Simon Stevin was born in Brugge in 1548. Amongst many achievements he invented the sand-yacht and established the daily use of decimal fractions (0.5 for one-half, etc). I’d never heard of him until the other day when our Canadian friends used his statue as a reference point for a good waffle shop.
Simultaneously, Callum has been bogged down in Imperial measurements in his maths course. He’s finding it frustrating that the American course devotes a fair bit of attention on converting Imperial to metric.
The combination of the Brugge connection and Callum’s understandable frustration has led Jennifer and me to do a bit of research on the metric system and on why the US still uses Imperial. The short answer on the later question is that there is not a single rational reason I can find for the US’ tenacious refusal to join the rest of the modern world. What makes the US position particularly absurd is that their units of measurement are actually defined using metric units – so the official definition of an inch is so many millimetres, and so on.
Anyway, we’re now 25.47945205479452 per cent of the way through our trip – and in metric or Imperial it continues to go well.
We’ve had a run of good places to stay and interesting places to visit. Our last month hasn’t had the exotic feel of Egypt, Jordan and Israel but it has been more calm and easier to organise. We’ve also pulled back from what felt like a more frenetic pace earlier on.
Today for example we did schoolwork, visited the supermarket, had lunch in a park and then climbed the tower in Brugge’s market square. Not a tough day. The tower was good, by the way. There are 366 steps up, increasingly tight spiral staircases, to the top. The view from the top is good; but I must admit we found the exposed carillon mechanism even more absorbing. The bells are operated by a giant clockwork music-box apparatus built in 1743. It was fascinating to watch it click into action in the same way is has for almost 300 years.
As we’ve moved into Western Europe, the cost of living has gone up; but we expected that to be the case and were sort of ready for it. Even though we budgeted for more expensive food and accommodation it’s hard not to look wistfully at what we were paying in Singapore, Israel or even Eastern Europe. We’re still within budget though and that’s what counts.
The kids have got more schoolwork done this last month. Declan is about to do his final exam for his Maths course and both boys are becoming much better at their written stories. We are going to have to revise our approach a bit over the coming weeks though. Firstly there are a few elements we need to add in now that writing is becoming less of an issue and secondly because we need to find a way to keep up the boys’ French. I have two weeks in Sancerre, while Jennifer and boys attend French classes, to get that organised.
We’ve also been revising our itinerary a bit over the last week or so. We’ve decided to chop out the Galapagos because the weather will be to bad. As a result, we’re going to spend longer in Peru and hopefully go to the Amazon. Jennifer has got our Spain sojourn all locked down after I passively resisted going to Spain at all. Our remaining issue is whether the spend two weeks in July in the UK or to go somewhere else. The problem with ‘somewhere else’ is that (a) it’s peak season and (b) we haven’t the foggiest which one of the millions of somewhere else’s in the world to go to.
Suggestions for how to spend two weeks in July would be appreciated. Just please don’t suggest Burma or Liberia – the two other countries in the world to hang on to the Imperial system.