Archive for November, 2007


Friday, November 30th, 2007

Doesn’t this story make you feel exasperated and sick to your stomach? Unless you are someone who says “Big man in the sky says this is what we should do.”


Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I noticed this post about one of Toby’s friends thinking through why people think of a god or gods, which reminded me of a conversation Toby and I had a few weeks ago. I was driving Toby home from his soccer class, and there was a decent thunderstorm going on. Toby made a comment about how god makes the weather, which I thought would lead to an interesting discussion about why he, or other people would think that. He told me that his Sunday school teachers told him that this is how the weather came about, and we also talked about the weather forecast and how it’s possible to learn how weather works and therefore make forecasts. Also he does know the general concept of clouds and rain and how that all goes together. As with Paul’s discussion with his son, we chatted briefly about why people think that god would make things happen, and how sometimes people will investigate how things actually work in order to understand the world around us.

Then yesterday Toby saw the book on my nightstand – the recent biography of Albert Einstein. He (Toby) asked who the man on the cover was, and we had a little chat about how he was a very famous scientist and he was really good at asking how things work and what they are made of.

It’s an interesting time with Toby – in some ways he’s very strong on personifying things he can’t quite grasp (which you could argue is a simplified religious leaning) and in others, like lots of other kids his age, he is very good at asking why (which leads to a good scientific way of thinking, like why is the sky blue, or why do we not fall off the earth).

in toby’s head

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Our friend Arwen is visiting from England for a few days. She came along to Toby’s swimming class last night, and on the way there he was talking and talking to her about all kinds of things which are important to boys who are almost five: dinosaurs, sharks, space rockets, superheroes etc, in no particular order and at considerable speed, with every other sentence starting with “and do you know what?”

After some time of this, and a lot of suppressed laughter from the grown-ups, Arwen said “Toby, what is it like inside your head?” The reply: “Well, do you know what? There are lots of pictures spinning around, and a cell in my brain catches a picture and another one clicks on it, and then that is what I decide that I’m going to talk about.”

secret life of granny

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

I was casting around the web to find more information about my Granny. I was surprised to find this page from the Sunday Times in 2005 – scroll to the bottom of that link and you’ll find this:

“It’s refreshing even after one sip, but I prefer the one I buy commercially.”
Muriel Hope, 91, tastes Scotland’s most expensive pot of tea, costing £23.80 at Plaisir du Chocolat in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

I can’t really imagine her in a place called Plaisir du Chocolat, paying that much for some tea, or speaking about doing anything commercially, but I think that the age would match up, so I guess it really was her.

it’s all relative

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Day … ooh … six or something of our trip to Bermuda. Losing track of the days, it’s just what we need. Today is the coolest day so far, but it’s relative – it’s actually about 70F and it’s still OK to wear shorts. It was warm in the morning so we decided to go to Bermuda Botanical Gardens. It’s a really impressive place, especially considering how little open space there is on the island. Some really beautiful and interesting trees and shrubs – lots of palm trees and an awesome banyan tree which is massive. We nipped into their little cafeteria for lunch, just a wee sandwich served by volunteer church-hall type ladies, all very friendly and quite British. Then as we were looking around the gardens and shivering a little (it had rained while we were having lunch and was quite cool for an hour or so afterwards) we noticed the aroma of something quite, um, herbal. Perhaps better described as something smokeable by the jazz community. It seemed quite incongorous, and we assumed that it was the brawny gardeners who were responsible rather than the nice ladies of the cafeteria.


Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I got a phone call from my brother yesterday afternoon, letting me know that our granny, Muriel Hope, had passed away. It was expected, in that she was in her 90s and had been fading for the last few months, although she hung on a lot longer than medical people had expected – Edinburgh stubbornness maybe. When she passed away she was at home, and most of her children were with her – three of my uncles and my mother.

So needless to say I’m feeling a bit strange. She had a long and fruitful life, loved living in Edinburgh, specifically the New Town, had a long and happy marriage, six children, many grandchildren and a growing brood of great grandchildren. She got to visit her children in Canada and Kenya, and did a lot of historical research into the Hope family. I had a lot of wonderful memories of her being with us for holidays, and of visiting her and Grandpa at Moray Place in Edinburgh. I know I will miss very much being able to drop round to see her, and although she knew about Dara’s birth of course she never got to see her. She did get to have time with Toby a couple of years ago – there are photos of that visit here, and here’s a great picture of Toby with his granny and great granny (click for full size picture):

Toby with Granny and Great Granny

P.S. My cousin Tom also put up a post about her, with a lovely photo. You will notice he refers to her as Anne Hope – she never really liked being called Muriel and at some point in her 80s would always refer to herself as Anne, especially when she published historical articles. I remember she was very happy when my brother David was small and would call her Granny Annie.

back in bermuda

Monday, November 12th, 2007

We’re back in Bermuda for a couple of weeks. Yes I know I just started a new job four weeks ago, but this has been booked for a while. It’s great to be back – the weather is a tad cooler than last time we were here, but still excellent, in the mid to high 70s with plenty of sun so far. A great tonic from November in Minnesota.

Yesterday we took the ferry into Hamilton to see the Remembrance Day parade, then another ferry to the Dockyards for good food and drink at the Frog and Onion pub. Today we drove to a beach to hang out in the sun. Toby was much more confident about going into the ocean than this time last year, and Dara seemed to be very happy in the breeze on the beach. She has slept almost the whole four hours since we got back to the house


Monday, November 5th, 2007

Toby is currently trying to learn how to tell jokes. Unfortunately, being four and a half, he doesn’t really get the concept. Around Halloween time we tried to teach him “What is a Vampire’s favorite fruit? A NECKtarine!” but although he would repeat it I don’t think he quite got it.

Last night I did a barbecue (possibly the last of the year as it’s getting quite cold now) and did bison steaks – delicious – and found that amazingly my dad had never heard the joke “What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison? You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo”. Toby tried to add some jokes of his own: “What if a door could walk? Um…” “What if curtains could move? The windows would get broken”. Etc. I think this is a development stage we have to go through (he does have a great sense of humor when it comes to slapstick) and in a few months we might start to get somewhere amusing. I hope.