awareness.)

So the plan is that the Gel will, indeed, do the drive, but that Ol’ Robbo will ride shotgun and bring her car home himself. We’ll do the reverse two weeks later. I just want to see how she does before turning her completely loose.

When I was bringing Mrs. R and her friends home from the airport the other day I mentioned all this, only to find myself the subject of some vague disapproval and a slew of anecdotes about how “when MY son first got his license, he drove halfway to California all by himself”, etc., etc. Well, that may be, and I don’t deny that kids have to learn and parents have to let go sooner or later. But I know this kid and this drive in particular and don’t believe I’m being overly-protective in riding along on her first trip out there.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter (but I repeat myself) will no doubt be not the slightest bit surprised that Ol’ Robbo’s entire Saturday was devoted to cleaning up the remains of the big maple brought down by storm this week. (I had mentioned its termite infestation before but closer study of the spot where the trunk actually snapped sure doesn’t reveal any compromised wood to Ol’ Robbo. We did have a storm come through Monday night, and as the tree is both big and top-heavy, I think this is what must have got it after all.)

The thing must have been 60 or 70 feet tall. Two of its three main trunks snapped, bringing down a plethora of lesser sub-trunks, boughs, limbs, and branches. That’s a lot of tree.

Ol’ Robbo made it his task to saw off and remove all the lessor branches, so that when his handyman and crew appear (on Wednesday I now hear), they can cut up all the main parts for firewood (of which I will not lack this winter). Ol’ Robbo doesn’t own a chainsaw but has a nifty little hand-saw that is good for anything up to a three or four inch diameter, so I set that as my benchmark.

As I worked away this morning (fortunately a cool one) I thought about all sorts of things I might write here about how it’s good to take on this kind of job oneself: the exercise is a plus, of course, but there’s something else about getting one’s own hands dirty and not being too proud or spoiled to do it. Besides, whenever I have my handyman do a job like this, he never throws the branches where I want him to, stacking them next to the brush pile instead of on top of it. (That’s why I don’t have him do the leaves in the fall anymore, too.)

By this afternoon, I was ready to pay just about anyone any amount to take the damn job off my hands and finish it.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t Robbo have at least two young, healthy, and strong daughters home at the moment? Why didn’t he get them to help?” To which I reply, “Yeah, right.” For better or for worse, Mrs. R has inculcated the Gels with the idea that there are certain jobs that are simply left to the menfolk (meaning me). Yardwork is definitely one of them. (This brings to mind a memory of my brother and myself slaving away for the Old Gentleman in the hot Texas sun of my misspent yoot while our sister skulked in her room listening to her Adam Ant records. Some things don’t change.)

Anyhoo, at last the thing is done, and I’m sunburned, worn out, and too tired to go to the store for dinner supplies. (Well, Eldest volunteered to do that, so at least that’s something.)

Oh, the other bit of excitement: I was coming up the hill from the back gate after a brush pile trip when I looked up and suddenly saw on the lawn ahead of me…….a snake! I hate snakes! Why did it have to be a snake? No step on snek!

It was a big thing, at least four feet long, glossy black with a white underside, a thick torso and a small head. The innerwebz tell me this was an Eastern ratsnake. I’d never seen one before. (You can tell me all about how harmless and beneficial they are, but I don’t care. Did I mention I hate snakes?)

The thing was gliding slowly toward the house. Ol’ Robbo did not wish it to proceed in that direction any farther, so after my initial interjection of something like “Ergblethrubububah!!!“, I tried to get its attention with word and gesture (which it ignored) and eventually by judiciously-aimed sticks (which it did not). Finally, I headed the thing and persuaded it to go back down the hill. It disappeared in the ivy patch in front of my garden fence. I’ll never set foot in that patch ever again.

At first I couldn’t figure out what on earth the thing was doing right out in the open on short grass. It later occurred to me that it probably lives in the brush pile and that my constant throwing of debris on the pile flushed it out.

All in all, a very full day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo may or may not have mentioned here before that Youngest Gel had joined her school’s sailing club this past year. She’s enjoyed it immensely. For one thing, she has a bit of experience already, having sailed Sunfish at her summah camp for years and years, so she’s quickly picked up on the skills and technique. For another, it seems to be quite the genial and lively group, and exactly the sort of people she was hoping to meet by getting off the East Coast. They even have a club softball team on which teh Gel plays.

Anyhoo, it’s a legit group. Not only do they sail out of their own boathouse, they also go round the regional regatta circuit. Yesterday, the Gel received the schedule for September and October and I found myself glancing idly at the various named meets. Most of them were pretty bland: Ohio State has the “Buckeye Invite” while Illinois has the “U of I Regatta”. However, looking down the list, I saw that Indiana University will be proudly hosting the “Hoosier Mama”.

That joke and its variants are probably as old as the State itself but I’d not been expecting it and laughed heartily.

By the bye, from what the Gel tells me, these meets seem pretty true to the tradition of Jack Tar ashore. Apparently, the form is for all the teams to get together the night before and party like maniacs, sailing the next day in, shall we say, a somewhat subdued condition. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me but then again it’s been a looooong time since I was a kollege kid myself. (In fact, rowing crew we weren’t allowed to drink at all during race season but I couldn’t imagine even wanting to the night before a regatta. We had plenty of reasons to lose our lunches already.) Nonetheless, a good time seems to be had by all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see from my archives that today [UPDATED: Yesterday} marks the twelfth anniversary of Ol’ Robbo’s initial invitation to gather round the decanter.  Ever since I started (back in the Llama Daze), I’ve mouthed the small blogger line about doing it “just because I enjoy writing”, and ever since I started I’ve known that was mostly nonsense: Yes, I do enjoy writing, of course.  However, each and every comment I get, much less each and every non-spammer view, is a delight to me and I’d be a complete liar if I claimed otherwise.  So thankee to all of you who drop by from time to time.  Bumpers all round, ladies and gentlemen, and here’s three times three and no heel-taps!

Huzzay! Huzzay! Huzzay!

In the meanwhile, some of you this past week may have been asking, “Donde esta Robbo?

Whelp, the fact is that I have been away on summah hols.  Alas, not in my much-beloved Mid-Coast Maine this year, but perhaps it’s just as well since some poor woman swimming right near my family’s old stomping ground there got killed this week by a shark. No, instead Ol’ Robbo found himself up in a 9th floor ocean-front hotel room on the Virginia Beach boardwalk.

I pretty much stayed there most of the time, avoiding the blazing sun, but enjoyed myself nonetheless.  Ol’ Robbo’s idea of a good vacation is a stack of reading material**, a decent view, a bottomless cup of kawfee in teh morning, and then a long, slow, adult beverage after the sun clears the yardarm.  While others may choose to frolic on the sand or in the pool, or to wander about the boardwalk, or go shopping, I am quite content to put my feet up out on the balcony and let the world roll by.  And it did.  Granted, it wasn’t my beloved Casco Bay, but there was plenty to look at: the modest crowds below, the boat and ship traffic out on the water, the seemingly continual stream of fighter jets on final approach to Oceana Naval Air Station literally coming in right over the hotel.  And we had spectacular thunderstorms roll overhead and out to sea most afternoons.

Not that Ol’ Robbo was a complete stick in the mud.  We were within visiting distance of the former Llama Military Correspondent and family (which is why we went where we went – Mrs. R and Mrs. LMC, who were college classmates, wanted to celebrate turning the big 5-0 this year together), so we met Mr. and Mrs. LMC for dins each evening while teh kidz, who are all good friends, spent the days cavorting (and apparently joy-riding across half the Tidewater from what I hear).  And in fact I did stick my toes in the sand once when we went for an after-dinner stroll along the beach.

So, there.

I should note, by the bye, another aspect of things, namely how nice it was to Get Away From It All in these turbulent times.  A constant diet of nooz headlines and social media suggests that Western Civilization is on the point of final collapse and if the plague doesn’t get us all, the Commies will.  I’m not necessarily saying it isn’t so, but it was refreshing to ignore all that for a few days.  (In fact, I took my laptop with me but never got around to opening it.)  Aside from the mask nonsense and a few reduced services, things seemed perfectly normal and folks mixed with ease and friendliness.  Indeed, the only sign of the Current Unpleasantness I saw the entire trip was a panhandler standing at the intersection of Southpoint Parkway and Route 1 in Fredericksburg (which is the most insane intersection in all of Spotsylvania County at which to stop for food or kawfee, but that’s a rant for another time).  He had a cardboard sign that read “F— Trump!”  Whatever you think of the sentiment, my reaction was to remember Michael Jordan’s criticism of injecting politicks into the NBA to the effect of why would you want to alienate half your fan base (and revenue stream)?  But I suppose if this fellah’d had the capacity to reason that out, he wouldn’t have been panhandling.

All in all, a good time.

*** For those of you curious, I chose H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain.  You can’t do better for mindless adventure beach-reading than that.  (And as an aside re Mr. Quatermain’s adventures, last week Ol’ Robbo obtained the 1985 Richard Chamberlain movie version of King Solomon’s Mines.  I have found the old 1950 Stewart Grainger version  dull (Deborah Kerr, even in ripped bodice, does nothing for me) and incomplete (how the hell can you delete Gagool the Witch from the story?), and hoped this one might be a better take on the novel.  I didn’t even make it through the opening credits before I realized it was nothing more than an Indiana Jones rip-off, and turned it off in disgust. Feh!)





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently somebody gave Mrs. Robbo a sweet-briar rose cutting, one that actually came from one of the bushes on the Sweet Briar College campus.  (I’m not sure if this was some kind of alumnae thing or else just somebody being nice.  The original plants from which this cutting descended date back to about 1920.)

Ol’ Robbo loves it when plants come to Port Swiller Manor with some sort of association or history about them.  (Of our other five roses, three are former Mother’s Day presents from me to Mrs. R and two come from my parents’ old house up to Maine.)

The thing didn’t look like much when it arrived, but I set it on the porch and dully watered it anyway.  This past week I noticed it had thrown out new leaves, so I planted it out in the bed this morning.  (I figure it’s probably another three or four weeks before I need to worry about frost, which should be plenty of time for the thing to establish itself.)  We’ll see how it does.

It wasn’t until I looked it up that I realized just how large rubiginosa can get.  If this one thrives, I’m either going to have to be vigilant about pruning, or else move some things around.  But we can leave that until the spring.

And speaking of roses,, the one I planted out last week unprotected shows no sign so far of being eaten by beasties.  That’s very encouraging, although I’m not yet ready to take the wire off the other ones.  The deer ’round here are starting to fatten up for winter and I notice trees and bushes being stripped of leaves that are otherwise left alone over spring and summah.  Why give them any more temptation?  I also haven’t seen Mr. Groundhog lately and he’s always a wildcard in these matters.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES UPDATE:  Youngest is out working this evening at the snack bar of our local little league field.  The snack bar is supposed to be manned by parents of players on a volunteer (that is to say, non-paying) basis.  The Gel is being paid some serious coin by a pair of such parents who don’t want to have to blow their Saturday night.

I don’t mind that she’s bringing in the jimmy-o-goblins, but I must say that I can’t think much of the people who bought their way out of their league participation. (This is the second time the Gel has landed such a gig, and from a different family.)  Does that seem a bit strange to you, too?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth, and that you didn’t have to pay for it too badly when you woke up yesterday morning.

For myself, Ol’ Robbo had to roll out of bed at Oh-dark-thirty in order to get on the road first thing to fetch Youngest Gel from Summah Camp. (It’s about a three hour drive from Port Swiller Manor and I have always had a morbid fear and hatred of possibly being late for all the closing awards ceremonies and whatnot.  Punctuality is one of my neurotic obsessions.)  What with very light traffic yesterday, however, I wound up getting there wicked early, but there’s no harm in that.

As regular friends of the decanter know, this camp has been an annual ritual for the Family Robbo for quite a long time.  This was Youngest’s tenth year as a camper and our twelfth year there overall.  It occurred to me that for all I’ve talked about it here, I don’t believe I’ve ever employed visual aids before.  Since I happened to have my phone with me, a couple of illustrations.

First the lake.  (Clicky to enlarge.)

This is Lake Quemahoning (sensibly shortened to “the Que”)  up in the Laurel Highlands of Southwest Pennsylvania. The camp is on a little promontory on the northwest side, and the lake curves on out of view to the right.  Back to the left, it goes on for quite a way.  

Then the cabins.

Two-story wooden affairs with indoor plumbing and electricity but only screen windows.  (Frankly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in one of those things when one of the many, many thunderstorms that seem to cook up right over the lake itself strikes.)  This is the girls’ side.  The boys’ cabins are on the other side of camp and don’t have as nice a view of the lake, I believe.

For the rest of it, there’s a big, screened dining hall, a covered basketball court cum assembly area with rafters full of barn swallows, a few admin buildings, and a campus covered with sports fields, a pool, zip-lines and ropes courses, and such.  The lake is heavily employed for various water sports, and the kids also do field trips out into the surrounding countryside for rock-climbing, caving, white-water rafting, and the like.

Three things about the place make it almost unique these days.  First, it is unabashedly Christian in every single aspect of its program. Second, no electronics – the only communication with the outside world is through cards and letters.  Third, it takes campers all the way up through the summer after their high school graduation.

As a rising senior, Youngest technically could camp for one more year.  But as we drove away yesterday, she said, “I’m done.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because we had such a good time this term and so many of my cabin mates aren’t coming back that I don’t want to ruin the memory.  I’d feel too old and out of place if I got put in a cabin with younger girls next year.  It just wouldn’t be the same.”

I had sensed something like this was coming.  It had been pretty obvious to me, when we went to their final cabin meeting, that a lot of the girls (including the two counselors) had been crying, and the whole atmosphere was heavy with a distinct end-of-an-era feel.  It’s terribly bittersweet, and given the intimacy of the group (a dozen gels who’d all been together last year and most of whom had been there for many years previously as well), as intense or even more so in its way than, say, leaving high school.  Ol’ Robbo found himself getting a bit misty-eyed in sympathy.

For all that, I’m pretty sure she made the right call.

The good news is that we may not be campers there anymore, we haven’t yet severed our connections with the place.  Ol’ Robbo will be driving Youngest back in August when she will be doing a term on the kitchen crew.  (No way am I going to let her drive up into the Alleghanies all by herself.  No. Way.)  Further, she and some of her cabin mates are talking about coordinating a term on the crew next summah.  Indeed, she’s even begun talking again about possibly returning as a counselor (as has Middle Gel).

So I certainly haven’t seen the last of the place yet, which is fine by me since, despite my gentle ragging over the years, I really, really like it.  And is it too early to start daydreaming about some day down the road maybe seeing grandchildren there?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo woke up this morning and said to himself the devil with the yard this week.  Apart from a little watering, there’s nothing that absolutely demands my immediate attention, the lawn will do for now, and the weeds in the garden remain reasonably at bay.

Furthermore, next weekend the annual Port Swiller Family summah cycle kicks in with the transportation of Youngest Gel to Bible-thumper camp.  For the six weeks following that there will be various comings, goings, and projects (including this year a life-altering office move, about which more later), and then hey, presto! suddenly it’ll be time to start getting Gels off to school again.

I reckon a Saturday in the hammock with a tall, cold glass and a good book before taking the plunge is worthwhile.  Even Mrs. R said it was a good idea.

UPDATE:  The cry goes ’round the decanter, “What book, Tom?”

Well, it’s Flash For Freedom today.  Yes, Ol’ Robbo is indulging himself again in George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers for about the eleventy-billionth time.  I never seem to get tired of them.

Over the years I’ve become convinced that GMF appropriated Flashy from Tom Brown’s School Days and gave him a long career of lying, cheating, stealing, womanizing, and putting a bluff front on his inner cowardice so that he, the author, could indulge himself in Victorian history, particularly Imperial military history.  Flash’s antics are the hook that sells the books, but I think GMF’s real pleasure was indulging in all the research and sneaking history lessons into his stories.

One of Ol’ Robbo’s ambitions is to eventually collect all the original sources cited in the Flashman Papers.  (I’ve already got some of them, including materials on James Brooke’s campaigns against Borneo pirates, and early explorations of the American Southwest.)  Another is to piece together a satisfying story of Flashy’s involvement in the American Civil War: the Papers are strewn with hints and asides about it, but GMF never, alas, put them all together.  (Ol’ Robbo is in a Flashy appreciation group on FacePlant and we like to spit-ball about this every now and again.)

Anyway, ho for the hammock!


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January 2022