C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The End of the World as We Have Known It

Today is a sad day on both sides of the Atlantic.  To paraphrase a comment I saw on Joe.My.God.:   On the same day that Britain leaves the European Union, America leaves democracy behind.  Nothing good will come of this.

Well, for 75 years the broad, sunlit highway that arose out of the fire and blood of the Second World War was a pretty good ride.  We were lucky to be born into that time.  It was always a route under construction, and subject to detours and lane closures - but despite all the bumps in the road, it seemed, to me at least, a fundamentally stable, generally progressive, and blessedly prosperous time for the middle and lower classes in the Western world, who by thrift and steady work could live more easily and comfortably than anyone ever had before, even in the golden palaces of kings and emperors fabled for their wealth and power in ancient times.

The poor were and are always with us, of course - but many millions of my parents' generation who started life in rural or urban poverty were able by wit and grit, and a bit of good luck, to achieve a very comfortable old age, and even leave a sizeable nest egg for the next generation.  (Sadly, this was not the case in my particular family, but that is another story, of no interest to anyone but me now.)

Prosperity and the growth of scientific knowledge led to miraculous advances in medicine and technology that nearly eliminated the famines and diseases and poverty and unceasing hard labor that had been the scourges of mankind from the dawn of history.  Not to say that there was no suffering, pain, or worry - despite the spread of peace, progress, and general affluence, there were still tears, toil, struggle, and sorrows to contend with in human life, high and low, rich or poor, which is simply our lot in this imperfect world, where the bitter must always be taken with the sweet. But on the whole and in the main, it was a mighty good time to be alive, when you consider how very much harder and more perilous life was just a hundred years ago.

(Whether the soft, effortless, push-button life we have come to enjoy is truly good for us in a moral and spiritual way is a question I defer for the time being to the philosophers.)

And until quite recently, there was, it seemed, good reason to hope that mankind's upward progress would continue indefinitely.  Despite the unending to and fro of politics, it did seem that the people at the top - most of them, most of the time - were essentially sane and decent, sincere and responsible people who profoundly respected the rule of law and the time-hallowed constitutional order.  And who were certainly not the tools of any foreign power - unthinkable!

But goodbye to all that - I'm glad I am an old man in the sunset of life, with no posterity to worry about.  I'm also glad that my parents aren't here to see the corruption and negation of their ideals, and the moral degradation consuming our government, our politics, and many other areas of life, all across the political social spectrum.

As I heard the ever-chic and lovely Joan Collins say in an interview a few years ago, reflecting on the rudeness and crudeness of modern life:  I don't like this century.

I'm taking an extended moment of silence here on the Blue Truck to reflect on the dismantling of the Western world order that once seemed so enduring. Of course the human race will go on and on as it always has, despite every kind of calamity in ages past - you know how those breeders are, come hell or high water - but the going on will not be very nice at all, I fear.  That is, unless you fit into whatever new order shakes out of all the dreadful conflicts to come, nation against nation and fanatic against fanatic.  And there are always plenty of folks ready, willing, and able to fit in, no matter which way the wind is blowing.

Maybe I'll return next week with a more optimistic attitude. But then again, maybe not.  My voice doesn't count at all in this mad world, I know.  And even in better times, I have never really fit in - too liberal for the conservatives, too conservative for the liberals, too educated for the lowbrows, too provincial for the highbrows, and always an individual, not part of the In Crowd, never one of the cool kids.  A sometimes lonely state of being - but tant pis.  It suited me, I suppose.

I am an old man, retired from the tumults and contests of life, and like an old dog on the front porch, content merely to sit in the sunshine and watch the traffic whiz by, without the slightest urge to run after it, even if I had the strength to do so.  I have lived my life and danced my dance, and now it seems I have outlived my time:  a stranger in a strange land.  A chill wind rises, and the brief candle flickers.  Who knows what tomorrow and tomorrow will bring, for good or ill?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Tale of the Two Lifeguards, Part I

A guest post by my truckbuddy Tim from England, now resident in Spain:

The Tale of the Two Lifeguards

Chapter One
in which we make some introductions

Image by my good friend hi-host here on tumblr.  Thanks Lenny.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, possibly as long ago as last Wednesday, Piers Nivans got into his bright yellow safety boat and set out for the tiny Mediterranean island of Tabarca. He did this at precisely eight o'clock every morning in the summer, leaving his parent's home in the little fishing village of Santa Pola, and returning there precisely twelve hour later. But this particular Wednesday morning proved to be special, as we shall see in a while.

Piers worked as a lifeguard during the long, hot summer months, swapping his grey student books and grey student clothes of the rest of the year for a bright red rescue float and bright red shorts. And the bright yellow safety boat, of course, which was much more fun than his grey scooter. Now this is not to say Piers' winter life was dull, rather that he liked grey. It helped him blend in with the crowds and buildings in the big city where the University was. Piers liked to blend in there, because he didn't much care for crowds and buildings and cities. What he did like was the sun and the fresh open air. And what he loved, was the sea. The beautiful aquamarine sea that surrounded Tabarca with its crystal-clear waters. And what he loved best of all was . . . well, let's see shall we?

Continued after the jump . . . 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Waitin' for the Weekend

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Drive: Schumann, Träumerei (Dreaming)

The exquisite seventh movement from Schumann's Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), as performed by the great Vladimir Horowitz:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Royal Family Matters

Harry and Meghan show off baby Archie to the delighted grandparents.
He was born on May 6, 2019, and is seventh in line to the Throne.

Far too much has been written by far too many people about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in recent weeks, and I will not add to the ghastly hurly-burly of opinions here.  But if anyone cares to read today's statement from the Queen herself - a very wise and loving statement, it seems to me, that speaks volumes - here it is, from the official website of the British Monarchy:

Published 18 January 2020

Statement from HM The Queen.

Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.

I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.

A clarifying follow-up was included:
Statement from Buckingham Palace

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are grateful to Her Majesty and the Royal Family for their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments. They will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties.

With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations. While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.

The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home.

Buckingham Palace does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security.

This new model will take effect in the Spring of 2020.

So Harry and Meghan are going to live their lives differently from now on, they won't be doing it on the taxpayers' dime, and the Queen approves.  It's a personal decision, and a family matter, and now it is resolved, apparently to the satisfaction of all concerned.  What more is there to say than that? I wish them well.

Waitin' for the Weekend

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Pork Boys Do Schnitzel with Noodles

M.P. gave our Sunday dinner an international flavor this week:

From 6 o'clock: Pork schnitzel, delicately breaded and fried; also fried Italian green beans, with a dollop of luscious pepper mayo; jumbo fluted spiral noodles with Cajun tomato gravy; and yummy, buttery homemade focaccia bread.  All was scrumptious from first to last.

Bonus photo:  the candles in crystal bowls threw some fascinating shadows with golden halos.  Odd, but lovely.

And I'll wrap this up with that earworm that's already knocking at the doors of your mind:

You're welcome.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Waitin' for the Weekend

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Pork Boys Do New Year's and Kings' Day

This holiday season just ended has been a most pleasant time for us - despite the usual mad rush of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and all the hassles of making and serving four festive meals in three weeks, somehow things seemed to go more smoothly and easily this year, with a minimum of frustration and exhaustion.  Why this was, I really can't say - perhaps we have finally learned how to do enough without trying to do too much for the holidays.  In any case, it was a blessed time, for which we were very grateful after a year of ups and downs, spills and pills, and all the usual frustrations that come with advancing age.

I should have posted our New Year's dinner last week, but we just relaxed instead, enjoying some peaceful days here in our quiet abode, sleeping late and doing a whole lot of delicious nothing.  And before anyone dares to wag a censorious finger, just stop and think:  if everyone, high and low, all round the globe had spent the last few weeks following our example, would that not have contributed a great deal to world peace?  I believe it was Dr. Johnson who said that most of the evils of the world arise because men are not content to sit peacefully at home beside their own hearth-fires.

Be that as it may, here is a combined summary of our two most recent feasts.

1.  New Year's Day 

Fresh greens - five kinds plus some chopped turnip stems.

Eckridge cheese sausage simmered in bouillon.

Greens + sausage + some culinary wizardry = fabulous Gumbo Z'erbes,
the scrumptious New Orleans dish.

Continued after the jump . . .

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Sunday Drive: Bach, Air on the G String

I think we all need something divine just now to lift our thoughts above the troubles and terrors of the present time. So I offer Bach's sublimely serene Air, as performed so nicely by the classical duo 2Cellos:

From the Great Litany:
We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that
it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church
Universal in the right way,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illumine all bishops, priests, and
deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy
Word; and that both by their preaching and living, they may
set it forth, and show it accordingly,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to send forth laborers into thy
harvest, and to draw all mankind into thy kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all people increase of grace
to hear and receive thy Word, and to bring forth the fruits of
the Spirit,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such
as have erred, and are deceived,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear
thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants,
the President of the United States, and all others in authority,
that they may do justice, and love mercy, and walk in the ways of truth,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world;
to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to
bestow freedom upon all peoples,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Whoso readeth, let him understand.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Waitin' for the Weekend

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