Friday, 17 July 2009

On 4 funerals and a wedding

Sorry, but I couldn't resist using that title for this post, even if it isn't particularly accurate. The funerals, or should I say deaths, are those of Tessa (my third cousin previously mentioned here), her mother Mary (my second cousin, once removed), the Honourable Lord Kemp Davidson (first cousin by marriage, once removed) and the wife of my cousin Jimmy Loathian (I believe he is my first cousin, once removed). The wedding was that of my brother Philip.

I went to a memorial event for Tessa in Toronto the day before the Tour de l'Île. It was held at the house in Toronto of her brother-in-law, Mike Macmillan, former part-owner of Alliance Atlantis. It was a fairly, casual affair in which I think for the first time it was definitively explained to me what the precise blood relationship was between Tessa and myself. I had long known we were cousins, but to which degree, was something I was vague on. I was set straight by Tessa's mother Mary, who was very definitely with it, if unfortunately obviously on the down slope of the cancer that would soon claim her.

This brings me to the second death and only actual funeral I attended, along with a large number of other people. My cousin Mary had a lot of friends. She was an almost terrifyingly brilliant woman married to a roughly equally intelligent South African, called Han. I say roughly as I am truly not sure who was the smarter of the pair and at a certain level it mattered to them. Like many very intelligent people both Mary and her husband were relatively high-strung, Mary especially so. To spend time with them, was to be subjected to near constant bickering between the two. One person (I forget who*) referred to Mary and Han with backhanded affection as the "Bickersons". Lest a reader assume I speak ill of the dead, in my personal experience, the bickering was generally of a fairly light-hearted nature and was underscored by their genuine love for each other. It was just that each viewed life as a debate to be won.

The service was very appropriate and captured Mary very well. The photograph of Mary on the programme absolutely captured her spirit and her intellect. As we left the church, Han was very evidently shaken by the event. I am glad to say that I gave him a hug.

At service, another relative (I forget how she comes into the picture) told my mother and me about the other two deaths that had taken place within the family in the last few weeks in the United Kingdom. To be honest, I am not sure that I ever met Jimmy Lothian's wife and if I did, I was 9. I think I have heard significantly more about Jimmy Lothian than I have talked to him. However, I had met Kemp Davidson on a certain number of occasions and spent a significant amount of time with his son, Donald.

Kemp was a Scottish judge, so on two occasions when I was visiting the United Kingdom, I put down his name as a reference on my landing card, on the grounds that I would have less (if any) trouble with British immigration control if I mentioned "Lord Davidson". ;-) I was doing some historical research during one of these trips into four figures of the Scottish Enlightenment of whom at least two and more likely three were involved in various ways in the legal profession in Edinburgh where Kemp lived and worked. I had supper one night with Kemp, his wife (also called Mary) and their son Donald (some form of Scottish lawyer). It was a weeknight so all of us were in our working clothes. For Kemp this was a smart suit, something equally smart, but slightly more casual for Mary and a three-piece suit for Donald. I felt rather scruffy in the sweater I had been wearing the archives. However, it was really fascinating to see that they knew about the people I was researching, and even had a copy of one the books written by one of the people I was researching printed while he was still alive!

Unfortunately, Kemp was suffering from Parkinson's at that supper. Because of that disease, he would later fall and break his neck, leaving him paralyzed. His wife was almost excessively devoted to looking after him throughout his illness. The only good that I can see from his death is that she may have the opportunity to live for herself.

One of the sadder things about his death is that it was only after it happened that I have understood what a fantastic person he was in his professional life. I wish I could have praised him to his face for the contributions he made towards justice in Scotland, no rare thing for a lawyer. (Sorry, I had to include a lawyer joke.) There are some obits on the web, here, here, here and here. Oh, and also here.

One wedding

I am afraid I left my camera in North Hatley, so no pictures for the time being. There are some up here.

My brother Philip married Dominique on Saturday in the presence of a select group of friends and relations. Very select in fact, from our side, the only relative who wasn't of the immediate family was my second cousin Katherine, and that was because she has become BFF with Eowyn. The weather was fair enough, but not great. We were able to hold the ceremony, officiated by my father on the lawn in front of Robin Hill. The highlights of the secular ceremony was Désirée toddling out to be picked up just as Philip was talking about "raising children". Philip gave a mid-length speech about the different types of love, theatrically tossing the pages of the speech over his shoulder as he went through it. At one (planned**) point he abandoned reasoned discourse to say: "The important thing is that I love Dominique", threw the rest of his papers in the air. A gust of wind caught them and some of them over some tall trees and to the far, lakeside corner of the croquet lawn!!! I don't think there could have been a better auspice!

* I have since been told it was Mike Macmillan.

** When I retrieved some the papers from the far end of the lawn, there was nothing relative to his speech on them, hence, this was a planned gesture.

Friday, 10 July 2009

On the sometimes twisted paths of bike accessories

My parents have a Dodge minivan and a Toyota Corolla. The former can be bought from the dealer with a trailer hitch, whilst the latter cannot. As the easiest type of bike rack to install is the trailer hitch type, that was the type they had. As a result, the two of them were going to bike events in the minivan which got about half the gas mileage as the Corolla. During the high gas prices of last summer, I was inspired to change this by getting them a hitch for the Corolla. Together with two of my siblings, I got them an after-market trailer hitch for Christmas. They have used it considerably since, thus easily saving in gas the amount of money the hitch cost.

Yesterday, my father arrived from Montreal in the minivan, to hear how Alice and Stephen (the two siblings who had pitched in for the hitch) had towed the Thomas F. Meagher, a Tanzer 16 sailboat across town that afternoon. It took a few minutes before the penny dropped and I realised that they had done the towing with the Corolla using the hitch as an actual trailer hitch!

Anyway, it looks like tomorrow will actually be fairly nice for Philip (my other brother) and Dominique's wedding. I guess the old French-Canadian superstition of hanging a rosary on the washing line to insure good weather has worked.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

On moving in Montreal, by bike

In addition to being (or possibly because it was) Canada Day yesterday, it was Moving Day in Montreal. As has been documented in many places, there is a distinct tendency amongst Montrealers to move on or about the 1st of July. Not that I have ever moved on the first of July or anywhere close to it.

However, the fact of the July 1st move probably led the CBC to feature this article about a cycle mover in Montreal. As in he moves your stuff by bike.

In addition, I discovered on Tuesday that are specialized bike trailers for hauling your dog around. I was in a bike store and saw a couple and their seeing-eye dog (a black lab) shopping for one. I gathered it was the woman who was visually impaired and it was the man who did the steering on what I guessed was their tandem bike.